You see, my characters keep asking me the same question, over and over again: What’s my motivation? And sometimes I just blank out. Not a thought comes up, not a motivation is found.
I fight it, particularly if the character is as adorable as Godzilla, but in the end I know it’s my cue: time to ditch the character, time to kill another darling…
Tucked away in a corner on page 24 of my newspaper, I read an unsettling newsflash. More and more Dutch publishing houses are going belly up. In the last quarter of 2013 the total loss of business was 9% compared to the last quarter a year before. The overall loss over 2013 was 6%.
Since 2008, publishing houses in the Netherlands have faced a staggering 20% loss of business and that is causing them to close more and more doors.
I was already proud and happy with the Little Golden Book and the Middle Grade adventure novel that will be published later this year, but now I also admire both publishers for their stamina, their perseverance and their unbroken trust in authors and illustrators. Chapeau Rubinstein! Chapeau Ploegsma Children’s Book Publishers!
This picture doesn’t really need words, but here we go. The amazing and talented illustrator Angela M. Pelaez Vargas and I are happy and proud to announce that our first picture book adventure has led to a success. Uitgeverij Rubinstein will publish MIA’S NEST as a Little Golden Book! Coming out in October 2014! Here’s a sneak preview of the cover…
Not sure if it was the blue skies or the whiteness of the bark, but this tree pushed me forward in my writing. It stands in a park outside Asheville and I looked up its trunk for a while, noticing how its now leafless branches fork out and reach up to the sky. From down below they seem all tangled up and yet, like a story plot, they form one single whole.
While standing there and staring up, I realized that I had to go back to the manuscript I am working on, shed all the leaves and study just the trunk, the boughs, the branches, the twigs. I did just that: strip the manuscript from all the fluff and scrutinize the bare bones. Today, I knew what it missed. Not the trunk that forms the storyline, not the boughs that reach out to the sky and layer the plot, not the branches or the twigs that fork out and make the subplots. What my story missed was a root. My mentor Ellen Hopkins had already pointed that out, but I failed to see what she meant. Now I do. One more chapter, that is all it needs. I will push it out tonight, in the confidence that it will root my story firmly to the ground.
Atlanta, Georgia. Frozen rain, sleet and snow turned the city into a ghost town. The bustle of a vibrant city died down in a matter of hours. We — a bunch of Internet geeks and me — were forewarned and huddled together in a downtown hotel. Most geeks will be here for a while, as today’s buzz word at the airport is ‘cancelled’. I will be driving out tomorrow, up north and into the mountains. Icy conditions call for an invigorating research trip.
It awed me, though, how nature can force life to its knees. Had me think about the characters for my novel-in-the-making, about how deceitful they can or should be. Delicate and elusive as frozen rain and yet strong enough to send whomever crosses their path spinning.
When pondering new novel plots, particularly when those plots involve the exploration of free will, touring an aquarium is not only an excellent distraction, it pushes my thinking process ahead. Questions like do fish have free will or are they solely propelled through their lives by nature? pop up almost immediately. I sat and watched this school of Blue Runners for a while at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. They all go with the flow, all aligned and facing up-current, all at the same speed. No finning against the current here.
Just like us these Blue Runners seem to drift to through life the most efficient way. Or the most convenient way. Why bother going against the current? Why deviate from the rest? I can almost hear some of them whisper: “but it’s me who decides to go with the flow, it’s me who decides not to deviate.” And I wonder about the truth in that statement. Are we free to choose whatever we want, whichever direction to go? Are we indeed free to choose to drift along with the school, or to unshackle ourselves and swim against the tide?
Imagine you are sitting in your house boat, quietly reading a newspaper after a day of hard work. It’s Friday evening. You’re pondering if you will pop over to your favorite hang-out for a drink with your buddies.
A screeching sound alerts you. It’s followed by a creaking, a groaning almost, as if someone pushes your front door out of its frame. Before you know it, before you can even get up from your chair, or gasp for air, a car lands in your hallway. And another one…
Can you figure out what happened?