I took this picture outside the Montara Lighthouse in California. Never before had I seen the structure of wings from underneath as clear as in the wings of this red-tailed hawk. It reminds me of the structure of novel, with a plot that is small and muscular and around it the wide upper layer to keep the story afloat. Look at those feathers. They are perfectly in line with each other, like story threads woven into an intricate mesh.
There are more similarities between a hawk and a good story. Like the hawk, a story needs to be strong and powerful, capturing the reader with sharp, curved talons. It needs a strong beak that is kitted out to hook the reader and pull him in. And, particularly in Young Adult but maybe even in all genres, the story needs to be as swift a flier as this bird of prey.
I am nearing the final version of my manuscript, one of the darkest stories I have ever written, and I hope it will soar like a hawk once I let it go.
Some writers are fast, determined, strong-minded. Me? Not so much. I’m line editing my manuscript and scrutinizing 90,000 words can be mighty disheartening. Being in the Bay Area doesn’t make it any easier.
I’m staying with friends and, man, talking books and life with them is so much more fun than weighing every sentence you wrote. The eldest of their kids easily lures me away from my mission with our common interest TV show Bones, the middle one loves talking science even more than I do, and the youngest is a master patisserie chef (you’ve got to taste those cupcakes). On top of that they have the cutest puppy and two kittens to die for.
Despite all that, I am frantically trying to pull this off. I don’t want to disappoint my mentor. I don’t dare to disappoint my mentor. So I’m glued to my laptop and stripping those 90,000 words like the wind stripped the Tiburon Hippie Tree.
You have no idea how much I’d prefer to arc out high above Richardson Bay on that old Eucalyptus tree’s swing.
A writer in a city that never sleeps. You’d think that would lead to lots of writing, but I find it hard to write when there’s no quiet around. Thankfully, my dear friend and colleague author Siobhan Wall came to my rescue with thenewest edition of her Quiet series: Quiet New York. A gem of a book and a life saver for everyone in need of a quiet place to write, read, or just sit and contemplate life. A must-have guide for everyone traveling to that amazing and ever wakeful city!
If you find yourself at the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna in March 2014 and you want a sneak preview of Angela M. Pelaez Vargas and my Little Golden Book, Mia’s nest, go visit the SCBWI Boot at pavilion 26, booth A/66 or the Uitgeverij Rubinstein booth at Hall 29D21.
The tenderest yellow-green glow of the elms lining the canal in front of my house. That’s my cue that spring has arrived. When the buds catch a ray of light they turn a deep golden green. It makes me think of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 98.
From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April dress’d in all his trim
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew;
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.
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!