When Writing Drinks Lucy’s Lemonade

This past week, performing a psychoanalysis on my writing has taken its nickels and laid them on the counter. At a writing critique group, a lovely woman paid for M., my picturebook main character, to see Lucy.  She essentially gave me the outline for a revision centered on fulfilling M’s needs and which symbols best expressed the emotional cores along the therapeutic process (I mean narrative).

Then, later this week, I happily handed over the weighty coin myself for GJ, a stalled project. “Lucy” told me that right now, my main character’s issues are my issues. If I try to write them out, they will have the essence of 25-year-old woman about them, not 13-year-old girl. Further, until I fully understand myself, I will never gain the perspective I’ll need to help GJ see them through.

But this post http://www.slate.com/id/2260395/ helped me realize the path I am starting on by not writing. Maybe some distance is too much distance. Maybe some distance is just some excuse. Maybe I need to see Lucy!

Have you ever taken your writings to Lucy? Do you ever take her prescriptions? Let me know!


Sins of the Author

Lately, the child-lit digest is a twitter over author K.P. Bath’s arrest and guilty plea for possession of child pornography. Here’s a link to the Google News page so you can read and synthesize different journalists’ takes. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&tbs=nws:1,sbd:1&q=kp+bath+author&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

The central question for authors, readers, and industry professionals is at what point should an author’s personal life be included with the reception and inclusion of a book? Can we keep the text separate from the creator, or are they intrinsically linked?

I’m reminded of the time a while ago some people got their knickers in a twist over a sighting of JK Rowling in a lingerie shop. My thought: the grown woman is married; what of it? And even if she had not been, what difference does it make? The rational way to think is that the author is not his/her story. The author is a person with a life outside the fiction, however much real events/people may have colored the creation of characters and plots.

But Bath’s crime was against children. As he decided to plead guilty (in exchange for dropping charges of distribution – CNN), I’m not inclined to give him any benefit of the doubt (like he had them for research for a project). I certainly wouldn’t let children near him, but do we let them near his books? Was it right for his publisher to cancel his forthcoming novel? I think the texts (devoid of any content related to his crime) can stand on their own and be enjoyed for what they are. It makes complete fiscal sense to pull his manuscript – no one will want to buy the man’s books, and he won’t be available for marketing. But editorially…I could argue for dissociating the work from the creator…a pen name, an anonymous provision. Think about your favorite Newbery/Printz/Caldecott winner. Would you justify still its existence if you knew the author/illustrator was convicted of a terrible crime?

Judging books by their creators and not their content can lead to the slippery slope argument  that if he’s this undesirable political party or if she’s with that group that stands for the thing I don’t like, then their work shouldn’t be supported. In regard to that, I say, put aside your personal beef and instead “Think of  the children.” They may need that book and your bravery to be actual parents and help them differentiate between idolizing the person in their head (this author is my very best friend!), the person who is real, and the fiction they love.

New Thoughts on Historicism

Though I have much work to do to prepare a manuscript for submission, The Killers plot bunny won’t leave me alone. After rolling my main character’s possible name on my tongue for a few hours, pretending her friends were being either tender or tough with her, I think I’ve settled on it. The name is decidedly Irish and her story utterly fantastic. And I mean that in the true sense of the word – of fantasy. That lead me to start initial research into Irish lore. What if this story has been told before  – nay, I’m sure it has – so in what ways has it been told? If I find the answer, do I want to draw on the mythology as source material, acknowledge that it exists in an author’s note, or not look at it and write around it in my own way?

I’m tempted to do the last thing, as research is exhausting and attempting to create a new mythology in our modern world seems more fun. I get to create a society without all the hassle of creating a whole new world. If anyone has the link to Kristin Cashore’s wonderful speech at the Simmons College 2009 Symposium about the difficulties of world building, please let me know.

I guess I hesitate to play with melding historicalities with my own imaginings like a child would smash blue and yellow Play Doh together. Roger Sutton points out in his blog that a writer at Jezebel totally misunderstood Sharon Dogar’s forthcoming book Annexed, a novel told from the point of view of Peter Krause, one of Anne Frank’s companions in hiding. I have much to say about this book and the way fiction uses and plays with a historical reality, but that will come in a GoodReads review soon. While off base, the Jezebel writer and her commenters have valid fears that an author could co-opt a history for her own fictive purposes.

Not that fictive purposes need be nefarious. When you smash blue and yellow together, you sometimes get the lovely green. A whole new entity worthy of its own consideration. I suppose what I will do is what any of the great authors do: put the story first. History will always be there if I need it.


Last night I stopped looking at cute cat pictures and actually wrote. Me and words: reunited, and it feels so good!


– Revision of my MbM picture book. I shoe-horned in a subplot, and like Cinderella’s glass slipper, it was a perfect fit once everything settled.

– Envisioned two brief scenes and came up with awesome names for my plot bunny, to be referred to as The Killers, as the story’s genesis came from a song lyric of theirs. Some people sing in the shower. I write in my head.

– Researched names for the main character using this awesomeness: www.languageisavirus.com/

Still Pondering:

– What the writerly equivalent is to singing into a hairbrush

– How to trust my dear readers with character names and titles. I don’t want them to be stolen!

– When being cute becomes too cute.