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!



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.

Can You Hear Me Now – Authenticity of Voice

Many projects sit in their tidy folders waiting for me to pay them attention. All are very different: a picturebook text, a young YA novel, and a full-fledged YA. Yet all are the same in that their respective character/narrative voices echo off the pages. While jotting down what I hear in my imagination is fun and feels true, I sometimes fear an editor, an agent, or gasp! even a reader will say that they are decidedly false.

I try to balance two arguments:

A. Every child is different, and in authors’ attempts to appeal to mythical median, voices either sound the same or fall on deaf ears. Hence my disdain for junior beach reads. As a teen, I was more a Melinda of Speak, less a Gossip Girl. So, I take quick audio files of real kids and teens I know or was and remix them into a unique character signature. Of course, most of these kids are girlish, innocent geeks who are strong enough not to pretend otherwise.

2. Ignoring certain issues or the way 14-year-olds really talk could alienate buyers.And while writing for writing’s sake has its value, for it to have an impact, it has to be read. So I fear being read as that old cat lady who doesn’t get kids today. And instead of the nerds, the “good kids,” or the shy girls getting the shaft, everyone else does.

When I approach revising my works from the voice angle, I need to figure out how to balance creating a unique character and voice, but not so unique as to have anyone think that this book is unrelatable because such a character doesn’t exist.

What do you all think? How authentic should we be? Sacrifice character for market share? Hold out for the one believer?

Killing Your Darlings

Apparently we writers need to be homicidal maniacs. A piece of advice I’ve heard often times is to “kill your darlings” when revising. No, we’re not to  ask our publishers to lace the pages with cyanide. We must simply ax with a machete the carefully crafted words we’ve given birth to. If we don’t, our editors’ red pens will make the page bleed anyway.

At the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the wonderful Cynthia Leitich Smith advised us hopefuls  to writewritewrite our first draft. And then obliterate it. Watch as it goes poof into our computer’s trash bin.  I’m Catholic to core, including in my writing, so obviously I cannot do that.  I respect life, even of words!

And yet I now find myself tormented by a project that fears its facing the guillotine. See, Publishers Weekly announced the young adult novel Halo as one of the hot ARCs to grab at Book Expo America. I am sitting with a young adult novel-length project named Halos about a very similar subject matter, just with reversed genders. If I want my darling book to ever see the light of day, I know I must re-conceive the plot line and eliminate the achingly lovely lines.

But do I dare end their lives? Do I want to be known as Britt Leigh, mass murderer?  No. I think instead I’ll just send them to the Witness Protection Program of my external hard drive.

Chapter One

It was a dark and stormy night. So I stayed in and started a blog. Though I may travel into another dimension in my dreams.

But you, grab a sandwich, book, and kitten and get in bed. That is perfection. This blog will not be. But it will be full of wit and whimsy and wherefores about the writing world.

At 25, I am facing an epoch in my life. I can feel it. One day I will have full books under my name in your local independent book store. Until then, check out my publishing progress, thoughts on the craft and industry, pieces of my mind, and general coming of age.

I love you forever, dear reader.

P.S. Bonus points if you can name the literary allusions riddled throughout this post.