End-of-Year Hiatus

Those who read this blog know that I am on high alert, actively pursuing my manuscript deadline, and getting concerned at the quickly passing days. Over the months, I’ve tried many things to get myself there. I’ve tried new schedules. I’ve blocked myself from Twitter for short bursts (some of you may remember the Twitter Break of Nov. 1-7). I’ve banned myself from Facebook for more short bursts. I’ve made a new personality on my Macbook called “Nova the Writer” who has no access to any websites except Pandora and blip.fm. I’ve even made great sacrifices to write full-time because I knew I couldn’t make this deadline otherwise…

And then I’ve cheated. And made excuses.

I’m afraid to say that the above concessions may not be enough. My mind feels crowded. My insecurities flare. And that deadline is only getting closer. I began thinking that maybe I should do another Twitter and Facebook break for the month of December.

Then, today, I saw Sara Zarr’s announcement that she’ll be taking a hiatus from social-networking sites starting tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 29 through January 6. Laurel Snyder is in too. And they’re not the only ones.

Listen, I don’t want to do this. I want to be one of those strong people who can balance everything and handle the world and write brilliantly at the same time. I’m not that person.

So I’ll be staying off Twitter and Facebook starting tomorrow and ending in the New Year. I will be trying. Making a solid attempt—and here I’ve announced it publicly, so you know now. You know.

I’ll still be:

  • Blogging here about writing when the mood hits, just not obsessively
  • Updating DaniNoir.com and my main website if there is any news
  • Checking and sending email. You can reach me at: nova [at] novaren [dot] com

I will still be sending out the DANI NOIR postcards, as I teased on Twitter, and I plan to do that this week. If you want one, email me your mailing address. I have a few left.

I wish you a calm, productive end to 2009. When I see you next on Twitter and Facebook, I hope to have the full first draft in the hands of my agent, as promised, and a new drive to get it ready for my editor on Feb. 1, as promised, and contracted, which is scarier than a promise, and—most of all—I hope to talk to you again with a clear, unjumbled head.

Now… is anyone else taking the plunge?

How the Signing Went, Me on Buzzine

Two things.

First, check out the interview of me on Buzzine.com, all about DANI NOIR, what it is about the Hudson Valley that inspires my author’s imagination, what’s so healing about the alternate reality of the movies, and more. I was so excited to be interviewed by the talented writer and blogger Charlotte Otter! Thank you, Charlotte!

Second, if you want to know how my first solo book signing went, see my post about it. Photos included!

It’s the most amazing thing in the world to meet tweens who’ve read the book and loved it. That’s why I wrote the book, and it’s why I want to keep writing. I was very, very inspired by some girls I met at the signing yesterday, and it’s motivating me to work hard on my next tween proposal. My new novel-in-progress is YA, but I want to keep writing for tweens too. That’s the age that I fell in love with books. It’s the age I knew I wanted to be a writer. It was a significant time in this girl’s life and I won’t forget it.

Don’t you love motivating days like this?

Please Do Not Send YA

I had a wonderful, inspiring time at the Tin House Workshop in the summer of 2008. So much so, that I considered applying again for this summer. Then I read the application guidelines. They say: “Please do not send newspaper articles, genre fiction, or children’s or young adult literature.” Funny, because the story I workshopped the summer I was at Tin House became the YA novel chapters that got me an agent and then sold at auction months afterward. No one called it YA in the workshop. Why the distinction on their application? I don’t think YA literary fiction is easily distinguished from adult literary fiction, do you?

So then I think, wow, I’d really like to go to Bread Loaf, and I wonder if I qualify for a scholarship since I have a book out and another coming out in 2011. Guess what their guidelines say? “Please do not send children’s or young adult literature, newspaper journalism, co-authored work, or self-help literature.”

Clearly, I am looking in the wrong places. But all these closed doors to YA make me wonder what will happen when I land at Yaddo this spring. What the admissions committee read and accepted was an excerpt from the novel Dutton will publish as YA in hopefully* 2011.

I think the question is why would I want to go to an adult workshop and conference when I am now writing YA. I talked a little about why I’m writing YA for now and for the foreseeable future, and probably forever, in this interview on the B&N Book Club blogs. Here’s an excerpt that speaks to it:

JD: How do you switch gears between YA and adult fiction?

NRS: I used to write only adult fiction, but switching gears to YA was far easier than I expected—and felt so natural. For me it’s two things: Being true to the voice, and the point from which the story is being told. If I’m writing an adult character, I’m writing an adult story. If I’m writing a teenager, it’s likely I’m writing YA. I always write in first person—it’s my favorite voice to try to capture as a writer, and also my favorite voice to read—so it’s my characters who decide what I’m writing more than I do.

But there’s more to it than the voice. For me, when I’m writing for adults I feel more removed—I tend to write those stories as if looking back from a distance. I think I could set out to write the same coming-of-age story about the same girl, but if I decided to write it as an adult story it would have a far different flavor than writing it as YA.

Dani Noir, for example—which is technically tween, not YA—was so in the moment, it came out in present tense. There’s no sense of the future, no perspective, and I think that speaks to my character more than anything else. You watch her make her mistakes as she makes them; only later does she gather any wisdom about what she’s done.

Right now, I’m still all about writing in the moment. The novel I’m in the midst of writing, called Imaginary Girls, is YA and it feels so alive, so exhilarating to put down on the page, that sometimes I think I’ll never go back to writing adult fiction. Not to mention that the YA community is so phenomenal, I can’t imagine living without it. So we’ll see. I’m happy here, so I think I’ll keep my gears where they are for a while.

Knowing that I have a whole new audience now feels freeing to me, more honest, more clear. I’m not writing with any message in mind, I’m writing for the 16-year-old me, from that point in time, from that moment, which is more real to me now than the moment I happen to be sitting in at an age I won’t mention.

But I have to say, I think the craft of writing fiction translates whether you are writing for teens or for adults. Characters are characters. Story is story. Pacing and scene development and dialogue and subtext and all that—it’s in my writing now, just as it was before. It’s fiction, same as before. At Tin House what I learned and absorbed has carried over into my writing in general—Aimee Bender on the different shapes of stories; Peter Rock on character development; Dorothy Allison on setting—and does it matter if my story is YA? I still have a plot, I still have characters, I still have a setting. I actually feel like I have more flexibility now than I would have before. Doors opened to me that didn’t before. And, of course, my audience is different, and as I said above my sense of “writing in the moment” feels different, but my interest in the craft of writing my story hasn’t changed. I am not dumbing down my writing. I’m just writing and being true to my character’s voice.

So why can’t I go to Tin House? Sure, a YA author wouldn’t find an agent there, but that’s not why I’d go. And a YA author wouldn’t be as interested in publishing short stories in litmags, but that’s not why I’d go. What I loved was the weeklong writing workshop and especially the week of craft classes and lectures and readings.

Am I wrong in thinking this way? There must be another place for me that I’m just not seeing. So, please, tell me: Where is the Tin House or Bread Loaf or Sewanee for YA authors? Because I’d love to go.

[ETA: Just to clarify, I’m not seeking an MFA program—I already have an MFA in fiction and I don’t want another. I just want a summer conference that’s the YA equivalent to the ones I mentioned above. Does that exist? SCBWI NYC excluded; I’m already headed there this January.]


* I say “hopefully” 2011 because I am still writing the manuscript and it all depends on if I make my deadline and how I do with revisions and how good it is and no pressure or anything, right?

Signing at Hometown Bookstore

The Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, NY. Photo courtesy of shoutingthomas.typepad.com.

When I was a tween and a teenager I was obsessed with a few things (particular music, particular poets, particular boys), but the biggest obsession had to be books. I never left home without one. In my household, being between books and not sure what to read next was called being “bookless,” and this affliction was to be avoided at all costs. My mother was, still is, a voracious reader, too—we’d often share books or, more likely, I’d “borrow” hers after she was done with it and then lose it in the landfill known as my bedroom. Wherever we were, wherever we were headed, if a bookstore was in our path, we had to slip inside and browse a little.

When I started earning my own money—and, so you know, my very first job was as an ice-cream scooper, just like one of the characters in Dani Noir—I’d sometimes buy myself a treat. Sure, I had a deep love for shoes, but first before anything else could be bought I had to get myself a book. During high school, the main place I bought these coveted and well-loved books was an independent bookstore called the Golden Notebook. You’ll find it on the main drag of Woodstock, New York, the town where I lived during tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade. I spent numerous hours going through those shelves, sitting on that floor reading, wondering what book could cure my booklessness next.

The Children's Annex of the Golden Notebook. Photo courtesy of shoutingthomas.typepad.com.

Well, something really cool is happening next week: I’ll be doing a book signing at that very store. I’ll be upstate for Thanksgiving weekend, so if you’d like to get Dani Noir signed and you’re in the Hudson Valley for the holiday, come visit me at 12 noon on Friday, November 27 at the Golden Notebook on Tinker Street in Woodstock. I’ll be in the children’s annex, which is right next door to the main bookstore. And even better? Just a few doors down from that on Tinker Street you will find none other than a little place called Taco Juan’s, which has a guest-starring spot in the book. Coincidence? You tell me.

For more info about the book signing, see the bookstore’s website.

For more about the book in question, see the official Dani Noir website.

Taco Juan's in Woodstock, NY. Photo courtesy of shoutingthomas.typepad.com.

Just Because

Wanting to disappear a little. Do you ever feel disconnected? Misunderstood? Missed in the night? Want to curl up with your manuscript and pull a blanket over your head and not come out for hours and hours except for dinner, and if dinner could be delivered to you under the blanket even better? Because most people don’t say what you want them to? Because you haven’t told them what to say? Because they can’t read your mind? Because they have better things to do? Because it’s Thursday? Because who knows if this is any good? Because wow, you sure hope it’s good? Because you don’t want to disappoint anyone? Most especially yourself? Because maybe the words’ll come faster this way? Because who knows why? Just because?

Yes? Then you understand.

Writers, we’re sensitive creatures. It’s hellishly annoying most days.

Me on the WBBT & the Last Contest (?)

The Winter Blog Blast Tour is under way this week—check out the lineup—and you’ll find me featured today on Shelf Elf. I talk about the writing rules I set for myself because I am a ridiculous person who likes to make up rules and then break them, I talk about the things that inspire me, and I probably mention Rita Hayworth at least once, it’s sort of hard not to.

Know what else? If you’ve been curious about this book called DANI NOIR, wondering hmm maybe if you want to read it? You can win it in a contest—like this very contest on A Passion for Books!

I’m pretty sure that’s the last contest, that I know of, for this book. I mean, if you don’t win that contest and you want to read it, go to the library or buy it because I’m running out of copies to give away.

Oh, and this isn’t my contest, but it’s such a cool contest I have to plug it: Check out Victoria Schwab’s blog for the Bookshelf Share!

I want mac and cheese.

Oops. Did that just slip into this post unannounced? So sorry. Just ignore me and go about your day entering those contests!

Wrote, Edited, Interviewed, Boxed, Deadlined

Today, in no particular order, I:

  1. Wrote.
  2. Edited what I wrote.
  3. Wrote some more.
  4. Was interviewed on “A Passion for Books”—here you’ll find me talking about the voice of DANI NOIR, my most favorite and least favorite characters, and plans for future novels. (See item #6 on this list.)
  5. Opened a PO Box. When I called to ask what I needed to bring in order to open a box I was told two forms of ID, a pint of blood, and a DNA sample. I could bring a utility bill or a bank statement, but not both, and if I came with both they would turn me away without the box. (I chose the utility bill.) When I reached the window, I was sent back to fill out the form. When I reached the window again, now with the form, a man stepped in front of me and the clerk yelled at him for cutting the line and then let me go first. He took my form, my ID, my proof of address, and my blood and DNA samples, then searched the entire station for a PO Box to give me. Apparently all the boxes he’d said were free on the phone had been reserved online. He had to type in each key number one at a time to find out if the box was free, so he became increasingly upset as each box turned out to be taken because he really wanted to give me a box, seeing as he had my blood and all. It’s all the drug runners, he joked, those booze runners and drug runners taking all the boxes. Cross your fingers, he told me, because you have two keys left. He tried the second-to-last key and, alas, someone had reserved it. Then he tried the last key in all the station. It said 399. I knew it would be mine. I felt it in my bones. And aha! The box was free and signed over to my name and now you can mail me non-contraband items to PO Box 399 New York, NY 10276. I love that post office. (I’m actually serious; that’s my favorite post office in Manhattan.)
  6. Made the *glorious* decision that I would finish my first draft on… DECEMBER 16, one month from today. Now that I’ve written the words down, admitting it to the vast seas of the internet, it must come true. This will give me time to edit it before important people see it. In order to do this, it will take feats of amazing strength, dexterity, and discipline. I might not survive. I might lose an eye. So… Will I make it? Will I beg myself for an extension? Will I drive e crazy in the process? Place your bets. And mail chocolate and/or inspiring words of writing advice to the address above.