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Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Today I had to write a speech and also the climactic scene of my book.

So what I did was:

Fixed my garbage disposal.

Oh, yeah. I did. Seriously.

Well, okay. I actually fixed it halfway after I stalked a pair of plumbers on the street and got advice, and then diagnosed the rest of the problem by myself! And then I stopped myself from following the internet instructions on How To Repair An Electrical Outlet. Which was pretty smart and heroic, the stopping part, if I say so myself. I had a screw-driver in one hand and a flashlight in the other. I was ready to rumble. And I resisted, at that last second. That is what I call will-power. Or maturity. Or, maybe, coming to my senses.

But then I got an electrician here pronto to fix the outlet because I read on the internet on the page about How To Repair and Electrical Outlet that my nonfunctional electrical outlet which was under the sink not powering my garbage disposal could cause a fire. So I said actually no I don't think it could wait until tomorrow please come now I would so appreciate it because as much as I love my neighbors I do not want to meet them out on the street tonight in their pajamas.

And, voila! When the electrician -- who had many more tools than I had (just the one screwdriver, plus the flashlight and some packing tape, for me; he had a whole metal box, and a big blue bag full of more clanking stuff including a new/functional electrical outlet) -- when he got the old nonfunctional electrical outlet out, it was hot and smelled like smoke!

And he said it was a fire hazard!

So now I feel like Wonder Woman.

And therefore I am all set to write a climactic scene and a speech.

Sometimes my work thinks I am procrastinating when really what I am doing is preparing.

Rachel Vail

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring? Spring??? also books and desserts.

Yay! Look what I got!
I admit I was a little surprised and confused -- JUSTIN CASE in paperback already? And from Scholastic? But then I realized -- these are for school book fairs and clubs! Yahoo! Coming soon to a school near you? Will you let me know if you see them at your school? Take a picture of yourself (or your child) with a copy and I will send you a free signed bookplate to put inside (good for hardcovers too!) so that your copy is personalized!

So that's my happy news.

On the other hand:
(no, not going to talk about world news. My poli-sci/history nerd girl side will spend all day on THAT... and that... and the humanitarian/mom side of me will spend all day on the other aspects... so, the lighter side of the bad news only for today...)

What happened to spring? We got 1 day of it and then, what? Just kidding? Come on now.

(my driveway in CT.)

By the way, you know what else drives me nuts, in addition to freezing temps AFTER spring is supposed to have started? When people say LOL. If you are saying it, you know, Out Loud, chances are you actually are not Laughing Out Loud. And if you ARE Laughing Out Loud while we are in the room together, I already know so you don't need to say LOL.

Sorry. Rants over.

This is my sons last weekend. When I need cheering up because because winter is overstaying its allotted 3 months (right? 4 seasons, 12 months -- why does winter get 5 or more???) I hang with my guys and watch them throw rocks and sticks into the still-partially frozen lake near our house.

What could be better than that?

Can you tell I am at the end-game of my current book? It's the time when I tend to slam my head in doors and ramble about the weather...

BUT: I am writing fiction like crazy and though you know I want to procrastinate by chatting with you, I will not let myself. (Well, maybe for a minute. But that's all! And only because I got stuff to tell ya!)

I have to get a lot done on my current book (shhh, big news coming, but not yet -- don't want to jinx it) this week before I head out to Denver Colorado this weekend for the Colorado Teen Literature conference. I can't wait! It sounds like so much fun -- they even asked me, mysteriously, what is my favorite dessert.... hmmm.... I shouldn't get my hopes up, right? Probably they were just curious?

What's your favorite dessert? (hard to choose? Or obvious?)

Here's the info, for any of you who will be in the Denver area this weekend -- I hope if you are, you'll come! The other author is Pete Hautman www.petehautman.com

I can't wait to read his books (on the plane on my way there?) -- they sound really good.

So -- back to work. Thinking about desserts, and spring, and boxes full of books. Mmmmm.

How about you?

Rachel Vail

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What happened to my bananas:


Do you write? If you do, I'm guessing you get stuck sometimes. What to do about writer's block -- or how to move forward in the story when it stalls -- or some related phrasing -- is one of the questions I get most.

I have a bunch of techniques, and figure I'll share them with you here as I use them myself.

Today -- although my younger son is on spring break so I am mostly playing (and baking) with him -- I've also been sneaking away to write while he plays with a friend.

I'm working from the point of view of a nine-year-old boy named Justin, whom some of you may know from my book JUSTIN CASE: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters. Without giving TOO much away, I will just say that these days I find myself in Justin's head, during the summer between third grade and fourth -- and I want to be sure I am getting it right.

One way to avoid too much self-editing is to speed-write. So when I am checking in with a character, I like to do as many "I" statements as I can in a minute. Just start with "I" as your character, and write whatever nonsense comes. Maybe some of your statements, upon later reflection, won't work for your character. Or maybe some won't seem to but you'll discover that somehow they do because of something you hadn't fully realized before. Or maybe you'll just be listing stuff you already know -- which might remind you of something you'd forgotten, or maybe not.

Maybe it will be a waste of time. But it's only a minute. So no big loss there.

Sometimes I have to do another minute, though. So, two minutes.

Here's what I got just now for Justin:

I am Justin Case

I am not a worried kid any more

I still worry a fair amount, though

I want to get into Deep before the summer ends

I wonder what my sister thinks about when she hums and draws

I want to win a medal in something, anything

I hate the bars I can't climb across-- they hurt my fingers

I wish my heart wouldn't pound so much

I wish my counselor weren’t so mean

I feel sorry for Penelope Ann Murphy

I wish I were more like Cash

I don’t think Cash is such a good person, though

I like killing bad guys

I want to eat unlimited cookies someday

I think bus farts might be toxic

I wish Dad would be proud of me

I wonder if I am best at anything

I hate cold water, sweat that dries and itches my neck, and loud noises

I love gummy worms

I also love nothing to do all afternoon and it’s only 2 PM

I don’t have a crush on Montana C. Probably.

I don’t hate girls yet but I am still working on that

I hate when Bartholomew Wiggins pokes me when he talks

I could listen to birds arguing in our trees for an hour without getting an itchy butt

I sometimes dream the color blue and then I wake up very smooth

Now you try it -- post your character's minute (or two) of I statements if you want, but mostly do it for yourself. Did you learn anything? Did your character's voice sound in your head? Did you get surprised?

I did, a couple of times -- and I think those little eye-openers are just what I needed to spur my day's writing today. Well, that and maybe another of the banana muffins I just baked.

Do you want more tips? I'll post 'em if you want 'em...

Rachel Vail