Friday, March 18, 2011

My First Book Signing

I am doing my very first book signing at a bookstore tomorrow morning at LatterDay Cottage in Tucson. I'm actually feeling a little nervous about the whole thing, so if you are in the area, stop by and say hi! There are going to be some great people there.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Agent contest

Just wanted to tell you about an agent contest that YAtopia is hosting. Go here to check out the details.

Good luck!!

Growing Up Gracie Review

From the back cover:

As the fifth of six kids, it's sometimes hard for Gracie Fremont to see what makes her special. But with the help of friends, family, and her faith, Gracie discovers that even the most ordinary girl can do extraordinary things. Told with sweetness, humor, and heart, this unique coming-of-age story will resonate with readers of all ages

My review:

I sat down to read a few chapters of Growing Up Gracie a couple of nights ago, and ended up reading the entire book in one sitting. I loved this novel. I thought that Fechner did a wonderful job with the characterization of Gracie, illustrating how she grows throughout her growing up years.

The book begins when Gracie is five years old and goes through her life until early adulthood (mid-twenties). In that time, you really get to know Gracie, her friends, and her family, and watch Gracie as she tries to find her place in this world.

Highly recommended.

Go here to check out Maggie's blog.
Go here to read my interview with Maggie.

Interview with Maggie Fechner

I had the chance to interview Maggie Fechner, author of the novel Growing Up Gracie.

Kaylee: Tell us a little bit about yourself.


Maggie: Here's me in a salted nut shell (salted because I'm dieting right now, and this is my daily protein snack of choice).

I'm a wife of 9 years to my best friend. I am a mother of 7 years to four kiddos who stress me to the tips of my toes and bring me joy to the depths of my heart. I am a portrait photographer. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I am a writer. And now, since November, I get to say I'm an author. Yay!

How long have you been writing?

I was just thinking, is it too cliche to answer, since I was a child? It's true. I've been writing since a very young age. However, that's what every author says, so I think it might be kind of neat to answer something like "I've never written a sentence in my life. Page one of my NYT Bestseller were the first words I've ever written." Yeah, right.

Seriously though, I've been doing it forever. Editor of the newspaper. BA in journalism. Worked as a reporter. Blah, blah, cliche, cliche. :)

Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

I'm not a huge outliner. I just write fast with no looking back and then have major revisions when I finally look over the jumbled mess.

I know you have four little kids, and I'm sure you have other obligations as well. When do you find time to write?

I write from 5-6:30 in the morning on Monday through Friday. Then if I can throughout the day I try to steal little snatches of time here and there for marketing and blog hopping and things like that. When a book is out with my first readers I take a break from writing and don't hop straight into the next project. Yes, it might be lazy, but let me tell you, sleeping in until 7 feels like heaven!

Tell us a little bit about your road to publication.

I wrote Growing Up Gracie fairly quickly when I was a new mother and had an infant who was a great sleeper. I remember my parents and husband taking me out to dinner one night to celebrate that I had finished writing my book. I then proceeded to put the manuscript away and not touch it for about five years. When I dragged it out again I read it and was appalled at the horrible writing I had once celebrated! I began editing and editing and editing and editing. I probably did three complete rewrites before giving the book to my first readers. Then I edited some more and more and more. Finally I submitted it and was informed on my 30th birthday that Cedar Fort wanted to offer me a contract.

What is your favorite book? Favorite genre?

I just read The Secret Garden for the first time and absolutely loved it. I also love Alicia: My Story. My favorite genre is not paranormal YA. Can you believe it? Is anyone's favorite genre not YA these days? No, seriously, my favorite books are set in America before 1960. If that genre has a name, I don't know it. I was informed to be a truly "historical" piece, it must be set before the 1900s, and so I guess it's not that... Hmmm. Let's just say this. I love olden-times books, but not super olden-times books. And I definitely don't need a happy ending to be satisfied with a book.

Do you have any advice for those trying to get published?

I don't quite feel "old" enough in this business to offer advice. But if there was anything I wish I'd known before I delved in, it would be this: your first, or second, or even third novel doesn't have to be the first one you have published. It's okay to write just for the sake of improving your craft.

I'm so grateful Growing Up Gracie is out there and is being received so well. This journey has been so full of excitement and amazing support. I feel that my knowledge has grown in leaps and bounds, and I've still only scratched the surface. I hope that my debut is a great jumping-off point to a long and rewarding life as a writer.

Thanks, Maggie. It was great getting to know more about you.

Thanks, Kaylee.

Go here to read my review of Growing Up Gracie.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The First Line

I’ve been editing my book recently and thinking about first lines. They have the power to draw you in or turn you off. So I wanted to do a little research using some of the books on my bookshelf that are in the same genre (YA) as the book I just finished writing.

Here are the ones that I found:
“For the record, I wasn’t around the day they decided to become Dumb.”
Five Flavors of Dumb, Antony John

I haven’t read Five Flavors of Dumb yet, but I’m expecting the narrator to be a little sarcastic and funny. And I’m really, really curious about a band that would name themselves Dumb and the girl that comes into their lives.

“I guess I kept hoping some kind of miracle would happen.”
Bloom, Elizabeth Scott

“Getting dressed was always the hardest part of the afternoon.”
Pretties, Scott Westerfeld

In Scott Westerfeld’s book, the Pretty world is almost completely consumed with caring about appearances. He sets their world up perfectly with just one sentence. When what to wear is your biggest problem (and you’re not even getting dressed until afternoon anyway) then I get really curious about what’s going to happen to shake this all up.

“My lady and I are being shut up in a tower for seven years.”
Book of a Thousand Days, Shannon Hale



“There are times in life when it’s important not to trip: when you’re going for the tie-breaking lay-up in a basketball game, when you’re walking down the aisle on your wedding day, and when your English teacher asks you to hand out textbooks—and you’re about to give one to Ethan Lancaster.”
Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws, Janette Rallison

Janette Rallison’s book is just as hilarious as the first sentence would lead you to believe. With that one line she shows that the mc is a basketball player and in love with Ethan Lancaster—both things which drive the entire plot.


"Everyone knows I’m perfect.”
Perfect Chemistry, Simone Elkeles


“There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.”
Holes, Louis Sachar

As for Holes, Sachar already has me asking questions and wanting to read more. Why is there no lake at Camp Green Lake? (And green lake, yuck!) The tone of this book stays completely true to his first sentence. The whole book just drips with irony.

What do these lines tell us?
They give us voice. They give us tone. They tell us about the character or the world the character lives in (sometimes both.) They draw us in, either by leaving us wondering, or because we already love the character’s voice.


My current first line is this:
I untied the rope from my harness with tingling fingers, flexing them as I walked away from the rock wall.
 
I think it lacks punch.
 
So I rewrote it to this:
With twenty feet of gray rock above me and forty feet to the hard ground below, I couldn’t help but wonder how Brian had convinced me to do this.
 
But I'm worried that it starts my story in the wrong place. I'd have to do flashback to tell you how she got there, and I don't want to do that.
 
So, back to the drawing board. If I come up with anything good today, I'll update.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why I Write

I'm reading The Liar's Club by Mary Karr for my book group this month and I came across a quote that I LOVE and that I totally agree with.

"Personal experience has the possibility to transform both the tellers of it and the listeners to it." (p. xiv)

A few years ago, I took a class at ASU that focused completely on this concept of the power of personal narratives. It was one of my secondary education (for teaching English lit) classes, but as I wrote examples of the assignments for my students, I relearned what I'd already discovered through avid journal writing: personal narrative really can heal a person. It can change them.

I think this is one of the things I love about blogs. I visit the craft blogs, and the cooking blogs, and the writing blogs, and I find their posts interesting and informative, but the blogs that I find myself going to over and over again are those that share personal stories. Those that connect themselves to whatever they're sharing.

I love the writing blogs where writing isn't just a scholarly pursuit to be dissected as if it were a science project. Yes, we need to know the mechanics of good writing. Yes, we need to know techniques for engaging a reader. But there are a lot of sources out there telling about these things. I have numerous writing books, I get the writing magazines, I subscribe online to various websites that teach these things. I love the blogs that may jump into these topics, but then the authors tell me about themselves and how this topic relates to them. They talk about their successes, their failures, the things they've learned, they show me how powerful metaphor can be by writing a post just oozing with amazing metaphor, they teach me about subtlety by being subtle. While I'm being taught, I don't feel like I'm being talked to or lectured, but that the author has invited me to sit with them, to share a carton of ice cream, and discuss what we've learned and how our writing has affected our lives, our families, and our selves.

So, if you get a lot of me and my personal story here at this blog, that is why. I strongly believe in the power of personal narrative, of writing it down, of letting it heal. And we all need healing. From heartaches and pains, to hurt feelings, broken bodies, broken families, sick children, wandering children, and so, so many more trials that I can't even fathom.

This is why I keep a journal.
This is why I blog.
This is why I write.

Because even if the circumstances of my life don't change, my heart does.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mailboxes, Keys, and Awesome Packages

This has been a crazy week over at the Baldwin household. My oldest son had surgery last week and is taking longer to heal that we thought he would. On top of that, my sister is getting married this week so I'm helping to get things ready for that.

And just to stress myself out more.... I've made his crazy goal to have my next book written by May. I'm about 60 pages in and have it outlined, so we'll see if the rest of my life will cooperate with my writing goals.

So I went to the mailbox today for the first time in over a week, which is not unusual. Our mailman probably thinks we're out of town a lot. We're not.

Our mailbox is one of those communuty ones that is about seven houses down from me. SEVEN houses. That may not seem like a lot, especially seeing how our houses are so close they're practically on top of each other, but for some reason, I can't get there. It probably doesn't help that a few weeks ago, I jogged down there while my kids were watching a movie, and I jogged back (because it is never a good idea to leave my headstrong/creative kids alone for longer than a minute) and left my keys in the mail box. My car keys, my house key, my mail key--all dangling from the outside lock on the mailbox. They hung there for two hours. Until I decided to take my kids to McDonald's for dinner and couldn't find my keys. As I ran to the mailbox, hoping they'd still be there, my neighbor was driving toward me with her hand out her window, my keys in her hand. I love my neighborhood. I can't believe no one took my keys, that were in my mailbox, where my address was plainly displayed. That could've been an invitation someone couldn't refuse. Luckily I have great neighbors.

Now I drive to the mailbox. Yes, the one that's seven houses down. Because you can't leave keys in a mailbox when you need them to turn on your car to leave the mail box.

Anyway.... When I got to the mailbox, I found these inside. I love getting packages in the mail!


I am really excited to read this book! It seems like the perfect Mother's Day gift. And I read Jane Still's blog and it is hilarious. I'll get a review up on this book in April.

And I also I received this:

Okay, you may have to squint to see this dress, but it is my bridesmaid dress for my sister's wedding that's on Saturday. That's right. Her wedding is in three days, and the bridesmaid dress just arrived today (well, that may not be entirely accurate because I haven't checked my mailbox in a while, but still.) Now I can finally breath easy and not be afraid I'll stand out/ruin all of my sister's pics.

Anyone else get anything fun in the mail this week? (Or have a propensity for losing things?)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Journey of Honor Review

From the back of the book:

Disowned, she came to American anyway. Attacked and left pregnant by a vicious mob, she still pressed on. Finally in spite of being accused of theft by the vilest of her attackers, Giselle tries to remain as upbeat and uncomplaining as a prairie wildflower as she travels on to Zion.

Thoroughly disillusioned with the ugliness and cruelty of slavery in the South. Trace Grayson leaves his young medical career to go west, hoping to leave bigotry and hatred behind. He begins taking goods by teamster train to sell in the territories. However, this fourth time across in July 1848, he's stuck in St. Joseph, Missouri, waiting for enough wagons to join the train so that they can leave.

Knowing that if they don t start west soon, they ll be caught by snow in the mountains. Trace is thrilled when the final wagon signs on. Then, when the beautiful young Dutch girl traveling with the last wagon is falsely accused of stealing and is detained, the whole trip is jeopardized. Thrown together by circumstances, Trace and Giselle team up to begin to figure out just how to make this epic journey across a continent a success.

With a deep sense of honor and an equally strong sense of humor, together they learn to deal with everything except the one trial that neither of them can overcome.

My thoughts:

Journey of Honor was a sweet love story. When I started reading it, I was so excited to see that it was a marriage of convenience story, the kind of book that I just happened to be in the mood to read that day. Giselle is a faithful woman who rises against the horrific things that happen to her, and Trace is just the kind of hero that you'd want your daughter to fall in love with (or that you'd want to find for yourself!) I'd recommend this to readers who love clean romance, who like historicals with an LDS themes woven in, or anyone in the mood for a sweet love story.