Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Breakout Novel Workshop

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Donald Maass this past weekend at one of his workshops. The man's intuitiveness is amazing. This was clear evidence in my "book" why the man is so successful at what he does. One person in the group asked why he did these seminars. He basically said to help writers write better. He sees a lack in the industry and feels the need to share his wisdom to help. Mr. Maass said his agency gets 400-500 submissions a week and of those, only about seven or eight get a request for the first few chapters. Of those, perhaps one or two get to the next step. Pretty tough odds, huh?

So, what did we do for a day and a half? Write, write, write. And I don't mean taking notes. I mean writing exercises. We were instructed to bring a full or partial manuscript to work with. We looked at characterization, conflict, tension, and motive. Raising personal and public stakes. Building plot layers and weaving them together. Creating connections between characters, settings, and plot. Tension on every page. Delaying backstory. Theme. Writing an effective query letter. The list goes on and on.

All of this is in his book, Writing the Breakout Novel, and in the workbook he wrote to go with it. But I saw more details come out, he took things farther. Plus, you have no choice but to write. You dig, you delve, you discover.

Now on the humorous side, we had the interesting element of a TV crew from Paris filming the entire seminar on Saturday. A fairly unknown station in France is producing a documentary on the bestseller phenomenon, which is a mentality not evident in Europe. How weird is it to have a camera filming your hand as you write frantically to keep up with "The Maass"? LOL!

The fun came later when said TV crew interview several of us about writing and seeking publication. When I was asked who my favorite writers were, of course I listed Brandilyn Collins and Colleen Coble. My friend Marilyn did a wonderful job talking about Christian fiction and few other things. (wink, wink, Marilyn. :-) She did a fabulous job.

All in all, the weekend was invigorating and exhausting. I have over 20 pages of notes to look over and see what I plan to do to my latest WIP. What I found affirming was seeing that I had applied some of BON techniques to my story already. Reading the book helped immensely, but the workshop really put it all together for me. Plus I got a stack of exercises not in the workbook.

I'm including the link to the site that handles Mr. Maass' seminars. There's even a week long intensive seminar. If you have an opportunity to attend one, I highly recommend it. Just be prepared to work...and grow.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Mr. Wonderful

Are you laughing yet? What is this thing, you ask? It's my latest gift from dear hubby. It's...drum roll please...

He's the perfect companion. He doesn't make more laundry. I don't have to cook for him either. He just stays in his shiney box, smiles and speaks from the heart.

Featuring 8 different phrases!

•You're perfect just the way you are. I wouldn't change a thing.

•This rose is for you.

•Darling, take just as long as you want to get ready. I don't mind waiting one bit.

•How about a big kiss?

•I don't need sports to make me feel complete. Just you by my side to love.

•This evening let's just lie in bed and talk all night.

•Thinking of you is the best part of my whole day.

Ok, I counted 7. So he's not so perfect after all. Just a little defective maybe. That could explain the way my flesh crawls when I look at it as he talks. LOL!

Oh, hubby is just something else. Let me tell you. Life with this man is never dull, and most of our friends can attest to that. I've learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to Michael Miller. Maybe that's why most people say I don't look my age and are shocked to find out I have a sixteen year old daughter.

He definitely keeps me young. He's the comedy in my life, the one who makes me laugh when I want to cry. He's the ultimate epitomy of a postive attitude. Nothing shakes the man except a good comedy.

So, on this Valentine's Day, I salute my dear hubby. He's truly my Mr. Wonderful.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

2006 Winter Olympics Begin

For the first time in years I actually got to sit and watch the entire opening ceremony. What fun to root for team USA. My family and I also rooted for Switzerland since it was out home for several years. And finally, how encouraging to see North and South Korea represented together. I believe these athletes are sending a clear message to their countries. Let's hope and pray someone listens.

A few of the athletes really caught my eye. Bode Miller (no relation) seems to be somewhat of a rebel without a cause. Although I get the distinct impression he's finding one, as well as himself. He's a strong skier—one of the best. Can't wait to see how he holds up.

Michelle Kwan is back, despite her injury. She seems like such an amazing young woman. I love watching the ice skaters. This year looks to be as challenging as years past. The talent is amazing.

My daughter and I got a big kick out of Shawn White, the Flying Tomato. This nineteen year old snowboarder flys like an eagle and has red hair. Hence the name. I think he's one we'll be watching for a lot. His fresh talent is amazing.

The Olympics have alwasy been a special time in my family. Seeing these driven athletes go after their dreams is incredibly inspiring. To hear their life stories and the obstacles they have to overcome just enhances their victories, no matter what form they come.

May God bless each and every one of them, no matter what country they come from. And may we pursure our own dreams with equal passion.

(picture courtesy of NBC)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Dieting As We Know It

The New York Times published the results today of an eight year study involving nearly 49,000 women ages 50 to 79 to see if diets low in fat reduced the risks of heart disease and cancer. (Go here to read it. You may have to create a password but it is free.)

Amazingly, the study results blew what we've believed out of the water. This is the largest study ever done and it showed a low-fat diet has no effect. The women had the same occurance of heart disease and cancer as women who did what they wanted. Though some experts disagree with the findings, the magnitude of this $415 million federal study will most likely be the final word in the low-fat dieting genre.

The sad part of this study, in my opinion, is the $415 million spent, and they wound up with no clearer answers than they had before they started—other than eat healthy and exercise, but we kind of already knew that, didn't we? Maybe they should do a study on people who eat smaller portions of the foods they like, keep a balance diet in all the food groups (including fats), and exercised regularly.

This just confirms to me that the right course is to listen to the bodies God designed for us. They can tell us when we're hungry and full, they can even tell us what we need or don't need. The problem isn't in the food, it's in how we handle it, individually and commercially.

Which brings me to another area of concern. Want to talk about genetically modified crops? Don't even get me started there.

My ears are open, let me know what you think.