Yay Danvers! And More Splendid Questions!

Hi hi hi!

I got to meet the COOLEST group of readers today!  I did a school visit in Danvers, where apparently everyone is awesome, because it was SO much fun!  Thank you all for your terrific questions and your fabulous ideas! 

I have to tell Vicky your great suggestions for the next Erin Hunter series: dolphins!  sea otters!  elephants!  snakes!  monkeys versus gorillas!  platypus!  Oh my goodness, fun!  Plus now I want to write about all of your hilarious dogs.  I hope you’ll send me photos of them for Sunshine’s Friends! 

This is the kind of school visit that makes me really happy to do school visits, even if they are in the dreaded morning.  😉

I might have guessed that Danvers kids would be extra-cool, because guess what?  My DAD grew up in Danvers!  He lived there until he was 15 years old!  Isn’t that crazy?  I went to lunch today practically across the street from the church he used to go to, and I found out that his old high school is now a middle school.  You know, I bet when he was in elementary school, he was as funny and cool and interesting as all the young readers (and writers!) I met today.

It also reminded me that I still have some letters from my Cavallini friends with questions I haven’t answered yet.  Let’s do a couple of those!

Christina writes:  "I want to be a writer when I grow up.  For me, the hardest part about writing is the ending.  I have a hard time wrapping up a story.  Do you have any advice for me?"

And, awesomely, Catherine writes: "The hardest part of writing for me is the beginning, because I never can organize my thoughts.  I have so many ideas for the middle and end that I can’t think of a beginning!"

Too funny!  Maybe you two should write a book together!  :-)  It’s also funny because for me the hardest part is the middle of a book.  I love beginnings because that’s when I’m really excited about these new characters I’m creating, and I love endings because I know that I’ll be able to turn in the book to my editor soon!  But the middle part is where I feel like things start going really slowly and I can’t get everything in my head onto the paper fast enough.

I must say I had a hard time finishing stories when I was in 6th grade, too, although I think that’s mostly because I ran into those middles and then got distracted by the shiny new beginnings of other stories!  Having a deadline definitely helps for finishing a book.  :-) 

I also had a similar problem to Catherine’s, where I felt like there were SO MANY ways a story could go, I just couldn’t figure out which one to do!  I used to wonder how authors decided what would happen next, because I could always think of like fifteen totally different endings for each story I started.

I think my best advice for Christina would be to try and picture the whole story in your head like a movie.  What would be a good movie ending?  The warrior girl saves the day and rides off into the sunset?  The smart, sassy sixth-grader solves the mystery and catches the bad guy?  Try to figure out what the main "problem" of your story is.  Once you’ve fixed that problem, you know it’s time to wrap up the story. 

And to Catherine, I would say if the beginning is too hard, skip it and start writing from the middle!  Write whichever part you’re excited about; whatever is in your head right then.  There’s no rule that says you have to start at the beginning and go straight through to the end.  A lot of writers jump around in the story they’re writing and then put it all together afterwards (that’s how I wrote This Must Be Love!). 

Maybe once you get to the end, you’ll have a better idea of what to write for the beginning.  Or maybe you’ll find out that the middle is the beginning! 

There’s a joke among editors that you can make any book better by chopping off the first fifty pages.  That’s because most authors like to spend a long time introducing characters and building suspense before anything actually happens.  I am definitely guilty of this (hello, Avatars Book One), but personally, I was always an editor who liked all that back story and detail…I was like, "Add MORE beginning!"…so I hope my readers like it, too!

Most importantly for both of you (and all the writers I met in Danvers!), just keep writing!  Even if you don’t finish your stories right now, all that practice still makes you a better writer.  And, of course, read a lot, too.  See how your favorite authors start and end their books.  That can give you some really good ideas.

Yay school visits!  Yay meeting awesome future authors!

I have to say, though, Sunshine was not pleased about me abandoning her today.  I mean, it’s hard to feed her cheese and carry her everywhere if I’m not even here, isn’t it?  She expressed her outrage by ripping off her bandage while I was out, which is not the end of the world, but I think she felt quite silly about it afterwards.  Especially because now she might really have to wear a goofy cone on her head whenever I leave her alone.  As if she hasn’t suffered enough!  O, the indignity!

Despite the melodramatic tone of her blog this week, Sunshine is actually doing very well, as far as we can tell.  She certainly THINKS she’s all healed; she keeps trying to run wildly about the yard and roll around on the bed, which is not allowed!  Ack!  Two days after surgery, little dog!  Calm down and recuperate!  My goodness!

Her medicine does make her sleepy, though (well, first it makes her grouchy, specifically when I try to squirt it in her mouth.  And then it makes her sleepy):


She was asleep when I pulled out the camera, but she always opens her eyes suspiciously when she hears it whir on.  She just knows I’m about to capture something embarrassing for posterity.  🙂

This is our living room right now:


Yup, all the couch cushions are on the floor so she won’t jump up when she’s not supposed to.  It’s our den!  Awww, I know, we’ll do anything for the poor muffin-butt.

All right, now I have to yammer on about TV again, since my favorite show is back on the air, so feel free to skip this next part (Mom)! 

Man, I’m already having total So You Think You Can Dance withdrawal in between Friday and Wednesday.  And we’re not even up to the fun part yet!  This is a very bad sign!  I’m so addicted!  I want more dancing now!

I am SO EXCITED that some of the dancers from last year came back, especially Evan (the guy with the hat!), Asuka (the Japanese ballroom dancer), and of course Philip Chbeeb (guy with the freaky-cool arms).  I hope they all make it to the top 20!  My favorite of the newcomers we’ve seen so far is probably Caitlin from Memphis, whose sister Megan auditioned in Miami.  I loved the graceful gymnastics in her dance…so amazing!

And I have some fearless predictions about dances we’ll see once the top 20 get going:

"Halo" (Beyonce), choreographed by Tabitha & Napoleon — How could they resist doing a slow hip-hop to this song?  It’d be this season’s "No Air"!  It’d be AWESOME!

"Walking on the Moon" (The-Dream and Kanye West), chor. by Shane Sparks — I hear he’s coming back to choreograph this year (YAY!) and I think he’d do something super-fun with this song.  In fact, every time I hear it, I feel like I’ve already seen it performed on the show.  Plus it’s just asking for astronaut costumes!  ;-)  OK, maybe not…but someone should use this song, I’m just saying.

"Calle Ocho" (Pitbull) — This needs to be used for a Latin ballroom dance, like a cha-cha or a samba.  Totally perfect.

"Battlefield" (Jordin Sparks) — I could see Mia or Sonia doing a cool contemporary number with this song, especially because it has a theme all built in (go get your armor, love is a battlefield, etc.)…

"Boom Boom Pow" (Black Eyed Peas) — I envision a hip-hop group dance for this song.

I’d also love to see them use "American Cowboy" (Jada), and if they do Bollywood again (YES PLEASE!), I’m guessing we’ll be hearing something off the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack (probably Jai Ho), which is OK by me.  🙂

Sigh.  Yes, I’m already thinking about this show too much!  It’s partly because I have so many OTHER things to do, bah HUMBUG, since we’re going on vacation soon (WHEE!), which means (a) lots to finish before I go, and (b) more abandonment of the poor dog, who’ll be staying with Mom and Dad and Maui.  I know, just what she needs: someone small and furry to jump on her head while she’s recovering.  I’m sure she’ll be VERY excited about that.  😉

But I should probably go to bed now (I know, it’s only 2am!  So early!), since I got up SO VERY EARLY this morning (6:45am!  That is literally two hours after I normally go to bed!)…more next week, before we depart for exciting Yosemite!  Eeeeeeeeeeeeee I can’t wait!

Quote of the Day:  "If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?" — Abraham Lincoln