Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time is a wonderful little magazine for children's authors. I had an article published in the Spring 2009 issue. Editor Audrey Baird is looking for submissions, so if you have wisdom or encouragement to offer other writers, send her your work.

I originally began this blog for my children who are scattered across the country. I wanted to keep them up to date on the remodeling project next door that my husband and I took on. The article published in Once Upon a Time resulted from watching the process. Here's my article and some pictures to add a little interest.

Remodel, Revise, Reinvent
by Doraine Bennett

My husband and I recently bought the house next door to us. The shallow-roofed, fifties style house sagged like a worn out volume of Good Old Archibald that no one had picked up for years. It might have been a good idea in the fifties, but today, it looked like a really bad first draft.

We began remodeling with the idea that we would remain within the original footprint of the house. Structural damage forced us to boost the foundation with helical piers. We tore off the roof and added a second story. We rearranged the interior walls to make fewer, but larger, rooms.

One day our Hispanic brick mason pointed to the exterior brick wall. “No good,” he said shaking his head. The bricks were not tied to the house structure. The whole wall could collapse at any moment.

I have a few first drafts, stuck away in drawers or buried in computer folders, with as many structural problems as the house next door.

Sometimes, I get stuck in the footprint of the original draft, not realizing if I just pulled the roof off or moved the bricks, I could expand my story, find room for ideas that I hadn’t considered, or add a new dimension with subplots, stronger characters, and deeper themes.

It doesn’t necessarily mean throwing out the whole thing, just looking at it with new eyes, finding what is of value, and not being afraid to tear down a few walls or words.

We named our revised house next door “The Resting Place.” One day, when the work is done, it will be a place of solace for friends and family who need to be refreshed and reminded that joy can be found in difficult places.

I would like for my stories to do that, too. Refresh a reader. Offer a small reminder of peace. A glimmer of hope.

Revision is challenging. We tend to see what is there instead of what could be there. But when the finished product brings joy, the time and effort is well spent.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Comment Contest

Drop by Market My Words for some excellent ideas on marketing. Shelli freely shares her marketing skills and often interviews editors and agents about marketing strategies. This month she is holding a Comment Your Butt Off contest. So stop by and comment! You could win a free website designed by Shelli herself!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gems from Kathleen Duey

Southern Breeze Springmingle Notes

Bits of wisdom from a delightful author:

Unless the coffee table is important, don't describe it.

If you have a digital recorder, take it with you to the garden, the gym, for a walk. You can collaborate with yourself later, complete with excitement in the voice.

When doing research, find professors on the internet. E-mail them and ask for books they would recommend on your subject. The two or three books that overlap from professors are the best research in the field. Read them and you've saved yourself hours of time.

Experiment when you start a new work. Try first person, third person, present tense, change the age of your protagonist. A significant investment in exploration will provide depth and understanding of your characters before you start writing.

Pass on everything you know about life to people who don't know it yet.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I mentioned a few weeks back that I am participating in Nancy Sander's Book in a Month Club posts. The goal is to TRY to land a contract for a book by targeting publisher needs rather than trying to find a home for our own finished work. So I have been sending out queries for books that I haven't even written yet! It's a bit frightening, but loads of fun.

I got my first response yesterday. So now I have to become an automatic expert in a field that I expressed interest in and write a proposal!

Drop by Nancy's blog and you'll learn a lot about changing your frame of reference for approaching publishers.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Another Conference

Last weekend I drove home from a conference in the the snow. This past weekend I went to the beach, walked barefoot in sand still cold from winter wind, slept with earplugs against the spring break crowd at Party City Beach, and sat around tables with 250 women at another conference.

So many gems gleaned from each gathering. I hope to sort through them in the next few weeks and pass some of them along.

So after two weeks of conferences, deadlines, and crowded rooms, my body is tired, my soul is stretched, but that third ephemeral part of me, my spirit, is renewed. In my backyard, I watch the hidden buds of forsythia and azalea break the sepals and bloom golden and coral and purple and pink. My amaryllis bulbs are jabbing thick stems out of the ground. In another week or two their red blooms will trumpet spring!

New growth from old roots. Warm ideas from cold ground. Spring is a good place to be.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Book Proposals - Land A Contract

One of my favorite blogs is by Nancy I. Sanders. Every March she does a book in a month workshop on the blog. Last year, we wrote a picture book in a month. This month the goal is to write a book proposal and try to land a contract in a month. Of course the landing part could take much longer, but figuring out the journey and sending in the proposals is do-able!

Come over to Nancy's blog and join the fun.

Maybe we'll all land a contract!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Conference Survival

I grew up hugging the walls, fading into the woodwork, blending with any flowers I could find. As a teenager, I tentatively began trying out my voice. As a young mother, I found that I had a lot of things to say, but didn't often say them. As an adult, I began to deal with the issues that nailed me to the walls and found that freedom of speech is a marvelous thing!

That said, put me in a room with 200 mostly strangers from morning to night for a weekend and I'm still an introvert at heart. I'm pretty good at spotting others in my species and often will strike up a conversation with them.

The problem is that the weekend is an important time for meeting people, making friends, finding comrades for a journey into story that is often solitary. So halfway through Saturday when I'm too tired to press beyond the default button and I'm generally asking myself--Why did I decide to do this?--I have to remember who I am. I have to give myself permission to steal away for a quiet moment to regroup. I have to remember that it's not how many people I meet, it's recognizing where the genuine connections occur in those random interactions. And then when I get home, making time to weave that tenuous thread of acquaintance into a stronger cord of friendship.