I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Monday, June 25, 2012

Writing with Technology (Scrivener, Evernote, iPads, oh my!)

(Scrivener - source)
I've turned into a bit of a techno-geek lately, I must admit. It all started when my iPad arrived a couple of months ago; since then I've been researching the best ways to do my writing, and programs that will make things easier. And not just writing my novels, but also blog posts, information-gathering, administrative tasks, and general organization. Different considerations apply, of course, most notably whether I'm working at my desk at home or on my iPad offline (unfortunately I don't have full-time internet support when I'm away from my home wi-fi setup). I thought I'd share a few of my discoveries with you, and see whether you know of different ways of doing things that I can yoink borrow and use myself.

I'm writing my current manuscript with Scrivener on my laptop, and have been for a while now. At this stage, I don't think I could live without it! It's got so many useful functionalities, and I particularly like the corkboard, the ability to take snapshots to save previous versions, the full-screen composition mode, and the collections (ah, the collections!). I don't know about you, but I love how I can gather scenes that deal with one particular thingmy love story, for exampleand list them all in a "love scene" collection so I can find them easily, while at the same time not changing the order of my actual drafting and scenes.

Only problem is, Scrivener isn't out for iPad yet, and is unlikely to be out for a few more years yet, according to the Literature and Latte guys (who developed Scrivener). Until that day, I'm having to use other programs in order to write on my iPad.

I bought Pages, for approx. $10, and that is a pretty good word processing toolsome say it's the best word-processing tool that there is among the current apps. My difficulty with Pages, however, is that every time I amend my manuscript on my iPad, I have to email myself a copy of the document and copy it back into Scrivener. Forget to do that, and I'm working with incorrect versions, and it becomes a headache waiting to happen.

So I've been trying to find something that will allow me to sync between my home computer and my iPad. Scrivener for Mac gives you the ability to sync to Simplenote, using Dropbox I believe, but I use Windows so I don't even have the "Sync" button on my version of Scrivener :( And I haven't found any other way of automatically syncing between Scrivener and another program.

Instead, what I've been doing is manually copying and pasting my Scrivener scenes into Evernote once each is completed (each in one document/note). I could use Simplenote to do this as well, and many prefer Simplenote for its "pure text-based" fuctionality. But I like how I can use Evernote for so many thingskeeping photographs, to do notes, reminders, links and articles I've copied in from the web, etc etc. Plus, Evernote keeps my formatting from Scrivener, including highlightingwhich I use extensivelywhereas I lose much of that when using Simplenote.

And there are all sorts of companion apps to Evernote that are making my life so much easier, including Skitch, Clip to Evernote, and Clearly. I can even save Tweets and tweet links into Evernote, simply by copying a tweet into @myen, or DM'ing Evernote.

Ah, techno-geek heaven *sighs*!!! And that's not even mentioning Write or Die and Freedom, and my NaNoWriMo Report Card which I have open all the time to record my word count progress (even though it's not November)!

How about you: What programs/apps do you use to write when you're away from your computer (and at your computer too)? Is there anything I haven't mentioned above that you think a techno-geek like me would like? :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Interview with Jericha Senyak, aspiring author

Guys, today I'm doing an interview with Jericha Senyak, aspiring author and legendary follower o' mine! She's a particularly intriguing person (*grins*), and I can't wait to get to know her better. So, I'm going to dive straight into my questions:

Question 1: If you had to describe yourself in one sentence, what would it be?  

Aha, you see, I am the champion of complex, mystical, evocative, and wildly gesticular run-on sentences. I could tell you my whole life in a single sentence (correctly punctuated, too) with all the major events to date and not a single misplaced modifier. Really, I swear. But actually I’m just going to let that first line stand as it is.

Question 2:  What are the three most important things should we know about you? 

The three most important things? Hmmm. I’m pretty sure there’s only one: all you need to do for me to be putty in your hands is offer me a really excellent snack. (Both my parents and my boyfriend can corroborate this.) Add a moderately nice-looking garden/museum/cafĂ©/armchair in which to enjoy it and I’m yours forever. I’m like an especially dopey puppy who’s hungry all the time.

Question 3: You talk about the Museum of Joy project on your website. It sounds like an awesome project, can you tell us about it? Are you close to realizing this dream, or is it something you’re working toward for the future?

The Museum of Joy is my life’s work, and it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a museum dedicated to the experience of joy. (And yeah, okay, also wonder, delight, glee, exuberance, longing, and a general feeling for the marvelous. I’m not fussy.) What the heck does that look like? In my head, it looks like a piece of conservation land with a hand-built complex of low-impact buildings making some kind of fabulous pattern on it, each of which would be home to a riotous conflagration of art, dance, poetry, performance, music, imagination, cookery, and other general joy-inducing stuff. I’m nowhere near it, but I’m working on it. Why, exactly? Because I have an overdose of love for the sheer glory of existence, and I’m pretty sure that if I don’t do my very best to build something really, really awesome centering around the sharing of joy, I’ll end up wearing an orange robe and chanting nonsense syllables in some yippie cult in the Marin Headlands. And I really, really don’t want that.

Rach - Wow, this sounds so intriguing! You told me you'd love to build it on the Californian coast - I'm going to wish you the best of luck with your dream and hope one day I can come visit :)

Question 4: Tell us where you are in your writing journey? Where would you like to be in one year, five years, ten years?

I never thought I’d be a fiction writer. I’ve written all my life, and I love words, but I stopped bothering with stories after I was fifteen or so. I wanted to be a filmmaker and then I wanted to be an artist and writing was just something to help me put my thoughts in order. Then last November my dad and my sister were both doing NaNoWriMo, and I thought hell, I should at least try. I actually have no idea why I thought that, given that I didn’t have the faintest idea what I wanted to write about, but then a novel fell out of me kind of by accident and I stopped asking questions. I have no idea if I’ll ever write another one – I’m still in that one up to my eyeballs.

Honestly, I think of myself as someone-who-builds, not a writer or even an artist, really, despite what my website says. All my art centers around making spaces that feel magical to me, microcosmic and macrocosmic dream worlds and houses and castles in the air, that kind of thing. The first thing I ever wanted to be was an architect, and everything else has just been a variation on the basic theme of architecture as I understood it when I was eight: make something that people can walk into and feel transfigured, moved, shifted, altered forever. That's what I want, now and in ten years and probably in fifty years as well. Writing is a marvelous thing, but honestly, I just not-so-secretly want it to become a fantabulous bestseller so I can buy a piece of land already. If that doesn’t work I’m going to have to try something else. Maybe lawyering. Or chartered accountancy.

Question 5: What WIP are you working on at the moment? Can you share your premise with us? 

I’m deep into my second rewrite of the NaNoWriMo novel I mentioned above. Here, let me give you my new pitch! The Book Doctors, whose amazing book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published has become a quasi-Bible for me, told me I had to practice my pitch. Let me know what you think, guys. Be harsh.

Somewhere in the heart of in a nameless city falling slowly into the sea, George Kepler, a shy bookbinder, is sitting in his attic with his books. He lives alone. He reads the books he binds. He doesn't have adventures. He dreams of alchemy and harmonies and devils in the chimney. His prayerbooks are the texts of old mathematicians and astronomers. He drinks coffee. He sighs a lot. He wonders if there is anyone left who remembers to praise the works of God but him. He wonders if maybe love's a better option (at least it's companionable). He chronicles the marvelous workings of the cosmos meticulously each evening, and wonders why divinity seems so very far away.

But just when he finds himself distracted by the black eyes of his local barista, Lilya, a peach of a girl with sharp elbows and an obligatory dose of snide, two strangers come a-knocking who know a lot more about him than they should. Before he knows it, they've whirled George out of his sleepy life of prayer and sent him on a series of harebrained and beautiful adventures. As he pursues an unseen Klezmer orchestra through a driving snowstorm, falls off cliffs, uncovers the unlikely friendship of a Danish alchemist and a famous mystic rabbi , stumbles across a secret synagogue, and discovers a forgotten manuscript that might just be about the Golem, he's left with hardly any time to ask himself - are his new friends fun-loving fools, or are they after something? Are they angels sent from God or a pair of tricksy demons? Is he having the time of his life or beginning to lose his mind? Does Lilya think he's nuts or a just lovable schlemiel? And did he leave the front door hanging open?

A Fool For God is an old-fashioned mystical romp, a brooding Eastern European meditation on belief thrust into a San Franciscan carnival of merry, drunken adjectives, a fantastical Christian allegory and a Jewish folktale busy birthing a love child on a festive night in the back alleys of a city that just might be your own.

Question 6: What similarities do you have with your main character? What differences? If you could meet your main character the day before an important event from your WIP occurs, what would you tell him/her???

Well, what I started with was a question for myself: can I, a nonbeliever who can be very impatient with religious belief and especially, generally speaking, the kinds of people who have religious beliefs, can I write a character who believes really and truly and fervently in God without me thinking that he’s basically, well, an idiot? And George kind of sprang up full-fledged in answer to that question. He’s like me in that he’s a Jew with unorthodox ways of looking at the world, I suppose, and his love for beautiful things and books and the mystical aspects of the universe are all certainly things we have in common. But there are fragments of me in all my characters, without any of them being me, or even a version of me. I wanted to write people who I didn’t understand and see if I could get into their heads. But the book is about faith, and the question why is beauty, and that’s certainly me. Me and almost everyone I’ve ever met, actually.

If I met George on the street (and I would love to, I think), the only thing I’d be able to say to him is I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer either. One of the major themes of the book is the mysterious, and what happens to the sacred when you ask too many questions. Or the wrong kind of questions. I’m all for questioning. But part of dealing with faith, no matter what kind of faith you’re talking about, is the battle between the part of you that wants a tidy answer and the part of you that wants to experience wonder. George would be looking at me all crazy-eyed, and I’d be shaking my head and going, “I got nothing, dude. Sorry. I’m not God, I’m just the writer. You’re on your own with this one.”

Rach - That sounds pretty intense. And I'm thinking you've got some great characterization going in your WIP, so go you!

Question 7: And the most important question of all—chocolate or cupcakes???

Oh, chocolate. Hands down. I remember that good dark bitter chocolate is a miracle every time I eat it. Cupcakes are not miracles; they’re too bloody sweet to be miraculous. Miracles are things that make you sway on your feet. Cupcakes are nice, but seriously, who wants nice? Joy isn’t nice, it’s a kind of transcendence, and transcendence is a wild, strange, wonderful thing. And really good chocolate is one of its many manifestations.

Rach Haha, I think that's one of the most unusual answers I've ever got to this question! 


Thanks so much for taking the time to be interviewed, Jericha. I hope everyone pops over to her blog to say hello and give her a hug from me :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

BE HERE NOW: A Writer's Auction to Raise Funds for Andy Whitfield's Documentary about Cancer Awareness

Guys, as an Aussie writer, today I'm doing a shout-out for "Be Here Now," a writers' auction to raise funds for the completion of actor Andy Whitfield's documentary promoting cancer awareness. YA Writer Kathy Bradey, who is repped by Suzie Townsend, is heading up an auction starting this Wednesday where you can win query and manuscript critiques. More details will be on her blog, so please visit her for all the up-to-date info, but here's a quick rundown:

What is "BE HERE NOW?"

Be Here Now” is an inspiring documentary about the actor Andy Whitfield, who put the same determination and dedication that he brought to his lead role in the hit television show, “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” into fighting life-threatening cancer.

It was Andy’s hope that by opening his story up to a documentary, he might help or inspire others facing similar challenges, while pushing to accelerate the pace of cancer research around the world.
When Andy was told his lymphoma had returned and that without treatment he had 3 – 6 months to live, he was compelled to share his exploration into the unknown. He selflessly invited a film crew into our lives, who followed us through out the last year of Andy’s magnificent and courageous journey. We now need your support to finish the documentary and fulfill Andy’s legacy. ~ Vashti Whitfield 

What are "BE HERE NOW" Critiques?

“Be Here Now” needs funding for additional filming and editing, else the documentary will not be completed.

As a writer/fan of Andy Whitfield/despiser of cancer, Kathy Bradey has rallied together some wonderfully generous authors to offer various manuscript, chapter and query critiques in exchange for your pledge/donation to the “Be Here Now” Kickstarter campaign.

Writers participating so far:

Debra Driza
Laura Tims
Michelle Painchaud
E.K. Henry
Kathy Bradey
Mindee Arnett
Melanie Santiago
Angie Spartz
Rachael Allen
Beth Light
Susanne Winnacker
Kaitlin Ward
Jenn Walkup
Kara Taylor
Dawn Rae Miller
Stephanie Kuehn
Rebecca Rogers
Lori Lee

When does it start?

The first round of auction items will be posted on WEDNESDAY, 13TH JUNE (Sydney, Australia time) on Kathy’s blog.

Important Details

• The minimum bid is $1.00.
• Once winners have been confirmed, they must pledge their winning amount to Kickstarter within one week of winning their auction item. Please note: A pledge is not a payment. It is a promise of payment.
As per the rules of Kickstarter, you will NOT have to pay any money (even after you have pledged) unless the “Be Here Now” funding goal is met within the specified timeframe. Let me say that again. IF THE FUNDING GOAL IS NOT MET WITHIN THE TIMEFRAME, YOU WILL NOT BE CHARGED YOUR PLEDGED AMOUNT. Unfortunately this also means that you will only receive your auction item if the funding goal is met. However, with a funding goal of $200,000 and $37,000 already pledged in 2 days (with 43 days to go), you can make up your own mind whether or not to participate.
• If the funding goal is met, your credit card will be charged on Monday Jul 23, 4:04pm EDT. You must send Kathy the confirmation e-mail sent by Amazon Payments as a record of donation to receive your critique.

If you would like to pledge without partaking in the auction, do so here.

Thank you for your interest and support! Please retweet, blog, spread the word!


I hope to see you all over at Kathy's blog on Wednesday for the start of bidding :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Beta Match - Are you looking for a critique partner or beta reader? (June 4, 2012)

By Rachael Harrie (@RachaelHarrie)

It can be hard to find a critique partner or beta reader (and even harder to find a great one!). Some of you have found critique partners and beta readers through those you know in person, while others have found them in bloggers you met online, on Twitter, through online conferences such as WriteOnCon, through forums such as Verla Kay's Blueboards, Absolute Write, and in other ways. But time and again I’ve seen people commenting that they don’t know where to look. So, I thought I’d help out (*grins*).

Today, I'm running a Beta Match (and don't let the name fool you, it's for critique partners too!). If you’re interested in taking part, there are two options:


Put your details and what you’re looking for in the comments below, using the following template:

Name: (your name, pen name, or blogging handle)
Email: (your email address)
My current WIP: (give a few details)
I'm looking for: (a critique partner or beta reader or both. Plus give info about the critiquing style/focus/etc that you want from a CP/beta reader, and whether you have work ready to be looked at now or are looking for a long-term partnership)
Some info about me: (anything you think a potential CP or beta reader will need to know)



Read through other comments in this post to see if someone who’ll suit your needs has commented. Then contact them directly.

Please note: Beta Match isn't only for those who have a piece of work ready to be critiqued right now. It's intended to be a way for people to find critique partners who can help them with their writing/revisions/etc over the long-term. Even if you're after a beta reader, you can still connect with someone now and swap work at a later date :)

So comment away, and wishing you the best of luck finding someone!

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