Archive for December, 2009

The Kay Snow Writing Awards!

December 22, 2009

The Kay Snow Contest is an annual writing award run by Willamette Writers in Oregon, but you don’t need to be an Oregonian to enter. Student writers are awarded $50 for first place in three grade divisions, $20 for second place, and $10 for third place. For adults, first prize of $300, second place prize of $150, third place prize of $50 one each in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, juvenile, poetry, and screenwriting. Find out more by going to Kay Snow Contest Guidelines. The deadline is April 23rd, 2010.

This contest helped me break in – I won second place in adult poetry about eleven years ago and first place in writing for juveniles about seven years ago. Mentioning these awards in my query letter helped get Ann Rittenberg’s attention before she signed me for A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT.

Good luck, everyone! And happy holidays!


the character poem

December 8, 2009

An exercise I like, a variation on the traditional character sketch, is a character poem I adapted from a now forgotten source (sorry source) a couple decades back. (The bookends of the poem are based on the Biblical idea that if a city had even one good person living in it, God would save that city for the sake of that righteous soul.) The exercise appeals to me because it demonstrates how, in only a few words, a character can seem real to the reader. Here’s the formula.

Line #1: Surely the world would be saved for ________________ (insert character’s name here.)

Line #2: (One sentence describing some aspect of that character’s body or face. Make it detailed or unusual.)

Line #3: (One sentence describing something this character can do. A talent or skill or personality trait that is again either unusual or described in great detail.)

Line #4: (One sentence describing some action this character has taken. Works best if it’s a gesture or act that betters the world in some way.)

Line #5: Surely the world will be saved for _______________ (insert the name again.)

Here’s an example:

Surely the world would be saved for Gus.

His hands are so big he can hold his baby son in one palm.

He can carve any animal out of a chunk or pine, even ones he’s never laid eyes on, in less time than it takes to sing all the verses of a hymn.

He built a fake mill over a dry stream for the slaves to rest in on their way north.

Surely the world will be saved for Gus.

Or :

Surely the world would be saved for Hannah.

She has a scar on her right knee from trying to fly out her window toward Neverland.

She can do the calls of thirteen different birds good enough to fool a cat at ten paces.

She once spent three days in jail for protecting the identity of a source for her story on battered women.

Surely the world will be saved for Hannah.

I usually use this exercise for my protagonist or secondary characters, but it would be interesting to use on an antagonist.

I wonder if the world might be saved for Lillian?

In an attempt to look young, she has tanned herself into cocoa-brown creases.

She can bring a waitress to tears in under a minute.

In her high school production of Little Women she read for the role of Jo, but was cast as Aunt Josephine.

Surely the world could be saved even for Lillian.

Try this exercise on your hero or villain. Or your best friend or mom. You could even write one about yourself.

December Give-Away!

December 1, 2009

The winner of the November Give-Away, a signed copy of NOVEL SHORTCUTS, is P.E. of Grants Pass, Oregon.

For December the Give-Away is a signed copy of THE FETCH. Email your name and address via my website ( before New Years. (Let me know if you do NOT want to be on my snail mail list for the sending out of groovy things like bookmarks and postcards when new books come out.)

I hope all you Nanowrimo contestants had great results. Although I didn’t get 50K words, I did write 115 pages on UNDER THE LIGHT.