This page has moved to a new address.

Cheryl's Musings

Cheryl's Musings: June 2008

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Virtual Travel (for the cash-strapped writer)

I need to return to Peru. I'm in the midst of writing this novel that takes place almost entirely in this beautiful country--and I need to collect more details. You know, the stuff that brings a story to life. The way the bus smells, the little girl giving her stuffed puppy a drink from a puddle, the boom of ABBA's "Money, Money, Money" from a passing taxi. Yes, I have quite a lot of this info from my trip in January--but I want to take my characters to places I haven't been.

I'm trying to plan a return journey to South America, but realistically, I'm not sure if and when it's going to happen. I do have kids, husband, dogs, work, and other real-life things to give myself to, as well!

Luckily, this is one of the wonderful ways that the Internet helps out writers. Many world-travelers post blogs about their travels, complete with the awesome sorts of details that you won't find in a run-of-the-mill guidebook. Are you thinking about setting your story in a location far from home? Check out some of these sites for travelers' accounts:

Enjoy! :) Cheryl

Labels: , , ,


Good news from fellow writers

You know what I love about writing? (Well, one of the many things.) I love the connections I make with so many cool writing people. I also love sharing the celebrations when my writing friends and soulmates succeed. True, some of them don't know we're soulmates, but as writers on the same road, we are. I still get to jump up and down for them from afar.

So here are a few random things to celebrate:

  • Laura Deal's gripping YA fantasy Wind Ringer placed third in this year's "The Sandy" writing contest, Sci-Fi and Fantasy category. Hurray!

  • Claudia McAdam ( and Anna-Maria Crum's ( delightful picture book Maria's Mysterious Mission is up for this year's Colorado Book Award...which means I get to cheer for them at the next CBA banquet. Check it out--it's a terrific read!

  • Fiona Bayrock Smith's ( upcoming science book Bubble Homes and Fish Farts will be a Junior Library Guild Selection. I've been enjoying Fiona's writing for a while now. Congrats!

  • Local author Denise Vega's Fact of Life #31 is out! This is one of the first books I was privileged to critique before it hit the presses. And the book is amazing! No surprise, given the author, I suppose.

I love being a member of such a great world of writers!


Labels: ,


Getting Ready for Lightning-Bolt Ideas

In Friday's post, I wrote about those fortunate instances when ideas jump out of our heads onto the page...and how we'd like to have more of them. Can you cultivate lightning-bolt style inspiration? I think so. You just have to do a bit of preparation and a lot of paying attention. Here are Cheryl's four steps to catching great ideas:

  1. Fill yourself up with life, sensations, experience. You can't write if you don't have anything to say--so make sure you don't spend so much time writing that you stop experiencing the world around you. Make sure to keep recharging your creativity with life, great books, new experiences.

  2. Practice writing. Practice writing quickly, so that ideas have a chance to slip past your internal editor and surprise you on the page. Sign up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, or BIW (Book in a Week) the first full week of any month. Read Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones and experiment with free-writing. Write on a deadline. However you do it, though, train yourself to produce words without worrying about things like perfection, writer's block, or whether you're writing the next Harry Potter. (Don't try, by the way. Writing the next HP, that is. It irritates editors.)

  3. Establish a writing practice. This differs from #2 in that you need to practice showing up to write on a regular schedule. And practice writing whether you feel like you have anything to say or not, because usually you'll find that you do have something to say even when you feel like you don't. For inspiration, see Heather Sellers' Page after Page and Chapter after Chapter; or read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird for instruction on writing crappy first drafts. (I know, that's not exactly what she says, but old habits die hard.) Or listen to Claudia Mills speak about her 30 minute hourglass timer, if you have the opportunity. She espouses that anyone can face writing for 30 minutes, and by the time she's spent her required 30 minutes she's usually ready to write more.

  4. Live with your writing. By this, I mean you should look at your story before you go to bed and dream about plot twists. When you pick up your child at school, you should make mental note of the little girl with pencil-thin legs in striped leggings carrying her a pet salamander, to add her to your pool of character ideas. When you fly in an airplane, you should eavesdrop on the interesting conversation in the seat behind you, so you can draw phrasing and mannerisms and word choices to use in your characters' dialog. When your sister-in-law tells you the amazing story of her son, a bat, and a baby blanket, you should file it away in your ideas folder, to inspire future tales. The specifics depend on you--but make writing a part of every moment of your life. Breathe it and dream it and live it--and you'll see ideas all around you.

I guess it all boils down to this: writing is a craft and a lifestyle. Hone the craft; live the life; and the writing will follow.

:) Cheryl

Labels: , ,


Highlights posts their new wish list!

One of my favorite children's magazines just posted their summer 2008 wish list. Take a look:,203

And lest you think that these lists don't matter, take a look at the July 2008 issue of Highlights. I have a craft on p. 27 that I submitted as a result of last summer's wish list. Talk about speedy publication!

:) Cheryl

Labels: ,


The Secret to Overnight Success...

I just read an inspiring interview with author Kersten Hamilton, compliments of Cynthia Leitich Smith ( --another great resource for children's writers). When Kersten describes her process for writing the picture book Red Truck, it's one of those picture-perfect ideals of the way we *wish* writing happened. She tells Cynthia:

"Sometimes a book hits like lightning, and a story is burned in your mind. Red Truck was a lightning book. It was fast, and came out just right the first time. I think it took a whole week to sell."

Wow. Like lightning? Don't you want some of that instant inspiration?

My latest WIP, Luciana Unlimited (title for the moment, anyways), gives me a little of that feeling. I came home from Peru with a rough outline, sat down, and poured out the words. My main limitation is time. No matter how well-organized I am, I can't find as many hours for writing as I want to spend writing. (My sweetheart claims the number of hours I desire is a moving target. Just because my goal for writing time has migrated from two hours a week to six or seven or eight hours a day!)

I've heard other authors talk about stories that hit like lightning. How does that happen?

My theory is simple: we hear a lot more about the lightning-bolt stories than the stories that drag in the mud. As a writer, I might need to try a thousand blind alleys before I hit an easy road. And I won’t ever find that lightning-bolt story if I’m not willing to write the other stories. A LOT of other stories. To become a successful writer—even an overnight success—we need to write and write and write.

And by the way, Hamilton reported that every lightning-bolt tale is followed by one that’s slow and painful to write. Expect to work hard, but seize the muse when she calls!

:) Cheryl

Labels: ,


New Agent for YA Fantasy

First: do you check out the Guide to Literary Agents blog ( If not--and if you're looking for an agent--add this site to your Favorites list. Its full of up-to-date info on literary agencies, agents' specific needs, and new agents.

From today's post, Eddie Schneider, formerly of Folio Literary, is a new literary agent with JABberwocky Literary. Among his interests are sci-fi, fantasy, and YA literature. Snail-mail queries only.

I don't think I'm a good fit for his list, which is a shame...I've always loved the poem that inspires the agency's name. Although there's a running argument in my house about how, exactly, some of those words are pronounced.

:) Cheryl

Labels: ,


The Mystery of Disappearing Weeks

How the heck do three weeks fly past with absolutely no blog posts here? Very Mysterious. But here are some (fun) reasons:

  1. School's out!

  2. Big medical writing project (while school's out)

  3. Contract writing project--48 pages in a week and a half--fun and pays, but wow!

  4. Did I mention school's out?

  5. New novel keeping me up at night until I write it

  6. A week sailing in the San Juan Islands, sans computer (aka heaven, albeit much colder than I expected)

  7. Two more contract writing projects--I just agreed to write two more books in the next two and a half weeks :P

  8. A friend's wonderful fantasy novel to read and critique

  9. Prep for this year's Rocky Mountain SCBWI Fall Conference (where I coordinate the manuscript critiques--get those manuscripts ready for a late July deadline!)

All my writing energy was channeled elsewhere for a bit, something I honestly didn't think was possible since I'm seldom low on writing energy. Maybe I was just low on energy, overall, and decided to sleep instead of blog. Can that happen?

At any rate, I'm back, recharged from a week at sea even if I am still frightfully busy. Which is a wonderful thing.

:) Cheryl