Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, September 28, 2007

Where love of writing is born

This month, my daughter started kindergarten at a public school. I'm one of those parents who just HAS to drop her off at her class instead of outside at the curb, and look around her classroom and school. She's been in school for a few weeks now and I have to say there's one aspect of the kindergarten curriculum which I've been impressed with: Focusing on books and writing.

Every day, part of my daughter's homework is to read a book. And they have "library day" once a week. They also work on letters, learning to write words and putting sentences together. I am constantly impressed with homework giving instructions on helping my child to read and write short, three-word sentences. My daughter already knows how to write some words, but this is a challenge for her to learn how to write MORE words. And as much as I want to make the learning "easy" for her since it's so new, I know I have to "sit back" and let her write these words on her own. Her writing isn't perfect, the letters are not perfect, but she gets them done in her own way and will improve on it later on.

Another thing is that the wing her class is in has posters and bulletin boards showcasing writing. Above the students' work are colorful announcements such as "We are Good Writers!" and "We are beginning writers!" I'll occasionally stop to read a sample here and there and just have to smile over how writing is being spotlighted at such a young age.

I remember as a child I indulged in my English assignments which called for a book report, short story or writing assignment. My teachers were very supportive of writing and they really nurtured that love of writing when there wasn't anyone else to read any of our work or give us a pat on the back. The gold star stickers on our papers were appreciation enough of a job well done!

Today's teachers help shape tomorrow's leaders. Not all teachers are as supportive of a student's desire to learn or a student's interest in writing, but when there is just one teacher who will stand by that interest and encourage the young student to learn how to write, it makes all the difference in the world. School is the perfect "workshop" for a young aspiring writer. It's where we learn how to write, where we learn how to put together a book report, short story, essay, thesis and poem. We're allowed to make mistakes when we write in school, and that absence of fears helps us to ermbrace our love for writing all the more.

I have not been to other elementary schools, so I'm not too aware if this focus on reading and writing in the young grades is a standard. But I think that any child enrolled in such a school that gives them a head start on reading and writing is sure to come out of that school with the same passion for words and writing they started out with.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The agent hunt

So today I spent some time on the 'Net trying to find an agent for my novels. Thing of it is, every instinct shouted that I should go to Borders to check out Jeff Herman's book or the latest guide to literary agents. But, I wasn't really feeling up to going out that much today. I'll go there tomorrow, sure, but for now, I turned to the Internet.

One site I visited, which was an agency listing, had the following results (and, no, this wasn't the AAR site):

One agency screamed "hack" with their promise of a release form leading to Hollywood exposure for their client's books. Yeah, right.

Another agency looked good, but there was a problem: I could find NO WAY to contact them. No Web site, email address or even a phone number. Their profile looked pretty good, with PEN/Hemingway award-winning clients, but what I didn't get was why they didn't have a Web site so I could check their company out some more. I want to SEE these books, read more about the company, read about what kind of agents they have, etc.

Well, there's Google...

Another agency DID have a Web site...or, at least, a URL. Their site was your standard "parked site" until they got it up and running. Once again, no way to contact them or chack them out.

One agency labeled itself a "boutique agency" based in Florida. They gave no credentials, no titles, no authors, zip. Just a name and email address. Ugh.

Another agent looked good, but she doesn't represent horror. I have two horror titles planned for future books, and I REALLY want to have an agent I'll stick with for a loooong time. No agent-hopping for me, so I passed.

One agent had a name I recognized: I have him on my Friends List on MySpace. 'Hey, cool,' I thought. But what I read wasn't so cool: "(Agent) is accepting submissions of poetry for consideration of publication. Accepted works will be published in his own books of poetry, which are distributed in traditional book stores around the country." Um...say what?! I don't think THAT one is an agent....

I left the site with more questions than answers. I DID manage to find that one agent on Google, though (with his PHONE NUMBER! Woo-hoo!), and what I read was still looking good. He's a member of AAR, I checked his blog out and saw he REALLY knows his stuff, he's on P&E with "verified sales to legitimate royalty-paying publishers on record," etc. I'm thinking of sending him my query. Stay tuned.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

To finish (or NOT finish) a book

Last night I dreamed I was writing a blog post. Usually, I write them up on Notepad, but in this case, I wrote it on paper -- in pencil. (Good grief! In pencil??!! The last time I wrote anything in pencil, it was all smudged when I got back to it later.) This blog post was talking about finding time to write, written specifically for writing parents. I offered one solution: Wait until the kids were asleep. This isn't surprising; I DID sort of write a book for writing parents called "Burning the Midnight Oil." I went on to write about the benefits of having time to write after the kiddos were asleep: The house was calm and quiet, the environment was more relaxing, it was a great way to destress from the day, etc.

Then my alarm went off and I woke up from this dream. As I switched the alarm off, I grumbled over how I hadn't been able to FINISH what I was writing in my dream before being awakened from it. (So frustrating when that happens, aye?) I closed my eyes to rest just for a few minutes and, as is typical, a scene came to mind. A frustrated writer, a man, was sitting at this table in a fancy restaurant, though his clothes were not as fancy. Another man, dressed as some sort of captain in the army, or something, came to the table and plopped down a large book, saying, "Here it is."

The writer looked up at this man and said, "I didn't finish my book."

"Oh, and why not?" the captain inquired.

The writer looked down in guilt, rubbing his head. "I got distracted."

The captain was not pleased. "Oh, I can just see the last chapter now." He flipped the book open to the last chapter and pretended to read as he said, "Dear Mr. Reader, my apologies for not finishing this book. I found something better to do with my time."

The scene ended and I opened my eyes. I grimaced and shook my head. What did THAT have to do with not finishing a blog post in my dream?

Still, it made me think. All last week, I'd been pondering something I came across in an article I read: "If you keep putting something on the backburner, it must not be very important to you." I had planned to blog about that quote here, but, oh, how it REALLY played a role in my real life! I was chasing time to write amid all the stuff I had to do last week. My weeks are ALWAYS so busy and it's hard to write for as much time as I used to. And since my focus has been on manuscript edits, it doesn'ty help that I have to share a computer! (If only I had a laptop. Sigh.) But, yes, writing MUST be a priority. I believe that one should write every day, but even still I hadn't been able to do this.

And I kept asking myself..."well, what can I NOT do so I have time to write?" What task could I sacrifice? There's always usually one. Watching a movie, checking email for the umpteenth time, checking out bulletins on MySpace....

All the same, the issue here is not finding time to write. The issue is about finishing a book. With novels, that's not really an issue. I DID used to have a hard time finishing novels I started, but no longer. I DO have unfinished work, but they're remaining unfinished until I get these edits done for one manuscript and tweak another. (I'm SO CLOSE on finishing the revisions on THAT manuscript! Just one more thing to fix and the editor will be happy.) I'm in the final stages of the manuscript edits on a novel, and I've made progress. At this point, I'm confident sending off the first 3 chapters to a prospective agent. And that novel IS finished! It's DONE!

So, what does it mean? Is this about the haunted houses book? The same book I have been working on for 3 years??

Perhaps. The only drawback I'm having in finishing THAT book, though, is getting information. Getting interviews with people. Trying to dig past all the myths surrounding haunted houses. It's not that I DON'T want to finish writing it; it's just that I can't.

But apparently...I must. I have let the manuscript edits take over. I have been working on them for WEEKS...and not so much on this haunted houses book. I must reintegrate working on that book into my daily schedule.

Perhaps that was the meaning behind that scene, then. Don't find "something better" to do when trying to finish a book. JUST DO IT!!

Or maybe it means nothing at all.....


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Writing here, editing there

It has been a VERY busy week for us. School starts so we've been going to all the back-to-school related stuff and taking care of the necessary things to have in place for school.

I've also had doctor appointments to get to AND getting baby stuff taken care of.

Meanwhile, I still have to finish editing a manuscript. AND getting the necessary writing done.

I'm managing to do that, but only in bits and pieces here and there. Yesterday, the only writing I got done was 15 minutes worth, in which I wrote a poem then some material for a nonfiction Ebook idea I have (which of course I'm going to trash, because I'm not as crazy about this idea as I thought I was). And...the only reading I was able to do was with the 7 storybooks I read to my daughter. LOL That's it. (One must wonder what kind of inspiration can be found when reading Hop on Pop.)

Still, it's better than nothing. As I said in the latest issue of the E-zine, "This month's mantra is 'Any writing is better than no writing.'" Too true.