Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Voice for the Silenced

Sometimes I type in my url with an odd anticipation of reading a new post. 
It's as though I expect someone else to be writing my blogposts for me so I can read them. 
I wish that's how it were sometimes. 
Although, I think in a lot of ways that's how it is with my stories. 
I never know what's going to happen and then BLAM there's this scene on the page and ink on my fingers and I don't remember writing a damn thing. 

Maybe that doesn't make sense. And I'm not really saying that I write after being possessed by some writing demon or something. It's just that these stories I write aren't always mine. Sophie's story is her story. She has become as real as any of my friends, and the reason is because she chose me. She chose me to tell her story for her. Because she has been silenced by fear. A lot of my personality matches up with Sophie's. As a crazy writer person I don't think this is because I am Sophie or that Sophie is just some weird form of me with a fictional twist here and there. I think that Sophie chose me to tell her story because she knew I could tell it her way. She knew that I could give her a voice. Her voice. 

I never really thought about my character this way until I had another one knocking on my brain a couple weeks ago. A few of my colleagues were talking about different incidents they'd been on or heard of in our line of work. Some of the things were scary. They were things that you hear and say, "what the hell kind of human would come up with that shit?" And then there was this story flashing through my mind. A story about a boy who does something completely unthinkable to his best friend. A story that no one would ever want to own up to. One that would make you wish you were dead because it was that bad and you couldn't bear to live with the pain and the guilt from knowing what you did. I don't want to write his story. But here's the thing: I don't know if I can just push it aside. I believe in being the voice when someone else can't. I believe in breaking the silence created by fear and hate. The silence that comes with pain, regret, and guilt. 

Even if the characters in my books are fictional, their voices are important. They may not be real, but their stories are. Their feelings are. Their worlds, their thoughts, their fears are real. I like to call myself a writer. But, maybe I'm more than that. Maybe I'm also a voice for the silenced. 

Write on!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Kill Your Darlings

We've all heard the phrase, kill your darlings.
But we also all know how hard it is to do that.
Why delete the most beautiful piece from our work?

I'm working closer and closer to wrapping up my novel and in order to clean it all up, I've got to kill my darlings.
I'm not attached to EVERY little section in my novel.
I know that not all of it is super brilliant.
But there are a few scenes and sections that I wrote toward the beginning of this novel journey that
1. are lovely and brilliant and have just the right pace and rhythm
2. need to go

The reason these lovelies need to go is because they
1. don't move my story forward
2. are redundant
3. say the same thing that other, better scenes I repeating myself?

I've found that a lot of my writing especially in the beginning (but also throughout the novel as I'm still getting to know characters and such) is my learning process. I write the story to get it out, to discover my characters traits/personalities/goals/motivations, and all that good stuff. But, when it comes down to it, those pieces or scenes are just for me as the writer. They give me information or a feel for what the emotions are in a given setting, but they're not as clean, tight, or moving as the story needs in a scene.

So, here is an example of one of my darlings that I've had to kill off. This section is what told me--the writer--what Sophie's story was in the first place. This was a hard scene to write, but not as hard as some of the others have been since I've known that these were her secrets.

I told her it was time to get rid of Lloyd.
He was smelly and lazy and angry when he drank too much.
She didn’t do it though.
All she needed to do was tell him to get out.
Just break up with him and send him packing.
But she wouldn’t do it.
She was too scared.
He stayed.
He kept eating all the food.
He kept hitting her.
He kept drinking.
He kept climbing into my bed at night when he thought I was asleep.
And he kept putting his hands and his face in places even I don’t touch.
If she had kicked him out when I told her to.
If she had just listened to me.
If she had broken up with him
Then I wouldn’t be here.
And she wouldn’t be there. 

I love most of the words in this scene. I love the rhythm. The repetition. And especially that one line. I love what this scene is doing. How it shows you exactly what Lloyd is, exactly what the conflict is, exactly how Sophie feels. But I know that this as a whole does not belong in my story. Because I'm trying to make a novel, not a one-scene story.  This section was for me. Not you.

Sorry to all of you who want to read my story... SPOILERS!
oops. I think I always say that way too late... :)

Write on!

Monday, May 14, 2012


So, apostrophes can be pretty tough sometimes. Because we use them in contractions and as possessors and as measuring devices...
It seems pretty simple as a contraction: It is = it's
but then what if there's a bicycle that has don't use an apostrophe to indicate possessiveness. It's wheels were blue = it is wheels were blue.
Its wheels were blue. 
Sometimes that looks weird so I take on the challenge of re-wording. 
The bicycle had blue wheels. 
The blue wheels on the bicycle were cool. 

But what about other possessed phrases? 
My name (Demings) for example ends with an S.
So, if someone talks about my awesome writing skillz then do they say Demings' writing skillz are AWESOME! ? That's wrong. 
Because I'm just one person with awesome writing skillz and if you wanted to refer to other members of my family as well as myself-- you probably wouldn't use that anyway because I don't know another Demings that even writes... and I get a little confused with how to pluralize s-ending possessors, to be honest. 
The correct thing to say is actually Demings's which gives it more of a z sound which can be cool sometimes. 

But let's get back to the plural possessors. 
Here's a clever little example: 

Oh, and don't forget your feet :)

Write on!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Today is one of the most important days of the year.
Mother's Day.
It's a BIG DEAL.

Because moms are important.
I'm a little biased for a lot of reasons, but moms are definitely better, greater, and more important than dads. Not that we have to compare...but, my mom is amazing. She's outstanding. She's taught me all the valuable things in life--all the things that really REALLY matter.

My mom raised me on her own.

That, to me, says a lot already.

But the one thing that I've learned from my mom is this:

My mom knows how to love. 
More than anyone I've ever met, 
She knows how to love. 

And she doesn't just know it's important. 
She doesn't just say it's important. 
She loves people. 
She loves everyone. 
Truly loves them. 

The reason this picture is spelled out in rocks is because my mom also taught me to find beauty in the world. She showed me that in every little rock on the ground there is something worth while--something to be amazed by. Something wonderful and beautiful.

Another amazing thing I learned to love because of my mom is writing. That's a major reason I even got into writing. It was always one of her passions. Her help and encouragement when I was in high school and experimenting with different types of writing really pushed me to find a voice with the written word and motivated me to pursue writing in my education.

My mom and I went to LDStorymakers conference together two weeks ago. It was my birthday present to her. And so very fitting. I love that we can enjoy the same thing together, even if we do have completely different interests as far as genre goes. I will be forever grateful to my mom for all the things she's taught me. For fanning my writing fire and for teaching me how to love the people and the world around me.

Write on!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Food Guide Pyramid

When I was in school--elementary, middle, high, and even college--there was always some lesson about the food pyramid. It was supposed to be a guide for how much of what things to eat. This is what it looked like for me in elementary and middle school.

Of course, by the time I reached high school the food pyramid was changed to include exercise as part of a healthy diet.

Here's a food guide pyramid that makes more sense to me now that I've leanred a few things about food and what our bodies need and want.

Kind of interesting to see different versions. One thing I love about bodies is that each one is unique. Each is its own story. And the best part is that even if we tell the same story over and over (like the pyramid) every single one is different.

Write on!

Friday, May 4, 2012

To Be A Real Writer

So, yesterday I realized that I have talent.
I know this...most of the time.
But sometimes I forget.
Okay, maybe I forget a lot.

Discouragement plagues me very easily.
Hearing five strangers express love for my writing reminded me that I can do this.


Steve Fraser said that you become a professional writer the moment you start acting like one.
I'm learning that I need to start being a professional writer.
Not just that I need to attend conferences and read books.
I need to write.

So here is my plan as of TODAY.
In November I want to do NANOWRIMO. I have no idea what that stands for...basically it means that you write an entire novel in one month.

I decided that rather than waiting until November to start this, I'm going to work my way into it. I'm going to do my pre-season exercises.
Here's my plan:

250 words per day
or  (because I know there will be days I will miss)
1750 words per week
or (just because I thought it would be cool to calculate and see)
7750 words per month


750 /day





I have no idea how many words I need for my current novel. I'm currently at about 11,500 words. That doesn't sound like a lot...and it's not. But, my style is not wordy. So I hope that it doesn't need more than another 22750 words to be done.

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams has 29347 words.
This is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis is 28326 words.
Heartbeat by Sharon Creech is only 13157 words.

If I can finish this one book, then I know I can write another.
If I can learn to follow this schedule of mine, then I can be a real writer.
The kind that gets to only be a writer.
The kind without a "day job".
The kind that travels and lives and writes and gets books published.

Write on!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

LDStorymakers Bootcamp

Bootcamp at LDStorymakers is like a giant day-long critique session with a bunch of strangers.
A room full of round tables.
Published author stationed at each table to lead the session.
Five eager writers with manuscripts in hand.

My published author for this workshop round was Becca Wilhite.
I may or may not have read one of her books...I have this image in my mind of a book with sort of a blue cover and maybe some feet...but it was a while ago if it happened.
At any rate, Becca is GOOD at giving feedback.
She thinks quickly and knows how to put words together and form verbal sentences of helpful critique.

Needless to say, I had a great group.
Paige with her eerie graveyard jumpers book.
Christy with her awesome informational book on Irish dance.
Bree with a stellar, brainy YA contemporary.
Natalie with her heart-wrenching true story.

We laughed, we cried. We danced...well okay, one of us danced. The rest of us watched in amazement.

My manuscript was the last to be critiqued.
Well, maybe I should re-word that.
Mine was the last to be read.
Everyone seemed to say the same thing about my first twenty pages.

It's good.
Like, so good we had nothing to say about it.

They said things like,
I would read it.
You use the fewest words to make the biggest statement.

They worried they didn't give me anything helpful.
I still learned a lot.
And, if nothing else I got a real ego boost.
I can say, with confidence, that the first twenty pages of my novel is polished, and publishable.

Now, I just have to do that to the rest of it.

Thank you, awesome group!

Write on!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Another day without the A to Z challenge to help me generate ideas for a post.

I mentioned yesterday a little bit about how I want to write picture books. But more than that, I want to illustrate my own picture books.

I have had zero training in the visual art realm. However, this isn't to say that I never had an interest in it before. In middle school I wanted to learn to draw (mostly I was interested in dragons) and so my mom bought me some sketching pencils and a sketch book. I drew all kinds of little things. My chair. A pretty made-up landscape with a willow tree. Poor attempts of dragons.

My mom tried to teach me a few techniques, but somehow my practice never really got me anywhere.

I wanted to take art classes in school, but I wasn't allowed to take any more fine arts classes beyond band (because I had already chosen band). In high school the same thing happened. Because I took band I didn't have room for any more fine art classes like drawing 101, or painting, or any kind visual arts. It was the sacrifice I made for music I guess. But now here I am, a college graduate, and I've still never had any training in the visual arts. Don't ask me why I never took a class in college...I'm not sure I know why not. Maybe because I chose creative writing for every elective I had and I already took way more electives than I should have...

Occasionally I sketch a landscape in my journal when I'm at Arches or Zion or somewhere pretty. I do it because it forces me to stop and look at things a little differently.

I have a hard time drawing things from my cute little imagination.

I don't know how to do cartoons. But that's what I want to learn the most.

Maybe these books from the library will help.

Maybe I'll do as my friend suggested and find a community art class.
I have to keep reminding myself that I can do anything.

I can do anything.
Even learn to illustrate.

Write on!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Adventures of Clyde the Duck

While hiking in the Grand Canyon something happened that tends to always happen when I'm trudging through some magical wilderness.


When I'm in the outdoors or in a new place I seem to channel buckets and buckets of creativity. I also seem to always come back to this one fabulous idea I have about turning Clyde's real adventures into picture books.

As I browsed through a few gift shops in search of another backpack patch, I discovered this fantastic book.

The illustrations are just adorable and the story is darling. 
After reading this out loud I set it back on the shelf thinking, "That was an awesome book; I wish I had written it."Later I crossed the book again in another gift shop (it's really hard to find a good backpack patch). I read it again and had to buy it because I loved it just as much, if not MORE, on the second time around. That means it's a good picture book. 

I noticed that this book was written and illustrated by the same woman, and the humor of the illustrations reminded me of the humor in the little critter books by Mercer Mayer (like the Just Camping Out one I wrote about a few posts back). I realized that author/illustrators can do so much more than an author who must then rely on an illustrator to make the story happen. 

And this is when I realize that to be completely satisfied with my Adventures of Clyde the Duck books I need to learn how to illustrate. 

For someone who has never taken an art class in her life, this might seem like a bit of a scary, and daunting challenge. But, I was in the wilderness when the idea of illustrating my own books struck me, so of course I felt like I could do anything. 

Maintaining that powerful creative compulsion is very hard to do upon returning to the city where the real world takes over. But, in order to at least TRY to keep my dream alive I spent nearly an hour in a craft store looking at various colored pencils, water color and acrylic paints, brushes, paper, books on drawing/painting. And today I checked out 33 books from my library. Some are how-to books on drawing, most are picture books. I have to find out how to plot a picture book, how to pace it, how to use characterization, how to use illustrations to make the story and words to help it flow just right. 

One day, maybe you'll be at the Grand Canyon watch tower gift shop and you'll see my book on the shelf. The Adventures of Clyde the Duck: Grand Canyon. Written and illustrated by yours truly. 
For now, here's a picture of my real-life travel ducky himself. 

Write on!