Tuesday, December 30, 2014

7:30 BELLS: The Bells of Swept Away

So this was my last week of the year. The week when the wind rushed; the bells rang; the ideas came from my dreams, which came from my ideas, which came from living with the heart of the world. This was the week when everything resounded. I am writing and making sculptures as my very heart itself seems to be made manifest in the world. Manifest of the world.

I live for such weeks, such days. So forgive me, because I don’t want to stop the making or the writing to do a 7:30 BELLS post.

Wait! This is the epitome of a 7:30 BELLS post. This is ringing. This is being alive. So now back I go, ringing and rushing into the New Year.

Until next week—next year!

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. Join me on January 14 for a guest post with author Nikki Grimes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

7:30 BELLS: The Bells of New Beginnings--by author Holly Schindler

Author Holly Schindler's 7:30 BELLS Guest Post is perfect for this time of year, when we're all ringing into the New Year.

What fuels me, always, is a new beginning. The excitement of the unknown, of possibility. Opening a door and not knowing what’s on the other side.

I am, in all honesty, a junkie, an addict, when it comes to beginnings. I adore the set-up in a novel: those initial 50-100 pages when we are introduced, as the readers, to the characters and their conflicts. I love the lights-down moment at a movie theater. I love the split second before the needle hits the vinyl, and the opening chords of a new album fill the room (aw, come on, there’s nothing better than vinyl).

There’s nothing quite like a new beginning in my own work, either—the eyes dilate, the heart picks up pace, and I do, in fact, feel my own internal bells going off like mad. Mostly, the bells ring with the initial “ah-ha!” moment. That “this would make a great book!” moment. And no part of the actual novel-writing process is as exhilarating as penning the opening chapters. Not even coming to the conclusion of a project. Really, I don’t think seeing a finished book on the shelf is as exciting as either the “ah-ha!” moment or creating a new file and beginning to type chapter one.

This can be a blessing, of course (I’m never without new ideas for books), but it can also be a detriment—especially when I’m trying to actually finish a book. When I first became a full-time writer, I would hit the sluggish middle of a WIP and find myself drawn to shiny new ideas, to that lovely feeling of starting a new project all over again. I even tried to convince myself I could work on multiple projects at once, in order to justify indulging in that “new project” feeling. Doesn’t work. It only resulted in finding myself in the midst of about fifty unfinished books.

I now know I have to write my “ah-ha!” moments down in my “Book Ideas” notebook, then get back to the task at hand, knowing that the new project with be there waiting for me when I’m done with my current book-in-progress.

Of course I want to write my ideas down so that I don’t lose them, but I also would never want to turn the ideas off completely. Doing it this way—letting the new ideas come in, recording them, then putting them aside—isn’t in any way distracting. It’s energizing. I think once you get in the habit of letting ideas pop, it can help with your WIP. After all, even in the middle of a project, you need new, fresh ideas, mini I “ah-ha!” moments about established characters or sub-plots. Finding fresh insights regarding a current project—finding ways to come back to those internal bells—can certainly make you feel as though you’ve hit your second wind, carry you through to the end…

Holly Schindler is the author of four traditionally published books: A BLUE SO DARK (Contemporary Realistic YA, Flux, 2010), PLAYING HURT (YA Romance, Flux, 2011), THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY (Contemporary Realistic MG, Penguin / Dial, 2014), and FERAL (YA Psychological Thriller, HarperTeen, 2014). Her work has received starred reviews in Booklist and Publishers Weekly, has won silver and gold medals in ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year and the IPPY Awards, respectively, has been featured on Booklist's Best First Novels for Youth and School Library Journal's What's Hot in YA, and has been a PW Pick of the Week. In 2015, she'll be branching out into hybrid author status, publishing additional work on the independent platform. The first planned release is a New Adult Romantic Comedy.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. Join me on January 14 for a guest post with author Nikki Grimes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

7:30 BELLS: Starfall on Waterfall

At night, I sit outside ringing at the wonder of this waterfall in a friend’s yard. Sunlight collected by solar panels shines on the dark water. What does the sunlight think, finding itself shining again in darkness? Is it like coming home again? Being reborn? After all, sunlight is born from a burning ball in this immense, dark universe.

The play of light on the water enchants me—watch the video. What is the light that falls, and what is the light that rises? What is the darkness that falls, and what the darkness that rises? I don’t know. 

I only know that now, a week from the winter solstice, I am wild for light, any light. I feel like an immense dark universe. I take courage from the sun illuminating this night waterfall. Here is the sun’s chance to make something else a star. How can I capture whatever light I hold and shine it back onto the world? How can I be starfall on a waterfall?

Ring out, bells, ring!

Happy Solstice to all.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. Join me on December 23 for a guest post with author Holly Schindler.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

7:30 BELLS: Winter Bell, author Lauren Wohl

Lauren L. Wohl's luminous guest post, like her picture book THE EIGHTH MENORAH, resonates between the past and the present.

One of the great joys of Chanukah is the way it connects me with my grandmother. She was the family cook, turning out masterpieces in a tiny Brooklyn apartment kitchen that was always just a little too hot. (That oven was always on!)

For Chanukah, it was potato latkes. Always big baking potatoes – russets or Idahos. Peeled; soaked in cold water until it was their turn to be grated; then grated hastily by hand – so the potatoes would not turn color. Not too fine, not too coarse.

As the grated potatoes mounted in her yellow-ware bowl, Grandma would make room for more by spilling the extra liquid through her fingers into the sink.

I do the latke-making now, imitating every step. Lining up the ingredients and tools on the table, all in the proper order -- right down to her old yellow bowl As I cook, every sense takes me back to that old kitchen: the feel of the potatoes in my hand as I rub them across the grater; the smell of the grated onions as they blend in with the potatoes; the look of the batter when it is just right – not too lumpy, not too smooth; the sizzle the batter makes when I pour big spoonfuls into the hot oil. 

But it’s when I drain the excess liquid through my fingers that my grandmother is really with me. For my hands are replicas of hers, with arthritis turning the third finger in an altogether wrong direction and the fourth finger bent out of shape and out of alignment with the others. As I watch the water pouring slowly from the bowl, I can’t help but feel her hands on top of mine, guiding every step.

For that moment, she is right next to me, encouraging me in Yiddish. I don’t understand much Yiddish, but it sounds like music. I am lifted by the sound, by the connection.

And I am hungry.

Now comes the tasting: crispy, hot, melty. Some of us insist on applesauce, others sour cream, and a couple of purists, just a latke, no dressings please. “Just like grandma’s” my cousin says. There is no higher praise.

It is a powerful – and empowering -- connection: as long as she is guiding my fingers, I know I won’t make a mistake. The latkes I make will be as good, as tasty and crispy -- and as thick with history and story -- as hers.

Lauren L. Wohl is the author of THE EIGHTH MENORAH, a picture book for Chanukah that celebrates the relationship between a child and his grandmother. 

Wohl has worked in children’s book publishing throughout her adult life, for a variety of publishers, from start-ups to venerable houses. She is now a consultant, continuing work with publishers, but also involved with a literary agency and mentoring in a MFA program. She lives in New England and in South Florida with her husband – a bookseller. And she’s always writing something…

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. Join me on December 23 for a guest post with author Holly Schindler.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

7:30 BELLS: Winter Bells ~ Announcing Six Upcoming Guest Bloggers

I'm thrilled to announce these six creatives--artists, poets, and authors--who will share what makes them ring, resonate, and feel alive. This winter 7:30 BELLS will feature two guest bloggers per month, on the second and fourth Tuesdays. And here they are . . .

Lauren Wohl
December 9

The author of the picture book, The Eighth Menorah, Lauren L. Wohl has worked in children’s book publishing throughout her adult life. Now a consultant, Wohl works with publishers, a literary agency, 
and mentors in a MFA program.     

Holly Schindler
December 23

Holly Schindler's four books, including Feral and The Junction of Sunshine and Luckyhave received many awards, including starred reviews in Booklist and Publishers Weekly. They've won silver and gold medals in ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year, and the IPPY Awards.

Nikki Grimes
January 13

New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her many books include theALA Notable book What is Goodbye? and the Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade.

Linda Robertson
January 27

The Methow Conservancy published adult poet Linda Robertson's Letters from Julia, a fine press book designed by Ed Marquand at the renowned Paper Hammer Studio. Robertson is completing her MFA from Chatham University.

Brent Hartinger 
February 10

Brent Hartinger is a prolific author and playwright whose 2003 gay teen novel Geography Club
was a feature film released in November 2013. His tenth novel, The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know
 will be released December 15, 2014. 

Iskra Johnson
February 24

Iskra Johnson's "restless and experimental" nature has led her to flourish as a fine artist, printmaker, photographer and lettering designer. Widely exhibited, Johnson is represented by SAM Gallery, Prographica, and Bainbridge Arts & Crafts.