Tag Archives: Christine Hayes

Exchanging Doubt for Joy

Heart PicIt’s my turn to leave the nest. It’s cozy and safe and I don’t WANT to leave! But a new generation of debut authors remains, poised for greatness. They are talented and wonderful and the blog will be in capable hands.  I am filled with gratitude for the support and personal growth I’ve experienced during my time as a member of EMU’s Debuts.

This past year in particular has been a study in contrast for me, filled with extreme highs and lows. It was a dream come true seeing my book in print. But there were doubts, expectations, and worries too—issues that snowballed and eventually resulted in a diagnosis of severe depression. I mention this because I had anticipated only joy, and considered it a personal failure when the joy did not materialize exactly when and how I imagined it would.

Thanks to my incredibly supportive spouse, I finally stopped blaming myself and sought proper treatment. I am doing so much better now! And I realize that I waited way too long to ask for help.

So many of us fight a daily battle of doubt vs. joy.

I started playing the flute when I was ten years old. A few great teachers and a lot of practice helped me develop a skill that brought me happiness and made me feel like I was good at something. I played all the way through college and even started out as a performance major with the hopes of joining a professional orchestra someday.

Then doubt got in the way. There were lots of talented flute players. What were my chances of competing? It was too hard, I had to practice too much every day, I’d never make it into an orchestra and if I did I’d never make a living at it. I talked myself out of it, and destroyed the joy it used to bring.

I graduated with a generic music degree and a decision to turn my attention to children’s literature. I don’t regret the choice to write, but I do regret making that choice out of fear, and will always wonder “what if?”

Of course, the path to publishing is fraught with opportunities to doubt ourselves. Even after signing with my agent, even after my first publishing contract, there was still plenty of fear and doubt nipping at my ankles like a ferocious little dog. We learn to power through it, don’t we? We school ourselves to stay on the path, because perseverance is often the one trait that makes the difference in this industry.

But at what cost? All too often the joy gets trampled along the way.

1382268243_f3c1242184_bLast year we attended a performance by the Piano Guys. The cellist, Steven Sharp Nelson, is the absolute picture of joy when he plays. If you’ve never seen him, I urge you to look him up on YouTube. His tone is perfection, his technique jaw-dropping, but it’s his body language that captures my attention: eyes closed, face lifted to the heavens, a peaceful smile on his face. This man loves what he does. Can I say the same? Not always. But I’ve set a goal to experience that type of joy more often, because I do love to write and I believe it is a worthy pursuit.

I’ve resolved to write just for fun sometimes, for the sake of pure creative expression. Sometimes I’ll crank up a movie soundtrack to full volume while writing an action scene, or take my notebook outside to write in the park. Other times it’s a slog and I just have to make deadline, one impossible word after another. Life can’t be fun all the time.

And the doubt? Oh, it’s still there–corrosive, insidious. Yap, yap, yapping for attention. But there are steps I take to quiet it down: making my mental and physical health a priority; spending more time outside in the sunshine; seeking big-picture perspective while resisting the urge to draw comparisons to other people’s lives; and striving to be more compassionate toward myself and others.

In short: Go. Write. Chase the joy. Spread it around. Let it show on your face, and on the page. The world needs it. You deserve it.

We all do.

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ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, was released June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Find her on Twitter: @christinenhayes or at christinehayesbooks.com.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, craft~writing, Creativity, Farewell, Happiness, joy, Satisfaction, Thankfulness, Writing

Celebrating MOTHMAN’S CURSE

Mothman's Curse Final Cover

If you haven’t read Mothman’s Curse yet, (Wait, why haven’t you read Mothman’s Curse yet? Get on that!) you’ll find that it features siblings that manage to get themselves into some outsize trouble. To celebrate that spirit, we’ve rounded up some tales of sibling shenanigans from our own Emus.

My sister and I were about 3 and 5 when we got into our mom’s baking cabinet, took out the flour, and poured it over one another. Unfortunately we were standing on top of the floor heater vent (an old Victorian house) so when the heat came on, it blew flour EVERYWHERE. My mom said she had to keep from laughing after scolding us because we were so flour-encrusted all she could see were the tear-tracks down our cheeks. Janet Fox

220px-Whole_wheat_grain_flour_being_scooped

To the artist, everything is a medium.

My three sisters and I did a lot of things that would’ve gotten us into trouble had we been caught. Here’s one instance where we felt we really got away with something. We all four loved to climb the trees in our apple orchard. Our parents told us in no uncertain terms that we were to avoid smaller branches because they couldn’t hold our weight. You guessed it. One of us took a chance and used a smaller branch to reach a higher branch and it broke. We snuck inside, grabbed a roll of masking tape and carefully taped it back together. Believe it or not that branch healed and grew to be a sturdy climbing branch. We couldn’t believe we’d gotten away with it because there would’ve been consequences for sure! Penny Parker Klosterman


Yep. That's gonna fix it.

Yep. That’s gonna fix it.

My brother, my friend Patti and I often played together outside, while my sister and our other neighbors, two different sets of sisters, played inside. We were a bit mischievous, and our favorite thing to do was to play ring and run. We were having so much fun! When they stopped answering the door, then we started running our knuckles down the shutters and hiding. Another time when there was a backyard sleepover in a tent at another neighbor’s house, we pretended to be ghosts to try and scare them. Then we pelted the tent with crabapples until we got caught and scolded by the girls’ very unhappy father. Maria Gianferrari

My brother and I were about 14 and 9 when we had to muck out the pig barn. We’d neglected it for far too long, so it was really, really nasty at that point. Somehow, we started singing about our work, which evolved (devolved?) into us taking turns attempting to use the s-word expletive for manure in every line of song, each of us trying to be more clever than the last. Whether or not our parents heard, I don’t know, but luckily they didn’t try to stop it. I don’t think I’ve ever sworn–or laughed–so much in my life, and I know the barn never got cleaned so quickly. Laurie Thompson

When my sister and I were in grade school – on the rare occasions when our parents went out alone for a couple of hours – we would make fudge and try to hide the evidence but the smell and mess always revealed we had broken the rule about never turning on the gas stove! Carole Gerber

800px-Vegan_Chocolate_Fudge

Fudge? I don’t smell fudge.

This is a story of why certain kids should not have access to surgical tubing. My two oldest boys tell me that if your parent is both trusting and a deep sleeper and if you have access to a certain gauge of surgical tubing, you can sneak out of your house at night and set up to launch water balloons from two cul-de-sacs away from a poker game that is being played outside in the summer in someone’s garage. And possibly because by 2 AM the people playing are a little impaired, they will never figure out what hit them or where it’s coming from. Mylisa Larsen

Best thing ever.

Water balloons. Best thing ever.

When I was growing up, we lived on a farm on a long dirt road.  It was quite hilly, and there was a huge hill above one side of our driveway. Cars were always speeding down it too fast and my dad was always lamenting that fact.  One day my sister and I were out for a walk along the road (I was, maybe, 12…so she was 9).  I don’t know how far we walked but we came to a speed limit sign.  We commented on the fact that my dad would love that sign right at the base of our driveway.  We made a joke about bringing it to him. We laughed about it.  And then we decided to do it.  I want to say it was my sister who came up with the harebrained idea, but I think it was mine.  I was the idea girl back then and my sister was the conviction and brawn.  So it probably went something like:

Me: We could dig it up and bring it to dad!
My sister: Let’s do it!
Me: No, we can’t do it…
My sister (already on her hands and knees, fingers in the dirt): Oh yes we can…

We dug that speed limit sign out of the ground–don’t ask me how–and we lugged it back to our house–don’t ask me how–and we re-stuck it at the bottom of our driveway.

My dad was not too pleased.
(I’m pretty sure moving a speed limit sign is, like, a federal offense…) Tam Smith

I know you've always wanted one of these.

I know you’ve always wanted one of these.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s celebration of Mothman’s Curse. Tell us about your own sibling shenanigans or comment on any post this week to be entered in a drawing for a signed copy.

Or pick up your own copy from Amazon, IndieboundBarnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and Powell’s.

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An interview with MOTHMAN’S CURSE illustrator James K. Hindle

Another day for celebrating MOTHMAN’S CURSE by Christine Hayes!

Mothman's Curse Final Cover

Just look at this AMAZING cover!

Really, how cool is this cover? Right? The mighty illustrator behind its awesome creepiness is James K. Hindle. And he’s got sweet black and white illustrations inside the book too. He was kind enough to answer some questions for me, so without further ado, here’s James…

You’re an illustrator and a designer, right? What do you design?  And then what do you illustrate? 

Image

One of James’ comics.

During the day, I work as an art director at a creative studio where I do a lot of different kinds of graphic design work for colleges, businesses and non-profits. Then, when I’m not there, I work as a freelance illustrator. I’ve mostly done editorial work for newspapers and magazines, but I was excited to work on Mothman’s Curse, and I hope it leads to more book illustration in the future. I also draw self-published mini comics.

How did you get connected to Christine’s book?

I was contacted by a designer at Roaring Brook Press. I met him at a comic book convention several years ago.

When you first read the manuscript for Mothman’s Curse did you take some time to decide if you wanted to illustrate it or did you know right away?

As soon as I read the description, I knew it would be a fun project to work on. It’s exactly the kind of spooky book I loved to read when I was a kid.

What were some of your favorite books?

6a00d83451fdc069e2017ee9b5e432970d

By Edward Gorey, from The House With a Clock in Its Walls.

My most favorite book that I can remember reading as a kid was The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs. The gothic story combined with Edward Gorey’s creepy illustrations left a lasting impression on me.

 There are illustrations within the book? How do you decide what gets illustrated in a novel?  Why black and white?

Yes, the book is filled with spot illustrations. They were required to be black and white, probably because of printing costs, but I enjoy working in black and white, so it was great for me.

Why do you enjoy working in black and white?

I enjoy the simplicity of black and white line drawings. That’s the kind of artwork that I’ve always gravitated towards, and the kind of artwork I’ve always enjoyed making.

For the most part, the publisher let me decide what to illustrate. It was a lot of fun to read through the manuscript and pick out scenes to draw.

Because you are also a designer, did you have any creative say in the design of the book?  The chapter heading art details, for example?

The book’s design was done by Andrew Arnold at Roaring Brook Press. I think he did an awesome job.

I do too! How did you create the cover? Was it a long process?

The cover process didn’t take too long. I started by making a few sketches of different ideas. Then, after they chose a direction, there was some back and forth about the poses of the characters, to get the movement and gesture just right. I love to illustrate covers, so this was a lot of fun.

Image 1

The different stages of MOTHMAN’s cover. So cool!

What was the most challenging part of this process?  What was the most rewarding?

The most challenging part of the book was deciding what to show, and how to show it. I wanted to make pictures that would set the right mood, but not show every detail of the scene, so that the reader could still use their imagination.

The most rewarding part was seeing all of the illustrations together after they were finished.

Have you illustrated other books?  Which ones?

This is the first real “book” that I’ve illustrated, but I’m looking forward to doing more in the future.

Do you have a general process for creating illustrations?  What is it?

 I start by making some sketches in pencil, and I send those to the client. They’ll pick one, and maybe have some changes, and I’ll make a revised sketch. Once they’re happy with it, I make the final drawing in pencil and then ink it. Then, I scan the ink drawing into the computer and color the illustration in Photoshop.

Do you use a sketchbook?

Yes, I always have a sketchbook with me. I use it to sketch ideas, write things down and draw from life.

What’s up next?

I have a few projects I’m working on at the moment, but nothing specific to share.

Well, we can’t wait to see what they are!  Thank you so much for sharing some of your process, James!

 

Image 5

James draws James!

James K. Hindle is an illustrator and a designer. His illustrations have appeared in numerous publications, including The Boston Globe, The New York Times and others. When he’s not drawing, he spends his days working as an art director at a graphic design studio. He lives in Western Massachusetts.

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Don’t forget to comment on this post and you will be entered to win a signed copy of Mothman’s Curse!  

Or pick up a copy for yourself or a friend at the following retailers: 

AmazonIndieboundBarnes and NobleBooks-A-Million, and Powell’s

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Celebrating MOTHMAN’S CURSE by Christine Hayes!

Mothman's Curse Final CoverWe are on a celebratory roll here at Emu’s Debuts with another book launching into bookstores and libraries near you this week. And you don’t want to miss this one, especially if you are a fan of spooky stories! Mothman’s Curse by Christine Hayes is about three kids who discover a polaroid camera that prints pictures haunted with the ghost of the local town recluse. The kids are quickly sucked into a mystery that involves cursed jewelry, an unhappy spirit, and the legendary Mothman.

Kirkus Reviews gave this middle grade mystery a starred review saying, “Along with a red-eyed, winged monster who is not at all shy about appearing, even over crowds of terrified onlookers, Hayes folds sudden blasts of bone-chilling cold, conversations with the dead, and plenty of other thrillingly eerie elements into a tale that winds suspensefully to a wild, scary climax. An ectoplasmic extravaganza . . . tailor-made for reading beneath the bedcovers.”

Comment on any post this week and you will be entered to win a signed copy of Mothman’s Curse!  Or pick up a copy for yourself or a friend at the following retailers: Amazon, IndieboundBarnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and Powell’s

Before we get to the festivities, we have two winners from our previous launch weeks to announce:

Congratulations Ann Bedichek Braden! You are the winner of a signed copy of My Dog is the Best by Laurie Thompson!

and

Congratulations Bridget R. Wilson! You are the winner of a signed copy of Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman!

 

And now to kick off the Mothman party, we decided to share some photos and talk about what scares us, but something seems to have gone awry with our cameras because these photos don’t seem quite right . . .

 

Jennshark

Here I am enjoying a nice tranquil day by the ocean, thinking about what a great read MOTHMAN’S CURSE is, and appreciating being OUT of the water since I’m terrified of what’s in it, and surely I will be safe if I’m on dry land.

 

Mariaclown

Uh, Maria? I know you and Becca are happily celebrating MOTHMAN’S CURSE but you might want to back slowly away from that fence. On second thought, I’d run if I were you!

 

MeganSamara

I think Megan may have noticed there’s someone else in her reflection besides herself . . .

PennySpider

Penny is being haunted by a spider as big as her head!

Susan

This photo was taken at the Old Asylum where Susan works. Those are stairs in an observatory tower with restricted access where nobody was supposed to be. The stairs were empty when Susan’s coworker snapped this photo, but when he got home it appears the stairs might not have been as empty as they’d originally thought.

TamSnake

Tam has a fear of snakes, so I think you should keep drawing happy pictures, Tam, and whatever you do DON’T look over your shoulder.

 

Carole

Carole wants to wish Chris a happy book publication week, but she’s trapped in a phone booth in London, and it looks like she has company.

ChrisMothman

Here is our lovable author, Christine, on vacation with her husband but wait . . . What’s that shadow coming over the mountain? Oh no–it’s the Mothman!! Quick! RUN!!! Run to your nearest bookstore or library to pick up a copy of MOTHMAN’S CURSE!

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A (Not Terribly Original) Writer’s Top 10

Top TenAs my launch date comes hurtling toward me, I’ve been trying to sum up ALL the FEELINGS, struggling to think of something new or meaningful to say. Here’s what I came up with instead, in honor of David Letterman’s recent retirement:

THE TOP 10 NOT TERRIBLY ORIGINAL THINGS I’VE LEARNED AS A SOON-TO-BE-PUBLISHED AUTHOR

10. Writing is difficult and emotionally draining and often takes way longer than it should. What do you mean my plot has to make sense?!?

9. Writing is EVERYTHING because you are creating living, breathing beings with the power of your brain and fingers. And those beings can actually change someone else’s life. That’s huge.

8. Social media is apparently a big deal. It makes my head feel like it’s going to explode, but I’ve been trying anyway because it’s a BIG DEAL. (Here I am on my web site, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and now Instagram. Arrrgggh.) But the writing should always, always come first.

7. There are long periods of time in which you just have to wait, graciously, and try to be productive while you’re waiting. Sometimes you will throw things or throw tantrums and hopefully you will keep it within the walls of your own home so that only your family will know for sure that you’ve totally lost it.

6. You will cry. You will be disappointed sometimes. Sometimes there will be wonderful surprises, like amazing friends who are supportive and who totally get you.

5. You will form this tough, thick core of inner strength and resolve that will surprise you and the people who know you. You’ll learn to take risks in your writing and in other areas of your life.

4. It never really gets easier. Just different.

3. You will stress out about a thousand separate things that do not matter. STOP IT! (Yeah, I know, I can’t stop either.)

2. When someone tells you they liked your book, your insides will glow and you will smile a lot. It’s a really, really good feeling.

1. Don’t try to be anybody else but you. There is greatness inside you, but it won’t look the same as someone else’s, because it’s not supposed to.

 

Oh! And if you happen to live somewhere in northern Utah (or if you’re a fan of driving long distances), I would LOVE to see you on June 16 , 7 pm at the Provo Library for the official MOTHMAN’S CURSE launch event, part of the Author Link series! Check it out here.

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ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Find her on Twitter: @christinenhayes or at christinehayesbooks.com.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, craft~writing, Happiness, Launch, Promotion, Thankfulness

Quit the Chicken Job, You Must

KFC BucketWhen I was 16 I got my first job with my first real paycheck, working at Kentucky Fried Chicken. I only lasted for five months. It wasn’t the low pay or the terrible hours that drove me to quit, or even the fact that I came home every night smelling like poultry.

It was the sensory overload that did me in.

More than once, when a line of hungry, impatient people snaked all the way out the door, I ended up in the back room, crying and flustered. It was just too much. Looking back, I realize I took the job way too seriously. I wanted everyone to be happy, wanted to do a good job. But it was just chicken. I wish I could go back and give 16-year-old me a hug and tell her that: “Girl, it’s just chicken.” I’d still encourage her to quit, though. To have enough confidence in herself and her skills to go find something better. Calmer. More in line with her interests and talents.

Fast forward twenty-something years, and I’m actually doing what I love! The book debut looms just three short months away. And I’m back in panic mode. Am I establishing an online presence? Am I doing enough to prepare, to network, to suddenly become outgoing and eloquent? Will any of it make any difference in the long run? It’s that queue of impatient customers all over again, all clamoring for their bucket of chicken.

I’m the first to admit that social media often sends me into a spiral of anxiety. I’m not witty or interesting or invested enough to keep up. Some days I try. Many days I don’t. Sometimes just having unanswered email feels like an unbearable source of noise and clutter. It can even dictate whether or not I have a productive writing day. I’ve read lots of articles about how much authors should be doing to promote themselves online.  They range from do everything to do only the things you feel comfortable with. Our very own Megan Morrison wrote a wonderful, sensible post along those lines here.

YodaBut what about the days when I DON’T FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH ANY OF IT?!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say: that’s okay too.

You might be familiar with Yoda’s famous line from The Empire Strikes Back: “Do, or do not. There is no try.” An inspiring quote for most any situation, right? But at the risk of alienating my fellow Star Wars fans, I’d like to propose an alternate philosophy when it comes to book promotion and social media: “Do, or do not. Or try, if you want. But if it stresses you out, or interferes with your writing, then don’t worry about it.

I will say that I’m starting to get the hang of Twitter. I think I’ve been signed up for almost two years now. Needless to say, it’s very, very, verrrrrry slooooow going for me. But that’s the pace I’m comfortable with, and I have noticed my brain gradually absorbing bits and pieces—enough to keep me from giving up. So I will continue to try.

I totally think Yoda would get on board with that.

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ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Follow her on Twitter: @christinenhayes.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Book Promotion, Panic, Promotion, Social Media, Time Management, Writing, Writing and Life

Cover Reveal: MOTHMAN’S CURSE

The path to publication is long and twisty.  There are many opportunities along the way to pause and ask yourself, “Is this really happening?”

You may try to convince yourself that you imagined the whole thing: the phone call, the contract, the weeks of revisions fueled by Diet Coke and M&Ms. Maybe someone is playing a huge cosmic joke. Maybe the nice book people will come to their senses and fling your manuscript out a window of the Flatiron Building, exclaiming: “Whew! Glad we dodged that bullet!”

But then the day will come that the nice book people show you a completed cover, and you think to yourself, “Ha! They can’t back out now!”

Okay, maybe you will think that for like a second or two, but then you will be awed and honored and so dang excited! I am thrilled to reveal the cover of MOTHMAN’S CURSE, illustrated by the talented James K. Hindle:

 

Mothman's Curse Final Cover

 

Mr. Hindle has also done interior illustrations, which are fabulous and spooky. I wish I could show them to you right now! His art really captures the flavor of the book, which, if you couldn’t tell by the title, is about Mothman. And a curse. And some other spooky stuff. Here, this might help:

Josie may live in the most haunted town in America, but the only strange thing she ever sees is the parade of oddball customers that comes through her family’s auction house each week. But when she and her brothers discover a Polaroid camera that prints pictures of the ghost of local recluse John Goodrich, they are drawn into a mystery dating back over a hundred years. A desperate spirit, cursed jewelry, natural disasters, and the horrible specter of Mothman all weave in and out of the puzzle that Josie must solve to break the curse and save her own life.

In all seriousness, seeing my cover art has been my favorite step so far, and I’ve heard it only gets better from here! Someday soon there will be actual books out there in the world!

Until then, if you feel so inclined, here are the links to add to Goodreads, pre-order on Amazon, find on Indiebound, or peruse my new web site. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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Shoes: The Window to the Soul?

Chris Shoes2

My current favorite and most comfortable “wear everywhere” shoes.

You can tell a lot about a person by his/her shoes. Yes, it’s a snap judgment, a tiny thumbnail of a much more complex picture of heart, mind, and soul.  But still. I like to study people’s shoes, especially writers’ shoes, because I am always fascinated by their choices.

Rebecca's Harry Potter Shoes 005

Rebecca made these to-die-for shoes for her daughter!

Many are comfy, worn in, perfectly molded to the wearer’s foot. Some are impossibly clever, showing off hidden depths of talent (see Rebecca’s Harry Potter shoes). Still others are fancy, or quirky, or bold–shining with character and originality.

The mistake I make is wishing I could wear them all. (Warning: shameless use of metaphor ahead!) At our annual agency retreat, we do readings of works in progress. Even as I listen in awe, I lapse into melancholy over the display of talent. My brain declares: “I could never write like that!” (Or in Metaphor Land: “I could never pull off those strappy three-inch spike heels! I’d trip over my own feet!”)

Tam's Shoes

The lovely Tam’s purple sneakers

Mylisa's Shoes

Mylisa’s smart, sassy heels

And so it goes: Why aren’t my topics more edgy and why don’t they matter more? Why can’t I write with that much honesty? Why don’t my adjectives sparkle like that? Why can’t I be that original and important and WORTHY?  Why, why, why?

The truth is, there are too many kinds of shoes in the world to wear them all. But some shoes suit us so well! Others we have to try on and walk around in for a while before they feel like a good fit. And some we’re just not meant to wear. But that’s okay. Our shoes writing should reflect the unique, fabulous message that only we have to offer.

Jenn's Spiderman Shoes

These kick-butt Spiderman shoes were Jenn’s favorite growing up

It took me a while to come to terms with this. I devoured ghost stories as a kid. I loved mystery and adventure. Maybe, just maybe, I could even write my own mysteries when I grew up. When high school pulled me away from the books I loved to read Important books, I was devastated. Partly because I thought it meant I had to leave my favorite books behind, and partly because so many of those Important books were so dang bleak.

Chris Shoes1

The costume party platform shoes. I know, right?

Yes, we must stretch ourselves, read everything, learn, grow, discover, rise up, reach out, all those things. But if there is no passion behind the things we write about, no love, no personal truth, then what’s the point? There, I said it. My personal truth is writing about things that go bump in the night. Maybe there’s a deep psychological reason behind it. Maybe I just enjoy books that send a shiver up my spine.

Megan's Shoes

Megan’s killer boho sandals

I certainly don’t think that writers should limit themselves to just one type of “shoe.” What a ho-hum world that would be! In fact, I bought a pair of vintage Italian platform shoes for a costume party and ended up falling in love with them and wearing them out in public. Who knew? But there are certain types of shoes I will probably never buy or wear. (Anything with an animal print comes to mind.) And there are certain genres and topics that just aren’t for me. I have made my peace with it. Thank heaven there are enough writers and books and shoes for every possible occasion.

Chris Shoes3Right now we’re on vacation in northern Wisconsin. After a summer of line edits and working on a book proposal and ferrying kids around to endless activities, it’s nice to recharge and give my brain a rest. I can squish my toes in the sand, sink into the sound of lapping waves. Ideas come and go as they please, a gentle ebb and flow without the pressure of plot or  the structure of story.

Sometimes it’s nice to just go barefoot.

 

Lindsey's Shoes

Lindsey’s chic red shoes with pedi to match

Penny's Shoes1

Penny’s fancy shoes that are not as comfortable as she hoped

Penny's Shoes2

Penny’s super comfy writing slippers, with books as the perfect accessory!

Laurie's Shoes

Laurie’s honeymoon shoes, The Most Comfortable Shoes EVER

Amy's shoes

Amy’s funky-cute awesome sandals that I want to steal

Donna's Shoes

Donna’s versatile I-can-do-anything shoes

 

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ChristineHayespic2 (534x800)Christine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, THE MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, craft~writing, Creativity, jealousy, Satisfaction, Writing, Writing and Life

Being Brave: A Challenge for Writers in Particular and Humans in General

403px-Womans-Holy-War

Cool image, no? Never mind that I cropped out the part about the Temperance League, since we all know how that turned out. I prefer to think of her as a crusader against all the bad stuff we say to ourselves.

I hate my nose. HATE IT.

Hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it hate it.

Hate it.

I don’t like having my picture taken.

I feel uncomfortable in the presence of people who are pretty and confident.

I let it fuel all the other things I don’t like about myself until I’m one big ball of self-pity and guilt: about my weight, about not being a Pinterest-perfect mother, about not writing often enough, about the stupid crumbs on the floor and dishes in the sink. And let’s not even touch the whole issue of “my writing isn’t good enough.” Yeeesh.

Why not get the nose fixed and be done with it? Because my mother got hers fixed right out of high school, and she still hated herself. And we never got to have an authentic conversation about accepting what God gave you and moving on to more important things in life. Because my daughter has an Asian nose that’s not like other noses in her class and I want her to know that it doesn’t matter, that it’s part of who she is.

Except it does matter, because I let it matter, and I’ll never teach her otherwise, never teach her what it means to be brave and bold and fearless and look beyond self to those more important things if I can’t put this aside once and for all.

Here’s the crazy part: In my 20s I had a beautiful Chinese boss who was thin and glamorous, and one day she leaned across her desk and whispered to me that she liked my nose and had always thought hers was too flat. Did I suddenly wake up and realize how foolish I’d been? Did it shape my outlook for the better in any way? No, it did not. Because that was like 15 years ago, and nothing has changed.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve challenged myself to be braver and to KNOCK IT THE HELL OFF. It’s interfering with Stuff I Wanna Do, and I’m sick of it.

At last month’s retreat for our amazing EMLA writers and illustrators I was surrounded by high quality people, people who are changing the world for the better, who care about Issues, who are making a difference and can talk to people un-self-consciously and LIVE and WRITE and BREATHE like the well-adjusted, grateful, talented people that they are. Many of them—maybe even most of them—are introverts like me, but unless they’re all capable of faking it really well, they were able to put that aside and enjoy those moments together that are so rare and precious and valuable. Next year, I swear I’m not gonna let that slip through my fingers because of my own ridiculous issues.

I’m here to challenge you to be brave in whatever way stretches you, even just the smallest bit. It doesn’t have to mean climbing a scary tall mountain or baring your deepest insecurities on the troll-infested internet. It means identifying what scares you and taking the tiniest of steps out of your comfort zone and one step closer to whatever it is you’ve always longed for.

Living life “cramped and insane,” as Anne Lamott would say, sucks. Enough. What issue is weighing you down, keeping you from being the writer or adventurer or pet owner or open, joyful human being you’ve always wanted to be? Rip it out of you, throw it on the bonfire, and be done with it. Easier said than done, I know. But if I can click “Post” on this rambling example of over-sharing, then I know you have it in you, too.

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ChristineHayespic2 (534x800)Christine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out spring 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Guilt, Writing and Life

How to Build Character(s)

Memorable characters, like my husband’s aunt pictured here, demand your attention. How will their story unfold?

We all have goals, things we want to work on to become better writers and hopefully better people as well. Lately, for me, a key writing goal has been to build authentic, well-developed characters.  I struggle with this. Possibly because I’m an introvert who invests way too much effort trying not to ruffle feathers or let too much emotion or opinion come spilling out in the presence of anyone other than my spouse (lucky guy). I’d hate to give people the impression that I am not as emotionally stable as I might appear.

I also worry that pouring too much of a character’s inner workings onto the page will feel contrived or manipulative, that her struggles will be perceived as insincere, unearned.  Obviously I have to get past this. A fictional person on a page will never become the sympathetic, living, breathing hero of the story if readers have no clear view of her heart and mind.

birdbybirdI turned to Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD for wisdom. It takes time for us to know our characters, she says. We should ask ourselves “what happens in their faces and to their posture when they are thinking, or bored, or afraid. …Why should we care about them anyway?” Further on she writes, “Squint at these characters in your mind, and then start to paint them for us.” She explains that they should have flaws, but they should also be likeable, or at least interesting–and they become interesting if they possess clarity of vision in surviving the struggles they face.

And my favorite paragraph: “A writer paradoxically seeks the truth and tells lies every step of the way. It’s a lie if you make something up. But you make it up in the name of truth, and then you give your heart to expressing it clearly. You make up your characters, partly from experience, partly out of the thin air of the subconscious, and you need to feel committed to telling the exact truth about them, even though you are making them up.”

So I’ve been trying the method acting approach: using my own life experiences and feelings to inform my characters. Yes, they suffer through situations and events that I will never face, but the emotions and motivations they feel, those universal human truths, are the same. The process is a basic free association exercise. I sit down with pen and paper and choose a scene to work on. I decide what emotions my main character would be feeling in that scenario and just start writing, no editing allowed. The results are liberating. Even though much of the writing will need heavy revision or may even be scrapped altogether, the emotional truth that spills out is new for me, and holds real promise. I think. I hope. Time will tell.

How do you bring your characters to life? Tell us what works for you!

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May Arboretum 027Christine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, THE MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out spring 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Character Development, craft~writing