Saturday, June 5, 2010

Not Afraid of the "F" Word...Judy Merrill Larsen Stops in for a Visit

Today I’d like to introduce you to my friend and women’s fiction writer Judy Merrill Larsen. I met Judy several years ago through Laura Bradford (Elizabeth Lynn Casey). Judy and I were on Laura’s MS walk team. (Late this month, I’ll introduce you to another one of Laura’s team members.) I hope you enjoy the interview and stick around for the drawing.


Me: Judy, ALL THE NUMBERS is one of my favorite adult books. I took it with me on to a conference. I remember crying on the plane. (Not big out loud crying, tears running down cheeks crying.) It was the best conference I’ve ever been to, but every night I was dying to get to bed so I could read your book. My roommate went straight to sleep and laid there reading and crying until 1 in the morning every night, until I finished your book. It was emotionally overwhelming. Did any particular event cause you to write it?


Judy: The idea for the book came to me when I was at my best friend's lake house and our kids were playing in the lake while we watched from the dock. A jet skier went by and I thought, "what if?" What if one of the kids had been out too far? What would that do to me as a mother? As a friend? How would I recover from something like that? The whole story just flowed from there.

Me: Judy, even though you have one published book, do you ever doubt yourself?

Judy: Of course. I think all writers struggle at times--is this manuscript good enough? Will I ever get published again? Will readers connect with my work? But you have to learn to push those doubts aside and control what you can control--and that's the writing.

Me: What advice can you give to aspiring authors?

Judy: Read everything you can--things in your genre, things in other genres--it doesn't matter, just read. And then write. Set goals and aim toward them. Don't ever give up.

Me: I’ve done several posts on writing routines and setting weekly goals. Do you have a writing routine?

Judy: Yes. I try to write nearly every day--even if it's just to tweak what I write the day before. When I'm in full writing mode, my goal is to write 1500 words a day. And I never let myself stop when I'm stuck. I always make myself write through the "dead zone" and I always try to stop when I'm excited about what comes next.

Me: I love researching, what is your favorite type of research?

Judy: I love talking to people who have "inside information"--they always give me such wonderful details and usually I'm surprised by some of the things I learn from them which not only add depth to my story but often also take me in a new direction with it.

Me: Do you have an agent? How does having an agent help you?

Judy: I love, love, love my agent. A good agent is your link to publishing. She knows which editors are looking for which manuscripts and she also knows the business side so I all I have to worry about is writing the best book I can write.

Me: Do you have a favorite book?

Judy: My favorite book of all time is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. It's such a perfect, sweet, powerful story. And my 15 years as an English teacher really developed my love of classics--GRAPES OF WRATH, THE SOUND AND THE FURY, and THE THINGS THEY CARRIED.

Me: At this point in your career, do have a critiquing partner or beta reader?

Judy: Not officially. I have several good writing friends and we'll exchange work at times, but it's nothing formal or structured or organized.

Me: As an aspiring writer I hear that being socially available is so important. Do you do school visits? Book signings? Library visits?

Judy: Oh, my gosh, I love to visit school and libraries and book stores to meet readers and talk about books and writing. I've probably visited (in person or by phone) with close to 100 book clubs since my novel came out--it's one of my absolute favorite things to do!

I’d like to thank Judy for stopping by today. I’ll be using random.org to give away two signed hardback copies of Judy’s book ALL THE NUMBERS on Friday, June 11th at 3:00. (I know that’s an odd time, but I’m doing a cancer walk from 6 to midnight.) Here’s what you have to do: be a follower on my blog, leave a comment telling your favorite adult book (Yeah, I know most of you read young adult…), hop over and check out Judy’s blog (Not Afraid of the “F” word) and her website.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

WHAT I LEARNED IN MAY...

Did you participate in Jackee's Great May Scramble Challenge?  I'm pleased to announce that I was the winner (random.org is my friend)!  Jackee's challenge involved setting a word count goal and a blogging goal.  I decided that I would visit three new-to-me blogs a day.  I felt that if I set the number too high, I wouldn't be able to spend time reading the blogs I visit on a regular basis.  I discovered there are all kinds of blogs out there.  If you look at my side bar you'll see I have some non-writer blogs listed.  (Check them out...they'll make you smile too!)  I didn't meet my word count goal, but I did work on my writing in some way every day, so that was a big accomplishment.

I don't know about you, but I realized I need to write down my writing goals on a weekly basis.  Thanks to Lenny, I remembered what SMART goals were and how to set them.  Lenny made a comment about being careful not to set too many goals...Well, I forgot that I took Monday off to ride the Harley, so I did no writing related work and gave myself too many goals...The good thing is I've accomplished part of what I wanted to do (and I still have Friday).  I finished a query letter and sent it to an editor that an agent, I queried in February, suggested and to a publisher in the UK. (I'd love having it published in the UK, then I could visit family and call it work. *smile*

I realized that I'm more productive after I have a nap.  I get the kiddo off to school, go to the gym, check my email, take a nap and then start my writing day...

When are you most productive?  Do you have a routine?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

GOALS…ARE THEY ACHIEVABLE?

I’d like to send an overdue thank you to a few fellow bloggers.

I won these wonderful Wonka Bars from Janet. Janet writes YA and MG novels with a special love for all things fairy tale.
I’d like to thank Joany for holding a contest with Donna Aviles. I won three of Donna’s wonderful historical fiction chapter books. I just started reading FLY LITTLE BIRD FLY and it is wonderful!

Do you set weekly or monthly goals?

I enjoy reading Jill’s goals and posting my own goals on her blog on Fridays. (If you haven’t checked her out, hop over…) Around May 16th Jackee started a Challenge for the rest of the month (BREAKING NEWS…Jackee gave us two extra days for the May Scramble Challenge. Hop over and join in.).

All of this goal talk got me thinking back to my teaching days, every lesson had to have a goal and these goals had to be Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time specific. (My blog friend Lenny helped me remember what all the terms for S.M.A.R.T. goals were, as I haven’t written any smart goals for four years.)

Are your goals SMART Goals? Do you go back and check to see if you reached them? Are you making your goals too broad, which in the end might cause you to not reach them? If your goal is to get your mg novel published you need to break it down into specific goals…word count goals, research goals, industry research goals, query letter writing goals…Do you see what I’m saying? You have to break things down into small enough segments that you can determine if you are reaching those goals that lead to the big goal, PUBLICATION.

My goals for this week:

1. finish EVERYONE DID THEIR PART QUERY
2. write WE HAVE ENOUGH query
3. research who to send WHE to
4. write two chapters of A TEMPORARY HOME (WIP)
5. post three blog items
6. shoot photos for photo essay

Now I have to ask myself, are these SMART goals? Are they specific? Can I measure that they have been accomplished? Can I get all of this done in one week? Am I being realistic in these goals? Have I given myself a time frame? I think the only one that is not specific enough is number three. So I need to revise it…

3. Find five educational publishing houses to submit WE HAVE ENOUGH to.

That’s better…it’s more specific and measureable.

What are your SMART GOALS for this week???