For a few years, I worked closely with students who had been removed from school for disciplinary reasons, and with each and every student, I lay awake at night worrying whether the case against him or her was valid. My greatest fear was that someone would be punished for something he or she didn’t do. As far as I know, none of my students were unjustly disciplined, but POLARITY IN MOTION grew out of that fear.
And there’s a thematic idea that seems to creep into everything I write–that ongoing philosophical question: What is going on in my immediate world that I’m not aware of? I love those moments of epiphany when you suddenly recognize some truth that was there all along. But, as great as an epiphany is, that golden moment also alarms me: What else is going on that I’m not seeing?
Writer’s block? Sometimes I just give into it! Take a break from writing.
I love the book THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron. She recommends that writers go out and experience something totally new at least one hour a week. For example, spend an hour trying to play a harmonica, take a salsa lesson, go to a woodworking shop, or do anything that’s totally new to you. I’ve used this trick before and find that after a breather and exposure to new stimuli, for some reason my brain kicks back in and is ready to write.
Another trick I use sometimes is to turn away from the project I’m stuck on and work on a different project for a while.
The best thing is being totally immersed in fiction. I’ve always loved to read and discuss books with others. Writing takes that love to a new level.
In addition to just writing, many other activities have been helpful to me:
I meet with Ron Seybold’s Writers’ Workshop monthly, and each of the five or six members submit about 20 pages of a manuscript a week prior to our meeting. Everyone in the group talks about what they liked in the pages and what pulled them out. So I leave each session with four or five critiques of my pages. This monthly schedule keeps me moving on my project, and the feedback let’s me know early on if the writing is communicating the way I intend.
I’m also lucky enough to be friends with two amazing authors who willingly read my whole manuscript when I think I’m finished with it–I say “when I think” because after they read and give their rich feedback, I’m always motivated to expand and deepen! One of the authors, Claire Ashby (WHEN YOU MAKE IT HOME) helps me rev up the romantic and relationship interests in my writing. The other, Elizabeth Buhmann (LAY DEATH AT HER DOOR) helps me strengthen the mystery elements.
I enter contests and go to workshops. Houston Writers’ Guild and Austin Writers’ League both sponsor contests, conferences, and workshops. I always learn something new when I participate in any of them.
POLARITY IN LOVE, which picks up Polarity and Ethan a few months after the ending of POLARITY IN MOTION. And another book in a different genre–not ready to talk about this one yet.
There are two separate streams of inspiration that keep me pumped.
One stream consists of the work of other writers. I love being mesmerized by a great author. Right now I’m reading THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafron, a completely different type of book from the ones I normally read. Goodreads friend, Juliana Tran Castillo, thought I would like this book and she’s right! I love his language and metaphors. And the plot line is so intricately woven around this incredible story about a rare book that someone is trying to eradicate. Another book that inspired me is NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL by Justina Chen. She raised my concept of YA to a new level with Terra, the flawed and complex main character, and Terra’s relationship with Jacob, a Goth Chinese boy.
The second stream of inspiration comes through the students I have worked with. My story of Polarity and Ethan is total fiction, but their courage and resiliency are inspired by my former students. The overwhelming situations that I’ve seen kids triumph over humble me.