Carol Callicotte

Author

Update on First Times and Second Chances March 9, 2018

Filed under: Books,Writing,Young Adult — A French American Life @ 3:30 pm
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Major reconstruction: completed.

First Times and Second Chances began as a novel about a fifteen–year-old girl who goes to a summer camp. I first wrote it when I was 14 or 15. It was, in some ways, my fantasy of a summer of freedom and a gorgeous boy who found me irresistible. The camp I created was devoid of structure or adult supervision and was completely unrealistic. Still the bones were good.

About nine years ago I began rewriting it as an adventure camp for teens: more structure, more realistic – but still, it didn’t work. The setting was too … blah. The execution too… pedestrian.

Seven years ago I had an epiphany: I love France. I know France. I speak French. I have a unique skill set and the experience of attending not one but two French immersion programs in France. Why not change the setting? Et voila, I decided to send Jenni to Antibes.

Thus began a third major overhaul of this book. One that involved killing so many darlings. Beloved characters – excised. Plot developments, dialogue exchanges, and scenes I once was once married to ending in divorce. I tore apart my book. Scene by scene. Paragraph by paragraph. Word by word. The essence and the main plot line remained, but everything else was reborn as something new.

I’ve been buried in my latest draft since September, when I committed to writing at least an hour each day. I threw myself, heart and soul, into finding Jenni’s story. I needed it, too. These last few years, I’ve desperately needed an escape; a beach read that allowed me to escape reality.

I wrote. I rewrote. I analyzed on a macro-level: Does each scene move the plot forward? Does my main character change? Does she have a goal in each scene? Does the tension rise? Does it all make sense? I analyzed on a micro-level: searching for words and phrases I tend to use as crutches or that might be my own idiosyncrasies that would annoy my readers.

And now – I have a book. A book I’m excited about. A book an agent might be (fingers and toes crossed) excited about.

Next steps: Probably another revision – hopefully not a huge one. Then – let the agent search begin!

 

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Been Gone Too Long February 27, 2018

Filed under: Books,French Language,Goals,Projects,Writing,Writing World,Young Adult — A French American Life @ 4:28 pm
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I’ve had years of excuses. Two kids, just shy of twenty months apart. A move from California to Colorado. Buying a home. Renovating. Teaching French. Seeing patients. Laundry. Volunteer work. Cooking meals. Cleaning the house. Laundry … every month or two, those thirty seconds where all the clothes and linens in the house are clean and put away are some of the most liberating moments of my life. And yes, I realize this is pathetic. But I digress….

All these “excuses” are real, important. And all of them result in my writing being put on the back burner. Despite my mind churning over ideas, turns of phrase, dialogue exchanges, beginnings, endings, scenes that I desperately want to put to page but never manage to do.

Enough excuses. My youngest started kindergarten last fall. I suddenly have time, real actual time, on my hands. So last September, I made this commitment: Write. One hour, each day. It seemed unrealistic. Pre-kids, I’d been a writer that needed huge blocks of time to get into it and be productive. One hour wouldn’t cut it. I needed a full day at a coffee shop. A late night sustained by wine and adrenaline. With my new, overly busy life, writing was a luxury that I couldn’t afford.

But I knew I needed to try something different. Because there was a hole in my soul; the soul that desperately needs to put these stories to page.

So I tried. One hour a day. And … it worked for me. The flame of passion was reignited. I became, once again, a productive writer. Sometimes, it was just an hour. An incredibly productive and exhilarating hour. When the day allowed, the hour turned into two or three, four. Despite the depleted energy that momhood and my other duties left me with, I found myself writing after the kids went to bed and long after I usually turned in.

And now – I’ve got a pretty polished draft of my YA novel – First Times and Second Chances.

 

Revising was fun. Revising was exasperating. The bones of this story were exhumed from a story I wrote when I was fourteen. It’s gone through many a metamorphosis over the past eight or so years. I changed the setting – much needed – from a summer camp to a French immersion program. I brought it up to speed with the modern world of technology, social media, and savvy teens. I killed darlings. So many darlings (I’m so sorry, Sophie, I hope to see you again in some other book). Twenty thousand words got hacked out, and the novel is so much better for it.

And now… I love it. I’m proud of this book. Even if it goes nowhere, I think I did something great with it.

 

Speed Bumps November 30, 2011

Serious obstacles in my way these days. Rewriting this novel is turning out to be a much bigger project than I anticipated. I keep encountering speed bumps. I’ll be rolling along just fine then suddenly, something is in the way, I slow down to a crawl, try to ease my way forward, feel it out, but then I get stuck, sometimes even bottoming out, and it is taking me forever plus a sizable self-induced kick in the rear to get going again. Ugh. So frustrating.

I’ll take a cue from a classic I’ve been reading to my daughter: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

 

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes! October 4, 2011

I’m ripping up my YA novel and starting over. Well, not completely. The main characters and the main story line (a first love story) will remain intact. At least, that’s the plan for now. The setting, however, is getting a makeover, French Riviera style.

That’s right. France!

The original form of FIRST TIMES AND SECOND CHANCES spilled from my pen when I was thirteen. I spent a couple years working on the story, typing it up on my Grandmother’s word processor and printing it out on her dot matrix printer (yikes – that makes me feel old!). It took place at a summer camp, and I’ve never changed that setting.

Over the past couple years, I’ve reworked this story several times, keeping the bones (which were surprisingly good, I have to say) but updating and maturing the story, adding more plot, more tension, more character development. I kept the original setting because it seemed to work – I needed a place where a bunch of teens who didn’t know each other would be together all hours of the day and night for a stretch of time. Still, the summer camp setting never sat well with me. It targets a younger audience; 15 and 16 year olds just don’t tend to go to summer camp. As much as I love the story, I finally had to admit to myself: the setting is getting in the way of selling this book.

Then, it hit me. I love France. I’ve spent a ton of time there. I’ve enrolled in two language immersion programs. The one I did in Antibes had: (ta da!) a program for teens! Teens, spending the summer together with a bunch of strangers, living together in youth hostels, having activities organized for them, and taking French classes together! THIS IS IT! This works! I know this. I can write this. I can have a fantastic time with this.

So Jenni, grab your French/English dictionary, your bikini, and get a passport. You are going to Antibes, France, on the Cote d’Azur, and we’re going to have some fun!

 

 

Progress Update June 12, 2011

Filed under: Books,Projects,Writing,Writing World,Young Adult — A French American Life @ 10:18 am
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I am SO CLOSE to being ready to send my YA novel out on submission! I’ve learned the hard way not to query too early, so it’s possible I’m being overly cautious now. I’m getting excited though. I feel so differently about this book compared to how I felt about my last novel. I enjoyed CHEATER; I love the idea, the characters were so fun to write, and I had a fabulous time creating that world. Yet with CHEATER, as much affection as I still have for it, there was always a nagging doubt in my mind. I thought it was good, but not great. So about a year ago, I put it away. I hope to revisit it someday; maybe then I’ll know how to fix it.

I don’t regret the time I spent on CHEATER one bit. I learned so much about writing, crafting a novel, the publishing world. It gave me the confidence and skill to try again. I tried something completely different (CHEATER was an urban fantasy) and began a love affair with YA. I discovered Jenni, the main character in FIRST TIMES AND SECOND CHANCES, and I feel like I could write about her forever. I love being in her head, in her world. And this book has something crucial that CHEATER was missing: Voice. A voice I’m proud of. A character who drives the novel. I’ve found my stride with this book, and I feel like my writing is on the right track.

I’ve updated the Bookshelf page with a synopsis of FIRST TIMES AND SECOND CHANCES. Fingers and toes are crossed!

 

 Latest Read:  UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand

Just finished this book. One of the best books I’ve ever read. Ever.

 

Name Change April 27, 2011

I spent yesterday morning writing – a 4 hour block, yay! Thank you, my dear babysitter. I’m working on final edits for my YA novel. I use the word “final” loosely – I imagine there will be more edits in the future. I’m just so excited to be nearly ready to send this out! It’s been far too long. The book required more edits than I’d intended – I saw some areas for improvement and it took much more work than I’d originally anticipated. Plus, morning sickness and having a baby have not been conducive to writing. I’m not complaining, I’m just making excuses for why I’m a year behind on completing this book.

Here was a kicker, though. I decided to Google my main character’s name to make sure there wasn’t a prostitute or serial killer with the same name – something we did before naming our daughter. Well, no one notorious had the same name, but a well known woman out there does share it. Probably not a big deal, but it’s not someone I want my character to share a name with. My character’s prenom, Virginia, actually plays an important role in the story, so I can’t change that. Luckily, though, I wasn’t married to her last name. It’s an easy fix. I love the internet for stuff like this! In fifteen minutes, I realized I needed to change the name, found a website with a number of options for last names, chose one that worked well, and fixed it with a find and replace in my manuscript.

Naming characters is no easy task – which is apparent from the number of books and articles on the topic. With this character, she has always been Virginia, ever since she debuted on the page as a self-conscious, sweet, sometimes snarky teen. I never troubled over her name. Not true for other characters. I name them, rename them, research names, try them on for a while, until I find the right fit.

On that note, naming my daughter was one of the most intimidating and important responsibilities I’ve ever had. Someone told me the other day that the name we chose fits my daughter perfectly. I hope she thinks so.

I also renamed my book. The title is now: FIRST TIMES AND SECOND CHANCES.

 

Writing For Young Adults November 16, 2009

Filed under: For Writers,Projects,Writing,Young Adult — A French American Life @ 10:53 am
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I’m still plugging away at my Y.A. novel. The working title is SECOND CHANCE. I began this story when I was about 13 years old, and while that version is a far cry from publishable, the bones of the story still work. My favorite part is the voice – it is without a doubt a teenage girl. I’ve found it frighteningly easy to plunge back into that voice and that world. It obviously helps that I’ve kept a journal since I was 8 years old, and that I started version 1 of SECOND CHANCE when I was 13.

One of the great things about Y.A. is that everything is fresh and new. There are so many firsts: first love, first handholding, first kiss, first rebellion, first betrayal, and so on. Teenagers are filled with such passion, be it angst or excitement, and with such hope at the possibilities their lives contain. What an exciting time to be able to write about! And an intense time, too. Teenagers love to shrug and say “whatever” but the truth is – there’s no such thing as “whatever” for a teenager (even if this “whatever” comes in reaction to a parent’s aggravation – don’t be fooled, in all likelihood, that teen does care). Everything really does matter. Be it the smile from the object of a crush, or the D on the history exam, it all matters.

SECOND CHANCE is light years away from CHEATER, but I’m loving it. Telling Jenni (don’t you dare call her Virginia) Thomas’s story of her first time away from home and her first love is a wonderful escape. And I, like the teenager I’m writing about, am filled with hope that others will love Jenni as much as I do!