Carol Callicotte

Author

Finding Time to Write April 1, 2011

Filed under: Books,For Writers,Projects,Reading,Writing,Writing World — A French American Life @ 2:14 pm
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Holy Long Hiatus! I can’t believe how long it’s been since I blogged. I have a good excuse, though. I had a baby.

The good thing (besides my baby) is this: I have been writing.

“If you want something done, give it to a busy (wo)man.” Not sure who said this originally, and I suppose I could google it to find out, but I’m too busy. The point is, this statement is so true: it’s amazing how efficient I’ve become now that I don’t have nearly the time on my hands that I once did. It’s all about making choices: Do I want to zone out on Facebook or do I want to write? Do I want to have a sparkling clean house or do I want to write? Do I want to remove the fungus from between my toes or do I want to write? Okay, maybe that last one is a tougher decision.

I’ve reclaimed an enormous amount of time since cutting myself off (mostly) from the internet; from surfing, checking email, checking Facebook….The truth is, I really don’t care about how Jack Jones’ (the guy I haven’t seen, talked to, or thought about since high school) daughter made honor roll this week, or that Anna Adams is currently getting her nails done. Yet somehow I feel compelled to read about it. And then to look at the photos of Anna’s nails, and wonder how she typed her status update while the aesthetician was painting them.

Seriously. Was there ever a bigger time suck?

The other thing I rarely do? Watch TV. That’s a habit established long ago, when I walked into my then-boyfriend-now-husband’s apartment for the first time and made the shocking discovery that he didn’t own a TV. At first I couldn’t comprehend such a life, then I realized it was pretty interesting. Sexy even.

So now, while my little one naps, I write. Those naps didn’t happen right away, let me tell you. Whoever said newborns sleep for 16 to 20 hours a day was smoking crack and ignoring wails. But now, she’s older, this Type A mom/writer has her on a schedule, and the glorious news is: I’m back!

CURRENTLY READING: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. I had the opportunity to meet this talented debutante writer. What a lovely woman. Thank you, Eleanor, for inspiring me to renew my focus on my writing. Thank you, too, for writing such a fantastic book!

 

Word Count Blues August 19, 2010

Filed under: Books,For Writers,Projects,Writing,Writing World — A French American Life @ 9:42 am
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I write long. Too long. My word counts tend to end up on the high end, or overshoot, the genre I’m writing for. Then I struggle to cut scenes and kill my darlings. Ugh.

I’m all for economy and for avoiding repetition, believe it or not. I love a tightly written short story or book. But not too spare. I like an occasional deviation or aside. After all – some of literature’s greatest insights come from these.

After walking away for a short bit, I’m able to return and see more clearly what could be cut, or scenes that could be combined and shortened. It’s a weight off my shoulders to see the path towards tightening my story, and inevitably it makes my book better. But it’s not without pain that it must be done!

And now, before I blather more words on this topic, back to my book!

 

Conferencing March 16, 2010

I’ve been to two conferences in the last couple months: The San Diego State University Writer’s Conference, and then my fourth (!) year at the Southern California Writer’s Conference here in San Diego. I guess this makes me a conference junkie.

Going to conferences is great, regardless of where you are as a writer. Contemplating exercising that right brain in this particular creative endeavor? There’s plenty of inspiration for newbies. A draft or partial draft in and unsure what on earth you’ve gotten yourself into? Seminars on every aspect of story creation or editing can be found at most any conference. Curious about the business side? Plenty of information to be found. Have a clean, edited final manuscript? Here’s a great place to connect with agents and editors.

The thing I’ve loved most, however, about going to conferences is the people I meet and the inspiration I take away. I always leave with a few new friends (and potential critique partners) and with a renewed sense of purpose. This year was no different.

I haven’t ventured out of San Diego yet for a conference; any suggestions out there on good ones you’ve been to?

CURRENTLY READING: THE LITTLE BOOK by Selden Edwards

Confession: I hate time travel stories. I get stuck every time on the whole grandfather clause thing; plus the butterfly effect. But two things have snuck in under my radar. The TV show Lost. I loved it from the get go, and then they started the whole time travel storyline, but I was already hooked. And then, this not so little book. I knew it was time travel and hesitated to buy it, but I heard the author speak at the SCWC and he was so charming that I had to give his book a try. SO GLAD I did – I’m loving it so far. A caveat: both of these time travel stories contend that whatever happened, happened, so the outcomes can’t be changed. That’s time travel I can live with.

 

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!

 

Making My Way Back October 9, 2009

Filed under: Completely Off Topic,Crap,Projects,Travel,Writing — A French American Life @ 3:29 pm
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September was a busy month. We took a fabulous trip: Paris for a few days, then Greece, including a week-long sailboat trip through some of the Greek isles (read: not a cruise, but actual sailing. Two very different things!). As always happens when I return from vacation, I came back charged and ready to launch back into my writing projects. My vacation high didn’t last long; I returned to find that things at my PT clinic have been completely turned upside down, with the unfortunate result of my job becoming a hell of a lot harder. Ugh – insta-downer. And insta-buzz kill for my writing, too.

PT has been a struggle for me ever since I started in the field. There are many things about it that I do enjoy, but lots of things I don’t. Off and on over the years I’ve explored other possibilities, always with a bit of desperation to get out of the PT field. The recent changes plunged me right back into that place of questioning what on earth do I want to do with my life? The one thing that I keep coming back to is that PT gives me the opportunity to work part time so that I have time to write. And this is invaluable to me. Because while other passions and interests may ignite and slowly die for me, writing is a constant. No matter what else I may do, writing is essential to my existence.

Since this bombshell dropped at work, I’ve found that the only moments of peace have been when I’m writing; delving into the worlds I create. Well that, and eating chocolate with my amazing husband, who, no matter how freaked out about things I get, is always holding my hand and telling me he’ll support me no matter what I decide to do. And encouraging me to get writing, because he thinks I’m good at it. Which reminds me how lucky I am. So, today, I’m back to throwing myself heart and soul into my latest book. It feels good to be back. And it helps me cope with the struggles at my job, and even has me optimistic enough to admit that sometimes, change can be good. But one thing won’t change: I am, have been, and always will be, a writer.

 

Quiet but Working September 3, 2009

Filed under: Books,Cheater,Projects,Writing — A French American Life @ 11:42 am
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I know I’ve been quiet lately. At least blog quiet. I’ve taken a long break from the submission process for Cheater, but plan to start up again this month. And the most important thing is this: I have been writing. A lot. I’ve found a great rhythm and balance between working part time and writing part time, and have been happily delving into a YA novel I wrote as a 13 year old. It needs a lot of work – but the bones are good. It’s been fun (yet angst inducing) to return to the teenage world. Mostly fun. And I have to say, I love the voice I’ve found, and it is so easy, scarily easy, to slip into my inner teenager. This character is flowing over with potential, and I can see myself writing many, many stories with her. Changing my focus from searching for an agent back to craft has been rejuvenating. Just what I needed to do some revising on Cheater and jump back into the toil of the querying process!

 

Sage Advice July 23, 2009

Filed under: For Writers,Projects,Writing,Writing World — A French American Life @ 3:09 pm
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Over the past several months, Alexandra Sokoloff has been doing a series of posts on the craft of writing. Here’s a link to her Table of Contents. Seriously good stuff, for writers and for anyone interested in how to tell a story. And if you ever get a chance to hear her speak or take a class with her, do it. She’s a brilliant teacher, a talented writer, and an all around cool person. Enjoy!

175px-TheShadowOfTheWindCurrently Reading: THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruis Zafon.

 

Five Questions You Must Ask Yourself May 2, 2009

Filed under: Books,For Writers,Reading,Writing — A French American Life @ 10:46 am
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Writer’s Digest puts out an online magazine that I get via email. A recent magazine had an article that listed five questions you, as a writer, must answer in order to succeed:

1. Who are your favorite authors and why?

2. What do they do that grabs your attention and keeps you turning pages?

3. What keeps you coming back to your favorite genres?

4. What compels you to write fiction/ memoir/ poetry?

5. How will you make sure that your own work grabs and keeps your readers’ attention every bit as well as your own favorites capture you?

At first glance, it seems easy enough. Any time reading or writing comes up in conversation, I light up and babble away. Storytelling and stories are easily my favorite subjects. But now I’ve found myself really pondering these questions; trying to dig deeper. The article emphasizes that we writers should answer these questions with relish and in great detail. So, writers, have at it.

 

Lighting A Fire May 1, 2009

Wow – has it really been a month since I’ve posted? Whoops. Time got away from me. The good news: I’ve gotten back to writing regularly. Just not blogging.

So, my local writers’ group has been meeting every other week for 3 ½ years. All of us are working on novels, so we read and critique scenes from those novels and occasionally one of us will bring in a short story. Recently, we realized that we were all getting a bit… lazy. Stagnating. We’d gotten away from our habit of consistently having something written for our read and critique sessions. In my case, I’d gotten comfortable/lazy enough that I started bringing subpar work – unpolished work that I would have normally been embarrassed to show to my group. And more than once over the last several months I didn’t have something prepared. Luckily, we all still show up to offer critiques to those who have something to read. But, we all needed a bit of a kick in the tush.

We decided to give ourselves writing assignments. We actually did this about a year ago; at that time we realized none of us had ever written a sex scene. (ooh – I bet using “sex scene” as a tag will drive a ton of traffic to my blog…) So, we all hooked up a couple of our characters. It stretched the boundaries of our writerly muscles, and I’m definitely less intimidated now by the prospect of writing sex scenes for future novels. Last month, we had to put our characters into awkward, and in some cases socially unacceptable, situations. As we all know each other’s characters pretty well, we chose the situations for each other. My innocent yet self-assured YA character had to succumb to peer pressure and try drugs. Another member’s stoic character had to hit his wife. One character had to turn to prostitution for money, one emotionally disengaged character had to become emotionally vulnerable in front of his love interest, and another character who’d never shown any sexuality had to get caught masturbating. Yes, we all cringed at our assignments. And we all pushed our characters much further than we would have if we’d never assigned ourselves this task. But we all managed to tap into a realm of our characters’ psyches that we’d never before considered. A couple of us (me included) liked our scenes well enough that we are considering incorporating them into our books.

To the other writers’ groups out there: what are some of the things you do to keep things from going stale?

 

My Writing Schedule March 30, 2009

Filed under: For Writers,Funny stuff,Goals,Projects,Self deprecating humor,Writing — A French American Life @ 2:14 pm
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For my “real” job, I’m a physical therapist. I work part time at the clinic, which I realize is incredibly lucky. So, on my days off from physical therapy, I write, with every intention of making this time worth it.

Here’s the writing schedule I aspire to:

5:45 The alarm goes off. I bounce out of bed, well-rested and eager to begin a brand new day.

6:00 I’m in the “gym” we’ve set up in our garage, where I get a killer work out.

7:00 I shower and get ready for the day, just as I would if I were going to work. I fix my hair, put on makeup, and wear shoes. This is a great psychological method for improving motivation and productivity.

7:45 I eat breakfast and get caught up on the major news, because it’s important to be a good, well informed citizen of the world.

8:15 I meditate to quiet my mind and allow calm and positive thoughts to center me.

8:30 I arrive at my desk and do a writing warm up exercise.

9:00 I work with enthusiasm and energy on my current project.

12:30 I suddenly realize I’m a bit hungry. I’ve been so absorbed in my writing that I don’t even realize it’s lunch time. Lunch is a random assortment of tasteless and uninspired fuel, but that’s okay, because my mind is lost in the world I’ve created, and words are flowing quicker than I can get them all down.

12:37 I’m back to writing.

2:00 I take a walk at this time to stretch my legs and neck, get some fresh air and sun, and give my mind a bit of time to ponder some things. I take a 1 ½ mile loop around our neighborhood, admiring the brightly colored flowers, enjoying the scent of orange blossoms, and feeling a general satisfaction with the writer I am becoming.

2:30 I’m back to writing. I might check some of my favorite industry blogs, or check in with Absolute Write. But mostly, I just write inspired stories of beauty and depth.

6:00 I’ve had a wonderful day and am satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. I pour myself a glass of wine and begin to make dinner. I have a relaxing evening with my husband.

Here’s what a typical day looks like lately:

5:45 The alarm goes off. I reach over to hit the snooze button, and in doing so, knock my watch onto the ground. It breaks. I hit snooze for an hour or so.

7:00 I finally drag myself out of bed and put on my work out clothes. On the way to the garage, I stop in the office to get my laptop so I can watch The Daily Show while I’m on the elliptical. As I sign on, I see that I have email, and realize that another minute cannot go by without me checking to see who has written to me and why. I check my messages. Some of them are notifications from Facebook, so I go to Facebook and end up reading everyone’s updates, seeing who has thrown what animal at me, taking a test to find out what mythical creature I am. Eventually I find myself looking at pictures of people I don’t even know. It’s 8:30.

8:30 I do my workout while watching the Daily Show. When that’s over, I surf the internet between biceps curls and squats.

9:30 I’m frakking starving, so I sit down to eat and read the paper. I get annoyed with the news and turn to Dear Abby and Ask Carolyn. I become saddened by the state of our world. I read Dilbert and get a little laugh. Then I pull out a novel to read while I finish my cereal.

10:15 The morning is half way over and I’ve accomplished nothing. I berate myself and rush to the shower.

10:45 I slip into yoga pants, an old T-shirt, and slippers. My hair begins to dry into a frizzy mess of a mane that would barely be fashionable in 1973.

11:00 I sit down at my desk and realize it’s an absolute disaster zone. I clean my desk. Which means rearranging all the piles into differently sorted piles. I sort my pen container.

11:30 It’s almost lunch time, so I might as well go online and check the industry blogs. I go online and check my email. Then I go to Facebook. Then all the world fades away and I am sucked into an internet vortex of information, bright colors, videos of kittens playing and fat men dancing, advice on the best toenail polish for your skin tone. I come to and realize I’m reading about how Paris Hilton chose the name for her dog. What’s happening to me? Where am I? It’s 1:00.

1:00 I eat quickly, because now I’m really behind. The crap food I eat instantly gives me heartburn.

1:30 I stare at either my computer screen or a blank page for 20 minutes. Then I remember that the ridges on the doorframes have not been dusted in I don’t know how long. It’s horrifyingly unclean, and I must clean them today. I do this.

2:00 I briefly consider going for a walk, but instead I take a nap on the couch.

2:30 I wake up. I decide I need a change of scenery. I walk to the coffee shop 50 yards from my front door. I ask for a mocha – not too chocolately, please! Only one little scoop! The barista glares at me and gives me an extra chocolately mocha. I sit down with my notebook and ponder whether perhaps he doesn’t like me because of my frizzy hair. I drink part of the mocha and throw the rest out. I go home and take a couple of Tums.

2:45 I examine my hair in the mirror. It’s embarrassingly frizzy. I try some product in it, then try pinning it up a few different ways. It ends up in a ponytail. I realize I’m avoiding writing.

3:00 I sit down with a blank notebook, thoroughly disgusted with myself. I manage to write half a page before I decide that my idea blows. I decide I must look up a better word for “strolled,” so I go online. I have more email. And someone on Facebook commented on someone else’s photo.

4:00 I extract myself from the internet and write another half a page, and it’s worse than pulling teeth. It’s pulling out my toenails with my teeth.

4:30 I spend a bit of time coming up with status updates for my Facebook page. I play with the wording a bit.

5:00 I consider quitting, because clearly the day is a bust. But then I decide I must write more. I stare at a blank page for thirty minutes.

5:30 I start on dinner and spend the evening irritable. I resolve to do better next time.