Saturday, June 27, 2009

Interview with Ellen Jensen Abbott

Today we are thrilled to present an interview with Ellen Jensen Abbott, author of the debut novel, Watersmeet. Ellen is a member of the Class of 2K9.

Here’s a little bit about WATERSMEET (Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books):

From her birth, Abisina has been an outcast—for the color of her eyes and skin, and for her lack of a father. Only her mother’s status as the village healer has kept her safe. But when a mythic leader arrives, Abisina’s life is ripped apart. She escapes alone to try to find the father and the home she has never known. In a world of extremes, from the deepest prejudice to the greatest bonds of duty and loyalty, Abisina must find her own way and decide where her true hope lies.

Welcome, Ellen. I’m so excited for the opportunity to chat with you about your book. All of us Slushies are as of yet unpublished in the children’s lit. world, so we’re just dying to know:

As of April 1st you are officially a published author…how does it feel?

Thrilling—to hold that solid, glossy, real book in my hands. Overwhelming—to realize that I am so central to the process of getting the word out about my book. I didn't realize until publication neared that I needed an MBA in marketing! Unbelievable—I walked into a Barnes and Noble recently and saw a poster of myself. A poster. Of me. How did this happen?

Talk a bit about your journey to publication. How did it all start? How long did it take you? We all know it’s hard to get published; give us some insights into how you got there.

It was yen years from the moment I started my first novel to a book arriving on my doorstep. The book I sold was the second book I wrote and submitted for publication; the first did not sell. Key to the publication process for me was the networking I did. As everyone will tell you, you have to write well and have a solid manuscript to offer. But I found that it also really helped to meet people in the industry, learn from them, and develop relationships with them. I attended the Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature One-on-One Conference three different times. While there I met two critical mentors, the woman who became my agent, and the woman who became my publisher. From each of these four women, I learned both about the business and about writing. I made a point of staying in touch with each over the years as I continued to hone my skills. When I had a manuscript ready, I had people to send it to who knew me. I also felt like I had allies out there—folks I could contact who were in the business and would answer questions and encourage me when I got despondent. My advice is to make a point of meeting those people at conferences with whom you feel a connection, whose work you admire, or who you respect. Get their cards. Follow up with a quick e-mail. Stay in touch—not so much that you are annoying, but enough to keep you on their radar.

From the first few pages of Watersmeet you plunge the reader into a bleak and dangerous world. We can feel it, smell it, (almost) taste it along with your MC, Abisina. Can you give all us fantasy writers out there a few tips on world-building?

World building is the work and joy of writing fantasy. At times it is frustrating because you have worked out a complex plot point only to realize that the mountains you had to have in the last scene now prevent you doing what you want in the next! My advice is to go insane with details—and then cut lots of them out. You need to be familiar with all the particulars of your world to give it verisimilitude, but if you weigh it down with too much, your reader can get lost in minutia. Record keeping is key for me, too. I kept a calendar of my main character's quest, so that I knew how the weather would be changing as the days passed. I also marked phases of the moon so that it wouldn't be full in each scene. I also kept a map both of villages and the land as a whole so that I always knew which way Abisina, the main character, was headed, where the sun would be, and what she would see on the horizon. My world is pre-industrial and forested, so I keep tree books, bird books, animal books on hand. I researched survival guides, herbal remedies, and pre-industrial economies. Even a little reading in these areas gave me all kinds of ideas that translated into plot progression or details that gave more depth to my world.

Take us through a typical day in your life as a writer. How do you organize your time?

Ah! How I long for words like "typical" and "organized" in my life! The truth is that my writing life at the moment is catch as catch can. For the last two years, I have been teaching high school English. I'm not full time, but I am 80%. Think grading, grading, grading. I also have two children who play sports, take music lessons and go to a school that requires a lot of parent involvement. Then there's the mundane stuff: paying bills, cleaning the house, feeding the chickens. (Yeah—we have a tiny flock of chickens!) I've learned not to look for huge chunks of time for writing. If I wait until then, I will simply never write. I grab an hour here and an hour there—between when I get home from work and before my kids get home from school; on a free period at school; after the family has gone to bed. On weekends I take a bit more time, leaving the house for a cafĂ© so that my husband and kids don't feel tempted to interrupt me. Summers are heaven! And I am cutting back on my teaching next year so I can find more time.

What are you working on now?

The sequel, of course! It's great to be back in the same world, working with characters I am familiar with. At the same time, it's really exciting that these familiar folk are facing new problems and challenges.

Because we are a critique group, the Slushbusters help each other improve our writing and support each other through successes and failures. How have other writers in your community done the same for you?

One of the worst aspects of my ridiculously busy schedule is that I don't have time for a critique group. I can’t even scrape together the time I need to do my own writing! I have been in critique groups before and I know how valuable it can be to get feedback. I have just teamed up with another member of the Class of 2k9, which is a group of authors debuting YA and MG novels in 2009. (Check us out at Joy Preble, my partner, lives in Texas and I live in Pennsylvania, but we are both writing sequels to our fantasy novels. We've agreed NOT to read each other's first book. It's killing me because I really, really want to read her book (Dreaming Anastasia) but by being a new reader to her second book, I can see more clearly where there is too much or too little back-story about the first book. She can do the same for me. She recently read my first two chapters and helped me rethink some of the narrative style. I think readers are critical, in part, to remind you of what you know. She marked one spot saying, "I'm hearing you here instead of your MC." Duh! How many times have I given the same advice to authors or students—but here I was making the same mistake! That one comment sent me back to the whole MS as I realized there were loads of places I could do more with my character's voice.

What is the question you never get asked but are always dying to answer? And then, of course, give us the answer.

I really want to be asked what it feels like to win a Newbery Award! And as soon as I know the answer, I'll let you know!

And when that happens, I'll be one of the first to ask you! Ellen, it's been a pleasure chatting with you. Thanks for sharing. Best of luck with the sequel!

Sparkly rocks

Noelle is one of the children I take care of. (My inner grammar geek is pointing and shrieking at the dangling participle, but I'm valiantly ignoring it because "of whom I take care" is far too formal.) 

She is one of the most perceptive children I know. I think part of it is because her neuromuscular disease has often kept her watching children play rather than joining them. As I was driving her and her siblings home earlier this week, five year old Noelle and I had the following conversation:

"Sarah, I'm glad I'm a kid and not an adult."

I'm concentrating on the road, but manage, "Why, Noelle?"

"Because adults move fast."

"What do you mean?"

"They walk fast. They don't see good things on the ground," says the collector of sparkly rocks and spotter of lucky pennies.

So I've been pondering the good things I miss when I concentrate on where I should be- instead of where I am. 

Take writing. I've been seeing only how I'm behind, how I've not written as much as I should and how I'm not too pleased with what has been written. But then I started looking at how I now know what I need to do with my MC. I'm pleased if I get 500 words down rather than wish I'd accomplished 1,000. Such things are the sparkly rocks of my writing, but noticing them does make a difference.

How about you? What are some of the small victories you've seen in your writing lately? 

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Don't worry so much about the words

When I went to my first Slushbusters meeting long ago, before we were the group we are, or even had a name, someone criticized one of the words I used as being too big for kids to read. I disagreed. I think one of the greatest things kids can get from reading is a better vocabulary. This week I learned that some of them feel the same way.

This summer I'm co-leading the girls' book club at the library. The girls, ages 9-13, read and discuss books just like an adult book club. The adult group leaders picked the first book, Tuck Everlasting. Twenty girls showed up to talk about it! At the end of the first meeting the group voted from a list of books and chose the rest. The library provides a free paperback copy of the next book to the first thirteen girls at each discussion meeting. We meet every week, and on alternate weeks we either watch a movie (based on the book we just read) or do a craft. This gives them two weeks to read each book. The boys have a group of their own, with guys leading the group and a different list of books.

As they read, the kids look for words they don't know. At the meetings we make a list and read the definitions aloud. Then they vote on their favorite "hardest word." They agree to use it in conversation as often as possible to really learn it. The following week we have a quiz. Whichever group scores highest on the word quiz overall wins. Boys against girls is a great motivator, but they were pretty enthusiastic about the words from the beginning. Remember, it's summer vacation. They're participating because they want to read the books and learn the words.

What were the words? In Tuck Everlasting they found melancholy, disarray, deprecation and indomitable. The girls chose disarray to be the word they learn. I don't know the boys' whole list, but the word they chose from The Invention of Hugo Cabret was horologist.

I'm pretty sure I've never used any of these words in my writing, but at least now I know I can, and the kids will be just fine.

Lisa must have known this all along. She's the only Slushbuster to have used words in her work that I had to look up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Moving Home

Five days ago, I came back to my home town--not to visit, but to live. Yikes! I haven't lived here since the 90's. It's a small town nestled in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. There are swaths of farmland all around and mountains rising up in the distance. It's a cute town, a conservative town, but we have the first transgender mayor in the US. Go Silverton!

Moving back to Silverton inspires me to write. After all, this is where I first sounded out letters and read my first stilted sentence. This is where I first fell in love with the magic of books, where I met Miss Suzy, Harold, and Sylvester, where I was first swept away into the worlds of Jane, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Heathcliff, and Bilbo. It is where I walked down the broken sidewalks, kicked leaves in the gutter, and thought that maybe I could make something beautiful out of this world with words on a page.

Years later, I'm back, and still striving for beauty. Oh, and a little truth too.

So, I guess I'm interested in hearing: What made you a writer?

Monday, June 22, 2009

From the Grammar Geek

I admit it. I'm an incurable grammar geek. I can't help it. I'm sure it's genetic. My mom is an English teacher. My sister is a technical writer. It took almost no time at all before the rest of the Slushbusters discovered this and started asking me the grammar questions. I have proof. Just look at Sarah's comment in this post last week.

I get it that blogging is not about grammar, spelling or punctuation. Really, I do. But for the love of the language, people, please stop using apostrophes to indicate plural words! (Not, "Please stop using apostrophe's to indicate plural word's.) I am not pointing fingers. This was not a Slushbuster offense. In fact, it wasn't even on a blog. It was on facebook. And it wasn't alone. The misuses of words and punctuation are all over the Internet, including blogs by writers. The copy editor who lives in my brain can't take it anymore. Please take a moment to proofread before you post. Can The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White be required reading for everyone who owns a computer? Seriously, if you are reading this and don't already own a copy, buy one. It is one of the least expensive and most valuable books you can own as a writer.

Okay, rant over. Now for the good news. I was reading something earlier that used grammar I wasn't sure about. I Googled the usage and stumbled on this blog. It made my heart flutter. Not only does it address grammar questions, but also technical issues of our time. Roy Jacobson might just be my language soul mate. It's too soon to tell, but it looks good so far.

Oh, and while I'm on the subject, I'd like to apologize to anyone whose grammar I corrected in conversation in the '80's. I was in high school. I didn't know how rude and idiotic I sounded.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Procrastination Post

This is a procrastinating post. I'm supposed to be working on cover letters and applications. Instead, I'm ... here. 

However, my writing has helped this whole boy-do-I-need-a-new-job-that-includes-health-and-dental-by-September process along.

I think of cover letters as queries. I try to make sure the prospective employer finds the MC (that would be moi) engrossing. I include salient details, and trim everything else. I work to make every word count and keep the reading as enjoyable as possible. And I know that it will always take a while to write.

I'm applying (querying) widely.  I found my prior jobs through recommendations, so this full-tilt job search is new to me. I am so lucky, though, that I learned early in my oh-this-is-beautiful-stuff-I'm-writing-how-do-I-let-the-world-read-it* journey that I'd have to query a lot. A lot, a lot. So when my manuscript (that hasn't been worked on in over two weeks because I've been working on applications and cover letters) is finished, I'm know I'll have to beat the bushes and send out tons of queries. And I'm fine with that. I'm learning to be fine with that when it comes to applications as well. 

I just write it. You can have writer's block with applications as well. I want this one school to realize how hire-able I am, and , I swear, I could not fill out that one part that asks you to list Other Skills. I remembered what I do with my MS: just write something, 'cause it will get the blather out of the way. So, I made a copy of the application, and just wrote. It was blather, but now I know what to write. 

But enough about me. I'm need to take my advice and just write a bit more. I'd love to hear, though, how your writing helps you in the rest of your life. 

*That journey has long since been downgraded to the I-now-know-I'm-nowhere-near-Rowling-but-the-Slushies-say-I'm-improving shuffle.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

From the desktop of a newbie children’s writer

Well, I finally went to my first children’s author talk. About time! I’ve been part of a writing critique group for over a year and writing children’s stories for about three years. Of course, in order to get me there the talk had to be in my hometown (Charlottesville, VA), literally a five-minute drive away, and it helped that the author was also from here – Fran Slayton. Her first book, When the Whistle Blows, was just released.

Fran spoke about her “Cinderella” publishing story and gave an overview of children’s publishing, complete with handouts.

Cinderella’s, I mean Fran’s, publishing story is quite unusual. In a nutshell, she got invited to the ball complete with expensive gown. She applied for and won a scholarship to the Highlights Foundation Writer’s Workshop (a pricey one!). This week-long conference for children’s writers and illustrators is held each summer at the Chautauqua Institute, in southwestern New York. This is where she found her prince charming of an editor (Patti Gauch) who coached her along the writing process. The book jacket fit because she is a great writer with a great story.

After telling her publishing story, she talked about the publishing business, bringing up the usual points – if an editor likes your story they take it to the acquisition group and so on. But she also pointed out a few other things I had not yet heard. For example, a publishing company invests about $50,000 in you upfront. This is the cost of all the employees needed to get your book ready to print and then to print it – editors, marketing personnel, illustrators, cost of paper, etc. (No wonder they are so choosy!) She’s been an astute learner of the field of publishing.

Her handouts included a “to do list” for aspiring children’s writers and one on tips for improving your craft. Below I have culled some of her best advice that I found of interest:

1. Participate in children’s writers discussion boards.
- (You must be a member)
- Verla Kay discussion board
2. Get a professional critique of your work. The best way to accomplish this is to attend a conference.
3. Join a mentorship program.
- Nevada SCBWI Mentorship program
4. Subscribe to writers’ magazines:
- Writer Magazine
- Writer’s Digest
- Children’s Writer Newsletter
5. Books on writing to read.
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
- Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold Underdown
6. Buy yourself a copy of this year’s edition of Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And what's going on with your writing?

I've been working on turning what I thought was a picture book story into a middle grade novel. It's a story that's been in my head for about 20 years, originally developed as a tell-aloud story with a group of kids I worked with. When I tried writing it as a picture book, it was always too long. Cutting it down lost most of the heart of it. So now, I'm going the other direction. Developing the characters more fully. Adding more characters, more conflicts.

The problem is that lately, I've been a bit stuck on the writing of it. But I keep having these little flashes of insight. (She cheated! There was a curse!) And I'm making notes. Because these flashes are adding up to a better story. And this week I started writing it that way.

In a way, I guess I didn't stop writing it after all. It's just all on these orange and yellow sticky notes instead of in a nice, flowing computer files. So now my job is to take the sticky notes, like patches in a quilt, and seam them all together.

Again, we forgot to take pictures!

This time it was because we forgot the camera. Sarah, Steph and I, accompanied by my husband and Steph's daughter Abby, went to Fran Slayton's book party at New Dominion Bookshop on Saturday. Her debut novel, When the Whistle Blows has earned great reviews, and we were all looking forward to seeing her again and hearing her read from it.

Which we did. It was wonderful to see the support of Fran's family and friends, fellow SCBWI members (hi, ladies!) and 2k9 author Edie Hemingway. Fran obviously has a deep emotional connection to her work, which she should, since the stories in the book are based on her father's childhood.

I just finished reading it, and it's beautifully written. It hits the full emotional range from comic teenage hijinks to the tragic losses which are inevitable in life. Fran has generously agreed to do an interview for us on the Slushbusters blog, so watch for it in upcoming posts. Meanwhile, check out her book, and use the links in this post to see other interviews with Fran.

Friday, June 12, 2009

When the biggest party in town is for reading, even the animals get literary!

Alison and her daughter Bethany brought their donkey, Mr. Darcy, to the library the other day. It was all part of the big summer reading kickoff party at the library. What better way to get kids excited about reading than to throw a party?

The Friends of the Library provided a moon bounce, and volunteers contributed ice cream, face painting, a mini petting zoo, and of course story times throughout the evening. Hundreds of kids came to get new library cards and pick up their summer reading logs, which they can bring back each week to earn prizes.

In this world of electronic everything, it was great to see so many families come out for some good old fashioned hands-on activities. And, according to Alison, boy did they need it! Some kids thought poor Mr. Darcy was a goat!

Steph and her family came inside for books. Here she is with her daughter Elly.

I took that one from behind the circulation desk, where I spent most of the evening. We were inundated with happy kids checking out stacks of books. For once, the library wasn't quiet!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

In their own words

Debut YA novelist Albert Borris has a way with words. Or rather, had a way with words.

This past December, just months before the release of CRASH INTO ME (Simon Pulse), Albert suffered a stroke so powerful, his doctors told him he was lucky to be alive. And alive he is, having made a full physical recovery, enough to roughhouse with his two young s ons and work out at the gym. However, Albert is still working on recovering something else: his words.

To be sure, they are all up there in his brilliant mind. He just can’t get them out – verbally or on paper – in the correct order, yet. But he’s working on it.

Prior to his stroke, Albert was a full time teen counselor, husband and father. He also served as Co-President of The Class of 2k9, a group of 22 debut middle grade and young adult novelists banding together to promote their books. Words were his thing. Communicating with others, in person and on the page, was his specialty.

As his friends and fellow debut novelists, we, the Class of 2k9, are making it our business to get the word out about Albert and his novel, CRASH INTO ME. Here's a bit about it:

When Owen, Frank, Audrey, and Jin-Ae meet online after each attempts suicide and fails, the four teens make a deadly pact: they will escape together on a summer road trip to visit the sites of celebrity suicides...and at their final destination, they will all end their lives. As they drive cross-country, bonding over their dark impulses, sharing their deepest secrets and desires, living it up, hooking up, and becoming true friends, each must decide whether life is worth living--or if there's no turning back.

Won’t you join us in spreading the word?
Pass this on to every librarian, teacher, and teen reader you know.

Send him an encouraging note on our website:

Blog about Albert.

Pre order his book.

Anything you can think of to show your support would be deeply appreciated.

Thank you.

The Class of 2k9

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Place Names

I'm on the road with my husband and two year old. We've loaded up all our worldly possessions and are off on the epic family road trip from Charlottesville, VA to Silverton, OR. No, I'm not crazy. Really, I'm not. We've made it to Owatonna, MN without anyone going crazy and without resorting to the DVD player.

The only problem is I'm not writing. At all. It makes me nervous to be away from my story and characters for so long. To assuage my guilt, I'm doing writerly things like making lists of place names I like the sound of and filing them away for later use. Here's some I've lifted directly from road signs:

White Sulfur Springs
Lick Creek Road
Snap Dragon Falls
Laurel Springs
Eagle Creek

How do you name the places in your stories? I always have a hard time with this. If I make them up they sound too airy and fanciful, and if I lift them from somewhere they sound too, well, real. The right name is hard to find.

I came across a website recently that is a random place name generator. After clicking through about 30 names I realized I wasn't going to find my answer. Still, it's kinda fun. Here's another for fantasy you need more ways to waste time on the internet.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Shout Out to the Class of 2k9

I look at the Class of 2k9 in much the way I looked at seniors in high school when I was a freshman. They've traveled the road to publication, finding agents and publishers who love their work, and now they're "going out into the real world" with their books. They've generously shared information with the rest of us, and shown incredible support for each other. They are working in cooperation, not competition. And it looks like they've become good friends along the way. One day, I hope to be just like them.

They take care of their own. Albert Borris, author of Crash Into Me, suffered a stroke in December. The rest of the class has taken up the reins of marketing his book while he recovers. Tarie asked on her blog that folks help spread the word.

I'm one hundred percent in favor of writers helping each other out. After all, that's the spirit of the Slushbusters too.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Going there...

One thing that stood out most to me in the Richard Peck SCBWI Master Class dvd was a comment on writing about rape. He described the all the research he'd done, how deeply he'd dug to accurately depict all his main character experienced. His manuscript was 400 pages long. 

Then he realized his manuscript was so long because he didn't want to write that one scene. He didn't want his MC to be raped. It was easier to research than to write. 

Ya think?

His point was that we have to be willing to let all sorts of things happen to our characters. We have to be willing to go there.

Now, I get that from a writing-an-interesting-story perspective. Conflict=story. (That's why I never, ever liked the fiction in Highlights, by the way. The editors don't want external conflict.) 

But as much as I like a good adventure, I long to protect the people that I love. In a weird, writerly sort of way, that means I want to protect my characters as well. I don't want anything REALLY bad to happen. I don't want to wonder if it's going to turn out okay. Funny as it sounds, there are times when I'm writing a scene and I shy away from some aspect of it. I know that if I go there, the story might not end the way I wish it would. 

Then I got to thinking about some folks in my life:

My sister. She tried to help a friend leave an abusive boyfriend. She watched her friend's murder and the boyfriend's suicide.

My friend. She was in the Bosnian army when she was a young teen. Worked in a war hospital. Lived with genocide, hunger, shellings. 

A child I watch. He's 4 years old and recently had his second open heart surgery. There was no way his parents could explain to him why all those adults kept hurting him.

A girl I taught. She wasn't adopted till she was 9. She also had open heart surgery when she was tiny, but she didn't have a parent there to comfort her. No one.

Now that writerly part of me knows I have your attention. 

And my conscience knows I'd be a b**ch if I mentioned those things just because it might increase blog readership. Truth be told, I already feel slimy.

But one of the things I love about my sister ... my friend ... those children is how they responded when life took them someplace no one should ever have to go. 

My sister would do it all again. She didn't let the trauma of that experience shape her, and she's ferociously protective of women in abusive relationships.

My friend from Bosnia is one of the most open hearted people I know. She has friends who are Serbs. She works to help all sorts of refugees. She regularly tells me how lucky she is.

That little boy has a smile that- I can't describe it, but it's precious. He trusts his mom enough thatwalked with her into a doctor's office, even though in his mind  it might mean surgery all over again.

That girl who knew so little affection as a child- and certainly not during her heart surgery- has been learning how to give and receive love the past few years. She can be so tender with her younger siblings.

So here's what I think. I don't want awful things to happen to the characters I love. I hit a point where I figure the story can take a hike if it means going there. But if I've seen anything in my life, amazing good can come from the most heartbreaking situations. 

And that might be a reason to let my characters go there.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Joy of Summer Reading

Remember summer reading? I don't mean the lists your teachers handed out as "suggested reading" for the summer. (Sorry, Bridget!) I mean having the time away from school to finally read what you wanted to read.

I probably brought a few books to camp and on the road trips to visit my grandparents. But the best part of summer reading was having some days with nothing planned and a quiet place to be. I'd lie on my stomach on the carpeted floor of the basement where it was cool. Funny, but I don't even remember what books I read there. Just the halfway sleepy sensation of coming out of the story when I was finished, feeling a little stiff, checking my elbows for rug burns.

At our library, and I'm sure many others across the country, summer reading officially begins Monday with a big party. I'll tell you all about it next week. Meanwhile, I have the day off, it's raining, and I have reading to do.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What jogs your memory?

This morning I had a facebook friend request from a girl I was friends with in elementary and middle school. We weren't best friends or anything, but we lived in the same neighborhood, went to school together for a long time, and were in Girl Scouts together. She was one of those people who I always liked, but was never especially close with.

That got me thinking about elementary school, which I mostly only do when I'm mining my memory for ideas. It turns out my old school has a group on facebook. So I looked at some of the discussion threads. A guy who was in my fourth grade class recalled our teacher (a man!) reading us Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing every day after lunch. I hadn't thought about that in years, but I certainly remember it. That was the beginning of my obsession with Judy Blume books. Which, I'm sure, influenced me as a writer today.

A little over a year ago I did a writing exercise that really got me into the head of my eleven-year-old self. It was the first assignment for a writing class I was taking online. The assignment was something along the lines of remembering an incident from your own childhood, and then writing it as a narrative, with dialog and everything. You could keep it more or less factual, change it to make it more exciting, or change the names of characters. I chose to write about an unfortunate roller skating incident when I was in sixth grade. Once I got rolling, (no pun intended!) I was able to recall more and more details about what happened. Then I was able to better embellish the truth for the sake of a good story.

So here's the question of the day: What gets you into the head of a school-age kid, to better help your writing?