Category Archives: mixed bag

Why I can’t write outside my race, I think. Probably.

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Frog 3This is not a how-to.

It is a thought in progress.

This longer-than-usual post is not intended to persuade you to think a certain way. I’m simply sharing my struggle. In full transparency, I do hope it will encourage you to wrestle too.

I am puzzling over the question – how can I, a middle-aged white lady, promote greater diversity in children’s literature? Further, can I personally contribute my own work?

And now my noodle is steaming. Just call me Ms. Ramen Head.

Let me get specific now.

See, five years ago a character came to me while I was at an SCBWI-Michigan spring conference. I was in a breakout session with Donna Gephart. And, this kid, he never moved out of my head.

I LOVE this guy. But as a character, he is a challenge combo (without a side of fries. Darn.)

First, he is a him, but I can handle that. I like writing boy characters best.

He chose a hobby I have no idea how to do, but I can try to learn.

And, finally, he is African American. Yep. That’s where things get complicated. I didn’t decide that about him. It’s simply part of who he is–a significant part.

Now I am capturing his story in a middle grade novel, but I’m facing a few teensy questions. Oh, you know, like:

  • If it’s okay to me to write outside my gender, why not my race?
  • Is it really necessary for this character to be African American for his story to be told?
  • Am I betraying my character if I change his race?
  • If I do write outside my race, what is the potential for causing more harm than good (even with the benefit of sensitivity readers)?
  • If my book is published, what happens when I show up at a school with primarily African American students?
  • As an un-established author, am I prepared to face the elevated scrutiny my story will receive?

To go even deeper . . .

Executive Editor at Dutton Books for Young Readers Andrew Karre posed these questions at a recent SCBWI conference:

  • How diverse is the well of literature I draw from?
  • Why do I want to write a diverse character? In other words, where are the roots of my desire to write this character?
  • Is my only point of engagement with diversity limited to my manuscript?

In the end, all I want to create is a story that’s authentic and engaging. Most of all, I want this kid I love to be proud of the way I told his story. I think I can best do that without pushing myself to do things that will quite potentially hurt my readers and distract them from the story I want to tell. And so, since I have decided not to write outside my race, I think. Probably. I am asking:

  • How can I offer a diverse perspective in a way that’s true to myself?
  • How can I support diverse authors and diverse books?
  • How can I expand my understanding of all that diversity means?

Here’s the part I do know:

  • There’s clueless. That’s sad.
  • There’s clueless about being clueless. That’s dangerous.

I’m “pleased” to say I know that I’m clueless about a lot of things related to diversity, and really, that’s not the worst place to start. It means I need to be humble, and willing to learn, listen and ask questions. That I can do without question.

Mmm. Mmm. Mmm. Won’t you join me, my little Caramel Apples?

If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained. ~ Neil Gaiman

 

 

48 of the most important hours in a writer’s life

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Because your first responder needs to know about this . . .

Welcome to Frog on a Dime

Doodle by Vicky Lorencen Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

There are a plethora of important days in a writer’s life. (Pardon my use of plethora, but it’s such a keen word.) But, in my book, there are 48 hours that stand out from the rest. They are far from the most fun, but a lot hinges on how we choose to handle them.

Day 1 – The First 24 Hours at Ground Zero

You receive a rejection letter or slam into a serious setback. I know there are some who say it’s best to roll with it. Rejection is knit into a writer’s life and there’s no point becoming unraveled by it. I commend you for your ability to be cavalier, but I can’t manage it myself. The times I’ve tried only came back to chomp me. Stuffing the sadness caused tears to erupt at the oh-so-wrong times, so I’m better off taking 24 hours to wallow and be a wreck.

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mindfulness and the writer’s mind

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If you don’t mind . . .

Welcome to Frog on a Dime

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Photo by Vicky Lorencen

You’ve heard of mindfulness, yes? Okay, so maybe you’ve “heard” of it, but your understanding is a tad fuzzy. If I give you a link to a delightful introduction via the lovely Anderson Cooper, can I trust you to come back to Frog on a Dime to read the rest of this post? Oh, you know I can never deny you anything. Okay, my little gum drop, have a look.

You’re back! [Trying not to look surprised] So, this mindfulness-ness thing, now you know it’s really about being aware, about being present–about being. Am I a pro at that? Oh, you little snickerdoodle. You do know how to make me chuckle. All I know is practicing mindfulness is a good, life-enhancing thing that I believe can and will enhance my writing (and yes, yours, too).

I came up with a squatty list of ways mindfulness may do…

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For the love of critiques, line edits and proofreading, what’s the difference? I mean, seriously, what is the difference?

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Don’t cry, Sweet Pea. Help is on the way . . .

Welcome to Frog on a Dime

cry baby

Quick–what’s the difference between developmental editing and line editing? What can you expect from a critique? Is line editing the same as copy editing?

Not sure?

Don’t cry, my little rose bud! Help is on the way.

These explanations may give you some clarity and clear up those tears.

Manuscript critique – a critique consists of a compilation of feedback in the form of a letter (typically) regarding  pacing, flow of narrative, transitions, voice, structure and other essential elements of stylish prose. This will provide a subjective view of the strengths and current weaknesses of your manuscript. You typically do not receive comments on the manuscript itself, as with a line edit.

Developmental editing – this extensive type of editing allows you to take a birdie’s eye view of your whole manuscript. With this type of editing, you may receive feedback in the form a of lengthy, detailed letter focusing…

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take the “am I ready for an agent?” quiz

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Maybe it’s time to take stock. Are you ready?

Welcome to Frog on a Dime

Photo by Vicky Lorencen Photo by Vicky Lorencen
You’ve seen those wedding dress shows, right? A bride-to-be goes on a chiffon frenzied quest for the perfect gown while a group of her BFFs sit semi-circled in the salon, waiting to boo-hoo or just boo over her selection. Once in a while, though, the hunter is simply a bride-wanna-be who is willing to throw gobs of moola at a dress, despite her groomlessness. To me, that seems sad, desperate, and at the very least, poorly timed.

When it comes to writers in search of an agent, sometimes it’s really not that different. There’s a time to focus solely on craft, to learning about the industry, reading and networking. But, if this has not yet resulted in a solid, polished product to sell, why would you spend time looking for an agent to represent you?

Let’s say, however, maybe you’re like me, and you’ve been polishing…

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where’s your permission slip?

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Permit granted . . .

Welcome to Frog on a Dime

(c) Vicky L. Lorencen (c) Vicky L. Lorencen (c) Vicky L. Lorencen (c) Vicky L. Lorencen

When I took my first watercolor class, I painted the usual subjects–you know, a bowl of fruit, a self-portrait, a landscape . . . but then, my teacher allowed me to do an independent study. That’s when I started painting bunnies. I learned a lot in the first class, but it wasn’t until I was cut loose and given permission to paint what I liked that the fun really started. Sure, not everyone likes to paint bunnies playing checkers, but I do! (Consider it my nod to dogs playing poker.)

Do you find it a challenge to give yourself permission to try something new or to take a risk?

Mind if I help you with that?

Complete the permission slip below.

It’s all set to go. All you need to do is fill in the blank.

* Grant yourself permission to submit…

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anne lamott had her nostrils removed?

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It pays to slow down and read carefully . . .

Welcome to Frog on a Dime

pinnochio frog pinnochio frog Has your muse gone to visit her mother in the Hamptons? Consider one of these fine reads to top off your inspiration tank. These are my five favorite go-to books . . .

Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Lifeby Anne Lamott
This book is a classic for a reason. It’s full of solid advise and insights, wrapped in Anne’s wry wit. But Bird by Bird earned a cozy place in my heart for two very personal reasons. While I read it–more like absorbed it–I saw myself in her pages. As I was nodding my head, I realized I related to Anne’s words and experiences because I really am a writer. Not a writer-wanna-be, but someone with the heart of a real writer. Mmm-mmm-mmm. That’s some good soul-sticking stuff right there.

While I’m at it, I may as well confess my silly association with this…

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