Thursday, November 30, 2006

My phone call with an editor

Earlier this week, I contacted Xxxxx Xxxxxxx, a managing editor at Xxxx Xxxxx Xxx Xxxxxxxx, and I sent him three manuscripts. I didn't know until just now, doing a Google search, that he is the managing editor. And good thing I didn't know 'cause I wouldn't have had the nerve to contact him in the first place.

Today, he called to discuss my career as a writer. He thinks I'm brilliant. He loved all three of the manuscripts and wants to publish each one. He thinks I'm the next big talent after Mark Teague, Jarret Krosoczka and Brian Selznick. And, he invited me to submit dozens of story ideas.

Course, that's how it happened in my dream last night, but in real life, only one of the above statements is true. And it ain't the "brilliant" one. Thankfully, he did express a desire to publish me as an author/illustrator.

So, the plan is that I'll send him more story ideas — "dozens of them," he said would be fine. At this point, he wants to see a promising concept. Then, he'll guide me in developing it into a full blown written and illustrated story. "I need a story that I believe will sell 10,000 books at $16.99 a pop," he said.

I am so grateful for this editor. I know this example may be an anomaly, but I sent him my stories on Monday and he responded to me by Tuesday. And by Thursday, he had read all three of my stories (in three days, not four months). Then he called and critiqued each story, offering a path to publication.

Over the next year, I'll be illustrating a story for him, so there'll be plenty of time to send my ideas. And I plan to do just that.

In other news: I have more exciting news to share in my next post (probably not till the weekend). Hint: It has nothing to do with children's books, but with children's pajamas, fleece, bedspreads, WM!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dragon in a dress — "Butch 'em up!"



So get this: At my full-time gig, they asked me to illustrate a dragon dressed up like Cinderella, in a ball gown, wearing glass slippers. They say it symbolizes some sort of cliche or saying related to football. Get it? I don’t either. I don't watch football. But I created the illustration anyway, going all Cinderella on em — blue magic background, glittery stars, hot pink dress. So I finish the illustration, post a portion of it on this blog, and leave it out for the editors to see. When I come into work today, they tell me: "It's too girly for a sports illustration. Of course it is, but you did ask for a dragon in a ball gown and glass slippers, didn't you?

Creating illustrations for the newspaper aren't much different than those in children's books, except for the time factor. I come into work today, and find that I have three hours to change the illustration that will run in tomorrow’s newspaper. "Butch him up," they said.

So I omitted the blue magical background, the starry swirls and added fire coming out the dragon’s mouth. Can't get more macho than breathing fire.

***********************************

In other news: I sent three manuscripts to the editor of a book I’m illustrating. I've decided that I completely do not want to go the slush pile route. I don't play the lottery for the same reasons.

Anyway, I get an email from him less than 24-hours later: "Let's talk about your budding writing career," he says. We talk tomorrow, 10 a.m. So please, no calls in the morning. I won't even answer the phone to anything except a 212 area code.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cinderella is a dragon



What's an artist to do when asked by a sports reporter to illustrate a dragon, dressed up like Cinderella, wearing a helmet and carrying a football? Well, if he wants a job, he forces a smile, shuts up and draws the dang dragon. The above is unfinished, in progress.



This is the pencil sketch. I scanned this in and used it as a template to draw from. I'm doing this in Adobe Illustrator CS2, which now has some cool gaussian blur effects, like Photoshop, but adjustable.



The same art in outline view. To non-Illustrator users, yes, this mess of lines mean something. It's mathematical, the only kind of math I care to mess with.



Here, I've blocked in solid colors. After a test print, I can see that my colors are way too dark. So, the next step will be in rasterizing into Photoshop, color correct it, then sample color from the corrected version. I just learned that the helmet should be white, not maroon as pictured. What I like about digital illustration is that I can make that fix so quick and easy — I don't have to hate the person who requested the change.

Next, I'll add more detail with gradients and gradient meshes. The trick will be in layering in some texture, so the final art won't look so smooth. I'll probably do that in Photoshop or Painter.

I'll post the finish later, after it runs.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Artist Benny Andrews passed away












I was saddened to learn that artist and children's book illustrator, Benny Andrews, died almost two weeks ago. I completely missed the news.

I first learned of Andrews through his work on the book, Delivering Justice: W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights, written by James Haskins. I wasn't a fan of his work initially; it seemed hard and stiff (criticism I've also received). But the more I studied his work, the more I loved it. Andrews art is naive, folksy, expressionistic. Sometimes he combines colorful collage with drawings and paintings. Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes, edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad (which I picked up at ALA, 2006), is an especially handsome picture book. Here are a few others illustrated by Andrews:

John Lewis in the Lead
A Story of the Civil Rights Movement
by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson

The Hickory Chair
by Lisa Rowe Fraustino,

Pictures for Miss Josie
by Sandra Belton,

I Am the Darker Brother: An Anthology of Modern Poems by African Americans
by Arnold Adoff

Sky Sash So Blue
by Libby Hathorn

Also, American Icons: From Madison to Manhattan, The Art of Benny Andrews, 1948-1997, is on my Christmas wish list. *hint-hint*

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Yes! I can still draw!



My boss (the new one) sent me an email, wanted to know if I could illustrate a realistic portrait. And if so, he had an assignment waiting for me on Wednesday. Of course I can illustrate realistically. What's wrong with him? But it's been a long time, and I have to admit, I'm a bit rusty.

Last evening, I sat down and did some old fashioned drawing. I drew this picture in about an hour using a soft graphite pencil, a cotton ball (for blending) and a kneadable eraser (to erase out highlights).

Monday, November 20, 2006

Two days with the K!



K's school is out for the entire week, so I'm staying home with him today and tomorrow. The wife will stay home with him on Wednesday and the day after Thanksgiving.

The wife understands how...um, focused I can be when I'm on a mission, and I'm on one. I want to create a few sketches for my dummy book, before I start final sketches on FARMER. The wife doesn't want me so engrossed in work, that K roams the house for two days straight, watching TV and making a mess. So she put us on a schedule: 9 a.m. eat breakfast. Read till 10. Math at 11. Take a walk at noon. Nap at 2, and so on.

I don't do schedules. Not. At. All. Not. Ever.

So, for the next few days, I've set work aside. Well, kinda sorta. Yes, we'll eat. Then we'll read. We'll squeeze in some math and some games. Then we'll go to the park. Maybe even ride the Zilker Zephyr. But no schedule. We'll do things when we do things, and if we don't feel like doing things, we won't. And I'll sneak in some sketch/dummy book time when he takes a nap or a cartoon break.

*********
In other news: I'm sick. Bad cold, flu or something. Sore throat, clogged ears, pain, pain and more pain. I'm already not looking forward to our Thanksgiving plans, but now I'll be doing it with a runny nose and flu breath.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

My FUNKY manuscript

Yesterday, I worked up some sketches for the picture book I wrote last week. I probably won't sketch out the entire story, but I'd like to create a dummy book with a few sketches. In addition, an editor I'm illustrating for agreed to take a look.

One thing worries me: What if an editor — not particularly this editor, but any editor — likes my manuscript, but for whatever reason, feels uncomfortable with the black characters I used in the dummy? I mean, it would be one thing for someone to like my story but reject my art. It would be another thing completely if they rejected the race. And, would I even know? Would they say, or simply pass on the manuscript siting other reasons?

I've got plenty of illustration work on my plate, so I'd be open to someone else illustrating my manuscript. But would I be open to having my story published with characters of a different race? Of course I would, money's green and race doesn't play a factor in this story.

My main character, FUNKY — hows that for a code name? — is black. The story doesn't deal with black issues. Any race — Caucasian, Latino, or Asian — could easily be swapped in, and the story line wouldn't be affected at all.

Gut feelings tell me to proceed how I feel most comfortable and since this story was inspired by my son's sometimes peculiar behaviors, he'll serve as reference for my sketches.

Ran the story by author, JL. She enjoyed the humor, suggested I could even bump it up a notch.



.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Reflecting

Over at Bartography, Chris reflects on his writing projects over the last year. Got me to thinking about my past year.

It's funny; I'm an illustrator, but this past year, I've spent much more time writing than drawing or painting. Really. I wrote something every day this year. In fact, on most days, I wrote several things — blogs, poems, text for cartoons. Many of those things simply sat on my computer desktop, to be thrown out when clutter prevented me from finding a needed file. Others, I turned into blogs, picture book manuscripts or cartoon strips.

On the writing side, this year has been one of tremendous growth for me. I received my first bit of success by winning Lee & Low's New Voices Honor. I received my first rejection (as a writer) from an agent and an editor. I joined a writing critique group, took an online children's writing course and read at least 300 picture books and YA novels. And wrote about 7 picture book manuscripts.

I wrapped up 2005 by stating that in ’06, I would 'take the show.' By that, I meant I would accomplish much by setting my goals high, and that I would end the year with something concrete to add to my resume. But, I underestimated the time it would take to develop a strong, marketable manuscript, and the time it would take to get someone interested in publishing that work.

I work at a newspaper. I witness reporters come in by 9 a.m. and leave 8 hours later having researched, written, and have had edited, several stories — big people stories. So the idea of taking months, even years to write a picture book took me by surprise. I figured something in that process must be broke. Not to sound condescending, but honestly, I just didn't know.

I'm not complaining, I love to write, I've learned a lot and I respect the process. What I've learned — and am continuing to learn everyday — will be the foundation for a successful writing career in the future; I'm convinced of that. But, for 2007, my highest priority, besides continuing to write and grow, will be in convincing an agent or editor to give me a chance to prove myself on the writing side of this business.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Children's Book Week at Wooten



Ms. M, who did a fantastic job of organizing this event, introduces me to the first of three groups, yesterday. There's approximately 250 kids in each group. Years ago, this kind of thing terrified me, now it energizes me.



Me signing books. Message to publishers: The number one book in demand, yesterday, was the spanish language versions. Mostly, the staff and faculty purchased the English language books.





Kids are always most excited about the drawing portion of my school visits, though the "ooohs!" and "ahhhs!" during my slide presentation was pretty cool, too.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Check out my updated bio

Recently, I had to update my personal bio. For me, writing a bio is difficult — you gotta brag and stuff. Anyway, here's the updated version which I'll soon post to my neglected-since-I-discovered-blogging website:

Don Tate is the award-winning illustrator/author of more than 25 trade and educational books for children. With a bold, dynamic style, Don's oil and acrylic paintings bring to life the pages of the children's books he illustrates. This self-trained painter and digital illustrator has demonstrated extraordinary range in style and medium — each book possessing a distinctive style of it's own.

Sure as Sunrise: Stories of Bruh Rabbit and his Walkin' Talkin' Friends (Houghton Mifflin, 2004) received starred reviews from Booklist Magazine as well as School Library Journal. It also received a 2004 Aesop Accolades award, and a Texas Bluebonnet Award, 2006 - 2007. School Library Journal said, "...Tate captures the personality of each of the characters, as well as the humor inherent in these stories. Varying perspectives keep the action moving."

Summer Sun Risin' (Lee & Low Books, 2002) was honored by the Bank Street College of Education as "Best Children's Books of the Year for 2002." It also received a Children's Crown Award, 2003 by the National Christian School Association Master List. Publisher's Weekly says, "...the pictures will immediately engage readers."

Don is also the illustrator of Say Hey: A Song of Willie Mays (Jump at the Sun, 2000). This book, the first trade picture book of his career was praised by Publisher's Weekly, who said, "...Tate's sharp-edged pictures boast vivid, sparkling colors and a vibrant immediacy, ideal for the subject." It was also named a Child Magazine suggested title.

His other trade picture books include, Black All Around! (Lee & Low Books); The Hidden Feast (August House, 2006); The Legend of the Valentine (Zondervan, 2002), which is a Christian Bookseller's Association best seller.

In addition to illustrating, Don has recently begun to write. It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Taught Himself to Draw is a Lee & Low New Voices honor winner. He's had various written pieces published in the newspaper, and writes several internet weblogs. The Austin Chronicle described one of his blogs as: "...an articulate and funny voice, a father and husband who writes about the black community and offers cartoons with more insight and humor than any commentator in town." Don has various picture book manuscripts in the works.

Currently, he is creating illustrations for three picture books. Zoom (tentative title, Harper Collins) is a novelty pop-up book; Ron on a Mission (tentative title, Dial Books for Children) is a picture book about astronaut Ron McNair; The Farmer (tentative title, Paraclete Press) is a Christian title written by National Book Award winner Walter Wangerin.

Don has been a featured illustrator/speaker/exhibitor at various literary festivals, including the Texas Book Festival; The Dallas Children's Book and Literary Festival, and such conferences as: The International Reading Association; The National Alliance of Black School Educators. He speaks at schools, public libraries and writing conferences, including the Texas Writer's League; Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators; Pathways to Literacy Conferences (International Institute of Literacy Learning).

Articles about or quoting Don, or his books, have been featured in The New York Times Children's Book Review; Black Issues Book Review; School Library Journal Blog; The Writer's Institute (upcoming); The Austin American-Statesman and Des Moines Register newspapers. Other outlets of note include highlights on Cynsations, Cynthia Leitich Smith's children's literary blog; African-American Children's Book Writers & Illustrators; News Channel 8, Des Moines Iowa, Leading The Way TV segment. He was also featured on author Angela Medearis' Angela's Notebook, a 30-minute children's television program featuring award-winning children's book authors and illustrators.

In addition to children's books, Don also licenses his art to product manufacturers. KIDZ is a line of juvenile bed and bathroom products that includes wallpaper, light switches, wall art and drawer knobs. He also has a line of children's textile/fabric available at specialty fabric shops, which feature his designs. My Peepz, a group of African American characters, is marketed to 'tweeners and has been a hit in the calendar market.

Don earned an AAA degree from Des Moines Area Community College. He has worked as a publication designer for the Perfection Learning Corporation, an educational publishing company where he won various design and illustration awards through the Iowa Art Director's Association. In addition, he was the art director at an advertising and market research firm, and a graphic artist at a print shop. He also flipped burgers in high school and swept floors at the mall.

A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Don currently resides in Austin, Texas where he works full-time as an illustrator/graphics reporter for the Austin American Statesman.

Don is husband to Tammy Diggs-Tate, an award-winning graphic designer, and father to two adult daughters, one son and a grandson. In his spare time, Don is a gym-rat, having competed (in better fit days) in natural, drug-free bodybuilding.

Ready to submit!

Yesterday, I read my lastest picture book manuscript to my son. First, I explained to him that I wrote this story, but that, thus far, there aren't any pictures (opting not to share my thumbnail sketches). He enthusiastically climbed on the couch and took a seat next to me.

I read the story with as much dramatic inflection as possible. Then I looked at him and waited for a response. He didn't say anything.

"Did you like my story, man?" I asked. He shook his head, yes — no smile, no frown, expressionless. Not quite the response I had expected, especially since the story was inspired by his behavior. And besides that, he's a man — well, a little man. As a member of this class, he should know that we require a bit more adoration than just a nod of the head. I pushed him a bit more.

"What did you like about the story?" I asked. There was a long pause, like he was trying to find the perfect answer, else find himself in trouble.

"Um," he said. "The disappear part." It sounded more like a question than an answer, but it does make sense that disappearing would appeal to him, in regards to the particular problem in the story, inspired by him.

I like it. The wife liked it. I think my crit group will like it. I hope the agent(s) like it.

*****
Welp, my package — four picture book manuscripts, four printed book samples, a summary of my WIPs — is all ready to send. This weekend, I revamped my most recent manuscript, twice. Then I looked over a few others written earlier this year. Two were not ready to share, too sketchy. One, I thought, worked especially well, with one exception — it was too happy. Happy beginning. Happy middle. Happy ending. And much to nostalgic. It made for a wonderful story to share with my mom, but, I figured, who else would care? So, I weaved in an element of conflict, added some humor, rewrote the ending, and got rid of the nostalgic crap. Most of it, anyway.

Now, I can't wait till pay day so I can mail this bad boy.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Last week in review



Monday:
I realized that the requested revisions on ZOOM were too many to finish in one day, so I didn't even stress myself out. I mean, I don't know magic. Thankfully, everyone involved — editor, art director, licensing agent, and paper engineer — understands the situation I've been put in, given the project was on hold for 8 months. Everyone's been gracious, complimentary, and understanding.

Tuesday: I had to work the election at my full-time gig, but I didn't have to go in until 6 p.m. That gave me a full day for revisions on ZOOM. Received three full-day school visit requests for next year. Cool!

Wednesday: Received an email note from the art director on the book RON. This book was put on hold shortly after I submitted thumbnail sketches back in April. Art director said she got burried in other work. The final artwork was originally due to them sometime this month. She wanted to know if I could begin sketching soon. Hahahahahahahahahaha.

A neat thing (Example at top of page). Though they like my style of art, they'd like to change the way I exaggerate the eyes on my characters — stretching them far apart. Don't ask me why I do that, it's just my thing. So, they took a character from one of my books, and Photoshopped the eyes. I like it! Why didn't I think of this! Anyway, this is the direction I'll take when I do begin sketches. So, now, when can I realistically begin sketching this book? July? Maybe? And I hate that because I'm really love this book.

Thursday: Had a fantastic conversation with the art director at Paraclete. We discussed the thumbnail sketches I submitted for FARMER. This is really a beautiful story (if you can relate to prayer, and stuff like that), and beautifully written. Now, I just gotta get up the nerve to ask Jerry to be my model for this book. Also received a mound of paperwork for an all day school visit next week. Ak!— I hate paperwork. But it's a necessary evil if you want to receive payment.

Friday: I finished writing another picture book manuscript! And, I submitted ZOOM revisions to the editors! Par-tay! Gig-a-boom, gig-a-boom — Par-tay! Now, bitter-sweet. I also learned on Friday that the paper engineer had created a template for me to build each illustration on, but somehow, the template never made it to me. Grrr. So, now I gotta do another complete set of revisions on this book. The editor apologized and said that I was being too nice about the whole thing. Secret is, I'm being nice because I have my own idea for a novelty book which I plan to propose to them later next year. So, I don't wanna muck things up with an attitude.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Finished another picture book manuscript

I finished the picture book story I began last weekend!

First, I told the story with thumbnail sketches. Then I wrote out the text for each scene (page), asking myself the questions: what does my character want; what are his obstacles; what are his emotions; and how does he overcome the obstacle -- if he does at all in that particular scene. Then, it was just a matter of putting text with the pictures. Each question was not answered with words. Some questions — particularly emotions — were answered through the pictures.

I know it's probably unwise to send this story out to an agent before sharing it with my critique group, and definitely before completing several rewrites, but I'm going to send it anyway — we won't meet until next week, and I want to send this package out before then. In fact, I'm sending out everything — all 5 manuscripts written this year — in whatever stage it's in. If the stories are terrible, and if she's not interested in taking me on, I'm sure she'll tell me. And if that happens...well, I just won't do that again when approaching the next agent.

Veteran's Day Friday

I'm in for an interesting morning. Today, I need to cram 16 hours of illustration into the 6 hours of time I have before heading into work at my full-time gig. Nothing new; I do that every day. But for city workers, today is a holiday — Veteran's day is observed. Means the lovely wife is home and she ain't seen me all week, and she's ready to catch up on all the things we've missed 'cause I've been working all week.

With only two people in the house, I figured it would be rude to close and lock my studio door, so I didn't do that. I just limited my end of the conversation attempts to, "uh-huh" and "uh-um" while I sat glued to my computer, working on cover designs for ZOOM.

She just left, went to run errands. Now, I feel bad.

*********************

Sitemeter
Self indulgent brotha I am, I went and loaded a sitemeter to this blog. It's only been active for three days, but having it there answered a question that's been bugging me: Does anyone actually read this blog? I'd assumed, based upon my comment box, that no one does. Well, of course, I read it to death, but that don't count. Turns out, I receive three times more traffic here than I do at my other "more popular" blog, which I sitemetered long ago. Because of my busy schedule, I've been trying to figure out which of my blogs I should omit. Guess it won't be this one after all.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Soliciting advice

Well, alrighty then.

A race neutral character?



For ZOOM, I was trying to create a race neutral character. I don't know if I was successful. Looks like Borat as a child. Hmm.

****

I need some sleep. I was up late last night, sitting in a newsroom, staring at my monitor, waiting to get a state-by-state breakdown of Senate wins. And, as of 8:00 a.m., the day after, we still don't know anything.

I would go back to sleep, but I need to get ZOOM revisions out today.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

E-mailbox: Agent alert

So, I'm sitting at my computer, checking emails, when I discovered a message from a literary agent. Following a temporary cardiac flatline, I read the note.

It was from E, an agent I met earlier this year at ALA. A few months following the conference, I'd sent her a manuscript. Luckily, she didn't reject me right away, but requested more of a complete submission — a summary of my current projects, printed book samples, and a write-up about what I seek in representation. Not a biggie, I can do that. But shortly afterward, I got word from HarperCollins to begin final art for ZOOM. Then, as the saying goes: when it rains, it pours. Fall conference season began, my work schedule jammed up, and I dropped the ball with a promising agent.

I wanted to contact her, but I felt like a dork having not followed through with such a small request. Finding her email note made my day, but I was horrified when I learned that she had been reading my blog. Oh. My. Freaking. Gosh! I dropped the email note and dashed over to my blog to be sure I hadn't recently cursed or spelled something wrong or said something fowl — you know how a brotha can be sometimes. But, whew! — I hadn't cursed or talked about politics or religion or anything that might be considered offensive, in quite some time. I did spell a few things wrong. For those who wondered, my son didn't "die" as I had mistyped. I fixed that typo, too.

Anyway, I finished reading her email. She's still interested in seeing more of my work and, thankfully, she was very understanding about my busy predicament. That's a very good sign. I'm a creative, aloof brotha-dude. I need some grace.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Eventful evening at my full-time gig

How's my evening going? Well, let me see. On a map, I've located a home that burnt down and killed a teacher. I've located the site of a cemetery, a fatal car wreck, and a school where a conspiracy to commit capital murder by a student was thwarted by police. But, I'm doing just fine. How's your evening going?

Sunday's post on Monday

Ok, I know what you're thinking. Don, are you really doing all those things you claim to be doing? The answer is, yes — though, I haven't entirely completed a dog-gone thing. In the last couple of weeks, I've worked on a YA verse novel; completed thumbnail sketches for FARMER, a Christian picture book; started revising artwork for ZOOM, a pop-up novelty book; and completed spec art for a children's bible. And now I'm onto something else — my own picture dummy book.

Last night, before I went to bed, my son played with a toy metal airplane. As he did, a fun caricature of him popped into my head. Quickly, I sketched it out having no idea what, or if, I'd do anything with this sketch. I just loved it though —long gangly body balancing a big block head, ever so cautious that it might topple off his shoulders and break something accidentally.

When I woke up this morning, I had a picture book in my head, starring that caricature. Since the wife had left early to teach a Sunday school class (we didn't race as planned), and, since K was still asleep, I grabbed a handful of paper out of the laser printer, plopped myself down on the bed and started sketching out a story. Reminded me of when Jan Peck told me about how she sometimes writes early in the morning, with her eyes half closed.

Later this week, if I can find some extra time, I hope to take the story a step further, tighten up the sketches and story line. My critique group meets in a couple of weeks — I think — so, I’ll submit sketches along with words.

In other news: I have a loooooong week ahead of me. With elections on Tuesday, I'll have to work a late shift at my full-time gig, reporting on election results — uhhhhhh! The good thing, I'll get to spend the entire day — 8 to 5 — working on book cover designs for ZOOM. The bad thing, when I go into work, I'll be be creating maps, charts and senate diagrams till 2-o'clock in the morning.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I'm writing again!

As far as novel writing goes, I'm pumped! As far as blogging goes, I'm bummed. In the last week, I've only made one post to each of three (actually, I have 5) blogs and I sure miss it.

I recently read two verse novels — Locomotion and Hugging the Rock. I was so inspired, I dug out a verse novel I'd been writing, untouched in months. Over the past few weeks, I've written at least two verses (kinda long verses) per day. All went well until just a few days ago. I sensed the story wasn't going anywhere. And if it was, it was going there very slowly. In addition, I was telling too much and not showing enough. Then I started revising, something I shouldn't do this early in the writing process. Then I started questioning why I was writing this novel in verse anyway? Then I got discouraged and stopped writing.

Now, shush on up!— I know the rule: keep writing anyway. Right? But I couldn't keep writing. I felt like I was on a highway, driving in the slow lane, headed in the wrong direction. Did I really want to keep driving in the wrong direction for the sake of getting someplace, sometime? No, I'm not the guy who keeps driving, lost, refusing to ask for directions.

I found my direction in Immediate Fiction (am I sounding like a commercial for this book?). No news to ya'll seasoned writers, but I'm an unseasoned writer trying to get my flavor on. The fundamental ingredient to any successful story is conflict. We get to know a character, like him or dislike him, cheer or jeer him by how he reacts to problems. What are his actions? How does he cope with and eventually resolve conflict?

My story had much potential for conflict, somewhere in there. But in my head, I hadn't clearly defined what that conflict would be. The story is based upon a chunk of my life as a teenager, so there's plenty of conflict to choose from. Thing is, I don't want this story to be about me, per se. So far, it's feeling too memoir-ish (if there's such a word), something that's probably not so appealing to the teen market. I need to let my imagination go wild.

First thing this morning, I wrote a paragraph summarizing exactly what my story will be about and what the conflict is. I'm sure this will evolve, but having this map, of sorts, will help me to get back on track. I hope. And, I'm reconsidering the verse thing.