The 18 Day Novel

This summer while I was enjoying a little break from blogging, I saw in the CANSCAIP news an interview with Canadian author Valerie Sherrard.  I met Valerie last year at Word on the Street. She has the sweetest smile and gentlest spirit in the world. Valerie has had twenty books published and her YA novel, “The Glory Wind,” won so many awards after its publication I’m not sure how she keeps them all straight. Coincidentally, it won the Bilson Award, the same award “Bitter, Sweet” was short listed for in 2010. I was pleased as punch to find this out because I quite enjoyed the book. Some books you know are just destined to garner much deserved attention.

During the interview, Valerie mentioned that she’d written one of her books in just 18 days. Wow! 18 days!!! Did you catch that?  I mean most of us have barely booted up our computers in that amount of time. While I was wowed by this news it also made me question, what the heck is wrong with me?  No wonder I’m just starting my third novel. I picked away at my last novel for a few years. Started. Stopped. Started again until I’d finally made my mind up to finish it. Now mind you, I wrote “Bitter, Sweet” in about three months and was working at the time, but that doesn’t even come close to being 18 days.

Reading this made me wonder how much of my time I spend tooling around the internet and allowing other things to distract me. What if I simply made my mind up to write, write, write until I came to the end. I’ve got a pretty good idea where my next novel is going, I know who my characters are, so what’s the problem?

Discipline. A writer needs to have discipline, and not just those times when the writing process is going great and we’re loving every minute of our WIP (work in progress for my non-writing friends). Discipline is what keeps us steadily plugging away even when we’d rather be out enjoying the sun or watching our favourite TV program.

We also need faith– faith in the fact that we have what it takes to complete a project. This is another area I struggle with, and often why you’ll never hear me mention any details of my WIP. What if I can’t deliver the finished product? What if my story ends up being monkey crap? Oh yes, I’ve written my share of that over the years.

So what’s a writer to do? Why write of course: write and don’t worry about what other writers are able to accomplish. Who knows maybe one day I’ll write a novel in just 17 days.


Do other people’s accomplishments inspire you or do they make you feel as though you’ll never be any good?

In the box, out of the box

There’s nothing more fun and exciting than a brand new cardboard box to play in— just ask my kids, they’ll tell you. The day their father built them a house from the big old box the new washing machine arrived in, made for some pretty fun times in the Best household. Of course it took up a lot of space in the house but I knew it was temporary. I could put up with a little inconvenience for the sake of my kid’s pleasure, (Okay, I’ll be honest here)  that and the fact that it kept them out of my hair for hours on end.

Over the years the kids in my family have played in Carnation milk boxes, banana boxes, the aforementioned washing machine box, and in general any box large enough for a toddler to sit in without breaking the sides. Here’s a Cornfake box Guppy brought home form the store for Miss Charlotte.  It was a real hit.  She even took her “wittle house” home and now has it set up in her own living room. I’m telling you, these things are great. You could say I come from a long line of cardboard box enthusiasts. They’re fun, they’re free, they’re even biodegradable. What’s not to love?

Now, as much as the kids in the family love to play in boxes, and no doubt I was one of them back in the day, today I’m not so enthusiastic about boxes.

Today, when I got to thinking about that washing machine box, I started to think how ironic it is that, while kids love to play in boxes, most adults will do just about anything to stay out of the box. Being placed in a box is constricting, and leaves little or no room to move. Being in the box finds us labelled as this or that, people begin to predict our movements, there is nothing left for the imagination.

Last year when my book was short-listed for the Bilson Award the news came over facebook and twitter. Some of the tweets referred to me as kidlit author @ laura_a_best. I gotta say it sounded a bit weird. Felt a bit like I’d been suddenly placed inside a box and right away I knew I wasn’t happy there. Before that tweet I’d considered myself a writer, one who happen to have written a young adult novel. That day I felt the walls come up around me. I’d been labelled a “kidlit author.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re a writer and you’re happy calling yourself a kidlit writer, children’s writer or any other classification of writer, without feeling any restriction, that’s perfectly fine. But what if, like me, you do not write exclusively for kids, would you mind be labelled then? If I only wrote children’s stories I can’t say I’d mind. But I also write for adults.

I’m sure some of you are thinking what difference does it even make, you’ve been published? Stop whining. You’re probably also thinking that each author needs to have their own brand. I’ve had some time now to think about all this. While I still do not personally like the term “kidlit author,” I’m slowly coming to terms with who I am as a writer. Lately, I refer to myself as a YA writer, and that feels okay. Most of the projects I’m working on at the moment are in the genre. Just so you know, I don’t mind being in the box from time to time, but I reserve the right to come out and look around whenever I want.

Sorry, there are no photos of me in the Cornflake box for you to feast your eyes upon.. Maybe next time Miss Charlotte is home.

How do you feel about being labelled? Do you think it is a good thing or do you find it restricting?

and the winner is…..

Last night was the big awards ceremony, put on by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre in Toronto, where the winners of the Canadian Children’s Literature Awards book were announced.

I just want to say congratulations to all the winners, and special congrats also to Shane Peacock, winner of the Geoffrey Bilson Award for his book Vanishing Girl!!

So I didn’t win, but hey, no one can take away the honour of having Bitter, Sweet short listed for that award. Right? Shane’s a great writer and well deserving of the award. I had the opportunity to read some of his work this summer and he’s good!! You should check his books out if you’re into reading YA fiction.

Thanks to everyone who had their fingers and toes and nose hairs crossed for me. Your well wishes meant the world to me. Maybe next time!

One another note, November is always a hectic time of the year for me. I’ve been trying to visit as many blogs as I can through the evening, but I’m falling behind. I’ve got you in my google reader and eventually I’ll make my way around. There are just so many great blogs out there to follow, and I do try and comment when I have time. Please be patient. I’ll see you around!

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