Tuesday, May 12, 2009


How many books have we read where the young protagonist's secrets in her diary are uncovered, causing her unbelievable angst at having her very private thoughts revealed to the world? It's a common theme, common enough to make most of us tremble and throw our diaries out the window.

But don't do it!!!!

Why? Why would you want to continue writing down your innermost thoughts and feelings and risk exposure???? Because those very thoughts and feelings are ones you will want to recall when you are an author later in life!

Time moves on. We grow. We change. What was important to us years ago, may not be of the same value and importance it once was. So what if down the road, you want to write books for children or even have a child as one of your characters in an adult novel? Writings in diaries or keeping journals provide windows into the child we were and the people who populated our world at that time. It is essential as a writer to be able to recall sights and smells, the joys and sorrows of younger years. Using your old diary or journal entries will allow you to tap into those memories and write about them with truth in your voice.

Anne Frank never expected her diary to be such a public piece of work. And yet how much did we as readers learn about her imprisonment in that small room, the fears and triumphs of hiding from the Nazis? This book was invaluable to generations of readers in understanding how real people dealt with the horrors of World War II.

Likewise for writers, these diaries will inform and remind you. So don't throw out those secret writings! Instead, continue to jot down everything you are feeling, seeing, tasting, smelling as you journey through these years, knowing that you are saving up little pebbles of recall for when you will need them as a writer.

But just to be safe - I would get a diary with a lock and key!!!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Tomorrow I will be going into Boston to a reception being held by the Boston Author's Club. The reason: QUEST has been named a highly recommended book by the Club! Of course I am thrilled. Having your book win an award is like watching your child perform on stage! You are so very, very proud.

But I got to thinking about why awards are so very special to writers. And I realized the answer was this - we write in a bubble.

What do I mean by that? I mean this -if you had a job where you went to work every day from 9-5, you would have a boss. That boss would give you a yearly performance report and let you know daily how you are doing. But we, as writers, don't get that kind of feedback.

Sure we get sales figures - twice a year! But they don't talk and tell us the subtle things we are doing that is helping us improve our job performance or making things worse. And we do hear from readers when we visit schools - but heck, what teacher is going to come up to you as an author when you have just entertained their students for an hour and tell you that your book stunk! And yes, our editors tell us what is wrong with the manuscript we just submitted, but once that book is out the door, no one comes back to let you know how you did in the wide world out there.

So awards thrill us. They let us know that the general public appreciates our work. They let us know that we are on the right track. They let us know that our job does have some meaning and that others, besides our editors, husbands, parents and agents, think so too.

So my advice for you young writers? Before you take that important step toward deciding you want to be a writer, think about this. How important is it to you to be told you are doing well? At school, can you do your work without worrying about the grade you will ultimately receive? Do you study for the love of it alone and because you want to do the best job you can regardless of the outcome? Are you proud of what you have done, even if no one else tells you that you are amazing? If you answered yes to these questions, good for you. Writing books just may be your intended field. If you answered no, then you might want to consider writing for a magazine or newspaper - someplace where you will have a boss and a performance report and someone giving you consistent feedback.

As for me, I love my bubble. But sometimes, I love leaving it to watch one of my books marched out on stage and paraded about and given that so, so satisfying award that lets me know my performance has been well-received.