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Monday, August 27, 2012

My Very First "Date"

Okay, I was only 8 and clueless, but we did go to a movie together.

"Chad" (not his real name, to protect the innocent, not that we were anything but innocent at the time) and I knew each other since we were babies. Our mother's were good friends and for several years we lived on the same street. Thus, we played together often and got along well.

Looking back, I think Chad had a bit of a grade-school crush on me, but I was oblivious to that at the time. Anyway, one day he asked if I wanted to go to a movie with him. I said, "Sure," in pretty much the same way as if one of my girlfriends had asked me.

Well, I mentioned this to my mother and next thing I knew, on the day of the movie my mother had me wear a dress! Now, in those days girls had to wear dresses to school, but outside of school I wore jeans, peddlepushers or shorts, depending on the weather. But, I was a girl who did as my mother said, even though I was thinking, "Dress? Why a dress?" When I was ready, she handed my a tiny red purse with a little hankie in it, and I think maybe a dime for whatever. I had no idea what the purse, hankie or dime were for (well, maybe I used the dime to buy candy), but Chad and his mother arrived and off we went, I toting the itsy-bitsy purse and still wondering why I needed it.

Our big date was to see the movie "To Hell and Back." Now, if I'd been 15 instead of 8, maybe I would have been unpleasantly surprised at the choice of movies. But I was thrilled! Wow, all that action, and I was not too young to appreciate that Audie Murphy was good looking in the most sweet and innocent way.

I remember the movie, but not much else. The movie was great! I still enjoy it when I see it in re-runs. But that was it for dating Chad. The next time we got together we hunted for turtle eggs in the woods in back of his house.

We remained friends and when we were 16 went on a triple date, and my date was the guy who is now my husband, and it was our first date. Yes, I married my high-school sweetheart. :) 

Years later I still hear from Chad every once in a great while. Our date didn't lead to anything more than an extended friendship, but even after all this time it has remained a treasured memory.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

11th Free “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest (Middle Grade Fiction)

Enter this FREE contest for the opportunity to have your MG manuscript judged by a literary agent!

Top 3 winners all get: 1) A critique of the first 10 double-spaced pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) A free one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com.

Find out all about it and how to enter at:
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/11th-free-dear-lucky-agent-contest-middle-grade-fiction?et_mid=575716&rid=3118739

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Research for Fiction

In The Farewell Season I included a lot of talk about food. Readers noticed. I received many comments about mouths watering and hunger pangs for blueberry kakar or ableskivers. Many assumed I'm good at Scandinavian cooking and some have even asked for recipes.

The truth is, it was all research. I scoured Scandinavian cookbooks at the library and sampled the tasty treats at the Scandinavian Festival in Junction City, Oregon. But I never baked a single crumb mentioned in the story. I do cook, and I and my husband are happy with the results. However, I stick to a collection of familiar (and easy) recipes, because I'm not all that fond of cooking. The enthusiasm for cooking must have skipped a couple of generations, because my grandmother loved to cook and so does my daughter. But my mother and I have cooked because we want to eat.

Non-fiction writers have to do a lot of research, of course, but so do fiction writers. I didn't know all that much about football before I wrote the book, but after reading a few books and attending many football practices, where I asked a lot of questions, I knew enough to write about it for my purposes. I also did research on grieving and grief counseling. For another story, I read an entire book about a minor league baseball team so I could write a couple of scenes where one of the main characters talks to a baseball scout.

Just because a story is fiction does not mean that "anything goes." The details need to ring true. Even in science fiction, fantasy and paranormal adventures things have to make sense to the reader. An imaginary world has to seem real. Anyone writing a historical novel or one set in an unfamiliar locale must get enough facts to be accurate and make the period or place come to life for readers.

It's easy to get lost in too much research. Some writers get so bogged down that they never write the story. Or they add details that are unnecessary just because they couldn't resist including them. Too much information is no better than not enough. The research must help advance the story.

The easiest way to do research, of course, is the internet. But visiting the library can yield nuggets not found online. Sometimes traveling to the location where a story takes place and talking to locals will yield color and details the internet or books can not. Interviews, as scary as they can seem to some writers, can be valuable. If you don't know a doctor, teacher, banker, architect, or whatever you need, ask a friend to introduce you or call, write or email explaining that you are a writer and tell them the basics of what you need to ask. Most experts are more than happy to share what they know.

So get out there and do your research. It can be time-consuming, but it can also be fun, and it will make your story more real.