Gae Polisner's Blog, page 6

March 3, 2014

As some of you know,  THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO , my second novel for young adults comes out March 25th from Algonquin Young Readers.

THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO tells the story of almost-16-yr-old Francesca “Beans” “Frankie” Schnell who, four years ago witnessed her baby brother, Simon, drown. Guilty and broken, Francesca has hunkered down in the shadows of her life, resolved to play second fiddle to her dead brother’s memory and to her best friend Lisette, a blonde bubbly beauty Francesca lives vicariously through. That is, until she meets a young boy named Frankie Sky who bears an uncanny resemblance to her brother. Frankie brings humor and hope to Francesca’s life, but are all the similarities between Frankie and Simon merely wishful coincidences, or could he be Simon’s reincarnation?

Curious coincidences abound in THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO —not only the overlaps between Simon and Frankie Sky, but also Bradley’s gift to Francesca, Bradley’s bird sighting, and the ties to the statue of  Saint Florian (sorry, you'll have to read to know what these are ;)). Midway through the story Francesca starts to think these events can’t really all be coincidences, but maybe are, “something bigger and magical at work.”

Have you ever experienced strange events that seemed like more than just coincidence and made you wonder if fate was at work, or that the soul and/or reincarnation actually exist?

Throughout the month, I've decided to pose that question to friends, some writers, others bearing other artistic talents, for a brief account of their own experience with karma, kismet or a mystical connection. I leave you, the reader, to answer the question, “Random or something magical at work?” 

- gae

Today, I have the lovely Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman,
co-authors of the Sirenz Series including the forthcoming Blonde Ops,

each with her own intriguing story. . .

Author Charlotte Bennardo Here's Charlotte's story about a special old tool box :

The battered red metal box was stuffed with the odd assortment of tools; some rusted, others part of a set, its siblings long since lost. All were a testament to my father’s life—a vacuum salesman, a builder of the Lunar Module during the Apollo years, a carpenter—and a one-time race car driver and mechanic. When he died, my father left the tools to my brother, a NASCAR mechanic. But Bill didn’t want them, he had perfectly matched sets of shiny, well cared for tools. And the drawers were jammed from the screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers bouncing around as the box was driven to my home. All too young to remember their grandfather before he died, none of his three grandsons wanted them either. So they sat in a corner of my garage, where occasionally I’d borrow one for some project, thinking fondly of times spent watching my father fix cars or stuck doors or plugged drains.
One May, my oldest son announced he wasn’t going back to college; his first year had been a disaster. What he really wanted to do, but had never revealed to us, was be a mechanic, like his uncle—and his grandfather. I like to think that my dad passed on his passion for cars and mechanics, and through my son, a small piece of him is reincarnated.
- Charlotte

Author Natalie Zaman (I want her hair!) And, here's Natalie's, about a prescient drawing and a visitor in the night. . .

I knew the voice on the other end of the line. There was no mistaking it, despite the years that lay between that moment and the last time I’d heard it.“Hi, Dad.”When I hung up the phone, I could barely remember the conversation. I’d talked to someone who’d come back from the dead; I’d not seen the body, but I’d accepted it, and time had sealed that certainty with a tough scar over my heart. I grappled with myself about staying in touch. Dad’s family had always been a mystery, names without faces, some faces like mine—but they were strangers to me, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to open up that old wound.Then I had a dream—or more accurately, I saw something. I was awoken by a crunching noise, like someone was walking over ice-crusted snow. When I opened my eyes, I found a small figure standing next to my bed. It was a woman, wearing a distinct, double breasted coat, and a hat with a narrow brim and high crown. I couldn’t see her face. It was as if she was made of powder, all chalky white lines. I stared for a second or two. Yes, I was awake. AND SOMEONE WAS STANDING NEXT TO MY BED. I remember gasping—in surprise, not fear—and then it faded. I recalled the shape long enough to draw it badly in my journal:  
I’d never had a visit like that before, where I’d actually saw a solid shape—and I never have since. The visitor strengthened my resolve. I called my Dad again, and eventually his sister, my Aunt Barbara who sent me an email with family photos. When I saw one labeled “Great Aunt Hattie” I almost fell off my chair.  My drawing next to Aunt Hattie.Apparently, she wanted me to stay in touch.-Natalie
Please check out all of Charlotte and Natalie's books, and don't forget to pick up your copy of THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO. And if you'd like to, please share your own "karma or coincidence" story in the comments! 
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Published on March 03, 2014 05:17 • 14 views

February 28, 2014

Pretty poster for my Long Island book launch
author photo credit: Rick Kopstein
So, there are just a few days (something under 25 of them, to be less than precise) until THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO comes out. The official pub date is March 25th (that evening I will be at Book Revue, Huntington, Long Island, doling out cake slices and reading a few pages, and I hope if you're local, you will come join me!), but the truth is the book will start shipping from the warehouse as early as March 5th, and the booksellers are allowed to release it as soon as it's received.

So, if you've ordered from Amazon or (hopefully) your favorite local independent brick and mortar bookstore (instead), you might have a copy in your hot little hands much sooner.

Oh, and, regardless of when the hardcovers start to ship, the audiobook is out from HighBridge March 8! You can take a sneak listen if you click the above link, but I'm so excited about it. Narrated by award-winning voice actress Tara Sands who is just awesome! So, got a road trip in your future? Grab the audiobook!

THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO tells the story of almost-16-yr-old Francesca “Beans” “Frankie” Schnell who, four years ago witnessed her baby brother, Simon, drown. 

Guilty and broken, Francesca has hunkered down in the shadows of her life, resolved to play second fiddle to her dead brother’s memory and to her best friend Lisette, a blonde bubbly beauty Francesca lives vicariously through. That is, until she meets a young boy named Frankie Sky who bears an uncanny resemblance to her brother. Frankie brings humor and hope to Francesca’s life, but are all the similarities between Frankie and Simon merely wishful coincidences, or could he be Simon’s reincarnation?

Recommended Summer Pick: Young Adult Books, What We're Reading NowAs the Readers Guide for the book discusses, curious coincidences abound in the book —not only the overlaps between Simon and Frankie Sky, but also Bradley’s gift to Francesca, Bradley’s bird sighting, and the ties to the statue of  Saint Florian (Sorry, you'll have to read it to know what these coincidences are ;)). Midway through the story Francesca starts to think these events can’t really all be coincidences, that maybe “something bigger and magical is at work.”

In order to celebrate the release of the book, starting tomorrow, for the rest of the month until it's official release, I've decided to pose that question to friends, some writers, others bearing other artistic talents, asking for a brief account of their own experience with karma, kismet or an otherwise- mystical connection.

with my sister in our dad's garden...
not too long ago...For example, there was that time, shortly after my grandmother Bea died (my sister and I affectionately called her "Honey Bee" our whole lives because she loved honey and was sweet and, well, you get the idea...

Anyway, as kids and young adults, my sister and I were very close with her (although there were some hard feelings when she died which is a long shaggy story no one needs to hear) and whenever it was her birthday or other gift-giving occasion we had always sought out jewelry and other items with bees on them for her (although we began to doubt she really enjoyed such items).

It was the spring right after her death, and my mom, sister and I were on the lawn of a beautiful old estate on Long Island, actually at a writers' reading (well before I was published!). It was a gorgeous day, the grass lush and lime-lollipop green, the day sunny, the trees a perfect canopy of shade. There were at least 30 other listeners gathered on the lawn with us.

Soon after we sat, a large bee started hovering around us, too close for comfort, flitting in and out of our folded legs, buzzing around, and ultimately in, our hair.

best-royalty-free-images-flower-bee-aussiegallNo matter how much we shooed it, that bee would not go elsewhere. It was not stinging us (though we feared it might) but it was insistent enough to be with us (all puns intended now that I wrote it) far more than seemed reasonable or natural -- back and forth between just my sister and me, to the point we were rolling on the ground with silent laughter, tears spilling from our eyes, as the others around us, oblivious and unbothered by its presence, listened peacefully to the reading.

As the month goes on, we'll share these stories (and I heartily invite you to share your own in the comments!!!), but I will leave you, the reader, to answer the question,  “Karma or coincidence? Random or something magical at work?” 

Now, dating myself something awful, I give you Dory Previn, and a song from my childhood, to ask that question as well:

There. That was nice, right?

Okay, one more thing before we go. As a friend on the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award forums once said (I don't, unfortunately, remember which friend): gathering writers up for anything is about as simple as herding cats (if you want proof, see my exchange with uber-adorable author Julia Rozines DeVillers below).

Each of these posts took my lovely guest authors and other creatives time and love to put together. No one will enjoy them, likely, more than I have. But I hope you do. And, if you do, I hope that you'll check out their books, help spread the word, tell a friend who might tell two friends. I promise you, your support is HUGELY appreciated.

Like herding cats? 
See you all Monday with our first guest author of many (!) on the Summer of Letting Go Karma or Coincidence? Countdown.

xox gae

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Published on February 28, 2014 07:07 • 63 views

February 25, 2014

  Book jacket photo,
credit: Rick Kopstein
This book business is a funny thing.

When I thought of writing a book, only dreamed of getting it published, I never thought about the business side of things.

By trade, I'm a lawyer. While I was doing all of that writing and dreaming on the side, it was purely creative. My outlet. When I was thinking business, it was my current day to day work.

Oh, the things I know now. . . if only I'd known them then. . .

But this isn't about that, I'm not telling you those things here today (sorry), but suffice it to say, some of it has been way harder and lonelier than you would think, and some of it has been way more wonderful and inclusive than I could ever imagine.

But, I will tell you this: if you're not JK Rowling or Stephen King, there's a LOT self-promotion required. It's just how it is, and it's a delicate art, one many of us fail at on a daily basis.

For example, today is the one-month mark till the official publication release date of THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO, yet I feel many of my most loyal readers must be sick of hearing about it already, that I've been talking about it for years (I have!). It took me years (again!) to get the book deal after THE PULL OF GRAVITY, and another two years (!) for the book to be coming out. And, because of my involvement at last year's NCTE (I have a lot of wonderful teacher/librarian followers of my fist book), we got the ARCs(fn 1) out early and far and wide. So, hard not to be a little sick of it, right?(fn2)

At any rate, as the book comes out, and I (try to) steel myself for the reviews, I've been thinking a lot about myself as a reader, and trying to remind myself of the many different ways which we -- I -- read a book. The individuality and subjectivity of it all (fn3), if you will.

What I mean is this: There are books I love, that others don't feel the same connection to. Conversely, there are books people love, absolutely rave about, and I do not love them. Can't (or won't) even bring myself to finish them.

As my reviews roll in, this is (or, ahem, should be) helpful to me, especially when I see a reader voice that they haven't connected to my book.(fn4)

So, I was thinking today what it means to be a reader. How many different kinds of readers there are, and, maybe moreso, how many different ways there are to read (and love) a book.

This was one of those MUST books for me
in the past two years...
so much so that I sought the
author out personally via email and we are now friendly.For example, there are about five or six books I am either actively reading or still in the middle of (or, let's face it, personally done with (did not finish)), and it occurs to me that even though some of these books are taking me forever, it's not because they're not (IMHO) worthy (that goes for the "dnf"s as well!), but rather due to other circumstances (everything from time constraints and distractions to actual physical placement [I left it in the car and forgot about it for weeks, or, it's in the other bathroom ;)). I will say, however, that there is, of course, the rare book that none of those tangents or interferences will stop me from reading, the MUST books, and, I suppose, as writers we strive to be that MUST book for at least a few of our readers.

But this morning, I was thinking about some of those "not MUST" books, and how, in their own way, they really are MUSTs.

For example, I have been reading, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (fn5) for well over a year now. There are a few reasons why it's been taking me so long. One is easily "technical" or logistical (is that word? It seems to be...): the print is dense and small. These days I often need reading glasses, but I forget I need reading glasses or don't know where they are. So, when I first started reading it, I often had to put it back down. Thus, I had no traction in it. Yet, every time (EVERY time) I pick it up, I am completely engrossed in it, and marvel that it's truly one of the most staggeringly well-written books I've ever read. And when I put it down (most often because there are other books I "need" to read or get to in the YA realm to feel like I am keeping up with the business side of my work as a YA writer), I can't wait to get back to it. All of this is reminding me that a really good book, one that holds your attention, can still take one forever to read.

There are the books where the writing is absolutely brilliant, but I don't personally connect to the characters, or where the characters and the writing are brilliant, but the story is too (insert whatever here: political, supernatural, dystopian, gory, etc.) for what I love to read. Whatever the case, the truth is, reading is such a subjective and personal thing.

So, as I head into my release and the inevitable less-than-glowing or "dnf" reviews, I remind myself of this. It's one reader. Good or bad, it's only one person's view.

Charlie prefers to eat a book slowly, rather than read it.
Would love you to share in the comments, what kind of reader you are and your MUST books.

And, stay tuned over the next few days for the special launch feature for THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO.

xox gae

footnotes :

1. Advance Reader Copies a/k/a Galley copies

2. please don't be sick of it, and if you read the ARC, please do consider buying the hard copy. It has been twice edited from the ARC and has beautiful shiny perks that the softcover ARC didn't have...

3. FYI, for example, those all-important (or at least very important) critical reviews from places like Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly, most of us don't realize that is just ONE
reader, often merely contracted out by the publication (ie, not even a staff writer) who reads the book and voices his/her opinion. That ONE opinion then carries a heck of a lot of weight, if not always with readers, then at least with gatekeepers, to wit: booksellers and librarians.

4. People often ask me how I deal with bad reviews, and my quick answer is that, for me, the bad reviews validate the good ones. If all I ever received were 5-star reviews, my mind would quickly discount them as people "just being nice." But when I am forced to see that people will, in fact, be readily (*coughs*) less than nice about their feelings, it allows me to accept the positives better, and, to some extent, to remind myself not to "own" either. Does that make sense? It is, however, always hard to deal with really mean reviews. Those are another story altogether. Luckily, there's a really fun series by author Marc T. Nobleman where we authors get a chance to read our mean reviews loud and proudly (I'm somewhere in episodes 4 -6) which helps us to blow off some steam. ;)

5. I hear it was made into not-such-a-great-movie. Don't let that sway you. The writing is simply brilliant.

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Published on February 25, 2014 06:29 • 28 views

February 13, 2014

With John Scovill, forever my NCTE 2013 Valentine. 

Happy Valentines Day.

Are you here,

on Friday Feedback,

posting an excerpt?

Right there *points down* in the comments?

On Valentines Day?!??

Because, if you are here


then I heart you.

That's right. I heart you. For being here.

For writing words in the first place.

For putting them on paper,

or on screen,

pounding them out rough, and then trying to polish them smooth

like ocean stones.

Trying to make them sparkle and shine like pretty Valentine confections.

Okay, fine. Maybe that's a theme-y stretch, but still.

I do. I heart you for writing them, and moreso, for being brave and coming here to share them.

On the scary world wide webs. Where at least a handful of people will see them.

That takes guts.

And heart.

And hardy guts.

So I heart you.

Here. Have a Valentine:

Free clip art Valentine.

That means you, John Scovill's students, if you're here!

That means you, Teachers Write! campers, if you're here.

Whoever you are, if you're here, I heart you.

So, without further ado, here we go. Friday Feedback. You know the RULES (or if you don't, PLEASE click on that link!). AND NO MORE THAN 3 - 5 PARAGRAPHS. 3 if they're long, five if they're short. Or, if they're all dialogue-y like mine, no longer than that. ;)

See you in the comments, and since it is Valentine's Day, I'm posting a section from my Work In Progress, THE MEMORY OF THINGS, that has a little something to do with kissing. Or, at least, it almost does. . .

(Fyi, since this is mid-story out of context, here's all you have to know going in. Kyle is 16 1/2. His dad permits him to drink beer in the house, but he doesn't usually care to. . . until, possibly, now. . . )

“Cheers,” she says, taking a sip, passing the bottle to me. I hold it to my mouth, tip it back. The liquid, citrusy and fresh, rushes easily down my throat. I shouldn’t have more. I’m starting to feel off-balance. “What?” I say, because she’s watching me. “What what?” she says back. “I’m enjoying you trying to stay in control.”“What do you want me to do instead?”“Nothing. Okay, lie. I want you to tell me what you're thinking.”If only she knew. Maybe she does know. I stare in her amber-flecked eyes. “I’m not thinking anything. Okay, I’m thinking we should clean up around here or my dad is going to kill me. If not for drinking, then at least for drinking half his designer beer.”“We’ve only had five, total. Two and a half each, and he’ll be thrilled, you know it.”“Maybe you’re right, but still.” My words are definitely sliding a little. And, maybe it's because we drank them so fast, but I can’t take my eyes off her lips. She's watching me. Waiting.“Okay, fine. I’m thinking this one tastes really citrusy. No, that’s not right, I’m thinking that I’m starting to get sort of shitfaced.”“Shitrusy citrusfaced?”It's so dumb, we both start laughing.“Is that what I said? I just said that, didn’t I? That I was citrusfaced?”“You did,” she says. “Or maybe you didn’t. Who knows? Okay, come on.” She stands, picks up two bottles and walks toward the fridge. “I think we’ve had enough. Experiment over. Let’s clean up, restock the unopened ones, hide the evidence.”I stand too quickly. She seems way more steady than I feel. And she’s smaller than I am. Lame. I didn’t even drink three beers. “He’s a cop,” I say, my speech definitely slurring. “So, yeah, good luck with that."I head to the fridge with her, but when she bends down in front of me to reload some, I lose my balance and have to grab hold of her. She stands up fully and faces me. “Man, you are pretty drunk,” she says.“Yeah, I am. What of it?” I lean in, my lips right close to hers. 
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Published on February 13, 2014 20:05 • 26 views

January 27, 2014

Dear Teachers and Librarians and amazing supporters of my first book THE PULL OF GRAVITY and my next book THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO (Free five chapter Kindle preview available starting February 1),

I love connecting with you and your students, and as many of you know, I am always willing to Skype in for free if you've used my book as a read-aloud in your classroom (usually middle schools) or carry a reasonable number of copies of the book(s) in your classroom.

Not because I don't need the money (sadly, I do), but because there's nothing more I love to do  than connect with readers, and give them a period off from their usual class work -- which is, my own kids assure me, the main selling point of any such Skype visit I may pay, at least as far as your students are concerned. ;)

The other reason I do this for free is that I know the schools don't often have a lot of slush in their budgets, at least that they're willing to part with for "reading stuff."

Having said that, I've got some new RULES.

Okay, fine, maybe not rules exactly, because I'm weak and I love you, but I'm asking you, begging you: if I Skype in -- if I have recently Skyped in -- that you require your students to put up a brief review of my book on Amazon if they have access to an account. It should be an honest review. It can be a one-line review. But a review. (If they hated the book, then, fine, don't really push them to...)

I hate to beg, but fresh reviews, and reviews in general, actually help some algorithm that keeps the book in the forefront of amazon searches, etc. and, frankly, my book needs all the help it can get. It's got lots of critical acclaim (Bank Street Best of 2012, Nerdy Award for YA 2011, great Kirkus and other reviews...) but not a ton of readers. And I'd love more readers. I need more readers. And more importantly, I'll cry if it goes out of print.

So, I'm asking you to please have your students take five minutes to put up a rating or review. Assign it as extra credit. Give them a point or two if they bring in a copy of the review. Want to make them work harder for extra credit? Let them put up a review for the books of other Teachers Write! posters who have donated their time to Teachers Write! or other such endeavors.

Amazon, Goodreads, Tumblr, etc. wherever teens are had, would love them to post a review.

For example only, I have under 60 reviews on Amazon, but I have Skyped in to at least -- at least -- thirty different library book clubs or classrooms for free. At the end of every such visit, I always ask them to put up reviews. This means at least 600 - 1200 students that have read my book, or been read my book and I have Skyped with, but I have 59 reviews on Amazon as of this morning, mostly from adults. A little sad, isn't it?

I'd really love more from students. I need people to know the book is getting read.

With thanks and gratitude,


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Published on January 27, 2014 12:11 • 26 views

January 9, 2014

Author photo courtesy Rick Kopstein,
turned into sepia tone courtesy of PicMonkey
So, about a week ago, I got this note from Teachers Write! camper, library media specialist, and writer, Wendy Watts Scalfaro, in my message box:

"Hi, Gae. I'm wondering what the schedule is like for Friday Feedback (if there is one)? I'm working on some writing goals, and would like to have Friday Feedback as one of my motivators for getting some writing done."

Maybe as Wendy typed out that note to me, she felt some trepidation: Is it okay to ask? Am I bugging her? Am I putting myself on the spot?
It brought me HUGE joy to see that note there in my message box.

I've talked about before how, as writers (or at least as a midlist writer), we do what we do, whether blogging or writing novels, so often in a vacuum, without a clue as to what (if any) effect we might have on our readers. Hearing directly that something we did matters, connects with someone on a meaningful level, or better yet inspires them in some small way, is such icing on the cake, you don't know.  
Wendy's note, together with the New Year, and an unexpected note from author Kate Messner  (which I will share in a moment), came for me at a most needed time. 

I have been waist-deep -- make that neck-deep -- slogging through a proverbial SLUMP. 
Distracted. Unfocused. Unproductive. 
I badly needed MOTIVATION.
Suddenly, those three things coupled together, brought it to me. Motivation. Knowing that someone was actually waiting for my words, wanting them, and appreciating them, for me, is the most amazing motivator in the world.
So, when Wendy asked me to get my ass in gear (yes, she did), I decided to blog on what motivates me, and others, most. I decided to ask many of my awesome writer friends, plus Wendy, to share what motivates them. For some it is deadlines, for others, fear, for still others, an encouraging word from a friend. Hope some of it might motivate you to get writing again. 

Wendy, this Friday Feedback is for you!

p.s. I don't know why Blogger has decided to put some of the below in white highlight and not others. Don't know how to fix it. Sorry for the glare. 

Happy New Year! Get cracking! Make some noise! Toss confetti!

Gae: I am a big fan of New Year's resolutions, a fresh start, promises typed across a blank slate. For me, the New Year is always that shining beacon, a point at which I can reset, and start again. I needed it badly this year. Maybe self-doubt had crept in, or maybe it's the dog's fault and I can keep blaming him, but both the New Year and the very unexpected note from admired author friend, Kate Messner, who, unbeknownst to me, had just finished an Advance Reader Copy of THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO, set my heart ablaze with hope and motivation again. The whole note is below with Kate's permission, but the part that motivated me the most was this:
"It's funny - people ask me all the time if I miss teaching, and usually, I'm okay...  I love what I do now and get to do so many writing workshops with the kids when I travel.  But your book made me wish for a minute that I still had a 7th grade classroom  so I could book-talk it and put it in kids' hands."

How could I not be inspired to get back to writing after that? 

I asked Wendy** if she might share what it is about Friday Feedback that was serving to motivate her too:

Wendy : I am motivated by That Wee Bit Heap in general, and Friday Feedback specifically, because you provide a no holds barred critique of participants’ writing, and because you're a real person with every day challenges (writing and personal) that I can relate to.
Challenges, indeed! ;) And, hooray!!

Here's what motivates some other awesome authors who were kind enough to participate:
Kate: The most honest answer I can give you isn’t all that sparkly. Usually, the thing that motivates me is just the writing – looking forward to it and feeling gratitude that I get to do this as my job. On the tougher days, when things aren’t going well, I’m very motivated by my deadlines and my desire to KEEP this as my full-time job. I understand and appreciate that being able to do this is a gift and a privilege, and I don’t take that lightly, so just that is usually plenty of motivation for me to settle down to work.
-- Kate Messner, WAKE UP MISSING (2013)

Caroline: This may sound silly, but writing down daily totals in my calendar (sometimes a word count, sometimes hours spent working) really is satisfying. I like seeing everything all lined up. I also have two friends I'm in regular contact with over email. We touch base throughout the week to check in on our writing. Various pep-talks ensue. My biggest motivation, though, is always a deadline!

-- Caroline Starr Rose, BLUE BIRDS (winter 2015)

Nova Ren: There are many gaping moments when I find myself stuck during the writing of a novel, so to give myself the push of motivation, I return to my favorite piece of the manuscript, the spot that keeps the fire going, the spark. I stop what I'm doing and reread those paragraphs to myself, sometimes aloud, sometimes in my head, as many times as it takes until I remember why I need to write this and why I won't—can't—give up until it's done.
— Nova Ren Suma, 17 & GONE (Dutton, 2013)

Cat : This sounds strange, but I'm motivated by being busy. I love the occasional slow day, but in general, I like to keep my schedule pretty packed. When I'm doing activities like driving kids, exercising, or cleaning, I'm always thinking about my WIP: hashing things out, fitting the pieces together. Then, with a finite amount of time for the actual act of putting fingertips to keyboard, I'm forced to get serious and just...write. 
-- Cat Patrick, THE ORIGINALS, JUST LIKE FATE (Cat Patrick & Suzanne Young)

Tania: At first, I'll get an idea and I'll be convinced that this time, I've got a chance at writing something possibly terrific. That's huge motivation. I spend some time getting the idea down on the page, encountering a few problems but still excited, still chasing the idea. Later, with chapters out of place and characters dangling and the plot taking turns for the worse, the motivation becomes one of simple survival. Will I ever get out of this book alive? There's satisfaction in managing to fix problems and get the thing working but I'm basically I'm in damage control mode.  After a certain point, I just want to finish the thing. That's what keeps me going. Because inevitably, well before I've finished, a new idea is tugging at my mind. A new idea! An idea to end all other ideas....And so it goes on.

-- Tania Unsworth, THE ONE SAFE PLACE (Orion, UK, Jan 2014, AYR, April 2014)twitter: @TaniaUnsworth1

Alissa: What motivates me to write, is the fact that I'm lucky enough to have some time to do it. I can remember a time when between jobs and other commitments, finding time to write was a struggle. So, when I have the time to write, I don't want to squander it - even if what I end up writing is stuff that will end up getting tossed when it comes time for revisions.
-- Alissa Grosso, SHALLOW POND

Terry : Recently, trying not to lose a word sprint #30mdare for fear of getting a crazy avatar chosen by the winner. Fear works for me as a motivator. 
— Terry Lynn Johnson ICE DOGS

Matt: What motivates me to write -- and what especially motivated me to finish my latest MG novel, is the belief that someone out there is going through something pretty rotten, and that books have the power to help through humor, compassion, and realism.  The best compliment I've gotten from readers is that my book made them better or stronger or a bit lighter.

Matt Blackstone, SORRY YOU'RE LOST (January 21, 2015)

Carole: Writing is a lonely business, and years pass between the spark of an idea and words reaching readers. What keeps me motivated is the fellowship of other writers, perhaps thousands of miles away but together in spirit. Knowing that other writers are also facing a blank screen every day, tossing most of what they do write, waiting to hear from agents or editors, inspires me to write on. Love you guys!

-- Carole Estby Dagg, THE YEAR WE WERE FAMOUS

A my:  I schedule weekly or monthly deadlines with critique partners. Knowing I need finished chapters to exchange always keeps me writing even when I’d rather not. 

Amy Fellner Dominy, A MATTER OF HEART (Spring 2015)

Megan: I have two big things I turn to for motivators when I'm stuck, and they go hand in hand: A good walk with a brilliant soundtrack on my iPod, mostly of the indie variety. Meaningful music, nature, and peoplewatching always light a fire under my muse's ass and get me back to work.

-- Megan Bostic, DISSECTED

So, with all that said, it's a New Year, and it's Friday Feedback time. YOU KNOW THE RULES! 
I'm putting my "Brave is as brave does" motto to the test today, by posting a REALLY ROUGH, may not even stay, new opening to the manuscript I'm working on. I'm not telling you much about it. But have at it. Does it hook you? What works? What doesn't? Then post your own excerpt for feedback if you want. And, include a sentence about what motivates you!
xox gae
The boy, Kyle, stares at me where I sit on the bed in his T-shirt and a pair of his plaid pajama pants, both way too big. He’s average height, taller than me, solid, with reddish blond hair. He doesn’t look familiar. The apartment I’m in (where the man brought me) is nice. Comfortable, but not fancy. Brooklyn Heights, he said. A borough of New York City.It’s not the boy’s room I’m in, but his sister’s. It’s pink and sparkly and makes me need to squirm. I’m Goldilocks in The Three Bears. I shift on the bed, and try not to see the boy band poster on the wall: headache yellow with three long-haired boys that look too much like girls. “Hanson, mmmbop” it reads across their heads.“What?” I say, finally, because the boy – Kyle -- is making me feel stranger than I already feel. Everything’s a fog. I don’t want to talk. I don’t know what I should say. I look away, but things – images, voices, names – swim in, just off the periphery of my brain. Eye floaters I blink at to keep them at bay.I look back at the boy – Kyle -- instead. Focus on him.
If I’m not careful, they’ll come back to me.

** Wendy Watts Scalfaro is part-time writer with the best full-time job in the world. As a high school librarian, she is constantly surrounded by great books that serve to entertain, inspire, and motivate her to write. Her current Work-in-Progress is a historical MG/YA novel based on her grandmother’s adolescent years spent in a Catholic orphanage.
PS: If you are new to Friday Feedback, teach and write, check out and join our Teachers Write! facebook page here:
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Published on January 09, 2014 19:50 • 35 views

December 29, 2013

From my "Other" blog. Kissing goodbye another year.
I know, I know, I've been MIA from this blog.

The loudest complainer? My mother.

Okay, fine. The only complainer. But still. Nice to know someone is reading.

Something happened to me around September of this year: I ran out of words. Okay, fine. Not exactly ran out, but they weren't coming, here, there anywhere, and I wasn't about to force them.

Sure, I've written some, and done writing-related stuff (first and second pass pages for THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO were in there, I think, and I'm muddling through a new manuscript, still). But the words felt stuck. They still do.

I blame the confluence of a few things for taking my words away, both physically and emotionally:

2. my younger son having escalating heart issues which have gratefully been resolved (thank you Dr. Levchuch, Dr. Hoch and St. Francis Heart Hospital);

3. my editor rejecting not one but two manuscripts (I'm not gonna lie, sometimes the No's do get hard) and,

4. first and foremost, this:

This is Charlie. He's a jackapoo. And a handful.We got that for my younger son at eight weeks. See #1 and #2 above.

At any rate, I've felt totally bereft of both time and words, or at least good, descriptive, evocative words that are worth sharing, and I figured no one here would really miss me.

That's my dad, sister and mom with me a few nights
ago. My cheeks are pink from martini. Oh well.Alas, my mother does, and to tell you the truth, that's enough for me.

The words still don't feel "here," but I'm going to force them, and in doing so, this is going to end up feeling like one of those rambling Christmas chain letters (sorry, people who send them, you know who you are. . .)

Anyway, with blame (and thanks) to my mom, here's a year-end round up since last I posted:

My older son is doing well up at college. He's a talented musician and, most importantly to me, he's coming out of his shell -- this boy who wouldn't play his music for anyone in the comfort of his own home, let alone get up on stage, is actually playing open mic nights and singing in his quaint little college town.

a favorite shot of Son One.Here's the thing, though: I don't know how he already got to be a college kid. I know, I know, this is a refrain from mothers everywhere, and until it happens to you, there is simply no way to explain how it feels. How your home both feels remarkably empty, and yet, somehow, almost cruelly, the air and space fill in. We adjust, I guess. But there's a price. Tiny holes in our heart, that never exactly repair. The years we have our children at home are way too fleeting. But then, so are, just, all the years.

Speaking of holes in one's heart, Son Two, as I mentioned, had some heart issues. To be specific, he had a super ventricular tachycardia (SVT) that required an ablation to fix it.

He's amazingly all better now, but scariest few days of my life. Let those be the worst of them. From your lips to blah, blah, blah. . .

Son Two with the dog, the week he came home with us.
Does a picture speak a thousand words? I dunno.The crazy thing is, my next book -- THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO -- that comes out in March, has a boy with a heart issue in it. Son Two did NOT have a known heart issue when I wrote it. Second time I've written a manuscript where something has come true soon after. Life imitating art or coincidence? Don't know, but I'm not giving my teen characters any more health issues. I'll leave those to someone else.

As for the rest of us? My husband, David, sang a lot this year. He and his friend/guitarist David, performed their first paid gigs as David & David. These were some of the very best nights I had this year:

This right here is the number one thing that keeps me
drawn to him. The guy can sing. Note to marrieds:
pursue the things that bring you joy. Don't stop striving.
And me?

With my friend Annmarie, and the few stragglers of the West Neck Pod we've dubbed the Polar Pod, we swam in the open water through mid-November when the plummeting air and water temps and my son's medical stuff derailed us long enough to lose acclimation. With water temps down in the low thirties, fear we are totally done for the season.

Last year, the coldest I swam was around 37 degrees, this year did 35 degrees, so at least there was that.

Now, I'm back in the pool for the winter, anxiously waiting for spring.

As for writing stuff, as mentioned, am mid-way through a YA manuscript. Trudging is the best word I can find for that.

And, THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO is out in advance copy and getting some really amazing early reader reviews.

It comes out in March. If you're local to Long Island, I'll be doing a launch party and reading here, at Book Revue in Huntington on the evening of March 25th. It's hard to compete with the likes of Cameron Diaz and Snookie (both appearing at Book Revue soon), so, if you're around, I'd love for you to come.

* forgot to add that the audio rights for SUMMER have sold. Will be available from Highbridge Audio in March, too! So excited!

And that's it, Mom. There you have it. What I've been up to since I posted last.

What's that you say? Tell you something you don't already know?

Meh. Make up something new and interesting yourself. Feel free to come post it here. As between the two of us, you are the far better storyteller. My books would be lost without you.

But truly, thanks for reading, and thanks for wanting to read more.

To anyone else who is reading -- to all of you: have a very happy, peaceful, healthy New Year.

I leave you with this link which is, IMHO, this week's imperative reading.

The world is a'changing. Some good, some bad. Never stop using your voice.

See you all in 2014.

- gae
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Published on December 29, 2013 07:58 • 22 views

December 13, 2013

Shhh, she said with her inside voice. . .
My pal (and excellent teacher) David Etkin was reminding me of this POST from our first summer of Teacher's Write! on dialogue tags and how they're supposed to disappear.

I think it's a good post. That the information in it still holds true.

I mean, sometimes your characters (and mine!) are going to whisper something rather than say it. My teen characters are all way too fond of blurting .

But for the most part, your characters should only say stuff, not intonate, chime, bellow, or so on.

Elmore Leonard's third rule of his TEN RULES is to "never use a verb other than said to carry dialogue."

My eleventh rule might be that once you know your ten rules, never say "never," of course.

But the thing with dialogue tags is that they really should CLARIFY and disappear , which is, fyi, yes, a change from the way masters of the art like Hemingway used to write.

Current common wisdom is that you neither want a string of dialogue that reads: he said, she said, he said, she said, he said and so on, because it becomes really robotic and distracting, nor do you want dialogue tags that make the reader stop and go, "Uh, huh? How does intonating something actually sound?"

Think about a REAL conversation between people. Sure, we might intonate something, but if we do, it's in HOW the ACTION AROUND IT changes the way it is said. And that's what the writer needs to do: create strong character and action around the dialogue, or choose the right words OF dialogue, such that the way something is said is a given as the reader reads.

Anyway, I'll try to find an example in my rough YA manuscript I'm working on now to share with you, and I invite you, as always, to put up a brief excerpt -- dialogue related or not -- for feedback.

If you've never been to Friday Feedback before, her are the rules regarding the type of feedback you should provide:

• Does the excerpt "hook" or compel you to keep reading? If yes, why? If no, why not?

• What else works for you, and why?

• What doesn’t work for you (if something doesn't) and why?

Now, here's how you can also get some feedback : If you are working on something, and would like the same feedback, please post your excerpt in the comments. Please post NO MORE THAN 3 -5 paragraphs, three if long, four or five if short. If there's more, I will only read the first 3 -5 paragraphs. This is partly for your own protection. This is a public site and I don't want anyone coming back later and saying someone "lifted" their whole chapter from my website. :) If you are a student from a particular class, a teacher-writer I met at NCTE, etc., please identify yourself as such. If not, let me know how you found me.

Okay, so, here's a really rough bit from my manuscript, but it will give you a sense of using dialogue tags to clarify and the action around the dialogue rather than the tags themselves to do the hard work, I hope.

I turn away from the window and head to the kitchen. At the entrance, I stand quietly for a minute, and watch Dad’s hunched figure. He’s reading the paper at the table.“Kyle!” he says, looking up. “I was about to get going, but figured I’d wait to say good morning.”“Thanks.” I nod at something, like I’m agreeing or indicating. But indicating what? Him? The paper? The world at large? Why is it so hard to connect with him? “Ah, coffee,” I say, walking fast to the fresh pot. I pour some, load it with cream and sugar, and sit down across from him.            “I made you a fresh one, see? How are you doing this morning?” He raises his eyebrows funny at that second part, as if he’s insinuating something. The New York Post is open in his hands. Usually, he reads that only for the sports, but there haven’t been any sports in two days. He closes it and lays it on the table in front of him, his arms folded over it. Still, I can make out the words, “SPECIAL EDITION,”across the top, and a piece of the American flag.            “Fine, good, why?” I sip at the hot liquid, feeling it course through my veins. “How about you?”            He gets up. Now I can see the whole cover. It’s a photo of three firefighters atop a pile of rubble, raising the flag in the air.            “Okay, considering. How’s the girl?” That eyebrow raise thing again. He turns to rinse his mug in the sink. ---xox gae

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Published on December 13, 2013 06:16 • 30 views

November 15, 2013

I blame the dog. Seriously. He's cute, but I blame him.
I'm in the middle of a YA manuscript right now called THE MEMORY OF THINGS and I was at 30K when November started. So I thought, hey, what the heck, I'll unofficially try to Nanowrimo (yes, I'm using it as a verb) the second 30K with the slew of other writers Nano'ing along. What better incentive to get the thing D-O-N-E, DONE, right?

Yeah, right.

It's November 15 and I've written another 7K in two weeks.

Repeat after me: I, Gae Polisner, am LAME.

Hmmm. Sub out the *I* for "you" when repeating.

So, here's the thing.

I blame the dog (doesn't everyone blame the dog?)

Second pass pages = going thru with a fine toothed comb.I blame the Second Pass Pages that came in on THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO,

and a bunch of Skype visits (though those were rewarding and fun!).

I blame facebook.

Oh, dear lord, how you ruin me, facebook.

Fine, fine. In short, I blame me.

At any rate, if you are Nano'ing or even fake-trying to Nano like me, and haven't been comforted, buoyed or otherwise entertained by Chuck Wendig's posts on Nanowrimo'ing, you don't know what you are missing.

I happen to be stuck RIGHT IN THE MUDDY MIDDLE, so this one HIT THE SPOT more than you know.

I worship the Nano ground that man walks on.

So, since it's Friday, and since I've been trying to put up at least one Friday Feedback per month, especially for those Teachers Write! campers who are still plugging away and looking for a place to connect (oooh, I get to see a bunch of you NEXT WEEK at NCTE!!), I figured today was as good a Friday as any. You know, you're all welcome, TW campers or not. Just remember THE RULES. (if you don't know the rules, they're there on that link I just gave you. Please read them!)

So, without further ado, since I'm in the muddy middle, here's a bit from the middle of THE MEMORY OF THINGS. The MC is a 16-yr old boy named Kyle. It takes place in New York City (well, Brooklyn), shortly after 9/11.

Have at it. Have fun! And feel free to post your BRIEF excerpt for feedback.

xox gae

FRIDAY – 9/14 Uncle Paul calls early             I wake to the phone ringing.It’s bright out. Morning. I sit up and wait, but no one is answering. I run to the extension in the kitchen and pick it up, looking for signs of Dad. The coffee pot is cold and empty. Did he leave for work without coffee? Did I miss some new emergency?“Hello?”I glance at the clock. It’s freaking eight-thirty. Dad must be long gone by now.“Kyle?” “Yeah?” I rub my eyes. It’s Uncle Paul, which should make me worried, but just makes me sorry I answered. I know that’s wrong, but I never felt about Uncle Paul the way I do about Uncle Matty. He’s strict and humorless, and besides, he’s barely come to see Uncle Matty since he’s been here.“Hey, kid, how you doing? Everything okay there?” He sounds concerned. I wonder why he’s calling so early, why he isn’t calling Dad at the precinct.“Yeah, fine. Why?” My mind tries to sort out about Dad, about no signs of coffee or his breakfast, or the New York Post retrieved from outside the front door. Uncle Paul laughs, sort of. Snorts maybe. Or huffs. Maybe because I’m half asleep and not doing a good job of talking. “You sure?”“Yeah?”“Is everything okay across the river?” “Yeah, why? Did you want to call Dad at the precinct?”He hesitates. “I did, Kyle. He’s not in yet.” My stomach drops. I turn and glance at where the monitor is usually re-situated from Dad’s room to the kitchen counter in the mornings, but it’s not there. “Hang on a sec.”I walk down the hall, past Kerri’s room and the angel girl. Does Uncle Paul know that she’s still here? At Dad's bedroom, I stop. The door is shut. Not open, bed-made like it usually is. I turn the knob and push. Dad’s face-down, under blankets.For a second, I panic. What if he’s had a heart attack? What if he’s dead in there? But after a second, the sound of his snoring drifts loud and clear. I’ve never seen Dad sleep past seven. Ever, in my sixteen years. He must be exhausted. He must have finally caved to it all. I back out quietly, shut the door, and head back down the hall.“Uh, Uncle Paul?”“Yeah?” I pause, wondering if I’ll get Dad in trouble. If I need to cover for him. I mean, the city is a mess out there. But fuck it. It’s Uncle Paul. It’s his brother. “He’s still sleeping,” I say. “I’ll wake him up. Have him call you back in five minutes.” Uncle Paul laughs, but this time it’s not a funny laugh or a mad one. It’s a laugh of relief. He’s relieved. He was worried that something happened to Dad. I can hear it. The relief in the sound. “Kyle – ” “Yeah?”“Don’t wake him. Really. Let him sleep. We’re all exhausted. I’m sure he’ll be up soon. Have him call me then.” “Oh-kay,” I say, because this is Uncle Paul. No nonsense, no horseplay Uncle Paul.And then I know. I understand.             Tuesday? Those planes? They’ve changed everything. 
And everyone. 

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Published on November 15, 2013 06:03 • 94 views

November 11, 2013

I am not a religious person, but a spiritual one. . . and yet, I pray. . .
I pray to the human spirit that one day, in the not too distant future,
compassion will always win out over fists, bombs and guns.
This is my father. . .

returning home from service in a MASH unit
Vietnam, Chu Lai, 1966 - 967. . .
how lucky we are that he came home.
This is the note that I wrote to him today, and the plaque for his bronze star that hangs on my son's wall here at my house:

This is an incredibly moving piece written by Laurie Halse Anderson today in the Huffington Post:

Read it and share it, then do more. Click on the links. Share the information. And donate, even $5 or $10 -- heck, even $1 -- to help a veteran who has done so very much for you.

With deepest gratitude to all who have served and continue to serve.

- gae
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Published on November 11, 2013 07:45 • 82 views