Makes Me Want To Shout!

It’s a sharing-the-good-news kind of day here at Cathy C. Hall because so many of my writer friends have been so very busy! Shout-outs to…

Linda O’Connell, who’s joined the team of instructors over at Coffee House for Writers! Linda, aka the Queen of Chicken Soup for the Soul Books, will be teaching the fine art of essay writing and I can’t think of anyone better suited for the task. If you’ve been trying and trying and trying to get your essays published, try taking this class. I promise you’ll improve with Linda leading the way to publication.

Suzanne Lilly, who’s just released the last book in her California Argonauts series, Gold Rush Barons, and it is a gem of a story! (See what I did there? Gold…gem? Well, I am a writer.) Gosh, I hate to see the story of George and Lucinda come to an end…they’re such strong characters. And I learned so much in this riveting historical fiction, too; I’ll bet I could easily win the “California Gold Rush” category on Jeopardy!

Lisa Ricard Claro, who’s also just released a book–Love to Believe, the second romance in her Fireflies series! If you’ve been missing Maddie and Caleb, then it’s time to catch up–except this time around, you’ll want to know how Caleb’s sister, Rebecca, fares in a man’s world. And you’ll be dying to know what secret she’s keeping from handsome lawyer, Sean Kincaid. Or is it Sean keeping secrets from her? Hmmm…I guess you’ll just have to read Love to Believe for yourself!

Nanci Turner Steveson, whose charming middle grade novel, Swing Sideways, is set to release any day now! Oh my, I loved this story of two unlikely friends spending a summer on the chase for wild horses and…you know what? Go read it before I spill the whole plotline! And when you finish Nanci’s book, check out Janet S. Fox’s creepy good Gothic thriller, The Charmed Children of Rookskill CastleBoth Nanci and Janet were with me at the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop (Nanci in the classes; Janet as an instructor) so I can say that I knew them when.

Though, honestly, they were already gifted storytellers and writers even then. And I’m thrilled to see all the good things happening for them, as well as all the friends I’ve mentioned here today.

It really does make me want to shout, y’all.



Friends Helping Friends (And How You Can Help, Too!)

Five years ago, I attended a Highlights Foundation Whole Novel Workshop and it changed my life.

But maybe not the way you think.

I mean, of course it made a tremendous difference in my writing. You can’t have one-on-one critique sessions and workshops with accomplished authors and editors and not become a better writer. I expected that. What I didn’t expect were the friendships that would grow out of that week. And how those writer friends would make a difference in my life.

Like Nanci Turner Steveson. Nanci’s  debut novel, Swing Sideways, is coming out in the spring and that’s super exciting. But that’s not why she’s here today. Nanci’s here because of one of her writer friends, Betsy MacLeod.


Nanci, tell us about your friend, Betsy, and what’s going on in her life right now?

Betsy is not only my friend and critique partner, but she is a beloved mentor and author in the KidLit community. She lives in CT and is very involved in SCBWI and an assortment of other writing organizations. She shines a bright light everywhere, one of those people always ready to reach out and help someone else. She is responsible for helping me get a lot of what is golden in SWING SIDEWAYS to rise to the surface.

Last May, Betsy’s husband, John, lost his job due to symptoms of what we now know were related to ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. For those who are not familiar with this fatal illness, it is what the medical community often refers to as “the worst diagnosis possible.”

By the time of his diagnosis in December, John had been hospitalized several times due to falls. He is now in a wheelchair, and they either need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on modifications to their home plus hire professional caregivers who can do what Betsy cannot (like lift or turn him), or John needs to be put into a facility equipped to handle his rapidly failing body. Either way, the costs are astronomical. It’s impossible to understand the treacherous path they are traveling, but we want to help.

And so you and a couple other writers joined together to sponsor this very special Kidlit Auction. Where can we sign up? Get all the details?

There is a GoFundMe page  which has raised money, but additionally, myself and three other friends of Betsy’s involved in the KidLit community (Anika Denise, Sally Riley and Debbie Michio-Florence), have put together a truly incredible online auction to try to help them get through the financial part of this tragedy.

The auction starts March 17 and runs through March 30. The site is live now, but bidding starts on the 17th. I am in the process of uploading donations to the site (wait for it, wait . . .) and will admit, all the love I’ve been feeling for Betsy and John has brought me to tears several times. In the meantime there is a Facebook page people can join to get updates and sneak peeks of some of the generous and exciting items we will be auctioning off.

So, how about sharing a few sneak peeks so we can start saving our pennies (and dreaming!)?

You won’t believe these donations. We have everything from a week stay at Jane Yolen’s gorgeous mansion in Scotland, to manuscript critiques from editors (think HarperCollins, Bloomsbury, Christy Ottaviano Books), agents (The Bent Agency, Folio Jr, etc), and award winning authors like Kathi Appelt and Kate Messner. We have career consults from Tracey and Josh Adams (Adams Literary); original artwork (like an ORIGINAL watercolor of Paddington Bear!); and Lynda Mullaly Hunt has donated an entire evening dinner for five which includes her critique of their manuscripts. The Highlights Foundation donated TWO gift certificates for $500 each to go toward a selection of their workshops. We’ve got boxes and baskets of signed books; goodies from Vermont; a Cape Cod cottage retreat; a stay at Austin’s popular Writing Barn; and manuscript critiques for anyone at any level of their career.

There’s so much more, it’s overwhelming how these people have come together to support Betsy and John. Also, I want to be sure it’s clear there are many things non-writer people can bid on, too. It is not limited to KidLit folks.

It’s just incredible, the generosity of the writing community. And what about you, Nanci, what are you donating? And how can my reader/writer friends donate, too?

I am donating a middle grade critique, PLUS a signed copy of my novel, SWING SIDEWAYS, coming from HarperCollins on May 3.

We have some fabulous auction items; the best way people can help is to spread the word so more people will bid.

We can do that, Nanci! And thanks so much for stopping by today. And thanks to all y’all (yeah, that’s a thing we say here in the South, Nanci) for stopping by to give this post a read. You can make a difference in Betsy and John’s life. Because honestly, workshops, conferences, and critique groups are swell, but it’s the people you meet, the friends you grow to cherish, that make all the difference!


Friday’s Fun Find: A Two-Fer One: Alan Gratz and Jeanette Ingold

Gosh, I hope I can squeeze everything into this fun two-fer-one today! So off we go…

On the ride from the airport to the Highlights Workshop, awesome author Alan Gratz went on and on about Dropbox, a free storage service. In fact, he sang its praises so loudly that, even though I wasn’t absolutely sure I understood everything that Dropbox could do for me, I wanted it. I wanted it bad. (And now I have it.)

But Alan also talked about plotting, the three act structure, crossing thresholds, tent poles and how important it is for your protagonist to actually do stuff (rather than have stuff happen to him/her/it). The thing is, you’re probably like me. You know about plotting. But understanding plotting is another thing entirely, right? So I’m keeping all the nifty Alan notes right next to me during this revision. I write and check a note. Then I write and check another note. It’s amazingly helpful.

I wish you had Alan’s notes. But I can tell you the book from which he gathered his notes (and highly recommended we read as well): The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. It’s not quite the same as having Alan explain it all. But I think it must be an awesome book. I mean, have you seen all the books Alan’s had published? (And the fact that many of them are related to baseball in no way has influenced my glowing recommendation of these books. Um, all right, all right. Maybe just a teeny bit.)

And awesome author Jeanette Ingold shared her words of wisdom about how to tighten a story. (Actually, they were pictures. I love pictures! They appeal to my visual-oh-now-I’ll-remember-this side.) My favorite one was “Just the facts, m’am.”

You remember Joe Friday, right? Yeah, it was Dragnet, and why yes, it was a while back. (And no, that’s not Jack Webb. That’s Jeanette Ingold).

The point Jeanette was making here had to do with dialogue, so let’s move on, shall we? Which, come to think of it, was exactly Jeanette’s point. Good dialogue is the illusion of speech. So leave out the boring stuff, the hemming and hawing (unless it’s there for a purpose). And make sure your dialogue moves the story forward. You don’t want to bury great lines in pages of dialogue.

And if you want to see how expertly Jeannette employs dialogue, read one of her many books. I just finished Hitch (It’s about the CCC) and marveled at how well she captured the speech of those young men in the late 1930’s. But I paid careful attention to the craft of her dialogue, too. And it was mighty fine stuff.

Now, tell the truth.  You got lots more than a two-fer today, didn’t you? It doesn’t get any fun-ner than that.

P.S. BIG thanks to Nanci Turner Steveson for the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop pics appearing in this Fun Friday post!