Growing Toward the Sun has not only landed in the hands of beta readers across North America, it also has a cover. A quite gorgeous one.
(I can say that, because I had nothing to do with it.)
Cover design terrified me, actually, and I had no clue what I wanted. However, I had nothing to fear. The very talented Louis at Indigo Forest Designs read a short description of Growing Toward the Sun, looked over my list of favorite covers, read my mind, and handed over the exact cover I didn't even know I wanted.
Here it is:
Isn't it lovely? (Yeah, that's what I said, too.)
Lovelier yet, he also designed a companion cover for Full Moon, Half a Heart, and they look fabulous together. (I'll share the second cover soon.)
Now, all I have to do is make the insides as pretty as the outsides.
*sighs, bites nails, and goes back to editing*
I've shared my Growing Toward the Sun with writing friends, chapter by chapter, but until this week, no one has ever read it cover to cover, like a real book.
This week I sent it to my first round of beta readers. Their assignment? To read the book--like a real book, within two weeks--then email me for the list of questions I've prepared.
That was hard, figuring out what kind of questions to ask in order to get the information I need. Questions about my characters (likable? unlikable? stereotypical?) and about plot (boring, too detailed parts? glossed over parts? favorite sections?)
Most of the beta readers requested Word docs, but one requested a print version. I slid the whole, inch-thick document into a manila envelope, sealed it, and took it to the post office. As I stood at the counter, answering routine questions about what the package contained (MY BOOK!) and value of item enclosed (UNMEASURABLE! It's My Book! Didn't you hear me? My BOOK!) I had to think of an old fashioned novel I once read about an aspiring author.
Anne of Green Gables or Jo March or Hildegarde Dolson, or whoever it was, stood hopefully in line, waiting to mail her manuscript to a Big Magazine. She wondered how the postman could handle Her Manuscript with such casual disinterest. She glanced at those waiting in line and hoped someone would say, "Excuse me. I couldn't help but notice--is that a manuscript you're mailing, there? Are you perhaps An Authoress?"
I watched the no-nonesense postal clerk affix the postage crookedly in the top right corner and grinned to myself. Then I drove across town to deliver another copy to Grandma. The first person who ever told me I should write deserves to read it first, I think.
Now I wait. Which I'm not particularly good at. But I have a feeling it will be worth it, and Growing Toward the Sun will be a better book because of my beta readers.
Do you know what a blog hop is? I didn't either, until a writing friend tagged me. (And now that I know what it means, I still dislike the term. It sounds so...hoppy.)
But this is a blog hop about the writing process, how it differs for each writer, and I'm always curious about topics like that.
Last week B. L. Draper, the above-mentioned writer friend, described her writing process on her blog. I'd encourage you to go over and sample a few of her excellent stories.
B L Draper lives in northern Australia where she teaches by day and writes by night. She has stories published by Youth Imagination Magazine and Spellbound and hopes one day to complete her novel before she’s too old and senile to enjoy it. Online she can be found at www.bldraper.com
For today's blog hop, I'm supposed to answer four questions. As a survey/questionnaire addict, I enjoyed this way too much.
What am I working on?
I write like I cook. Here's an illustration:
It’s ten minutes to fancy dinner time, with five dishes started. One is mostly ruined, one mostly finished, and the rest somewhere in between.
Right now I’m concentrating on two middle grade novels, loosely based on my childhood.
Growing toward the Sun has themes of growing up and being a good example. It also contains a mini-mystery that any kid could picture him/herself solving.
Full Moon, Half a Heart follows the same characters through a cross-country move, with themes of accepting change, dealing with hard times, and — again — growing up.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My characters are set in my world: a Mennonite community in small town/rural USA. There aren’t too many books about Mennonite kids, and not very many books that fall into the gray area between contemporary or historical. I describe my books as Little House on the Prairie set in the late 80's, early '90's.
Why do I write what I do?
I’m writing what I know, which I find nostalgic and fun.
The main reason I write what I do, though, is there aren’t a lot of modern books suitable for Mennonite kids.
My mom screened my books closely, which meant I read a wagonload of classics before I left home at 18. Classics are great, but what about hesitant readers? I would’ve read the dictionary, had nothing more appealing showed up, but not all kids are like that.
I want to write books and stories that are simple, relatable, stimulating, and wholesome. Plus fun! I want to write for kids with moms like mine.
How does my writing process work?
Wait a minute. We're supposed to have a process?
Uh, remember that fancy dinner illustration? I’m going to keep building on that.
That dinner started long before I stepped into the kitchen. A week earlier, while I waited at the car wash, I flipped through cooking magazines for ideas. While I washed dishes one evening, I planned my menu. I prepped veggies and set the table the day before.
Like dinner, my stories begin long before the actual writing.
By the time I started to cook, that dinner was finished in my mind, the dishes steaming on the table, spoons ready to dig in.
When I sit down at the computer, the books and stories I planned earlier transfer easily to paper.
It’s a great feeling.
Why, I muse, this is the best meal ever. The best story I’ve ever written. And the easiest. How quickly I finished. What a breeze.
I look closer. Sample a corner. Blech, I added way too much salt to this, stirred this too little and too late. Something must be done!
Oh, but I don’t have time or energy right now, so I’ll shove it to the back burner. The guests will be content with this. Or with that. Or...
Tomorrow is another day.
Do you smell something burning?
There you have it: a glimpse of my writing life. Next week, you can peek into the writing process of two more writers, both friends of mine.
May I introduce:
There's magic all around us, if we just know where to look. Angela Castillo has a goal as an author; to help people see. She comes from the small town of Bastrop Texas, where she loves to walk in the woods and shop in the local stores. Castillo studied Practical Theology and Music at Christ for the Nations in Dallas, Texas. She was home-schooled all through high school and is the oldest of 7 kids. Castillo's greatest joys are her little girl and two boys, who 'are the best inspiration for writing ideas.' Castillo has been published in The First Line, Aardvark's Ark, Heartwarmers, Thema, and several other publications, and also has works available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format.
Find out more on her website.
Jade Beals is a short story writer and aspiring novelist. She earned a BA in English from CUNY Brooklyn College where she received awards for her creative writing and academic work. Besides her literary pursuits, Jade enjoys nature walks, loose leaf tea, and Classical music. She resides with her husband in the suburbs of Massachusetts.
Read more about Jade on her blog, Blush of Dawn