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November 30, 2009

Random writing related thoughts

Kate Hart
The Monday after a holiday is always weird-- hard to think and get back in the groove of things. Here are a few things I saved up over the break:

Falling squarely in the "duh" category: How to enjoy books and crafting at the same time.

(answer: Books on tape. *facepaw*)

I couldn't find a werewolf, sorry. offers up a warning to Nano-ers that is also pertinent to me in my current in-between drafts status: BE PATIENT.
This has never been my strong suit, but I'm doing my best. I'm super excited for other kids on AW who are getting requests for fulls and agents, but I'm impatient to jump into the fray and forcing myself to be smart about it. In the immortal words of my father: "Don't do things half-assed."

I finished my 50 Book Challenge. #50 was Looking For Alaska by John Green, and it was a great one to go out on. I might go for 100 next year.

Which reminds me... anyone else doing the 101 in 1001 challenge? I started it months ago and even had a seperate blog dedicated to my goals, but they have already changed so drastically in a few short months that I need to revisit them. It's more fun to do with friends... any takers?

This is the most random picture I could find.

November 25, 2009

File under "awesome"

Kate Hart
Enjoy your Thanksgiving break!

(and thanks for the link, Martha!)

November 24, 2009

What I'm Thankful For

Kate Hart
Borrowing the idea from Amy over at The Purple Patch: A Thanksgiving meme, in which ten things must be named-- but every other item must be writing related. O hai, I see what you did thar, Amy...

1. Good music. I walk around saying "radiohead radiohead radiohead" like a zombie, but they're actually not my favorite band. My most favorite band of all freaking time is The Black Crowes, and I've never given them any blog love. So here you go: My all time favorite song ever. Southern rock banjo piano goodness.

2. Twitter. I cannot quantify the amount I have learned about writing and the publishing biz.

3. My best friend. We are a little bit of a bad influence on each other..  which last night caused my husband to say "I can tell you two have spent the day together." I wish we got to spend more days together.

4. The laptop my husband bought from a co-worker on a whim for $100. It sure beats sitting in front of my desktop from 11:00-2:00 am every night.

5. The holy trinity: Crab rangoon, buffalo wings and queso dip

6. Fall. God I love fall. I love sitting on the deck in the cool weather with aforementioned laptop. I love it as a backdrop for my book. I love it as entertainment for my children.

7. Bacon.

8. Stephanie Meyer. Seriously. Because her wildly popular, controversial, loved, hated, copied, parodied and otherwise famous series has put YA in the spotlight and opened up doors for lots of other authors. Plus without her, I would never have been exposed to the insanity that is KStew Wants It, or seen Pocket Edward compose refrigerator poetry, and we wouldn't get brilliant SNL sketches like this one:

ETA: After I posted, I saw an interesting post about the series by David Zahir.

9. Health. We are by and large a healthy family, and we definitely take it for granted.

10. My family and friends. Not one of them has laughed at me since I've gotten back into writing, at least to my face, and for that I am eternally grateful.

My tagged victims are, in no particular order:
  • Natalie, for the win with the best blog name ever: Relaxing Doesn't Make Babies (But Apparently Neither Does Sex)
  • Where the Sarah Things Are
  • Trin at Pink Sugar Craftnicles
  • Mandy, my candidate for mom of the year
  • Mitzi, my fellow warrior in the non-profit world
  • Raychel at Forget a Fork In The Road
(...obviously they aren't writers so they don't have to follow the every other rule...)

and some writer friends-- since last week I linked basically everyone I know from AW, today I just linked awesome ladies I've talked to recently via Twitter, etc. Totally logical, right?
  • Kathleen at Stop Drop and Plot
  • Amanda at A Wannabe Writer's Blog
  • Kirsten at Wanderlove
  • Krista at Ramblings of a Steel Magnolia
  • Cory at A Writer's Blog
  • Laura at Goodbye Sun Hello Manchester
  • Jenn at Musings

November 23, 2009


Kate Hart
Editor Molly O'Neill asked recently what your main character's anthem would be, and the girls at YA Highway asked what songs influence or represent your WIP.

I have a play list for my current WIP but it will require some tweaking as the book itself gets tweaked. However, this song could be the theme song for the work as a whole: "Jigsaw Falling Into Place," which I'm sure everyone will be shocked to hear is by Radiohead.

My male main character, Griffin, would probably have "Low" by Cracker as his theme song.

And Aubrey's song might be "Crazy Faith" by Alison Krauss and Union Station, although since she is the dominant character, almost every song on the playlist feels like hers.

Did you play along with either of these blog posts? Leave me a comment so I can check it out. :)

November 19, 2009

Winter gardening

Kate Hart
Did you know that you can grow vegetables in the winter? I didn't either. But husband is convinced it is possible. (See, people, this is why books are dangerous! They make people think!)

Seeds starting in our kitchen:

Cold frames in our garden. What's a cold frame? It's just a box with no bottom and a transparent lid. It retains heat like a teeny tiny greenhouse. Our green cold frame used to have a glass lid, but guess what happened when the lid slammed? Yup, glass all over my yard. So we switched to plastic.

Garlic is planted and sprouting in the farthest one. I know peas and herbs are also on the agenda.I'll let you know how this goes...

November 18, 2009

Of mice and meow

Kate Hart
So. Someone gave my son this toy mouse on Halloween, and really? I could have done without it. The tail is especially realistic and creepy.

My cat is no help, but at least someone is using my quilting supplies.

Seriously, I got nothin' today y'all. Too many errands and not enough time. But I really did have bad dreams about mice last night. I'm not even scared of the damn things!

November 17, 2009

Gifts To Make For... Readers and Writers

Kate Hart
A collection of gifts you can make for the readers and writers in your life

A bedside organizer that doesn't take up any room from Sew Mama Sew

Fabric covered journals from kirin notebook

Bookmark ideas from How About Orange

Little House in the Suburbs

and Skip To My Lou

November 16, 2009


Kate Hart
My best friend started reading my third draft in chapter installments as I revised this weekend. YA is not her thing and of course honest criticism can be dangerous to a friendship, but writing is what our friendship was originally based on... which I suppose makes the stakes even higher, since she hadn't read anything of mine in a decade or so.

Imagine my relief when I woke up to this in my inbox Sunday morning:

Jack says

*This title is extra funny if you know that my best friend's name is Cat.

November 13, 2009

Follow Friday, Blog Style

Kate Hart
Alternative title: When Cool Things Happen to Cool Kids

Networking is one of those things that I know is important. In theory. But I hate it. I've read tons of articles about its importance and cringed through them all, thinking, "How the hell am I going to network with authors? I live in Arkansas!"

But I read about a forum called Absolute Write, checked it out, and slowly but surely got sucked in. AW's Young Adult forum is friendly and full of talented writers of all ages and all stages of publication who are happy to offer support, constructive criticism and the occasional much-needed kick in the pants. Today I thought I would spread some blog love to some of the unbelievably nice people there.

Kids for whom Cool Stuff is Currently Happening:
  • As Stephanie puts it, "A is for awesome-- and agent!"
  • My fellow southern belle Krista just signed with an agent as well. Give her some love as she switches her blog from one platform to another.
  • HUGE news for Kody this week: Her book The Duff, scheduled to come out in 2010, has been optioned for film rights! More on her blog about what that means, exactly.
  • Kirsten's book Like Mandarin is due out in 2011, and she is currently traipsing about Europe. She also posts cute animals on a regular basis.
  • Katie's book Bad Girls Don't Die has been out for awhile (it's on my "to read" list). She was nice enough to leave me a thoughtful crit in the "share your work" forum, and her blog regularly features craftiness. You know how I feel about craftiness!
  • Hannah's book Break has gotten nothing but rave reviews, so far as I've heard.
(Apparently it helps to have a name that starts with K. Score!)

Cool Kids for whom Cool Stuff Should Happen ASAP
  • Cory let me read her awesome book Touched when I was a brand new newbie on AW. Turns out it's awesome and so is she.  
  • Deb keeps me in snark and snitches and demon exorcisms and Boomer Sooners.
  • Laura is an expat living in the UK who goes cool places (Istanbul, anyone?) and posts cool quilts.
  • I never know what Kathleen is going to post-- author interviews, funny videos, deep thoughts...
  • Race is delightfully random.
  • Vero posts tons of information about her current WIP and is just as sweet as they come.
  • Jamie doesn't have a blog linked but she does post on the OPWFT blog. She also has a Twitter feed and a wicked sense of humor.
  • Annie has some of funniest book titles ever.
  • Sage! Where's your blog?!?
Cool Kids who really are still Kids but are Cooler than I was as a Kid
  • Amna, Sarah, Karla, Emelia and Leasie are brave souls attempting school and writing at the same time. 
  • I *think* Margo and Laurie are teenagers. I'm afraid to be wrong. I'm pretty sure Margo could take me.
Cool Kids who don't post as much but I'm still pretty sure are Cool

ETA: Cool Kids with big freaking obvious links in their siggies that I somehow managed to miss

  • Verla Kay's Blue Boards also come highly recommended, but they don't run on VBulletin so I can't seem to navigate them.
  • If I missed you, I'm sorry!! It's nothing personal. Leave me a comment and I'll add you with an enormous mea culpa for being such a lameass.

November 12, 2009

Go Outside

Kate Hart
When I got back into writing and starting talking about it on this blog, I wasn't sure if I should keep the other categories-- crafts and sewing and playing in the dirt. But agent Rachelle Gardner says:
"...spend time everyday in activities that are productive, that keep you moving physically, but don't engage your brain."
And Stephen King says:
"It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around."

I say: Done. And my boys say: Woo hoo!

November 11, 2009

Peter Piper picks a peck of pickled okra

Kate Hart

My best friend makes killer pickled okra with habañeros and/or Thai chilies.But she lives very far away, and we had a ton of okra and peppers ourselves, so I bugged her until she sent me her recipe. My better half put his brewing expertise to work and voila: Spicy pickled okra.

Okra Pickles (hot pack, 4 pints)

3.5 lbs sm okra pods (bigger is ok, too, see below)
1/3 c canning salt (*sub: 1 c canning salt = 1 c + 2 T Morton kosher salt; purists will say it's not an ok substitute, but the chemistry in pickles is very forgiving, and I think it works really well.)
2 teaspoons dill seed
3 c water
3 c vinegar
4 cloves garlic (as desired)
hot ass peppers

"Trim okra (try not to cut the pods, but if a couple get poked, it's ok). Boil salt, dill, water and vinegar. Pack okra into hot jars with 1/4" headspace. Distribute garlic and peppers as desired. Ladle hot liquid over okra with 1/4" headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust two-piece caps. Process 15 min in BWB.

I did three pints and one quart (I think), b/c some of the okra I had were too long for the pint jars. The vinegar/water/salt ratio is what's important for the preserving process, so I'm pretty sure I just whipped up some extra liquid to get the quart jar to full size (that was cool, since you can't make adjustments on the fly like that with jams et al). I found that the headspace was really important in this one, since I'm pretty sure some of the liquid gets sucked into the okra, so if you start short on headspace, it ends up definitely too short by the time it's all done with. I remember reprocessing at least one of the jars.

Also, if you have both wide and regular neck jars, I strongly recommend using the regular neck jars for this kind of thing. It has no inherent benefit for the pickled okra, but it also doesn't impede access, and since having wide mouth jars does matter on other recipes, I've found pickles to be a great way to use up the reg necks. Just a thought.

Also also wik: my understanding of the lay of the preserving land is that if you're going to store something for more than about a month, it's highly advised to use a proper BWB, rather than using the "upside down hot jar" suction method. I'm not sure what your plans are, but I thought I'd mention it."

November 9, 2009

The horror... the horror

Kate Hart
I haven't read Stephen King's new book, which prompted one journalist to claim that King is the most underrated literary novelist of our time, but I did read King's On Writing this weekend. It was every bit as good as my writer friends had claimed, which was a relief, because I spent a good chunk of my teenage years reading and re-reading The Stand, and might have been crushed by a less-than-stellar book of advice.

But I wasn't, and I copied a ton of quotations from it for future inspiration, seeing as it was a library book and I didn't think they'd appreciate outright theft of the book.

The first thing I took away from this book: Spouses *can* be good beta readers. Should they be your only extra pair of eyes? Definitely not. But so much of the conventional advice says that spouses and friends can't be objective. Judging from the amount of scribbling my husband did on my 2nd draft, I'd beg to differ-- and so would Stephen King, whose wife is his "Constant Reader."
"Whenever I see a first novel dedicated to a wife (or husband), I think, There's someone who knows. Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference." (p. 74)
Should I get published some day, I doubt anyone would be surprised to see my husband's name front and center on the dedication page.

*pauses for audience to say "Awwww!"*

Ahem. So I won't post every quote I wrote down, but here are a few more: Two good descriptions of what has always grabbed me about King's writing:
"If you want to be a successful writer, you must be able to describe it [a scene or object], and in a way that will cause your reader to prickle in recognition."
"You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you."
And on writing groups, which King suggests you take with a grain of salt... or grit, if you will:
"It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster's shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters."

November 5, 2009

Monitor motivation

Kate Hart
Natalie Whipple has an "inspiration" section in her sidebar, including some words of encouragement from a fortune cookie. I happen to have a fortune taped to my monitor (right between the RGB codes for work's logo and the CNTL+ALT shortcuts for accent marks):

"A dream you have will come true."

Of course, that's BS unless you put some effort into it, so I also have these reminders:

The first I copied from a Facebook status update by the insanely talented Hudsons: "All vision and no action is a dream, while all action and no vision is a nightmare."

The second came from Natalie Goldberg's Wild Mind: "No one cares that much whether you write or not. You just have to do it."

Whether it's writing, another passion or just life in general, what are your motivational words of wisdom? 

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