Michele Regenold, Writing for Kids from the Boondocks

A blog about writing for children and the quest for publication.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Home stretch

June 13th is the deadline for my last packet of homework this semester, and for this last packet I am not procrastinating. I'm working steadily. My writing goal is a page a day. I usually surpass that.

I originally planned to send 10 pages of my novel and 10 pages of my non-fiction project, which I've been researching since February and have recently begun to draft. But my advisor asked me to keep going on the novel, so that's fine.

I'm not going to promise anything crazy, like my friend, Trent, a first-semester classmate from Iowa, and say I plan to complete a rough draft by such and such a date. Steady progress is what I really need, not some scary objective looming over me.

Last week I had to submit a piece to be workshopped during this summer's residency. I didn't want to send my YA mystery novel because that's what I had workshopped in January. I suppose I could have sent a couple of chapters from the middle, but that would be tough for people to deal with since they haven't read the beginning.

I briefly considered barreling through a draft of my non-fiction piece but decided that would be too much work. I also thought about sending a short story (YA) and a PB. Neither one is something I'm dying for feedback on.

So what I finally decided to send is a memoir about a pivotal time in my family. The six of us were packed into a 1978 Toyota Corolla station wagon, without air conditioning, driving from Iowa to New Mexico in August of 1981. But we didn't stop there. We kept going for a month, all the way to Alaska, then back to Nevada, then finally to Montana. It sucked.

I'm not sure what to do with this material. Convert it into a novel? Keep is as memoir?

Either way I figure there's lots of stuff for people to comment on (like too much telling--one of the dangers of me trying to write memoir). And it's possibly a good project to work on next semester along with my non-fiction historical piece.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Writing scholarship

Yesterday I received a letter with Mystery Writers of America as the return address. I'd applied for a scholarship in February. When I saw the envelope I thought they were sending me info about the winner. I couldn't have won.

The envelope had a window in it, and inside it kind of looked like a check. But I figured that was just my imagination and drove the eight miles home.

When I got home, I did my usual end of day stuff like feeding cats and changing clothes. Then, finally, I opened the letter.


What do you know? I won the scholarship. I danced around the kitchen, told my dog, cracked open a beer, and emailed just about everybody I know.

This is the first time I've gotten money for fiction. I had to submit three chapters and a synopsis, which I revised based on feedback from my first residency at Vermont College.

Very cool.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Good non-fiction reads

I'm working my way through the ALA Notable Children's Books List for 2006. I'm mainly a fiction reader, but since I'm also working on a non-fiction book, I thought I better start reading more of it.

I've read several non-fiction books from the list so far and have been impressed. I just finished Sneed B. Collard's The Prairie Builders: Reconstructing America's Lost Grasslands. This book is about a tall grass prairie in Iowa--the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge--which is pretty cool because I've actually been there, and reading this makes me want to go back.

I'm currently reading Karen Blumenthal's Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX, the Law That Changed the Future of Girls in America. I want to find out how she makes the history of a law compelling to read. So far I've discovered it's that she writes about the people who worked to pass legislation. Her style is very accessible and engaging. The stories she tells just infuriate me, however. The discrimination against girls and women was so ingrained in people's minds that it's a wonder this country has changed as much as it has.

I also read Susan Campbell Bartoletti's Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow. She tells several fascinating stories of kids who got involved and what happened to them. As a ninth grader I was fascinated with true stories about Jews in concentration camps and the things they did to survive that horrible experience.

One thing I've concluded from my non-fiction reading so far is that it can be just as compelling as fiction. It's a different reading experience and I'm glad I've finally exposed myself to it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


I don't get stressed out very easily. I go with the flow. But these packet deadlines are relentless!

Okay. This whole MFA thing is way more work than I expected. I have no idea how people with children handle it. I just have a husband. And pets. And a full-time job, but that's no biggie.

My main problem is procrastination. I take a breather after I send in a packet. And suddenly there are only two weeks left until the next packet's due.

Meanwhile I'm reading like a fiend--20 books a month--mostly novels. For packet four however, I'm going to stick in a whole bunch of picture books because I'm running out of time.

I admit that for my birthday (April 30), I gave myself permission to read a novel for adults. And then, because it was lying on the dining room table, another novel for adults. So I know I have only myself to blame. But Garnethill by Denise Mina was quite compelling, especially for a first novel. (It's a mystery set in Glasgow, Scotland and deals with sexual abuse and memories and therapy.)

So my next deadline is May 16. Hubby will be gone for a couple of days, so it'll be easier to get stuff done because he won't be hogging the computer.

I have one essay drafted. Need to draft one more. I was thinking about writing about story arc, which was discussed at the Iowa SCBWI conference last month. I might write about my own, in- progress, story arc and help myself figure out the major scenes.

I have to revise part of a chapter and finish several more new pages. I know where I'm going. Just have to keep plugging away.