Writing My Life

Now and Then


Writing for Tweeners – another contest entry

I can’t remember which “Project Writeway” entry this was, but contest sponsors required that we write a 400-word snippet aimed for Middle Grade readers. The Middle Grade audience ranges  from 10 to 13 years-old or thereabout.  Brandon Mull’s FABLEHAVEN series,  for instance, serve as examples of books that resonate with this age group. 

The important factor for this phase of the contest was to sound like a kid – NOT an adult! That’s a huge key to success for appealing to “tweeners.” So, did I pull it off? 

Wilson  Spaulding

“What the crap?” I didn’t think I said that out loud, but I did, and my teacher sent me her worst crusty. That’s bad because her regular face would scare Darth Sidious.

“I said that you, Wilson Spaulding, will represent our class in the basketball sixth-grade shoot-out.”

“Are you kiddin’ me?” I almost screamed my piss-off. She walked – no, she charged at me like a rogue droid bent on destruction. I wanted to get the heck out of there. (I would say “hell,” but Mom might read this.) Instead, I crossed my arms, squinted my eyes, and stuck out my chin like looks could really kill – or at least stop – Mrs. Hutt, wife of Jabba.

The menace grabbed my T-shirt sleeve and dragged me to the hall. I thought of warning her about student abuse or becoming Bantha fodder, but the Force forced me to shut my mouth.

“Now listen here,” she said as she stood me against the lockers. “You will not act out in this class!”

“Your mind tricks will not work on me.”

Mrs. Hutt sighed, more ticked off than ever. Her breath – a coffee-cigarette combo – grossed me out, and I waved my hand like a fan to keep me from passing out.

She didn’t think it was funny. Instead she pushed me towards the gym where I saw London Beitia talking to the other sixth-grade teacher. (And  I didn’t think things could get freakin’ worse.)

I was going to lose to a girl. No argument there. London was a really awesome basketball player.

I was going to lose to the cutest and tallest girl in the whole school. There she was looking better than Princess Leia ever could in a pink basket ball jersey,  shorts, and sparkly basketball shoes!

I just stood there – all five-foot-two of me – wearing my favorite and holey Darth Maul t-shirt and Tough-skin jeans that stopped before they got to my ankles.

Obi-wan, where are you when I need you?

I barely heard the principal tell us that the game was HORSE before he flipped a coin to see who would go first. London called “heads,” but the quarter landed on “tails.”

This is good. Going for the impossible, I turned my back to the basket, threw up the ball … and heard a SWISH! Cheers erupted from the Ewoks who  filled the gym, and London flashed a big smile.



… the time to hesitate is through …

Ever since moving back to Utah some 6 years ago, I have wanted to attend the Writers and Illustrators for Young Readers Workshop (WIFYR). Formerly held at Brigham Young University, the conference always collided with the Secondary Literacy Institute that I had to attend because of my job. Well, this year, WIFYR was relocated to Waterford, a private school in Sandy, UT, and the Literacy Institute started a week later than it did in year’s past. All this “backstory” is to tell you, I am attending this year BECAUSE “the time to hesitate is through.” Jim Morrison AND my son told me that.

Sooooooooo this is how my first day went – typical Renae. Sigh.

WIFYR – Day 1: Well, I did it: Walked into the auditorium laden with huge, ugly computer bag, Walmart reusable bag filled with books, lunch, and soda, AND my purse to envy. Searching for a seat in the quarter-filled auditorium, I wandered across the front to the empty seats on the south side. Rounding the corner, I TRIPPED over who-knows-what. The carpet? The slight incline? My own 2 feet?

Of course, I SPRAWLED, along with the computer bag, grocery sack, and cute green purse. Books and lunch slid out of the Walmart bag and people came rushing. Well, 2 concerned folk ran to my aid, INCLUDING Brandon Mull. Yes, the Fablehaven author came to my rescue, and all I could say was “I’m all right. I do this all the time.”

Brandon’s reply: “Oh, a grand entrance, huh?” Yeah, I guess you could call it that, but I catalog it as just plain CLUMSY!

Later that morning: My first class with Cherie and Rick, authors extrodinaire, was fun and enlightening. The most rewarding writing segment ignited a plot idea for the story idea I’ve been pondering. YaY.

Afternoon: Great breakout sessions with Alane Ferguson, Young Adult mystery writer – among other things – who talked about “finding your character’s voice.” Lots of good ideas, tips, warnings, etc. (She doesn’t exactly admire Stephanie Meyer’s lack of the writer’s craft.)

And the second session with Brandon Mull was just as great as he shared ideas about strengthing the story by developing 5 essential elements. Brandon was entertaining and honest. Maybe too honest. Upon leaving this breakout session, I realized I’ll be lucky to publish ANYTHING EVER! And luck just does not follow me. Read on.

Late afternoon: Can’t find my keys. Again. I finally remember that I shoved them into the book bag when I sprawled upon the auditorium floor. Of course, the book bag is locked in the morning’s classroom. I call for help. Twenty to thirty minutes later, I meet up with Carlos who VERY KINDLY opens the door for me. I find the keys. Whew!

After 5:00: I head for my PT Cruiser, only to find that the keyless entry won’t work. Why? Because the *#$&% battery is D.E.A.D. Seriously. I’m NOT kidding. It is DEAD! Being an old school sexist, I start looking for MEN with JUMPER CABLES to help me jump start the problem car. Three men later, I get help from Carrie – yes, young, capable, “I-am woman-hear-me-roar,” Carrie. She has jumper cables AND know-how!

A few minutes and a little maneuvering later, the car turns over; I drive from Sandy to the western desert where I live, stopping off to check the battery life. The news: It’s a good battery. What could this mean? A dying alternator, perhaps? OH NO!

And that, my friends, was day 1. (Although I am leaving out the spilled coke and over-flowing toilet episodes.)