Category Archives: Writing

And now painting

wherryAh, the clarity that comes from painting.  Imperfections unnoticed by eye or fingertip are revealed and I am once again thwarted by the sore fact that perfection is but a Siren’s song never to be attained this side of the veil.

That doesn’t, however, prevent me from continuing to throw myself against that particular rock. I can do nothing else. It is in my nature.

But after four coats of primer and three coats of white polyurethane, I must admit that my wherry looks pretty darn good.  I have two more coats of white to go, followed up by four or five coats of sea green on the top plank.  And then I get to flip it over and finish the inside with one more coat of epoxy and four or five coats of varnish.

Maybe an August launch?  That is one hope, anyway.

 

 

Abandoning “The Unexpected Adventure of Benjamin Goldberg”

Just finished an edit of my new YA novel about a Korean adoptee who decides to return to South Korea to look for his long lost twin brother.   I can honestly say to myself that the story is as good as I can get it.  I’ve spent hours and hours kneading sentences and reworking paragraphs, trying to get them to the point where they accurately describe the images I see, and capture the rhythm and candences of the voices I hear.

I’m not sure about other authors, but I never feel truly done with a story.  I just try to get them to the point where I can put them on the shelf without regret.  I’m at that point.  Voices from other stories are now demanding my attention.

New kid’s ebook, The Boy Who Hated Flowers, at Smashwords.com

I’ve always loved this story and it is now available for free at smashwords.com.

Back when I was sending it (and others) out to various publishers it was my first story  to elicit actual responses other than form rejections. I still remember how cool it was to have an editor at Holt say some nice things about story, encourage me to make a few changes, and then suggest that I resubmit it.  The other response was the complete opposite and came from an editor I can only imagine must have been having an incredibly shitty day–for some reason it was my turn to be punch bag.  This editor basically accused me of wasting my time and their time, and what was thinking writing a story for kids about death and dying, and didn’t I realize that my approach would be impossible to illustrate. . . blah. . .blah. . .blah. I remember wondering why he even bothered responding. He didn’t like it. I got it.  I wish now I’d kept the letter, but I didn’t.

What the icky editor didn’t get is that this story isn’t about death, but it’s about life and grieving and cherishing those we love even after they’re gone.

It’s also about me having a little fun with the names of wildflowers.

The Boy Who Hated Flowers is one of the most visual stories I have written.  Many of the scenes play out in my mind like fireworks on the fourth of July, particularly Peter’s night time encounter with all the wild flowers in the garden, as well as the opening scene, with Peter’s mother’s coffin surrounded by flowers.

Wouldn’t it be fun to see what a talented illustrator could do with this story?

Check out my new ebook, “The Last Eagle”

This story was inspired by the incredible escapades of the Polish submarine, Orzel and her crew, during the early days of World War II.   Read more here.  Buy the book here.

Back after a break and now living at Point No Point

It has been nice to be unplugged for a while.  No cell phone, off e-mail, Facebook and all the other media chatter places…

Since my last post, I’ve quit my job, my family has moved across the state, my son has enrolled in a new high school, I’ve finished my latest YA novel and started a new YA novel (loosely based on some aspects of my oldest son’s story — he’s a Korean adoptee), I’ve read a few dozen books, put a few hundred miles on my bike, hiked a couple of dozen miles with Sandy along nearby trails and beaches, reacquainted with some old friends, caught up on a huge sleep deficit, established a regular cocktail hour with Sandy and my father-in-law, repaired his tractor. . .well, you get the idea.

For the curious, Point No Point is located at the north tip of the Kitsap Peninsula, bounded by the waters of Admiralty Inlet to the north, Puget Sound to the east, and Hood Canal to the west.  We’re a 35 minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle.  This area is home to my wife, so she’s thrilled to be back.  I return with mixed feelings.  I was glad to turn over the symphony’s headaches  to someone with fresher legs, and certainly glad to be done with our house-of- perpetual-remodel in Walla Walla, but I love the wide open vistas found in Eastern Washington, the immense dome of sky, and its many empty places.  But the wet side of the state has its own beauty, and I’m looking forward to exploring some of its quiet, empty places, and catching a Mariner’s game with my sport nut, Luke, from time to time.  

So, stay tuned to learn more about the fate of my new YA novel, “The Girl Who was Dead.”  It is a departure from anything I’ve written previously. I have a terrific editor reviewing it right now; once I make corrections, I’ll send it off to my agent, Peter Rubie, and we’ll see what he thinks.  I’m cynically optimistic. A NY Times bestselling author friend of mine thinks it is terrific. I hope his opinion is shared by others.

3:15 isn’t just a time of day. . .

I’m writing for a really fun online project.  Here’s more info.

Takeaways from talking to 900 kids in three days…

I visited three middle schools in Pasco recently, talking about reading, writing, music and my books under the umbrella  of a presentation I call, “The 12 Life Lessons I’ve learned from Writing “Stringz” and “Seattle Blues.”

Middle aged white guy talking about reading of all things. That’s a formula for boring. Part of the problem — in addition to, well, “me” —  is the fact that not many kids read for pleasure anymore.  For boys, the need to be immersed in the mythic  has been co-opted by video games, so instead of watching movies, or reading even about great heroes past, present and fictionalized, they’re all playing first person shooter games.   Most anyway. So a presentation about “reading”  is a recipe for boring.

Strike one.

Girls seem more interested in reading. And the statistics support that.  But my books, unlike what’s popular right now, include no hot looking vampires, or hunking werewolves to add color to their imaginations.  No magic whatsoever in my stories.

Strike two.

So I decided to keep my presentation simple.  In addition to enjoying writing, I’ve also learned something from the process.   I haven’t gotten rich from my books, but I’ve managed to find a craft that is worthy of my time and devotion. And the hours I’ve spent agonizing over the cadence of the words in a paragraph, thinking about a character, have all made me a better person.  Enriched me in other ways. It isn’t the kind of value that Wall Street, or Madison Avenue might recognized, but I recognize it.   I’ve learned diligence, empathy, perserverance — I’ve learned how to deal with criticism and disappointment without having it harm my soul, I’ve learned to trust people I don’t really even know like editors and agents.

Strike. . . ?

I wondered how it would play.  I’m not sure I hit a home room, but I didn’t strike out.  After each presentation, I had teachers AND kids coming up to me, not only telling me how much they enjoyed my little talk, but telling me about their dreams, and thanking me for encouraging them to not give up.   One thank you note in particular from a 6th grade boy named Julio really touched my heart.   He said he was “proud” to shake my hand, thanked me for believing in him,  and he wanted me to know that he would continue to work on his stories .  He ended his note with a promise: “I won’t disappoint you, Mr. Wenberg.”

Wow.