Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Focusing on the Work

I’ve never been a very productive writer in July. Yes, I’m sure if I was on deadline for a book, I would meet my deadlines. But, as a month when I write a lot–July is not one of them.  Part of this is simply because I live in the Pacific Northwest and it’s extremely hard to be inside during the month of July. We have had an exceptionally hot summer and I have spent a lot of it at the beach–which usually is a chilly beach but this year, the Oregon Coast has been as warm as Southern California beaches. I would like to say I’ve read a lot of books, but I haven’t even done that. I’ve taken a lot of beach walks and spent a lot of time staring into the blue ocean waves.

But I don’t close up shop completely in July. I spend a lot of July teaching–both my teacher students at Seattle Pacific University and teen writers through the Loft Literary Center on-line classes for teens. I also continued to submit my completed books–there are four of them (a contemporary category romance, a memoir, a middle grade, and a chapter book). It’s summer, so the responses are very slow in coming and most will not arrive until fall.

But it is now August…and my teen class is over and it’s time to start looking at the writing again.

So what am I doing?

The first thing I’m working on is targeting submissions for my memoir, Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention. I have been “testing the waters” with that story for the last few months. I had a piece published in a literary journal for a community college on the Northern Oregon Coast and I did a reading of that piece in late May. The reading went well and I made a note that yes, people are very interested in this subject.

I’ve had responses come back from everywhere I sent to “test the waters.” I submitted to a couple agents who handle YA and a couple small University presses. The general response is: It’s not a YA book–it’s an adult memoir because it’s being told through my eyes and not the eyes of a teen. And it seems to need a publisher who has a bigger market than some of of the smaller presses. But overwhelmingly positive are the comments that this is an important story that needs to be told and does have an audience.

So, taking that response, I signed up for the Willamette Writer’s Conference in Portland Oregon coming up this weekend. It’s a pricey conference, so I’m just going for one day. But, the theme of the conference is Your Story and I thought it was important to go. I’m planning to pitch Kids in Orange to a couple editors at mid-sized houses and an agent who handles adult books. It’s a little scary because unlike my other books, this one is my story. It’s not a character having experiences, it’s me who is the character. But it is also the kid’s voices and they need to be heard, and it’s that need which pushes me forward.

So, this week, I’ll be working on crafting my pitch!

The writing this month is going to focus on working on a story I call The World is a Sniff. It’s a story about my dog Stormy and how he didn’t quite work out to be an agility dog, and he didn’t quite work out to be a therapy reading dog, but….the world is a sniff and all that training worked very well on the Oregon Coast beaches where dogs run off-leash. Although, after a scare up on Orcas Island last week where he ran into the woods and was gone for five hours, I may have to add another chapter………

So the writing doors will gradually be opening back up this month…

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New Poems on the Teen Poems Behind Bars Blog

The release forms for the teen’s poems in juvenile detention have been steadily rolling in. These poems are from the workshop I did in June. I  always love to see the release forms come back because unless we get these from parents and guardians, we are not allowed to publish their poems on the blog or elsewhere.

Please stop by and read our two newest poems:

One Last Chance

Fake Faces

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Real Life Setting Pictures for Cranberry Bay

I’ve been spending a little time on the Oregon Coast and took a day-trip to the town which inspired my setting for my contemporary romance series set in my fictional town, Cranberry Bay.  I thought it would be fun to share some of the pictures.

A festive July 4th scene outside the antique store which in the story is owned by Ivy and where the heroine and seventeen year old Maddie pick out vintage items for the cottage.

A festive July 4th scene outside the antique store which in the story is owned by Ivy and where the heroine and seventeen year old Maddie pick out vintage items for the cottage.

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The park overlooking the bay where the hero and heroine have their first kiss and a picnic lunch from the town bakery.

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The train depot where the hero's friend Josh runs the old-fashioned train and gives holiday train rides.

The train depot where the hero’s friend Josh runs the old-fashioned train and gives holiday train rides.

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The Creative Fabrics shop which in the story inspired the sewing shop where the heroine and her three friends meet to sew vintage aprons.

The Old Wheeler hotel which is the inspiration for the hotel which the character Gracie owns.

The Old Wheeler hotel which is the inspiration for the hotel which the character Gracie owns.

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Character Essence

Next week, I’ll start teaching my on-line teen class, “Oh What a Character,” through the Loft Literary Center.

One of the things which has helped me a great deal when crafting my characters is understanding Character Essence.

A good story will show both a character’s external journey and their internal one. The external journey is what the character will accomplish by the end of the story. For example, to win something, to stop someone or something, or to escape. The inner journey is how the character will transform by the end of the story. Screenwriter and writing teacher, Michael Hague says, “A character arc is the journey from living in fear to living courageously.” Others often refer to the character arc as the growth the protagonist undergoes during the story.

In a great post entitled, “Are These Characters the Perfect Match?” Jami Gold writes:

A character’s essence is what lies behind that armor, and it’s who they have the potential to become. The problem for them comes in that they think the mask is who they really are. They don’t think they need to change, especially because they’ve rationalized the belief they hold to be perfectly logical. Most of their struggle might even happen on a subconscious level.

But in a good romance (or story with a love interest), the perfect match for a character will be able to see behind that emotional armor. This creates conflict between who characters think they are and who they can be. Who they must become if they’re to find the courage to meet their longing or need.

Their internal conflict is choosing to move from safe-but-unfulfilled to terrified-but-fulfilled. Only then can they be with the other character who will meet their needs.

In order to figure out this inner plot, there are some questions you can ask yourself:

What does the character long for or need in the story?

What is the past wound or hurt that is the current unhealed source of pain?

What is the character’s beliefs due to the wound? How do these beliefs shape their worldview?

What terrifies the character emotionally? Some form of facing the wound again.

What is the false self the character has created that shields them from the wound?

What lies under all the emotional armor? The true self?

You can read more about each of these stages here.

If you’d like a handy little chart to work with for your story, you can find that here.

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New Poems Posted on Teen Poems Behind Bars

We have some new poems on the Denney Juvenile Justice Center blog, Teen Poems Behind Bars.

These are from the workshop I did at the beginning of June with the kids. One of the things I noticed when posting the poems is how well they capture the writers’ voices. When I publish the poetry, whether on the blog or in the poetry books, I print them as the kids wrote them. In some cases, I do have to edit a word or two if I can’t read their handwriting or if it simply does not make sense and it seems a word is out of place. But the goal of the poetry is to stay true to the teen’s voices and experiences.

A big shout-out to the teens who worked so hard in the workshop and were willing to write honestly about their lives.

We hope you enjoy these poems:

How? Because…

Resist Temptation

Poetic Justice

Locked Up

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Doorway Moments

Last week, I taught a poetry workshop at Denney Juvenile Justice Center. I’ll be posting some of the poems on the teen’s blog over the next few weeks as the release forms roll in.

One of the things we talk about in the poetry workshop are doorway moments. There is an exercise I do with both the kids in detention and kids in school visits where I hand out pictures of doors and we write about doorway moments in our lives or the lives of our characters. The doorway pictures are taken from the book, Doors of the World.

Some of the things we include in our writing include:

How the character feels when approaching the door. Are they nervous? Excited? Scared? Happy?

The physical appearance of the door including aspects of the setting around the door–weather, sounds, sights, textures,

The biggest thing I ask the teens to answer is: Does your character open that door and walk through or do they turn away? Both options can lead to a bigger story.

In my own young adult romance, WEAVING MAGIC, I included a doorway moment here:

“You left this,” Christopher held up my silver watch bracelet, “in the truck.”

Automatically, my hand flew to my bare wrist. My watch bracelet. How could I not have noticed it was gone? Something inside me felt terrible. My chest contracted and everything around me got a little fuzzy before I swallowed hard and reached out to take the bracelet. My fingers brushed over Christopher’s long, slender ones.

“Let me get that.” Christopher gently took my left arm. When his fingers touched my wrist, my insides tingled and the warmth spread through me.

Above us, a wind chime tinkled in a small gust of wind. I caught my breath as the musical notes floated across the porch.

A memory played in the corners of my mind. It was another good day and Mom stood on a small step stool. She hung the chime on the small white eye-hook. The chime caught the wind, and Mom pulled me close to her. “It’s beautiful,” she said. “Just like you.” I snuggled closer to her. I wanted to believe her words. But it was hard at age twelve; with my long, spindly legs, and flat chest, I didn’t feel beautiful. Not like Mom, with her round face, dark sparkling eyes, and her wonderful laugh. When she laughed it always sounded like her own musical chimes.

Christopher placed the bracelet on my arm, and a small breeze whispered through the porch and across my face. Christopher’s eyes met mine, and his fingers lightly caressed my hand. The world seemed to stand still for just a minute. A minute that held the two of us captured in a small bubble which seemed like it might be one of those quantum shifts of time—until a large flock of Canada geese, flying overhead, honked loudly.

“Would you like to come inside?” I leaned against the door for balance. It was funny how just those simple words made me feel so out of balance.

You can read more of WEAVING MAGIC here

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STAINED GLASS SUMMER Free this Weekend

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STAINED GLASS SUMMER is a free ebook this weekend. It’s a great summer story for kids ages 8-12! If you know of a child who is looking for something to read on this long holiday weekend, now is a great time to pick up a copy

You can get the free ebook on Amazon here.

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WEAVING MAGIC FREE This Weekend

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If you haven’t picked up a copy of WEAVING MAGIC, the ebook is free on Amazon this weekend. You can find WEAVING MAGIC here.

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Weaving Magic Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Weaving Magic by Mindy Hardwick

Weaving Magic

by Mindy Hardwick

Giveaway ends May 20, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

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Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day

It’s Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day and I’m participating with this great artist tool belt. (It can also be used as a light gardening tool belt).

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To enter please leave me a comment below telling me something you like to do in the garden. (U.S. addresses only.)

You can find all the handmade goods here.

And you can find all the sewing and craft supplies here.

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