Thanking Skyanne, Developing The Story, Traviata, and Waning August Days

Thanks to everyone who came to the PAYA Festival on Saturday. It was great seeing you there and talking to everybody. Thanks especially to Skyanne Fisher, the mastermind behind the whole thing. Skyanne is a genius, and I’m not kidding!

During the morning workshop, a huge panel of writers gave mini-speeches on different aspects of writing. Mine was on the development of the story, and I include it below. Hope it’s helpful!

Five minute talk on development of the story. 

  1. Start your story. It doesn’t matter which words you use, just start. You can always come back later and change what you wrote. Guaranteed that you will, in fact. But don’t worry about that now. Throw whatever paint you want on the white canvas to get going. Then it’s not white anymore. Be courageous. You’re stronger than the blankness.
  2. Write whatever is in your head. You cannot make a mistake here. Whatever you write has to be okay because it is you writing it. The idea of your story determines what is in the ‘story room’.
  3. Don’t censor, don’t edit. Let the story flow. If you think of a girl with hair of three different shades and a tattoo of a rose on her chin, then put that down. She might be very important to the story. If you don’t put it down, you will find that sensation of a sock being stuck down your throat. Don’t stifle your thoughts no matter how weird they might be. Weird is good! If you stifle one thought, you stifle them all.
  4. Follow your story, your character, around as though you are following a three-year-old child around a backyard. You follow, but don’t get in the way. If that three-year-old wants to eat a feather, let him. If he’s heading into the poison ivy, let him go there. No protecting allowed!
  5. Keep following the three-year-old, and if it seems that he’s abandoned you, look around your story room, what do you see? An emptiness? Then describe the empty room. What’s it feel like in there? What’s it smell like? Cedar, mildew? Is there blood on the floor or is it a forgotten silk ribbon? What’s behind the old couch? A prop you find in this room will probably propel you on to the next thing you need to write. Remember, everything in the ‘story room’ belongs in your story. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be there. Even the emptiest story room has something in it. Do you have the guts to write what’s there?
  6. As long as you see stuff, write it and say yes! Yes! It might not be what you thought you were going to write about when you sat down, but it’s what the story demands. And the more you write, the more you’ll see. You’ll be glad you let the story tell itself.
  7. You’ll know when you get to the end of your first draft.
  8. You’ve gotten there? That’s another five minute talk.

I also made a couple of comments on the importance of rest and nutrition. If you aren’t rested, those words just won’t flow the way they will if you are. So get your sleep!

I’m back to working on my Traviata story. The full first draft is peeking over the horizon. Maybe I’ll have it soon.

And I’m enjoying the last couple days of August. Open windows, cricket songs, summer breezes.  I love August! I hope your’s is waning as beautifully as mine is.


By authorsusanshaw

Book signings, past and future, and teleconferences, to say nothing of zucchinis

Thanks to everybody who attended yesterday’s book signing at Chester County Books and Music. It was fun connecting and reconnecting with such authors as Jen Bryant, KM Walton, Debbie Dadey, Ruth Zavitsanos, Shannon Wiersbitzky, and Kathye Fetsko Petrie. A good crowd, and if you attended, you got to talk with them, too. Wasn’t that great? The highest point for me out of a number of high points was the moment a certain young man grabbed a copy of ONE OF THE SURVIVORS off my table, turned to the front of the store while waving the book well over his head, and shouted, “This one!”

Yay for certain young men! Yay!

KM Walton, otherwise known as Kate, tells me she will be signing books, same as yours truly, at the PAYA event next Saturday, August 25th, so if you’re looking for her or me or a good number of other YA authors, then come to that and look for us. That signing will be at the PA leadership Charter School Advanced Ideas Center, 1585 Paoli Pike, West Chester, PA, starting at noon. For more information on that and the writing and librarian workshops just prior to the signings, go to or

Come! You will be welcomed with open arms!

I want to make everyone aware of two teleconference presentations I will be giving for Writing For Children Live, hosted by Kim Taylor-DiLeva. The first presentation, The Writing Passion, will be November 14th, 7-8:30 EST, and second, Developing The Story, will be April 17, 7-8:30. After both presentations, callers may ask me questions. Afterwards, CDs of the teleconference will be available for purchase through
Other authors, including Marion Dane Bauer, of Newbery Honor book ON MY HONOR fame, will be presenting for this organization on other days. Participate in all!
On the writing front, I continue to write my Traviata story and hope that it grows and grows like some zucchinis I picked this morning. Hope my friends all like zucchini bread!
Best and love to all–
By authorsusanshaw

Book Signings, A Writing Workshop in August.

 I want to let everybody know about a couple of upcoming events. 

First is the mass book signing at Chester County Books, 975 Paoli Pike, West Chester, PA. That’s from 2-5 on August 18th. Look on the bookstore’s website,, to know who else is signing. Lots of opportunity there for you! I’ll be signing copies of TUNNEL VISION and my other titles.

The second event will be held August 25th. This will be the 2012 PAYA Book Festival at the PA leadership Charter School Advanced Ideas Center, 1585 Paoli Pike, West Chester, PA. A writing workshop begins at 10. I will be talking about developing the story, and other authors will be discussing other aspects of writing. At 11, we’ll break into smaller groups for critique sessions. And at 12, the book signings will begin.  I will be signing copies of TUNNEL VISION plus my other titles. There is a fee for the workshop but not for the signing. For more  information, go to

Come! Meet me and a bunch of other writers at these events. 

See ya there!

By authorsusanshaw