Tag Archives: Kwizera

Diving back into the MG pool

After about two years, I have dug an old middle grade manuscript out of the trunk in the basement where I keep such things.  (Okay, not really, it was just in a folder on my computer.)

While awaiting feedback on Sophie, I first plotted out Kwizera’s sequel.  It will focus on Odette, Cecile’s Tutsi friend who went to Kigali to seek her fortune in the arms of foreign men.  It’s a rough plot, without all the usual twists and turns, subplots and plot layers.  For now.  At the moment I’m hung up on finding the perfect Rwandan name for her.

So, now I’ve moved on to a new/old project.  Tzohar is a middle grade adventure about the biblical “light of the world” that was created when those famous words were “spoken”:  Let there be light.  I have a completed draft, but I put it aside a few years ago to concentrate on writing Kwizera.  So now I will revise it and polish it until it’s glossy enough to send to agents.

Do you have any manuscripts shelved you wish you had time (or energy or inclination) to revive?  What is stopping you?  What keeps your mind turning around it?



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Now is the time

Following up on last week’s motto, I will share some of my latest writing-related good news. Please join in the crowfest – share whatever is making you smile today, writing-related or not.

One set of short stories is complete and has now been published as an ebook. Working with an editor taught me a lot. I have started writing a new collection of stories set in Paris. It has been a lot of fun to write something so different (short stories for young readers instead of novels for teens), yet so familiar (my favorite exotic settings).

I have finished revising Kwizera and look forward to querying agents in the near future, although perhaps not until after the Winter SCBWI conference. And I’m happy to announce that my logline and 250-word excerpt were chosen to be part of the MSFV Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction next week.

Now I’m getting antsy to get back to Sophie. That manuscript has been sitting since June or July and my revising fingers are getting twitchy. I can’t wait to dig into it again!

Okay, your turn. Share some good news in the comments. Typing congrats will help my twitchy fingers!


Filed under Getting Published, writing


I’m sure my regular readers will be happy to know that I am no longer overwhelmed. 

It would seem that I do not YET have the following to do a pitchfest, as attempted last week.  That’s okay.  My ever-faithful non-writer friends and family were probably bored anyway.  This week, the usual me is back.

An update:

Surprise party for Mom:  check.

Halloween costumes appropriately sewed and decorated:  check.

First collection of short stories written and sent to epublisher:  check.

Latest draft of Kwizera revised, steeping and sent out to beta readers:  check.

First story in new short story collection drafted:  check.

Other stories plotted to at least some degree:  check.

Thanksgiving menu planned:  um…not yet.

Chanukah gifts purchased:  some.

Okay, I can take normal breaths again.

It would be easy to call last week’s pitchfest a failure.  But I will resist the temptation to wallow in my unknownness.  The road to publication is long and winding – no surprise there.  Along the way I pick up new ideas.  Some work, some might work someday, some don’t.  Along the way I pick up new friends.  I hope we will stick by each other through the many bumps, dips, valleys and potholes.

If you’re a new follower – welcome!  I hope you will learn something from my journey.  And maybe you can teach me something, too.

To my old followers (hmm, I don’t really mean to call you old.  Seasoned?  Mature?  Loyal?) – thanks for riding with me.


Filed under The rest of my life

Logline Blogfest!

This week I’m doing something different – I’m participating in a Logline Blogfest. I will post my logline for my YA novel, Kwizera Means Hope, below and people will comment on it to help me make it better. And I will comment on the loglines of others.

Click here to read all about it and to get the links to the other participating blogs. Thanks to Steena Holmes of Chocolate Reality for getting us started!  Thanks to author Michelle McLean for generously offering to critique the winner!

For anyone new to this, a logline is a 1 or 2 sentence description of a novel that gives you the basics and, hopefully, a taste for more.  It should give us info on the main character, the inciting event, the conflict, the goal of the MC and the stakes.

Okay, here is the original:

After 16 year old Cecile Kwizera survived the Rwandan genocide, she had to give up her dream of becoming a nurse in order to take care of her family. And she thinks that if she can’t earn enough money for food and school fees, she’ll never break free from the guilt that steals her appetite, keeps her awake at night, and threatens her life.

Here is a revised one based on comments (as of 7:30 pm EDT 11/1):

Having survived the Rwandan genocide, 16 year old Cecile Kwizera now suffers from survivor’s guilt that steals her appetite and keeps her awake at night. If she can’t overcome the symptoms and keep her job, she won’t be able to feed her family or pay her sisters’ school fees, let alone save enough money to go back to school and eventually become a nurse.

Here is the third version:

Having survived the Rwandan genocide in which her father and many Tutsi schoolmates died, 16 year old Cecile Kwizera, a Hutu, now suffers from survivor’s guilt that affects every aspect of her life. If she can’t overcome the symptoms and keep her job, she won’t be able to protect and provide the basic necessities for her family, let alone save enough money to go back to school and eventually fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse.

Here is the latest version:

Having survived the Rwandan genocide in which her father and many schoolmates died, guilt now causes sixteen-year-old Cecile Kwizera loss of appetite, migraines, and nightmares. If she can’t overcome the symptoms, she won’t be able to keep her housekeeping job with a humanitarian organization, which allows her to provide for her family, let alone save enough money to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse.

And thanks again to Steena, Michelle, all the participating writers, and all of our awesome readers/commenters!


Filed under Getting Published, writing

Under Pressure

I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed for the past week or so.  Halloween becomes more and more complicated each year.  In addition to shopping for some of the pieces to my boys’ costumes, I also ended up making a cowboy vest and a small messenger bag – both out of felt.  I don’t consider myself crafty.  I don’t have a sewing machine and only know the absolute basics of hand-sewing. 

So…I did okay.  My boys are happy and they look adorable.  Phew.  Check Halloween costumes off the list.

It’s time to do the paperwork for my next afterschool French class.  A good number of kids have registered (yeah!).  Lesson plans await.  Is this difficult?  No.  Does it take time?  Yes.  Sigh. 

My mother is about to turn a certain age.  I will not say more than that for fear of her wrath.

We’re hosting Thanksgiving this year.  Enough said.

Chanukah will be early this year.  Like, the Wednesday after Thanksgiving early.  Oy vey.

Then there’s Kwizera.  Why do I feel so much pressure to finish revising this novel?  I have no deadline.  No one is waiting with bated breath to read it (other than my ever-loyal and wonderful friends and family).  And there is so much else to do.

But I know that I will never realize my dream of getting Kwizera published if I don’t finish the dang thing first.

So there it is.  The pressure I put on myself. 

And I keep the pressure on by arranging deadlines with critique partners, worrying about changes to the manuscript, and constantly thinking about various aspects of the story.  Is the beginning good enough or should the story begin earlier, or later?  Is the ending satisfying?  Does it provide proper closure?  Is enough going on in the middle?  Is the main character active (she drives her story) or passive (the story happens to her)?  Am I using cliched language?  Is there enough emotional impact?

Are you dizzy yet?  I am.  I think I’ll go get some M&Ms – the revising writer’s secret weapon.

So…Happy Halloween!

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Filed under The rest of my life

Shh…a secret

Time to come clean.  I’ve been cheating…on YA writing.  Lately, I’ve been working on short stories for young kids.  I needed a break.  A fresh way to look at my work.  And, in a weird way, it all connects.

You see, I’m writing stories about African savannah animals, like those I saw when I visited the Serengeti and the Masai Mara when I lived in Rwanda.  (And in case you don’t remember, or are new to the blog, the YA novel I’m revising takes place in Rwanda.)  I guess I’m still fascinated by elephants, giraffes, hippos and wildebeest.  And I want to share that fascination with kids.

Who doesn’t love safari animals, right?

Short stories are quite a different thing than a novel.  Okay, length obviously.  But more than that.  Sure, I still need a story problem, layered characters, a goal and obstacles to achieving that goal.  But I don’t need sub-plots, or plot layers, or as many obstacles as in a novel.  And the characters don’t have to be as deep.  They just have to be likeable and/or relatable to young children.

I think I’ve accomplished that.  And given a taste of the wondrous land that is the East African savannah. 

Well, we’ll see how it goes.  We’ll see if I have any better luck as a short story writer than as a YA novel writer.  Not that I’m giving up on Kwizera (or Sophie).  I’m still revising, and reading, and getting critiques.  I’m getting there.

I’m getting there.


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A peek into the Kwizera revision

I normally write on the computer and do most of my revisions on the computer.  But every so often in the process I decide I need a hard copy to read and write on.  During our trip to Austin last month, you may remember, Dear Reader, I had some thoughts for further changes.  I made those changes in the computer and then printed out a hard copy and read it through.  Then something else took my attention – short stories, more on that later – and I took a three-week break from Kwizera.  Last week I read through it again and wrote down more details in certain places, and moved some things around.

Here is what some of the pages look like now:

On the page on the left I decided that a certain plot event happens too soon and that we haven’t seen for ourselves certain character traits mentioned elsewhere.  So I decided to add a new scene and made notes about what should happen in that scene.  The big line shows where I decided to insert the new scene.  In the right corner I circled the number of the page where I think some details can be taken from and put in this new scene.

Here is a close-up of the two pages from the right of the image above:

On the left are my attempts to make the words flow better and for the dialogue to sound less stilted (a criticism I received from an awesome editor at a major publishing house last fall).  I normally am very good at dialogue (unlike description), but the stilting results from me trying to make the dialogue sound like I remember my African colleagues speaking.  However, these characters are rarely speaking English.

On the right is a page of mostly backstory.  If you are a writer, you understand why that page is so marked up.  Backstory is the bane of the novelist.  It’s necessary, but it tends to bog down the narrative, especially if it happens too soon in the story.  So here you can see that big chunks are being taken out (those curlicue marks).  I have found better ways to convey the information I’m taking out – like in action and dialogue.

All that remains now is for me to convert all the handwritten notes likes these onto the computer – a rather slow and tedious process, unfortunately.  That is taking me longer than I thought it would, partially because I’m still working on short stories (but also the tedium is a reason I’m still working on short stories).

Once those notes are converted, I will have a brand spanking new draft of Kwizera to pass around to my beta readers.  Phew!

So there is a peek into my process.  What do you do that’s similar or different?  If you aren’t a writer, did you learn something about me or writing that you’d like to share?  To the comments with you!

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