Tag Archives: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Book Giveaway Winners Announced!


Thanks to the kind and generous author Catherine Ryan Hyde, I get to announce SIX giveaway winners today!  Woo hoo!  Ms. Hyde has signed all six of these hardcover books, and I sincerely thank her for such a generous gift to my blog and to my readers!  In this case talent and generosity go hand in hand.

Once again, here are the book titles:

Chasing Windmills
Electric God
Walter’s Purple Heart
Funerals for Horses
Love in the Present Tense
Earthquake Weather (short story collection)

And here are the six giveaway winners:
K. Regier
D. Chen
T. Laycook
D. Lawyer
B. Nielsen
J. Santini

Congratulations to those who’ve won!  I’ll be contacting you today via email to get your mailing addresses.

I hope you’re all having a great week thus far, dear readers.  Please keep an eye out for details about my next giveaway, which will be revealed in the next week or two.  Coming this Thursday: a post on beautiful Cambria, California!

Warm regards,

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April Giveaway: 6 books by award-winning author Catherine Ryan Hyde!


I had the pleasure of meeting Catherine Ryan Hyde in person last week.  You know, the incredibly talented author who’s written and published 15 books, including the world-changing novel Pay It Forward.  I became friends with Catherine through Twitter and Facebook, and interviewed her on the topic of rewriting and draft revision.  (You can read that interview here.)  Catherine lives in Cambria, CA, and since I was in Cambria last week, I suggest a meet up.  It was wonderful to meet her – and her canine sidekick, Ella – in person!

Literary Goodies for My Readers!

Catherine was kind enough to give me copies of some of her books for a giveaway here on my blog.  Thank you, Catherine!  These are the titles included in the giveaway:

Chasing Windmills
Electric God
Walter’s Purple Heart
Funerals for Horses
Love in the Present Tense
Earthquake Weather
(short story collection)

All six of these hardcover books have been signed by Catherine Ryan Hyde – even better!


Giveaway Details – How to Enter


Three books will be given away to folks on my blog’s subscriber list, so please subscribe today if you’re not already signed up!  It’s quick and easy to subscribe – and you’ll be eligible for all my future subscriber-only drawings.

The other three books will be given to folks who email me via my website’s contact page.  That means that folks following my blog via an RSS reader instead of a subscription can get in on the fun too, as well as folks who follow me on Twitter or just happen to stumble upon my site.

It also means that folks who subscribe AND send me an email via the contact page have an even better chance of winning!  One email/contact page entry per person, please.  Multiple contact page entries won’t increase your odds of winning – only the combination of an active subscription and one contact page entry will.

The drawing is on April 26th!

I’ll be drawing six names on Tuesday, April 26, 2011, so be sure to enter by Monday April 25, 2011.  Good luck, everyone!

Big thanks – again – to Catherine Ryan Hyde.  It was a pleasure to meet you in person, and it’s such a treat to be able to share these books with my readers!

Warm regards,

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Let the Novel Rewriting Begin!


As many of you know, I wrote a novel last November when I took part in National Novel Writing Month – also known as NaNoWriMo.  I wrote over 50,000 words in a month, and though I’m glad that I was able to get such a big chunk written, I’m nowhere near being done.  I’ve printed out my (very rough) first draft, hole-punched it, and put it into a binder.  Armed with a red pen, a highlighter and some repositionable flags, it’s time to begin phase two of my work.

Yep, I’m Nervous

I’m sure it’s just a mild case of the jitters because I’m facing the unknown, but this looming novel rewrite is a bit scary.  I’ve done plenty of rewriting in my life, but never on a novel.  For example, I revised the collection of illustrated short stories I created, but short stories are, well, shorter!  They’re self-contained, and though my stories are linked by the illustrations, they each stand alone.  Oh well, it’s time to summon my courage and forge on ahead.

What I’m Looking For

In this first run through I hope to find the “obviously wrongs” – things like missing words, wrong spellings (their/there/they’re) and awkward phrasings.  I also hope to identify any inconsistencies, implausibilities, and things that need more fleshing out and more detail.  I know there will be quite a bit of the latter, and welcome the chance to increase my word count because the publishing world is allegedly partial to works of approximately 75,000 words.

My Timeline and Goal

My goal is to finish rewriting this novel by the end of 2011 and start the query process in early 2012.  Sooner would be better, of course, but I know better than to submit work before it’s ready.  The industry research I’ve done in the last year relayed that message again and again.  Don’t query before your manuscript is actually complete (i.e. don’t query when you’re still writing your first draft!), and don’t count on an agent or editor to recognize your “diamond in the rough”, sign you, and then clean your work up for you.  Author Catherine Ryan Hyde stated that “neatness does count” in our interview earlier this month, and she’s right.  So I’ll devote ample time and effort to my story in hopes of seeing it on a bookstore’s shelf one day.

Note(s) to self:

Remember the wise words of Stephen Kaggwa.  ”Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.”
The words of Lao Tzu are also apropos.  “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
Oh, and don’t forget this gem by John Irving. “Half my life (as a writer) is an act of revision.”

Rewriting officially begins this week.  Wish me luck!

Warm regards,

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Author Interview: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Catherine Ryan Hyde works magic with words.  Not only does she conjure them, she arranges them in a way that draws you into a story and keeps you there long after the last word of the story has been read.  It’s so much more than a mastery of words, though.  Ms. Hyde’s plots draw you through the pages, and her characters ring true.  The intricacies of human emotion are putty in her hands.

I first experienced her literary dexterity when read the novel Love in the Present Tense, which I happened to pull off the shelf at my local library.  I soon realized she’d also written the book Pay It Forward, upon which the movie was based, and read that as well.  Vastly different from the movie, I enjoyed this book immensely, too.  Appreciative of the wonderful stories she’d created, I emailed Ms. Hyde to thank her, and found her to be very humble and kind in her response despite her success.

Ms. Hyde has had 50+ short stories and 13 novels published, in addition to a collection of short stories, and has won numerous awards along the way. Her most recent novels are Second Hand Heart (UK) and Jumpstart the World, and though Jumpstart the World is Young Adult fiction the story crosses boundaries of both age and gender.  I recently read Jumpstart the World, and loved it.  I can’t wait to read Second Hand Heart!

I “reconnected” with Ms. Hyde this fall when I started researching blogs of writers and artists I respected in order to determine how I might proceed with my own blog. Once I started my blog and accepted the need for a blog-related Twitter account, I started following Ms. Hyde on Twitter.  I’ve since learned that she’s tucked away in one of my favorite coastal towns in California, Cambria, and was delighted to exchange some tweets with Ms. Hyde regarding her home town.

Just beginning the rewrite of my first novel, I’m very curious about the rewriting methods of successful novelists.  I asked Ms. Hyde if she’d answer some of my rewriting questions, and she graciously accepted.  So, without further ado, here is my interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Thank you for your time, and for sharing information about your rewrite process.  How soon after you finish a first draft do you begin your rewrite?



Let me start by saying that my method of revision is a little different.  And possibly not advisable for someone just starting out.  Then again, it may work fine for others, provided you can avoid the trap of getting stuck on revisions to the detriment of moving forward.

Here’s how I do it: I start the draft, and move forward for as long as I can before getting stuck.  By stuck, I’m not talking about full-on writer’s block.  Just that inevitable low wall that tells you the next chapter needs flesh, details, life that haven’t yet arrived.

At that point, I go back and start cleaning and polishing the part of the draft I’ve already written.  And I just keep working on it until I’m able to move forward again.

This works well for me, because I find I turn my attention away from a first draft at my own peril.  Not that I can’t get back in again.  Just that the longer I wait, the further away I go, the harder it is to gear myself back into the work.  When I look away, the ideas stop coming.  So revising and polishing earlier chapters is a perfect way to keep my head in the work.

By the time I finish the draft, the first three-quarters are pretty darn well squeaky-clean.  I don’t stop at that point.  I just keep cleaning and polishing until I feel I have something worth showing.

If I have time to allow myself the luxury, I’ll set it down for a month or two and come back at it with fresh eyes.  But often by the time I finish the draft, it’s been so long since I’ve reread the beginning that I can see it with a whole new perspective.


What does your first rewrite or run through consist of?  Please give us an overview of your process.


It’s fairly unstructured and something I do by feel.  I think this was less true when I was newer to novel writing, but now almost every run-through consists of simply rereading the work, with my “feelers” at the ready for any gnawing sense that something is off.  Usually I find smaller, more sentence-level issues.

If there’s anything bigger and more substantive, it tends to present itself to me on a hike, in the bathtub, or as I’m waiting to fall asleep at night.

I realize this is not a very helpful how-to, but I hope it’s encouraging to hear that, with continued experience, revision gets more instinctive.


And the second rewrite? Is it more of the same?


I think each time I hone it down a bit, so that what I find is smaller, more at an almost cellular level.

On average, how many times do you rewrite your novels?



I’d say I give each passage a good 25 to 30 run-throughs before I feel ready to show the work to anybody else.  But toward the end, this may be no more complex than reading it through, changing a word here and a sentence structure there.  When I read it through more than once without anything changing, I figure I must be done.  For the moment.

Do you have anyone read drafts along the way?  If so, at what point?



I don’t.  I used to.  But now I find I can locate my own inner guidance, and follow it, saving the perspective of others for later, when the draft is done and they can’t possibly pull me off track.

How much does your word count change from the first draft?  Does it usually go up or down?



I’d say less with each consecutive novel.  But it definitely tends to go up rather than down.  What is almost always needed is a bit more fleshing out here and there.  My earlier novels were only in about the 60,000-65,000 word range.  I haven’t had to learn to be less verbose.  Pretty much the opposite.

Start to finish, from the time you type the first word of a story to the time you send it to your agent or editor, how long does the whole write/rewrite/polish usually take?



If it’s a Young Adult, which tends to run much shorter, about five months.  For an adult novel, eight or nine.  This is fast.  I write faster than average.  I don’t know why, but please don’t anyone feel they need to aspire to it.  If you’re getting words into memory, you’re doing it right.  And if it takes longer, it just does.

Wow, that is quick!  Though you’re a seasoned pro at this point.  Is there anything else you’d like to share regarding the rewriting process?  Anything I may have left out?

Well.  Just that neatness does count.  And spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes, along with too many typos, can be off-putting to agents and editors.  It’s a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, writers tend to think the small stuff can be left to the copyeditor.  And the copyeditor will indeed check your small stuff, if you’re able to secure a publisher.  But meanwhile, anything less than a polished work tends to make agents and editors feel that you’re asking them to work harder than you were willing to work yourself.

So think of your manuscript as a job interview—for that dream job you want more than you’ve ever wanted a job in your life.  You wouldn’t go in wearing those sneakers with the holes in the toes.  Even though it’s supposed to be about your work skills, not your sneakers.  But every aspect of your presentation speaks to your professionalism and your pride.  So prepare your manuscript in a way that shows your commitment to it.  And others will be more inclined to commit to it as well.

Thank you so much for your time, Ms. Hyde.  I wish you continued success!  Thank you for sharing your gift, and your heart, with the world.


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