Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sophomore Slump?

Could I be suffering from that college affliction known as "sophomore slump?" Do writers even suffer from sophomore slump? Since this is my first time as a sophomore writer, I have no idea.

But I sure recognize the feelings.

My freshman year at Connecticut College was a mixed bag, as I suspect it is for many students. I spent the first semester adjusting to college and then fell into my groove in the second semester. By the time August rolled around, I couldn't wait to get back to college and start my second year.

Then I got back to campus and started my sophomore year. I wasn't excited any more. My classes didn't inspire me. I couldn't get used to my dorm. I was always tired. I moved through my days unmotivated and in a fog.

My Spanish professor, Dr. Argyle Pryor Rice, told me not to worry. I was suffering what was known as sophomore slump. I was no longer a pampered freshman -- no more early registration or special events planned just for me and my fellow classmates of the class of 1977. And no prestige of being an upperclassman, either. Dr. Rice asusred me that this too would pass.

I am feeling some of that same fog now as I try to move on to my next book.I know what I want to write. I have it plotted out in my head, and the words flow and it sounds fantastic. But when I put the words on paper (or, more accurately, on the computer screen), they don't sound nearly as good or flow as smoothly. It is at this point, my little editor -- that nagging, whiny, mean-spirited little beast in my mind who's favorite word is stupid -- wakes up from naptime. MLE points out all that is wrong with my plot, my characters, and my dialogue.

The delete key has seen a lot of action lately.

This is the total opposite of Snow Day which practically wrote itself one snowy December morning. I should be flying high. I have finally realized my dream of writing a children's book and having it published, and I should be charging ahead into my next book. Instead I'm idling, feeling uninspired, lost in a fog. I have tried various techniques to get break through this, but I am still in the same spot: staring a bunch of words on a page that don't give me a shove to write the next words. If I can't get past the first paragraph, how could a reader ever get past it?

So, I have decided to try a whole new tactic. Not write, at least not that story. I'll focus on marketing efforts for Snow Day. This afternoon, I will get together with my friend Bonnie for scrapbooking, an entirely different kind of creative endeavor. I'll file away all of those scraps of paper with writing ideas on them. Who knows, maybe a photo or another idea will be the impetus I need to get through this sophomore slump.

I just have to remember what Dr. Rice told me all those years ago: this too shall pass.

Friday, January 21, 2011

No snow day for me

I think I may have read Snow Day a few too many times.

For the past few days, the weather forecasters talked up the next snowstorm. It was going to hit overnight, and while the total accumulation being predicted was only a couple of inches, I started doing my snow dance – in my head at least – as soon as I heard the words “the next storm.” I wanted a snow day. I needed a snow day. What difference did it make that it already was only a four-day work week.

When I woke up this morning, I was crushed, overwhelmingly crushed. The ground was bare. Stark naked. Not only was there not a dusting of snow, but there also wasn’t even a snowflake in sight. I cursed the weather forecasters for being wrong, again, and I cursed myself for allowing myself to believe them, again.

I lumbered around the kitchen making breakfast, dragged myself into the shower, all the while lamenting to the cats about all the things I wouldn’t be able to do since we weren’t getting a snow day. I’d planned it all out – I’d clean the kitchen, straighten up the family room, read a little, write a little, even play with the cats. (When Bailey heard that, he meowed which I interpreted to mean “those awful weathermen. How could they get our hopes up like this.” Bailey is a very sympathetic cat.)

Of course, all of the things I planned for my snow day that didn’t happen aren’t nearly as much fun as Tessa, Jake, and Molly did on their snow day. But then again, they’re kids and I’m an adult. Sort of.

Find out more about Tessa, Jake, and Molly’s wintery adventures on their Snow Day at

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The books are here

My author's copies of Snow Day arrived in the mail today. I was expecting them, since Heather, my PR Publicist from Outskirts, had told me they were on their way and should arrive today.

I didn't open the box right away. To tell the truth, I was afraid. Sure, I'd loved the cover when I'd first seen it -- I knew right away it was just what I had imagined. The interior illustrations were bright and fun and captured the essence of my words. I'd approved all, knowing the book would look just like I wanted it to.

Then the books arrived, and along with them, the trepidation. If you're a writer, you know just what I mean. That little internal editor puts in his two cents: "You're going to find a big fat mistake." "The illustrations are going to look different."

So, I put the box on the table, and tried to pretend that it wasn't there. I fed the cats, changed clothes, sorted the rest of the mai, wandered around the house and turned on lights in the living room. All the while, I could almost hear it saying "Open me, open me."

My resolve to ignore that box evaporated in 30 minutes, lasting about as long as it does for my annual New Year's diet. I ripped the box open and took out the top book.

My internal editor was right. Snow Day in the flesh -- in the paper? -- looked very different from the PDF files I had worked with during the production process. The cover is shiny and bright. The colors glisten. I can hear the kids laughing as they slide down the hill in the cover illustration, feel the cold air on my nose. It feels slick and smooth in my hands, just like books by other authors tht I've picked up in the bookstores.

And then I see my name at the bottom. Pamela Greenhalgh Hamilton. My book, not another person's book, but my book. I can't stop thumbing through the pages, seeing the illustrations as if it was the first time I've seen them.

I'm thrilled beyond words, probably not a good thing for a writer to confess to. I can't wait to see what happens next!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's a book!

Thursday, January 13, 2011, was a red letter day for me. Snow Day was published. I have yet to actually hold my book in my hand, but my author's copies should be here in about a week.

I've been on pins and needles ever since I began this journey. Knowing that my book was going to be on bookstore shelves was exciting and daunting at the same time. But once I was immersed in the production process, I really didn't have time to be too excited or too daunted.

The experience was not what I expecte, although I am not sure what I expected either. I guess part of it is that I thought I'd get these huge envelopes in the mail with my book proofs. I guess it's time for me to move into the 21st century! Everything between me, the illustrator, book designer, and cover designer was done by email.I'm still old-fashioned enough to want to put my hands in it, like the good old days of cutting and pasting at The Chronicle. It took me awhile to get used to Outskirts Press's way of doing things. But, since I had no choice, I did.

The biggest challenge for me was the illustrations. I had to describe, in detail, what I wanted each illustration. The illustrator, Bobbi Spitzer, took my words, added her own spin, and turned them into a bright colorful picture. God bless was like she not only read my words but my mind also.

That's not to say there weren't some anxious moments along the way. As soon as I hit "send" to get my descriptions on their way, the panic set in. Was I detailed enough? Is that the way I want that page to be illustrated? Did I put page breaks in the right place?

When I'd open my email and see an email from Outskirts, letting me know my illustrations were ready, my heart would start pounding. Some elicited an immediate "Yes!" from me. It was just as I had envisioned it. Others took three or four review, while others required three or four tweaks. In the end though, when I looked at that final proof, my only thought was, "Just like I imagined."

It has been a fascinating journey so far, and it is far from over. Now comes the rocky terrain -- marketing Snow Day.

To find out more about Snow Day, go to