word craft


Blog Posts from the Beginning

Reading out loud 

For me, the hard­est part of writ­ing a nov­el is the con­stant reread­ing of my own work. I do it repeat­ed­ly, tru­ly count­less times. As I do, I make all kinds of changes, big and small. It is dur­ing this process that the book takes on a uni­ty, a clear direc­tion, a sharp focus, and

Read More » 


What role does time play in a work of fic­tion? A book like my Fight­ing Ground is bro­ken up into time bits (not chap­ters) and lasts lit­tle more than twen­­­ty-four hours. The events of my recent­ly pub­lished City of Orphans occur dur­ing one week. My soon to be pub­lished Sophia’s War begins in 1776 and

Read More » 

Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award 

Last week I learned that my most recent­ly pub­lished book, City of Orphans, was nom­i­nat­ed for the Ver­mont children’s choice award, which they call the Ver­mont Gold­en Dome Book Award. It’s a big thing for writ­ers who are nom­i­nat­ed for these awards. It means that many more libraries, school and pub­lic, will put the book

Read More » 

Going backward 

Years ago, my friend Natal­ie Bab­bitt and I were talk­ing about cur­rent projects, when she said, “I’m at that stage, you know it, when I am not sure how to go for­ward, so I’m just rewrit­ing.” I did know it. It hap­pens often. The best way to describe the process is that when you are

Read More » 

City of Orphans in Spanish 

In the mail today came the Span­ish edi­tion of City of Orphans, with the trans­lat­ed title, Ciu­dad de Huér­fanos. [Edi­to­r­i­al Bambú–Spain] My knowl­edge of lan­guages oth­er than Eng­lish is woe­ful­ly ( sad­ly) defi­cient. I can­not there­fore, speak to the trans­la­tion, but it is a hand­some hard­bound edi­tion, tru­ly stitched, com­plete with head­band, a bound-in, green

Read More » 


There is a sto­ry about which I have always mar­veled. It con­cerns Charles Dick­ens, the great 19th cen­tu­ry nov­el­ist. If I remem­ber cor­rect­ly, it hap­pened when he first became famous with The Pick­wick Papers and he was writ­ing David Cop­per­field. A large, bois­ter­ous par­ty was being held in his hon­or at his home. At some

Read More » 

A map to explore new worlds 

Like many read­ers, maps in books have always fas­ci­nat­ed me. I once knew some­one who col­lect­ed books only with such maps. One of the most famous maps, the trea­sure map found in Stevenson’s Trea­sure Island, was drawn first, and the sto­ry writ­ten around it. One of my own ear­ly books, Who Stole the Wiz­ard of

Read More » 

The writer’s fundamental contradiction 

It usu­al­ly takes me a year to write one of my nov­els. Some­times more, some­times less. The longest time peri­od was four­teen years, for Bright Shad­ow. The short­est peri­od was one day, for S.O.R. Losers. There are expla­na­tions for both extremes, but I will save them for anoth­er post. Read­ers, how­ev­er, are wel­come to read

Read More » 

Jacket copy 

My edi­tor and I have been work­ing on the jack­et copy of my forth­com­ing book, Sophi­a’s War. That is to say, we are writ­ing and edit­ing the text that appears on the dust jack­et. This is the descrip­tion of the book—what the book is about—on the first flap of the jack­et.  Since read­ers often read

Read More » 

Done! Now for the rewriting. 

Over the Memo­r­i­al Day week­end, I fin­ished the rough draft of my new book. (No title yet.) What does that mean? First, relief. It has been a two-year effort. Nonethe­less, I am far from fin­ished. Hav­ing a com­plete book means I can now rewrite with the whole sto­ry in my head. As I have said

Read More »