Deb Molly Goes Out Crying & Ranting About Air Bud (But What’s New?)

You guys, I totally suck at goodbyes. I always cry. When I was little and my parents would leave us at my grandparents’ house for the weekend, I’d be crying before the car even left the driveway, upsetting my parents and probably offending my grandparents. I cried at the end of every school year, I cried when my middle school chorus teacher got a job in another district and left us, I cried when I moved…

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Bad Habits Go to the Beach (and Fight About Passive Voice)

A few years ago, the Bad Habits reunited in Barbados for Sister Nadia’s wedding. The four of us — Sister Alison, Sister Mary, Sister Nadia, and I — lived together our senior year of college, in a house we called “The Funnery Nunnery.” We became known as the Fun Nuns, and then (after we beat everyone in town at darts) the Bad Habits. Sister Nadia is from Barbados, and in…

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What’s Your Dominant Metaphor? Creating Character Voice

Every editor in the world will tell you she’s looking for a manuscript with a strong narrative voice, but creating a rich, complex, and believable character voice is easier said than done. Voice isn’t just the way your character speaks – not just her dialogue or diction or syntax. It’s not just the words she uses, whether she speaks entirely in Valley Girl slang or whether she never uses contractions….

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How to Be Friends With a Writer

Do read their chapters and say, “I can’t wait to see more! Keep writing!” Don’t ask, “You’re still working on that? STILL?” Do offer to listen if they need to talk through a tricky plot problem. Don’t be offended if they aren’t ready to show you their work. Don’t accuse them of lying every time they tell a story. Do say, “I notice you left out some key details and embellished others — what…

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Deb Molly Does It With a Little Help From Her Friends

When I wrote the first draft of The Princesses of Iowa, I knew one other writer. We would meet at the Flying Star Café once a week, chat briefly about what we were working on that day, and then get to work. Instead of a critique group, I had friends who didn’t mind when I emailed them new chapters. Instead of industry knowledge, I had a friend that said, “You should get…

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Deb Molly Tells Her Young Self To Quit Being Embarrassed About What She Wants to Write

When I was 19 years old, I took my first fiction writing class. Each week, the fifteen or so members of my class and I would gather around a table to discuss each other’s work. No one in the class was older than 22. Our professor guided our discussions with cryptic phrases like “I want to find myself closer to the narrative line in this moment” and “the verisimilitude of this…

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Deb Molly’s Eight Ways to Turn Up the Heat in a Scene

Today I was hanging out with a group of creative writers at the Northeastern Illinois University Summer Creative Writing Institute, and one of the writers asked me a question about what to do when a scene stalls, when the plot fumbles, when things slow down and threaten to fall apart. Great question, I said. And the answer is: that’s when you turn up the heat! The writers looked at me…

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Deb Joanne’s Launch Week Continues With Ghost Stories Galore!

Happy Fourth of July! Or, as we say here at the Debutante Ball, HAPPY DEB JOANNE’S BOOK LAUNCH WEEK! Because it’s the Fourth of July — time for camping, cookouts, s’mores, and of course GHOST STORIES — I thought I’d ask Joanne about the hilarious cast of misfit ghosts that people — er, ghost? — SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE.  Usually when we see ghosts in books or movies, they have some…

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Deb Molly Has Forgotten How to Be Alone

I worry about us. More specifically, I worry about me, but I’m certain I’m not alone in this. I don’t think it’s just me, you guys. I think it’s our generation — our culture — and it’s only getting worse. We’ve forgotten how to be quiet. We’ve forgotten how to be alone. Ten years ago — even five years ago — if I was meeting a friend for coffee and…

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Top Five Ways Deb Molly’s Dad Helped Her to Become a Writer

For Mother’s Day, I posted an essay I wrote about how to raise a writer, and gave my mother most of the credit for raising me, which is how it usually happens in my head. My mother and I have so many complicated, overlapping, knotted strings of love and need and expectation and time between us that, like a baby, I’m still not sure where she ends and where I…

Wednesday, June 20, 2012