Here’s How the Magic Happens

by Brigette Howard

Have you ever had a paper to write for school or a letter to compose, and you wished you could just write down all of your ideas, go to sleep, and wake up in the morning with a perfectly formatted and beautifully finished document? Me too. I am lucky enough to have this dream come true when working with my writing partner, who is also my wonderful mother.

People are always very curious about how two people can write a book together. I don’t know how others do it, but in our team, we have come up with a great system that works for us. It also helps that I often feel like we share a brain.

My mom and I live only about a mile from each other in Findlay, Ohio, but our writing is almost always done in separate locations using Google Docs, text messages, and phone calls (or book talk) as we like to call it. Our basic practice is to start with an outline that may or may not have a fully-planned ending. Character names and personalities always seem to be the first thing we try to define. We chat on the phone or over a glass of wine until our cast of characters really take on their own lives. And then the fun begins.

This very rough outline is posted into a new Google document that each of us can access at any time from our own personal computers. From here, we expand from the outline to form our first draft.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Since we both worked at full-time jobs and the business of everyday life while writing Sunny Side Up, we were hardly ever able to dedicate the same time in our schedules to writing, but that was alright because we each fell into our own roles in the creative process.

Personally, I am an idea person. My head is filled with plot twists and zany situations that I can’t put into words fast enough. I get frustrated when I have to worry about punctuation, grammar or finding just the right phrase. My mom, on the other hand, is a word wizard. She has multiple degrees in English language and literature as well as over twenty years experience as a high school English teacher.

On most nights, I sit at my computer sipping a glass of red wine, much as our characters, Francie and June, often enjoy, and I just pour out onto the screen everything I can without worrying about the technical stuff. I often write in bullets, change tenses in the middle of chapters, sometime adding tons of dialogue, and sometimes realizing that the characters haven’t spoken in six pages, but I get my thoughts down on paper. This is where the magic happens.

When I wake up in the morning or log onto my computer the next afternoon, my three-page jumble of nouns and verbs and scattered punctuation has transformed into a perfectly polished six to eight page masterpiece. It is so exciting to see my ideas transform into so much more, and Maureen (Mom) gets the same fun seeing more of the story develop each time she logs on. It has been a great system for us so far and has given us something great to share.

Psst…I can’t wait to see what she does with this piece. I better go take a nap so the elves can do their magic!

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

by Maureen Kovach

“You can’t make this stuff up.” If your life is anything like mine, you’ve said this dozens of times. Weird things happen every day, every month, every year. Here’s a little gem that happened this morning on my way to work:

How I felt on my way to work

The setting: early morning/air temp 17 degrees/wind chill 0
The characters: one retired/not retired English teacher prone to occasional hot flashes
The plot: After checking the weather forecast the previous evening, I had my outfit carefully planned. It was going to be cold. Skinny pants, boots, long sleeve top, and a cozy swing-hem sweater with a cowl neck would keep me warm and comfortable. I donned my knee-length down coat and fur-lined mittens before venturing into the garage and my pre-warmed car. So far, so good.
About halfway to my destination, I felt it-the dreaded hot flash. I don’t experience them very often any more, so it took me by surprise. If you’ve had one yourself, I don’t need to explain the feeling of imminent spontaneous combustion. If you haven’t, there are no words to make you understand. I had to do something. I opened my window about two inches which helped some, but my hair was getting messed up from the high wind, so I decided the sunroof would be perfect. I pressed the control switch and watched the glass slide about three inches. Sweet relief was mine.

About ten minutes later, I pulled into my parking space and pressed the switch to close the sunroof. Click, click, nothing. What the heck? I tried again, and yet again. Finally, I had to leave my car with the sunroof open and the doors locked and head inside. After class, I returned to my car, optimistic that the rest and restart would do the trick and all would be well. Click, click, nothing. Uh-oh. My internal furnace had shut down, and I was feeling the howling cold just the same as all the normal people in town. What could I do?

I drove down the highway at 72-miles per hour with the sunroof open. Wow. By the time I got home, my eyes were watering, and I was eager to get inside and warm up with a steaming bowl of leftover chili.

After my meal, I went back out and tried the switch one more time for the heck of it. Click, click, whirr. Easy as that, it was fixed. I don’t know how or why, but it worked perfectly. That’s all that mattered.

One of the most-asked questions authors get is, “Where do you get your ideas?” The answer is always, “Life.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

Do you have a funny, interesting, or embarrassing story? Please share it in the comments. Who knows? you may see your story come to life in our next book.

Say What?

by Brigette Howard
Who would you cast in a movie to play yourself? Would it be someone who looks like you or acts like you? Or would it be someone who sounds like you?
Who Should Play You in a Movie?

Rachael Ray, Julianna Margulies, and Janeane Garofalo are all well-know women whom I have been told I resemble. It’s interesting to learn which aspects of my personality people associate with me. I don’t think I physically look like any of these exceptional women, other than having dark hair and brown eyes, so what is it that would make someone think of me while watching Rachael Ray whip up a thirty-minute meal, see Julianna save lives on ER, or crack up to Janeane’s stand-up comedy? I love to cook. I love to laugh. I have curly dark hair and a slightly weird sense of humor. These character traits would be important for someone portraying me in my life story, but who do I sound like?

One thing I never considered is voice. Recently, Maureen and I had the pleasure of listening to voice auditions for someone to represent Francie in the audio version of our book, Deviled!. After listening to four auditions, it was very clear who we both would select to read for Francie. We have never heard Francie’s voice or seen her other than in our imaginations, so how did we both know exactly which actress “sounded” like her? It seems that voice is just as important as physical appearance in a person’s character.

Realizing the connection between how someone sounds and their personality has been quite eye-opening. It’s like the show, The Voice, where singers are judged on their voices without being seen. Try it out! The next time someone tells you you look like someone famous, say, “Thank you, but who do you think I sound like?” I bet they won’t have any idea.

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