Author Olivia Boler

writing is fun

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

November 2nd, 2014 by Olivia Boler

Sugar Candy Skulls

OK, I fell off the blogging train (think a slow-moving chuck wagon). I was waiting…waiting for something interesting to happen. Here’s what actually did:

I’ve been in touch with a children’s literary agent, with whom I agreed to work exclusively on my chapter book series. This is huge—I don’t think I can do justice to how huge. I’ve worked so hard for this bit of validation: a respected agent, a professional in the field seeing potential in my work. It’s like my own mini-fireworks show—for about one minute.

Then it’s back to work. On to the next goal. The agent gave me these amazingly helpful writing exercises to do. They seriously opened my eyes to some important aspects about my main characters I hadn’t thought of before. Breakthrough Time led to…

A new project! Yes, I started drafting a second book in the series. Excitement! I’m about halfway done.

I joined SCBWI, and have been attending monthly goal-setting teas. It’s not a crit group. Instead, we each set personal goals for our individual projects and meet up to report back to the other members about our progress. The idea is to be accountable to others and not just yourself, so you won’t fall behind (like I did with this blog, ahem).

In January, two of my pieces will be published in the anthology Sisters Born, Sisters Found (ed. Laura McHale Holland, Wordforest), one poem and one personal essay. I’ll send more information after it launches, but you can preorder the book now by And thanks to all who contributed to the Pubslush event for the book.

Sisters Born, Sister Found Cover


That’s about it for now. I won’t take part in Nanowrimo this year since a children’s book is about 8,500 words. Unless I draft five other books in the series. Hey, it could happen, right?

Have a great Dia de los Muertos, folks.


July 10th, 2014 by Olivia Boler

Thank You, Mary Rodgers

Yesterday, I learned of the author Mary Rodgers’ death (1931–2014) in the way I often get my news—through Entertainment Weekly. I’d just been talking about her a few weeks ago at the Book Passage Children’s Writers & Illustrators Conference during a workshop discussion about middle grade authors who inspired in us a desire to write middle grade fiction.
Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mary Rodgers—those were my heroines. Maybe I’ve written this before, but when I was 6 years old, my father gave me my first chapter books—Little House in the Big Woods and Freaky Friday. I remember it clearly, sitting at the kitchen table with him as he explained these books didn’t have as many pictures as the books we usually read (or any, in the case of Rodgers’ Freaky Friday), and that I would be reading them on my own. I was familiar with the TV show, Little House on the Prairie, of course. It was a favorite of my older sisters’, so naturally a favorite of mine.
I took the plunge—no Reading Rainbow required. Whenever I finished a Little House book, Dad would give me the next one. About a year and a half later, I’d made my way through the entire set.
I adored them, but the book I re-read over and over and over until the covers fell off and the spine broke, was Freaky Friday. I didn’t get it entirely, but I loved the concept—a girl switches places with her mother and gets to be an adult, but only for one day! It was magic in the modern world, and it was laugh-out-loud hilarious. As I got older and read it again and again, the jokes became clearer. And talk about voice! Annabel Andrews was my intro in how to speak Snark.

My childhood copy of Freaky Friday—see how it's all taped up?

My original copy of Freaky Friday from my kidhood. Only $1.50!

I put off watching the Jodie Foster movie (actually, I had no choice—the Internet didn’t exist, and the public library didn’t lend out movie reels) until it appeared on television one lucky evening. I remember thinking that the movie was OK, but nowhere as appealing or witty as the book, even though Rodgers wrote the screenplay. (The Lindsay Lohan–Jamie Lee Curtis rendering from 2003, was fine, too. Look, just read the book first. Trust me.)
The story was the first I knew of to deal with the comedy of body swapping. It’s been done so many times since then. I even wrote my own short story, published in a now defunct ezine, about a woman who one day mysteriously switches places with her high school nemesis. The idea of being able to walk around in someone else’s shoes while maintaining your own sense of self is very appealing. Isn’t that what reading fiction does? Mary Rodgers taught me that.
Confession time: I never bothered to get to know anything about her. (Again, no Internet and…no imagination?). As a kid, I read A Billion for Boris, but didn’t think to look up the rest of her oeuvre, although just the other day in the library, I almost borrowed Freaky Monday, then got distracted by something shiny—probably my kids. This morning, I looked her up on Wikipedia. I didn’t even know about her work as a musical composer. Looks like I have some more digging to do.
But first I’ll say, thank you. Thank you, Mary Rodgers. Freaky Friday fit my tween-age sensibilities to a T, and was one of the reasons I wanted to become a writer. It helped shape my identity in so many ways and opened up the world. That’s the responsibility of children’s books, and Ms. Rodgers did it well. I’m forever grateful.

June 19th, 2014 by Olivia Boler

A Writers’ Conference to Remember

I’m coming down from a cloud called the Book Passage Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. It took some doing to get there, some wrangling of schedules and such. I want to thank my “Team,” as the big Hollywood stars do when accepting their Golden Globe statuettes.

To my husband Paul for having to cut out of work early to pick up the kids from camp.

To Paul’s boss Jim for letting him do it.

To my mom, for hosting my daughter for a sleepover, then shuttling her to the first day of a summer reading program (and for having to be the one to receive my daughter’s shocked accusation, “This is SUMMER SCHOOL! This isn’t FUN!!”).

To my in-laws for not only letting me spend the night so that Paul could have our one car at his disposal, but for also taking me out to a delicious dinner, AND picking me up and dropping me off at the conference.

See what I mean by Team? It takes a village to raise a writer.

I won’t go over everything I learned at the conference. I’m still grasping at the wisps of that cloud, and my brain is full of swirls. Here are some highlights:

  • Some literary agents think the new New Adult genre is a passing fad, while others take it seriously. For more on New Adult, see this primer at NA Alley.
  • If you want to know the differences between Middle Grade novels and Young Adult novels, take a look at the Harry Potter series, which moves from one to the other (the transition happens in Book #4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Thank you, Shirin Bridges of Goosebottom Books for that.
  • Show, Don’t Tell. That’s what writers are taught from day one. Not so fast! Author Lewis Buzbee says sometimes it’s OK to do a little telling (I agree with this). But don’t go overboard, especially if you’re a newer writer.
  • It’s OK to skip some of the seminars, especially if you’re a bit fried. Plus, you might make a new writing friend, get stunningly helpful advice from an editor who offers to look at your manuscript over yogurt and granola (thank you, Susan McCombs), or simply zone out over a bottomless glass of iced tea.
  • No doubt, Mac Barnett is as hilarious in person as he is on the page. And I love that he’s also a former camp counselor. Totally makes sense.
  • Children’s publishing is probably the friendliest of the publishing realms.

That’s it for now. The dates for next year’s conference are set if you’re interested, June 18 to 21, 2015.

Until next time, beautiful cloud!

May 2nd, 2014 by Olivia Boler

Back to Book Passage

This summer, I’ll be returning to the Book Passage Children’s Writers & Illustrators Conference. I am really excited for this, and looking forward to some inspiration. Ever since my writing group broke up, almost a year ago now, I’ve been working in isolation—the writer’s usual state. Being surrounded by other people with a positive vibe—that’s what the Book Passage writing conferences are all about.

Logo by Book Passage CWIC


They offer two other conferences—one for mystery writers, and another for travel writers and photographers. Marin County is a beautiful part of Northern California, just outside of San Francisco. It’s a lovely, warm place to spend a long weekend—great food, great people, and lots and lots of books. I can’t wait!


March 9th, 2014 by Olivia Boler

First Post of 2014 (Yeah, I Know It’s March)

Oh blog, I did not mean to forsake you. Simply, I have been busy avoiding you. Do I offend?

Whine time: Busy with freelance work, busy (sometimes, not often enough) writing or editing “real” work, family emergency, shepherding our 25-year-old cat to his next plane of existence, PTA, kids, blah blah blah.

But lately: I might have a piece or two in a new anthology due out in the near future. Exciting! Possibly a poem and/or a personal essay-story-memoir thing. More details soon…


I might edit a friend’s picture book. (We’ll see. It’s nice to be asked.)


A 6th grader might interview me  for a school assignment as I wear my Published Author hat…


 The Flower Bowl Spell will soon be featured on the awesome online magazine Underground Book Reviews. I am too excited! They only review one book a week, so, whether it winds up being a positive review or a critical one, it’s nice to know they’re selective.

Seems more folks are checking out my blog, including those around the proverbial water cooler. One person asked me about progress on my latest project (which feels like a cracking of the whip), and another asked for advice about publishing his personal story with the help of a professional author. (It’s a juicy one. The story, not the author.) All of this means I need to be more on the ball with ye olde blogge.

And…here I am, rolling it along.

Happy Daylight Savings, folks! Must hup-two.

November 11th, 2013 by Olivia Boler

Unoriginal & OK With It

There really are no new ideas. I was completely aware of this ten years ago when I first decided to retell Sense and Sensibility in a modern setting. Borrowing as my model the fabuloso movie Clueless, I wrote it as a screenplay. A couple of years ago, I took that screenplay and transformed it into a novel during Nanowrimo. Two years and three drafts later, I finally felt ready to share my Austen homage with some friends. You see, these things take time, at least for me.

Over the summer, I came across a  TV movie, Scents and Sensibility (yup, I’m pretty sure it was on the Lifetime channel), a modern interp of S&S with a Ponzi-scheme twist. Last month, I found an adorable board book that I just had to have, and I actually use it as a writing tool!


Just now, I read about Joanna Trollope‘s new version of the novel, part of HarperCollins’ new Austen series, in which established authors including Curtis Sittenfeld (Pride and Prejudice) and Alexander McCall Smith (Emma) re-imagine her works.

When I finally publish my version of the Dashwood sisters, don’t expect an exact retelling. That was never my intent. I’m going more for inspiration, the way Helen Fielding used a germ Pride and Prejudice to give Bridget Jones’s Diary some scaffolding. I’ve renamed characters, gotten rid of some, added others, and basically moved the furniture around Norland Park and Barton Cottage to suit my 21st century story-telling needs.

Do you think Jane would have minded much?


October 31st, 2013 by Olivia Boler

It’s Nano Time!

Yesterday was kind of a landmark in the world of me. I finished a draft of my latest novel that seemed good enough to show someone other than my imaginary friend who follows me around all day. (Her opinion is one I don’t really trust—sometimes she’s like a hype man, other times…) Anyway, this is, I’d say, the fourth draft of this book I’ve been tinkering with on and off—mostly off—for ten years. It’s about two sisters who run a tearoom and their ups and downs in the romance department. I sent it off to my friend whose judgment I actually do trust—always important to have one of those.

Now I’m kind of dangling here. What should I do next? Well, it just so happens that tomorrow is the start of Nanowrimo. Honestly, I thought I’d miss it this year, that I would still be caught in the happy cloud of Nora and Rainey, the protagonists of the tearoom novel. So, I’m a tad thrown off to be at loose ends. There are plenty of them hanging about just begging to be tied up—like that prequel to The Flower Bowl Spell I’ve talked about. I do believe it’s time to give that a dusting off, just in time for November’s 50,000-word goal. Who’s with me? My Nano handle is livyink. Hope to see you there!

Oh, and have a happy and safe Halloween—and by safe, I mean, don’t pig out on too much candy. It’ll cause a rash.


October 17th, 2013 by Olivia Boler

Coziness and Discord in the Haddonverse

The Red HouseThe Red House by Mark Haddon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished reading The Red House by Mark Haddon, known for his bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I picked up his most recent novel at the library, sold on it by the opening paragraph:

“Cooling towers and sewage farms. Finstock, Charlbury, Ascott-under-Wychwood. Seventy miles per house, the train unzips the fields. Two gun-gray lines beside the river’s meander. Flashes of sun on the hammered metal. Something of steam about it, even now. Hogwarts and Adlestrop. The night mail crossing the border, Cheyenne sweeping down from the ridge. Delta blues from the boxcar. Somewhere, those secret points that might just switch and send you curving into a world of uniformed porters and great-aunts and summers at the lake.”

Really, it was that phrase: the train unzips the fields…Absolutely lovely and evocative and true. I’ve been on that train, seen that very thing from the window, that journey through the unknown. That line was the ticket that opened up this world. That’s what good writing should do.

The story, told from multiple points of view, often reads like poetry. Sometimes you don’t know whose thoughts you’re in…and it doesn’t really matter. The atmosphere of an English family holiday has surprising elements of coziness, even among the family discord and each individuals’ personal dramas. A reader can happily get lost in Haddon’s universe for a while.

View all my reviews

September 27th, 2013 by Olivia Boler

Playing Hooky

I’ve been working almost non-stop on freelance gigs for the past few weeks. That and the usual mom thing have taken up a lot of time. Oh, and rediscovering classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes thanks to my “accidentally” signing up for Amazon Prime. So great!
Yesterday, I got done a little early with my work, so I opened up the Scrivener file of my latest novel manuscript. I’ve been sneaking in a few minutes on it here and there. Not more than a half-hour, I’m sad to say. But it’s been enough to keep me going. I’m near the end of a first very loose revision. So today, a little burned out by work, and about to start a new client project, I decided to open my novel doc again. And this time, a half-hour went by. Then another. And another. And another! I stopped to run an errand. I came back, and it was still open on my computer desktop. I thought I’d close it out, but one more thought occurred to me. I kept going…And now, it’s almost time to fetch the kids from school.
Productive? Yes. (Although I’m trying not to think about playing catch up on work this weekend.)
Profitable? Time will tell.

July 17th, 2013 by Olivia Boler

Yes, I’m Still Here

Hard to believe it’s been over two months since I’ve posted. Trust me, my intentions have been to give some updates, but I seem to have forgotten how to write anything witty or interesting. Hang on…It’s coming back…I need brain yoga for creative flow!

There isn’t much on the book front, nothing really concrete that I’m ready to share, anyway. I’ll just be cagey and say I hope to have some good news soon…The Flower Bowl Spell got a really nice review from ForeWord Reviews online. Click here if you want to read it. Yes, I do write reviews for them too; however, we are all freelancers and I don’t personally know any of their other reviewers. Actually, this is what happened: I’d entered their Book of the Year Awards 2012 contest, but got disqualified since I write reviews (Should have figured that out, right?). They offered to do an online review instead. A total no brainer. I got some feedback from a few people who have read the review via Goodreads or on my blog, saying they would check out my book. Huzzah!

On the personal front, I went to my college reunion in May, and took my daughter with me. It was our first trip with just the two of us, and we had a lot of fun. We also visited friends and relatives on the East Coast so that was a bonus. In June, my family and I went to Hong Kong to visit more relatives and see the places my mother used to frequent in her formative years. Sweltering, muggy heat, but what are you gonna do?


A conversation started at the American Girl Bistro outside Boston
(my daughter’s response: “Why would I tell you that?”)
HK skyline
The Hong Kong skyline
star ferryThe Star Ferry in Hong Kong

Summertime ushers my kids into camp and other fun activities. It also means some of my freelance gigs slow down, so I’ve spent more time getting some rough drafts into shape. Scrivener software has been more useful than I ever imagined. The tutorial was really helpful—I don’t think I could have just plunged in and started using it without going over that—but that’s just me.

I hope all of you are having a marvelous summer. And I promise not to let two months go by without any news. Pinky promise.