We had our first heat wave in Boston this week, so it was time to throw together one of my favorite cold dinners: ceviche.

Ceviche is a great dish because it’s so quick and easy to prepare, refreshing and delicious, and actually good for you. The only caveat: you have to do your preparations far enough in advance that your citrus has the time it needs to “cook” the seafood.  I usually prepare it in the morning to eat that night (6-8 hours later).


  • 1 pound of seafood (my favorite to use is sole, but flounder, tilapia, shrimp, and calamari work well too), cut into thin, small pieces
  • the juice of 7 limes and 1 lemon
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

The instructions couldn’t be simpler: just slice the seafood in small pieces, chop the vegetables and cilantro, juice your citrus fruits, then throw everything together in a big bowl and put it in the refrigerator to cook.

I usually serve it with tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole, along with a nice cold beer, mmmm. Hope this is a refreshing break on a hot summer night!

Be Your WIP’s Project Manager

The more rounds of revision I do, the more I think about my former day-job in software project management. I’ve come to realize that the principles of project management–as un-creative as that sounds–can be a big help to my WIP. Here are the big three I’ve been thinking about along the way:

  • Shoot for success:
    • Set specific measures of success: Think about what you aim to do with your WIP. Gain admission to an MFA program or conference? Read it to your grandkids? Get it published? If your aim is publication, traditionally, or would you be satisfied with self-publishing?
    • Consider the typical dimensions of success: quality, time, and budget. Of these three, the only one that cannot be sacrificed is quality. Take all the time and invest in all the lattes you need to achieve it. As a software PM, I always had to fight for the time my people needed. As a writer, I have the luxury (luxury!) to take as much time as I need to get it right. As long as I can afford my lattes, of course, heh heh.
  • Plan, plan, plan:
    • Even if you’re a pantser instead of a plotter, a very basic plot outline (sometimes worked out after you’ve done a good amount of drafting) can help you stay on track. If you’re a plotter, go ahead and outline, knowing that your outline will probably change. Take a look at my “Outlining Using Agile” approach here: http://kiperoo.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/outlining-using-agile/.
    • Work out a deadline calendar with rewards, knowing that you’ll probably need more time than you think. See above about taking all the time you need. 🙂
    • Strategize how to revise. There are many great resources for revision out there (books, workshops etc.), so use them when you dive back into your manuscript to make it stronger.
  • Approval and Sign-offs:
    • Even the greatest ideas can be better with the right feedback, and most writers are thrilled when they find the right critique partner or group. I personally like to get sign-off from my partners on everything from my initial idea to my “final” full manuscript.
    • Read your manuscript out loud. You might find your one of your own best critics when you hear your own words.
    • Force yourself to wait until you get approval from your peeps before sending. Don’t make the mistake of submitting to early! Not that any of us *cough* have ever done that before.
Hope these are helpful! Any tips from your day job that you can apply to your writing?

Visual Tools

Erin Bow (author of the fantastic YA novel PLAIN KATE) asked a great question in the #wipmadness check-in on her blog this week: http://erinbow.com/blog/2011/06/wipmadness-check-in-for-the-third-week-in-june-1.shtml

The question: “Anyone else have visual keep-on-track tools they want to share?”

Erin included photos of her wicked cool calendar complete with stickers, and index cards with edits to do.

I do something similar, but with slightly different media. I also use a calendar, but mine is a small moleskine, and I also keep track of to-dos and even scribble down plot brainstorms and work through plot problems in my slightly larger moleskine notebook.

Everything needs to be small and portable to me because we live in a tiny apartment where I have no desk and no real writing space to call my own. I write on a small netbook computer, which I take with me along with my small notebook and tiny calendar to any part of the apartment or out into the world if it seems I might get a chance to get any work done. Works for me!

What about you? Any other visual tools that help you with your writing?

A Visit to the Hub

Bostonians can thank Oliver Wendell Holmes for a nickname that stuck. He dubbed the State House “the hub of the solar system” back in 1858, and people still call Boston “the hub of the universe” today.

So why is this relevant for tourists? Boston is an awesome place to live, but it’s also a great place to visit. Now that visiting season is gearing up–the three months it’s actually warm and pleasant here–it’s a good time to take a look at ten must-see highlights.

  1. Fenway Park. The oldest baseball park in the country, and the home of the Boston Red Sox. Tickets are hard to come by, but you can try www.stubhub.com or at least take a tour of the park and grab a beer at Boston Beer Works.
  2. Newberry Street. Perfect for people-watching and window-shopping. Set yourself up at a café  like Sonsie and watch the world go by.
  3. Public Garden. Especially if you’ve got kids along, you can’t miss a ride on the swan boats and a visit to the duckling statues made famous in Robert McCloskey’s MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS.
  4. Canoeing on the Charles River. Rent a canoe or kayak for an hour or more and paddle along the river between Boston and Cambridge: http://www.paddleboston.com/main.php
  5. Museums. Depending on what type of peeps you come with, consider hitting the Boston Children’s Museum, the Science Museum, the Museum of Fine Art, or the Aquarium.
  6. Freedom Trail. Don’t miss the trail marked in red paint that leads you to many of the historic sites from the American Revolution: http://www.thefreedomtrail.org/ Visit everything from the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown to the Paul Revere House and Old North Church in the North End, then treat yourself to a delicious cappuccino and tiramisu in Caffe Vittoria on Hanover Street or have a pizza at the famous Pizzerina Regina on Thatcher Street.
  7. Quincy Market. Tourists love Quincy Market with good reason. Fun shops and a whole hall full of tasty restaurants on one end, and the historical Fanueil Hall (also on the Freedom Trail) on the other.  Head around the corner for a fresh Guinness at the Purple Shamrock or raw oysters at the (likewise historical) Union Oyster House.
  8. Chinatown. Right beside the theater district you’ll find scores of authentic restaurants, bakeries and shops well worth a visit.
  9. The T. Boston is a very walkable city, but don’t miss a ride on our subways that also go above ground in places. One of the best views of Boston is when crossing the river to Cambridge on the salt-and-pepper bridge.
  10. Trolley tour or duck boat. A great way to get your bearings in the city when you first arrive, but make sure you get off it and into the streets yourself when you finish!
Have a great visit in the Hub!

Week Five Check-in

The last day of May has rolled in, so time to take stock of #wipmadness progress! How did everyone do? Are you happy with where you ended up against your goals? Congrats to every single one of you for sticking with it!

As I mentioned last week, the theme this week is finishing. My question for you all is when do you declare your manuscript done? Do you have a trusted critique partner who tells you to send it? Do you have a set round of revisions or a checklist  to pass your manuscript through? Do you reach a certain point when you know in your gut that it’s ready?

Because there’s that point, right? When you’re pretty sure you’ve done all the right things: multiple several rounds of revision, hiding the manuscript in the drawer, more critique, more revision, SEND!

And then, crap. Comments from someone else reveal the major work still needed.


So you do it all again, and again (and most probably, again). Desperately seeking perfection. I hope we all find it!

Book Review: Truth & Dare by Liz Miles

This compilation of daring stories by some of today’s hottest YA authors pulls off some of the greatest shockers I’ve read in stories for teens: rape, murder, armed robbery, and sexuality, to name a few.

The best part is that none of those felt gratuitous in any of the stories, and instead they resonated with authentic voices and believable situations.

A few highlights:
The humor of Sarah Rees Brennan and Luisa Plaja
The surprise twists of Matthue Roth and Sara Wilkinson
The raw emotion of Shelley Stoehr and Jennifer Knight

For me, this compilation of 20 stories was a success–both so that readers can get another taste of the work from authors they already know, as well as discover new favorites.

I hope there will be more books like this to come!

Week Four Check-in

Hello, #wipmadness writers, and welcome to week 4!

Is this month flying by for everyone, or is it just me? Are you on track to make your goals? Have your goals changed over the month? I’m still on track with mine (finishing my gazillionth revision before sending my manuscript off to beta readers), but it’s definitely taking a lot of hard work.

The theme this week is changing directions. I know some of you have made some bold moves this month, like tossing out thousands of words (Angelina) or deciding that your WIP is going to need a sequel (Erin). I wanted to applaud moves like that this week, because sometimes new directions and changed goals are just what the WIP needs.

So what’s the biggest direction-change you’ve done with a WIP? Were you happy with the results in the end? (unless it’s too early to tell!)

My biggest change was taking a kernel–a teeny-tiny kernel–from my very first WIP and turning it into a brand new, much shinier idea. It was scary because it meant the door to that WIP closed for me, and it was something I had hoped to work on again. But in the end, sometimes the darlings we kill have to be entire manuscripts, and I’m looking forward to getting back into the shiny new version once I finish my current WIP.

See you all back here next Monday for the last check-in of the month, where we’ll have another scary topic for discussion: finishing.

Happy writing!


Since Kris Asselin passed on the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award to me last week, I’m following the rules by:

        1. I love languages. I’m a native speaker of English, pretty fluent in German and Spanish, and I can get by in French and Dutch. I would really love to learn Japanese someday.
        2. I got engaged to my cute Spanish husband in Valencia, Spain, and we got married in a castle!
        3. States and countries where I have lived: Massachusetts, Idaho, Connecticut, Kansas, New York, Germany, Pennsylvania, Austria, and Virginia. Boston is one of my favorite cities in the world, but I’d love to live in Spain someday. The next countries on my list to visit are India, Indonesia, and Japan.
        4. When I was little, I was a Very Picky Eater. My favorite food was spaghetti with butter, and I refused to eat such things as onions, strawberries and tomatoes. Now I love everything from artichokes to octopus. Yum!
        5. I have always loved reading. The first book I read on my own was HOP ON POP, and my favorite books growing up were the LITTLE HOUSE, DANCING SHOES, and ANNE OF GREEN GABLES series, and then anything by Madeline L’Engle and Judy Blume. In grad school, I fell in love with the dead poet Rainer Maria Rilke, then wrote my dissertation about his work. My favorite more recent books include THE BOOK THIEF, SECRET KEEPER, MATCHED, LOVE, AUBREY, and HOW I LIVE NOW.
        6. Alternate careers I have considered: ballerina, fighter pilot, professor, and rock guitarist.
        7. I drink a bowl (BOWL!) of espresso with milk every morning.

Diversity in YA’s Boston Visit

We were lucky enough in Boston to be a stop on the Diversity in YA tour, which made its way from California to Chicago, and then from Boston to NewYork:


The tour was spearheaded by Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo, two great authors who are doing everything they can to promote more diversity in YA books. The fantastic event in Boston was held at the Cambridge Public Library, around the corner from both Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School and Harvard University, and included authors Holly Black, Sarah Rees Brennan, Deva Fagan, Fransisco X. Stork, along with Pon and Lo.

Moderated by Roger Sutton from the Horn Book, the panel discussed the need for diversity in YA books. As Sutton pointed out, all the authors on this particular panel except Stork write Science Fiction and Fantasy, but between them, they represent Asian, Latino, biracial, LGBT, and disabled characters in their books.

One of the things they spoke about was wanting to read about characters like them. Another of the discussion points was about cover images: will a white kid pick up a book that has a black or Asian kid on the cover? How do we get them out of their comfort zone? The panel–and audience–were divided on this. On the one side, some felt diversity could be sneaked in. If the book isn’t about race, then it’s not necessary to show. At the same time, some felt that YA readers haven’t been given enough of a chance to choose for themselves.

Stork’s take was that putting characters into universal situations makes a book less about race and more about characters that everyone can understand.  He wants readers to accept books that are different to what they’re used to and not just about race.

So why is diversity in YA important to me–a white, straight writer? Having lived in other countries and immersed myself in other languages and cultures, I know what it’s like to be an outsider. It’s difficult, but it’s also interesting. I personally am less interested in reading about “normal” characters, and prefer to be thrown out of my comfort zone entirely.

I was glad to see the panel members agreed. While everyone acknowledged that it’s important to reach beyond stereotypes and do your research when writing beyond your experience, they agreed that diverse characters–even from non-diverse writers–are welcome. In the words of Fagan, “Don’t let fear of making mistakes stop you. Embrace the potential to fail. Do your research and be aware.”

Week Three Check-in!

It’s Monday, and you know what that means in the #wipmadness world. How are you all doing on your goals for the month? Is anyone hitting a mid-month slump?

The theme today is time-panic. I’m sure you know what I mean, because there are so many variations on the time-panic theme in a writer’s life. Here are but a few:

  • Gaaah, so busy. How do I find the time to write?
  • Is that whole revising, letting the manuscript rest, revising again, etc. thing for real? Even though I wrote my draft in three months, it’ll be more like a year or two until I can submit, gaaaaaah!
  •  I don’t want to be old when I first get published. But with the snail’s pace of the publishing world, that means I have to add about 3 years to my finish date, which means, GAAAAH! I’ll be old when my book comes out.
  • So I saw on amazon today that a book with a similar theme to mine is coming out this summer. I haven’t worked on it fast enough! Am I screwed? GAAAAAAAAAH!
Do any of these sound familiar? All of them? What’s your biggest time-panic at the moment? What do you do to stave off the panic besides applying a liberal coating of butt-glue?
Wishing a great and productive week to all!