As I said once before, I’ve had little experience with web sites.  And since my eye operations, it’s clear that I can’t keep up with all the nice letters people have been sending me.  Therefore, I am starting a blog.  Imagine!  A year ago I didn’t even know what a blog was.  (Was it something you found under the plug in the bath tub?  Or a creature that lived in swamps and carried off lady biologists?  I didn’t know.)  Now that the meaning has been explained to  me, a blog seems like a very good idea.  It’s like a diary one leaves open.
  First of all I need to answer a couple of questions.  Where, exactly, is the Oasis I write about in The House of the Scorpion?  There are two locations.  The place I was trying to describe was the Quitobanquito Oasis in the Organ Pipe National Park south of Ajo, Arizona.  Unfortunately, it was placed off limits because of drug smuggling activities.  When Harold (my husband) and I tried to sneak in via the Barry Goldwater Bombing Range, we discovered a man dying of cold and thirst.  And so we had to load him into the car and return to Ajo.The place I actually described is in the town of Paradise in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona.  It is on a major bird migration route and is very beautiful.  When I was a child there were old abandoned miners’ cabins there as well as a grape arbor.  Early one morning I walked to the old graveyard and saw a mountain lion suckling her two cubs among the grave stones.  On another occasion I saw a bear scratching his back against the rough wall of an old cabin.  There was also a wild burro that used to come into our kitchen and steal pancakes off the table.  It was, and is, a magical place.

Many of you have asked how to become successful writers, so here are the tips that worked for me.  (I learned to write novels in central Africa, 1,000 miles from the nearest creative writing teacher.)  First of all, don’t even think about going to college to get a Master of Fine Arts degree (or MFA).  All this gives you is a useless bit of paper. 

(1)You need to read a lot of novels.  Stephen King recommends reading a book you like three times in a row.  The first time you are swept away with the story.  The second and third times you begin to see how the story is arranged, how suspense is built, why you like certain characters and why the ending feels right.  When you read an excellent book several times, you are picking up a rhythm.  You’re learning how to pace your action, draw characters, how to bury hints and dig them up later.  It's like learning to talk.  You didn't worry about style as a baby.  You screamed, warbled, cackled and repeated meaningless syllables over and over.  Language was music.  All the while speech patterns were sinking into your subconscious.  Good writing skills are accumulated in the same way.
 (2) In the beginning it helps to retype scenes you like.  For some reason this trains you on a deep physical level.  It’s like playing pieces of music on the piano.  After a while you discover that you can actually write music of your own.  Raymond Chandler (a crime novelist) taught himself by using someone else’s plot and his own descriptions.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t publish his book because that would have been plagiarism.  Plagiarism is a HUGE no no.  You can learn from copying, but you can’t print it.  Artist train themselves in the beginning by copying paintings, but they can’t sell those either.
 (3) You should only write about things you find interesting.  Don’t write about what you think someone else wants.
(4) If you have trouble getting started, put a notebook by your bed and write the first thing that comes into your head when you wake up. It doesn’t matter what you write.  The point is to reach the subconscious mind, which is close to the surface at that time.  This is where creativity comes from.  You learn to recognize the mind-set so you can reproduce it at will.  I got this idea from Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande.  If you are connected to the subconscious (in a writer’s trance) you can effortlessly call forth whatever memories you need.  Time doesn’t seem to pass, although you may actually spend hours at the typewriter or computer.  You are also safe-guarded against writer’s block.
(5) Many problems with writer’s block are caused by self-criticism.  Here is a tip from the poet William Stafford:  If you find it difficult to write, lower your standards.
(6) Writing in a heightened state of consciousness is very tiring.  You will need to take breaks.  To keep the door to the subconscious open while one is resting, many writers play solitaire or do puzzles.  I do sudoku.  Playing a musical instrument is good, too.  The point is to avoid interaction with other people.
(7) Try to set aside a time and place to create every day.  This takes discipline.  Also, you need a place where you do nothing else but write.  I know this is difficult if you live in a crowded apartment, but it’s important.  Also, it’s good if you can lock the door to keep other people out.
(8) Some authors make careful outlines.  This is especially true of mystery writers who have to keep everything straight.  Ruth Rendell and P.D. James are masters of plotting and well worth studying for that reason.  Sometimes an outline can help you out if you have writer’s block, but I have found, personally, that my creativity dies if I try to follow a pattern.
(9) This is how I do it:  I write the first draft of a novel in one long sweep.  I don’t rewrite or make an outline until I’m finished.  One of the hardest things to keep going in a novel is the excitement and flow of the story.  If you stop to criticize yourself, or to let other people criticize you, you’re going to stall.  Don’t correct the spelling, don’t agonize over a metaphor.  Write.This preserves your unique personality, the quality that sets you apart from everyone else.  It can be destroyed by trying to please too many people.  I know authors who take their stories from workshop to workshop.  They rewrite constantly.  The product sounds like something written by a committee.
(10) Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself.  People who do new and exciting things are often criticized by idiots.  If we listened to critics we’d still be living in caves and eating raw squirrels.
(11) New writers are often afraid to pull out all the stops and go over the top with insane descriptions and situations.  It’s almost impossible to go over the top.
(12) Some people dread the first few minutes before they begin to write.  They are afraid nothing will happen when they sit down.  The door to the subconscious might not open.  Force yourself to try.  The fear passes after a few minutes.  You might not write anything good, but so what?  Shaquille O’ Neal doesn't hit the basket every time either.

3/4/2010 10:51:35 am

I have just finished reading The Island of the Blessed and was very unsatisfied with the ending. With the way you left off it seemed like there would be another series, maybe about Jack and Thorgil at Bard School (I'm not sure what to call it). I love this series and would be very depressed if it ended so abruptly and with out a clear ending. I will literally be praying for another series, partly because i love the way you write and develop you characters but also because I want to make sure that Jack and Thorgil will end up together. :) With so many loose ends surly you will be writing another series. Right?

Paul Slavich
3/4/2010 10:51:55 am

Dear Nancy,

I was so sorry to hear about your eyesight. I wish you all the best and a speedy recovery. Just finished Silver Apples (Awesome). Can't wait to read the next adventure.

HOS is one of my favorite books. I reccomendend it to all of my 40+ year old friends that read novels(not many unfortunately). I seem to gravitate to the young adult section of the library.

HOS just doesn't seem like a kids book. But then again either does harry potter after the 2nd book. Do you write with kids in mind or just write great stories. Just curious what authors think about the young adult section. It's nice for me because it groups some of my favorite authors in a small manageable section (you, JKR, MT Anderson). It just seems like it might turn off some "adults", you know "kid stuff". Like I said it doesn't bother me (although i seem to keep saying that) but i just wondered what you thought about it. Maybe I'm just lucky to have not grown up yet! Or maybe good stories are universally appealing!

Good luck with the HOS sequel. I just read you're getting started. I can't wait.

Peace & Love,

Paul Slavich

3/6/2010 06:23:41 am

I need your help with the moral of your book house of scorpion are you plz willing to help me?

Gini Bland
3/8/2010 09:45:57 pm

Dear Ms. Farmer,

One of my students and I just finished reading the Sea of Trolls series and really enjoyed it. I've read everything of yours that our school library has and have really enjoyed your stories. They seem to speak to the reader on several levels; spiritual, entertainment, philosophical, historical, and good story telling. I particularly enjoy your character development and created settings. Having spent some time on the British Isles and Ireland, there are many places that seem familiar.

I do have a question about The Islands of the Blessed. My student read the book before me and mentioned that she was confused about the end - she thought Thorgil and Jack died. She wanted me to read it and see if I agreed. I don't think they died, I interpreted the ending to mean that both Jack and Thorgill did something that earned them the right to go to bard school and healed Thorgill's silver hand. In my opinion Jack's lorica worked magic on Thorgill's hand and Thorgill giving the rune of protection to Ethne proved that she had become someone worthy of becoming a bard.

Would you care to comment? I did have the feeling that you left the door open for a sequel - I really hope so. It would be so much fun to follow Jack and "Jill" through their adventures as bards!

Thank you for a great book and I hope you are successfully recovering from your surgery.

Gini Bland

Karen Allaman and Eighth Grade students of Clarion Area
3/10/2010 02:16:36 am

Dear Ms Farmer,

We just finished reading The House of the Scorpions. Mrs. Allaman has read the book with her eighth grade rclasses for six years and we are all very excited to find out you are writing a sequel.

When we finished the book we had a long discussion about what we would like to see in the sequel. Following are some of our ideas.

Matt will find the changes in Opium are not as easy as it sounded in the end of the book. As he struggles with the drug lords, looters, governments and an heir to El Patron's estate that he never knew about, he becomes disillusioned and more and more like El Patron. Maria's visit is postponed and he falls into a pattern of lawlessness and cruelty. It seems he can not escape the man who made him. He never meant to do evil, but it seems inevitable as his life becomes more and more threatened and violent. His defining moment comes when Maria and Esperanza visit and discover his down fall. With the help of Maria, Esperanza, Celia, Daft Donald, Mr. Ortega, and a surprisingly wise son of El Patron's(mentioned above) Matt decides he does not have to follow the path El Patron took and that there is something stronger in the bonds and love he feels for his friends. He must fight to return to his ideals of good and evil, but not without loss.

Thank you for giving us a forum to share our ideas.

We enjoyed your book and we are glad you are feeling better. We have loads of good reading to do until your book comes out, but we will look forward to the day.

Mrs. Allaman and the Eighth Grade at Clarion Area

3/15/2010 05:22:03 am

I too was hoping for a next book in the Sea of Trolls series. The third book was amazing but i really am hoping to find out what happens after. Maybe another book?

3/15/2010 07:13:23 am

OMG Nancy I just finished reading HOS and i absolutely loved it! After I finished reading it I immediately researched on Google to see if there was a sequel to it. I really can't wait until the sequel of HOS comes out. I went to Barnes and Nobles and I got The Sea of Trolls. I haven't started reading it yet but I bet it'll be awesome.

I don't have the best eyesight either but I don't think I'll ever want to get eye surgery after what you just described... anyway... good luck with your eyesight!

3/16/2010 12:00:21 am

Ms. Farmer, you are my hero. Love your books like crazy. And your website is the most entertaining thing on the internet. Never mind about fancy web design -- content is what it's about.

Best of luck with your eye surgery, and may you keep writing for many long years.

3/19/2010 03:49:26 pm

Hi Nancy my name is Kelsey and i am 13 years old. My favorite book that I read over and over is The House Of The scorpion! when i am older i want to be a director and this is one of the first movies i want to direct! so if there is anyway i can contact u let me know becasue i need to know more about thanks!!

4/19/2010 01:40:01 pm

Hello Mrs. Farmer im in middle school right now and i want to become an author. i have some pretty good ideas so far but im just wondering if they would be interesting for a book! (sigh) maybe im just getting ahead of my self...

5/1/2010 02:07:33 am

I love your books! I've only read the sea of trolls trilogy, but I plan to read your other books including HOS and the ear, the eye, and the arm. I have two recommendations for future books. A sequel to the sea of trolls trilogy (starring jack, thorgil, and the bard) would be very nice. I'd love to see the bard school and read more adventures about jack thorgil and the bard! My second idea is a book about the bard's adventures before he came to jack's village. There are many adventures that that the bard seems to have had, like adventuring to Jotunhiem and visiting the elves and many other things that he tells anyone. I'd really like to knkow them. Good luck with your eye!

5/1/2010 02:13:53 am

I agree with Noah, a sequel to the sea of trolls would be great! I never really thought about the bard's adventure's much, but now that it's been mentioned, it'd be really cool to see what kinds of crazy things the bard did before coming to jack's village!

5/4/2010 10:36:08 am

the way you write your books is amazing especially how you make every part of the book exciting and never boring. To prove this i had read the whole trilogy in three days. I didnt think that jack would see thorgil any more but yet again you impress 5 more seventh graders. i defenatly think that you need to finish the series in a smooth way.

1/8/2011 03:59:42 am

Hi, live in phenix city alabama & i am do'n a report on you. i read your book. I love it. I hope you can give me some info for it.....please

1/29/2011 06:17:23 am

Dear Miss Nancy Farmer,
My name is Margot and I am 10 years old and I live in Hudson, WI. At school, I am in a Gifted and Talented program. We finished your book The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm. I thought it was fantastic! We're reading The Sea of Trolls right now, and I can't put it down! I am very interested in reading the sequel. Thank you for taking the time to read this!!! :)

9/8/2013 11:28:56 am

Which template is this for your blog?


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