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On Being a Pantser (Revisited)

I recently started a super-reader/fan Facebook Group for Seed Savers. Thought it might be fun for people to easily share news articles about the themes in my books, or to do a group read with the author along. Stuff like that.

A few people chimed in that they wanted to do the group read, and so I began again to read Seed Savers-Treasure. Obviously, I’ve read my own book many, many times over the years. Treasure was released in 2018 by Flying Books House, but I first self-published an earlier version of it under the name “S. Smith” in 2012. I think the first draft was written in 2010. So it’s been with me a long time.

I wrote in my last blog post how the first book eventually turned into a five-book series and how the need to make calendars became apparent.

As I finished my reread of Treasure this week, what struck me was this: Written as a pantser, some of the questions the characters ask throughout the story were questions I was asking myself as I wrote because I had not preplanned every little thing in the storyline! For example, how will the children see the signs of the Seed Savers if they travel only in the dark? What does a national border actually look like? The questions I asked myself became questions the characters asked.

So what exactly is a pantser? So glad you asked. I wrote a guest post on the subject many years ago. I searched out the guest post and finding it no longer available, I hunted down the original and am reposting it today:

On Being a Pantser

I’ll get right to the point: I’m a pantser.  And I’m glad we pantsers are finally out of the closet, or er, dresser drawer, whichever the case may be. For a while there all I ever heard successful novelists talk about was “the plot,” “the Story,” “the big plan.” I’d sit in my seat while Lauded Author went on and on about how she carefully outlined the five novels in her series before even beginning book one. Huh? It made me feel like a fraud.

But now we know: not everyone makes the big plan. We don’t all outline every scene, chapter, or book. Some of us just put our characters down on paper and watch what happens. It’s fun. And it’s kind of scary sometimes. Like, for example, when you’re not sure how things are going to end. And there will have to be an ending, eventually. Unless, like, you’re the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew.

If you never heard the term pantser before, let me assure you, it does mean what you’re thinking it means. It’s right there in the urban dictionary, “fly by the seat of your pants” while writing a novel.

I remember how in my first novel (not Seed Savers), one of the main characters sort of slipped into the book, just like that. The character I thought was going to be a main character was summarily disposed of; definitely not according to even the vaguest plan I might have had in my head. Another shocking case of pantsing in that novel was a scene where one character had a phone conversation with her mother. The mother had always been so kind and understanding and then, wham! The mother just turns on her over the phone. I couldn’t believe it. I think that’s when I realized how much our characters will surprise us. How much fun it is to be open to changes from what we thought was going to happen.

In the first Seed Savers book, Treasure, there is an old man character named Gruff who comes upon the children when they are so lost and alone on the street. As he approached I wasn’t certain if he were friend or foe. Turns out he was friend with a capital F; he was a Seed Saver! I swear I didn’t know it beforehand. Gruff became my favorite character in the book.

In Heirloom, I was just writing along, and whoosh! What? A character jumps on board that acts surprisingly like my late grandfather. Not long after, my grandmother wanders on stage. It was really great to spend time with them again :).

What are the disadvantages of being a pantser? Well, foreshadowing for one. Hard to foreshadow when you are a part of the audience. But sometimes it works in reverse. For example, if a character is acting all squirmy or dodging the question, I think, “Hmm, what’s up with that?” The foreshadowing leads to the ultimate action. Other times I just say to myself, “What can I go back in and add as foreshadowing?” There’s no shame in going back and tidying up a book. That’s what it’s about, the polishing piece.

Another disadvantage of being a Pantser I already mentioned. How is it all going to end???? I don’t know. And that’s scary. I have to trust that the characters will continue to lead me.

In the meantime, don’t bother asking about what comes next in Seed Savers. Because       

I       

don’t      

know.

If you’re a writer, are you a pantser mainly, or a plotter mainly? Obviously, there are times when we are both. 🙂

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

 

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The Planning In Writing a Series: Calendars of the Future

Sometimes I think people don’t realize how much research, planning, and care is taken in writing fiction. I’ve written before about the amount of research I’ve done for my futuristic Seed Savers series, but the care I’ve taken in working out the chronological order, the seasons in which certain plants would be bearing fruit in certain regions, whether or not I have the right day of the week for some date in the far future . . . these are also things I’ve worried about and painstakingly researched and planned out.

Thank God for the internet.

This whole process, of course, becomes much more complicated over the course of a five-book series with multiple storylines and characters who are not always moving in sync. (Example, in book 3, Heirloom, Clare and Dante’s storyline in Canada is not happening at the same time as Lily’s storyline in the U.S.).

When I wrote the first book, I wasn’t really planning a five-book series. The book was very seat-of-your-pants. As I started adding more books, I started adding calendars. By the time I got around to the final book, this is what I had:

 

It was really crazy! Every now and then I couldn’t reconcile a few things. Will anyone notice? I’d ask myself. Does anyone but me care? I also did this with the kids’ ages. I realized I should have already known my characters’ birthdays. Oh, the trials and tribulations of being a pantser!

Or maybe I just make things more difficult than they need to be. If you are a reader, do you pay attention to the geography, seasons, distance, and timing in books you read? If you are a writer, do you make calendars and research minute details? I’d love to hear what you think in the comment section below.

Included in the new Flying Books House Seed Savers editions are links to many of the research sources used in writing the books.

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

 

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Sandra Smith Returns — Anakalian Whims

Sharing a recent interview I did over at Anakalian Whims!


Sandra Smith grew up on a farm with a tremendously large garden. She maintains that if you can’t taste the soil on a carrot, it’s not fresh enough. Although she now lives with her husband, cats, and three chickens in the city, she still manages to grow fruits and vegetables in their backyard garden. A […]

via Sandra Smith Returns — Anakalian Whims

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2019 Heirloom Expo: Everything Else (Well, Almost)

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Ok, before it’s too far in the rearview mirror, here are my final thoughts on this year’s Expo. (See previous two posts here and here.)

I stated earlier that there were a lot of special moments, but three that had really stuck with me. The first two special moments I wrote separate posts about. The third is this: I sold all the copies of Seed Savers-Treasure that I had brought! I have never before sold out of anything, so that felt great! And it happened at the very end so I didn’t have to deal with anybody wanting to buy something I no longer had. 🙂 Yahoo! Yippee! Yay! Hurrah! Great big happy face!

Aside from those three most special moments, there were tons of other great things . . . mostly to do with all the awesome folks we met. There was the hot pepper guy. Often when my part of the building was thin on crowds I would stand up at my booth rather than look at my ipad. It was better form, I thought, and also better for my health. This often caused people to walk over and talk with me.

So this guy walked over and started talking to me and I noticed he was wearing a “presenter badge.” I asked what he was presenting on. Turns out he was Ubaldo Solorio and his presentation was called “Producing Super Hot Peppers.” Well, last year I ended up growing too many super hot peppers (probably just regular hot by his standards), so I had definitely not planned on attending. I told him of my predicament and he proceeded to share multiple ways to use all those peppers. (If only I could remember!) It was a delightful conversation with a delightful man.

Then there was another young gal who also walked over because it wasn’t busy and I was standing there behind my table. “You look so lonely over here,” she said as she approached. We started talking about my books and as I became more excited from her enthusiasm, I got to the part about the kids in the book only knowing “blueberry” as a flavor and then imagine how it was for them to eat a real blueberry! “I love your soul!” she exclaimed. She ended up buying a book.

There was Judith, who remembered me from several years back. Judith repurchased the entire series again because she wasn’t sure what she had done with the other (incomplete) set. Ekani & Kern, vendors of medicinal herbs and tinctures with whom we kept tabs of daily business.

There was the beautiful seed packet art of the Hudson Valley Seed Company, the seed carver, and the gourd carvers.

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Speakers such as Robert Kennedy Jr and Vandana Shiva.

My friend Paul, who publishes a paper called the UpBeat Times, “where no bad news is … good news!” Old friend Rachel Parent, food advocate since she was a child.

And I even had the incredible luck of viewing the weighing of the giant pumpkins. I’d never stumbled across that before! After the winner was declared, he greeted the onlookers and gave them all 3 seeds from the batch that grew the winning pumpkin!

Last but not least, I often get to meet people at the Expo who I’ve met on social media., but not in person. This year I met Evan Gregoire, also from Oregon, based in Portland (Portland Seed House). We follow each other on Instagram. 🙂

Of course I should mention that this year I did a little Christmas shopping early. Here’s a peek at some of the wonderful products I splurged on.

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Until next time, Heirloom Expo!

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Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

 

 

 

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2019 Heirloom Expo: Epiphany & the Singing Plants

As I mentioned in my post earlier this week, we had a great time at the Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa, CA last week, with several memorable experiences. Today I’d like to share one that just blew my socks off (okay, I wasn’t actually wearing socks…) I’ve since recovered, but it was a powerful experience so I’ll try to hearken back.

As you know if you’ve been keeping up, my husband and I were at the Expo as vendors, hawking the Seed Savers series. This meant we couldn’t fully take advantage of all the wonderful speaker sessions, etc. But we tried to get to a few.

So I had arrived about 40-45 minutes late to one entitled “Moringa: Growing the Superfood.” I’ll be honest. I’d never even heard of moringa. I was just going to see the speaker since we’d met at an earlier conference and I wanted to say “hi.” So it wasn’t too big a deal that my husband didn’t get back to man the booth in a timely manner. Although I’m always up to learn about superfoods!

I’m standing over on the edge of the room, the speaker is talking kind of low, some people are leaving… I hear nothing about superfoods, but I stick around. Then some slides are put up on a screen. Speaker is saying something about plant songs, plants singing. They are playing an audio clip. I hear music, sort of, but I still don’t know what she’s talking about. You see, my friends, although I’d heard that plants communicate with each other, I’d not heard that we have the ability to measure the vibrations, synthesize it, and play the music of plants. Maybe you have. Since returning home and googling it, apparently it’s not new.

But back to my story.

So I’m standing there wondering what the speaker means by plants singing, wondering what this has to do with the title in the program when the speaker says that we are now going to listen “LIVE” to the plants singing. They explain about how it’s done, and then hook the plants up. I’m pretty sure one of the plants was a Moringa tree (makes sense, right?), but I don’t know what the other one was.

Friends, it was mesmerizing. I almost cried. Of course my technology failed me (plot by Apple), so I can’t play it for you now. I walked out of the building into the sunlight and felt I’d been changed. Like it was one of those life-changing experience you sometimes hear people refer to. Words fail me now, in trying to describe it. Back in that moment, I look to my right and see a sign over a food booth proclaiming “Plant-based Food!” Aah! I think about the vegetarians who I thought so clever when they proclaimed they didn’t eat anything with a face. It’s all the same! I’m thinking. We are all in this together. The plants, the animals–they sing! As long as we honor what we consume, it’s okay.

Not trying to get all woo-woo on you here, just telling you the thoughts exploding in my head at the time. I was also wondering if the houseplants I recently killed by overwatering had been screaming at the time. So it goes.

Now as I sit here, all of those feelings have subsided. But it was a remarkable experience. If you’ve never heard plants singing, especially live and in person, I hope someday you get the opportunity. 🙂

And because I have no video or even a photo of the singing plants, I leave you some of the lovely flowers displayed at the Expo. Peace

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Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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2019 Heirloom Expo: Serendipity & the Littlest Fan

We made it back from the Heirloom Expo late Friday night, driving it all in one day and not spending time with the lovely Redwoods as we sometimes do.

I didn’t think the Expo was as well-attended as when we had last visited (2016), but all the things I love about it were still intact: the friendly visitors, exhibitors, & vendors; the wonderful speakers; the array of healthy and earth-friendly products for sale; and of course, the beautiful displays of vegetables and flowers. I’m sorry to say I didn’t make it out to the animal barns this year.

This was my first time back at the Expo with the new covers, and also since the Seed Savers series was completed. It meant I had to get new banners, bookmarks, etc., with the new branding. Here’s my table:

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Looks great, doesn’t it?

There were a lot of special moments, but three that really stick with me. I’ll share one of these now.

I was sitting at my table and a little girl saw my books and ran over and grabbed one. I thought it was probably Seed Savers-Lily and that the girl’s name was Lily because similar things have happened before with Seed Savers-Lily. The woman with her, who I assume was mom, gave me an odd sort of look when I asked if the girl’s name was Lily, but then explained that they had just bought Seed Savers-Treasure.

“Oh, you bought it yesterday?” I asked. (This happened on the second day of the expo.)

“No,” she said. “We bought it off of Amazon, it’s out in the car. I just read her the first 14 pages; she loves it.”

What!?? Someone had randomly bought my book elsewhere, just started reading it, and then run into me at this fair! We talked a little more, they asking if they brought the book in the next day if I would sign it, etc. Yes, of course!

It was so serendipitous!

The next day when they returned for the autograph, they also bought the second book. My husband was with me at the booth this time, so we got a few pictures together. Here is my littlest fan:

She was very excited to run into the author and get a signed book!!!

I’ll write another post later about other highlights. For more photos, check out my author Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram. Thanks for reading. 🙂

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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Heading to the Expo!

For the first time since 2016 I’m heading to the Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa, CA! If you’ve never thought vegetables were beautiful, think again. (And get yourself to Santa Rosa next week :))

I’m very excited to be going. I love the displays, the educational sessions, and the people! For the three years I was there in the past (2014, 15, and 16), the Seed Savers series display has been in three different halls, but this year we will be back in the main hall, so hopefully if you’re there you won’t miss us!

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I’ve got all new banners & bookmarks to match the beautiful new covers of the books. And, remember, THE SERIES IS NOW COMPLETE!

I’ll be there to sign books and mingle and for those buying the whole series, you’ll get a great discount! Please come find our table!!

In other news . . . book one, Seed Savers-Treasure ebook is currently on sale all over the place for only 99 cents!

Teachers and librarians, please check out my new flyer for school visits!

For those of you who are already readers and fans of Seed Savers, I’m right now putting together a Facebook Group! Join here. (Don’t forget to answer the questions!)

Until next time …

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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