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Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Hi Everyone! Natalie here today. Today, I’m excited to share a tip by author Judith Roth about how getting out of our chairs can help our writing. Her newest book, SERENDIPITY AND ME, a middle grade contemporary novel, was released February 7, 2013. Details of the giveaway are at the end of the post.

Engage in the Physical World
by Judith L. Roth

Maybe it’s a no-brainer for most people that in order to write you need to spend some time in the real world. But I’m guessing that many writers are like me and live in their heads most of the time. We have to be reminded to get out of our heads and experience the world with our physical selves.

Jane Yolen is well-known for her advice on how to get writing done: Butt in Chair. But I know for me I also need to get my butt out of my chair and walk around in the three-dimensional, smelly, colorful, tactile world.

Here are some examples of how I engaged in this practice recently to help me write my latest novel-in-progress:

• I was having trouble visualizing life in Indiana in the 1850’s. I read about it, but it was not coming together for me. It didn’t feel real and there were a lot of gaps in my knowledge. I went to an interactive history park to get an idea of what houses were like then, to be able to walk through them, test the floorboards with my feet, get a sense of the space in pioneer houses. I walked the roads, learned the light and shadows of a tree-lined lane, experienced the workings and smells of the inside of an old-time barn. There was the added bonus of on-site guides who answered my questions about goats and social services. Several even acted out the parts of people in that time. It was an invaluable experience.
• I went to the National Underground Railroad Museum to learn in 3-D space what that world was like. I walked into a reconstructed slave pen that held slaves before auction. I saw pieces of dishes from that era and a short movie showing an escape. I inspected a wagon built with a hiding place for fugitive slaves. There was a load of information that made research easy to grasp and made it possible for the world my characters lived in to become more real to me. Story possibilities soared.
• I was stuck on a scene. I had five people, two dogs, a wolf, two horses, a river, two houses and a bridge to contend with. I couldn’t keep straight which creatures were where as the action developed, or where they needed to be, or what else needed to happen and how that would affect the other characters. I ransacked my son’s room for figures and used dragons and Lego people and assorted blocks to help me figure out how to get the scene moving and how it could work. Just the act of physically moving these items and seeing in real space how they would interact fixed my scene. I could finally see what needed to be written.

Obvious uses of Butt out of Chair would be going to places that children go or visiting locations where your story takes place. Be there in body, not just in spirit. Soak it in. Then write about it from the fullness of the real world.

You can find Judith on the web at

And here’s a blurb of SERENDIPITY AND ME from Goodreads:

Sara has always loved cats. She surrounds herself with pictures of cats, stuffed cats, even cat-headed slippers. But she’s never been allowed to have a real cat of her own. Her father has always told her no, for reasons he won’t explain.

So when a fluffy snowball of a kitten darts through their front door and into her life, Sara believes her dream might finally come true. But convincing her father to break his strict No Cats policy seems impossible. She has less than a week to persuade him that this kitten is exactly what their lonely, broken family of two needs to heal.

Told in lyrical, spare verse, Serendipity & Me is a sparkling novel that elegantly handles the topic of loss for a middle grade audience.

Judith’s publisher, Viking, has generously offered a ARC of SERENDIPITY AND ME for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on May 3rd. I’ll announce the winner on May 5th.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. This contest is open to U.S. only.

Hope to see you tomorrow for my Shower of Books Book Giveaway Blog Hop giveaway. I’ve got a great choice of new YA books to choose from.


  1. I love these ideas, especially using the Lego figures to recreate a scene. Awesome!

  2. Somehow I read the sentence: "But I’m guessing that many writers are like me and live in their BEDS most of the time." And I was thinking, "So true!" But I'm the only weirdo!
    Great tips on getting out of chairs (and beds) and exploring the world! :-)

    1. Okay, that made me laugh out loud. You're not the only weirdo! Naptime....

  3. Such great advice! I love the title Serendipity and Me. By the way - Lexa Cain's comment above is cracking me up right now. Ha! ;)

    1. Thanks. Marketing couldn't handle Serendipikitty, so I can't claim the title as my idea.

  4. Great advice! I tend to do that stuff all the time. It helps spark the inspiration.

  5. Excellent advice! Too often we try and work things out in our heads when a field trip is in order.

  6. Thanks for the inspirational tips from Judith. I've been spending far too much time sitting. And thanks for the chance at another generous giveaway.

  7. Haha! It would certainly be better for me to get out of my chair more often. :D But right now, I want to hang on to it when I can!

  8. I don't know if this counts, but when I wrote a western short story (just for fun), I played Red Dead Redemption for "research" and it helped:)

    Great tips. Thanks for posting!

  9. Great advice in this post. And thanks for running the giveaway. It sounds like a lovely book.

  10. Great advice. Reminded me of the Thoreau quote, How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

  11. Finally--an excuse to play with Lego when I'm supposed to be writing! (Thanks for the great reminders to not get so wrapped up in our fiction that we fail to ground it in reality....)

    1. Now if I could just come up with as good an excuse to eat chocolate, I'd be set....

  12. So true. It is hard to break away from writing and participate, yet it is essential. Once of the reasons I love The Perks of Being A Wallflower.

    This looks like such a sweet story. Thanks for sharing :)

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  14. Digging out the Legos! Also going to the Children's Museum to watch how kids interact with all the wonderful inventions there.
    Thanks for all the great, new ideas.
    (and for the chance to win a great book)

  15. Those are wonderful ideas, Natalie, for getting into the zone. I'm thinking of going on a ghost hunt soon, to get myself in the writing zone, lol.

    Serendipity and Me sounds great - I do love kitties :)

  16. Can't enter the contest (in Canada) but I am really looking forward to getting a copy of this and reading it.

    AND-oh my wow, what great get butt out of chair tips. I've done the going for a walk or getting up and puttering around the house, but I love love your ideas. Esp. that last one on how to visualize. Thanks!

  17. Thanks for the great ideas on visualization. I would love to win and read Serendipity and Me--when I was in second grade, I fell in love with a kitten that looked just like the one on the cover (the kitten was a Burmese). I remember begging, making deals with my parents to be allowed to keep her. It worked and she was the best cat I ever had. Thanks for reminding me of this wonderful memory!

    1. Isn't the kitten a cutie? Had to change the eye color, though, to match the two different colors of the kitten's eyes in the book.

  18. Love these comments. What great writer-readers you have, Natalie and Casey! I love the cover Viking made for me too--such a cute kittie! Wish you all luck....

  19. What great advice, Judy. And it gives us the perfect reason to get out of the house! Thanks for sharing this here on Literary Rambles.
    I already have my own copy of Serendipity & Me, and it was such a great read! I couldn't put it down.

  20. Judy,
    These are wonderful tips. Thanks for sharing :-)
    Katie M.

  21. Thanks for the great tips and the chance to win!
    Serendipity and Me sounds like a great read!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

  22. These are all great, especially the Lego one.

    I use Google maps and Earth to get a feel for certain places. I'm also always on Wikipedia. Of course I also do more hands on things to prep for a scene.

  23. Good luck with the giveaway, Casey and Natalie.

  24. Hmm...I am going to have to look into the National Underground Railroad Museum. I would love to check that out. Was it Conner Prairie that you visited? I have been there several times and have learned something new every time I have gone.
    GFC Tia

    1. Yes, it was Conner Prairie. What a great place! The National Underground Railroad Museum is in Cincinnati.

  25. That is too funny with the dragons and Lego people! I often keep a sketch pad nearby when writing so that I can map out on something physical what's in my head. It not only helps me keep everything straight during writing it helps me remember how I'd plotted things in the first place during edits. After a novel is finished everything goes into a scrapbook of sorts. Aw, the memories. Speaking of which, let me go blog about the now!

    Thanks for the butt OUT of chair perspective :)