March Madness Check In Day 16--I Spy

First let me start off with today's winner:

Misha Gericke

Go to this post to pick out your prize

And then email Denise your choice at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com and she'll get it to you.

Last Summer I was lucky enough to be able to attend ALA as it was held in Anaheim, California. I live about 30 minutes away so I didn't have any excuse. I went.

One galley I picked up, A YEAR OF WRITING DANGEROUSLY by Barbara Abercrombie, sounded intriguing as it's a collection of quotes, lessons, prompts from a UCLA Extension Writing teacher. Today I thought I'd share one of her prompts with everyone.

52. The Writer as Spy.

The great advantage of being a writer is that you can spy on people. You're there, listening to every word, but part of you is observing. Everything is useful to a writer, you see-every scrap, even the longest and most boring of luncheon parties...

Graham Greene

I admit it. I love to eavesdrop on conversations.

I don't go to this extreme. Or even do this:

I love to listen to other conversations while at Starbucks, Panera, the library, and even at my son's satellite school which include high schoolers.

Once at dinner, we were seated next to a bilingual couple and their teen. Of course, I was listening. My husband knew what I was doing and later asked what they were discussing. Since I'm fluent in Spanish, I got the overall jist of their conversation. Plus, I picked up some great dialogue for my own writing. Not only that but I picked up on the mannerisms and body language too.

I admit I sometimes feel like this:

Or I might just 'ask'. I've done this a few times while I sat in satellite school's study hall which happened to be filled with teens. What they shared shocked me at times but overall helped me see things through their eyes. **And yes, they love e-books and no FB isn't all that!

My question today is do you do your own I Spying to help with your writing? Can you share any interesting discussions you might have picked up on?

Stop by tomorrow with Kelsey Macke at


Candilynn Fite said…
Is it bad that I'm actually checking in the night before. It's almost midnight here if that makes any difference! I've been in such a funk lately with my writing, but your post reminds me of one of the things I love most about being a writer! So, thanks Kim for the smile. :)

Playing I Spy. I do it everywhere (I spy, that is!). It drives my family nuts, especially when we're out to dinner, and I lean over or twist my head just enough so I can listen in on others' conversations. I jot down words or phrases I overhear. One of my favorite phrases I've heard was a few years back in west Texas, in a tiny town called Marfa. A female innkeeper was talking to another guest at the counter when she spilled her drink. She hollered out, "Oh, pookey, dookie!" I swear, one day, I'll use that phrase in a story. I've also been known to take quick pics of people or their clothing with my phone's camera. My girls tease me about being "creepy". Hey, a writer has to do what a writer has to do, right?

Hope everyone is getting a lot accomplished this month. I have to admit, I've slacked in the past week, but for reasons I won't bore you with today. I whined about it on Denise's blog already!

Have a super great weekend! Wip on, peeps!
Oh yes, I'm a constant spy. I need one of those T-shirts that says "Be careful what you say or you'll end up in my novel." High school teaching has many different types of pluses.
Jennifer said…
I spy without even realizing I'm doing it; it's become second nature to me.

I'm hoping to get tons and tons of writing done this weekend, if I manage to finish my taxes. Boo taxes!
Yep. I spy. I should spy more, though. I need to watch people's non-verbal communication more. And Jaye, I have one of those t-shirts, a friend made it for me. ^_^

Now I must get rolling on these revisions. Took the day off yesterday and need to make up for that.

Stay calm and carry on, Wipsters!
Kim Baccellia said…

It drives my family nuts too! Husband will lean over more than a few times whenever we're out someplace and ask me what the discussion was all about. While waiting for a movie to start, I once heard this young mother say, "Oh, snap," as she was pulling along two young children. The way she said it had me thinking, "I got to use that line!'

Hope you get out of your writing funk. I so know about those. I'm sending some writing fairy dust your way.
Kim Baccellia said…

Ooh, one of the perks of being a teacher has to be picking up on not only dialogue but mannerisms of teens. I homeschool my tween son through a charter school. This means I'm able to go to his satellite school twice a week. There's K-12th grade there. Last year I was able to go to the teen's study hall. It was so fascinating to observe and take notes. They caught on to me though! What happened next was a very lively discussion on what they thought about certain issues.

Thanks for posting!
Kim Baccellia said…

I need one of those shirts! Husband tells me, more than a few times, "Now is that really nice?" Uh, yeah?

I love to sit back after church services and observe people. Body language is so fascinating!

Thanks for stopping by! You're always so supportive!
Kim Baccellia said…

You go, chica! Yay, on getting lots of writing done this weekend. My husband and son are at an overnight scouting camp which means I finally have time to WRITE! Yay!

And I know the feeling on taxes. Have to do those too. Double boo.

Thanks for stopping by!
Denise Jaden said…
Yesterday I was hanging out in the mall and could barely drag myself away because there were so many interesting teens there. So, yes, I spy.

I've been working on FAST FICTION--mostly reformatting for my publisher. Kind of mundane and time-consuming work, but it's all good. I'm looking forward to getting back to my WIP as soon as this is done.
Congrats, Misha!

This was also a Writer Question of the Day (#WQOTD) to which I replied, "All the time." You never know what these little snippets of gold might offer you for a character or theme for a scene.

While waiting for my sister at the mall a few weeks ago, I was typing away and I heard the tension of an argument. My eyes slid up from my screen and there was a young Korean couple arguing. Body language alone told me that the guy did something majorly wrong. She'd keep stalking off and he'd pull her back, their performance right there in front of me. At one point, he'd flopped down beside me on the bench. But my eyes followed the the platform boots stomping towards the exit. It took the guy a few seconds to realize what happened before going after her.

Only regret? I don't understand Korean. But the entire scene was universal--guys are dogs. Ahem, I mean, raw emotions transcend linguistic boundaries.

Also, I wanted to mention something that I forgot in yesterday's comments (twice, it seems). I'm thankful that I've never been jealous of other writers and their laurels. They have as much right to have their day as I do. In fact, put me right on top of the pyramid. I'll cheer for them. It's never been, "Wow, their idea was awesome. I'm doomed and I hate them." Rather, every time I read a blurb or review of someone's book I marvel at the limitless endeavors of human creativity. It makes me proud to be a writer in this era.

Didn't see a soapbox anywhere, but I just wanted to share the love.

Have a great weekend--stay away from the Shamrock Shakes. They don't taste the way they used to. ;-) And, no. For those unfamiliar, it's not a dance craze, it's a drink. (On that note, Alabama Shakes? Also not a dance craze.)


Misha Gericke said…
Yay! I'm so happy I won! *Happy dance*

I definitely keep my eyes and ears peeled for anything that might interest me as a writer. There's actually a lot to be learnt just by paying attention.

Checking in: Read 11 chapters today and wrote 1652 words today, bringing this week's word count to 10156. Which now puts me four days ahead. If I manage to maintain this writing pace, I'll come in closer to 40k this month. ^_^
Ok, I admit it. I, too, am a major eavesdropper, especially when it's teenagers! Today, I'm exhausted, so there won't be much wip action. Just a nap and some mental free writing.
Kim Baccellia said…

Ooh, mall and teens. I've stolen some of the best dialogue from these encounters!

Good luck on your non-fiction project. And congrats again!
Kim Baccellia said…

Congrats! And wow, chica, you're cruising with your writing! You're also motivating me to get back to my revision!
Kim Baccellia said…
Mary Ann,

Naps are good. I usually take one of Sunday after church services. Then I'm 'refreshed' to start attacking my projects again.

Thanks for posting!
JoyMC said…
I remember after reading Harriet the Spy I took to waiting in closets with a notebook and pen and hoping I'd discover something exciting. I never did, probably because I used closets in my house. :-) Now I do more spying in plain sight.
Kim Baccellia said…

Too funny. I remember as a child using the glass technique to listen in on adult conversations especially whenever my mother's dad showed up as he had all the latest gossip.

Thanks for posting!
Kim Baccellia said…

Ooh, isn't it interesting that body language is universal? I've overheard my fair share of similar arguments. I'm fluent in Spanish and have an ear for different languages. Still there's those I don't understand but like you said, I check out the body language.

I admit sometimes I do get down when I hear someone gets that huge deal but like you I realize it's better to laud their success. Also I love to cheer them on. It helps me to not think of myself which can get very depressing. I had one author friend tell me once, that she was a 10+ year overnight succeed. I think we sometimes forget that almost all those who get those deals had to work for it. And yes, they do deserve lauds.

Thanks for dropping by and posting!
Candilynn Fite said…
Wow, thanks Kim! I'm actually feeling much better today. I swear the funk last about 8 days! Too long. But I stayed up late last night and got up early this morning. Worked on (finished) a first draft of a new picture book, and am feeling good right about now. Thought I'd better check in on the actual check-in day. :)
Shari Green said…
Candilynn, I'm so glad you've got something new you're happy with. Way to stick with it through the funk!(Writing funks are horrid, aren't they? Ugh.) Happy writing!

I don't do a lot of intentional spying, although I do spy by accident at times, lol. (My subconscious is being a writer, even when I don't realize it.) That said, I think I could benefit from more covert ops. *dons invisibility cloak*

It's a mad, mad day around here. Tons to do, but writing is on the list. There shall be words! Good luck with the Madness, everyone! :)
Brooke Younker said…
I listen in on others' conversations every day, but I don't watch gestures as much as I should. Maybe something I need to pay attention to more. Since I'm teen, I'm around & listening to other teens all the time, so I get a little advantage here... like listening to things most of them would never say in the presence of adults ;)

I can't believe we're halfway though the month! I've already met my goal for the weekend, and set a new one since that one obviously wasn't as hard to meet as I thought it'd be. Just keep moving forward, right?
Chris said…
Love the hair, Kim! Hope you get lots of revising done today.

The other day at the ice cream parlor, I was listening to this one guy talking about his interaction with a homeless man in San Francisco. The guy was a little surprised when the man turned down his offer of his leftovers from breakfast because it had meat. I wish I had written down how he told it, because it would make a great scene.

I find spying helps a lot with dialogue and to a certain extent, voice.

Off to write for a few hours in between loads of laundry.
Kim Baccellia said…

Thanks! Ooh, I would have loved to hear that one conversation!

Yes, I was able to tackle three revision chapters. It's great having a day to yourself!

Thanks for commenting!
Kim Baccellia said…

When I was a teen and even when I was in college, I used to love to eavesdrop on conversations only to caught the latest gossip. My favorite thing to do while in college had to be sitting on the bench and just observing people.

Yay on making your goal! And thanks for being a part of this!
Kim Baccellia said…

Mad, mad day here too. Husband and son just got back and I got an earful of the latest drama. Sunscreen bottle burst all over my 'nice' backpack; son 'decided' to go after frogs and I found out this waterproof stuff isn't all that; water mattress leaked, and other stuff. And they say girls are drama queens.

Thanks for posting!
Kim Baccellia said…

That's okay. I usually post before I go to bed so you guys on the East coast can see my post in time for the actual day!

Yay, on maybe breaking through that writing funk! Remember, we're here to cheer you on!
Well I must admit that I am an eavesdropper... I once thought my gift was a problem, that sometimes I literally couldn't help but to listen in on peoples conversations. Like my ears were just uncontrollably tuned into it. Now that I can use my little superhuman power as an advantage to my writing I have wholeheartedly embraced it! Now I just have to work on doing it more sneaky like! Nobutreally, people watching is both relaxing and fascinating and helpful in finding voices for building dialogue (which I am just no good at). Glad to be living in a world of other eavesdroppers, it calms my nerves about being a big ol'weirdo :-)
Melissa Grey said…
People watching/eavesdropping is my favorite thing and it's absolutely essential to writing, I think. We write to capture the human experience in words (which is a statement vast enough to encapsulate nearly everything), and one way we absorb the human experience is through observation. Seeing things other people overlook. Being a writer has always felt a bit like being a detective to me. The writer is Sherlock Holmes and the world is a case he's trying to solve.

Today was a bit of a letdown. I only got about 1000 words down. I'm going to try to write some more after I crawl into bed but I'm just not feeling it.
Kim Baccellia said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim Baccellia said…

I totally love to people watch and like you I feel it's an important part of writing.

Now on the writing:
Think of it this way. You wrote 1000 words. That's better than 0. **And better than I did today. I ended up deleting more than writing and my grand sum was a couple hundred words.

Thanks for posting!
Kim Baccellia said…

Welcome to the club of eavesdroppers! I think I've always loved to listen in on conversations or at least check out body language. My favorites places right now have to include son's satellite school during lunch and also observing people after church services.

Thanks for posting!

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