I finished a YA novel, tentatively titled DROWNING LESSONS. It's currently on my editor's desk. So I'm at that nerve-racking "waiting to hear" stage.
I'm going to assume you're referring to strictly career-related events. There were many memorable highlights in that area, but one of the best was speaking on a panel at NCTE/ALAN last November with Gail Giles, Kevin Brooks, and Jeanne Duprau. It was wonderful to meet these remarkable and talented authors. What made the event even more special was that it was held in San Francisco, my birthplace. I was an infant when my family moved, and this was the first time I'd ever been back to that fabulous city.
Nothing out of the ordinary.
I prefer to give my full focus to one novel at a time. Last year, because of a delay on my most recent book, Devil on My Heels, I found myself juggling revisions of that book, revisions of a short story that I wrote for an anthology, and writing the first draft of Drowning Lessons. The latter was under contract and the deadline was the end of September. I felt pulled in so many directions. I have tremendous respect and admiration for writers who, unlike myself, are good at multi-tasking. Fortunately I have an understanding editor who gave me a four-month extension on my latest book.
No particular ritual. I get up. Feed the cats. Make a cup of tea. How I approach my writing day depends on what stage I'm at in the manuscript. If it's the early "dreaming" stage, I might make random plot and character notes as they come to mind. When I begin the actual writing, I have this approach/avoidance thing going. I want to write, but when it isn't coming together I'm easily distracted. I'll shift my focus to answering correspondence, working on speeches, or designing power point presentations for author visits—any number of work-related tasks. But when I'm in the zone, when the words are flowing, I can't wait to get to my computer first thing in the morning. Often I'll write in a white heat for hours. That doesn't usually happen, though, until I have a strong sense of my main character(s) and a sense of where the story is going.
I'm fortunate to have a number of writer friends, most of whom are in my two writers' groups. The combined wisdom of these talented and generous women has been a guiding light in my life for many years. It's almost impossible to choose the "best" advice from all the things I've learned from them. One piece of advice several of them gave me, however, was that it wasn't a good idea to read works of fiction similar to the one you're currently working on. I learned the hard way that they were right.
DEVIL ON MY HEELS, a YA novel set in central Florida in 1959 about a grove owner's rebellious teenage daughter and a threatened migrant worker community, is due out this May.
I'm currently doing research for a historical novel set in the mid 1700s. It's a nice change of pace for me.