Author Archives: T. P. Jagger

What to Do When Your Internal Editor Won’t Shut Up & Let You Write

My internal editor hates me. He won’t let me write a sentence without making me go back and reread it multiple times, weighing each action, word choice, and punctuation mark. (Yes, he just made sure I used the Oxford comma in the previous sentence.)

My Internal Editor of Evil has haunted my subconscious ever since I read Mindy Alyse Weiss’s post about “Fast Drafting.” In her post, Mindy mentioned the problem some writers face when they get bogged down in edit-as-they-go writing. This is me. If fast drafting is like a rushing river of creativity, my highly refined “Sloth Drafting” technique flows like congealed bacon grease thickened with corn starch. My internal editor just won’t shut up. In fact, he’s already made me delete two entire paragraphs of my post just to get to this sentence.

Anyway, my inability to overcome my internal editor made me curious:

How many other writers are Sloth Drafters?

In search of an answer to this question, I conducted groundbreaking research using a highly refined scientific technique—I did a poll on Facebook.

It ends up that about half the folks who contribute to the MUF blog have internal editors like mine. Their writing is a slow process with constant tweaks and revisions along the way. Fast-drafting writers zoom past and stick out their tongues while we Sloth Drafters are busy rearranging adjectives and deleting superfluous uses of the word that.

This brings me to what I want to share today—a writing trick for what to do when your internal editor won’t shut up. Of course, I have to start with a disclaimer: I’ve totally given up on writing fast. That’s why my anti-internal-editor trick intentionally avoids any actual writing. Let me explain.

When I feel my creativity lagging and I need to generate ideas, I know I need to turn off my internal editor. But at the same time, I remain stuck in my Sloth-Drafting rut. In these times, I’ve found myself moving more and more often from text to talk. I don’t write a scene; I speak it.

Sometimes I use the voice recorder on my phone. Other times I pull out a good ol’ cassette recorder. Regardless of the device employed, my goal is the same—to adlib a story or scene or snippet of dialogue in a sort of just-for-me spoken improv. I hit “RECORD” and riff away, seeing where it leads. My recording may only last for a minute or two, but I’ve found the lack of written words allows my ideas and creativity to flow more freely. Then—when my recorded riff is finished—I go back and listen. I write down what I’ve recorded, allowing my internal editor to have his way.

If you have another writing tip or trick for overcoming your internal editor, feel free to share it in the comments below. But even if you don’t have anything to share, if you’re a Sloth Drafter like me, don’t be afraid to embrace it. You’re not alone. Sloth Drafting isn’t evil. Your internal editor is part of who you are as a writer. And if you need to shut him up once in a while? . . . Well, just remember that you can  start talking, so your internal editor can’t.

Author Jodi Kendall – Interview & Book Giveaway

I recently had the opportunity to chat with author Jodi Kendall about her debut middle-grade novel, The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City, which releases on October 3rd. Read on for a glimpse into the inspiration for Jodi’s story . . . and for a chance to win a signed copy!

The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the CityT. P.: Thanks, Jodi, for stopping by MUF to chat about The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City. Our interview is quite fitting for two reasons. First, I live in the city. And second, my daughter is convinced she wants a pet pig. I let her scoop the cat’s litter box instead.

Anyway, since I haven’t seen many pigs in the city, I’ve got to know—where did you get the inspiration for your city-dwelling porcine pal?

JODI: I grew up in a big city in the Midwest. When I was thirteen years old, my college-aged brother showed up one holiday season with a surprise piglet in his arms! He had saved a runt from certain death at a nearby farm. Her name was Ellie, and she was a typical farm breed that grew big and fast. Ellie lived inside our house for six months. As you might imagine, we had quite our share of pig adventures! While the main plot of The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City is loosely inspired by this childhood experience, the book is a work of fiction.

T. P.: Wow! That brings to mind two different questions. First of all, exactly how big did Ellie the pig get during her 6 months in your house?

JODI: I had to call my dad to answer this one! He thinks Ellie was about 180 pounds when she finally moved out. Here are a few pictures.

Author Jodi Kendall with Ellie

This is thirteen-year-old me bathing her, and another one when she had grown really big… From the snow out front, I’m guessing it was maybe a month or two before she left our family in April. (I remember because it was my Mom’s 50th birthday and, while us kids all loved Ellie, Mom said that her leaving our house was the best present she ever got!) We had this small room attached to our kitchen – we called it the dinette – where Ellie stayed when we were at school. But when we were home, we let her out, and she roamed our house and explored around the yard, too.

Ellie the Pig

T. P.: As for the second question your real-life-pig-in-the-city experience brings to mind, what’s one event in your novel that was inspired by something that actually happened with Ellie?

JODI: There’s a scene when Hamlet the pig bullies her way into the kitchen, figures out how to open the fridge with her snout, makes a huge mess on the floor, and the main character’s little sister, Amelia, is standing on the kitchen countertop swatting at the hefty pig’s rump with a fly swatter trying to get her to back away. That’s a true story! Pigs are highly intelligent animals and motivated by food. Our pet pig, Ellie, also bit into aluminum cans with her teeth to make it spray soda everywhere (she liked the taste). Ellie learned how to open lower cabinet doors, and she knew there was food inside cans. While she couldn’t open soup cans with her teeth, she did peel off the labels. At one point we had 2-3 dozen cans of unknown content because she tore off all the labeling!

T. P.: It looks like 180 pounds worth of pet pig provided plenty of inspiration! Now let’s go to the flipside of real-life inspiration. What’s a favorite pig-focused scene or event in your story that sprang completely from your imagination?

JODI: There’s a scene in which Hamlet the pig escapes the family’s tiny city townhouse backyard by jumping over the fence into the neighbor’s adjacent property – and this is a very ornery neighbor who is NOT a fan of chaos, noise, or the Shilling family. It was a fun action scene to write (that leads to some consequences and character growth, too).


T. P.: Speaking of characters. . . . As the author, I’m sure you love Josie (the story’s protagonist) and Hamlet the pig; otherwise, you’d never have told their story! Aside from them, who’s your favorite character in the story? What makes that character stand out to you?

JODI: Hands-down, Josie’s college-aged brother – the oldest of the five Shilling kids – Tom. He’s hilarious, confident, and always breaks the tension in the family with a good one-liner. His character was a blast to write!


T. P.: Speaking of writing. . . . What’s next for you? Do you have another project in the works?

JODI: I just finished up the sequel to The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City, which is very exciting. It will publish in Fall 2018. We’ve been secretive about the content, title, and cover art, so interested readers will just have to wait and hear the news. 🙂 But I’m currently working on a new book proposal, a third book that’s unrelated to my first two middle grade novels. And you can bet that there’s an animal adventure involved!

T. P.: A hush-hush sequel??? I can’t believe you’re going to keep us in suspense like this, Jodi! Regardless, I sure do appreciate you taking the time to come visit us here at the Mixed-Up Files. Now, as we anxiously await details about your next novel, I suppose we could offer our readers a chance to win a copy of your current one. . . .

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Want a chance to win a SIGNED copy of The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall plus some bonus swag? Entry is easy. Just comment below by answering one simple question:

If YOU could live in a city with any farm animal, what animal would it be?

You can also earn BONUS entries by sharing this post on Facebook, Tweeting about the giveaway, visiting Jodi’s website, signing up for Jodi’s author e-newsletter, and/or following her on Instagram. Entries will be accepted through the day of the novel’s official release—Tuesday, October 3rd.

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Children's author Jodi KendallTo learn more about Jodi Kendall and her writing, visit You can even download free bonus resources for The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City, including an in-depth Classroom Curriculum Guide.


Until next year . . . MUFiversary, Part 4

Our month-long 7th MUFiversary celebration is now drawing to a close, but naturally, we can’t let that moment pass without giving away another load of free middle-grade books. So . . . here’s the scoop for our grand finale:

Two weeks ago, Jefferson Elementary in Mount Vernon, Washington, won a dozen new middle-grade books for its library. (Hooray for librarian Monica Hodges who entered her school in the drawing!) Now, with a final batch of books, MUF is offering one more school-focused giveaway. A selection of new releases and Advanced Readers’ Copies (ARCs)* awaits another lucky school.

*Major shout-out to Simon & Schuster and Candlewick Press for sending us copies of so many great books we can feature on MUF and use in giveaways!Free middle-grade books

So how do you help a school win these books?

>First, leave a comment on this post, nominating an elementary school or middle school to receive a batch of new middle-grade books for its library. Tell us the NAME OF THE SCHOOL and the CITY AND STATE where it’s located. By leaving a comment with this information, you’ve automatically given the school a chance to win.

>Then you can earn extra entries for the school by sharing about our giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can further improve the school’s odds of winning by having other parents, teachers, and friends nominate the same school.

>The giveaway closes at midnight (ET) on Tuesday, July 4th. On Wednesday, July 5th, 2017, we’ll randomly select the winning school and ship an assortment of middle-grade books to add to the school’s library!

NOTE: Due to shipping costs, this week’s giveaway is only open to elementary schools and middle schools in the United States.

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