Monday, May 20, 2013
One of my favorite feel good books (you know, from that section in the book store* nobody wants to be seen in) is Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. In it, he recounts the line from the movie of Nikos Kazantzaki's novel Zorba the Greek:
Zorba, have you ever been married?
to which Zorba replies...
...Of course I've been married. Wife, house, kids, everything...the full catastrophe.
So, maybe if I heard my husband refer to our life together as a catastrophe I might get offended, but actually the term 'full catastrophe' here and in John Kabat-Zinn's book is meant to express the richness of life and all its many faces —good, bad and the gray stuff in between. It speaks to the joys and sorrows, our personal trials and triumphs.
If that isn't a perfect metaphor for the writing journey, I'm not sure what is!
Thursday, May 16, 2013
In Which I Discover My Character Has Purple Hair
Guess what, everybody? I'm using Pinterest and Google Images to help with my writing research! I got the idea from wonderful Stephanie Burgis, author of the wonderful Kat, Incorrigible series of middle grade Regency romances with magic.
Here's an example of how it's working for me. One of my characters, Alastair, is a rocker kid with dyed hair and eyeliner. When I did a Google Images search for BOY EYELINER I found him!
Is he not adorable? Love the ironic eyeroll! Must incorporate the purple hair! After some sleuthing, I discovered that in real life, his name is Adrian Heard and he lives in Australia. But to me he's clearly Alastair Templeton, a British-born rocker, New York resident and magic-loving sidekick to my heroines. Here's what else I learned:
Monday, May 13, 2013
Children's books with a heavy-handed moral? Preachy? Teachy? Very disparaged. A few books can get away with an overt moral - Sendak's Pierre is an example. "The moral of Pierre is: CARE." Klassen's recent Caldecott winner, This is Not My Hat, is a more subtle example - the morals are mostly in the illustrations.
Obviously, what counts is how the moral is presented. Recently, I had a good chuckle . . .
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
So this past week was National Picture Book Writing Week. Otherwise known as NaPiBoWriWee, created by picture book author, Paula Yoo.
The challenge for NaPiBoWriWee is to draft seven picture books in seven days. As anyone who has ever attempted to write a picture book knows, this is an incredibly intense challenge.
And this year I decided to give it a try!
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Last month I wrote about pulling the reader into the story, hooking him so he couldn't put the book down. This month I'll write on getting out of the story, that is, the author getting out, not the reader.
Recently I line-edited a manuscript where the author, charming as he is, was ever present, directing the characters, commenting on their foibles, mulling over their actions and dialogue, with "in facts," "indeeds," and explanations of the characters' feelings. This is, by the way, a great story with an unusual theme and an action-packed plot. But as you can guess, as the author followed his characters' every move and thought, the plot thread grew dimmer and harder to find. With some good cutting, the plot popped out and sparkled.
It's easy to point out where others err. It's much harder to take the scissors or ax to one's own work. But trust me, unless it's a personal essay, the reader does not care what the writer thinks.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
An hour after I read Robin's last post and video about where she got her inspiration, I found a ten-year-old idea file. I had forgotten this file existed. It wasn't in the right place. (At least it was in a folder in a file drawer.)
I pulled it out, wondering what stories interested me when I first began my writing journey.
Turns out I was interested in crime. Teen-age crime.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Did you ever see the movie Limitless? One of my favorite lines is right toward the beginning of the film where we see a truly disheveled Bradley Cooper walking through the streets. His character is narrating the scene and says: My excuse for looking like this? I'm a writer.
I really did LOL with that one. Mostly because I can relate.
One of the aspects of having an author platform is being...well...visible.
After years of keeping my writing cards close to my chest and spending my working days looking fairly disheveled, becoming visible has been one of the more challenging things to do.
So I'm taking baby steps.
And I'm sharing those baby steps with you Paper Waiters!
Here is my Intro Interview on the OneFour KidLit blog, where I talk about my sometimes arduous path to being published.
And here is my first ever YouTube video, made with assistance from my ten year old!! The OneFours have a YouTube channel, and each month we'll be covering a different topic. April's topic is INSPIRATION. In my video I talk about some of what inspired me to write THE PROMISE OF AMAZING. If you have a chance, take a look!
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Years ago I had the opportunity to hear Anne Lamott speak. A friend in my critique group happened to have an extra ticket for her lecture and I JUMPED at the chance to listen to one of my favorite authors discuss the writing process. I don’t quite remember the venue, suffice to say a large, old, theater/auditorium somewhere in mid-town Manhattan, and I’d be hard pressed to come up with an exact quote, but I remember nervously handing Ms. Lamott my copy of Bird by Bird, and squeaking out something that was supposed to sound like thank you as I scuttled away. I do remember laughing a lot as she talked about her process. And I do remember leaving inspired to dive into my own writing.
One of the writing tricks/tools that Ms. Lamott spoke about that day was The Observation Deck – A Tool Kit for Writers by Naomi Epel. I may have ordered it that night when I got home, but I think if Anne had said that it was important to eat artichokes and hop on one leg for ten minutes before sitting down to write, I probably would have done that too. (So glad she didn’t recommend that, btw.)
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
I despise a story with weak characters. No matter how many car races or love-stories the author throws in, a novel is boring unless it centers around vivid, interesting characters who are changing and growing in unexpected ways to respond to their situations--or sometimes resisting change and growth, like Scarlett O'Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND. I loved Katniss Everdeen in HUNGER GAMES for defying the Capitol to protect her sister. Though mostly I hated Bella Swan in TWILIGHT for being so passive and whiny, at least she had the guts to love a vampire.
Young adult literature is so particularly compelling partly because kids by their very nature are always changing and growing and on cusp of such critically important changes. They are constantly being forced to make choices about their own characters. As GraceAnne diCandido, my literature instructor at Rutgers used to put it, the central question of a young adult novel is "Who am I and what am I going to do about it?"
How do you create your own unforgettable characters? Or is there a character in recent literature that you find especially compelling?