Monday, February 28, 2011

Writing Speech

Speech is in the news and resonating in all media this week as the movie "The King's Speech" was lauded at the Academy Awards. We've also been talking about speech here on the blog lately, and as we see from this particular movie, how important speech was to King George and how hard speech can be if you, or your character, has a problem with it.

The King's speech was awkward and humiliating due to his debilitating stutter and the story of his agonizing efforts to overcome the stutter and deliver clear and smooth public speeches was his great personal struggle. Building a character on paper through his or her speech, inner thoughts, physical description and actions is the struggle of the writer, and can be difficult, but the character's speech and thought process will determine his/her voice.

Recently Linda wrote here on the blog about creating the speech of her characters in her early 20th century novel and how she was striving for the reader to hear the authenticity of each character through their individual dialogue processes. A blogger commented to her about the dialect in the best selling novel, THE HELP, and how authentic and important to the life of the novel this dialect is.

I was fortunate several weeks ago to meet Kathryn Stockett, author of THE HELP, and hear her give a presentation of the novel, its roots and her writing process. The dialect that the help in the book used was apt and true since she listened to her inner ear and her deep memories of childhood when her family in Mississippi employed a maid named Demetrie, whom she loved.

She said that she wrote the dialect mostly as she remembered it phonetically. She told a humorous story that an editor in New York put the novel through a process where all the language was dictionary language and it came back all homogenized and no dialect was left! Of course there would not be a best selling and true novel with authentic voice without the dialect.

So, I am now still working on an authentic voice and the perfect pitch speech for my current PB heroine, the egret from the Everglades. What speech are you crafting now and what are some of the obstacles?

Read more!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Glamorous Life?

This weekend I’m heading to a writer’s conference in Atlanta. I’m really excited about getting away, connecting with other writers and focusing on my own creative endeavors, at least for a weekend. So what do you think I’m doing to get prepared? Polishing up first pages? Nope. Finishing up a manuscript? Kind of, but not for the conference. Thinking of pertinent questions that I can ask the esteemed panel members? Maybe later in the week. What am I thinking of now, like, right now, top of the list important?


Okay before you roll your eyes, I’ll tell you this – I’ve been working feverishly on my novel, barely looking up, forsaking much of my other activities, and noshing on whatever is just quick and easy and within my reach – all because I want to get my first draft out. One day, a few weeks ago, in the midst of a rather prolific writing jag I had to take a bathroom break (because, you know, there’s only so much you can put off) and as I finished up washing my hands I looked in the mirror and saw…well, I didn’t really recognize my reflection.

I mean, I did, but I didn’t. A good six inches of my roots were showing, and not only that, my bangs were non-existent, as a matter of fact my hair was just pulled back in a ponytail because it just tends to bother me when it’s in my face. And I'm not even all that sure I brushed it that morning. All I could think was When was the last time I got my hair cut?

Oh, right, September, right before the last writer’s conference I attended. Even my surfer dude muse was like…I say this with love babe, but get yourself to a stylist, pronto.

Then I took a look at my getup. Mind you, it’s the winter and it’s been c-o-l-d. Cold outside, cold in my house. I was in head to toe fleece. Black fleece pants which had no business seeing the light of day and my husband’s forest green The North Face fleece jacket, which is oversized and looks like it adds about twenty pounds to my frame. On my feet I wore my old pair of Ugg slippers (because I do have a new pair, but my Ugg obsession could be another blog post) and back at my computer, to top the look off, I put on my gray woolen fingerless gloves because my hands were getting cold as I typed. Oh, and scarf (cashmere at least), wrapped twice around my neck…all peppered with my Jack Russell Terrier’s white fur.

In a word, I looked…squirrelly. It doesn’t help that when I’m writing, I walk around muttering to myself, making odd expressions to see if I can come up with some more eloquent way of describing a furrowed brow. Which you know, is all fine…when you’re sitting at your computer. But stepping out, into the real world…into the light of day? Major damage control here!

Spending my days as a schleppanista has been great for my writing, but not for my sense of style. This event, after all, is called “The Spring Mingle” which sounds more like a dance than writing conference, but even the word spring makes me want to feel pretty. Light. And mingling is not something one can do properly in head to toe, dog-haired covered fleece. So yes, for the time being my preparation for this conference has to do with vanity.

Which made me wonder…is everyone this way? Do you think Papa Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald showed up to their...well, typewriter or notebook looking less than dashing? How do you show up at your computer? In jammies with a mug of coffee? Heels and pearls? Smoking jacket, anyone? Do tell!

Read more!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Who's Talking Now?

I recently saw the remake of "True Grit." It's a stunning movie, (if you can ignore the gore and rattlers.) The Cohen Brothers have outdone themselves with costumes, scenery and cinematography. They could well win some Oscars but for one thing, I think. The antiquated speech was often difficult to understand.

I haven't read the book or seen the original film, and I intend to do both. Then I'll know whether the speech "impediment" was due to poor direction or poor enunciation.

The human ear adjusts easily to the spoken word, even if the language is archaic. It takes only minutes into a Shakespeare play to catch the rhythm and puzzle out the metaphors.

Which leads me to the speech of my characters. In my present manuscript, I don't "hear" my characters the way I want to. I want to hear the Virginian drawl without using ellipses. I want my reader to be able to distinguish the characters speaking without slogging through tag lines, at least, a lot of them. It is through their speech patterns that characters become three-dimensional and lock themselves in the reader's mind.

Today's writer has fewer tools available. Backstory has been declared burdensome and description a drag on the pacing. Narration is a "no no." That leaves dialogue and swift action to push the plot along.

Who's talking now? The reader wants to know...without trying (or ellipses.)

Read more!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Kiss Me

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I hope this post finds you sitting in front of a cozy fire, eating bonbons from your secret or not-so-secret admirer, and reading a wonderful love story in a children’s book—to yourself or your children.

Which makes me wonder…

What are some of your favorite PB, MG, and YA love stories, from classics to new releases?

For me, in the picture book category, The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn jumps to mind. Just thinking about the portable palm-smooch that mother raccoon gives her raccoon kid, to comfort him while he’s at school, makes me start to dissolve all over again.

For middle grade, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt also reduced me to a soppy mess. When (spoiler alert!) Tuck discovered what had finally become of Winnie, I broke down. I know I was supposed to feel like she’d made the right decision, but I cried anyway. Maybe you did, too.

In the young adult category, it’s probably no surprise that the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer tops my list. A love triangle like that would top any warm-blooded human’s list. Bella and Edward and Jacob, oh my!

Now, you tell me: Which books make your list for best kid lit love stories and romances?

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wrestling with Words

In writing, words matter. Finding the perfect words matters. Finding the exact words matter.

Right now, I'm wrestling with finding those perfect words.

My manuscript is near completion. (Hurray!)

But I am down to considering two phrases and I can't make up my mind which option makes me happier.

The second option is more clever. And it's definitely more fun and visual. Fantastic, right?

But I worry that using the second option could lead the reader astray. It could lead the reader to think that my character is angrier than he really is. (He is actually quite sweet and innocent.)

This is a picture book, I'm talking about, so I get very few words to make my point.

Yes, words matter. When I first set out to write for children, I just never realized how much they matter.

Back to wrestling I go.

So I'm curious, what writing quandaries make you wrestle?

Read more!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Appraising Apps

J. A.'s previous post about apps got me to thinking about how to evaluate them. My first thought was that reviews are one method of separating the good apps from the garbage, a traditional way of bringing selectivity to the marketplace. In addition to professional journals, there are general audience websites that review apps for children - including Best Kids Apps. But will parents pay attention to reviews? Apps are an inexpensive and instant purchase. No more driving to the bookstore or the library. Is it just easier to purchase quickly and take a chance on quality?

Then wondering whether reviews will be heeded, led me to a more basic question: how do you judge an app?

Elizabeth Bird of New York Public Library, gives her answer in Planet App: Kids' book apps are everywhere. But are they any good in School Library Journal.

Do you agree with her eight criteria?

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

There's an App for That

Recently, we've talked a lot about the emerging digital market and how it will affect writers. But a recent GalleyCat post took a different point of view. 27,000 Horrible Kids’ Apps & Other Digital Book World Dispatches laments the overwhelming number off children's books apps that are --as Rukus Media CEO Rick Richter says, "horrible."

Now we've all seen good and bad self-published books. More bad than good, in all honesty. But published books still far outnumber self-published books and published books are far more available to every reader.

But it is highly possible that in this technology rush there are far more self-published apps than apps from traditional publishers, or newly launched, legitimate, digital publishers. As GalleyCat asks, who will curate the App space?

Who is ready to develop an app for that?

Read more!