Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Whoops !

Whoops !

Forgot to post on the 28th! Instead of thinking about the writing process and composing a post I was in the basement controlling the water running like an open faucet, (still am in full combat against the running water, brooming it into the u drain, trying to stay ahead of it), calling the plumber and mason, the tree company for the tree over the driveway and checking out the other storm tossed debris which abounds. At least we are lucky to have power, having lost it only for 20 hours. There are still people in town here with no electricity and therefore no water, and roads still closed and flooding in some places.

But as I push water and clean up from Irene I know that here is a new story here somewhere. Of course, the classic book on experiencing a hurricane for children is the wonderful and honored TIME OF WONDER set on an island in Maine when some weather was acoming!

When I finally finish the cleanup I will sit down and start writing a storm story!What are some of your hurricane experiences and what do you think you might use in your writing from this experience?

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Five Fools Revealed

My retold English folktale "Five Foolish Brothers" appears in the August issue of HIGHLIGHTS.

I enjoyed finding a new way to portray the problems of these thickheaded siblings. Love those noodlehead stories! No wonder they've lasted for centuries.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

What Quotes Inspire Your writing?

It has been a summer of visitors for me and I'm enjoying showing them my adopted home town of Charlotte. On a recent visit uptown we passed the main branch of the public library and it's covered in great quotes about books and writing. I could have spent a good hour reading and reflecting on each one much to my party's dismay. (In their defense, we were on our way to dinner!) I did have the chance to snap a quick picture of the above quote by Helen Hayes. And while it's more about books than writing, reading that helped me connect to why I write in the first place.

There are times I get truly discouraged with this business. I know, who doesn't? But looking at quotes from those who have been there, done that, often feels like taking a quick sip of Red Bull for the writer soul. Something that jolts me, makes me remember why I love to write. At the risk of sounding corny...writing gives me wings. And if I’m able to help someone else take flight, get them away from their lives and troubles for a moment, entertain or make them reflect, I can’t think of a better way to spend my time.

So how about you? Any quotes inspire you as a writer?

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Inspiration . . . Frustration!

Here's my mental picture prompt: a three-year-old boy's bed so loaded with toy trucks ( scads more than six ) there's no room for a child. Yet somehow he manages to sleep in that bed every night. What happens at night with the boy and the trucks on that bed/highway lit by a nightlight?

Must be a story there.

But where and what? I've been struggling with this story idea for two weeks. I've made a list of different kinds of trucks and given each a number of adjectives and sounds. I've jotted down possible relationships between them. I've tried to create a plot with a problem that's solved by the boy and the trucks working together.

And my results so far? A couple of weak, pedestrian stanzas. I'm stuck! (And I doubt changing my venue, as J.L. suggested in the previous post, would help.)

This was to have been a submission to the current Children's Writer contest for poetry or a verse story. I'm about to toss out hours of thought. On to the next idea.

Don't you hate it when this happens?

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Friday, August 12, 2011

I Need to Live Away from Home

Greetings from Cape Cod. There's a bluebird sky, the beach is just across the way, and my head feels clearer than it has all year. It's a perfect time to write or just ideate, as my friend Josh calls it. Give me a notebook, a pen, and a beach chair--the Cape is my laptop-free zone--and I'm more productive as a writer than I am on too many days at home.

At home, between work and kid-rearing, life is so scheduled, so damn busy, I'm always fighting a necessary slew of distractions, just like you, I'll bet. But on vacation, I have the time, and feel the inner peace I need to really think. Frankly, I wish my entire life could be one long vacation, that I could live away from home. Then I'd be enviably productive and prolific, or so I like to think. But I guess that's impossible, an oxymoron.

When I get home, what I need to do is find a good go-to place, so I can keep this writing momentum going. I've never been able to do this. The local library is too noisy. Starbucks is too noisy. I practically need a vacuum-sealed environment, to shut everything out, and that's hard to find, especially in the New York-metro area. But where to go?

Hey, Papers Waiters, if anyone out there has found a good writing haven, could you please let me know? I'm not looking for the exact location--no hostile takeovers intended!--but a general idea that's not a lending library or an espresso bar.

For now, it's back to the beach, pen in hand. I hope you're all enjoying some sea air and big word counts this summer. Cheers.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

No Longer Alone

Once upon a time, I wrote alone.

With the help of a few books (including my trusty CWIM), I drafted picture books, chapter books and short stories. Eagerly I sent them off into the world.

They boomeranged back, rejections.

Then I found ways to join a community...

I joined SCBWI.
I attended conferences.
I learned from online children's writing board communities (including the awesome "Blueboards", fellow kidlit bloggers and Twitter).
And I found my awesome critique group!

This community helped me to understand so much more about how to write for children. Manuscripts no longer boomeranged back. There were "good rejections" and acceptances. My work was published in magazines. I signed with my awesome agent! I signed my first picture book contract!

I don't believe any of these successes would have happened without the wonderful, supportive community I have been blessed to find through the years.

To my fellow Paper Waiters, thank you!!! You have each helped me to grow so much! I will miss you so much as I move across the country. You are such a special group!!! (And I am so glad that I can remain in touch with each of you through the online community that is our blog!)

And for our awesome Paper Wait readers, what communities have helped you to grow as a writer?

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tell Me A Story!

The common advice for writers today, at least for writers of children's literature, is to keep the plot going, action packed, use as little description as possible, and damn the adverbs and adjectives. Voice must be close third or first person. Any hint of an omnicient storyteller is deadly. Why? Writers are in competition with the visual images of TV, movies, internet games and all forms of visual stimulation. The quiet rhythms of words are no longer enough.

Eudora Welty learned her craft as a child by creeping under the dining room table and listening to the adults talk. Jane Austen paid close attention to the music of conversation. And in multiple books and short stories, Mark Twain imitated the language of the streets, camps and polite society laced with his own sardonic observations. Their readers "listened" as they read.

I thought of this a great deal recently as I watched two young boys at play, constructing stories of their own with a large village of old blocks and ancient toys. Now, at the age of nine, will they ask their parents to "read me a story?" or will the siren call of the TV screen beckon? Will coming generations lose the ability to picture things in their mind even as the written word unfolds before them?

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Raising the Stakes

I'm getting close to the finish line. Yes, that finish line. The one where you get to type "the end" finish line. And for me, this may be the hardest part of writing.

I write realistic fiction. No vampires or zombies attacking. The world isn't ending. No need to try to figure out who done it. (Not that there's anything wrong with that! I'm a sucker for a blood-sucking or spattering, a huge fan of dystopian, and love a smoking gun.)

But I write realistic, contemporary fiction. And as I near the end of a novel, I know I need to raise the stakes, up the ante, make my main character suffer.

I'm set with the final crisis, the one that makes the world crash in, but I needed to come up with the final turning point -- that part in the story where the main character thinks it can't get worse than this (oh, what he doesn't know!). I've been pondering this for weeks. Nothing seemed big enough. I was drawing blanks. So I turned to my bookshelves, scanning books on writing, looking for some help. And all I can say is, thank you Donald Maass!

I read through his chapter on Turning Points in his Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. Maass uses some great examples of deep emotion as turning points. Addie, in Jodi Picoult's Salem Falls finally taking the sheets off her dead daughter's bed and saying goodbye as the fresh scent of Tide rises from the washing machine. In The Lovely Bones, Susie Salmon's father, unable to contain his grief and rage, smashes his collection of ships in bottles.

So now, as I work through this final turning point of my WIP, I'm focused on my main character's emotional arc -- I'm finding his reactions don't have to be extreme, but he does need to react and his emotions must be more volatile that ever before.

He has to suffer, but thanks to reminders from Donald Maass, his fictional suffering can put an end to my writer's block.

Here's to chasing away writer's block! Cheers!

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