Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Soft Sounds of Forest Voices

Soft sounds of streams slipping over stones, snow drops falling on grass, a bird's quiet chirping - are some of the voices speaking to visitors at Tetons National Park Visitors Center.

In my last post here, I wrote about listening to different voices from other places than our own immediate world - new spots we might visit, especially in the summertime, and how enriching new voices are to a writer. Last month the new voices I heard were from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

This week while visiting the Grand Teton Mountains in Wyoming my ears tickled with the many unique sounds of this western, high country.

At the new Laurence Rockefeller Visitors Center by the trail head for Phelps Lake, one of the galleries features five long panels that show revolving, short film shots of the sounds of nature through the seasons in the park - the summer stream, the winter snow and the chirping bird, along with moose slowly stepping from the cover of trees into the meadow of deep snow, and an eagle lightly ruffling his feathers.

The gallery intends to demonstrate the tranquility of the wilderness and its inspiration for visitors to find a sense of serenity and relaxation away from the hectic pace of modern life.

Outside on the trail up to Phelps Lake, the sun was shining hot and the sky deep blue. The breeze blew threw the pines , rustling the needles, the creek bubbled down the hillside, and a waterfall crashed over its rocky drop. The clean green water of the lake shone in the sun and reflected the majestic mountains behind it, and was still, until its quiet was broken by a splash of a pebble and the laugh of a child.

These varied and beautiful sounds of the mountain wilderness speak to the visitor, and especially to a writer. So many sights, sounds and ideas for new stories and thoughts for enhancing Works in Progress.

As the last days of summer linger, what new voices have you heard this year and how will you use them in your writing work? .

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Friday, August 24, 2012

The Top 100 Teen Novels

NPR has polled it's audience and come up with a list of the Top 100 YA Novels. Now National Public Radio's audience may be skewed toward the literary and the liberal, and there's no breakdown of the ages of people who voted, but when I read the list, I found only a few surprises.

Does it say something about the age of the voters that the Anne of Green Gables series ranks so high - #14? I was interested to read the link within the NPR article to a blog about what the judges thought constitutes YA as opposed to middle grade. Don't you think the Anne of Green Gables books would be considered MG these days? Perhaps I'm not remembering the last book in the series correctly.

As you look down this list, what comments do you have?

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Romance, Hold the Cheese.

About a month ago, I watched the movie Letters to Juliet with a group of my friends. When I originally saw it on the big screen, I was swept away with the gorgeous Italian countryside and of course, the romance. Who doesn’t love a story about star-crossed lovers who meet again and reignite their passion? Or of someone in the wrong relationship who is suddenly thrown together with a person who is truly right for them?

The ladies I was with apparently. As the credits rolled, more than a few of them thought our choice for movie night was entertaining but somewhat cheesy.

Oddly enough, I agreed.
For me, what had been magical on the big screen came across as slightly unbelievable and forced in my friend’s living room. But what had happened? Maybe since I wasn’t distracted by the larger than life gorgeous scenery and hot buttered movie popcorn, I had the chance to dissect the plot?  Was my mood different?  Or was I affected by my friends reactions? I’m not entirely sure but the question that remained with me, especially as a romance writer, is how do you let a character express their feelings without making it seem cheesy or forced?

Romance is different to all people, isn’t it? What may come across as mawkish to one person might ring true to someone else. If I’m writing something from the heart and a person deems it cheesy – does that mean I'm trying too hard? Or is it just a matter of opinion? And the bigger question is this – if the literary world can accept dystopian societies where kids fight to the death, angels and demons battling over doomed love, and any number of dead girls reflecting on their life who are given the chance to make it better - why is the act of falling in love and forging a relationship so hard to believe?

Are we all just too cynical for a dose of cheesiness now and then?  

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

You Think I Should Change THAT? No Way!

Love your critique group, but hate some of the advice you get? We've all been there - that stomach roiling reaction to suggestions you don't agree with and the urge to argue rather than maintain the old listen-with-lips-closed demeanor. Instant critique rejection. Happens all the time.

Think you're right to instantly reject a critique comment? Think again.

Becky Levine writes about critique groups. Click on her blog Moving Forward on The Writing Path, and read her great post "Critique Comments: Remembering to Give Them Time."

How often have you instantly rejected a critique suggestion instead of letting it age like fine wine? Did that suggestion eventually improve your story?

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Lessons from the Violin

This week, I am quite busy. I am attending a Suzuki Institute with my oldest son. For those of you who have never attended a Suzuki Institute, I will tell you, it is quite an amazing experience! Each day, my son gets to take a technique class, a master class, a repertoire class and a rhythm class.

More advanced students are taking music reading, debut orchestra, intermediate orchestra and advanced orchestra. And there are recitals-- a daily honors recital, special evening recitals and an ending recital where all the students will perform.

It is incredible to walk around a college campus filled with so many young musicians! And the teachers have so many techniques for helping their students grow and have fun with the violin (or the viola or the cello or the bass).

Being in such a wonderful artistic environment makes me think about the ideal environment for writing:

1. Just as I make time to practice violin with my son, I must make time for my own writing,

2. Just like his practice sessions don't need to be long, mine don't either. Short, regular sessions devoted to writing or to violin are great. Time can really add up!

3. A big dose of inspiration is very valuable! In Suzuki, it's this institute and regular opportunities to perform at recitals. That inspiration can help you make it through the regular daily practice.

For writing, I must give myself similar inspiration! The conference I went to in April gave me a much needed boost of writing energy. And this year I really want to make it to my local SCBWI chapter's amazing monthly meetings. (Last year, violin group class for my son got in the way. :o) )

Looking forward to a productive and inspiring year! (Are there other lessons we can learn from the violin-- or other arts?)

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

What Constitutes Historical?

I am considering further revision of a book I wrote some years ago. Well, that's a lot of time to think of changes. One of the problems with the novel is that I had placed the story in a contemporary setting. Each time I revised the manuscript, technology, such as phones, fax machines, cell phones, cars, and all their possibilities had changed, and I had to bring the manuscript up to date, leading to other changes, ambiguities and incongruities, etc., etc. I think in my next revision I will place the story in 1980, and by doing so, eliminate some of these stumbling blocks. Now, in your opinion, will this make it a historical novel?

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Brain Freeze

I know I'll be aging myself here, but anyone remember that PSA in the eighties that showed an egg frying in a pan with an ominous warning that went something like this  - "This is your brain." (the egg) "This is your brain on drugs." (egg frying) "Any questions?" As I begin another round of revisions, I think I might be changing that to - "This is my brain." "This is my brain during revision."


Wait, no, that's honestly not the right feeling. It's more like the above picture of a dried out sea sponge...empty. Maybe I shouldn't be posting this but I know in the past I've made it clear that I have a love/hate relationship with revision. Yes, it's hard but exciting and ultimately I embrace it, since revision is like 80% of the process, isn't it?

The dried out brain feeling is heinous, though. I feel like I've turned every stone, gone down every path, asked "what if?" about a gazillion times. The request for more revisions has me stymied because my characters have suddenly gone AWOL. ( It's summer, they're teenagers, I guess I should give them a break.)  I've taken to putting my subconscious to work, posing questions right before I go to sleep so when I wake up I can have a "eureka" moment.

Still waiting on that one.

In the meantime I'm working on small edits. I know it will all work out fine, my characters will sheepishly show up on my doorstep during down dog or while I'm taking a shower, but oh, the angst of waiting for it!!

So, Paper Waiters, have you ever felt this way? What do you do to remedy this feeling?

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