Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Soul Would have No Rainbow....

                     The soul would have no rainbow
                            if the eyes had no tears.

Last week when in Jackson Hole nestled by the beautiful Grand Tetons, I picked up a book of Native American proverbs. This wonderful quote with its wisdom and rhythm, is the title.

Paging through the book I came across this quotation, pertinent to us all, particularly as writers.

                  Words are the voice of the heart.

When I read this I thought of the focus of our writing for children and YA's and what part of heart do we want or need to convey to them. Then I thought of the anniversary this week of Dr. King's speech and remembered a book I read as a child of 8 to 11.

Marguarite De Angeli's  THEE HANNAH still flashes through my memory, scene by scene. Hannah is a little Quaker girl in Philadelphia at the time of the Civil War. She isn't happy that she has to wear plain dresses and hats while her friend who is of another church gets to wear pretty, flowered dresses of different colors. One day she is walking home when a desperate African American woman with her child who are hiding behind a house, calls to her and asks for help. Hannah tells her parents and they help the poor fugitive to an underground railroad station. The fleeing woman tells Hannah she knew she could rely on Hannah to help her because she recognized her dress as a Quaker. Suddenly Hannah understands the symbolism and her family's courage and heart in living what they believe and helping others. What a great book for children to see other children's conflicts and see how their courage does make a difference.

What a great goal to strive for - bringing help and understanding for heart and soul through the books we write.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013


Farewell, Elmore Leonard, father of five children and 45 novels.  Glimpses of your hugely successful writing process will continue to inspire those of us struggling to find a fraction of your writer's life.

  • Elmore Leonard talked about his approach to Bob Greene (Wall Street Journal): "When I get into the writing, I have a pretty good idea of who the main characters will be. But I still don't know exactly how the story will work. And something happens to me in almost every book: A character that, in my mind, may have been fairly minor turns into a major character. I hear him talking, and I realize: This guy is interesting."
  • Elmore Leonard always wrote a scene from a single character’s point of view, then often rewrote the same scene from another character’s POV to see if it was more effective.  
  • His use of dialogue is legendary.
  • Though he started writing in the 1950’s, he ‘found his style’ after reading George V. Higgins’ classic 1970 crime novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle, with its prolific profane dialogue: “I read it and I changed my style somewhat…I started to use expletives where they belonged. I started to open my scenes with dialogue. Higgins set me free.”

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fly, Be Free

As I sit here on this rainy morning pondering what words of wisdom I'm going to lay on you, my lovely Paper Wait readers, I realize no matter what I say, I will most likely fall spectacularly short. Confession: at the moment I'm feeling a bit empty, maybe even melancholy.

This past weekend, my son went off to college for the first time.  And many feels.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Inner Truth of Teenagers

Why do teens love dystopia?  Well, according to Patrick Ness, best known for his extraordinary Chaos Walking trilogy, “Arbitrary authoritarian rulers. Nothing makes sense and there is no escape.  The grim social order is relieved by flashes of personal connection here and there...

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Best Times for Insight & Inspiration?


 Have you ever wondered why inspiration zaps your brain at certain times? Is it chance? Some scientists think not.

In a 2008 New Yorker article "The Eureka Hunt," Jonah Lehrer describes brain research that seems to explain the why of when insight and inspiration can strike.

"The insight process, as sketched by scientists Jung-Beeman and Kounis, is a delicate balancing act. At first, the brain lavishes the scarce resource of attention on a single problem. But once the brain is sufficiently focused, the cortex needs to relax in order to seek out the more remote association in the right hemisphere, which will provide the insight."

When is this most likely to happen?

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Revising and Revising and Revising!

Recently I had a lot of fun revising a manuscript. Well... it wasn't fun all the way through.

Basically here's how my revision process went...

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

"Everything You Feel Like Telling"

I am reading Edith Wharton's autobiography, A Backward Glance. It is rich with information on her development as a writer. Most interesting is her commentary on her critic, Walter Berry, who essentially "taught" her to write. I quote much of what she says in its entirety, as it is invaluable for both writers and critics.

About Walter Berry, she writes: "No critic was ever severer, but none had more respect for the artist's liberty. He taught me never to be satisfied with my own work, but never to let my inward conviction as to the rightness of anything I had done be affected by outside opinion."

Stuck with the development of a novel, she asked his opinion.  "He looked through what I had written, handed it back, and said simply: 'Don't worry about how you're to go on. Just write down everything you feel like telling.' The advice freed me once for all from the incubus of an artificially pre-designed plan, and sent me rushing ahead with my tale, letting each incident create the next, and keeping in sight only the novelist's essential sign-post; the inner significance of the "case" selected. Yet when the novel was done, I remember how meticulously he studied it from the point of view of language, marking down faulty syntax and false metaphors, smiling away over-emphasis and unnecessary repetitions, helping me patiently through the beginner's verbal perplexities, yet never laying hands on what he considered sacred: the soul of the novel, which is (or should be) the writer's own soul."

It is good to know that even one of America's greatest writers struggled to learn, and that the manuscripts she produced (according to a guide at The Mount, she wrote every morning in bed for four hours) all needed help from a sharp-eyed critic who respected what she was trying to say.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Taking my character far, far away to develop him - as in Jersey boy goes to British beach

Even though we've never met, Robin Constantine and I have been on the same page, so to speak, at the beach. We have been imagining characters from our respective novels (hers about to be published, mine a work in progress) on vacation at the beach. Since my novel also takes place in New Jersey, one would think that my main and secondary characters would also have familiarity with it. They don't. The absence of the Jersey shore experience among my New Jersey characters is, in itself, telling: Neither of them go for reasons related to their backgrounds.

However, while I was traveling through southern England last month and periodically writing, where did my second-most important character wind up? At another beach: Teignmouth, in the Devon region of England.

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