Friday, March 29, 2013

Character - The Essence of a Man.....and Woman

Character, the most important element in a story, either a children's book or an adult novel, is the vital pull that carries a reader into and through the story. If we don't care about the character, we don't care about the book's story.

Following up on the conversation on the blog that Judy had here with Julie at her last posting, "Research and Cheese...", Judy mentioned that she found reading the books that her adult book club chooses and focusing on how they treat character, and their characters, to be very helpful in writing books for children. Judy said that many novels delve into details of description and don't spend enough time on development and presentation of character.

Good description is obviously needed and skillful plotting is essential but without characters that live and breathe on the pages there is no story.

Recently my book club read......

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Research, Cheese, and More Recipe Thoughts for Writers...

Photo Credit:  Magnus Manske

We dined at one of the most respected French restaurants in New York City last week. After the main course, a woman pushing a two-tiered cart laden with cheeses arrived.  “I am the commis de trancheur. Which cheeses would you care for?”  

The ‘commis de what?’ We decided not to ask.

“A Brie, a Cheddar and a Blue, thank you.”  My mother-in-law pointed as she spoke.

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Building a World

The best fiction is like a pyramid mostly submerged in water; only the very top pokes above the page but it must give us the sense that we will find a solid, three-dimensional creation no matter how far down we dive to explore it. This is true whether you're writing about aliens with three genders and lavender tentacles, twelfth-century Scots clansmen in kilts, or just a bunch of kids hanging out behind a 7-11 in Cranford, NJ.

The question is, how far do you have to go to create that sense of reality, of faithfulness?

When it comes to research, no one could say I'm a shirker. My WIP is a fantasy novel based on Jewish folklore, so for years now I've been reading everything from the Biblical books of the Prophets, medieval wonder tales, the novels of Isaac Baashevitz Singer, Hasidic tales of the Holocaust, collected Jewish folk tales and Apochrypha, scholarly treatments of ancient Jewish magic and the like.

But now that I've gotten my characters to my fantasy world, I'm having trouble imagining myself there and I couldn't figure out why...until I read Jane Yolen's wonderful essay, Turtles All the Way Down (first published in Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Isaac Asimov and published by St. Martins Press in 1991). The prolific Yolen, no slouch at building worlds herself, suggests that we base our fantasy worlds on landscapes we know intimately. "In fantasy, outer landscape reflects inner landscape…. If the place is real enough, then the fantasy creatures and characters--dragon or elf lord or one-eyed god or the devil himself--will stride across that landscape leaving footprints that sink down into the mud. And if those creatures are also compelling, having taken root in the old lore and been brought forward in literary time by the carefully observing author, those footprints in the mud can be taken out, dried, and mounted on the wall."

How do YOU make your writing come to life? How do you build a world?

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Making the Case for Magazines - Again

Most writers yearn to publish a book. No surprise! Writing conferences, blogs and professional journals are mostly aimed at book publication. Five years ago, I wrote about magazine publication as an option. Since then, the traditional book market (especially for picture books) is even tighter. And the digital/app market for picture books? Unless you are an author/illustrator, or your work is already illustrated, you're pretty much out of luck. Apps are expensive to make and developers usually look for established authors or a branded series.

So why not write for magazines? You'll get some rejection letters, but aren't they're always part of the writing life? For non-fiction articles, you may have to write the dreaded query letter, but don't we all need practice with them? The only other disadvantages are smaller checks than a book advance and your moment of glory only lasts a month.

But consider the advantages:

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Recipe for Writing Success

We all have our tried-and-true recipes that we return to time after time for potlucks, dinner parties, or family meals. But what is your recipe for writing success?

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Friday, March 8, 2013

The Excitement of Reading!

As a children's writer, I have seen and appreciated children's books from many angles. Of course, I enjoy trying to write them. And of course I enjoy reading them. As a former elementary school teacher, I also love teaching children to read them. And now, as a mom, I am enjoying a new thrill...

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Monday, March 4, 2013

The Historical Novel

How does a writer make a historical novel sound as if it is of the period, not about the period? I have found several recent historical novels written for children filled with what I call "forced facts," just to remind the reader that it's 1890 or 1960. The Gibson Girl herione mounts a "new fangled" bicycle and rides off, or a young boy turns on a 14 inch Dumont TV to watch Howdy Doody.

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Friday, March 1, 2013

Filling Up Notebooks

Confession. I'm a victim of the Palmer Method. I went to Catholic School and learned to write cursive in those notebooks with the dotted lines through the center. I spent many an hour looping my ds, ps, and qs to just the right height, my wrist never touching the desk. Somewhere along the line, I rebelled, and now even I have a hard time reading my scrawl.

But that doesn't stop me from filling up notebooks.

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