Sunday, July 28, 2013

Making Books Live

Recently I was researching material for a book set in medieval England and delved into what kind of books were in use then. This prompted me to review the history of book making from the writings of the ancient world engraved on stone tablets, progressing to text inscribed on papyrus in Egypt at the time of the pharaohs and parchment in Greece and the
Middle East to paper in China. The invention of the movable type printing press by Gutenberg in the 1400"s expanded phenomenally the manufacture of books and the distribution of knowledge. And then on to ebooks and the Gutenberg Project which encourages ebooks distribution and expanding information, knowledge and story.

Back in medieval England, books or manuscripts were hand written on parchment and
used by scribes and scholars in goverment, the church and business, as well as by students in universities. We stand in awe of these historic volumes in museums and libraries and prize their history, language, script and illuminations. Hopefully some of the books we work on and produce in printed form or in the eworld will survive to be used and enjoyed in the future, and maybe even occasionally some one in the future will look at them with a little awe. 

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Writer's Workout

At the suggestion of a critique partner, I cut my latest manuscript into pieces.  I tell ya, critiques can be rough!

Seriously, they can.  But this was a new angle on revision.  I’m putting my ms back together like one of those magnetic poetry puzzles.  I mix and match the couplets that make up my PB, see what’s essential and what’s not.  In one exercise, I looked at only scenes with the main character.  A verse I thought was critical is actually redundant.  In another, I looked at only the bad guy.  Turns out he might be just as threatening without a verse or two.  Next, I’m going to rearrange the scenes with plot flow in mind. 

Something about the physicality– the touch and the visual of the paper pieces moving around, pushes my creativity button.  It’s also faster than doing it online. 

More physicality to come when I create a PB dummy for dummies by taping the paper verse over the text in an existing picture book.  You can see page turns and imagine the rising and falling action.  (Another helpful suggestion from a critique partner!)  All this physical hand waving and paper movement – maybe I'll lose some weight.

It’s impressive what new insights can be gained by viewing a puzzle from a different angle, like unexpectedly viewing a mirror or photograph of myself from the back (ooooh, that writer’s workout isn’t reaching much beyond my elbows...). 

Another great suggestion for a paper and glue workout comes from an interview with Jo Knowles (Lessons from a Dead Girl) on Inkygirl.  For her novels, she creates a storyboard.  Each chapter is represented by a simple picture (think stick figures a la Blues Clues), a quick plot summary below the picture, and the strongest emotion labeled at the top. The story arc is immediately apparent -- a one glance view of the ms.  It’s a great tool that should be just as (if not more) useful for PBs as well.

So writers, go get physical!  Let me know if you have any other suggestions for a writer’s workout, especially any that work off the weight that shows in those rear-view pictures.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Characters on Vacation

Over on the OneFour KidLit YouTube channel this month, we are highlighting places our characters would go on vacation.  Since THE PROMISE OF AMAZING takes place in New Jersey, I didn't have to think too hard about where the teens in my book might venture on a sweltering summer day.  I had such a blast creating this video that I thought I'd share it here as well!
Where would your characters go on vacation?

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On Censorship and Happiness

As writers for children, we often navigate the line between too little and too much gritty realism. For one thing, we don't want to cut out a giant portion of our audience because of the censors.

I always sneered at censorious parents till this summer when my daughter got a part in "The Laramie Project,” at camp. It's about that poor kid in Wyoming who was beaten to death for being gay.  I didn't stop her, mind you, but I fretted about it to everyone who would listen.

 “It must be one of those ‘socially conscious’ camps,” my boss offered dubiously.

“Well, you wanted her to do something besides Guys and Dolls," my husband said.

My best friend texted me back:  she's happy about it you're happy about it 

But I wasn’t happy about it. I'm not a Bible-thumper. I support gay marriage. I just didn’t want my girl immersed in the most morose, miserable story possible at camp. I thought it was all wrong for her. Was I right?  You look at her face and tell me.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

One Haiku: Help Wanted


Each year when we go to Maine, I take along a haiku for kids about sunset at the ocean. I've been fiddling with it for years - this metaphor about the setting sun as a basketball. Should the sinking sun be described as a slam dunk or a swish shot?

This year, you can help me decide.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Old School Index Cards Rule

As I zeroed in on the ending of the second major revision of my WIP, I came to a terrible realization. My ending sucked.

First reaction: Overwhelmed. How can I fix it? It's too much work. Maybe I should trash it and start something new. Maybe I should go find some chocolate.

Second reaction: Find the chocolate and think things through.

Third reaction: Okay, I think I've got a new ending, but holy shit! It's too much work. New ending requires new stuff sprinkled throughout. Maybe I should trash it and start something new. Maybe I should open up a bottle of wine.

Fourth reaction: Open up a bottle of wine and get to work.

Here's what I did.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Why I Love Our Critique Group!

I had a great night tonight! Normally I don't focus my blog post on what a great night I had, but tonight it seemed appropriate because tonight I spent my evening...

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

More for the Fourth

Happy 4th! Well, maybe. I just talked to my seven year old grandson who seemed a little vague on the details. A BOOK IS IN ORDER  said I, and I googled GoodReads for suggestions.

Humm. There are some old standbys, Sam the Minuteman and George the Drummer Boy written with the idea that kids understand things better from a little person's viewpoint. There are lots of books on the subject written from animals' points of view: mice, dogs, bears. Mary Pope Osborn has written on the subject, Happy Birthday America, and a popular book appears to be Wow America by Neubucker.  Commenters had good things to say about Jean Fritz's series on the Founding Fathers.

BUT, dear writers, my cursory survey on 4th of July literature indicates there is precious little out there for young readers. An understanding of the unique history of the United States is essential to coming generations. Let's get some new and interesting books on the market!

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Writing on vacation, English-style

As a child, when my parents took us places, sightseeing was nonstop. We weren't those "It's Tuesday, it must be Belgium," type people--they didn't rush us through places--but the whole day we were expected to be somewhere, on the move. I thought all people traveled like this.

And then, in my mid-20s, I made British friends..and traveled with them. They took longer hikes "walks" than my parents...but they would also stop for tea. Often. They didn't have to "be somewhere" every moment, or every day. They knew how to take breaks. I was amazed. And ever since then, I have traveled half like my parents, half like my British friends.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

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