Sunday, August 30, 2009
(Every once in awhile I'm really proud of a sentence I have written too, but I am thinking today of sentences that I have read.)
Here are two of mine.
I love this one:
"I fear your argument is beguiled by ostentatious erudition."
Anyone know where that is from? I heard it, loved it, memorized it. It is Abigail Adams, to John Adams, telling him that his speech is too flowery, in the A&E movie John Adams. I don't know if that is a quote directly of hers or written by screenwriter Kirk Ellis. Darn, I should have asked him last year at the writers' conference where we met him....
A favorite first sentence for a novel. "Delirium brings comfort to the dying." The passage goes on to describe someone drowning in freezing water. It is written in first person by that drowning person which I have just now realized is not apparent in this sentence. I wonder if that was on purpose? (Dick Francis, by the way, guilty pleasure.)
I know I am not the only one who collects favorite sentences. They dont have to be FIRST sentences of novels, although they often are. That is the nature of first sentences I guess. We work especially carefully on those.
Any favorites come to mind?
I need some words and so far the thesaurus has only given me the obvious. I need positive words to describe a 13 year old girl, words that could be used to describe a pretty photograph of her. Nothing too old for a 13 year old like stunning, sexy, etc.
So far I have words like appealing, refreshing and engaging. Bright, sparkling, even beguiling.
Come on all, whatcha got?
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
"Craft involves technique. Craft has rules. If a potter doesn't center the clay on the potter's wheel, he can't throw a pot. If a cabinet maker doesn't measure the wood carefully, cut corners at the proper angle or join those corners correctly, she can't build a level table. What the potter and cabinetmaker produce may be art. But they could not produce that art without craft. In craft, it's the process that matters." Nancy Lamb, from The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children.
If you're a children's writer, and you haven't read that book, I highly recommend it. It's probably the best book addressing craft and process that I've read. And no, I'm not partial to it just because she mentioned a potter. Although that is a big reason I love that quote so much!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Unfortunately, in order for me to write consistently and well, I need to have a level of order in my home office. And I've let that go, resulting in procrastination with my writing. Sarah posted the other day about distractions. Right now, my office is full of them. I use that space primarily for writing, but also for keeping my knitting supplies. Which have slowly taken over. Inspired by Tess Hilmo's post on public humiliation, I am going to re-organize my office, which I hope will re-energize my writing.This is what my office looks like this morning. I just cleaned the fish tank. The big wooden thing on the desk is a yarn swift, used for holding skeins while winding balls of yarn on the ball winder, which is attached to the desk to the right of the computer. The brown bag on the floor is full of wool for a sweater. I've already wound two balls of it, which are sitting on the floor. None of that stuff used to be in my writing space. It was confined to the closet, or at least to the baskets in the bottom of the bookcase.
This is what my office used to look like:This environment made me focus on writing. Look how happy I am in my uncluttered space. The goal is to get the office looking that way again, refocus, and get down to writing!
Friday, August 21, 2009
Scott definitely gets the "Community Builder of the Day" award from me today.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
JRW is a small conference by industry standards. That doesn't mean it isn't good. In fact, I think its small size makes it better. Here's why:
- With about 250 attendees, the speakers (agents, editors and authors) aren't overwhelmed. They actually have time to talk to everyone. There's time built into the schedule for socializing and networking. Lunch is served on the premises, and snacks are available in the hallway throughout the day, encouraging participants to hang around and chat.
- Speakers come from a wide range of writing genres and backgrounds. Of course fiction and nonfiction authors and editors come, but poetry, magazines, television and movies are also represented.
- There's a balance of topics ranging from craft to marketing to treating your writing as a business.
- Every attendee is given an opportunity for a five minute pitch session as part of the conference. Sessions are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.
- The folks who put on this conference are committed. They've been doing it for years, and they really care about making it a great experience for everyone who comes. If you need to tell them something, good or bad, they are right there, available and approachable and willing to hear your feedback.
- I've heard some of the speakers, authors and editors alike, comment that this is one of the best conferences they've been to.
Obviously, some of the Slushbusters will be going again this October. If you're planning to go, let us know. We'd love to meet you in person!
Monday, August 17, 2009
Today the Slushbusters welcome Fran Cannon Slayton, author of the middle grade novel When the Whistle Blows. We've come to know Fran through our local SCBWI and kidlit community. Her book is a coming of age story of boys living in the railroad town of Rowlesburg, West Virginia in the 1940's. When the Whistle Blows has earned starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. Fran is the secretary for the Class of 2k9.
What books from early in your life made a big impression on you? Why?
There were three books that made a huge difference in my life at an early age: 1) Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor, 2) Sounder by William Armstrong, and 3) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. The thing all three of them have in common, besides excellent writing, is that they drew me into a place and circumstance that was completely outside my own world and made me think about important concepts like justice, time and love.
What one thing or person helped you the most with your writing?
I can't point to one single person, really. My mom encouraged my poetry writing when I was in grade school by typing out and mimeographing copies of my poems. My middle school English teacher, Mrs. Fisher, helped me understand sentence structure by making me diagram sentences. My husband has always encouraged me to pursue my dream of writing. Father Chet Michael taught me how to follow my calling. Author Michelle Green helped me to find my voice, and my editor Patricia Lee Gauch helped me to deepen my method of storytelling. It has taken a village to make me an author!
I love that answer. How true for so many of us! What is one of your favorite parts of When the Whistle Blows? Why do you like it so much and how did it come to be?
How different is the final product from your first conception of the book?
Well, my initial concept was to create a novel that would be told in a series of short stories, so in that sense When the Whistle Blows came out exactly as I conceived it. On the other hand, at the beginning I had no idea that I'd have a chapter with a football game, I didn't have a good grasp of
At what point in the writing process do you prefer to have other people read your work? Do you want feedback at the first draft stage, or once you’ve done all you can with it and don’t know where to go next?
I don't know that I have a one-size-fits all answer to this question. For picture books I generally like to have the whole manuscript finished and polished before I show it to anyone. For When the Whistle Blows, I showed it to my critique group chapter by chapter as I was writing it. I'll likely do the same for my work in progress, although there is a part of me that would like to have an entire draft done before I show it to anyone this time. I don't really like much formal feedback from my critique group until I have made the part of the book I am showing them the best I can. The exception to this is my husband - I'll read less than perfect drafts of chapters to get his feedback as I am writing.
Interesting. Most of the Slushbusters prefer chapter by chapter feedback as well, but I don't think that's typical for a lot of authors. Beyond critiquing, the Slushbusters have grown into good friends who support each other through successes and failures. How have other writers in your community done the same for you?
I am fortunate to belong to two fantastic local critique groups. One of my groups has become very close and in the past year we haven't been critiquing as much as we've been sharing our lives, celebrating our triumphs and successes and challenges and setbacks. It's fantastic for me to have a group of friends who really "get it" from a writer's perspective, both in terms of craft as well as the business of writing. Sometimes, unless a person has trodden down the path of prospective publication, they don't really understand the emotions, frustrations, questions and struggles that we writers go through on a daily basis. It's great to have a group of writerbudz to share it all with.
Of all the possible readers in the world, who would you most like to hear had read your book and loved it?
Well, I am of several minds about this question. The first name that popped into my head is Alan Alda because he was one of the writers for the TV show M*A*S*H, which was my favorite show as a kid. M*A*S*H pulled off an incredible balance of humor and poignancy that is very difficult to achieve. I would like it very much if Alan Alda liked my book. So that's my gut-reaction answer.
The business-savvy side of me immediately thought I'd like for a big movie producer, preferably Rob Reiner who directed Stand By Me, to read and love my book (and of course immediately decide to make it into a movie!) Or Oprah. Having Oprah like it and choose it for her book club would be very cool too.
But really, the people who I most wanted to read and love it already have: My dad. My mom. My husband. Pretty awesome.
I'm sure it was especially important that your dad love it, given that the stories in the book are based on his life, and because of the family themes throughout the book. What is the one question you haven’t been asked but are always dying to answer?
If someone wanted to send you a present, what should they send you?
Great answer! Thanks, Fran, for stopping by to chat with us. For more information about Fran and her book, as well as a video interview about it, check out Fran's website.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
So I'm going to hijack this writing blog for a moment. I was tempted to sit you down and subject you to all 405 photos and 40 mini-movies of my time in Bosnia. I decided to keep it far, far shorter.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
Since critique is the heart of Slushbusters, I thought I'd link to his post. The 100th post thing is just coincidence.
Naturally this got me thinking about the competition for agents, editors, book contracts, and readers. Because there's a lot of really good work out there. And if everyone's work is good, it's hard to single out the ones who are going to make it. Which means we have to engage readers in much the same way the dancers engage the audience. Not only do we have to impress with our skill, but we have to let our personalities shine, and write characters people will fall in love with. That doesn't mean they have to be all nicey-nice. But they do have to be people you can't take your eyes off of, or in this case, can't stop reading more about.
Talent and hard work aren't enough. You have to find a way to be confident, unique, and endearing at the same time.
Monday, August 3, 2009
This good-looking man wearing faded blue jeans and a crisp white dress shirt, had his sleeves rolled up his forearms and his top button undone. His chiseled face just made you melt with lust. (Oh, excuse me; I forgot this is a family-friendly blog.) He appeared to be in a hurry and got in the express lane with, literally, a cartload of beer and a splash of bottled water. Well, if you’re counting CASES of beer, he technically did not exceed the 15-item limit. Undoubtedly, he was about to throw a party--or would be the life of the party when he arrived with his trunkload of libations.
His choice of beers was pretty humdrum. Molson was the most exotic. But how exotic are you going to get in a Food Lion? It’s not like they’re known as a boutique grocery store. Our local non-chain international grocer has items from far-flung places on our planet and is more likely his usual shopping scene. Surely, Mr. Legal Thriller has tasted pale lagers, brown ales and stouts from the best brewing capitals of the world. Perhaps his taste buds grew accustomed to lesser brews before his first book hit the New York Times bestseller list. Though he did discuss with the cashier the merits of each of the different brewskies he purchased.
But why shop at Food Lion? Convenience? Low prices? No, I think compared to a place like Foods of All Nations he would not be recognized. I can’t say I blame him. It must diminish one’s quality of life to be so famous you can’t travel wherever you want. Restricted movement in our world, to my way of thinking, would be a form of imprisonment. For that I feel for him.