Monday, February 28, 2011

Thoughts on Beginnings

It's always daunting beginning a new project. When I finally sit down with all of my research, character studies, images, and plot outlines it often overwhelms me. Who's story is it? Will it work best with one point of view? Two? Should I tell it in 1st person? 3rd person? What are the stakes? How can I raise them? How far can I take it. Is that far enough?

And then there's my worst enemy -my inner editor, who from the very first word on the page begins to criticize direction, question word choice and order. My inner editor is such a pain, that I've been known to throw a pillow case over the monitor just to shut him up. Yes. I've done that.

I almost always think I'm going to write a story in 1st person point of view. I'll write 10-15 chapters that way, and then I begin to feel restricted. I start all over again in 3rd person, but now I know my character. I can work the immediacy of 1st person thoughts into my 3rd person POV, and still have the flexibility that 3rd offers. Maybe someday I'll get a whole story down in 1st person and make it work. Maybe it'll be my current WIP. We'll see.

I tend to want perfection from the start. I forget that sometimes it's best to sit back and let the story come. This time I'm going to tell it all the first time, even those parts that won't make the final cut. Give myself permission to ramble. Edit later.  *Puts a reminder post-it on the monitor* Yes, edit later...

I'll leave you with two articles I read this week that I thought worth sharing. They're basic, but sometimes it's good to be reminded of things you know but need to hear again. At least I do.

Ten Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice, by Holly Lisle
Understanding Voice and Tone in Writing, by Julie Wildhaber

Keep writing,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tribute to a Master: Brian Jacques

We lost a wonderful, imaginative author this week. On February 5th, Brian Jacques passed away at age 71, from a heart attack. He was a British author who was best known for his fantasy series, Redwall.

I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Jacques speak a few years ago at Northern Kentucky University. The auditorium was filled with a couple-hundred 10-14 year old boys and their parents, a few girls scattered here and there, and me.

The first thing he did was to school us in the correct pronunciation of his name (Jakes -with a long a). We listened to him talk about his life -which was quite an interesting adventure. His first story was written at age 10. When Mr. Jacques told us it was about a bird that cleaned a crocodile's teeth, his young audience laughed. They didn't think it so funny anymore when they learned Mr. Jacques' teacher called him a liar and caned him. His story was very good, and she didn't believe he wrote it. The punishment was given because he wouldn't admit that he copied it.

He talked briefly of becoming a sea merchant sailor at age 15, but what I remember most about his talk is why he started writing. He delivered milk to a school for the blind, and he began to spend time with the children. He starting writing stories for them, and because they were blind, he added lots of descriptive details.

I owe Brian Jacques a big thank you. I'm a teacher, and over the years I've had many boys who were reluctant readers. When they would come to me and say there wasn't anything interesting to read, I'd introduce them to Redwall. Inevitably, they would devour every book in the series I had on my shelves and ask for more.

Brian Jacques will certainly be missed. Rest in peace.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chautauqua Scholarship Deadline

I received this from Jo Lloyd at the Highlights Foundation. I highly recommend the Highlights Foundation Chautauqua Writer's Workshop. The faculty is top notch, and my experience was rich and though-provoking. Good luck!

Hi Folks,

I know many of you have already spread the word about the scholarship program for the annual Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. The deadline for having applications in the mail to us is Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011. We'd love to see children's writers and illustrators, who need financial assistance in order to spend a week with our more than 25 exceptional faculty, be able to attend this workshop. It takes place July 16-23, 2011, in western New York at the Chautauqua Institution. For an application, and for more information, please contact Jo Lloyd, e-mail:, or phone, toll-free, 877-512-8365.


Jo Lloyd
Program Assistant
Highlights Foundation, 814 Court Street, Honesdale, PA 18431
Phone: (877) 512-8365 (toll-free) or (570) 251-4557
Fax: (570) 253-0179

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Odds & Ends and Fun Writer Posts

Hello All!

It's been some time since I've last seen you. I haven't forgotten you, I've been writing. Lots. And when I'm productive in the writing department, I try to stay away from distractions -because the goal is, after all, to get published!

I did write one post and not share it. I think I got distracted. Which, if you know me, doesn't surprise you one bit.

So here is a Late January Post:

As I pulled into the garage today after school, a skateboard magically flew from its perch on the peg wall, hit the side of the van, and landed under the wheel. I backed over the skateboard and out of the garage. (There was no other way to do this since everything in the garage only fits one way.) Then I put the skateboard back in place. (The van was not wounded). As I walked under the eaves and back to the driver's seat, someone slammed the front door of the house causing much of the snow on the roof to land on my head, in my hood, and down my shirt.

The van is in the garage, and I have decided to spend the rest of the day indoors.

And a Crock Pot Recipe I Thought Sounded Good:
BBQ Sauce - Pork Loin w/ Dr. Pepper & lots of garlic. Skim fat. Let cool. Add tomato paste and spices to taste.

And Some Great Blog Posts!
Just One More Page - A new blog by Dave Richardson. All of you Verlakay people know him as "dave r." Dave is an indie bookbuyer/seller for The Blue Marble Bookstore in Ft. Thomas, KY, and he writes a regular book review column for The International Reading Association's READING TODAY. His posts are informative, fun and funny! 

Jennifer Represents -Nancy Drew and the Case of the Guilty Silence - Have you ever wondered why an agent hasn't responded back to a request for a manuscript? 

Also from Jennifer - When to Keep Your Trap Shut? Almost Always. This has some excellent advice for bloggers and others with an online presence. 

Jules Watson - Historical Fiction Workshop - Have you always wanted to attend a writing workshop, but it's never been in the budget? Jules Watson has posted a complete Historical Fiction Workshop, and it's FREE!

Jill Corcoran - How to Sub Queries & Full Manuscripts in the Digital Age "Subbing your ms to agents has definitely changed. No more do you print out reams of paper and ship them off in a box. Now you query and send full requested manuscript via email. And we agents then forward your email with the requested full manuscript to our e-reader, which for me is a kindle. So here are some important tips to help you sub successfully in the digital age."

Finally, because it made me laugh, and because it's TRUE, a video from Jackson Pearce, author of Sister's Red and As You Wish.

Keep Writing!