08 May 2012

Thank you, Mr. Block

I receive regular e-mails from Writer's Digest with different online articles.  In a recent e-mail they highlighted some of what they termed "Timeless Quotes About Writing".

One in particular really touched a cord with me at the time and I've tried to take its words and meaning to heart and apply it in my work:

"One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off." 

~Lawrence Block, June 1981

It's not always easy to give ourselves permission to do something like write badly.  Especially when our goal is to stop writing badly.  To put into practice all of those amazing things we've learned at writing conferences, through critiques, and by reading books and articles about writing.

We spend valuable time and money trying to become better and so maybe we think that in order to make it worthwhile we need to do well the first time and then when we're editing make it better.  But why?

I've often found the urge to go back and edit something interrupts my flow, but I don't often force myself to ignore it.  I let myself make it better right away.  But at what cost?

I want all of my pages to be worth keeping, but I need to acknowledge that I will never get to the point at which ALL of  my pages are worth keeping, no matter how hard I try or what I do with them.  

What is worth keeping is the experience that I'll have gained by allowing the bad pages to be written with to good.  Even if I throw them out I'll have the experience of them.  I'll be, as Mr Block said, "no further behind than if I took the day off," but I'll have put in the time and have kept the writing habit and have whatever I may learn in the process of the creation and possibly the destruction of those pages.

The day after I read this quote (same day as I wrote this post), I wrote 15 pages in my current novel.  Are they all worth keeping?  I think that's a question for tomorrow.

For me this little quote spoke volumes.  Thank you, Mr. Block.

01 May 2012

Book Review: Perception

New York: Point, 2012.
Last year I read the first novel in Kim Harrington's Clarity series so I was excited when book two came out.  Perception by Kim Harrington was another engaging and fast paced read.

I really admire Harrington's ability to keep the reader turning the pages. Every chapter ends with a great hook.  Not only that, but her characters are interesting and fun and the things going on in their lives keep the reader's attention all the way through. 

You get the idea of who the bad guy is pretty early on, but can see why Clarity doesn't pick-up on it immediately, so you keep on the journey with her to find out how she's able to solve the case of the missing/murdered girl and the problem of her own stalker who is so careful that she's unable to get anything helpful when she uses her gift. 

I also liked having her older brother Perry's gift take the spotlight in an interesting way.  While Clarity's gift did little to help her, Perry's gift had a mystery of its own which played a key role in solving the case and helping Perry with the problems he's been facing since the events of book one. 

There was a lot of rehashing of the events from book one, which I don't usually like, but since it's been a year or more since I read Clarity it really did help my memory to recall the threads I needed to carry over - and there were many.  It also makes the book accessible to those who haven't read the first book, but I'd still suggest reading the first book just because it was such an enjoyable read and I think readers will feel a stronger tie to the characters if they've read the books in order.  Neither is very long and they're both very quick reads, even for a slow reader like myself.

I totally recommend this YA mystery series and eagerly await the release of book three.

24 April 2012

Book Review: The Kitchen House

New York: Touchstone, 2010.
I recently finished The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom.  A friend turned me onto this one and I started it on an airplane at the beginning of a vacation.  Obviously I need to pay closer attention to the books that this friend recommends.

As I started I was quickly caught-up in the tale of Lavinia, a young Irish girl, who becomes an indentured servant upon her arrival in America and is raised in the kitchen house of a tobacco plantation by a woman named Belle, the daughter of a slave and her master.

This book has it all: love, laughter, cruelty and despair.  The resulting story is one of love, acceptance, and family.

Grissom's writing was beautiful and satisfying.  She used two point of views, Lavinia's and Belle's, and I was always eager to get back to the other character and see what they were thinking/doing. Grissom's dialogue and setting made the story and the emotions and desires of the characters immediate and real.  She brought a late Eighteenth/early Nineteenth Century southern plantation to life and with it the lives of Lavinia, Belle and their entire family.

I highly recommend this book and will definitely be finding more of Kathleen Grissom's books to read in the future.

18 April 2012

12 March 2012

New Fairy Tales! 500 of them.

Once upon a time there was a girl who loved fairy tales, myths, and legends . . .

Oh, that's me!

From happy endings to the not so happy ones, I'm mad about them.

I know I'm not alone in this love.  Almost every year that I've gone to a writing conference with critique groups, there is at least one person working on a retelling of a tale.

So when I saw a teaser on the sidebar of The Guardian's website for this article:  Five Hundred New Fairy Tales Discovered in Germany, I was not only delighted for the benefit of my own reading, but I was eager to share the news.

It tells about Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, an historian in Oberpfalz, a region of Baviaria.  He was a contemporary of the Grimm Brothers and he collected tales in a similar manner.  

The article explains that von Schönwerth made no attempt to clean up or otherwise alter the tales he collected. As a result readers can experience the tales as they came from the teller's mouth rather than a literary version of the original telling.  Among the tales there are versions of commonly known tales, but also many new ones for us all look forward to.

Unfortunately it's not available in English yet, but a translation is in the works.

My summary of this article is really brief, the full article has examples of tales and more historical information about them and von Schönwerth.  Also, if you're up to reading some in German, there is book published (although I'm not sure how available it is in America yet) with selections from this collection - details in the original article.

Just an extra little note for other fairytale lovers:  If you haven't yet tried the TV series "Once Upon a Time", I'd recommend it for sure. It's a fun play on many tales and a good story.

And they all lived happily (or unhappily) ever after . . .

09 March 2012

You Could Qualify for a $1000 Writing Fellowship

Writing and Illustrating for Young ReadersAre you a writer?

Would you like to attend a writing conference for children's or young adult literature?

Here's a chance to have a little financial assistance with your goal.

The Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference organizers will select one writer to help with conference expenses again this year.  That's $1000 of assistance.

You'll  need to:
  • Be registered (full day) for the conference before submitting your application
  • Document your financial need
  • Show off your work (20 pages of a chapter book or novel manuscript or two picture book manuscripts)
  • Get letters of recommendation
  • Detail how you are devoted to your craft

For complete details see the WIFYR Blog.

You can't submit anything until the 20th of March and the deadline is the 20th of April - so not a lot of time polish and prepare if you've got a busy schedule, as most of us do.

This is a great opportunity.  Not only is the conference really amazing (especially the morning workshops), but if you are awarded the fellowship it will cover the cost of your conference registration and (if you need to stay in a hotel for the week of the conference) it would cover most, if not all, of the cost of a hotel. (The conference will be held in Sandy, Utah.)

So if you think this fellowship is right for you, I wish you lots of luck!

06 March 2012

Book Review: Speak

New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999.
I've been meaning to read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson for several years now.  I saw the movie first, then heard from others how great the book was.  I bought a copy and, like so many others I buy, it sat on one of my bookshelves while I read books I had to get back to the library.

This past weekend I read it.


Powerful. Funny. Sad. Depressing. Uplifting. And those are just a few descriptive words for it. Beautifully done. 

At one point the art teacher, Mr. Freeman, finds that the main character, Melinda, is stuck on her art project.  He tells her, "Your imagination is paralyzed. You need to take a trip."

The trip is not the sort of thing the students in the class are thinking of at all.  Mr. Freeman brings her a huge volume of works by Pablo Picasso.  Using art as inspiration for art.  And that is exactly what Laurie Halse Anderson has given us in the pages of Speak - a trip, in the Picasso sense of the word.

This is the kind of book you don't want to put down.  (I say that for a lot of books, but this one is über-un-put-downable.)

Speak starts on Melinda Sordino's first day of high school and she starts it in the worst possible way anyone can start high school: friendless - and with a very low prospects of making friends in the near future.  Most of her peers avoid her because she was the one who called the cops during a party she went to over the summer. A party a thirteen year old girl normally wouldn't have made it into.  

The book takes Melinda through her whole year of school as she tries to deal with what happened that night in silence.  Until she finds the strength to speak.

Melinda may not 'say' much, but her voice keeps you with her through her entire journey. If you haven't read Speak, I highly recommend it. If I were making a list for high school students, this would be on a 'must read' list. 

If you have read it, I'd love to hear what you thought of the book.