Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for ZONE


During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.
    
     I've been in a blog post-writing mindset for each of the last 30 days at least.
     Blogging daily is hard, people! But I loved it -, loved meeting new people and favorite new blogs. But now it's time to switch focus, get back to a work-in-progress that stalled in mid-March (thus the Challenge came at a good time), and find long stretches of writing time again. I look forward to working in another kind of ZONE, a single-mindedness dedicated to one manuscript, a set of characters, a setting that I'm slowly growing familiar with. As with all first drafts, it's been a series of stops and starts; I'm anxious to finish it so I have something to start fixing (I'm much better at fixing than creating!). 
     Thank you to everyone who stopped by this month during the Challenge! 
                                                                                              Happy writing!
                                                                                              Dawn

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for YOUNG WRITERS


       Once in awhile, I'm invited by our school district to come into a class and talk about writing. Last spring, it was an organization at the high school hosting a career dar. My day involved giving the same talk to five rotating groups. I'm not a natural at public speaking, but get me talking about writing to students and I'd bore them to sleep if I wasn't given a time limit.
     I could tell some kids in the audience would rather have been back in their classrooms, heads bent over their books, pretending to read, and instead catching a few zzzz's before the bell rang for the next period. But others listened, bright-eyed and leaning forward in their seats. Seeing them, I knew if they weren't already writing their own stories, they would be soon. They had that look in their eye.
     I remember the first time I realized I could be a writer, and would be a writer someday. Mrs. Oliver invited her friend to visit our class and talk about writing. I wish I could remember who the author was,  but I do remember her standing in front of our class holding two of her books to her chest. I thought, WOW! she actually MADE that book! There was a real live person who created that very real book, and not some ambiguous name on a cover in the library. The realization was electric! I thought, I can write stories and see my name in print someday. I can do that, too!
     And that someday came true, thanks in part to an author coming to my school so many years ago.
     Who inspired you to be a writer?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for XINGJIAN


During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.
    
    'When you use words, you're able to keep your mind alive.
 Writing is my way of reaffirming my own existence.'
  - Gao Xingjian, Chinese emigre novelist, playwright and critic, 
2000 Nobel Prize for Literature. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for WAIT


During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.
    

     Sometimes I come across a piece of my writing that I don't recognize. 
     This happens most often when I clean out writing files. I find years and years of unfinished work, a paragraph or two, sometimes a page, oftentimes more. Once in awhile, I'm pleasantly surprised by what I read, even though I can't remember having written it. But more often than not, it's bad. No wonder it was stuffed in a file!
     You want this objective point-of-view when you revise. Maybe not to the point that you've forgotten the project all together, but putting your work aside to 'cook' is essential during the revision stage. Problems become a little more apparent — a sagging plot line, a one-dimensional character, stilted dialogue. And how long should you wait to dive back in? I've heard anywhere from a minimum of three weeks to two months.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for VERIFY


During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.
    

     If the press's initial handling of the Boston bombings could serve as a lesson on how NOT to release information to the public, it would be a long, fruitless search for a more accurate example. The networks broke with the 'news' of key details, only later to retract their stories when authorities came forward during the press conferences with information. In a few words, it was sad and embarrassing.
     One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone says 'I heard'. These two words usually have a name or names attached, coming in the form of gossip, a juicy story full of half-truths. I hear this too often when I substitute teach, especially at the junior high and high school level. It's awful, to exploit for entertainment or to improve one's 'ranking' in the social hierarchy. For years, I've told my kids never to repeat gossip, especially if a) they didn't hear it from the subject him/herself, or b) they didn't see it happen. Two books that illustrate the snowball effects of gossip and the harm it can cause are Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak and Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why.


'Never make negative comments or spread rumors about anyone.
It depreciates their reputation and yours.' - Brian Koslow

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for UNBLOCK


During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.
    
     As writers, we've all been blocked at some point. Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies for getting unstuck and I've tried my share. Here are my favorites:

  • Write at a different location. Lately I can't write at my desk. I've been staring at the curtains behind the desk, obsessing that spring is happening outside and I'm stuck inside. I want to pull them back, study the pink flowers on the redbud tree, watch the school buses rumble back and forth down the road. But I can't because everyone will see me looking out the window and think, 'Look at her. She must have writer's block, the poor thing'. So yesterday I unplugged the laptop and moved to the dining room table. Instead I can see a  hint of the backyard and a bird feeder hanging from the apple tree. And just like that I finished a chapter after lunch. 
  • Read a similar work. When I work on a manuscript, I have 2-3 similar books that have the same feel, tone, and/or subject matter as my project right beside me. I read a few pages of these books to 'get in the mood' for writing, as kind of a mental warm-up. 
  • Make a list. If I'm stuck on a scene, I make a list of sensory details that my characters might see or encounter in the setting. A chain-link fence, a cardinal, a bike with a flat tire at the side of the curb. He/she might hear a car horn, smell fried chicken, or feel the texture of the trunk of a maple tree. These details might flesh out the scene that is giving you trouble. 
  • Avoid writing for a day. Wait, what?! Now you're thinking, She's trying to get us writing again by telling us NOT to write? But it's works! I stay far away from my desk, even shutting the door. And the kicker is I can only do mundane, annoying things like iron (which I hate), weed (even worse), wash windows, and  clean out the utensil drawer. By days end, I'm so looking forward to sitting down to write the following day. 
     What's your strategy for curing writer's (or any type of creative) block?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for TEACHERS


     While cleaning out a file cabinet a few weeks ago, I found a story I wrote in eighth grade. It's now a yellowed piece of lined notebook paper headed with the title, 'The Lady or the Tiger?' My teacher, Mrs. Oliver, challenged the class to come up with a story for this first sentence: 'Without the slightest hesitation, the prince went to the door on the right and opened it.'
     My memory of actually writing the story is dim. Looking at the cursive handwriting of my thirteen-year-old self, I can't remember where I was when I wrote it. Was I in class? Sitting at home at my desk? At a table in the library? I have no idea.
      But I do remember the sense of pride I felt when Mrs. Oliver handed back the graded paper. Her comments in red-ink — 'written very well, Dawn!', 'very imaginative ending', and 'super description' —  boosted my confidence At that age, my writing dream was just a tiny spark, very vulnerable to the winds of encouragement and criticism. Luckily, Mrs. Oliver was the kind of teacher who nourished potential as were several other teachers I had during my young writing life. A few teachers like Mrs. Oliver worth mentioning who inspired me are:
  • Ms. Kruckoff, who encouraged me to join the high school newspaper staff my freshman year, for helping me find my niche and developing an interest in my future course of study: journalism;
  • 'Doc' Winger, who taught me to think and write critically about the classics in Rhetoric class even though he was beyond intimidating when he looked at me over the tops of his wire-rimmed glasses;
  • Mrs. Bolen, for my first experience in a creative writing class, for taking us on that field trip to the Logan Square neighborhood in Chicago and far away from our comfort zone, for the best creative writing exercise ever;
  • and Dr. White, for providing a creative writing class where I felt nervous yet safe while having my work critiqued for the first time by writers more experienced and skilled than me.
    Was there a teacher who encouraged you early in your creative life?

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for SENTENCE

 
   I'm firmly in the camp of 'I know how to drive a car, but don't ask me what an exhaust manifold is'. That is, I understand operation, but the mechanics behind it get a little sketchy.
     To an extent, I have the same mindset with writing. I'm good with story structure, dialogue, setting, character development and all that important stuff which goes into writing a great story. But ask me to diagram a sentence beyond the basics? Nuh-uh.
     A few years ago, I bought The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White. It's a slim little volume of grammar rules, a go-to guide for writers who want to brush up on the principles of plain English. That edition even had pretty watercolor illustrations by Maira Kalman — a bonus!
     I've always relied on my ear when writing. I'm pretty good at reading aloud and hearing when something is off, but not knowing why has always bothered me. Now I can spot a participial phrase and independent clause with one eye closed, thanks to The Elements of Style.
   I'm pretty sure I'm not the only writer who's grammatically-challenged. Should I be self-conscious about checking rules now and again, even though I've been writing professionally since my college days? Nah. If anyone questions me, I'll claim to be admiring the illustrations.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for REMOTE


During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.
    

         One of my favorite spots in the U.S. is the corridor between Flagstaff, Arizona and southern Utah. If you travel north from Flagstaff along Hwy 89 and then head west on Hwy 89A near the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, you'll encounter some of the most desolate and beautiful canyon country on the planet.
       On a sunny day in March, the red cliffs against the blue sky is remarkable. Near Kaibab National Forest, there was enough snow to keep the northern entrance to Grand Canyon closed for another month. At one point, I stopped the car and got out. There wasn't a single car in any direction - amazing! Reading the roadside marker, I learned that I was standing on the only paved road amid 2.8 million acres of wilderness. The sign warns that traveling the other roads in this area of the state require 'advance planning and precautions to ensure a safe trip'. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for QUIET AND 'Q' BLOGS


A handful of 'Q'-named blogs for my Friday Five and a photo of last week's QUIET writing spot.  Question: Why am I the only one in this coffee shop? Answer: It was Saturday morning on a college campus! Makes sense, doesn't it?


Sheena-kay at Queendsheena offers snippets about her novella, Sacrifice Her, which will debut this year. Yay, Sheena-kay!

Pictures and writings about Aruba are highlighted at A Quiet Corner. Love the beach pictures when the weather here is stubbornly stuck in the 30s.

Follow life with the Carters at Questions Unasked and Unanswered.

Part writing, part exercise log, and bringing awareness to childhood cancer is what QRSTUV is all about.

Visit Robyn at Not Quite Once Upon a Time for her take on life's simple pleasures.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for PHOTOS and PIER 39


During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.
    
     I'm running behind on my letter 'P' post for today so here's a couple of photos from a San Francisco trip last year at one of my favorite sites - Pier 39. Had it not been 40 degrees on the morning I took the trolley down to the pier, I could have watched these sea lions much longer than I did. 
  
   The bull seemed to be posing for me, giving me profile shot after shot. He'd pause, keeping an eye on me, as if waiting patiently until I took his picture. Then he'd move again, pointing his nose up and freeze. Maybe since I was an audience of one that morning, he took the time to indulge me. Or maybe he was showing off for his lady friend and the youngsters around him.  

    There's a webcam set up at the pier and you can view it here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O is for ONE


During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.
     It's a scary prospect, working on a new project. You wonder where it's going, what it's going to take to get to the end, and if you're the person capable of doing it justice. Everyday I procrastinate, mull over words, toss out whole paragraphs, trying to get it 'right'. The big picture — that complete manuscript —looms overhead like a black thundercloud.

"When asked 'How do I write?', I invariably answer 'one word at a time'."
                                                                                                                   - Stephen King


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for NATURE


I am inspired by NATURE. 
If the ideas don't come, I go outside.
 I sit on the back steps to hang out in the sun for awhile.
 Maybe pull a weed or two, 
nothing too involved. 
If it's cold, I open the kitchen window and toss bread to the squirrels
 Or fill the feeders with seed for the sparrows and buntings. 
 I don't know what it is —
 Fresh air, seasonal colors, the busy animals, all with a purpose —
 But sure enough, soon I can't wait to get back to writing.

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for MUST

   During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.


Needs and wants. 
Musts and maybes.
 What is necessary and what is not. 

I wrestle for writing time quite a bit.
 I sacrifice it for grocery shopping, laundry, and yard work all the time. 
What I NEED to do is make writing a MUST everyday instead of a maybe.
 Because writing time is NECESSARY. 

  "Don't expect to 'find' time to write. You MUST hunt it down and wrestle it to the ground."                                                  - children's author Jane Yolen, who has written 300+  books


Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for LIVELY

During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.

     My Friday Five post is happening today since I couldn't think of an appropriate 'K' word to describe the unique blogs I've come across this week during the A-to-Z Challenge. Even though I tend to focus on writing-related themes in my posts, these five blogs were not writing blogs. Yet the writing is fresh and LIVELY; they are very interactive with their followers and engaging. I couldn't resist giving them a shout-out, so if you like gardening, travel, food, and/or crafting, take a look at these:

     Sherry Ellis's blog Gone Gardening makes me crave warmer weather so I can start planting! She's been highlighting botanical gardens all over the country for her A-to-Z theme. 

     Check out what Jessica Kay has been up to travel-wise at Passion and a Passport. This girl's travel resume is impressive and her adventure wish list amazing. Everyone should have a bucket list this detailed!
     Angela Tague Whole Foods Living writes about cooking simply and adopting a chemical-free lifestyle, which I've been experimenting with for the past few months.
     Lisa's sewing, quilting, crochet and knitting talents are on full display at Pigeon House Handmade. I'm in love with her owls!
    And while we're on the subject of crafting blogs, Margot's theme at Spark My Creativity inspires with Pinterest-type letter projects for your home. Great photos!

     Enjoy your weekend and Happy Reading!

Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for KITSCHY


During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.


     When I started thinking about topics for letter 'K', the word kitsch popped into my head. After a quick Google search, I found it defined as a word originating in Germany, usually 'reserved for overly sentimental, gaudy works or items that may or may not have popular cultural appeal'. By that definition, I'm not sure if describing something as kitschy is a compliment, though collectors of kitsch would probably argue that point.
     The above image, 'The Widow', is a kitsch example of the late 19th century popular lithograph by Frederick Dielman. Would you call it 'gaudy, sentimental, or culturally popular?' It reminds me of the two clown paintings which hung in my grandmother's upstairs bedroom, with their starched white collars and vacant stares.
     Can one write kitsch? 
     
    

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for JOY in Writing

During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.


     "I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me, my joy. Get out of here tonight and say: ‘Am I being joyful?’ And if you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject."
                                                                                                - Ray Bradbury, in his 2001 speech 
                                                                                                at the Sixth Annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for IGNEOUS

   During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. And thanks for stopping by!

Granite in the Sandia Mountains, NM
     Our family vacations often include stops to look at rock outcrops. My husband is a geologist so these sidetrips are business for him, but also pleasure for the whole family. There are samples of igneous rocks like volcanic tuff, obsidian and basalts in our gardens. We've been to Cougar, Washington, staying at a motel within sight of Mt. St. Helens, as steam escaped from the top. We've been to Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, which does seem like what I imagine a lunar landscape looks like, and Sunset Crater National Monument near Flagstaff, Arizona.
      Did you know that the word 'igneous' comes from the Latin word ignis, meaning fire? Igneous rocks are produced under conditions involving intense heat.
   

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for HORSES


During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.

    When I was young, I begged my parents for a horse. I waged this campaign for years to no avail. We had space, I reasoned. Well, minus the barn, but that was such a minor detail really.
     No, they said and bought me chickens, ducks, and a rabbit instead. I loved them, too, but they weren't horses.
     Each summer, we visited cousins in southeastern Wisconsin. They lived on a farm — with horses!
Cindy, a huge bay, was off-limits to me because she was young and too lively for inexperienced me. But Frisky, a Shetland pony, was just my size.
     I so looked forward to our trips to Wisconsin. We'd leave after my dad got off work, driving through the Chicago and Milwaukee rush-hour traffic to get there before dark. From the minute after we hugged our cousins and carried our bags into the house, I'd start begging to ride. I was the biggest pest imaginable. I wouldn't have liked myself much back then if I could put myself in my cousins' shoes.
     One Saturday afternoon, my cousin Kaye saddled up Frisky and led us out to the back pasture where there was plenty of room to run. And boy, did I want to run! Kaye gave me some pointers - hold onto the saddle horn with one hand and keep your legs tight against her sides. I nodded impatiently, my pulse already thrumming faster than Frisky could run.
    But before I could get my one foot firmly in the stirrup, Frisky bolted. I hung on, still fighting to find the left stirrup, but wow! we were running — fast! Bumping up and down, I felt a slow shifting to the left and realized in the next few seconds the saddle was not cinched tight. The farther we ran, the faster the saddle slipped to the side. I tried shifting my weight to keep it on her back but it was too far gone. Frisky and I tearing across the pasture gave new meaning to the term riding side saddle.
     By the time Frisky made it to the gravel drive next to the barn, I was clinging to the saddle with one foot dragging and the other still wound up in a stirrup. Luckily she slowed when we neared the paddock and my cousin grabbed her reins. Running had lost its appeal for me.
     Kaye caught up to us a few minutes later. While my mom and dad checked me over for dislocated body parts, I fought back tears, more from disappointment than fear. Kaye eyed me as she collected the reins from her son and went about readjusting and tightening the saddle. Then she led me over to Frisky.
     "Let's get you back on for a few minutes," she said. She boosted me up into the saddle as my mom said it might not be a good idea just yet.
     "If she doesn't get back on now, she might not again," Kaye said. She was afraid to leave me with the impression of my lopsided ride. She didn't want fear to rule my choice to ride in the future.
       Getting back on the horse is a good edict to live by.
 

   

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for GOBSTOPPERS


     
     Like most people my age, I was first introduced to Roald Dahl's work when I watched the movie version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a kid. And what kid didn't get whipped into a frenzy by all of those wildly-inventive candy concoctions?
     I mean, chocolate rivers? Lickable wallpaper? And my personal favorite - the Everlasting Gobstopper. I love that word, Gobstopper. It's a safe bet that before Dahl came up with it, the word had never been uttered before in the history of made-up words.
     When my daughter was in grade school, her class read The BFG. If you're not familiar with the book, BFG stands for Big Friendly Giant. Dahl gave his other giants in the book less friendly-sounding names like Gizzardgulper, Fleshlumpeater, and Meatdripper, all whom eat 'chiddlers' (children). I love his books just for the names.

      In one scene, the BFG introduces the main character, Sophie, to 'frobscottle', a carbonated drink. They take turns swigging from the bottle and the BFG starts 'whizzpopping' around the room. The BFG has quite a vocabulary, thanks to Dahl. Words like 'lickswishy' (tasty), 'squifflerotters' (bad humans), and 'snozzcumbers' (something edible) sound perfectly normal coming from the BFG while talking with Sophie. It's really an art, using made-up words effectively in fiction.
     For more about authors who have made up words, check out this article at Mental Floss. Funny that most of the list is comprised of children's authors!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

F is for FAITH


During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.



   Everyday I sit down at my desk, which is overflowing with journals, unopened mail, writing books, and stuff, and prepare to write. I do this with the intention of producing something. The result might be usable or just a page of garbage, but I know if I sit there long enough, the words in my head will spill from my fingers in the form of sentences, paragraphs, chapters. I know this will happen. I have faith in my writing ability.
     Faith is believing in the unseen. You trust that with time and patience, you'll produce something that is worthy. Author Heather Sellers in Chapter After Chapter, writes, '(Writers) work like the faithful work: quietly, not talking about it a whole lot. Humble, because we know a lot of good stuff we write doesn't really come from us but from the mere act of practicing and opening the mind..."
     Will it be worth it in the end, the drafting, critiquing, editing, and hand wringing? Maybe. It might depend on what you want the end result to be. A finished story? Praise from your peers and your family?  Publication? For me, having faith in creating is enough.
   

Friday, April 5, 2013

E is for ECLECTIC


During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.


     On Fridays, I sometimes write a Friday Five post of sites, events, books, etc. that I come across during the week. So I'll stick to that same theme for this week, choosing an ECLECTIC mix of five blogs about writing, travel, art, food and pure inspiration that I've visited this week as part of the A to Z Challenge. These are a few of my many favorites in terms of subject matter, voice, and the writing. I hope you enjoy them, too!

Susanne Svalefelt plays a daily tune on a mandolin at Diddley Diddley

Sharon Himsel showcases her collection of inherited stereotypes from the early 1900s on her blog,  Sharon Himsl's Shells, Tales and Sails

Visit Laeli at Super Shiny Amazing Real Life Adventures of a Fat Runner for her daily motivational posts full of humor and an occasional recipe.

If you're into art and the creative process, visit Art By Monica for a look at what she's working on while attending art school.

And finally, go meet Christine at Coffee in the Garden. She's blogging about chocolate this month!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for DRAFTS


During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.


    I'm always amazed at how creative people work. Be they writers, musicians, potters, or watercolor artists, it's fascinating to see the beginning stages of their projects. Creating something from a seed of an idea is extraordinary, a miracle!
     I went to an art fair last Saturday. There were 90 booths of paintings, stained glass, fiber arts, jewelry, a medium for every taste. One exhibit caught my eye: a ceramist. There were tiles of cerulean mermaids, mud-green ferns, and a panel the size of a small-window with a fantasy backdrop of faeries and fauna. But my favorite tiles were the moss-colored squares the artist had decorated with cardinals. 
     Curious about the process of making tiles, I asked what her 'first drafts' were like. She smiled and rolled her eyes, and I knew then that she felt the same way about new projects as I did — they're messy, tedious, frustrating, but necessary! 

"In writing, there is first a creating stage--a time you look for ideas, you explore, you cast around for what you want to say. Like the first phase of building, this creating stage is full of possibilities."  
                                                                                     - Ralph Waldo Emerson    
     

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for COFFEE SHOPS


During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.



     Do you write well in a coffee shop atmosphere, with the background music, chatter, and others on their laptops tapping away? Last week, Lee Wind of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' Official Blog posted a link to a cool site called Coffitivity where you can get the sounds of a coffee shop as background noise while you work. 


     Myself, I turn on Sirius's The Coffee House channel for background music which works well for me. But Coffitivity is a great alternative. I love the clinking silverware and the laughter. 

     Are you a productive writer in public places?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B is for BACKSTORY

During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.



     I'm reading a book now that I'm really loving, having looked forward to getting into it because the premise is so intriguing. 
     But the other night I did the unthinkable: I skipped three pages!
     How could you do this? you're wondering. You said you loved this book!
     What took me out of the story, a scene in which the main character finally arrived at his destination after a long, arduous boat trip, was a large chunk of backstory. The backstory was tedious military history. I skimmed it (very quickly!) and found where the scene with my main character picked up again.
     Annoyed, I wondered why the author chose this point for filling us in on something that happened before the main character was even born. Maybe when I finish the book, it will be clear.
     Author and Writer's Digest columnist Nancy Kress, in her book Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint, warns that backstory 'interrupts the events of story time, making them lose momentum. Backstory in fiction is like commercials on television: an interruption that marks a good time for the watcher to disengage...and possibly lose interest.'
     According to Kress, there are four ways to include backstory: the brief detail; the inserted paragraph; the flashback; and the expository lump. In my current book, the author used the latter technique, one that stopped me cold. The difference between a flashback and an expository lump is that a flashback is a dramatized scene with dialogue and action. An expository lump is an extended explanation of what has happened. Showing versus telling, I suppose. Literary device or not, it didn't work for me. 
     Can you remember a time when backstory interrupted the flow of a story you were reading? 



Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for ATTITUDE

During April, I’m blogging daily as a participant of the 
Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge (with time off on Sundays).
 Stay a minute. Read. Tell me what you think. Thanks for stopping by.


     If you're here, you're most likely part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Was it a no-brainer to sign up or did you go back and forth like I did about committing to a month of daily blogging?
     Since I blog maybe 1-2 times per week, sometimes skipping a week, maybe a whole month when I'm revising, blogging daily is A BIG DEAL. It's HARD to come up with a subject for each letter and write something worth reading.
     It takes Planning.
     It takes Imagination.
     It takes Commitment, an I-Can-Do-This ATTITUDE.
     Sounds like a Day in the Life of a Writer, right?

     "The secret of getting ahead is getting started." - Agatha Christie

     And lest I forget, ARLEE starts with 'A'! 
Thank you, ARLEE BIRD, for starting the Blogging from A to Z Challenge!


   
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