I am feeling really sentimental right now. This is my final post for The Paper Wait.
I remember when we sat around a table trying to figure out a name for this new blog we were trying to form. And I remember when we "practice blogged" before we even shared with the world what we were doing. The world of blogging was so brand-new!
Over the years, our blog blossomed. It became a place for us to converse about what was going on in our writing lives. With our fellow critique group members and with our wonderful readers. (Thank you, Wonderful Readers!)
Over the years, our posts shared the highlights of our writing lives. These posts share our questions and our doubts and our fears. They also share our successes and our cheers for one another!
I know I can look back at my own posts to remember so many precious writing memories. And so many challenging revisions. (Won't it be neat to look back at a post about wrestling with how to get a manuscript just right once I sell that manuscript? I think hopefully. One of the manuscripts I wrote about just went out into the world to try to find a home and another will be going out soon. :o) )
Our blog has been filled with memories and with celebrations. It has also been filled with problem solving and with conversations.
I will miss our blog! Please keep in touch and make sure to share ALL exciting writing news (I know there will be a lot from our talented critique group and our talented readers!)
To my fellow bloggers: Thank you for blogging with me! It has been a wonderful five years!
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I am feeling really sentimental right now. This is my final post for The Paper Wait.
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Writing for children ....... "It's the ONLY thing!"
While we take a hiatus from our blog, I focus on the reasons we choose to write for children and feel like Water Rat said so famously in the classic, WIND IN THE WILLOWS, when describing boating to Mole, "It's the ONLY thing!" For us, writing for children is the ONLY thing.
In his children's book of 1908, Kenneth Grahame creates an enchanting new world for the child reader with wonderful language ("Never in his life had he ( Mole) seen a river before...this sleek,sinuous, full bodied animal, chasing and chuckling....with a gurgle...and a laugh....Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated...he trotted as one trots, when very small...") . Here Grahame creates the picture of a lively running river, a new and intriguing experience for his character, and endears his character, Mole, to the small child reader who is also "very small."
In his classic, Grahame creates a new place for children, with well developed characters that children embrace for their familiarity and bond with as friends, brings a story of simple but exciting adventure and carries the reader out into the environment of the nature filled river world and woods.
When Grahame as an older man met with Ernest Shepard who was illustrating the first edition of the book with pictures, he spoke of his characters, Mole, Rat, Toad and Badger. He said, Please treat them kindly. They're my friends.
If we can create well crafted characters that are our friends and become friends of children and bring them to the readers in a unique and familiar setting so children relate to them and remember them with pleasure or use them to understand experiences of their expanding world, it will be the ONLY thing.
|Wikimedia Commons: Photo by Roke.|
I'll miss the on-line connections, the insights, the discipline, and the deadlines. Okay, maybe not the deadlines. I won't miss them much. I just need them.
From giraffes and rhyming manuscripts to self-publishing and the Common Core, thank you for sharing in my little piece of this surprisingly cozy venue. The Paper Wait is made up of thoughtful and professional writers, with loyal and supportive followers. It has been my pleasure to be a part of it.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes about writing, stories, and endings:
"There is no real ending. It's just the place where you stop the story."
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In 2008 when we started The Paper Wait, the social media arena was very different. Blogs were "the thing," and a critique group blog was unusual. The scene has changed. Facebook and Twitter hold sway now and we're ready for a blog break. Five years of thoughtful, informative and humorous posts remain that reflect our varying personalities.
My posts often echoed my writing life during the last five years:
I dabbled in the digital app world by allowing a start-up company (that failed quickly) find illustrators for two stories. One of the apps was fine. The other, because I wasn't shown proof, had a bad error - one illustration didn't match my text. UGH, but I'm not sorry I took a chance.
I peddled two PB's at conferences and with editors. No luck. The PB's needed to be more "character driven," and in spite of aiming for that in many revisions, they haven't sold.
I sold nine pieces to magazines - some published and some on hold. Is this my future? Perhaps. My concise writing style lends itself to short stories and I enjoy researching folktales to retell.
We're taking a blog break, but our group lives! I'll still critique with our talented members. And I'll write. And submit. And wait. I'll always be a paper waiter.
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I'm in the home stretch of my WIP. I've worked on the flow. I've cut out repetition. My dialogue sparkles. But it still needs a little work. I need to make my minor characters as rich and full as my main character.
On my latest pass, I'm working on the love interest. Some crit comments focused on my leading lady being a bit too generic. And they were right. While my leading lady has a rich inner life, I wasn't bringing it out nearly enough. So I went back to the drawing board. I did more research on her interests. And in this revision, I'm looking for opportunities to showcase the character tics that my MC loves. Those character traits that make him fall in love with her and hence, let the reader fall in love with him.
And it's really fun. I feel like I'm at the point after you move -- the room is painted, the furniture in place, the window treatments hung -- and you stop at a flea market and find the perfect accessory for the spot above the bookcase. The point where everything starts to fit.
Here's to getting fit in 2014! Add a Comment
No, this is not a commentary on Greene's novel. But I will use the title, as the topic has interested me over the holidays.
As a writer, the art of telling a story is always on my mind. During the past month I re-read several children's novels: Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and many of Roald Dahl's books, both short and long, among them, James and the Giant Peach and Matilda. What was the common factor in all of these "classics" for children? I think it is that the "oppositional characters," those who provoke the action, are really, really mean, gross and wicked. They are OVERDRAWN. Singly or together the "villains" present obstacles that the child protagonist must overcome, either by his wits or by magic or both.
Today's writers face an even greater challenge than did Dahl; his stories are mostly "telling," and he paints with a large, vibrant brush. In contemporary children's literature, that's no longer permissible. Today's writers are in heavy competition with the digital world that has surrounded their readers since their toddler years. "Show, don't tell" is now the writer's mantra.
But larger than life antagonists are absolutely necessary. The trick is to create them through dialogue and action, using very little description. That is the "Heart of the Matter."
I don't do New Years resolutions, but as it happened I made one that pretty much coincided with the new year. I was walking around New York Monday thinking how hard it was to go back there. It's where I grew up partly, and I lived there later, but I have few friends and roots left there. I find in psychologically difficult to go in anymore. Still, I knew it was the right thing to do, and so I forced myself to go in and meet a friend for lunch. I had had the whole week off, but was still stressed from work, even dreaming about it at night.
Anyway, as I was walking down Eighth toward my friend's office, it occurred to me that if I focused on only TWO things this coming year besides parenting--that is, two things concerning me and only me--that I could keep myself sane and moderately content. The first thing was about food, the second about writing the novel. It occurred to me that if I regarded the writing like the food, I'd do well.
Let me explain. About a year ago I started following Dr. Fuhrman's Eat to Live plan. I'm not a diet proselytizer and not the "food police" type, that's not what this is about. It was just something that worked for me--until I fell of when work started. I decided that during my ten days off, I would reboot it, do a lot of cooking, planning ahead so I would stick to it again once school started. So I did.
One of the people interviewed in the Eat to Live book had said something like, "I stayed with the food plan, the way of eating, no matter what. Even when my son was diagnosed with a chronic illness. Even when I lost my job. Even when my father was hospitalized. Even when the basement was flooded." In other words, she stuck with it even in the face of a litany of disasters.
So, as I was walking along Eighth Avenue, I was recalling this, and thought, you know, if I thought about my novel writing this way, I would stop the excuses, and just do it, every day, no matter what. If I keep my focus on those two narrow but important goals, and banish everything else, I think I can do it. I just have to keep remembering that.
It worked for me that day in New York, too. Feeling anxious as I sat on the train in, I told myself, just think of it as a place to write. Have lunch with you friend, then stick along the Eighth Avenue Starbucks and other coffee places and work on your novel. Stop thinking about everything else, just do it. So I did.
(Then on the way back to Penn Station I tripped a curb and early killed my laptop, but fortunately nearly killed my knees instead. I think at this point I'd rather kill my knees that kill my novel drafts).
|By Photo by Nick Michael (Private collection) |
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
December. We look back and summarize our year on Christmas cards. Book review journals summarize a year of publishing in "best" lists.
School Library Journal has published three Best Books lists: Fiction, Non-fiction, and Picture Books. (From the fiction list, you can access the other two lists.)
These SLJ lists hover around twenty titles in each category. It's interesting to compare those lists with the shorter (more selective?) list from Horn Book.
The Horn Book Fanfare lists only nine picture books compared to SLJ's twenty. Interestingly enough, Horn Book lists three that don't appear on SLJ's list: The Tiny King by Taro Miura, Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales, and Gobble You Up by Gita Wolf.
I don't know how often it happens, but looking over all the lists, there are some authors who've made a "best" list twice!
Over at SLJ, both Holly Black and Rainbow Rowell have two "best" fiction titles. Kevin Henkes has a fiction title and a picture book.
At Horn Book, Kevin Henkes also has the same two titles listed, Penny and Her Marble and The Year of Billy Miller.
Can you imagine the joy of having TWO titles on a December "Best Books" list?
I love it when I'm on the other end of that deal, too. When I open a box and in it is exactly what I want at that moment.
But I'm lucky. Really lucky. I get that feeling of opening up a box and finding that exact special treat so many times every year. I get it every time I walk into my library.
I could never afford to buy all the books I read in a year. And often, books I do buy languish at the bottom of my TBR pile for too long -- those shiny new library books have a return date. When I'm the first one to snap up a new release, I feel guilty keeping it too long.
There are so many times I swear I will not walk into the library. I'm going to simply return what I've finished and tackle all those books I own. But the library's pull is too great. I walk in. I head right over to the new MG releases. Last week I picked up Neil Gaiman's FORTUNATELY, THE MILK. Then I try to check out and exit, but the YA section calls -- I'll just take a look. Ooooh! They have Rainbow Rowell's FANGIRL and Elizabeth Wein's ROSE UNDER FIRE.
Every trip to the library is like opening those gifts under the tree. Each book a surprise, waiting to happen. Add a Comment
Hope you enjoy this adorable 12 Days of Christmas video from the Bookish Elves! Happy Holidays!
To follow up on Julie's post, I think writers have been adhering to the "common core" for centuries. Most writers are not just story tellers. They are teachers as well. It comes naturally to them to describe a scene, a sequence, a beginning and an end. Writers raise questions and answer them. They use history, science, anecdotes, folktales old and new, stones, ducks, rabbits and wizards to tell their stories. In every story there is something that relates to what constitutes an education for a child.
I was reminded of this today in a Wall Street Journal piece, "The Hunger Games" Is a Civic Lesson" by Robert Pondiscio, a former fifth grade teacher in New York's South Bronx. He explains that when parents decry the brutality in Suzanne Collins' novels, they overlook the excellent opportunity the author offers. Not only do the books keep "reluctant" readers turning the pages, but, Mr. Pondiscio says, "they also provide an opportunity to educate kids about the relationship between the individual and the state, personal rights and responsibilities, and the civic duties expected of citizens."
So, writers, worry not. Keep on writing, whether it is about Yetis, frogs, spoonbills, alligators or penguins, graveyards or vegetable gardens. You are all "writing to the core."
“To align instruction…so that many more students than at present can meet the requirements of college and career readiness.”
“Fulfilling the Standards for 6-12 ELA (English Language Arts) requires much greater attention to a specific category of informational text—literary nonfiction—than has been traditional.” (emphasis added)
Nathan Bransford's contest to win a Kindle in honor of his new book How to Write a Novel is over, but he's published many of the "Favorite Writing Tips" he received as contest entries.
I quoted Lela, the winner, in my comment to J.A's post last Wednesday: "Write. Write poorly, but WRITE."
But there are other gems . . .
Take a look at this list of "Favorite Writing Tips."
I love the one from Ashley: "If you don't love what you wrote, why should anyone else?"
Which one is your favorite?
But do I still want to?
This is the thirteenth day of the month. I think I've written something on this NaNo project on 11 of those days. But so far, I've only enjoyed two writing days -- the first day, when I got to write my new beginning, set up my inciting incident and unveil it, and today, when I pretended I had written nothing else since then.
You see, I am totally sure that just about everything I've written between November 2 and today is pure, unusable crap.
And I'm okay with that.
I'm okay with using NaNo as a writing exercise. I'm okay with never looking at it again. I'm okay with deleting the file. That is correct -- I could delete all 50,000 words (assuming I finish) and never regret it. I've killed my darlings before. I'm prepared to slaughter these.
I still love my idea. And despite my crappy writing, I'm getting to know more about my characters. And the scene I wrote this morning, where my MC stared at the pink smudge of nail polish on the dashboard and remembered her sister's pedi on the drive to the beach -- that told me I was getting to know them. That was specific. I love specific.
So from now on, I'm forgetting about writing as I usually do, one chapter after another. I plan to pick a moment in time on my MC's journey and write it. And I plan to be specific about at least one thing.
And when I'm done with NaNo, I'll compile those specific things into a bible, and then I'll start all over again. I won't care about those 50,000 words, but I'll make sure they weren't a waste of time. I'll make sure I dig for specifics. Add a Comment
I do a lot of my writing when I'm inspired. An idea takes hold of me and I just can't stop writing.
This is a very fun kind of writing to do. My writing tends to just flow.
But I often don't dedicate nearly as much time to writing as I would like to do. Life keeps getting in the way.
Recently I was able to dedicate one evening a week just to writing. An evening to myself! When I could focus all my time on writing. It sounded like heaven. But...
when I sat down to this wonderful evening I couldn't think of anything to write about.
Uh-oh! Was this going to work?
It had to! So I started to make lists. Lists of projects I had worked on in the past that I might want to get back to.
One project rekindled my interest. I had loved the idea but I knew I was approaching it from the wrong angle. And (at the time) I couldn't figure out what the right angle was.
So I started trying to give the project a fresh start. I started the project several times that evening and finally I came up with an angle... an angle that could really work.
Then I went back to inspired writing filling every spare minute. So much fun!
But if I hadn't made the time to write and stared at that blank computer screen-- this exciting project would never have been written.
So, how do you make time to write? What do you do when inspiration won't come?
I asked my husband at dinner, what's your favorite character in literature? After convincing him that Alfred Sloan ("My years at General Motors") was not what I was looking for, he came up with Faust. He said, "I like characters with whom I can identify."
Granted, I could understand Sloan (my husband is a linear businessman) and not so much Faust (my husband is not that consummate a businessman, selling his soul, etc., but at least he picked a character with hopes and faults; in this instance, faults too great to save his soul.
Creating a sympathetic main character or characters is the writer's biggest challenge. Somewhere between nice and nasty is a good beginning…you want your reader to like her, and yet if the heroine is too nice, your reader will figure that there is no point in reading further. Nothing of interest is going to happen. Too nasty, and the reader will also lose interest. Newspapers have more to offer.
The writer must create is a heroine who knows what she wants, but whose human weaknesses prevent her from achieving them…initially. As a reader we want to be one step ahead of the heroine. We want to see her mistakes, to say, "wait, that's not such a smart move" And we want to cheer her on when she finally makes the right choice. In the end, we want to identify completely with her, to fall in love a little with her even. And when the book ends, we want to find it hard to say goodbye.
Received a contract last week for "Two Young Frogs: An Old Japanese Tale." (Post of 10/17) Those frogs will appear in Highlights someday. Perhaps mentioning map skills did help.
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2. What is your favorite part about blogging?
It forces me to think critically and more broadly about children’s writing; and it keeps me connected to a larger community in what can be a solitary task.
3. What is your biggest writing challenge?
Keeping my bottom in the chair. I am prone to distraction.
4. What writing book/conference/website would you tell other children’s writers to read/attend/visit?
5. What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you started writing?
Write badly, write worse, and keep going. Don't stop in the middle because you're worried about every word choice and sentence structure -- finish it. You can fix it later. (that's what revision is for). Great writers write awful stuff too.
6. What book (or books) do you wish you would have written?
Some Dogs Do by Jez Alborough (picture book); and probably Charlotte’s Web, for middle grade
7. What are you most proud of?
Besides my kids, hmmmm, ask me again after I publish my first book.
8. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? So many places… SouthAfrica (wildlife and wine); Petra, Jordan (city of stone); Israel (Holy Land)
9. Book you most love to re-read?
10. What question do you wish I would have asked you? Please answer it.
Something really easy, like... yes, I'd love another cup of tea!
1. Where is your favorite place to write?
3. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
4. What’s your favorite book(s)?
5. What’s in your TBR pile?
8. What is your biggest source of inspiration?
9. Why do you blog?
I recently finished retelling an old Japanese folktale. It was critiqued (thanks!) and then submitted to a magazine. It's the story of two frogs, one from the west (Osaka), and one from the east (Kyoto), whose curiosity about new places inspires them to travel. One spring day, they meet on a mountain - one traveling east and one traveling west. Tired and hungry, they devise a plan to view their destinations from the mountain top; to anticipate the new sights at journey's end. But their plan goes wrong - each frog looks in the direction of home! So discovering no new sights, they abort all travel plans. Their curiosity gone, they hop home, never to travel again.
To me, the story is humorous and passes the "so what?" test, but in my submission letter I mentioned an added curriculum-related attraction.
Map skills. Knowing some children have a hard time learning west vs. east, I suggested the story be illustrated with a simple outline map of Japan showing the two cities in the story, Osaka in the west and Kyoto in the east.
In this tough market, and with Common Core Standards adopted in some states, simply retelling an enjoyable folktale, or crafting an engaging PB story may not be enough. Our writing world is buzzing about non-fiction and teaching guides for fiction and even PB's. Added attractions have always been a plus, but are they now a necessity?
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how do you define YA? They asked their readers to contribute their thoughts to craft the ultimate definition of YA. I did, and guess what? They liked me, they really liked me!
I am one of three contributors whose responses were merged into one ultimate YA definition:
If youth was measured by a clock, and the end were to occur when both hands struck twelve, then YA stories are those that take place between 11:59 and a couple seconds after midnight. They end when the protagonist has a foot – or maybe just a toe – planted on both sides of the innocence/experience fence. First or third person, present or past tense can all be YA. What is important is the immediacy of the story and the point of view of the teen. YA lit speaks to the teenager, current or past, in its readers, regardless of the protagonist’s age.
Can you tell which sentences were mine? Without clicking and peeking?
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