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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Music, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 1,807
1. The Song Machine

A fascinating look at what goes into making today’s pop music, including the ever-helpful question that producers have learned to ask: "How does it sound in the car?" Seabrook takes us inside the hit factories, introduces the major players, explains how pop music ended up where it is now, and reveals why Sweden has been [...]

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2. Cuban cultural capital and the renewal of US-Cuba relations

This has been quite a year for Cuba. Starting in January with President Obama’s announcement that the United States and Cuba will re-establish diplomatic and economic relations, followed by Pope Francis’s visit to the island earlier this month, Cuba has been under the global spotlight. Most recently, 21 September marked a new economic era for Cuba […]

The post Cuban cultural capital and the renewal of US-Cuba relations appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Trick or treat – Episode 27 – The Oxford Comment

From baristas preparing pumpkin spiced lattes to grocery store aisles lined with bags of candy, the season has arrived for all things sweet-toothed and scary. Still, centuries after the holiday known as “Halloween” became cultural phenomenon, little is known to popular culture about its religious, artistic, and linguistic dimensions. For instance, who were the first trick or treaters? What are the origins of zombies? What makes creepy music…well, creepy?

In this month’s episode, we sat down with Katherine Connor Martin, Head of US Dictionaries for Oxford University Press, Greg Garrett, author of Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination, Jason Bivins, author of Religion of Fear: The Politics of Horror in Conservative Evangelicalism, and Jim Buhler, co-author of Hearing the Movies: Music and Sound in Film History to broaden our understanding.

Image Credit: “Reaching for Halloween” by Will Montague. CC BY NC 2.0 via Flickr.

The post Trick or treat – Episode 27 – The Oxford Comment appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. The James Bond songs: Best of the forgotten and underrated

If you’re getting ready for the new Bond movie—and its soon-to-appear title song—you might want to sift through the history of this 50-year-old franchise and think about your favorite Bond films and songs. But how many songs do you remember once you get past “Goldfinger” and “Live and Let Die”? We dug into the ones you might not recall, and those we believe deserve another listen. Here are our top 10.

The post The James Bond songs: Best of the forgotten and underrated appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. Beyond the Pond + an interview with Joseph Kuefler


by Joseph Kuefler (Balzer + Bray, 2015)

Settle in for snippets of story so goosebumpy you’ll think the pages just paper-sliced your soul in two. It is an honor to introduce you to Joseph Kuefler and his gorgeous debut, Beyond the Pond. I love every single word he’s spilled out to us here.


Can you talk about where this book came from? 


My dearest childhood friend lived across the street from a picturesque pond — one of those charming bodies of water with just the right mix of long grass, cattails and critters. Early mornings almost always found its surface blanketed in a magical fog. In winter months, we would skate on its surface. That pond filled me with such wonder as a boy.

So many years later, the wonder of ponds came back to me when I found myself telling my son, Jonah, stories each morning as I drove him to school. Our route took us past a smaller but no-less-magical pond, sandwiched between a row of houses, almost as if it was forced there, like it didn’t belong. We both imagined what fantastical creatures lived beneath its surface. And so, an idea for a picture book was born.

In hindsight, I absolutely see the connection between these moments of inspiration in my life.

And what was your process like for creating it? How did you turn an idea for a story into a completed picture book?

One advantage of being an author/illustrator is that my words and images can reveal themselves together. I begin with a loose story skeleton and single completed illustration that captures the atmosphere of the book. Small thumbnails get created as I’m improving and iterating on the story. Sometimes a posture or scene in my thumbnails will inspire a change to the text, sometimes it’s the other way around. Once the story is tight, I return to my thumbnails and create much tighter pencils, focusing more on composition and type placement.

Joseph-Kuefler-Cover-Sketch Joseph-Kuefler-Panel-SketchJoseph-Kuefler-ThumbnailsWhen it comes to final art, I work digitally, more out of necessity than choice. At the moment, picture books aren’t my day job, so I need to work from anywhere and everywhere. I was traveling a lot for work in the early stages of illustrating POND. Much of the book was illustrated from airplane seats and hotel rooms, cramped rides on bus benches and stolen moments in the office.

As someone formally trained at art school, I long for the day I can rely solely on traditional materials. In some ways I still feel like I need to apologize for using a computer, which is silly, I suppose, because digital doesn’t save me time and is no less difficult. The only thing it affords me is more mobility and greater access to my creative process.

Joseph-Kuefler-Beyond-the-Pond-Pg-12 Joseph-Kuefler-Beyond-the-Pond-Pg-14

I read on your website all about Hum, and I’m so interested in that. Not so much as a musician myself, but because I think picture books function the same way a song does, as a complete and full narrative that can transcend that small space. What do you think?

I love this question because I absolutely agree. Prior to moving into my career as a creative director, I spent years working as a serious musician playing in an indie rock band. Songwriting and record producing is core to who I am and informs so much of all of my creative processes, both personal and professional.

Writing a great song begins with two questions: What do I want them to know? And how do I want them to feel? Nostalgia? Fear? Melancholy? Vulnerability? Defining the emotional arch predetermines so much about your palette—key, tuning, scale, effects, chord progressions, even mixing decisions. Once that’s defined, you need to reduce all of it, your whole vision, into between three and five minutes of music. It’s such a challenge.

This is true of great books. The books we love tell us a story, but they also tell us feeling. They teach us, adults and children alike, what it feels like to experience something, and they do it in 32 pages, give or take. A songwriter has chords. A picture book maker has paints and pencils. A songwriter has a small collection of seconds or minutes. A picture book maker has pages. Both artists curate their palettes to breathe the right mix of mood into whatever it is they are making.

More than any other mediums I’ve explored, children’s books and songs are the most related.

Like you suggest, great songs and picture books transcend their small spaces. They live on in your mind and heart and come to mean or represent so much more long after the final chord has rung and last page has turned.

Reviews have called this debut reminiscient of Maurice Sendak, Jon Klassen, and Wes Anderson, all huge story heroes. Who are your own story heroes?



I know this is a picture book blog, but my greatest passion is cinema. I love movies and have my whole life. My dad encouraged me to explore the classics, with a particular emphasis on the defining films of the 60s and 70s. Many of my story heroes are filmmakers. I am a huge fan of Jean-Pierre Melville because he found a way to steal the best parts of Hitchcock and blend it with that kind cool only the French possess.

As a child, I loved Spielberg and the wonderful films Amblin would produce because they seemed to understand children in a way few other films did. I do love Wes Anderson for his vision and wit but also for the expert way he handles melancholy. When I begin a new picture book, I typically dive into the films that I feel share a similar atmosphere or message. It’s intentionally obvious I’ve included a few homages to Anderson’s films and style in POND—I wanted to thank him for inspiring me, and I wanted to give moms and dads something of their own to discover within the book.

Animation is also a huge source of inspiration for me. Words can’t describe how much Miyazaki inspires me. His films are somehow massive in scope and incredibly intimate and personal.

gallery-myneighbortotoro-2 gallery-spiritedaway-1

I can’t say that I have any specific story heroes in the picture book space. I love the Steads and Klassen and Jeffers and all of the other usual suspects, but I don’t look to picture books to inform my own work as much as I do film or literature, even photography. I’m not trying to suggest that other picture books don’t influence my work—they most certainly do. They’re just not my primary source and I typically look to them much later in the process to help me work through a very specific problem.

I would, however, be remiss if I didn’t mention JK Rowling. Sometimes I close my eyes and hope that when I open them I will have somehow grown a scar on my forehead and transformed into Harry Potter. Rowling succeeded in revealing a hidden magic in our own world, something tucked away just around the bend, something you hadn’t realized was there all along. I love that so much about those books. Turning a pond into a portal seemed to transform the everyday and reveal a hidden magic in a similar way.

Can you tell us a little about the trailer for Beyond the Pond and how you created it? It’s such a perfect piece, and I always think trailers that feel like short films are some of the best!

Thank you for the compliments. I am a creative director who has spent many years in the branding and marketing industries working for clients we all know and love. Making films and telling their stories is a skill I’ve developed over time. When I began considering my own trailer, I knew it needed to feel a little more like a movie trailer than a “book” trailer. It was the only way I felt I could capture the spirit and scope of the book in such a short period of time.

Some are surprised to learn that the voice actor is me. The trailer simply HAD to be narrated by an old, English gentleman because, well, old, English gentlemen are the most magical of men. I didn’t have any on hand, so I put on my Dumbledore hat and effected one.

I love animating. It’s something I don’t get to do as often now, but I was thrilled to be able to dig back into After Effects for this little piece and am pretty happy with how it turned out, all things considered.

What do you remember about picture books from your childhood?

I remember my school library and, Ms. Geese, the world’s crabbiest librarian (if you’re reading this, Ms. Geese, I’m sorry, but you really were frightening). She demanded that we extract library books from the shelves with such expert precision you’d think they were Fabergé eggs. But since we were all so afraid of her, we would hide away in corners with our books. In some ways, her terror forced us to have a more intimate relationship with our books, and for that I am grateful.

I remember the pictures and wishing I could draw like those artists. Like all boys, I was so in love with WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. I would try to replicate the wild things over and over and wondered how in the world anyone could ever draw like that. All these years later, I am still left wondering.

What is your favorite piece of art hanging in your home or studio?


I have two favorite walls in my home. One is a quiet corner of my house filled with family photos and texture studies I made over this last year. The family photos feature some of our favorite memories and experiences. It’s something we will continue to grow and add on to over the years.


The second is a Banksy print hanging in my dining room. It’s big and bold and probably doesn’t belong in a space where people are meant to enjoy meals, but I like that about it.

What’s next for you?

A nap. Honestly. Between my day job, working to support POND’s release, welcoming our third child, Augustine, into the world four months ago, and breathing life into a new picture book, this year has been full, so incredibly, exhaustingly full. But it’s been a good kind of full.

Alessandra Balzer and Balzer + Bray were kind enough to buy two more books from me immediately after we finished POND. By the time this feature runs on your blog, I will have just completed final art for my next book. Then, it will be onto the third. I’m also developing a middle grade book and young reader series.

Beyond that, what’s next is experiencing what it feels like to release my very own picture book into the world. This whole thing continues to be so surreal. One of my lifelong dreams is in a state of becoming, and I couldn’t be happier.


That story about Ms. Geese is one of the greatest library stories I’ve ever heard! Joseph, thanks for the music and the glimpse at the pond and beyond it all.


A big thank you to Joseph Kuefler for the images in this post.

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6. New appreciation for composer Henry Cowell

The extraordinarily innovative American composer Henry Cowell took Europe by storm as a touring pianist in the 1920s, playing his unforgettable compositions that often required using the entire forearm to play dozens of keys simultaneously. In later years he returned to give talks about his music and American music under the auspices of the State Department.

The post New appreciation for composer Henry Cowell appeared first on OUPblog.

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7. Gershwin and color: how blue is the Rhapsody?

Everyone knows George Gershwin as a composer, songwriter, pianist and icon of American music. But few know of his connections to the world of paintings and fine art. As a practicing artist himself, Gershwin produced over 100 paintings, drawings, and photographs.

The post Gershwin and color: how blue is the Rhapsody? appeared first on OUPblog.

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8. Sir David Willcocks (1919-2015): an inspirational life remembered

Sir David Willcocks sadly passed away in September 2015. This is OUP’s tribute to a highly gifted musician and outstanding choral director whose leadership, decency, and humanity have inspired countless singers and conductors to try to follow his example.

The post Sir David Willcocks (1919-2015): an inspirational life remembered appeared first on OUPblog.

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9. Ten fun facts about the xylophone

You'd probably recognize the rainbow-patterned, lap-size plastic xylophone in the playroom, popular among music-minded toddlers. But what do you know about the real thing? The xylophone is a wooden percussion instrument with a range of four octaves, and can be used in a variety of musical genres.

The post Ten fun facts about the xylophone appeared first on OUPblog.

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10. Review of Rhythm Ride

pinkney_rhythm rideRhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through 
the Motown Sound
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Middle School   Roaring Brook   166 pp.
9/15   978-1-59643-973-3   $19.99   g

As related by an irrepressible narrator Pinkney names “the Groove,” this history of Motown Records manages not only to smartly place the company and its hit records in the context of (mostly) 1960s America but to have a great time doing so: “Put your hand up like you’re halting traffic. Really flick your wrist, kid. Because stopping in the name of love needs to be strong.” Pinkney traces the success of Motown from founder Berry Gordy’s initial drive and doggedness through early success among African American audiences to the breakout worldwide fame of acts such as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Diana Ross and the Supremes, and the Jackson 5. While the tone is generally peppy, the book gives due attention to the racism the company and its artists faced, and how Motown both reflected and contributed to — as in Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” — the dramatic social changes of its heyday. “The Groove” (based, says Pinkney in an afterword, on the voice of a deejay cousin) is an energetic and amiable guide, but better at pumping enthusiasm than providing musical insight; there’s not much here on what made “the Motown sound” uniquely recognizable and distinct. That said, Pinkney provides an excellent discography that will lead young readers to the classic tracks, and, my goodness, they are many. Photographs throughout capture backstage moments as well as the full Motown glamour; appended material includes a timeline, thorough source notes and a reading list, and an index.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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11. The wooden box strung with taut wire and scraped with horse-hair tied to a stick

After a recent performance, a member of the audience came up to tell me that he'd enjoyed my playing. "I always think," he said, as if he were being original, "that the violin is the instrument that most closely resembles the human voice." Outwardly I nodded assent and smiled; inwardly I groaned. If you happen to be a violinist, then you'll be only too familiar with this particular cliché.

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12. Beyond the page: music students and emotion

Even though I recently turned sixty and have taught at colleges and conservatories, when I hear the words “back to school,” the image that springs to mind is of my teenage self as a Juilliard student in the 1970s. If I ask that self what my main educational breakthrough from those years was, the answer surprises me: discovering what actors learn. Actors study their own emotions.

The post Beyond the page: music students and emotion appeared first on OUPblog.

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13. The desnudas of Times Square

Because nothing noteworthy occurred anywhere in the world through the month of August and the first half of September, the local news in New York City turned its attentions to a few women who have apparently been bothering people in the otherwise calm, decent section of Manhattan known as Times Square.

The post The desnudas of Times Square appeared first on OUPblog.

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14. The direct link between income and impact: savvy music teachers

On the surface, the suggestion that the best independent music teachers are those who earn the most money seems ludicrous. No obvious, mathematical correlation can be drawn between fiscal and pedagogical success. We have all encountered incredible educators who struggle to make ends meet, or financially comfortable ones who are mediocre instructors at best.

Yet I argue that there is indeed a parallel. When done right, impact and income are closely related bedfellows. Savvy Music Teachers (SMTs) find ways to make them both go up, in harmony.

The post The direct link between income and impact: savvy music teachers appeared first on OUPblog.

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15. In praise of SoundCloud

When you’re a musician, you’re constantly passing between the private and the public spheres. Practicing by yourself in a soundproof room is a private activity. Playing an audition is a public act. Reading a score silently is private; releasing a CD is public.

The post In praise of SoundCloud appeared first on OUPblog.

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16. Song-Inspired Drabble Challenge

HippolyteHippolyte posted this awesome-tastic challenge for you on the Fan Fiction Message Board!

Heeeeeeeeey all!

So! This is a thing I saw in a STACKS Message Board a LONG time ago and though I’ve never participated myself, I figured it’s high time someone brings a new writing challenge. Here’s the deal:

You are to write a drabble inspired by the first song that comes up on shuffle. Grab your phones/ipods/mp3s/playlists or anything you have with music stored in it and a shuffle option, and enable said option. Your task is to write a short story (fan fiction or original) inspired by the song, for as long as the song is playing. Once the song is over, you stop writing and completely leave it be.


  • You may skip songs in case you can’t get inspired, but don’t be too picky or you’ll just be shuffling forever.
  • You must skip any songs that are inappropriate either because of language or content. Any song that receives a rating beyond PG 13 according to your judgment should better be avoided. We trust your judgment.
  • In case you feel that a song with questionable content is still appropriate enough for this board, please mention all warnings that apply. Your story has to be 100% appropriate for all people on this boards. (As Moderator Katie says, don’t write something you wouldn’t say to a 7/8-year-old.)
  • Your drabble can be a fan fiction or an original one. No preferences, but in case of fan fiction, make sure that the fandom you’re writing for is appropriate for younger kids on STACKS (PG 13 at most).
    • “Completely leave it be” is just that. Don’t correct anything. Don’t play the song again. Don’t touch it; it’s already a masterpiece.
    • Stories are expected to be short. Just brainstorm something and leave it in its raw beauty for the world to see.
    • Of course, you’re never obliged to post what you just wrote if you don’t want to. We’re only doing this for fun.

I hope everyone has fun! I also hope you’re not weak enough to decline the challenge. Mwahaha!

So leave your song title and artist in the Comments, and then go to the Fan Fiction Message Board to share your whole story.

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17. Ten facts about the steel drum

The steel drum originated in the late 1930s on the island of Trinidad and was played as part of a steel band, a percussion ensemble contrived by lower-class rebellious teens. Learn more about the steel drum's complex history, development, and current form with our 10 fun facts.

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18. Misty Copeland dances On the Town

Misty Copeland captured the world’s attention this summer when she became the first black female principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. In late August, Copeland will once again be in the headlines when she stars in Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town for a limited engagement at New York’s Lyric Theatre, where she will bring the show’s nearly year-long run to a close.

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19. Bad-Poem-A-Day, Where Are My Books?, Sherlock Holmes, Music and the Brilliance Of Kari Maaren

I've been a fan of YA writer Kari Maaren fan ever since I heard her perform Kids These Days, a song from the viewpoint of a traditional vampire complaining about the Twilight generation of vampires. The song in the video above, Being Watson, is one of my favorites of Kari's; Kari is a Sherlock Holmes fan but is especially fascinated by Watson. You can hear the song and read the lyrics on Kari's Being Watson page. Do check out Kari's other songs, which range from Everybody Hates Elves (one of her extra-popular songs, especially with her kazoo solo!), a musical plea to George R.R. Martin to finish his Game Of Thrones books, a song about YA book clichés, an unusual take on Disney princesses, and a song in praise of Voldemort.

Anyway, Kari recently launched a tongue-in-cheek Bad Poem A Day blog and GUESS WHAT? Her poem today mentions my picture book, WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? woohoooo!!!

Check out Kari's poem today, WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?

You can find out more about Kari and her projects (including upcoming book projects) at Karimaaren.com.

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20. Jazz at the BBC Proms

Celebrating their 120th birthday this year, the BBC Promenade Concerts – universally known as “The Proms” – rank as the world’s biggest classical music festival. With 76 concerts, running from July to September, of which the vast majority focus on classical music, not only do the events reach a sizeable audience live in London’s Royal Albert Hall, or for the earlier daytime concerts, the Cadogan Hall, but there’s a much bigger audience for the nightly live broadcasts on BBC radio and for the highlights on television.

The post Jazz at the BBC Proms appeared first on OUPblog.

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21. Illustration Inspiration: Carolyn Conahan, Illustrator of This Old Van

Carolyn Conahan is the author and illustrator of several picture books, including The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oregon (Sterling), and The Big Wish (Chronicle), which was awarded the 2011 Oregon Spirit Book Award for Picture Books by the Oregon Council of Teachers of English.

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22. Technology and the evolving portrait of the composer

It’s a cartoon image from my childhood: a man with wild hair, wearing a topcoat, and frantically waving a baton with a deranged look on his face. In fact, this caricature of what a composer should look like was probably inspired by the popular image of Beethoven: moody, distant, a loner… a genius lost in his own world.

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23. Fab Four Friends

Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the BEATLES  by Susanna Reich illustrated by Adam Gustavson Henry Holt Books and Company, 2015 ISBN: 978-0-8050-9458-9 Grades K-5 The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher. Over the past few years I've added two Beatles biographies to my school library collection: The Beatles Were Fab by Kathleen Krull and Who Were the Beatles? by Geoff

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24. Breathless: Over and over

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25. Return to Writing: Twelve Ways to Get Back on Track

The last few weeks have seen me getting back into writing full-time again, hence my long blog hiatus. And with writing comes, of course, editing and revising, and then revising again, and well, you know how it goes. An endless cycle of chop, change, doubt, re-organization, and finally having to say, "That's it! This book is FINISHED. No more edits until a copy editor tells me what to do." 

It wasn't easy to settle back into a writing routine. Most days I just wanted to go through my photos from Taiwan and play with watercolors. Fun ways to make the hours fly, but nothing that was going to get my WIP ready for a potential agent or publisher.

In order to instill some discipline into my writing life, I desperately needed to remind myself of all the things I've ever taught and encouraged my own writing students to do. (Sometimes you have to be your own teacher!) 

Grabbing a new dry erase board and pen, I made myself a flow chart listing the top 12 ways to get me and my manuscript back into the writing zone. Here's what I came up with:
  1. Focus. Boy, did I need this one. After Taiwan, my mind was a mess: I wanted to work on my novel, only to then want to write poetry, or work on a screenplay, or hey, what about that Young Adult thing in my filing cabinet, or no, a picture book might be even better. . . .  After several false starts, I knew this had to stop. I had to narrow my vision, forget about the other projects (they're all lined up in boxes ready to be tackled one at a time), and concentrate solely on the most important manuscript, the one I was working on before I went on my trip. That's it. Just one manuscript at a time.
  2. Mindfulness. Because I so desperately wanted that manuscript finished, I started to slash words, sentences, and paragraphs without thinking about how much work had gone into creating them. It seemed easier to toss phrases and pages that were bothering me rather than try to improve or rewrite them. After several hours of draconian "ruthless revising" I went back and retrieved all those toss-outs, learning that it was far better to savor each unwanted word, sentence, and paragraph until I knew how I could either fix or use them elsewhere in the story to their advantage.
  3. Brevity. That said, sometimes my choices were right. Less is better in a manuscript. Focusing with mindfulness, I looked for all the ways I could say what I wanted to say without having to say it twice or with too much description.
  4. Let go. It was imperative that I let go of everything that was blocking my way forward or eating my time: unrealistic expectations that I could be finished in a few days (leading to speed-editing); unnecessary shopping trips; housework that was simply routine and not because the house was dirty; and especially social media sites, including, unfortunately, my blog. It was hard, but I got so much done. And I'm back now!
  5. Ritual. For some people it's lighting a candle before they start work, or choosing a favorite pen. My writing ritual, at least for this current book, was to make myself a cup of jasmine green tea, go out of my office and upstairs to my breakfast nook, and read a Chinese poem (translated into English!) from The White Pony before I began freewriting or editing. It was a great system, and one I intend to continue with my next project.
  6. Music. I've always loved the idea of writing to music, and have enjoyed doing so when I've been in workshops or seminars, but it's often something I forget to do on my own. Recently I bought a small portable radio that I can use in both my office and the breakfast nook (or anywhere else for that matter). I've found it very helpful to put on what I used to call "elevator" or "waiting for the dentist" music to calm me down and set the tone of my writing session. 
  7. Magazine or artwork prompts. Using cut-out images from magazines, old books, and catalogs has always been my go-to story starter. Whether the pictures are of fashion models or reproductions of famous artworks, I couldn't live without my image library. For my current WIP I thought I had more than enough pictures to keep the story flowing, but I also realized many of the images had become somewhat stale--I had looked at them so often I had stopped seeing them. Starting a new collection solely for the last stage of the book seemed to revive all my interest in the story again, and gave me a fresh perspective on the older pictures when I paired them up with the new ones.
  8. Meditation. I've never been a "good meditator" (whatever that means), having hopeless monkey mind and a tendency to squirm when I have to sit still without a book or a pen in my hand. That said, I have always appreciated the need to be quiet for a bit before I start my day or any creative work. The secret I've learned is to not set a time: "I will meditate for twenty minutes straight or else!" but just to give myself permission to stop and not be so busy-busy from the minute I get up or the second I sit down to write. Take a breath, take a minute, relax. Let go.
  9. Choose a path/theme/genre/medium. My usual working style when starting anything new is to just let it happen. More times than not, genre or theme is something I choose for my work after my first draft. This time, though, and following through with #1: Focus, I decided to study and develop my genre/theme before I did anything else. It was a good decision--I found myself taking less side trips and getting right to the heart of my story a whole lot faster than in the past.
  10. "How can I help?" It's nice to help other people, wonderful, in fact, but how often do we stop to help ourselves? I once read a quote that has always stayed with me about how the writer would never work for a boss as mean as she was to herself. Me neither--nothing but constant criticism, impossible deadlines, food and drink deprivation, and definitely no bathroom breaks allowed! When I'm writing, I can be horrible to myself. To break this tyranny, I wrote a "Letter to Me" asking what kind of help I needed to change the pattern. Some of my reply includes writing in 25-minute increments, followed by 15 minutes of anything non-writing related; rewarding myself with something special at the end of each day (can be as simple and inexpensive as a new library book); and making sure I put my writing, rather than the laundry, first.
  11. Find a problem, brainstorm a solution. Halfway through my manuscript I realized I was being far too darn nice to my characters. I hated it when anything bad happened to them, so I'd hurriedly make it all better so they wouldn't suffer. Bad idea. Characters crave suffering--it's what makes them whole in the end! My solution was to make lists of terrible things that could go wrong for each of them, and then brainstorm several dozen ways to prolong the trouble. The lists also gave me ways to solve the problems without relying on coincidence or magic wands.
  12. Write a gratitude or daily achievement list (especially after a rejection or a bad writing day). Not every writing day is a good day. In fact, a lot of them can be downright horrible, or at least they can seem to be until you really examine how the day went. Writing a gratitude list at the end of every day is an amazing practice. I like to go for a list of twelve. Even if the best I can do is write, "I have enough ink in my printer to send my manuscript out again." Or, "I got rid of four typos in Chapter 3," it's a win. (It's also positive proof that you're making progress, a good thing to remember and remind yourself when you don't even have ink in the printer.)
Tip of the Day: My absolute all-time favorite writing tip ever: Take a nap. Yes! Seriously! Napping can be a real creativity-saver, and it doesn't have to take up a lot of time. Whether it's in the middle of a hot Saturday afternoon, or as soon as you come home from work, don't fight the need to snooze--use it. To turn naps into real productivity, always have pen and paper right by your side so that as soon as you wake up, you can start writing. The results can be miraculous--new insights, new characters, new energy. I love it.

So what works for you? Drop a line in the comments section and let me know some of your favorite tips, too. Thanks for visiting!

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