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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: the writing life, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Straight From the Source: Sheila O’Connor on Writing Historical Fiction

Sheila O’Connor is the award-winning author of four novels: Keeping Safe the StarsSparrow Road, Where No Gods Came and Tokens of Grace. Her poetry and fiction have been recognized with fellowships from the Bush Foundation, Loft McKnight and the Minnesota State Arts Board. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she is a professor in the MFA program at Hamline University where she also serves as fiction editor for Water~Stone Review.  Keeping Safe the Stars has recently been released in paperback.

What typically comes first for you: a character? An era? A story idea? How do you proceed from there?

I always begin with a character, and from there it is a character in a situation. I’m interested in the character’s trouble—why is their story important?  What are they up against and why? That’s the early work I do on a book.

How do you conduct your research? 

I like to jump into the story, discover the time period, and then ask myself: What elements of that time period are pressing in on the story?  We are all influenced by our historical time and place, and fictional characters are no different.  The world we live in shapes us. Once I’ve settled on the time and place of a novel, I immerse myself in it through books, movies, music, and lots of web research.

You do have a specific system for collecting data? 

I wish I did. I tend to empty the library of materials, and spend too much time on Google. I call people, I ask questions of people who may have lived during that time. I’m especially interested in talking to people that would have been the same age as my characters in that time period.

What kinds of sources do you use? 

Magazine, catalogues, newspapers, books, music, films, photos—anything I can get my hands on. The book I’m working on now has required looking at old baseball cards, Schwinn catalogues, reading obscure articles on psychiatric hospitals in the 1960’s, among other odd activities. I love it all.

What’s your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?

I love the way the time period determines certain events in the book, the kinds of choices characters have available to them, the way cultural norms of the time period would influence their decisions. My previous novel, KEEPING SAFE THE STARS, was set in 1974, during the week of the Nixon resignation, and there were all kinds of cultural norms at work during that time that helped me discover the story. Beyond that, I think it’s my own particular kind of fantasy, because I’m able to return to a time that no longer exists, and make it real again—which is a fantasy for me. We know our time and place, but the work of fiction allows us to occupy another, and whether it’s an imaginary country, or a small town in Minnesota in 1974, it’s a fiction world I’ve never inhabited.

Why is historical fiction important?

Historical fiction allows us to see the path behind us, to see how we’ve arrived at this moment, and in some ways it allows us to make sense of the world as we know it now. Beyond that, it can teach us things–both major and minor–things we might not otherwise know. I don’t write books to teach, but historical novels are rich opportunities for readers young and old to learn about another time and place, to imagine what it was like to be living in a reality other than our own.

 

 

The post Straight From the Source: Sheila O’Connor on Writing Historical Fiction appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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2. And Finally…

…wrapping up the running theme

Some days are great, some days aren’t:
Some running days are fun, some start hard and get easier, some start easy and get hard. And there are some that you just have to get through. Writing is the same. Don’t let a hard writing day scare you from getting back into the groove.

Love what you do:
I’m slow, I’ve got funny form, but I love the way running makes me feel: strong and powerful and joyful, like a little kid.

While I set goals and due dates for certain projects, I never know how easily the words will come. This is where love for the writing process helps to sustain me. Last summer I got stuck on two stanzas for a picture book and couldn’t move forward for weeks. I spent hours and hours on what amounted to roughly twenty words. Twenty words! As frustrating as this was, I’m so thankful I kept returning to the story, sat with what I had, and trusted the words would come. The writing process has never worked the same way twice for me, but I love what eventually unfolds.

Find your rhythm:
There is something very familiar and comfortable about settling into your pace. The same can be said about your own writing process. Maybe you need music in the background. Maybe you have to re-read everything you wrote the last time you sat down. Whatever your system, if it works for you, use it. From that familiar place your work will grow.

Keep track of your goals:
Just like runners love to record their fastest times, make sure you’re paying attention to — and celebrating! — your progress: finishing a manuscript, positive feedback from critique partners, requests for partials from agents. Those milestones keep you moving forward.

When things don’t work, try something new:
I’ve had my share of injuries and have had to alter the way I’ve approached running. For months I practiced the walk/run system my sister swears by. Other times I kept all running to a mile — holding onto the fun and cutting back on the work.
Are you working on a manuscript you need to retire? Are you writing in a genre that just doesn’t fit? Give yourself permission to try something new or approach your work differently.

Metaphor for life:
Running is hard, but life is harder. When I push myself physically, I feel like I can take the world on.

Isn’t it just the same with writing?

This post originally ran March 16, 2011

Update:  A friend just told me about  What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir by author Haruki Murakami. Can’t wait to dig in!

The post And Finally… appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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3. Running as a Metaphor for Writing

On Wednesday I posted about the similarities between running and writing. Today I thought it would be fun to look at some of these more closely:

In it for the long haul:
Just like the hard work required to add miles or increase speed, writers need to be committed long term. You can’t “become” anything overnight.

Every step counts:
It’s not glamorous to think about those early mornings you force yourself out of bed just to put one foot in front of the other. Neither is it deeply exciting to recall every word you’ve ever put down on paper. But each small effort builds on the next.

Hold onto success to motivate later:
Early last December, my sister called to tell me my brother-in-law wasn’t going to be able to make the half marathon they’d planned to run together. The race was in ten days. Would I like to take his place?

My longest race before this was a 5k. I had no time to train. My sister flew me out to Kiawah, South Carolina, where we walk/ran the first six miles. Then something came over me: I wanted to finish out the race on my own. Though I hadn’t run that far in years, I finished the last seven miles without stopping. I’ve used this moment as motivation ever since.

Have you ever had a breakthrough writing moment? A time you knew what your story was missing, a writing session where every word worked? Save those moments to use as future motivation.

This post originally ran March 11, 2014

 
 

The post Running as a Metaphor for Writing appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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4. Writing and Running

Most of my life, I’ve thought runners were like Chemistry majors — skilled in a way I wasn’t and fans of pain and tedium. This all changed after my second son was born, when my walking partner of many months turned to me and said, “We’re running the next mile. Go!”

For weeks, we steadily built our distance. I insisted Rachel talk to me the entire time about books, teaching, raising boys, recipes — anything to distract me from the hard work. Somehow, while pushing that double jogging stroller and learning about couscous salads, I got hooked.

My husband wasn’t surprised. He’s always said I have the perfect personality for a runner: outdoorsy, disciplined, someone who craves time alone. I’ve never been fast, and as I’ve gotten older, worked through injuries, taken time off, and battled the adjustment moving from sea level to a mile above, I’ve gotten slower still.

Lots of runners talk about the grand thoughts they have while they’re covering the miles. While I’m not one of those (my mind is usually in rest mode while my legs do the tough stuff), I have, at times, thought through the similarities between running and writing.
Here are a few I’ve come up with:

  • be in it for the long haul
  • every step counts
  • hold onto success to motivate later
  • some days are great, some days aren’t
  • love what you do
  • find your rhythm
  • keep track of your goals
  • when things don’t work, try something new

Any other running writers out there? What similarities do you find between the two?

This post originally ran March 9, 2011

The post Writing and Running appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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5. The Native American Perspective in Literature

How to Write the Great American Indian Novel :: Sherman Alexie, Montana Public Radio
Diversity 101: Not Injun Joe :: Joseph Bruchac, CBC Diversity
American Indian Books for Young Adults :: CLN’s Heart of a Child
Native YA Protagonists :: Rich in Color
Best Native American Books for Children and Young Adults :: CLN’s Heart of a Child
Resources and KidLit on American Indians :: School Library Journal
Children’s Books for Native American Heritage Month :: Indian Country Today Media Network
Writing, Tonto and the Wise-Cracking Minority Sidekick Who Is the First to Die :: Cynsations

 

The post The Native American Perspective in Literature appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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6. Friday Speak Out!: Sentences, Seasons and Time

by Carol Hogan

I’m currently editing the chapters of my first book while simultaneously checking email, posting on Facebook, and reading about writing and publishing books. I know there are helpful suggestions out there so I rationalize by telling myself it takes a lot of reading to write a book. However, sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever finish the book itself?

It’s the same feeling I had when we were blue water cruising. Often we’d be at sea for twenty or more days where the only marker ticking off the passage of time was wave, after wave, after wave.

“Will we ever arrive in port?” I’d think to myself. It’s a similar question to the one children ask on a long car trip, “When are we gonna’ get there?” Finally, after twenty-one or twenty-two days at sea we’d sight land, and then I’d wish the passage wouldn’t end.

Writing a book is like sailing long distance, running a marathon or pedaling a bicycle across country. You put one foot in front of the other, pedal one full rotation, and write or revise one sentence at a time.

While I’ve been doing that, I notice that the Lynden tree outside my office window has subtly marked its own passage of time with the changing color of its leaves and finally the lack of them. Each day as I sit at my computer and move through the sentences my tree moves steadily through the seasons; it’s leaves turning from spring buds to summer green, then autumn red and finally to winter’s bare branches, leaf, after leaf, after leaf.

And I know I must move through the sentences and chapters as steadily and patiently as that tree moves through the seasons. I can’t hurry, or fill up sentences with words that aren’t quite right, just to make the work go faster. I search for exactly what I want to say, no matter how long it takes, and at the end of the day I pray have written words worth reading.


* * *

Carol Hogan a freelance photojournalist and reporter in Hawaii, California, now living in Washington, not far from the Canadian border. She attended Western Washington University late in life and received a Bachelor's Degree in Creative Nonfiction, graduating in 2012. Hogan is currently editing her first book, In the Wake of Discovery: Two Adults, Two Children and 25,000-Miles on a Small Boat, and hopes to publish it soon.

web addresses: InTheWakeofDiscovery@wordpress.com, or ByCarolHogan.com.

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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7. Plowing, Planting, Hoping, Dreaming

I ran an earlier version of this post right after selling my first book. Because it’s one of my favorites, and because I so often need to hear these words myself, I share them again today. Keep plowing, friends.

550skies

It was 2004. While driving to meet my writing group, I happened to catch an interview on NPR with Adrienne Young, a folksinger just starting out. She talked about her first album, inspired by some advice she’d gotten while struggling to make it as a musician:

If you want to do this with your life, stay focused and see this through. You’ve got to plow to the end of the row, girl. That simple phrase – plow to the end of the row – was enough to push Adrienne to continue. It became the title of both her album and lead song. I can’t quite explain what that interview meant to me, hearing an artist choose to create despite the struggle, to push against fear and sensibility and make it “to the end of the row.” I’ve carried this image with me for years, the plant metaphor standing in for artistic endeavor, the plow the unglamorous slog needed to dig deep and make it to the end. Sometimes I find it funny I’d choose a profession so bent on forcing me to wait, so full of uncertainty and disappointment. An almost foolish optimism has kept me working, trusting that the next editor or the next agent or the next story would be the one to launch my career. I’ve haunted mailboxes and inboxes, waiting for something positive to come through. I’ve ceremoniously sent off manuscripts, chanting, “Don’t come back!” (entertaining postal workers, for sure). I’ve journaled again and again “this next editor is a perfect match!”, managing somehow to keep on plowing in midst of little validation. After twelve years of writing and hundreds of rejections, I sold my first book, May B., a historical verse novel about a girl with her own challenging row to hoe. May’s determination carried me through a rocky publication experience: losing my first editor; the closing of my Random House imprint, Tricycle Press; the weeks when my book was orphaned, with no publishing house to claim it and its future uncertain; the swooping in of Radom House imprint, Schwartz and Wade; edit rounds seven, eight, and nine with editor number two; and finally, May B.’s birth into the world only three months behind its original release date. Though each row’s length varies, they’re still mostly lonely, not very straight and loaded with stones. But the soil has gotten better as I’ve worked it, and each little sprout I’ve planted has been stronger than the last. And I keep at it — plowing, planting, hoping, dreaming — because I’m made for this. And knowing this is enough to continue, enough for my work to thrive.

The post Plowing, Planting, Hoping, Dreaming appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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8. Straight From the Source: Margarita Engle on Writing Historical Fiction

Please join me in welcoming Margaria Engle to the blog today.

Margarita is a poet and novelist whose work has been published in many countries. Her books include THE SURRENDER TREE, a Newbery Honor book and winner of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, the Pura Belpré Award, the Américas Award, and the Claudia Lewis Poetry Award; THE POET SLAVE OF CUBA, winner of the Pura Belpré Award and the Américas Award; and HURRICANE DANCERS, winner of the Pura Belpré Award. Her most recent book, SILVER PEOPLE: VOICES FROM PANAMA CANAL, releases March 25.final Silver People cover-1

What typically comes first for you: a character? An era? A story idea? How do you proceed from there?

I love to read anything I can find about Cuba, so when I encounter a historical figure who astonishes me, I get excited.  This is especially true for first person accounts.  For instance, while I was doing research for THE POET SLAVE OF CUBA and THE SURRENDER TREE, I encountered diaries that would later lead to THE FIREFLY LETTERS and THE LIGHTNING DREAMER.

How do you conduct your research? 

I love interlibrary loan!  I love diaries!  I love variety, so I read all the current nonfiction books and articles about a subject, then look at their bibliographies to find earlier works.  When I keep moving farther and farther back in time, sometimes I’m lucky enough to find first-person accounts.

You do have a specific system for collecting data? 

I’m an omnivore.  I read everything.  When something interests me, I fill index cards with notes.  It’s extremely low-tech.

What kinds of sources do you use?

New books, antique books, diaries, scholarly journals, bibliographies, helpful librarians, just about anything I can find.

How long do you typically research before beginning to draft?

A year of afternoons spent reading and re-reading about a subject (while writing my current project—using last year’s research—during the mornings.)  It’s difficult sometimes, because it means time traveling back and forth between the current project, future project, and my real life.

At what point do you feel comfortable beginning to draft? How does your research continue once you begin writing?

I don’t consider the research finished until I remember a lot about the subject without having to constantly look up details.  Of course, once the book is finished, I instantly forget everything, because my brain’s storage capacity is tiny, and by then it’s already starting to get filled up with information about the next project.

What is your favorite thing about research?

I love learning!  I’m in love with those aha moments when I wonder why I’ve never heard of this person, or this event, that seems so significant and inspiring.

What’s your least favorite thing about research?

The fear of making factual errors or incorrect assumptions, especially regarding earlier time periods, when there were few first-person accounts, and especially regarding indigenous cultures that left no written record.

What’s your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?

The daydreaming!  I love to imagine.

What are some obstacles writing historical fiction brings?

Unfortunately, chain bookstores rarely stock my books.  They seem to be thought of as limited to the school and library “market.”  I don’t know if it’s because they’re historical, multicultural, or verse novels—possibly all three. I sometimes feel like a second-class citizen in the publishing world.

What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve learned while researching?

While researching HURRICANE DANCERS, I was invited to become a subject of the Cuban DNA Project.  I learned that my maternal ancestry is indigenous.  I am a descendant of the people I was researching!  This was especially thrilling because like all Cubans and Cuban-Americans, I had been brought up believing that Cuban Indians are extinct.  In other words:  the history books were wrong.

Has your research ever affected the overall trust of your book? How so?

I once had an awkward experience at a conference.  I was sent into a roomful of teachers who were discussing THE FIREFLY LETTERS.  Most were polite, but one challenged me, saying she didn’t like the ending, because it was too hopeful.  She didn’t see hope as a realistic facet of slavery.  To quote her, she said my ending was, “happy ever after.”  In my defense, I explained that I only choose stories where I’ve found a hopeful ending.  Other stories might fascinate me as a reader, but as a writer, I don’t choose to offer hopeless endings to young people.

Because life isn’t always clear cut, the motives behind our actions don’t always make sense. But stories need to follow a logical path. What sorts of decisions have you had to make about “muddy” historical figures or events in order for your book to work?

Sometimes I create fictional characters in real situations.  Sometimes I combine fictional characters with historical figures.  This is the approach I took in my newest verse novel, SILVER PEOPLE: VOICES FROM PANAMA CANAL.  It’s such an incredibly enormous subject, involving hundreds of thousands of laborers from more than a hundred nations.  I had to narrow it down to a few characters.  When I tried to include too many, it fell apart, so I chose to focus on the ones I could picture most clearly, the ones whose voices reached me.

Why is historical fiction important?

Historical fiction can help us understand the enormous world, by learning about specific people, cultures, and events.  My hope is that young people will feel encouraged and inspired when they read about real people who made hopeful choices in times that must have seemed hopeless.

 

The post Straight From the Source: Margarita Engle on Writing Historical Fiction appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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9. In Which Katherine Applegate Speaks For Me About Structure, Plot, and Writing


Why did you decide to write the story in a sort of prose poetry form? Was it just to give Ivan a believable voice, or was there another reason?

I am not entirely sure. I tend to look at structure before I look even at plot,* which is probably why plot is a struggle for me.** I think about what the book looks like and how it feels.*** Maybe that discipline is helpful for me in terms of finding the right words.

But when I look at big sprawly novels, sometimes… my husband just finished [writing] 500 pages. I marvel at it, because it’s so symphony and I’m so chamber music.**** I just don’t think that way, and it seemed really appropriate that since I was working with an animal voice that it would be small and poetic.

Read the rest of the interview at School Library Journal's Meet the Latest Newbery Winner: How Katherine Applegate Created a Modern-Day Classic



*yes
** oh, yes
*** yes siree
****exactly!

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10. Writing Links

Why Older Readers Should Read Picture Books :: Literacy, Families and Learning

8 Ways to Be a Happy Author :: Rachelle Gardner






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11. The Lucy Maud Montgomery Journals Read Along: Volume II Introduction

Miss the introductory or discussion posts for Volume I? Need the reading schedule for the entire read along? Click through!

Volume II cover years 1910-1921 and picks up with thirty-five year-old Maud still living in her childhood home caring for her grandmother, as she had for over a decade. Though she was a best selling author, life was very much the same (ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, published in 1908, had already gone into numerous print runs and brought her $7,000 in royalties early in 1910 -- "an enormous figure in a province where the average yearly income for a working woman was less than $300").

Major change was ahead: her grandmother's death (March 1911); marriage to Ewan MacDonald, who had been engaged to Maud since 1906 (July 1911); a European honeymoon; a move to Leaksdale, Ontario, where she set up her first home and stepped into the role of minister's wife; and the birth of her two boys (1912 and 1915 -- Maud lost another son to stillbirth in 1914).

The journal also covers Maud's agony over the first World War, a whirlwind trip to Boston to meet her crafty and not always above board editor with the L. C. Page Company, the discovery of her husband's mental illness, and the further facing of her own.

More and more, her journal became a place of escape, "a secret release for her thoughts," a rich resource for writing material, a source of companionship, "a rich record of motherhood," and an honest glimpse into "the life of a working writer."

I picked up Volume II a few weeks ago and am happily settled back in with Maud. For those of you reading, I look forward to hearing what you've taken from your readings when we meet for our discussion post on April 29. If you're finding yourself behind schedule, it's no big deal. Read in a way you can enjoy, and if you feel so inclined, come back at a later date to read posts you've missed.

For those of you not reading, it has been wonderful to hear your enthusiasm for and interest in these posts in person, via email, and in comments. I'm glad you're able to get a sense of Maud's life through what's being shared here.

Remember, throughout the month I post quotess on Twitter (#lmmjournals) and on my May B. Facebook page. Happy reading, and please spread the word!

The work for which we are fitted -- which we are sent into this world to do -- what a blessing it is and what fulness of joy it holds! 
-- Lucy Maud Montgomery, May 23, 1910

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12. Opening the Heart of Character Through Poetry: Jennifer Gennari

Meditate, Louise Hawes said. What? 


Some writers take acting classes to find a character’s voice, said my then teacher at Vermont College of Fine Arts, but her favorite method was meditation. When you close your eyes and breathe, she promised, you will become your character.

Not me. I was too fidgety; I felt ridiculous sitting on the sofa. 

But my writing was flat in my work in progress. I was describing events more than living them through the eyes of Dillon, my protagonist. I was decades away from adolescence, and I needed to get in touch with my inner 13-year-old boy.

The cure? Poetry.

Poetry works as a path to the heart of a character because it requires you to focus on specifics. The red wheelbarrow. A Bird on the Walk. Writing down what you observe in a finite group of words is the beginning of a poem. As Ted Kooser noted in The Poetry Home Repair Manual, “Meaning arrives almost unbidden from an accumulation of specific details.”

Good poetry cannot have generalities. Something stops your mind—a broken laundry basket on the highway median, a hand gripping a child’s lunchbox—and it evokes something in you. Mary Oliver observed, “the poet used the actual, known event or experience to elucidate the inner, invisible experience.” 

We know our own internal landscape. The trick, then, is to uncover the invisible landscape of your character. What telling detail will trigger an emotional response in your character? 

This exercise has worked for me over and over. I don’t always love the poem I’ve written at the end, but I always feel a new connection to what my character wants. And not coincidentally, the poem usually gives me a scene idea. The specificity of the images gives my character something to do. It’s through doing that character is revealed. 

Here’s what happened when I wrote in the voice of Dillon:
Clean Shaven

Mom told me
he shaved off his moustache
right before he left
for Desert Storm

I hold his photo
next to my face
Our eyes match
My nose is hooked 
like his

I jut my chin out
checking for a shadow
I run my hand down
my cheek 
It’s smooth
like his
in the soldier picture

Ten years gone but
everyone will see
we are father and son

Immediately I knew the core of my novel. The story, which had many other plot twists, was fundamentally about the rebuilding of the relationship between Dillon and his father. Dillon’s every action must stem from a desire to please his father.

So if you are stuck, write a poem. Take a close-up of your character. The short form requires words with impact. Verbs and nouns can’t be weak; the sound and rhythm of the phrases must sing. Words are what matter, after all. Slowly, word by word, sentence by sentence, you will write a novel with characters made real by specific details. 

And if it doesn’t work, try meditating.

Jennifer Gennari is the author of My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012), an Association of Booksellers for Children Spring 2012 New Voices title and an American Library Association Rainbow List title. A graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts and a former reporter, her poems have appeared in the Marin.

Click through to sign up for the National Poetry Month giveaway!


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13. Friday Speak Out!: Write Like a Pro, Guest Post by Sioux Roslawski

“I’m a writer.” When I tell people this, I automatically know what is going on inside some of their heads.

I pad around in my jammies, free as a bird, with occasional bursts of brilliance as I nibble on chocolate and mainline coffee. The words? The words just flow out effortlessly. At least that’s what some folks think.

They also assume my mailbox is full of checks and my email box is full of acceptances. In their brain, I’s sure they imagine me skipping down the driveway every day (in my PJs, remember?), cradling a stack of envelopes from publishers and agents, and they’re all full of contracts.

First off, I should explain that writing is not my full-time job. During the day I teach third graders, and as much as I’d like to be able to say to my students, ”Guys, I’ve got my critique night tonight, and I’ve got nothin’ to share with them. Would you all mind working on something independently while I work at my computer?” I can’t. Teaching is my mission; writing is my love. Writing is crammed in during the evenings and sometimes during the weekends; it only gets a portion of my waking hours.

And coffee is too bitter of a drink, in my opinion. But if you were offering up a bottle of Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Chai Tea, I’d start tapping away at my laptop with a frenzy.

We’re making scads of money, you say? Anyone who writes knows that only a few of us are getting rich. We often get more rejection than praise, yet we continue to plug away. We become excited if we get into an anthology and get $10. I could make more money—per hour-- running the hot dog machine at Costco than I do at writing.

Furthermore, those who are not obsessed with a well-turned phrase can’t even fathom why writers contribute to markets that pay absolutely and positively nothing. Sometimes we have a publisher who was responsible for our first acceptance. Out of loyalty and gratitude, we will send them a story or an essay when they have a new anthology they’re developing. They supported us, and now we’re just returning the favor.

Sometimes, we just want the opportunity to have our writing out there. The joy is not in the money or the possible fame. No, the joy is in the process. It’s exhilarating to be able to see a piece of writing evolve from a steaming pile of poop into something that is capable of moving others. We don’t always need a monetary reward for the job we do. (However, it is delightful when it does happen.)

So when you say, “I’m a writer,” to someone, be prepared to share a bit of your “reality” with them. Or, let them hold onto their delusions.

‘Cause sometimes, fantasies are nice to entertain, if only for a moment…

* * *

Sioux Roslawski has been published in three (so far) Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, as well as several Not Your Mother's Book collections. A third grade teacher with the Ferguson-Florissant School District, she is also one of the five founding members of the famed WWWP writing critique group. Her musings can be found at http://siouxspage.blogspot.com.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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14. Eight Things I Learned from My Cats about Writing Haiku (and a Giveaway): Lee Wardlaw

1.  There is no yesterday; there is no tomorrow. There is only you, scratching me under my chin right now.

The best haiku emerge from a right-this-instant experience – or from a memory of that experience.  Always use present tense to heighten immediacy and authenticity in your poems.

2.  When poised at a hole, remain still – and use your ears, eyes, nose, whiskers and mouth to detect a lurking gopher.

Observation is crucial to haiku. One must quiet the mind and use all five (or more!) senses to absorb, appreciate, and anchor the moment.

3.  Be patient. Then, when least expected – pounce!


Haiku captures a moment in time, revealing a surprise or evoking a response of a-ha! or ahhh. This pounce helps the reader awaken and experience the ordinary in an extraordinary way.
4.  Most cats have18 toes – unless we’re polydactyl; then we might have 20, 22, even 28 toes!

Japanese haiku feature a total of seventeen beats or sound units: five in the first line, seven in the second, five again in the third. This 5-7-5 form doesn’t apply to American haiku, however, because of differences in English phonics, vocabulary, grammar and syntax. Forcing an unnecessary adjective or adverb into a haiku simply to meet the 17-beats rule can ruin the flow, brevity and meaning of your poem. So feel free to experiment with any pattern you prefer (ie; 2-3-2, 5-6-4, 4-7-3) – provided the structure remains two short lines separated by a longer one. Remember: what’s most important here is not syllables but the essence of a chosen moment.

5.  When I’m out, I want in; when I’m in, I want out. Mostly, I want out. That’s where the rats, gophers, lizards, snakes, bugs and birds are.

Traditional haiku focus on themes of nature, and always include a kigo or ‘season’ word. This doesn’t mean you must be explicit about the weather or time of year. A sensorial hint (ie; a green leaf versus one that is russet-colored) is all that’s needed.

6.  What part of meow don’t you understand?

Tease a cat and it won’t bother to holler – it will bite and scratch. It shows its annoyance rather than tells.  Good haiku follows suit. Instead of explaining, haiku illustrates a meaning or emotion through vivid imagery. Your poems should create a mental picture that captures the resulting feeling it evokes.

7.  If you refuse to play with me, I will snooze on your keyboard, flick pens off your desk, and gleefully shed into your printer.

Yes, haiku has ‘rules’, but remember to play! Use words as toys, and frolic with them in new ways to portray images, emotions, themes, conflicts and character.

8.  When in doubt, nap.
Good writing comes from revising. Set aside your poems and allow them to ‘nap’ for a few days. Then revise them with rested eyes, alert ears and a fresh mind.  And if too much rewriting causes the weary, bleary blues, well, there’s always that comfy looking couch…

Lee Wardlaw is generously offering a signed copy of her picture book WON TON -- A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU  (winner of the 2012 Lee Bennett Hopkins Children's Poetry Award and the 2012 Myra Cohn Livingston Poetry Award) for one reader. Leave a comment below to enter. The contest closes Monday, 8 April. US residents only, please.

Lee Wardlaw claims that her first spoken word was ‘kitty’. Since then, she’s shared her life with 30 cats (not all at the same time!), and published close to 30 award-winning books for young readers.  Her picture book WON TON – A CAT TALE TOLD IN HAIKU won the 2012 Lee Bennett Hopkins Children’s Poetry Award and the 2012 Myra Cohn Livingston Poetry Award. A companion title, WON TON AND CHOPSTICK, will be published by Holt in 2015.

Click through to sign up for the National Poetry Month giveaway!

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15. Poetry is to Share: Paul B. Janeczko

Click through to sign up for the National Poetry Month giveaway, and enter to win a copy of Paul Janeczko's SEEING THE BLUE BETWEEN.

It's a huge honor for me to share the words of Paul B. Janeczko today, a poet I discovered in college and whose work I used in my classroom for years. 
I didn't start out to be a poet. I started out as a kid in New Jersey who had two major goals in life: 1) to survive one more year of delivering newspapers without being attacked by Ike, the one-eyed, slobbering, crazed cur that lurked in the forsythia bushes at the top of the hill; and 2) to become more than a weak-hitting, third-string catcher on our sorry Little League team. I failed at both.

Had I announced at the dinner table, “Mom, Dad, I’ve decided to be a poet,” my parents -- particularly my mother -- would have been thrilled. In truth, they would have been thrilled that I’d decided to be anything other than the top-40 disk jockey, Edsel salesman, or bullpen catcher that I constantly yammered about becoming in grammar school. But at that point in my life -- as an affable kid who endured hours sitting in a desk whose design, I was convinced originated in a 15th-century Spanish dungeon -- poetry meant no more to me than 1066 or George Washington’s wooden teeth. You can tell, I suspect, that as a student, I did not have what you might call an “inquisitive mind.” The only time I was “gifted” was on my birthday and on Christmas.
My path from grammar school to high school teacher to poet gave me many opportunities to heed my internal GPS when it declared, “Recalculating.” For some inexplicable reason (dare I call it a blessing?), poetry was a constant companion along the way, whether I was teaching or writing my own poems. Whenever I worked with kids and poetry, I have wanted the kids to feel that all poems have a purpose, described well by Jonathan Holden:
 “to give shape, in a concise and memorable way, to what our lives feel like . . . Poems help us to notice the world more and better, and they enable us to share with others.” 
And today, with civilization seemingly destroying itself piece by piece, we all need to share. That’s what poets do. That’s what I try to do with my books. Isn’t that what we all try to do with words? I want young readers to feel that with each collection. Every poem in them is a sharing. My hope is that my readers will carry on that sharing.
As for me, although I never even sat in an Edsel or played ball above the Little League level, I did become a reader and writer of poetry. I consider myself lucky, given my staggering lack of interest and effort in school, not to mention the poetry I was expected to read. But kids don’t need to rely on luck to become readers of poetry. Exciting books of poetry are available. I hope parents and teachers share our love of poetry with kids. And let’s give them a chance to share their love of poetry with us. And, when we are touched by a good poem, we may recall the words of Stanley Kunitz, who said that if you listen hard enough to poets, 
“who knows--we too may break into dance, perhaps for grief, perhaps for joy.”
Paul B. Janeczko aspired to be the teacher he never had, when he decided to pursue a career as a high school language arts teacher. From his own days as a student, Paul was obsessed with poetry of all kinds, and as a teacher he wanted to spread his own love of poetry to young people. Today, Paul Janeczko is better known as a writer, poet and anthologist.


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16. The Reluctant Poet: Rosanne Parry

Click through to sign up for the National Poetry Month giveaway!

Poetry has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother and father both read poetry, my father favoring the Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Service variety while my mother was a fan of Frost, Sandburg and Gerard Manley Hopkins. I had a big picture book of poetry I read and reread so often that many of those poems linger in my mind though I never consciously memorized them"A violet by a mossy stone half hidden from the eye. Fair as a star when only one is shining in the sky" is a line that reliably comes to mind every time I go hiking and find wildflowers clinging to unlikely spots along the trail.

My fourth grade teacher, an exceedingly no-nonsense woman named Ms. Jacques, seemed to have two great loves to communicate to my nine year old self--long division and poetry. She taught me dozens of poetic forms from Haiku to the ballad and (what seems more impressive to me now) showed me how to scan a line to fit the meter of the line before it. I loved the structure of writing to a particular format. Hunting for just the right word to fill out the rhythm or rhyme of a line was so much more game-like than ordinary writing which I detested at the time for its irritating reliance on standard spelling and punctuation. With a poem I could invent words to my heart's debliss and dispense with punctuation entirely. 

Ms. Jacques introduced me to my first literary crush, the deliciously uncapitalized e e cummings. Since cummings had neither a first name nor a gender, my nine year old self imagined a pleasant, furry alien who might, should I come across him in my ramblings in the woods, translate for me the poetry of slugs and squirrels and sword ferns. 

Eventually college broadened considerably my repertoire of poetry while siphoning off much of the pleasure I found in reading it and all of the joy I took in creating it. I stopped writing poems for years and didn't miss it until I started reading poetry to my own children and writing my own stories. 

Novels are so long, I leaned on poetry to give me the satisfaction of something I could finish in a day. When I was stuck or discouraged, poetry gave me a reliable lift and often a fresh perspective on a character. And for all the effort I took over making marketable novels, it was a huge relief to write something that I would not only never sell, but never show anyone. I think having work that lives in my own mind and heart but not in the world is extraordinarily valuable. Jack Gantos would appear to agree with this. He wrote very movingly of his relationship with his unpublished stories in this month's Horn Book Magazine.  

So it was a great surprise to me that when a friend asked me to do a poetry event this April that I agreed to write and read my own poems in public. At first the prospect of a public reading filled me with dread. Not that I'm nervous about public performance. I'm far too Irish for that. But I did fear that my poetry would lose its luster if I gave it away. The thing that made the difference was choosing a topic that I cared about. Jim and I decided to write and share poems about love and war--a thing which has touched both our lives. The 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq seemed a good occasion for it. 

There is a story I've been thinking about writing for several years, based on the combat experience of one of my nephews. I've begun it and abandoned it several times because I could never quite get the right tone. But I went all the way back to poems I remember my father reading to me, "The Ballad of East and West" by Kipling and "Christmas at Sea" by Stevenson, and decided to write the story as a ballad. I haven't written a ballad since I was nine, but to my amazement, this simple sturdy poetic form fit the story like a glove and what was too hard--too sad--to write in prose, flowed like a stream in verse.

If you happen to be in The Dalles, Oregon on April 18th you'll have a chance to hear what I sincerely hope will be my only poetry reading ever. But it will be worth it for the music and the companionship of fellow poets and the chance to bring a story I've struggled with to light in the form of a poem.

Rosanne Parry is the reluctant poet and enthusiastic author of Heart of a Shepherd, Second Fiddle and the upcoming Written in Stone. www.rosanneparry.com




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17. The New Normal (Not The TV Series!)

I hate... HATE waiting to hear from a client after sending them the first batch of work after being hired. It's a nail-biting experience as you wait for them to review the material and decide if: a) Your writing sucks and hiring was a huge mistake b) Your writing is OK but didn't fulfill the brief, and can be fixed with a few tweaks c) Your writing is adequate and you took instruction well d)Your

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18. Straight From the Source: Sonia Gensler on Writing Historical Fiction

I’m excited to share a new series about authors who write historical fiction. Please join me in welcoming Sonia Gensler today.

Sonia is the author of The Revenant, winner of the Oklahoma Book Award and a Parents’ Choice Silver Award. The Dark Between, her latest “lively Victorian mystey” (Kirkus), received praise for its “blending of the empirical and the ethereal” (School Library Journal) and “engaging, page-turning plot” (Examiner.com). Sonia grew up in a small Tennessee town and spent her early adulthood collecting impractical degrees from various Midwestern universities. A former high school English teacher, she now writes full time in Oklahoma. Learn more at www.soniagensler.com.

What typically comes first for you: a character? An era? A story idea? How do you proceed from there?

I usually start with a place. In the case of The Revenant, it was a building in northeastern Oklahoma—gorgeously Victorian with turrets and a clock tower—which I was surprised to learn had once housed a Cherokee girls’ boarding school. The Dark Between started with a city, Cambridge, and in particular a women’s college, Newnham, which lies a short distance away from the city center in a quiet wooded neighborhood. When a place intrigues me, I start to wonder what sort of people might have inhabited it, and what kind of joys and troubles they might have experienced.

What kinds of sources do you use?

I am very visually oriented, so I often start with Google image searches for people and places that relate to my story. Those images often lead me to historical documents, websites, and scholarly essays. I use Amazon as a database for books on my subject, and then do my best to check books out from our local university library (exploiting my law professor husband’s library privileges). I often end up buying books, as well—I can’t seem to help myself. Visits to historical societies and archives are also a must, but only after I’ve done some preliminary research and have a certain comfort level with the place and/or time period.

sonia's notebook for interviewWhat is your favorite thing about research?

Research is one of my favorite parts of story telling, but my very favorite thing about research is the travel! I simply have to see the landscapes of my stories first hand, which in the case of The Revenant meant many, many trips to Tahlequah, OK, (fortunately I have good friends there who welcome me into their homes) and four separate trips to Cambridge, England for The Dark Between. (Hey, it’s a write off, right?)

What’s your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?

First of all, I love to time travel. But even more I appreciate the opportunity to show female characters as strong, intellectual, and independent in time periods when these attributes weren’t exactly valued as “ladylike.”

What are some obstacles writing historical fiction brings?

I suppose it’s more of a “pitfall,” but there’s often a temptation to show off all the fascinating little historical details one has learned by inserting them into the narrative. It’s hard to do this organically, and if it doesn’t serve story or character, it shouldn’t be there. Kate Atkinson, author of the fabulous Life After Life says it better:

As a reader I dislike historical novels where I am continually stumbling over an excess of facts although I readily understand the compulsion to include all the fascinating stuff that you’ve spent so much time reading about, but there are few things more uncomfortable for the reader than to be constantly stumbling over the pathologically recondite research of an author.

What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve learned while researching?

I became obsessed with 19th century female mediums before I even had the plot established for The Revenant. When reading The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England, I learned that women often were attracted to mediumship because it offered a way to have power, prestige, and even wealth in a way that wouldn’t compromise their reputations as ladies, particularly to those who recognized Spiritualism as a religion. I was fascinated by how female mediums manipulated their clients, capitalizing on their own beauty, maternal qualities, spiritual authority, and/or exoticness. Like I mentioned in a previous answer, I love writing about active, intellectual females doing their thing in a time when women were supposed to remain passive in the domestic sphere.

 

Courage and Hope
Congratulations to Jessica Lawson, Allison Jackson, Katie Newington, Lorna Wheaton, Faith Hough, Nicole McInnes, Vijaya Bodach, Irene Latham, Marissa Burt, and Valerie Geary, who’ve all won copies of May B. Your book will be coming soon!

The post Straight From the Source: Sonia Gensler on Writing Historical Fiction appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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19. A Wet Lazy Sunday

I'm  having one of those slow, wet, lazy Sundays that you wish could go on forever. It's midday as I write this post, and I'm sitting on my bed with pillows balancing my back, a laptop in front of me and curtains wide open so I can watch the slow gentle rain outside. I had a massive cook-out yesterday, preparing various dishes to freeze for days when I don't want to cook. The house is clean and

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20. On Writing

eubankOne of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place… Something more will arise for later, something better.
– Annie Dillard

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21. I Is For Insurance/Income Protector

One of the issues we need to consider as business owners is how to bring in money when we are sick and incapacitated in some way. In South Africa, many employers provide insurance that allows you to be paid your salary/a portion of it while you're on medical leave. We also have an unemployment fund, from which one can claim during the time that they are incapacitated. However, as small business

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22. I is for Ideal Working Conditions

Night flowers I'm planning to watch unfold Sometimes you have to work hours or in locations that are less than your ideal, and your work has to fit around your life issues.Today is one of those days for me. In general, I do better, am happier when I have a routine. I know, I know. Dull, isn't it? But I've come to terms with the fact that I write/work better when there is no drama except the

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23. J Is For Juggling Roles

The weekend was rough. We had electricity problems and were unconnected for more than 24 hours. It was not a loadshedding issue ( loadhshedding was not implemented in my area anyway). It was just a technical problem that was complicated by a techie who told the utility company that everything was fine on their end when they did in fact have a problem and it was affecting us. So I had to

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24. Quotes from ART AND FEAR: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ARTMAKING

Making art now means working in the face of uncertainty; it means living with doubt and contradiction, doing something no one much cares whether you do, and for which there may be neither audience nor reward…Making the work you want to make means finding nourishment within the work itself.

One of the basic and difficult lessons every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential. People who need certainty in their lives are less likely to make art that is risky, subversive, complicated, iffy, suggestive, or spontaneous. What’s really needed is nothing more than a broad sense of what you are looking for, some strategy for how to find it, and an overriding willingness to embrace mistakes and surprises along the way. Simple put, making art is chancy — it doesn’t mix well with predictability.

Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable, and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art. And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding. …Fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work.

Artists get better by…learning from their work. They commit themselves to the work of their heart, and act upon that commitment. So when you ask, “Then why doesn’t it come easily for me?”, the answer is probably, “Because making art is hard!” What you end up caring about is what you do, not whether the doing came hard or easy.

The post Quotes from ART AND FEAR: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ARTMAKING appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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25. Lucy Maud Montgomery in Her Own Words: Further Quotes from Volume I

3/21/1901
I have written two poems this week. A year ago I could not have written them, but now they came easily and naturally. This encourages me. Perhaps in the future I can achieve something worth while. I never expect to be famous--I don't want to be, really, often as I've dreamed of it. But I do want to have a recognized place among good workers in my chosen profession. That, I honestly believe, is happiness and harder to win the sweeter and more lasting when won.

I really think that I possess the saving grace of perseverance. What failures and discouragements I used to meet at first when, in my teens, I sent out my wretched little manuscripts--for they were wretched, although I thought them quite fine--with an audacity I wonder at now. I cannot remember the time when I did not mean to be a writer 'when I grew up'. I has always been my central purpose around which every hope and effort and ambition of my life has grouped itself.

...The moment we see our first darling brain child arrayed in black type is never to be forgotten. It must have in it, I think, some of the wonderful awe and delight that comes to a mother when she looks for the first time on the face of her first born.

8/16/1907
It [ANNE OF GREEN GABLES] was a labor of love. Nothing I have ever written gave me so much pleasure to write. I cast “moral” and “Sunday School” ideals to the winds and made my “Anne” a real human girl... . There is plenty of incident in it but after all it must stand or fall by “Anne”. She is the book.

... I wrote it for love, not money -- but very often such books are the most successful...

10/15/1908
It seems that Anne is a big success. It is a “best seller” and is in its fifth edition -- I cannot realize this. My strongest feeling seems to be incredulity. I can’t believe that such a simple little tale, written in and of a simple P.E.I. farming settlement, with a juvenile audience in view, can really have scored out in the busy world. I have had so many nice letter about it -- and no end of reviews. Most of them were very flattering. Three or four had a rather contemptuous tone and three were really nasty.

One of the reviews says “the book radiates happiness and optimism.” When I think of the conditions of worry and gloom and care under which it was written I wonder at this. Thank God, I can keep the shadows of my life out of my work. I would not wish to darken any other life -- I want instead to be a messenger of optimism and sunshine.

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