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Viewing Blog: wordswimmer, Most Recent at Top
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Bruce Black searches for words and stories on Florida's west coast, only a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico.** A writer, editor of children's books, and writing instructor, his stories for children have appeared in Cricket and Cobblestone magazines.** You can contact him at [email protected].
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1. On the Edge of Becoming

Sunday morning sunrise and the world awakens again, the silence broken only by the sound of your pen scratching the surface of the page. It's the same each morning. You don’t know what your voice sounds like until you take the risk of opening your mouth and letting the words tumble out, half-formed, until you let your pen begin moving across the page, to see what

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2. One Writer’s Process: Kelly Ramsdell Fineman

“A celebration of the senses on the sand and by the shore.” That’s how a Kirkus reviewer describes the success of children’s author and poet Kelly Ramsdell Fineman’s first picture book, At the Boardwalk. “The oceanside boardwalk bustles from dawn's first light until night's starry skies.” This kind of praise isn’t a surprise to anyone who has read Fineman’s poems, many of which celebrate the

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3. Making Space

One of the joys of writing is reading—soaking up words, absorbing sentences, inhaling paragraphs, stanzas, lines, metaphors, rhymes—and over the years I’ve watched as books in our house have piled into stacks on nightstands and tables, on the floor and on bookshelves, especially in my office. Most of the time I’m too busy writing (and reading) to notice the quantity of books that I’ve

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4. One Writer’s Process: Jacqueline Jules

When Jacqueline Jules was in third grade, she recalls, her teacher handed out pieces of construction paper and asked the students to write what they wanted to be on the paper for a bulletin board project.  That was the moment when Jules, the award-winning author of 30 books for young readers including three Sydney Taylor Honor Award winners (Sarah Laughs, Benjamin and the Silver Goblet, and

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5. Screen or Page?

Now that I have a Netflix account (thanks to my daughter's insistence), it's easy to select a movie and watch it in the chair where I used to spend all my time reading. So much of my day is often spent online--not just writing but reading news articles and longer journals, posting updates on Facebook, Tweeting, sending and receiving e-mail--that it’s no longer surprising to me how

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6. One Writer’s Process: JoAnn Early Macken

If you visit the workspace of Joann Early Macken, you’ll find it filled with many of her favorite things, including a lucky pink pig that was a gift from Norma Fox Mazer, one of her advisors at Vermont College, where Macken earned an MFA in writing for children. That lucky pink pig, along with the skills that she learned while studying for her degree, have helped her write five picture books,

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7. Falling In Love With Stories

Do you remember when you first fell in love with stories? When I was a young boy—before I fell in love with reading, before I sat in front of the TV for hours watching movies—I loved sitting in the kitchen on Sunday mornings listening to my grandfather tell stories about his life growing up in a tiny village on the outskirts of Warsaw. It wasn’t just his stories that drew me into the

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8. One Writer’s Process: David Lubar

David Lubar grew up in Morristown, NJ, and remembers spending lots of time in the school library, as well as in the town and county libraries. It was his mother, a school librarian, who introduced him to science fiction authors like Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, and in time Lubar’s interest in science fiction grew to include reading monster magazines, as well as horror comics like

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9. Waking before dawn

Each morning before dawn I wake in fear. Today will be the day I discover I have nothing to say. Then I remember. Fear is an illusion. A shadow on the wall. And I step out of bed. And my feet feel the firmness of the earth. And I remember that words, like the earth, are always there. Invisible, like gravity, until I reach for a pen and start writing. Only a pen and paper and the feel of

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10. One Writer’s Process: Gigi Amateau

Surrounded by deer, foxes, raccoons, and a host of other forest creatures who inhabit the woods near her house, Gigi Amateau lives on a tributary of the James River called Rattlesnake Creek and finds inspiration for many of her stories by looking out the window or taking a walk down to the river. “I cannot imagine living or writing without access to the river,” says Amateau, the author of

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11. A Dry Heart

Failure to sell your work, and the rejection that accompanies such failure, can eat away at your heart until there’s nothing left but a shell pumping blood but no longer pumping words. A dry heart. It can happen to you if you’re not careful or vigilant enough, if you’re not aware of the words dwindling or the sentences shrinking or the desire drying up. It’s a disease, this dry heart.

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12. One Writer’s Process: Julie Larios

Julie Larios suspects her love of writing may be oddly linked with a love of the paraphernalia of writing. “I have an inordinate love of pencils and pencil boxes, post-it-notes, old fountain pens, vellum, architectural paper, school notebooks, scotch tape, erasers, paper clips, ink, envelopes,” she says. “Maybe I became a writer because I loved stationary stores!” But, in a more serious

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13. On Outlining

So, okay, it’s not a secret. I dislike outlining. Did I say dislike? That's a bit of an understatement. Ever since I was a student in high school and one of my English teachers required that we create an outline as a way to write a paper, I’ve hated the idea and have resisted it ever since. I’ll do almost anything to avoid using an outline. What I prefer instead is to jump

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14. One Writer’s Process: Mary Ann Rodman

“I come from a family where family stories are told over and over,” says Mary Ann Rodman, who grew up in Washington, DC and lived in Chicago, Illinois before moving to Mississippi in the 1960s (the setting of her autobiographical novel, Yankee Girl), and who now lives in Georgia. “Instead of a bedtime story of say, Cinderella, I heard such stories as When Mom and Her Siblings Dug a Swimming

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15. Keep the Pen Moving

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16. Fishing (For Words)

There’s a lake about two miles away from our house, and, after sitting at my desk all day, I felt the need to stretch my legs. So, I put a notebook and a few pens into a shoulder bag and went for a ramble, as they say in the UK. At the lake a small dock, maybe 20’ x 15’, with two wooden benches and railing, overlooks the water. I had in mind to sit a while on one of the benches,

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17. One Writer’s Process: Jeannine Atkins

The woods in Sterling, Massachusetts, where Jeannine Atkins grew up, stimulated her curiosity in many ways. She wondered about the things that might be hidden under rocks, and years later such wondering led her to write Girls Who Look Under Rocks, a book about girls like Jane Goodall, Rachel Carson, and others who became naturalists as adults. Wandering near the woods gave her child’s

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18. When Autumn Comes

When autumn comes, nature begins to slow down, and my brain wants to go into a deep sleep. It’s the time of year when some of us come up against a wall and can’t see beyond it. Where does the wall come from? Why does it appear? How do we deal with it until it vanishes? Maybe we should just go into hibernation and wait for it to fall down on its own. Writing—or trying to write—on

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19. One Writer’s Process: Fran Manushkin

Before becoming a writer, Fran Manushkin had the idea that books came to life inside an author’s head fully made and that an author simply wrote them down “lickety split.” But then she started writing and discovered that notion simply wasn’t true. "Books develop according to their own time,” she says. “You cannot dictate that a book be born; neither can you dictate to a book. Listen.

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20. On Writing: John LeCarre

The other day I picked up John LeCarre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, his best-selling novel about spies and espionage during the Cold War, and started reading the introduction that he'd written in 1991 for the book, which first appeared in the United States in 1974. Two things struck me about what LeCarre had to say in retrospect about writing the book, the first in a trilogy. He had

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21. How’s the Water?

The heat in Florida is unrelenting at the this time of year, pressing down over everything like a steamy blanket and making the air so thick and humid that it feels like you’re trapped inside a never-ending steam bath. It’s not only the air that warms up but the water, too. Instead of water temperatures in the 60's or 70's, like off the mid-Atlantic coast at this time of year, the

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22. The Only Thing That Matters

I sent off another story yesterday. Now I’m wondering if I sent it to the right place. It’s how the self-doubt starts. In a few weeks, if I don’t receive a response, the question will shift in a subtle way. It will become something very different. It will turn into “Was it ready to send out?" And then “Did I need to do more work on it?” And all of a sudden, like a trap door dropping

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23. Ready. Set. Go!

Twenty minutes each morning—whether I’m ready to write or not, whether I’m sleepy or awake, whether my back aches or my fingers hurt—I write. Fast. Nonstop. For twenty minutes. It’s like digging fast. Just digging. Taking a shovel. Putting it into the earth. Lifting soil. Repeat. Again and again. Twenty minutes. Each day. There’s something about getting the hand in motion, about the

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24. Coming Up Empty-Handed

It took all day to write something that I didn’t even know I wanted to write. I sat at my desk for hours trying to think of something to write and at the end of the morning I left an unmarked sheet of paper on my desk, the same blank sheet that I'd started with when I sat down earlier. It was like diving and returning to the surface empty-handed. I hadn’t found any pearls on the sea

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25. Swimming in the Dark

For years I’ve held an image in my head of a plant growing toward the light as a way of understanding the writing process. It was an image that a beloved writing teacher shared with me years ago, and the image of my work growing toward the light--drawn to the light--helped me through some dark passages in my life as I tried to sort out which direction to follow in terms of what I wanted to

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