Archives: September 2012

If I Had a Tiger Mother…

by Addie Boswell
Published on: September 26, 2012
Categories: Other Topics
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I have been waiting in the library queue for this book for quite some time. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua— you know, the book that sparked so much controversy about strict vs. lax (Chinese vs. Western) parenting. And while I was expecting to be appalled by the former approach, I found myself thinking…if only I had a Tiger Mother.

If I had a Tiger Mother… I would write 2000 plus words every day, even when I was “too busy”, too lazy and too sick.

If I had a Tiger Mother, I would not sleep in after I’d stayed out too late the night before. In fact, I wouldn’t have gone out the night before.

If I had a Tiger Mother, I would know my long-term goals (Pulitzer Prize) and my short term goals (Caldecott Medal). What’s more, I would get daily notes and tasks that led directly to them. (Studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately ten times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children.)

If I had a Tiger Mother, I would never have to wonder if I was on the right path. My Mother would constantly remind me of what I was doing, and would, in fact, physically block out all the other things I could be doing. (Especially slumber parties, sports, the internet, and shopping.)

If I had a Tiger Mother, I would have read Sartre and the classics instead of Sweet Valley High, and my writers vocabulary would be more erudite and perspicacious. (And I wouldn’t need a Thesaurus to find those words.)

If I had a Tiger Mother, the simple repetition of practice and study, day after day after day, would have have produced amazing self-discipline. Surely, I would be a more successful and accomplished human being by now. Right?

Of course, if I had a Tiger Mother, I probably wouldn’t have become an artist and writer in the first place. And I might be in serious therapy, and I certainly would have missed out on some great friendships and sports teams. No, I’ll take my fabulous Western-approach mother. But… could I have a Tiger Mother as an adult?

Instead of feeling self-righteous or offended, I was strangely inspired by the book, and the sheer volume of work accomplished by both daughters and mother. Maybe not all eight-year-olds should have to practice six hours of violin a day, vacation and sickness be damned. But then again, if they can do it, what’s my excuse?

To Read or Not to Read

by Mary Rehmann
Published on: September 23, 2012
Categories: Other Topics
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To read or not to read?  That is the question that nips at the heels of aspiring writers.

Some years ago while carpooling home from a crit group meeting, I told Scriva Addie about this book I’d been noodling about for quite a while.  I was bored with my current novel-in-progress, and I wanted to dive into something new.  After listening to a brief sketch of my idea, Addie asked if I’d ever read a book she’d heard about named W—-.

I hadn’t, but I thought I ought to maybe check it out.  Or maybe not.  Or maybe later.  Or maybe before I got started.  I let the question of whether or not I should read the book bounce around in my brain for a good four years or so.

Fast forward to this summer; I finally had time to pick up a few YA books I’d been intending to read and also start tapping away again at the books that have been yammering away in my head.  Imagine my dismay when, in a flash of why-the-heck-not, I finally picked up the book Addie had mentioned to me so many years ago and discovered that it was uncomfortably similar to what I’d been plotting in my head for so long.

I nearly dragged the file to the trashcan in dismay, but then I talked it over with the Scrivas, and, again, their collective wisdom overwhelmed me.  While there are some definite down sides to having the story you’ve been meaning to tell already told, there are some possible up sides, too.  I’m redefining characters, remapping plot lines, and adding complexities I’d been wishy-washy about before.

So fear not: someone else’s story is just that.  Your story is your own, and reading something close to it might help you craft it even more finely.

Back to School, Back to Work, Yay…Sigh…

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: September 20, 2012
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So after an incredible and incredibly relaxing summer, my kids are back to school and I find myself back at my desk. For the last few weeks of the summer, I found myself dreaming wistfully about really getting back to work, to doing some serious writing and some serious all-that-other-stuff-we-writers-have-to-do.

Then I dropped my kids at school for their first day, and I sat down at my desk. I answered some emails. I made a “to do” list. I checked it twice. I answered some more emails. I looked outside the window. The sun was shining brightly. The trees rustled gently. What a pretty shimmery-green color…

Oh, wait, work. I’m back at work. I sat up straight, checked my “to do” list and picked something. I opened a file. My dog Reba walked in and dropped a tennis ball at my feet. I patted her head. I got down on the floor and gave her a belly rub.

Oh, wait, work. I’m back at work. I read through some copyedits on my book on Nikola Tesla. I answered an email. I looked at my “to do” list again.

I could hear kids laughing and screaming out on the playground at recess, and suddenly I missed my kids. I wondered how they were doing in their new classes, and I hoped that they were doing a better job focusing than me.

This is what I wanted, right? Some time to work? What I was looking forward to? So why was I having so much trouble?

That night, I gave myself some homework. A pile of stuff to critique for the next Viva Scriva meeting had been sitting on my desk for weeks. It was time to pick it up.  I curled up on the couch with a novel and two picture books. As I read and made notes and thought about what the writers were trying to do, I felt a part of my brain kick on. My writing brain. My work brain.

Sometimes taking a good hard look at someone else’s work can help you with your work. If nothing else, it might get you in the right mindset to do some work.

The next day, I took the kids to school, turned on my computer and wrote 1,000 words. Thanks Scrivas.


Starbucks and Sensibility: A Love Story

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: September 16, 2012
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Next month on October 13th and 14th, my city of Portland, Oregon, will be hosting its annual Wordstock Literary Festival.   This year, I was invited to contribute a short essay/literary piece to a book that will be sold at the festival titled, Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life.  My particular piece speaks about “where I write,” as I was asked to choose one of the five “W’s” of my writing life (who I am as a writer, what I write, where I write, when I write, why I write…)  For those of you not able to attend Wordstock, here is my piece.  Enjoy!  🙂





By Nicole Marie Schreiber


“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of children and a day job must be in want of a perfect place to write.”


My Dearest Starbucks:


I am writing this letter as a token of my love, affection, and devotion to you.  ‘Tis not your tall nonfat chai frappucinos with whip, your dark chocolate graham crackers, your grande tea lattes, or your sugared almonds that have captured my sensibilities (though all are quite delightful to the tongue.)

I am addicted to you as a place for me to write— away from PlayMobil spy missions, Lego landmines, bickering children, mounds of laundry, and a Labrador that keeps stealing shoes.

You have been my savior for the past two years, since I received my first gift card for Christmas upon my return to teaching. Seeing your name meant only one thing to me—creative freedom.   When I was too tired in the evening and too distracted during the day after work to even think about my manuscript, and with no money to go to retreats or conferences for inspiration, you were there for me.

Soon, the smell of coffee beans meant new words on the page.  I tried to make my time with you last, buying the least expensive drink on the menu that I liked (tall Awake tea).  I soon discovered that your gift cards are very popular with parents.  The writer in me collected and relished each card I received, and when family found out about our affair, instead of having an intervention, they enabled me with more cards for you.

My beloved, whether we rendezvous at 5:30 am or on a day off, you have given me more pages that I could ever dream of completing.  I pray our affair lasts, and it is with my most sincere regard that I shall ever humbly bow before you,

and be known to all as your loving servant in word scratchery…


Nicole Marie Schreiber


Voice – By making our characters sound like kids, do we make kids sound like idiots?

by Amber Keyser
Published on: September 9, 2012
Categories: Craft
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Voice is tricky AND essential.  We create voice through both dialogue and narrative.  By deliberate use of specific vocabulary, unique sentence structure, and the focus of our character’s observations and thoughts, we create voice and, thus, bring our characters to life.

When I first started writing novels, Scriva Nicole was constantly pointing out vocabulary that sounded too “writerly.”  She was right, of course.  I love words and am happy to pepper my prose with slightly obscure ones, but those words didn’t sound like they should come out of the mouth of a 13-year-old boy.  Did I really think he’d say a river was “silvered” by moonlight or “imbued” with internal light?  I revised and revised until my character was using unique but relevant words.

All of this is to say, I understand why authors would choose to eliminate the divide between subject and object pronouns.  Authors I respect do it in books I love.  But it is driving me bat-shit-crazy.  Let me show you.


Long ago, when we were little, me and Chrissy did something bad. We said we were going to Annie’s house to play, but we didn’t.





Upstairs, it’s just me and my parents, Professor Twitchett down the hall, that flight attendant lady who’s never home, and the couple across the hall from us.






Then we went back to the hotel. There were parties there, but it was mostly college kids.  Usually we can get in, because me and Link and Marty and Calista, we can turn on the charm.





The effect in all three quotes is to create a kid voice.  After all, adults know that SHE AND I will go to the movies not SHE AND ME.  Kids haven’t quite got it down, right?  Unfortunately, after my kids and I finished reading Project Jackalope aloud, I realized that my kids’ regular speech was full of incorrect pronoun usage:

Me and Joshua are going to play Wii.

Beryl and me need a snack.

OMG!  My kids sounded like idiots.  The hub and I came down with a grammar-hammer, and they are starting to sound like people who could hold down jobs one day, but it got me thinking about the cyclical nature of story-thought-language-story.

It’s all connected.

I know enough from my days studying linguistics at St. John’s College to know that language evolves.  (Google it, if you want proof!  Ha ha!)  I’m pretty sure that if we continue to write this way, language will follow us.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it for a kid-like sound, but if you do, ME AND YOU might never sound the same!

Sisterhood of the Traveling Critique

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: September 3, 2012
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Labor Day. The official end of summer in my book. Some of us Scrivas traveled to Europe, Canada, and places in the States. At no time were all of us in the same place at the same time for a critique meeting. Does this sound like your critique group? Here are a few tips on how to stay current and connected while traveling:

If you have a manuscript to be critiqued…

  • Adjust your expectations to fit the availability of your group members. Consider waiting for comments until a later date.
  • Tell group members what kind of critique you would like. Line edits? Overall impression? Consistency in characters? Pacing? This is a good idea in general, but more important when members have limited time to review your work.
  • State your revision schedule. Would comments still be useful if you got them several weeks later than the next scheduled meeting?
  • Remember that not every group member is going to be able to critique your work. Life happens! That’s a good thing.

If you are going to be away for a critique meeting…

  • Tell group members whether you are willing to critique a manuscript from afar. It’s okay to take a break.
  • Decide in advance on the best form to receive the manuscript. Hard copy? Electronically with less formatting such as a rich text file?
  • Work out a schedule in advance if possible. If you find that you can’t get send your comments in sync with other group members, consider taking a pass until the next version of the manuscript.
  • Simplify your comments to fit your travel constraints. While the others might be giving a full bore critique, concentrate on a single aspect of the manuscript.

The key? Flexibility and communication. Remember that you are in this for the long haul and that everyone needs to take a break now and then. Sometimes it makes sense to cancel a critique meeting entirely. Sometimes it makes sense to turn the meeting into a party. Go for it.


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