Archives: July 2013

Why Teachers Should Read More Children’s Books

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: July 31, 2013
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I recently read this fabulous article called, “Why Teachers Should Read More Children’s Books,” posted here at The Guardian.  It hits close to home since I am a teacher and a children’s writer.  It always surprises me how few teachers read a lot of children’s literature, including recent titles.  (Very few seem to read for pleasure as well, due to “not having enough time.” So any type of press that encourages teachers to get out there and read, read, read, just like their students, makes me as a writer for children and a lover of children’s lit very, very happy.  And the more readers we have, the better for our art and for publishing in general!

Enjoy.

 

-Nicole Marie Schreiber

 

YA Recommendations from the NYT

by Addie Boswell
Published on: July 25, 2013
Categories: Other Topics
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School’s Out: 5 Great Summer Reads For Teens

by , posted in the New York Times, June 11, 2013 7:00 AM

An illustration of a young woman reading a book

Andrew Bannecker

I’m surrounded here at NPR Books by people with sophisticated, grown-up tastes — happy to dive into the latest Claire Messud or Daniel Alarcon or James Salter. Meanwhile, give me — any day — a book about teenagers (and preferably dragons). A good YA novel is a polished gem of solid storytelling, but more than that, it draws us back in time to the teenagers we once were — or never were, or wanted desperately to be. Here are five (well, really six) books that capture the roller coaster of adolescent experience: that delicate thump in the gut when you realize that suddenly a friendship is more than a friendship. Or the rock-solid conviction that YOU are the chosen one, the heroine of your own drama (whether or not you want to be). Or just that all-over twitchy feeling, lying on the living-room couch and staring out the window, of longing for your real life to begin.

Follow the full article, and the book recommendations here.

AWOL

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: July 20, 2013
Categories: Creativity, Other Topics
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So, I’m not here. I mean at my desk, writing this post. I am long gone, to Ecuador with my family for vacation. That means that if there is a July Scriva meeting, I will miss it.  I’m a little sad, now, writing this, imagining all the fun and stimulating conversation that I’ll miss. But by the time I’m gone, really gone, it probably won’t cross my mind. And that’s OK.  I think it’s a good idea to take a small break from most things once in a while, even things you might love like coffee and cocktails, running and facebook.  For me that includes writing – and even critique.

I can love writing and critique group meetings, like I can love parenting and my kids, and still benefit from a break. Most of the year, I’m writing regularly and critiquing regularly (and parenting constantly).  And all three of these give me joy and help me grow.  But a break, a new experience, and a fresh perspective can help keep regularity from turning into a rut.

So dear Scrivas, I’ll miss you, but I’ll be back. And I hope better than ever.

Scriva Liz

On Writers and their Pets

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: July 16, 2013
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Beatrix Potter and her pet rabbit, “Benjamin Bouncer.”

Today, I am picking up a kitten from a neighborhood animal shelter with my two boys and bringing it home.  It is going to be an exciting day.

We chose the kitten last week and have visited him twice.  Our downstairs bathroom has turned into a kitten bedroom, awaiting the arrival of our new family member.   Already, we have a four-year-old lab mix and a thirteen-year-oldish calico cat.  (Our seventeen-year-old tabby cat died a couple of months ago, sadly.)  Our dog has visited our new kitten too and licked him.  We see this as a good sign.  We know our calico will not be pleased, so we haven’t bothered with an introduction yet.

All of this has gotten me to thinking about writers and their pets, and in my research I found inspiring articles and photos of famous writers and their menagerie of muses.  Many writers have now or have had the typical cats and dogs and even horses as their companions. Beatrix Potter had a farm full of animals that literally became the main and secondary characters in all her books! But there have also been more unusual pets in history owned by writers, including peacocks, lobsters, donkeys, scorpions, ewes, bears, bats, monkeys, cranes, llamas, zebras, and even an anteater!

I think I would go crazy if I had any of those different types of pets, since my dog usually keeps me on my toes. Yet, if this what helps feed a writer’s creativity, then I say huzzah to them all!  We writers are a strange folk, and we need what we need in order to work and write.  I have come to terms myself with my need for a bit of caffeine (tea or a latte) during long work sessions, and lemon drops usually help, too (though not at the same time as the coffee or tea).

Will this new kitten help feed my creativity someday, too?

According to John Farley from his article, “Fluff Piece: The Meandering Truth About Cats and Writers,” published on May 2, 2011, at the literature discussion website, www.full-stop.net,

“…there are two pragmatic, surface-level observations that help make sense of the writer and cat dynamic. First, cats are far more ergonomically suited to the writing process than dogs.   Small, quiet, and lap-sized, the cat is a well-designed pet for someone whose work entails long, solitary periods sitting in a chair.  Second, there is a considerable overlap of personality traits in our cat-author Venn Diagram, which produce a fruitful, almost symbiotic system of cohabitation.  As a generalization, (good) writers and cats possess a unique curiosity and observational nature, and lead a life largely within their own minds.  This makes for a complementary living arrangement that suits both parties’ needs.”

I’m looking forward to having a new feline companion in our home and hope he’ll take to my lap someday as I write, becoming a muse for me as many cats have for other writers, too.

Happy Writing (and Purring…)

 

-Nicole Marie Schreiber

 

 

Writing our way to joy

by Amber Keyser
Published on: July 12, 2013
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IMG_1072I’ve been wondering lately if I complain too much about how hard it is to write a book.  I’m a realist, so perhaps it’s understandable.  After all, we become writers through our efforts.

At the idea stage, it might look like an easy hop-skip-jump to write a book. If we stick with it, we realize along the way that it really is a demanding, intense, difficult job to tell a good story.

If we push on to pursue publication, we learn, as Maggie Steifvater pointed out at a recent conference, “to distrust the yes.”  We steel ourselves for rejections, for bad reviews, for dismal sales because over and over again we face these things.

There is real danger that we can lose the delight of those initial ideas and come to detest the book we’ve revised fifty times.  If we do well, there’s a chance that writing will become our (gasp) job.  That is a very different beast from stealing time with our precious story from the “real world.”

I write full time during the school year when my kids are in school.  As we eased into summer, I was busy readjusting to having them home and catching up on household related tasks I’d let slide in the final marathon push to get a draft finished of my current novel.

After a few weeks, I got itchy.  My mind whirled back to the book.  My fingers were ready to get back to it.  This week my kids were in camp and I revised every day.  And it was wonderful!  I often struggle with revision and this was no different I suppose, but it just felt so great to be back into the story and rediscover how much I love it.

All my life I’ve kept journals, often filled with angsty scrawls.  I do it to purge the thoughts that trouble me and to find solutions to thorny situations.  Perhaps in my books I do the same but it never ceases to amaze me how we can write our way to joy.

May it happen for you.

 

Happy In(ter)dependence Day!

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: July 4, 2013
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buckminsterfullerene

Let’s start with the science part. You are looking at a drawing of a fullerene, which is any molecule made out of carbon. Think diamonds. This fullerene is Carbon-60, and it’s called a buckminsterfullerene (“bucky ball”), named for Richard Buckminster Fuller, known for his geodesic domes. Look familiar? Think soccer ball. We’ll add some science at the end of the post, too.

A bucky ball reminds me of the value of both interdependence and independence. The two states complement each other. I’ll spare you paragraphs of my philosophy on the in(ter)dependence of every entity (sentient or otherwise) on the planet, and get to three main points.

1. Writing.  In(ter)dependence recognizes that what we authors strive for is a story  (fiction or “faction”) in which all elements work as a cohesive unit. Yes, inspiration plays a part. But much of writing is about finding a balanced interdependence that creates something with integrity, structurally solid and highly satisfying. Character, pacing, sensory description, point of view—you name it—all in supportive equipoise. You get the picture. Sabina’s latest post has more to say on the matter.

2. Critique groups. In(ter)dependence recognizes that each member of a group like Viva Scriva brings to every meeting or every manuscript a unique independent perspective that benefits the group as a whole. Conversely, each member of the group can strengthen her own voice through the critiques and support she receives by being linked to the group. You can call it the bucky ball approach to writers’ critique groups. We call it the Viva Scriva mojo.

3. Publishing world. In(ter)dependence recognizes that at one point you decided not to hide your writing under the unpaid bills envelope. You took the brave step to bring your piece to readers you don’t know. You, the independent you with your unique muse, are linked to agents, editors, publishers, publicists, librarians, teachers, readers, and other authors. Since you are reading this post, you know what I mean. Sometimes things don’t go well. Doh! But sometimes you can fly.

So here’s to the beautiful part of in(ter)dependence. Buckminsterfullerenes are soluable. When they are dissolved in olive oil, they turn a glorious pearly, luminescent purple. What a wonderous world.  Happy In(ter)dependence Day. Write on!

Carbon_60_Olive_Oil_Solution

Reading Books, Writing Books

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: July 2, 2013
Categories: Basics, Inspiration
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open bookI love how my reading informs my writing and my writer’s mind. Here are several recent reads—novels, as well as books about writing—and the writerly issues they led me to think about.

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-[A sequel to a novel I had moderately enjoyed; the sequel, I couldn’t be bothered to finish]
MOTIVATION
I felt several characters’ motivations were not clear or well supported. The main character did strong things without her motivation for them having been built up. An important supporting character only intermittently seemed to remember—and act on—one of her driving motivations. A minor character belied a motivation the author suggested for her.

Note to self: Make sure my characters’ motivations are clear, sensical, convincing, supported.

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-Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, Chapter 16, “Weaving a Story”, by Donald Maass
-Starters, by Lissa Price (illustration of the principle)
CONNECTIONS (and SURPRISES)
Connections between seemingly unrelated aspects of a story (characters, locations), weave it together more tightly.

Sabina’s corollary: Unexpected connections that make sense can result in satisfying surprises (as in The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner)

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-Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, Chapter 13, “Public Stakes”, by Donald Maass
MAKING THINGS WORSE (ESCALATING)
We all know this principle. Yet reading it here clicked for me, leading me to a new way of thinking about the organization of my novel.

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-The Mind of Your Story, by Lisa Lenard-Cook
CHRONOLOGY (BEGINNINGS, PACING)
Lenard-Cook has some interesting thoughts about chronology that I’m just dipping into. These are supported by cool graphs, which we Scrivas tend to like (see Chapter 10, “The Mind of Your Story”). I’m not sure if I agree with everything said, but the glimpse of her ideas about chronology is making me think hard about where exactly my novel starts and how it unwinds. As a student of Lenard-Cook’s said about story: “It starts here because it’s about this.”

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So what are you reading these days, and how does it inform your writing?

-Sabina I. Rascol
www.sabinairascol.com

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