Archives: November 2013

Dedicate Your Writing to Someone

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: November 20, 2013
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Sheila Schmid of NW Yoga in Portland, Oregon

Sheila Schmid of NW Yoga in Portland, Oregon

O.K., so I’m on a little yoga/writing roll, so I thought I’d share something else from a yoga class that I have applied to writing.

At the beginning of several recent yoga classes at Yoga NW, my teacher Sheila said:

“Take a moment to think about why you are here. Consider dedicating your yoga practice today to someone.”

Cool idea, I thought. I pictured several people in my head and tried to keep them in my heart as I practiced. The class, though challenging, was a joy. I didn’t do anything differently in class – the class just felt more meaningful and more joyful.

After a shower and breakfast, I headed off for a day of writing at the library. I liked Sheila’s idea so much that I decided to dedicate my writing day to someone. Since I write for children, I picked a child I know and tried to keep that child in my heart as I wrote.

That writing day felt more meaningful and joyful.

I am trying to make this a regular practice. Sometime I pick a family member or a friend. Sometimes I choose a child I know. Sometimes I pick a fellow writer, like one of my beloved Scrivas. Sometimes I choose a group such as kids who are passionate about science, or kids who live in poverty, or kids who read books to escape something horrible in their lives, or kids who love the ocean, or kids who have never been to the ocean. Sometimes I hold in my heart other people important to our world or somehow connected to the book such librarians, English teachers, science teachers, pianists or historians.

Dedicating a writing session to someone is like sending a prayer for them out into the world. I will never know if my writing, my dedication to them, my prayer for them made any difference in their lives. But I know it makes a difference in mine.

Elizabeth Rusch

Identifying with Middle Grade Readers

by Nicole Marie Schreiber
Published on: November 15, 2013
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Today, I went on a field trip with my eight-year-old son’s third grade class to the Oregon Children’s Theatre in downtown Portland.  We had a fabulous time watching “The Magic Tree House” come to life, but more importantly, I had a great time simply watching all of these third graders interact with each other.  Before my son was born, I taught third grade for four years, and it has always been my favorite age, which may be one of the reasons why I am so often drawn to middle grade fiction.  But I’ve been away from third grade for quite some time and am in need of a refresher when it comes to identifying with that age.  Since October, I’ve been able to volunteer a few times in my son’s class, but still felt a bit out of touch with third grade. (It’s hard to identify with third graders when you are making photocopies in the teacher’s work room– though I know that is an important job!)

On the bus today on the way to the theatre, I was able to really take all of the third graders in, and I jotted down some notes about the positives of life in third grade, beginning with this phrase:

Life should be like a day in Third Grade…

It was a great exercise in seeing life through a middle grade readers’ eyes, and I think writing about life in the grade (relatively speaking) you are writing about can help any children’s writer identify more with their readers and their time of life.  I focused on the positives here, but the exercise can be done with the negatives of a grade (as there are always negatives and conflict in life) to balance things out.

Here is how my exercise turned out:

 

Life should be like a day in Third Grade…

Where being kind, caring, and considerate is expected of you– and earns you stickers and/or marbles in a marble jar, which then leads to parties.

Where you can still travel to Mars when you grow up.

Where you can become anything you want to be when you grow up.  Especially a spy, an artist, a computer game maker, a rock star, and a veterinarian.  And after that, you can still travel to Mars.

Where traveling on the bus to a field trip is as exciting as winning the lottery.

Where being placed in the same group as your best friend on the field trip is even better than the field trip itself.

Where extra recess is the ultimate happiness.

Where Santa Claus may or may not be real, but you hope beyond hope that he is.

Where magic may or may not be real, but you hope beyond hope that it is.

Where snack time is as important as breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.  Okay, maybe not dessert…

Where playing “Bubblegum, Bubblegum, in a Dish…How Many Pieces Do You Wish?” is like an Olympic Sport.

Where a hug from your favorite teacher makes you feel all warm and cozy inside.

Where being caught in a sudden rainstorm during recess is cause for cheering and applause.

Where friends bring each other to the nurse’s office.

Where teamwork and working well with others is not only encouraged, but revered.

Where watching salmon eggs hatch causes gasps of disbelief.

Where the many tricks for multiplying factors by nine also cause gasps of disbelief.

Where you can go home and still want to cuddle your favorite stuffed animal at bedtime, without your friends knowing about it.

Where reading still rules.

 

After rereading my list (which I had to stop for time’s sake), I now feel much closer to a third grader’s time of life again and I can visualize this list helping me when I next work on my middle grade fiction.  Any exercise that can help us identify with our readers will only make our writing stronger, and I felt like this got me into a third grader’s mindset again. Maybe an exercise like this can help you with your work, too.

If anyone tries out this exercise, let me know! I’d love to read your lists!

Happy Writing!

 

-Nicole Marie Schreiber

 

 

 

Revision Gurus

by Amber Keyser
Published on: November 12, 2013
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Revision is hard for me.

I worry myself in circles about the right way to reorganize plot points.  My stomach knots as I scissor my manuscript to pieces and tape it back together.

Voice haunts me.  I will stare at a sentence for many minutes, knowing it is not right but clueless about how to make it right.

I agonize over every sentence, rearranging words, substituting images, deleting.  The word count hardly changes, but slowly, subtly, change is coming.

I am learning to embrace revision because of the way it makes the work better.  Today is my paean in praise of Revision Gurus–because that’s what the Scrivas are to me.

I just finished reading Scriva Ruth‘s newest novel, THE NINTH DAY (Ooligan Press, 2013).  Now let me clarify, I have read this story before multiple times, but today I read it within a glossy cover.  Published.  Complete.  And…

Wow!  I kept chuckling to myself that I couldn’t put the book down even though I already knew what was going to happen thanks to my many reads of early drafts.

I already loved this book, but what I could appreciate this time through was the absolute mastery of Ruth’s revision.  I could see the delicate way she’d laid the groundwork for each storyline so that every action and reaction seemed “real.”  She brought me along on a journey of self-discovery that was both surprising and utterly believable.  Like a Cirque du Soleil performer, Ruth never lost her balance or let me, her reader, fall.

As much as I might dread revision, I want to be Ruth’s padawan.  I want to learn at her feet. I want to make my story sing like Hope’s does!

 

The Ninth Day

Berkeley, California, 1964. While the Free Speech Movement rages, Hope, a shy, stuttering, teen scarred by an accidental LSD trip, plans to keep a low profile. Risk compounds reticence when she meets a time-traveler who claims that Hope must find a way to stop a father from killing his newborn son in 11th century Paris.

“The story is riveting… and, speaking as someone who was arrested in the Free Speech Movement, the Berkeley sections feel true and authentic.”

—Margot Adler, NPR correspondent

“Reading this book… [reveals] constellations rich with story, myth, and magic.”

—Jen Violi, author of Putting Makeup on Dead People

 

Scriva Advice: Don’t Pay the Toll Twice

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: November 5, 2013
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toll-boothWe Scrivas have returned from our retreat, and I am here to report that we worked QUIETLY for hours and hours and hours and hours. On Saturday night, we took a break and focused on the 13 questions that Addie posted here about what worked in 2013, and what didn’t, and goals for 2014. Each of us tackled the questions separately. When we compared our answers, we were amazed to discover that we all had variations on these main themes for 2014:

  1. Lower expectations.
  2. Have more fun.
  3. Don’t stress.
  4. Worry is not preparation.

Advice: Don’t pay the toll twice. Deal with rotten events when, and if, they happen (that’s paying your psychological and physical toll once). Stressing over what might happen before it happens results in your paying the toll twice. Who knows? Maybe the event won’t be rotten after all. Try imagining a silver lining to that cloud, and you just might find one. In an effort to avoid setting yourself up for disappointment, don’t miss out on enjoying pleasant (though possibly improbable) expectations.

We writers have imaginations. Let’s not forget the power of building our own real worlds as well as the ones in our books.

Shh! Writers at Work

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: November 1, 2013
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boy shhAt our fall writing retreat, Scrivas are quietly, intently—and sometimes quirkily—working. You’ll likely hear more later about some of our work. For now, briefly, the intriguing projects—and techniques—include:

 

-finalizing a non-fiction picture book for which field research was done in Italy a year ago

 

-“drawing the book:” with crayons, on large sheets of paper, getting a visual sense of a sequel novel

 

-reading history germane to a novel and deciding how tidbits of the past will be streamed into the story’s flow

 

-cutting and pasting (the old-fashioned way!) information gleaned from various publications about possible publishers for a couple of completed manuscripts

 

-pressing on with the final stretch of a much revisioned novel that the Scrivas can hardly wait to read in its entirety

 

What are you working on these days? And what quirky way of delving into your story do you want to try? In the next few days, tear yourself from everything you could be doing, park yourself next to a window looking out on autumn, and give time to your writing project. Tell those around: “Shh! A writer is working. “

 

-Sabina I. Rascol

www.sabinairascol.com

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