Monday, May 24, 2010

Writing Tips

Publication is only one of the reasons we write. We write because we are writers. We write because we love to write."
- Karen Cushman.

Here are more lovely morsels from that magical session with Newbery novelist Karen Cushman.

Karen Cushman's Tips For Writers:

1. Show Up:

Have a writing place and time. Keep showing up.

2. Pay Attention :

Read 100 books like the one you want to write.
Read what you love and ask yourself why you love it.
Read books, blogs, magazines, news.
Join a writing group.
Read your own work aloud over & over & over.

3. Tell the Truth :

Know your characters and connect with them.
Find the truth of your writing self, your view, your voice.

4. Ignore the Outcome :

Quiet your inner critic.
Write what you always wanted to read.

Write with passion, from your heart, to bring something to people.

Publication is only one of the reasons we write.
We write because we are writers.
We write because we love to write.

"I write what I can. That is my responsibility." - Flannery O'Connor

Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little." - Tom Stoppard
Along with all the rich advice, Karen urged us to go out and make our own rules.

What writerly rules do you live by?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shoe Houses

Chalk it all up to "getting to know your characters."

I had an amazing chance to hear Karen Cushman speak last week.
That is, twice Newbery-crowned lady of historical fiction, Karen Cushman of "The Midwife's Apprentice" and "Catherine, Called Birdy" shared her rules for writers.
Great stuff, indeed.
I felt my brain grow two sizes bigger as she drove home diligent concepts of
grace and flow in writing.

Inspired, I am hard at work...
or rather, I am in deep play with my characters.

I've discovered the Small family
is more complicated than I thought.
Think Jane Austen meets Dickens via modern paper dolls.

Remember the notoriously absent Mr. Small?
He took the train to work
the day after baby Ivy was born.
What with the Great Middlesborough Train Collision that very day on his line,
he is commonly thought
to be deceased.

The village of Dibbledip
is astir with eager gentlemen
all waiting for Millie Small to throw off her widow's weeds.

Boris Kerputnik, wealthy bachelor with ties to Russian royalty
lives nearby
in a silver Samovar.
He strolls by to hang over the fence
and chat about himself
while Millie hangs up her washing.

He does not do manual labor but has a wealth
of ideas on how Millie should tidy up the shambling yard
and shoe abode.

For her birthday Boris gave Millie a ruby necklace, fur cape and crocodile shoes.
With barely time to scrape herself off the floor at day's end,
Millie was not wooed.
She tucked his gift into the Pawn-pile to pay for groceries.


Writing advice I've heard from clever authors lately
that positively echoes with importance:

get to know your characters.

Get to know the main characters and small ones.
Find out what they eat, their favorite colors, their slang words, speech impediments, childhood heroes, secret fears, preferred methods of transport.

But how?
How do you get to know your characters?

We're trying paper-dolls and shoe-houses over here.

More Small stories later.

What are your secrets to knowing your characters?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Smalls

In my daily writing quest,
nap time glows with promise.
It's a quiet blip in a long day of frazzle.
There aren't many quiet blips in my day,
so I try to collect them as carefully as eggs
and use them with frugal sense.
Imagine my crushing disappointment then
to find my two oldest cherubs suddenly done with naps.
In the desperate search for quiet activities that do not involve
tattoos, furniture rearrangement, knives or permanent markers,
I found a book that turns into a dollhouse.
As it lacked people, we spent some happy time inventing the Small family.
Millie Small and her brood of seven children:
Ellie, Ruthie, Kip, James, June, Dahlia and Ivy
live in a shoe.
Millie barely has time to shower once a week,
change diapers and slop porridge on the table.
More on the curious absence of Mr. Small
and Millie's many admirers
another time.
Hurray for the Smalls
quiet time!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Art is Felt

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen" 
                                                                                                                - Leonardo da Vinci  

 How I get in touch with my feltings:

The twins relish their individualism,
so I customized their matching coats with felt and buttons.

The flowers are easy: cut a flower shape out of felt,
then cut a slit in the center.
Slip it over the button, and voila! 
Instant fancy embellishment!

They work as flower rings, too.

Costume Party
For crowns, I cut a flower shape on a big piece of felt,
then cut an opening in the middle.

  I tied on fluffy tulle with ribbon to make flower fairy costumes.

Leaf boy's costume is green felt cut into a leaf shape, with a slit through the middle.
We like low-key costumes around here.

Baby flower fairy. Flower crowns double as baby petal skirts.

Gingerbread family.
I cut felt into bow-ties and circle buttons.
I scrounged through my sparse makeup stash for lipstick to make round, red cheeks.

I have a hungry muse.
I get a full, happy-cat feeling when I get to create, whether in word, paint or craft.

Have you ever noticed that the muse sometimes finds you when you're playing?

How do you feed your muse?

My muse-feeding picture book pick:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Making Books and Wet Noodles

We're writing stories lately.
I signed up for two crazy writing regimens:

Paula Yoo's NaPiBoWriWee asks participants to write 7 picture books in 7 days to celebrate National Picture Book Writing Week.
(I know, I know; yeah right!)

Story A Day directs writers to come up with a story draft daily throughout the month of May.

These challenges are shaking loose the cobwebs so I can
fumble past my perfectionism,
throw those wet spaghetti noodle ideas to the ceiling
and see if they stick
every day for a month.

Join me if you want a brain boost!

The girls wanted to make their own books,
so they visited Little Red Riding Hood.

It feels good to fill thick notebooks with uncooked noodles and
mushy ones.
My hope for the end of May?
Maybe one or two strands of perfectly al dente spaghetti.

Even if no brilliant story comes out of it, I've gained one great thing.
I'm waking up forty-five minutes earlier each day to write.
Let's hope that noodle sticks.


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