Archive for July, 2011

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Imagination

July 24, 2011

During the summer I teach writing workshops for a small group of middle school kids. Last year they were all girls. This year, all boys. We meet each Wednesday and play with words while eating chocolate. In honor of Harry Potter and his final adventure, we dedicated our most recent class to imagination.

After talking a bit about the series and what makes them great, I asked each of the boys to cast a spell. One created an enchantment to blow-up and freeze things (like sisters). Another stopped all tourists from coming to the mountain, so the locals could ski it themselves. A different boy created a spell that would make more pie. After all, the world could always use a little more pie.

Not only did JK Rowling deliver a masterful story, but she created a world igniting our creativity. Next time you sit and pull out your pen, polish your own Potter spell. Develop a mode of magical transportation. It will unlock your blocked mind. I often look to nature to get my imagination rolling. I’m sure JK Rowling did the same thing. Have you ever seen a bush in April? There’s your womping willow. Let your imagination create something spectacular or simply, more pie.

Imagine. It’s the best part of writing.

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Interview: Lindsay Eland!

July 12, 2011

Today’s blog highlights Lindsay Eland, author of the fabulous middle grade novel, Scones and Sensibility.

Where did you get the idea for the novel?

Polly’s character was the first thing that formed. I have always been a romantic, and oftentimes still find myself wishing I had been born way-back-when. But the more I read middle grade fiction—which is the best fiction out there, in my opinion—I found that there were not many characters like that. Most main characters I read were tomboys or precocious or struggling with fitting in. I wanted to create a character who was both confident in what she loved and yearned for as well as someone who was the opposite of a tomboy and precocious—an overly dramatic and romantic girl. Thus Polly was born. And her story of matchmaking just naturally flowed from who she was as a character. I think oftentimes we writers try to make our characters fit our plot or make our plot fit our characters when most often we probably only need to know our characters so well that their journey and struggles and story naturally play out.

Have you always been a writer and how did you get your start?

Well, I knew I wanted to be a writer ever since fifth grade when I won an honorable mention for my book “What Can You Learn From A Giflyaroo.” The book received rave reviews and was highly acclaimed among my family members. Sadly, with only ten copies produced, the book is now out of print. That experience, however small it was, is what got me started on the path to becoming a writer and lit the first fire of desire inside me to write books.

What did you have to research for this book?

Though the word “research” has always made me cringe, and really, it’s still a daunting word for me, I’ve found that once I begin researching I absolutely LOVE it. LOVE it! It’s a wonderful thing to research a topic and find all the various ways in which you can use your research to add depth to your characters, and breathe life and truth into the story. For Scones and Sensibility my research was mainly on Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice, and baking…so um, yeah, can research get any better than that?

Who’s your favorite character and why?

Oh dear, that’s a hard one. I’m not sure I can pick just one, because I love them all for different reasons. I think Polly’s over-the-top romanticism and dramatic nature are hilarious, but I love the picky Miss Wiskerton, and Mr. Nightquist has held a special place in my heart ever since I wrote the first draft…I don’t know why, but he does.

What part was most difficult to write?

The middle. Ugh. Though I love the middle of brownies, the soft center of cookies, and the inside of gooey cinnamon rolls, that darn middle of a story is so hard for me to plow through. It is the place where I despair the most and where I often pull my hair and think that I should probably just give up.

What are you working on now?

I have just completed four synopses for my editor to look at for my next book. While I am waiting to hear back I have been revising a fairy tale-esque novel that I completed a few months ago. It’s very different than Scones, but I have loved writing it.

When and where do you write?

During the school year, when all my kiddos are learning their reading, writing, and arithmetic, I write at a coffee shop (always hoping for the corner table by the window). I write mostly in the mornings for a few hours. During the summer that schedule goes up in a flame of cookie making, hikes, games, and jaunts to the park. I write everyday, but it is much more sporadic. Sometimes in the afternoon, other times in the morning, sometimes at the kitchen counter waiting for cookies to emerge or in the office with the door shut tight.

What do you do when you get writer’s block?

I free-write and brainstorm and mull until I push through the problem that I’m having.

Do you prefer to write on the computer or free hand and how do you edit?

I always brainstorm an idea and write up an outline free hand in a notebook I designate for that specific novel. But I have to actually write the story on the computer. I can type really fast so trying to write freehand just slows me down to the point of frustration. Me and my computer have a very close relationship J I always finish a first draft before I begin any kind of revision…it’s important for me to get my vision down for the story before I start tearing into it. After I have the first draft complete I begin editing by reading the manuscript straight through and revising as I go. Then once that 2nd draft is done, it’s off to my critique group.

What are three of your favorite books?

The Tale o f Desperaux by Kate Dicamillo

The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck

Any suggestions for writers?

READ, READ, READ! Not all readers are writers, but ALL writers are readers.

WRITE, WRITE, WRITE! You need to practice your craft if you want to get better, and as silly as it sounds, you can want to have a book published with all your heart, but it’s only sitting down and actually writing it, that it becomes a possibility

NEVER, ever ever, under any circumstance give up. NEVER. Publishing is a game of persistence and you never know that you’ve failed until you give up trying.

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Quotes for the Week

July 5, 2011

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
Mark Twain

 

I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing from God who is sending a love letter to the world.
Mother Teresa

 

All I’m writing is just what I feel, that’s all. I just keep it almost naked. And probably the words are so bland.
Jimi Hendrix