Archive for August, 2011

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Reading Write: good books about writing

August 25, 2011

Lots of people ask what I read. Everything. One of the best decisions I ever made was to take a speed reading course at Sylvania Northview High School. Who knew? Of course I hate to admit it, but I signed up for the class because it had a great reputation as being easy-shmeazy. However, I did learn to speed read.

On average, I read and complete three books a week, and have just as many books going at one time. I can be in the mood for non-fiction, other times I want to sink my teeth into difficult  fiction, and most often, I want to read kid lit. I don’t always speed read through them all, but it can help.

Like most writers, I do read books about writing. They’re not only helpful to my craft, but provide great inspiration when I’m ready to chuck my computer out the window. If you don’t have them on your shelf already, I highly recommend the following:

Bird by Bird: A. Lamott

On Writing: S. King

On Becoming a Novelist: J. Gardner

The Elements of Style: Strunk/White

GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict:  Dixon

Story: Robert McKee

Self Publishing Manual: Dan Poynter

The Shortest Distance between You and a Published Book: Susan Page

Natalie Goldberg’s books

Take joy: A Writer’s guide to Learning the Craft: Yolen

Writers/illustrators Marketplace

 

They should give you a great start. Read on!

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INTERVIEW: Todd Tuell

August 16, 2011

Where did you get the idea for the novel?

The novel I’m currently shopping is called Body Art. It is about a 16-year-old girl, Maleah, whose sister Sam has run away. She cannot accept that her sister would leave her behind and becomes obsessed with the idea that Sam was actually abducted.  The idea came from reading a newspaper article about a runaway girl. I just wondered as a parent how hard would it be to accept that my child would find it better to run away from home than to stay. Could I ever get past the denial stage of grief? How selfish would it be to silently wish there was another explanation (abduction?) that would let me off the hook?

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

In one form or another, yes. I wrote news copy for my high school television class. I wrote columns for school news and loved writing adaptations for stage productions my favorite being The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl, a short story by Ray Bradbury. But I had never written for children and I was not a novelist until I hit 30. Now I’ll never look back.

What did you have to research for this book?      

I researched books on forensic psychology, particularly predatory behavior. Police investigative procedure was also instrumental. For that I attended Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers lectures and made contacts with some of the law enforcement speakers.

Who’s your favorite character and why?

The main character Maleah’s best friend, Poppy, is my favorite. Poppy is a wild-child with an irreverent attitude. Opposing this to Maleah’s dark turmoil allows for some lightness in a very heavy book.

What part was most difficult to write?

Romantic scenes between Maleah and her boyfriend Ben were probably the most difficult to write. It just seemed so uncomfortable for a person who is so obsessed with her loss and has lost all trust to pursue any form of romance. I had this feeling that romantic scenes should be the perfect, natural ones. After fighting it, I turned the romantic aspect on its head and pursued those scenes from Maleah’s real situation. I didn’t try to make it organic and natural, but rather awkward and uncomfortable.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a middle-grade novel called The Grantham School for the Criminal Arts. It is about an eleven-year-old boy who gets himself thrown into an asylum full of criminal masterminds. Why? What better place to get the education he needs to bring down his evil uncle who stole the family empire. It has a quirky English narrative voice that has been so fun to experiment with.

When and where do you write?

I have a basement office (my little dungeon) that is quiet and cool and separate from the rest of my life. As a work-from-home dad, my main writing time comes when my youngest naps. So I get a 2 hour time window in the early afternoon to do my freelance magazine writing. My best novel writing comes late at night from 9pm onwards.

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

I don’t typically encounter a situation where I don’t have something from my file of ideas to pull out and write on. It is more often getting back into the flow of where I left off from the last day of writing. I like to back up 2-5 pages depending on how long it’s been since I last wrote and read/edit critically. It helps me put myself back into that scene. I’ve had good luck jumpstarting myself this way.

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

Absolutely on the computer. I’ll jot ideas on sticky notes and collect them for my next time at the computer, but when the words start coming, it is too fast to try getting them down free hand. I’m too worried about losing the flow of ideas.

What are three of your favorite books?

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Any suggestions for writers?

My motto is ‘Pay yourself first’.  There is always email or something else begging for your attention, and it always leads to putting your own writing on the back-burner.  If you let that happen, inevitably it never gets done.

 

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Dreaded Drawers: filing away unpublished work

August 9, 2011

When I tell participants in my writing workshop I’ve written five books that have never been published, they’re often aghast. I can only guess what’s going on in their minds. “Why am I taking a class from this loser?”  “What’s wrong with her writing?” “I’d be better off walking my dog right now.” Who knows, maybe they would be. However, many published authors I know all wrote books that were never published. It’s part of the process.

We write because that’s what writers do. If a book isn’t picked up by an agent or an editor, it’s filed away in a drawer or on a shelf. No one wants to have a dreaded drawer full of rejects, but it’s how we learn and become better writers. Kids don’t learn to read by picking up War and Peace. They begin with Dr. Seuss, Dick and Jane (I realize I’m dating myself), and beginning readers. As kids grow, their bookshelves are lined with chapter books, middle grade novels, and finally young adult trysts. Why should it be different for writers?

Authors write bad novels. We write picture books that we’re sure every agent will love because our kids thought they were great. It’s only until writers begin to fill their dreaded drawer with sappy stories, rejections, and undone novels that their journey begins. And isn’t that what it’s really about? A writer’s life is a journey. Don’t be afraid of filing your story in the dreaded drawer. It may resurface, but if not, you’ve undoubtedly learned something. Kudos.