Sunday, November 30, 2014

Twain Would Tell Us to Leave Our Hearts On the Page: Cervantes


Today is Mark Twain’s birthday! I have loved him for so many reason not the least, his writing.  So today I say happy birthday to a writer who left his heart on the page. Isn’t that what we all strive to do…in the end?

Twain once said, "there is nothing that cannot happen today." Some might see this as worrisome and others will see it as the limitless possibilities that are laid before us. We are only limited by our imaginations.
So today I am reminded of all that can be, of Bukowski—who said, “find what you love and let it kill you,” and of leaving my heart on the page.

 Happy Birthday, Mr. Twain!

Harvesting Insight

When I sat down to write THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY years ago, all I had was a girl in my head sitting on some pretty decrepit porch stairs wearing a pair of Mary Janes. Her grandmother hovered in the background, and somewhere in the ether, her mother was floating between life and The Beyond. Ultimately, the story didn't work itself into a magical realism tale, even though I would have liked that very much, or a ghost story, though I would have liked that, too. It worked itself into a story about grief and finding home.

As a writer, I've been asked where my ideas come from. Mostly I haven't known how to answer because it's always felt like Grace and her story came from nowhere. Or everywhere. But when I read the word "harvest" as the writing prompt this month, it came to me that a novel is a harvesting of experience. My ideas come from the seeds I have tended in my own life. As we create characters and a world around them, decide where they walk and what moves them, we can't help but look to what we believe to give them purpose and direction.

When I sat down all those years ago to write about Grace, I didn't know it would involve getting into the muck of my life's experiences. But doing anything worthwhile means disturbing the muck, I've found. And after all those years of working and dreaming and disturbing, I finally had a harvest of words sitting on a bookshelf.

I also had something far more valuable. A better understanding of myself.

I don't know what I'll say in the future when people ask where my ideas come from. Probably something along the lines of seeds and life experience and something else fantastically awkward because I have a hard time talking to actual people. But I'm hopeful I'll find a way to talk about harvesting insight. Because that is the key to everything. And without it, we are lost.

Truly.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving

Today is my day to post!  And it's a holiday!  So I want to wish those that celebrate a happy Thanksgiving, and those that don't much happiness, too.  May the food be delicious, the relatives well-behaved, and the company excellent (even if the company is just your own thoughts or a good book).

But if it's not...if the day is unpleasant, un-fun, or even a train wreck of a disaster of a calamity, remember that conflict is a writer's friend.  Smile.  Take notes.  Observe the emotion involved with the impartiality of a scientist.  Then put it all in your next book.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Harvesting Justice: Cross-Post by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

For me, all children's literature is inextricably linked to issues of justice. The very acts of reading and writing are transformative and powerful. Extraordinary things can happen when we meet each other between the lines. I'd like to share a post that I wrote for teachers, librarians, parents--all of us--on The Brown Bookshelf back in September.

"Do we have one conversation and then “move on”? Schedule a town meeting and then get on with the business of learning? As a parent and children’s author who regularly visits with children in a variety of school communities, I firmly believe that schools should take on the responsibility of engaging students around this story, and do so on an ongoing basis; it’s necessary, it’s relevant, it’s learning."

Please visit The Brown Bookshelf for more.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

HAPPY THANKS, TURKEYS

I've got quite a bit on my Thanksgiving plate this year...and it's not just gravy and mashed potatoes, either.  I'm up to my eyebrows in global revisions for my very first indie release.  And I'm having a blast with it.  This year, I'm thankful for new life chapters and exciting projects...

Wishing all of you a bountiful Thanksgiving!

I recently spotted these guys in a field near my house.  They took one look at me and skedaddled.

Friday, November 21, 2014

RETURNING TO THE WORLD



This is what you wake to: the world new blue, the streetlight nearly moon.  Your book is done, or nearly done for now.  The world that waited patiently went silent.  The dream you’ve tended through four seasons moved on to someone else.  It’s the reader’s dream right now; you’ve let it go.  Mr. Marsworth. Reenie.  They’re probably on a desk now in New York.  Of all the writing seasons—first glimpse, the wild beginning, writing and rewriting, seeing new and starting over--this one, this perfectly done day, this moment of new winter when you wake to new blue silence, this ending as beginning, it’s this season you love most.  If you never wrote another word, you will have this.  And isn’t that enough?   How beautiful it is.  How faithful.  How patiently it waited.  How much it wants you back where you belong.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November Harvest by Kristin Levine


This past month has definitely been a time of harvest for me.  My third book, THE PAPER COWBOY, came out in September, and October was full of launch events.
I had a lovely party for my family and friends at Hooray for Books in my hometown of Alexandria, VA...





... and got to travel to Downers Grove, Illinois, which is where THE PAPER COWBOY takes place.  Highlights there included traveling around my father's hometown and doing a number of exciting school visits. 







But as the launch events wind down, I get to go back to my favorite part of the writing process... doing the actual writing.    


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Is Gardening "Very Hard Work"? by Claudia Mills (November theme)

We've been sharing wonderful thoughts about gardening/harvesting as a fruitful metaphor for writing children's books. My jumping off point for this point today is a famous children's story about a garden from Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad Together.

 Toad is envious of Frog's fine garden. Frog accepts Toad's compliments: "It is very nice, but it was hard work." Toad decides to try his own hand at gardening with flower seeds given to him by Frog. But Toad's repeated command, "Now seeds, start growing!" doesn't work. Instead, Frog convinces Toad that he has actually made his poor seeds too frightened to grow. Toad now embarks on a program of seed-reassurance: on successive nights he reads stories to his seeds, sings songs for his seeds, reads poems to his seeds, and plays music for them. Finally, he falls asleep exhausted only to wake up and find that his seeds have sprouted at last. "You were right, Frog," Toad tells his friend. "It was very hard work."

Now, as readers, even as young readers, we know that most of Toad's work here was completely unnecessary. The stories, songs, poems, and music didn't make his seeds grow. What did? Sun, rain, soil, and patient waiting.

So here is my question for us as writers. How often are we like Toad, wearing ourselves out with work that didn't need to be done in the first place? Now, it's true that we can't just produce our stories by commanding our story ideas, "Now ideas, start growing!" And it's also true that Toad's garden is going to take a lot of weeding and watering, and more weeding and watering, before those sprouted seeds flower, the part of the story Lobel leaves out. But I think sometimes we make our writer lives harder than they need to be, when we could just write on faithfully, accumulating word after word with patient waiting, letting sun, rain, and soil - the creative process - do its thing.

I'm thinking about distractions like second-guessing ourselves, letting that nagging editorial voice intrude on the process too soon, polishing text that isn't even ready for major revision yet, procrastinating on a project that needs to get done by starting another one that doesn't, doing revisions with an ax when all we needed was a scalpel, sharing ideas with people we already know will be critical of them, comparing ourselves to others. All those things that make our seeds too frightened to grow, and so "necessitate" endless rounds of pointless seed-reassurance.

What if we just planted, watered, weeded, and waited? And then celebrated our "nice gardens" like Frog and Toad.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Harvest Jar (November Theme - Sarah Dooley)

When I come across a photo in a box in my closet, or on my sister's wall, or on a family member's Facebook page on Throwback Thursday, I jot it down on a scrap of paper.

“Summer we lived in the tents.”
“Six a.m. bathrobe trip to the barn.”
“Party hats and inappropriate music.”

Sometimes it isn't a photo that prompts the memory. Sometimes it's a keepsake, or a comment someone makes, or the weather.

"Little chip of rose quartz."
"Your head's a flat rock."
"Hot like when Dad brought home the pool on foot."

I stuff the scraps of paper in a jar and the jar gets lost again in the mess on my desk, with the extra bottles of ink for my "fancy pen" and the coffee-stained revision notes and, if I'm being completely honest, the pile of clean but mismatched socks, since my office doubles as the laundry room.

I don't use the jar much. But when there's a keyboard at my fingertips and I don't have anything to say, I pull out a scrap of paper.

"Angry Santa on the number seven bus."

Yeah, that was an interesting ride to work. But when I take that strange morning and write my way back into it, I've got a place to start. Once I'm in, I can play around a little. Change the bus route. Adjust the destination. I can hand the whole odd occurrence to a character I've got floating around in my head, and then it takes on a life of its own and suddenly I've got a first chapter.

It doesn't always turn into a novel. Sometimes it turns into nothing more than a productive writing session. But the interesting thing is that once I start writing a memory, I remember it much more vividly than I did when I sat down at my desk. Details start to surface that I wouldn't have otherwise recalled. By the end of the session, I might have found a starting point for good fiction, but if all I've got is a clearer recollection of something that happened when I was young, well, that's also valuable.

When I was a kid and something would happen – something odd, something funny, something frustrating – my mother would remind me that it would all go in a book someday. Though I write fiction, they say the truth is stranger and they aren't wrong. So when I happen across a memory, I put it in the jar and I use it as a place to start.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Harvesting the Invisible by Danette Vigilante

It’s only now that I realize I’ve been “harvesting” all of my life. When I step back to take a look, I see that, first, I’ve gathered, then tucked, all kinds of invisible things safely away into my basket for future use. I have always taken in and dissected my experiences, or the experiences of others (even strangers), extracting the thing which stood out the most to me—the thing that made me feel the most. It’s usually something I can’t quite name, but I take it in all the same.

As a child, I had no idea what it was like to live in a house with multiple floors and a backyard. I lived in a housing project with many other families. Yet, while traveling by bus or on foot, I watched as people came and went from those mysterious houses, taking what I could from their interactions with others, their demeanor or facial expressions. My own neighborhood provided something too: I watched as the elderly rolled their grocery carts to and from stores and took in the lives of the other kids as they played on the stoop or interacted with their parents and strangers. My first book, The Trouble with Half a Moon, relied heavily on my old neighborhood bringing all of that and more out and into the open.

I imagine all writers must do something similar, and that is why we’re able to “write what we know” without actually experiencing the “thing” ourselves. This is why writers can write with emotional truth.


We will forever gather those unnamed things and use them to the best of our ability, enabling others to then feel the most, and to know the things which they've never experienced themselves. If we are able to achieve this, then we've gathered well and wisely.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gleaning (November Harvest Theme) by Bob Krech

Our family owns a share in a local organic farm. From May through the end of November we go out there once a week on our designated day and pick up (or literally, pick) our share. The vegetables are great and I've learned a lot about some veggies I'd never heard of before, as well as how to cook them.

I think my favorite part of this process (besides eating) is when they open up the farm at the end of the season for gleaning. During that final week, all the share holders are allowed to go out into the fields and basically pick up whatever is left. As much as you want. It is mostly root vegetables like carrots, daikon, rutabaga, and kohlrabi. A lot of them are small, misshapen, or imperfect in various ways. This is a lot of fun, especially with kids.

One of the things I've ended up doing in my writing reminds me a little of gleaning. My natural tendency is to overwrite. I'm not a big talker, but I guess I'm a "big writer." The first time I showed one of my YA novels to an editor, he told me I would need to lose about 100 pages! That gives you some idea.

I still overwrite, but now of course I go back over the manuscript and cut and cut and cut. Some of the cuts, I just delete. But some I save. Sometimes whole scenes or even pages. Some of those pieces took a long time to craft and they're not bad, they just aren't propelling the story forward enough to keep in there. Sometimes they contain a description I like or some dialogue or an idea, that may be useful in the future.

I tend to cut these pieces and paste them at the back of the manuscript in case I need to put them back. After the manuscript is final though, I will eventually put them in a file marked "Deleted scenes from xxx" and leave them in the desktop equivalent of the attic for future use. On a few occasions I have actually gone back and gleaned a few bits and pieces and given them new life.

I thought I was the only one who did this until recently when on a freelance job I was reviewing a draft of a television script, and lo and behold there at the end of the script were some snippets the writer had cut and pasted and I guess had inadvertently left there. It made me smile to see it wasn't just me with this little habit. Anybody else out there do this kind of thing? Fellow gleaners?

Friday, November 14, 2014

MY SQUIRRELY IDEA-GATHERING WAYS November Theme by Tamera Wissinger

My little comp book.
Story ideas are everywhere. At least they are in my world…some are in my journal, while others are in the little composition book that I carry in my shoulder bag, or in the note pad I keep in my night stand, or on another little pad that I keep tucked inside my golf bag. They might also be on a sticky note (or napkin) in my car, on the grocery list (or receipt). A new favorite if I’m without pen and paper: the “Notes” app in my phone. This month I’m participating in Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo, the picture book writer's equivalent of NaNoWriMo headed by picture book author Tara Lazar), so ideas are flying in particularly fast – one or more a day. Wherever I am, if an idea strikes I try to get it down. The problem (if you want to call it a problem) is, I’m not very organized with my ideas once they’re captured.

In the wild, I recently learned, this gathering methodology has a name: Scatter Hoarding. It’s the behavior I see in the gray squirrel that, for much of the year, uses my backyard as her scatter-hoarding highway. She routinely busies herself with finding and then hiding her food supply in various places around the neighborhood so that she can come back to those spots later – when she’s hungry and there is no food available in plain sight.

It’s not one bit glamorous that my story idea gathering behavior is a teensy bit (or a lot) like the squirrel, but it works for me. In the moment, it's most important to me to recognize an idea, get it down, and tuck it away so that I can come back for it later. And I do. When I’m hungry for a new idea and there is nothing available in plain sight, I gather my scattered notes, take stock, and dive into the one that I find most tempting.

Maybe it’s not the most efficient way to handle ideas, but for now I’m content with my squirrely idea-gathering ways. Who knows, maybe I'll even get a PiBoIdMo story idea out of this. What’s your methodology for capturing your ideas? Do you scatter like me, are you more organized, or do you have a different frenzied, but effective way? My squirrely idea-gathering mind wants to know.
~~~~~
Tamera Will Wissinger writes poetry and stories for children. She earned her M.F.A. degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. She is the author of GONE FISHING: A Novel in Verse (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children) and THIS OLD BAND (Sky Pony Press). Connect with Tamera online through her Website or on Twitter.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Harvesting the Gems.

For me, the revision process for a novel is a lot like harvesting.  Plowing through rows of dense prose to find the ripe phrase, lush imagery, and fresh sentence buried beneath so much manure.
      Each passing lifts away a fallow, useless bit to wither and delete, leaving behind the small, sparkling gems that were always there, but needed pruning.  As the perfect words, phrases, and scenes settle onto the page, it's as satisfying and refreshing as a day spent outdoors.  Breezy, sun-filled and clear; newly dusted off with all the dead debris removed. Now visible in all its splendor.
     Like a crisp, juicy apple nourishes the body, my aim is to harvest the prose that nourishes the soul.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Growing Back, Almost Like Magic by Jody Feldman

Garlic plants, summer.
My Uncle Sonny used to make barbeque sauce and blue cheese dressing. He also grew garlic in his garden which he’d share with my mom. In turn, she’d share with me. After my uncle passed away, I still had a head of garlic in my possession. I took it out to add to dinner one night, but couldn’t let it go like that. Instead of cooking with those cloves, I planted them. From that one head of garlic, I’ve been harvesting a bounty for years now.

Understand, I am not a gardener. I love the idea of gardening, especially of food gardening, but there’s a big problem; a collection of problems, actually. I forget to plant in the proper season. I fail to thin my crops. I don’t like to weed or water or otherwise tend to things like that. And yet, year after year, the garlic comes back, full and healthy, producing ramps and seeds and the type of heads you find in stores.


Garlic plants, yesterday.
 It’s dawned on me, more than once, how magically similar growing garlic is to my idea process. I’m guessing that if I actually took time to cultivate my ideas, I’d be able to grow so many more. And yet, when I’ve plucked out all I have at the moment, I can turn around, and even more have taken their place. Sort of like these young plants have in my garlic bed. They’ve just appeared. In November. Maybe when they shouldn’t.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November Theme: Harvesting Success
By Marcia Thornton Jones

My life revolves around goals and to-do lists. Day in and day out I write—or I don’t. I sit at my desk or lug my laptop to the family room or tote my journal just about everywhere as I pursue the never-ending goal of finding the right words that will give scattered ideas shape, form, and meaning. I usually end up feeling that I didn’t write enough, the scenes didn’t match my vision, the plot sagged, or the characters were flat.

It’s. Never. Good. Enough.

I have a feeling I’m not alone with this kind of thinking. (I’m not, am I???)

For many writers the achievements and successes that indicate we’ve ‘made it’ are rare, and they’re often overshadowed by all that negative feedback writers tend to receive (a.k.a. rejections). After all, what does ‘good enough’ look like? What does ‘making it’ really mean? What, exactly, is ‘success’?
 
Toward the end of a recent week-long beach retreat with Barbara Underhill and Susan Rosson Spain, I bemoaned the fact that I was a failure. After all, I hadn’t accomplished what I set out to do. I didn’t have a rough outline. I didn’t know my main plot points. I hadn’t accrued a massive word count. I started to wonder: Why do I keep trying? Wouldn’t giving up be easier? Then I stopped and paid attention to where I was. I sat on Cape Canaveral beach sipping wine, watching the waves, breathing salt air, counting beached jellyfish-- and brainstorming how to develop the shadow side of a story’s antagonist and protagonist.  Suddenly, my questions morphed into, “How did I get lucky enough to end up here?”

The answer: Over a decade ago I sowed the seeds of friendship with these amazing women while attending a writing conference. Sitting on that beach, it occurred to me that a successful writing life isn’t only about pounding out words on the computer or achieving page counts or tallying book sales.

So I am going to redefine success. Okay, yeah, I know. I still have to actually write, but I’m also going to count relationships that nurture my creative energy. Relationships harvested as a result of teaching writing workshops, mentoring writers, attending writing and book groups…and especially from sipping wine on a beach while brainstorming with other writers!


Friday, November 7, 2014

Savor the Harvest (November Theme)

by Naomi Kinsman

What's your take on showers? We all have to take them nearly every day, and maybe we even enjoy the thinking time they offer. But they take up so much valuable time, don't they? Not only the shower itself, but then afterward, the lotion and drying of hair and getting dressed and putting on of make-up make me feel like I'm slogging in slo-mo on the way to the start of my day. I thought I was the only one who woke up with a groan on hair-washing days. Yesterday, though, I was talking to a friend, and realized shower-frustration might be a universal feeling.

It's not just showers. I bet if you sat down right now and listed daily-life obstacles, you'd have a list of at least ten, and maybe even fifty. We have slo-mo hours in traffic, weeks when inexplicably our devices stop speaking to one another so we have to reboot and reload everything, and even months when every time we sit down to create, question leads to question, creating what feels like an ever-tangling spiderweb that we're sure we'll never escape.

This morning,  I read a post by Michael Hyatt about how a shift of perspective can lower stress. I, for one, need a shift of perspective regarding all of these obstacles. Maybe you do, too. Not a fake one that kind of makes me feel better because I'm sugar-coating the truth, but a true shift that feels solid and authentic.

I looked up the definition of harvest this morning. My favorite definition was "a supply of anything gathered at maturity and stored."Questions come to mind. What am I planting? What's maturing in my creative life? What's ready to be gathered and stored?

If you're anything like me, you're trying to harvest all the time, hoping you have the superpower of not needing to plant seeds or let the crops grow. If we consider wheat or grapes or any other crop, we see that growing seasons are long. In fact, they influence one another year after year. Maybe this is what all that slo-mo is about, allowing a growing season for our creativity short term, and long term, too. Maybe as question piles on top of question and I'm sure nothing is happening, the true work is being done. The crop is maturing.

And thus, the shift of perspective. That time isn't wasted time--it's the growing season.

Okay, but here's the thing. When I'm reaping a harvest, it's not so hard to nod my head and say, "Yes, I wish the development hadn't taken so long, but I see the value of the process." In the midst of the questions, I'd be more likely to bang my head against the wall rather than spout anything so reasonable.

That's why, when we do come to the harvest, when the book or project takes form, we must savor the experience. We need to gather the crop and then take the time to reflect on the journey. The WHOLE journey. Maybe we need to write ourselves a letter about how this creation came to be. That way, in the next growing season, we have a tangible reminder. We have to remember to let our crops grow, to not harvest them too soon, too impatiently.

Right now, I'm in the growing season. I wish I had such a letter. I'm going to put a sticky on my desk to remind me to write one when this project comes to maturity. And then, I'm going to do my best to let the questions pile up, let the spiderweb tangle, knowing that with time, the crop will be ready to harvest.

How about you? Are you in a growing season? Mid-harvest? I'd love to hear your thoughts on showers, our piles of questions or the value of writing letters to oneself during mature moments.


photo credit: Carosaurus via photopin cc

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Honest Harvest by Deborah Lytton

When I think of harvesting, I think of retaining the healthy crop and leaving behind the weeds.  The hardest part of harvesting as a writer is knowing what part of our work is worth keeping and what part needs to be left behind.  I like to work with paper and pen. I know I am old-fashioned, but there is something about scribbling my ideas on paper that allows me more freedom than when I see them in print on a screen in front of me.  I guess I am willing to be imperfect with my pen.  I can scratch things out and rip out pages, happily crumpling them and sometimes even throwing them across the room.  On the computer, I am always afraid to delete something, so I end up saving file after file of drafts.  I tend to scribble my ideas on paper and then type them up, allowing for a revision in the process.  This way, I can only keep the best part of the crop and leave behind the weeds.  But what happens when the whole manuscript is a weed?  This week, I am asking myself that very question.  I am working on a new manuscript, and I am 80 plus pages into my first draft.  But it's just not working.  It's not as good as it could be.  The truth is that it isn't a crop worth harvesting.  So as difficult as it is, I have decided to (gasp) start over.  This is the biggest challenge of all writers, I think.  Knowing when you are not producing your best work, and being honest enough with yourself to leave it behind.  I hope all of your work today is worth harvesting--and as soon as I post this blog, I am going to grab my pen and paper and create some work of my own worth harvesting. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Megan: Harvesting Ideas

One of the most common questions students ask writers is, “Where do you get your ideas?” When I present at schools, I talk about how writers come up with “What if?” questions to generate stories, so I tell them the better question is, “Where do you get your questions?”

Either way, student and adult writers want to know where ideas come from, how to hold onto them, and how to nourish them into fruition. Of course there is no magic formula, but if I had to give one piece of advice, it would be this: be bored.

That technology has deeply infiltrated most of our lives is a fact, and the effects of this infiltration are multiple and complicated. By and large, I am grateful for the advantages technology has brought to my life, but if there was one aspect which I think is a true danger it’s that we rarely have to be bored anymore. Long line at the coffee shop? Pull out the phone and check Twitter. Kid’s practice is running late? Time to read email on my iPad.

Writers, though – and I imagine all creative people – get ideas by looking both inward and outward. We observe, we notice, we ask questions (“Why is that man wearing hunting gear and flip flops?”). Sometimes these ideas are fleeting, but other times they take root and grow into stories. My husband and I were driving together when he pointed out the cemetery where his grandparents were buried. I noticed a bike next to a house in the cemetery – “Does a child live there?” I wondered. And then I imagined that child. Who is she? What games does she play? And that child became Hazel Kaplansky, heroine of my secondmiddle grade novel. Had I been distracted by my phone, and given only a cursory glance, a whole novel might not have been born.

Similarly, once you have an idea and you are working on it, there will be times when you get stuck. But something you see when you look up and notice things might spark the next phase of the project, or might untangle a knot you’ve tied. You start to see the world through the lens of your story. Something you notice – some little detail – can wiggle its way into your mind and onto the page.


Stop, look, listen. Cultivate boredom; harvest stories.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Writer's Harvest by Irene Latham

So, harvest. We writers are constantly harvesting, aren't we?

Last month at a writing intensive with author Candice Ransom on writing middle grade novels and easy readers, Candice made the argument for Place (as opposed to the more common “character” or “plot”) as a starting point for stories. During her talk, I realized that the one thing all my wide array of writings (adult poetry, children's poetry, children's historical novels, children's contemporary, children's fantasy) have in common is a strong sense of PLACE.

Candice gave us a series of prompts to help us get to know our places and to find answers for character and plot by using place. One that really stuck with me was this one: “When is your place most itself?” It makes sense to set your story during this time. Lo and behold, I realized I had done this when writing my middle grade works.

LEAVING GEE'S BEND – set in Gee's Bend, Alabama, during the peak of the cotton harvest (November)

DON'T FEED THE BOY – set in a central Alabama zoo, during the peak season for zoos: summer

DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST – set at an African water hole during Wildebeest migration season, when water holes are still present, but dwindling

DESERT FISH – set in Death Valley National Park during the hottest month: July

UNTITLED WIP – set in a Florida citrus grove during harvest time: Fall


And currently, this November, I am busy harvesting words for NANOWRIMO on that untitled wip!

Happy Harvesting to all my Writer Friends. :)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Your Character Did What ?? By Ann Haywood Leal

Writers can harvest ideas at the drop of a pick axe, right?  As soon as we sit down and touch our fingers to the computer keys, those brilliant ideas just spill out onto the page like giant raindrops . . . right? 

Yesterday, I gave a mini workshop on grabbing onto ideas and putting them into a story. 

I explained that you must make the reader fall in love with your character from the very first second, so that they will cry right along with your character when bad things happen, and cheer for them until the very last page. 

A woman sat in front of me, listening intently, with a pained expression on her face.  

Great, I thought.  My talk must completely stink, and she'll be heading for the door at any moment.

But she finally raised her hand tentatively.  "I have lots of ideas," she said. 





"Do you write them down?"  I asked.  "What's the idea that is closest to your heart?"

She hesitated for a moment, then went on to talk about her characters and her setting.

"Does your character have a problem?" I asked.

The pained expression soaked into her face again.  "I don't want to give her too much of a problem.  I would feel too bad for her."

"It will keep your reader turning the page," I explained.  

Then, as if the Writer Fairy had cast her magic wand, in walked my friend and author-extraordinaire Eric Luper.  "You have to do it," he said.

We tag-teamed the poor woman, trying to convince her that the worse things got for her character, the more her readers would want to--and have to turn the page.

I hope she is home today feeling truly bad for her character.  I hope she is crying sloppy tears as she harvests her ideas and makes her character's situation almost untenable -- almost.  Then I hope those tears become joyful ones as her character climbs out from under the heavy rock pile.  

Now I'm going to go and try taking my own advice.  The character in my WIP had better be prepared, because things are going to get ugly . . .