Friday, March 18, 2016

Writing Advice from a Mad March Tea Party (March theme) by Claudia Mills

When I think of March and Madness, I think of a certain tea party hosted by a certain Hare and a certain Hatter, attended by a girl who fell down a rabbit hole into a most confusing Wonderland.

The world of children's book writing is itself a Wonderland. So here is some advice for us that I distilled from Alice's teatime there.
1. If people tell you there is no room for your stories in today's market, they are probably wrong."No room! No room!" they cried out when they saw Alice coming. "There's plenty of room!" said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large arm-chair at one end of the table.

2. The opening of your story is an invitation to your readers. Don't offer what you aren't willing or able to deliver. "Have some wine," the March Hare said in an encouraging tone. Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. "I don't see any wine," she remarked. "There isn't any," said the March Hare. "Then it wasn't very civil of you to offer it," said Alice angrily.

3. Precision in language matters. "I believe I can guess that," she added aloud. "Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?" said the March Hare. "Exactly so," said Alice. "Then you should say what you mean," the March Hare went on. "I do," Alice hastily replied, "at least- at least I mean what I say - that's the same thing, you know." "Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hatter.

4. Even the best bit of writing may not work in THIS story. The Hatter . . . had taken his watch out of his pocket, and was looking at it uneasily, shaking it every now and then, and holding it to his ear. . . 
"I told you butter wouldn't suit the works!" he added looking angrily at the March Hare. "It was the best better," the March Hare meekly replied.

5. We can do better with time by approaching it creatively than by complaining about how little we have of it. "I think you might do something better with the time," she said, "than waste it in asking riddles that have no answers." "If you know Time as well as I do," said the Hatter, "you wouldn't talk about wasting it. It's him. . . .If you only kept on good terms with Time, he'd do almost anything you liked with the clock."

6. When you're stuck, just keep on moving. "It's always tea-time, and we've no time to wash the things between whiles," [said the Hatter]. "Then you keep moving round, I suppose?" said Alice. "Exactly so," said the Hatter, "as the things get used up."

7. "Why not?" can be as good a question to start a story percolating as "Why?" Pressed for a tale, the Dormouse tells of three girls who lived at the bottom of a treacle-well. "They were learning to draw . . . and they drew all manner of things- everything that begins with an M." "Why with an M?" said Alice. "Why not?" said the March Hare.

8. The most maddening things that happen can be the best ones to write about. "At any rate I'll never go there again!" said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. "It's the stupidest tea-party I was ever at in all my life!" 

Yes, little Alice, and one that readers have been returning to happily for 150 years. May it be the same with the tea parties we host for our readers.

3 comments:

  1. Love this, Claudia! I think there's a lecture/workshop in there for a children's writers conference.

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  2. Thanks, Holly and Laurie! It definitely is fun to have these monthly themes for brainstorming!

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