Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On Peaches, Pandas, and Stress

Indiana peaches in season 2015
"Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Coincidence? I think not!" --Author Unknown

Humor helps with stress, too, I say. And that's what we found when we took a short trip to the next state over to check out this year's peach crop at Beiersdorfer Orchard, Guilford IN. Not only were we not disappointed in the peaches, we noted the above sign over the cooler and had a little laugh.

What, do not pester, perturb, provoke, perplex, punch, pick or pounce the peaches??

Don't push, pull, pry, poke, peck, prod, pinch, paw or pop?

Certainly don't pluck, plink, plonk, plunk, plaid, paisley or polka-dot them!

I wish I had come up with this one.

The sales lady saw me take pictures of her sign. "My daughter saw that when out in California when the pandas were there," she said. "At the time, it read 'panda' but we changed it to peaches. We've had a lot of fun with it."

Now I want to research the pandas. I don't remember that story. (Maybe she spoke of Gao Gao, Bai Yun, and Xiao Liwu, the three Chinese pandas seen here on a cam at the San Diego Zoo? I don't know, but they are fun to watch.)

Stress-relievers: dessert, humor, a short road-trip, pandas, word-play. A few ideas for you. Can you think of any others?

Maybe a little ice cream with those peaches? That's where I'm headed next!
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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Notes on 'Notes'


clip art courtesy of pixabay.com
"I make a note, set it aside, and hope it makes sense when the time comes to look at it again."--Donald E. Westlake

How many ways can you spell N-O-T-E?

Well, let's see...

Post-it notes. One of the best inventions ever (which by-the-way were invented by accident--story can be found here). I use them around the house for various reminders and in books to make note of a passage I want to return to. Note cards--as in 3x5 cards, like the ones I carry in my pocket on walks to catch fleeting ideas before they float away. Then there are musical notes and love notestoo, both of which "play" special parts in our lives.

People compare notes. We take note. We take notes. We (especially writers) keep notebooks. Of those, I have too many to count: notebooks for journaling, for ideas, for rough drafts, for writing prompts, for critique group meetings. The list could go on. There's also the Author's Note, found typically at the end of historical books. This is something I particularly enjoy as it's an opportunity for the author to share background information she couldn't necessarily include in the narrative or to give the reader insight into the inspiration that led her to the story. Example, from Kirby Larson's Newbery Honor Book, Hattie Big Sky: "When I heard that my great-grandmother Hattie Inez Brooks Wright had homesteaded in eastern Montana by herself as a young woman, I found it hard to believe." What a story to explore! Authors also use their concluding afterword to explain what was fact and what was fiction as Lois Lowry noted in her Newbery Medal book, Number the Stars: "How much of Annemarie's story is true? I know I will be asked that. Let me try to tell you, here, where fact ends and fiction begins."

There are items that are particularly noteworthy. And then there is the personal note. Today I add a personal note of my own, one I share with a smile because it tickled me and made my day. I received my Summer 2015 SCBWI Bulletin in the mail. Opening it up, I found--surprise!--that my article, "Birds, Bricks, and Story Helps" was published in it. Boy, did I ever note that.

Which, it would seem, should prompt a thank-you note.

Have any notes of note come your way lately? Or a notable "note" word you might want to add?
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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Color and Emotion

On June walk 2015
"The idea of linking color and behavior is reasonable enough. Anyone who has ever felt blue, seen red, blacked out, or turned green knows we're prone to make emotional associations with different shades." --Winifred Gallagher

Seeking a purple calm in a season of busyness--what color emotion are you feeling at the moment?

A new month ahead. Happy July!
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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Should You Take a Writing Break and Go Out For Pizza Instead?

photo courtesy pixabay.com
"If my writing comes to a halt, I head to the shops; I find them very inspirational. And if I get into real trouble with my plot, I go out for a pizza with my husband." --Sophie Kinsella

I feel Ms. Kinsella's pain. I'm at about the half way mark in my first draft and it's time to go out for pizza! I see where I am at this point in my story, where I have come from, and where I need to be. I just don't know at the moment how I'm going to get there.

So I'm going to heed the advice of others* and take a short break. I'm going to give this story time to rest, breathe, and percolate on its own for a while. I'm going to change things around a bit, stir the imagination, try to reignite some creativity.

And it's okay. Although we writers often fear taking a break--we're afraid we'll lose momentum, confidence, a sense of commitment--a break is often just what we, and our stories, need.

I will get back to my WIP. I promise. I can't leave my characters in limbo too much longer. But at the moment, pizza sounds pretty good!

Where do you like to go or what do you like to do when you're stumped and need to distance yourself from a writing project for a spell?

*Helpful articles on why taking a writing break can be beneficial, and what to do with that time:
Improve Your Writing: Step Away From the Desk, Megan Kaplon
5 Reasons You should Stop Writing, K.M. Weiland
Step Away from the Keyboard: How Our Hands Affect Our Brains, Nancy Darling
Taking a Break From Technology is Sometimes Necessary, Jeff Goins
Why Writers Need to Take a Break Sometimes, Emily Wenstrom
Why Taking Writing Breaks Is Important, Shivana Deo
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Saturday, June 6, 2015

One Writer's Alphabet Soup To Writing a Novel


photo courtesy google.com/images
"When I was having that alphabet soup, I never thought that it would pay off." --Vanna White

A writer subconsciously develops her own alphabet soup when it comes to writing a novel--those key elements, basic rules, discoveries, weaknesses to watch for, areas to develop, exploratory tangents, and microscopic and telescopic revisions that take her to the finished product. I discovered this when I reviewed journal entries I recorded during the time I wrote my first book. I recently reviewed those notes while my current WIP simmered on the back burner for a few days. What an education--there was something for each letter of the alphabet!

One Writer's Alphabet Soup to Writing a Novel

A...active voice...action...action words...atmosphere
B...backstory (enough but not too much)...beginning (jump in)
C...causality...character development...clarity...clich├ęs...complications...conflict...connections
...consistency...craft
D...description...detail...development...dialect...dialogue...discovery
E...edit...emotion...end linked to beginning...ending (satisfying)...energy...essence
F...flexibility...focus...foreshadowing...frame
G...genre...goals...grammar...growth (character and author!)
H...heart...historical accuracy...hook...human dignity
I...imagery...inciting incident...infinite-verb phrase openings (“Looking up slowly, she…”)
J...jell...journel...journey...joys
K...kaleidoscope...kernel...knead...knit
L...landscape...language..listen...location...loose ends (tied up)
M...magical...main character as problem solver (not bystander)...malleable...metaphor...middle slump...motivation...mystery
N...names...narration...narrative arc...narrator
O...obstacles...opening...overthinking (as in, don't!)
P...pace...page turners...patterns...pauses...place...placing character (where doesn’t want to be)...plot...plot holes...plot lines...plot points...plot twists...point of view...punch...punctuation
Q...quest...questions (and answers)...quotes
R...reading level...redundancy (check by using document's 'Find' feature)...resolution...revision
S...satisfying...scene...sensory details...sentences ending with prepositional phrase...sentence variety...serendipity...setting...show (don't tell)...sparkle...spelling...stakes...story structure... storytelling...style...subplot ...supporting characters...surprise...symbolism
T...tenses...tension...theme...threads...tightened form...title...timeline...tone...transitions...triggers
U...understandable...unexpected...unique
V...values...verb tense...viewpoint...vocabulary...voice
W...weak words (weed out)...wonder...word choice...word count...world building
X...(e)xact...(e)xtraordinary...X out the unnecessary
Y...yarn of a story...yawn (avoid)...yearnings...yes (or no)...yet (as in, doors haven’t opened yet)
Z...zenith...zest...zip

This is just a sample of one writer's alphabet soup--a savory mix to keep me going. Any ingredient you'd like to add? What does your writer's alphabet look like?
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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Brain Boosts and Insights: 5 Links

image courtesy pixabay.com

"I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells." --Dr. Seuss

June: we're fast approaching the half-way mark of the year. Can you believe it? How are we doing on the writing goals we set in January? Do we need a boost--maybe a brain boost, insights on how the brain works, or just simple inspiration? Sharing some links on the subject...enjoy!

1. Can You Boost Your Brain Power--and Your Health--by Writing Every Day? (Yes!), by Mary Carroll Moore

2. Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling, by Paul J. Zak

3. The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains, by Leo Widrich

4. Your Brain on Fiction, by Annie Murphy Paul

5. How Does Writing Affect Your Brain?, an infographic by Micaela Lacy
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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sailors in the Vineyard, and a Wedding



Dreamland
by Silas Weir Mitchell

Up anchor! Up anchor!
Set sail and away!
The ventures of dreamland:
Are thine for a day.
Yo, heave ho!
Aloft and alow
Elf sailors are singing,
Yo, heave ho!
The breeze that is blowing 
So sturdily strong
Shall fill up thy sail
With the breath of a song...

We had a wedding over Memorial Day weekend and the launching site was beautiful.

The ventures of dreamland...
The celebration was held in a vineyard.

...are thine for a day
Guests witnessed the couple's vows.

Elf sailors are singing, yo, heave ho!
A host of attendants accompanied them--including great-grandchildren of the bride 
and great-nieces and nephews of the groom. Each one wore a sailor outfit. 
(The ones in the front are four of our five grandkids.)

The breeze that is blowing so sturdily strong...
Photo ops and toasts, sunshine and breezy blessings abounded.

...shall fill up thy sail with the breath of a song.
And many opportunities to savor the moment. What a memorable day!

And the poem Dreamland? It was written by one Silas Weir Mitchell in 1890. Mitchell (1829-1914) was a physician during the Civil War specializing in neurological diseases. He later embarked on a serious literary career at age 50, writing poetry and novels. Quite the varied careers, I'd say! And, interestingly enough, his namesake and descendent all these years later, Silas Weir Mitchell, is an actor, best known for his role in the television series Grimm (which, I confess, I've never watched). Wow, the history that flows through one simple poem.

Dreamland continues for several more stanzas and can be found here. But the concluding lines are:

Then up with the anchor!
Set sail and away!
The ventures of loveland
Are thine for a day.

Quite appropriate for the newlyweds, not only on the day of their wedding, but for the fact that they live in...Loveland, Ohio!

Oh, the coincidences.

The excitement is behind us now and word counts beckon. I'm setting my sails back in that direction. In what direction will you aim your sails in the days ahead?
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