Saturday, March 31, 2012

Photo-A-Day: March

"Ideas are the cheapest part of the writing. They are free. 
The hard part is what you do with the ideas you gathered." --Jane Yolen

Ideas, they just keep coming. Today marks the completion of my third month of taking a photo a day, and I'm really still into the fun of it. I look forward to what image each day will bring, what will be recorded either early in the day, while out and about, or when winding down in the evening. The beautiful (early) spring weather we've been having here in Ohio hasn't hurt the cause either.

But ideas? Several of the photos have sparked writing ideas, yes. Other images tug at me, but I've yet to determine where they're inviting me to go. I'm seeing more in the details, too: light and shadows, nuances, emotions, beauty, color, place, the unexpected.

Somehow, tho, this little project will take wings and fly. We just haven't booked the ticket yet...but we will!

As Marcia Wieder said, "One of your most powerful inner resources is your own creativity. Be willing to try on something new and play the game full-out."

Enjoy my March gallery. Any images speak to you?

What are you doing to fuel your creativity process?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Plotting Strategy

"The plot is the line on which I hang the wash, and I try 

to think of a line on which it will hang." --Robert B. Parker

I'm thinking about buying some clothesline and clothespins.

What's  your plotting strategy?

photo courtesy of

Friday, March 23, 2012

Here's to Ice Cream, Historical Fiction and Hope

"Hope is the other side of history." --Marcia Cavell

A couple of good things happened this week. The Li'l Goodie Shoppe opened for one. What, you might ask, is the Li'l Goodie Shoppe? Well, it's the local ice cream stand we have nearby. Close enough for us to walk to in fact. Which is either good or bad depending on a person's will power and committment to work off the extra calories that go with it.

The other good thing? My current issue of Children's Writer, April 2012, arrived in the mail. Don't know if you're familiar with this little newsletter (which can also be found online here), but each month it carries a wealth of information on writing tips and markets for children's writers. This month's headline immediately caught my eye: "Remarkable Historical Fiction for the 21st Century," by Patricia Curtis Pfitsch. I was hungry for good news about the historical fiction market for those of us who write in this genre.

Encouragement came, tempered with caution and good advice. While Pfitsch makes the point that historical fiction markets continue to shrink, "historical fiction has a sure footing on many publishers' lists." But, as she quotes Greg Ferguson, Editor at Egmont USA, "The real issue is finding the historical fiction manuscript that is remarkable."

The article goes on to give tips on how to approach historical fiction with an eye toward writing that remarkable book. Included among the tips are: think how the story will be different, be aware of what's already published, find the time period and story that speaks especially to you, and find a balance between story and history.

Pfitsch concludes by saying "Whether you write for older readers or younger ones, the truth is clear. Historical fiction is alive and well. There is still a place for writers who do the work to make their stories stand out."

Good advice for writers of all genres actually. We've got our work cut out for us, yes, but with the hope that something good is up ahead.

Sort of like a trip to the Goodie Shoppe...

Wish you could join me!

What good things opened up for you this week?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Favorite Quote of the Week

"A novel is a mirror walking along the main road." --Stendhal

I've found myself thinking about this concept a lot this week. *Insightful* don't you think?

photo courtesy of

Saturday, March 10, 2012

On Circuses, Invention, and Memorable Characters

"But the stories that astonish us, the characters that live forever in our memories--those are the result of rich imagination, perceptive observation, rigorous interrogation, and careful decision-making...When it comes to storytelling, invention is the mother of astonishment, delight and truth." --Orson Scott Card, Characters and Viewpoint

Went to the circus the other night, hubby and I, along with friends Vic and Connie (thanks for the glow-in-the-dark necklace, Connie!). Can you think of any better place for a writer to go to fuel up their creative tank?? It's a place that gives a nod to Mr. Card's list of elements for inventing stories and characters:  imagination, astonishment, and delight. Added to that, there's also...



the unexpected


color and humor

stunning conclusions

What about you? From what did you draw a sense of rekindled imagination this week? Hope it was as much fun as the circus.

Have a great rest of the weekend, everyone...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sensory Details: 5 Reminders from a Tube of Watermelon Chapstick

"Think of your story as a living, organic entity. It breathes, it smells. It touches and it tastes. Your job is to feed these senses, to keep them alive amidst the challenge and conflict and turmoil your hero must confront." --Nancy Lamb, The Art and Craft of Storytelling.

A memory-maker. Little Angelica was scheduled to stay the night with us. When we got to her house to pick her up, we found her suitcase packed, ready, and propped up by the front door.

"She packed it herself," her mommy told us. "She's very excited to go to Grandma and Grandpa's house."

What does a three-year old pack? Well, pajamas, of course. Boots. An extra shirt and pair of leggings. A child-sized toothbrush. Oh, and a tube of chapstick. Watermelon-flavored, to be exact.

"See, I put it here, in the pocket." She unzipped the side pouch of the suitcase to show me. And, I think, to reassure herself it was still there.

Let the adventure begin!

Curious George stories. Puzzles. Bathtime with Grandma's tub toys. A wake-up call at 2 a.m. that involved a nightlight, a fly around the shade, and sounds that go buzz, flick, buzz, flick in the dark (but that's another story). Helping Grandpa bake his famous chocolate bread. A trip to the park. Dress-up with hats from the box under the bed. But sprinkled throughout the whole experience was the effort it took to keep track of the watermelon chapstick. And uncounted requests to apply it "just one more time."

"Where's my chapstick, Grandma?"
"Can I put more on, Grandma?"
"See, I put it on this shelf. So I don't lose it."
Later: "I put my chapstick back in my suitcase so I won't forget it when I go home."
"Just one more time, Grandma, okay? Then I'll put it away again."

And so it went. By the end of the visit, the smear above the top lip had expanded with each application until the area all around her mouth was covered with a pink film.

Children. They learn about the world through the five senses--sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. In the case of Angelica's chapstick, there's the palm-sized tube with a red cap and picture of a slice of watermelon on the label, the snap of the cap on and off, a sweet (albeit "synthetic") scent, the watermelon flavor (which, truth be told, was the biggest draw), and the smooth glide of the tongue over lips smeared with wax. I don't think she'll ever forget it!

Still, children aren't the only ones to learn about the world through the five senses. We all do. And our readers learn about the world of our books when we include sensory details in our writing. Such details are instrumental in engaging readers, transporting them into a scene, evoking emotions, and providing a memorable experience (the old "show don't tell" adage). Sensory details breathe life into the story--which is what we're aiming for, aren't we? Something we certainly don't want to lose track of.

And so I take note. Along the way I've gathered five reminders of what sensory details in our writing can accomplish. The reminders include:

1. See. "Sensory details awaken sleeping thoughts and feelings, allowing our imaginations to exist in two places at once." --Nancy Lamb, The Art and Craft of Storytelling

2. Smell. "Appealing to more than one sense at a time will not only orient your readers but will make scenes more vivid and memorable. After the sense of sight, smell is often the most evocative." --Rebecca Rule and Susan Wheeler, Creating the Story, Guides for Writers

3. Hear. "Writing can only get better when sensory details are added to the narrative....Using the five senses, or sensory details, to create an atmosphere and mood can add great depth to writing." --Sarah Lynne Davis, suite

4. Taste. "The beginning of human knowledge is through the senses, and the fiction writer begins where human perception begins. He appeals through the senses, and you cannot appeal through the senses with abstractions." --Flannery O'Connor, Mysteries and Manners

5. Touch. "In the big scenes, try to incorporate all five senses. Sensory details pull the readers into the story in a way that allows them to transcend thinking about your story to feeling it." --Martha Alderson, Blockbuster Plots.

There is yet one more thing, however. And that is, as important as sensory details are to a story, we don't want to overload our readers with them. There is a balance we need to strike.

Sort of like too much watermelon chapstick?

Do sensory details come easy to you in your writing, or do you find yourself struggling to include them? Are you liberal with them in your first drafts, or do you have to go back to plug them in? How much watermelon chapstick do you use?