Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dream Time

30 July 2009 A thought to tuck in your heart!

Imagine what you wish to become one day catching up with you! --M. Crystal

I hope you've all been dreaming books or stories and jotting down thoughts and scenes. Maybe this summer you've begun to draft a novel, a short story or memoir or begun to write poetry. A few of you may be so diligent and disciplined that you've finished a draft and now you've begun to revise. Wherever you are in your writing journey, take some time to dream and imagine what you'd like to accomplish. Take a moment and look back to the Fun & Easy Writing Prompt
that I posted in early June. Remember the pyramid? If you drew one, go back and look at it now. How far did you get on your journey to the cheering stick figure at the top? If you didn't make much progress, take heart. Begin at the point you stopped and focus on the next step. Just one step. Happy climbing!

Don't go away! I'll be back next week with a new writing prompt and news of an upcoming event.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Creative Write & Play Shop --Revision Assignment

Friday, July 10, 2009 Seeing Again

Some of you may have been wondering what the delay was all about with this assignment. The truth is partly my new addiction to Face Book, blush, which is already waning, but more a necessary procrastination for this very important final step. Too often we write something and we are caught in the spell of our own words, the wonderful metaphor we dropped in that paragraph of description, and, oh, weren't we witty in that little scene with Great Aunt Prunella? Good as Oscar Wilde! Either we are charmed or we have the opposite reaction. Our words seem flat and boring. We think we can't write at all, wad up our attempts and throw them away. The reality normally falls somewhere in the middle. Occasionally the words flow, we know it, we go with it. It's good all right, but mostly what we've written still needs shaping--later on, not in the heat of the moment of writing. The same holds true for times when the writing seems dead on the page. Maybe it is, but even then it often has the seeds for the precise emotion or insight we're digging for. It needs work, yes, but it's not hopeless. I wish I could remember which poet told me this: "Success lies in the attempt." Molly Peacock, I think. What you have put down in your rough draft of memories will show what is important for you to write, your emotional stories that break your heart, make you weep, or laugh out loud.

If you've had some time away from those drafts of childhood memory, take them out now and reread them with a cool, fresh eye. Be gentle with yourself, and don't worry about the writing. What I want you to do now is look for moments of revelation, epiphanies, times when you had an insight about yourself, about your siblings or parents, or about friendships or life in general. You might also take a second look at your fears and moments of joy. What you're looking for is material for a story or a picture book or the beginning of a memoir or novel.

We often talk about story ideas. We might say that we start with a character or a situation or an action, but to find success in an idea or a character or a situation or an action, we must connect to emotion. It is honest emotion that connects the reader to your work and makes them care. That's why reliving your own personal memories, drenching them with recalled sensory perception will bring you to your emotional center. Start there. If you're writing fiction, feel free to wildly lie. There's a line in the movie, State and Main, that William Macy says to the screenplay writer (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) about a change he wants in the script: "Don't think of it as a lie; think of it as a gift for fiction."

To recap the assignment: Read through what you've written. Look for moments of revelation. Look for conflict. Settle on a few that you think might work for a picture book or a short story, etc. Read those parts again. Put them away. Then go and read and read and read. Look at picture books. Look for the emotion. Read your favorites over and over. Why do they resonate with you?

Stella Luna is a good picture book to study for how emotion is carried through a book. It's a wonderful book. (But feel free to pick a different one.) Read it aloud. Type the first page. Type several pages to get a feel for the words and rhythm of the book. Read it again. Go back to your material and look at it again. I think you may begin to see a form taking shape for your book. I'd love to hear what books resonate with you and why.

I think this might be a good place to add that my short story, "A Spring Coat for Sarah" published in "Highlights for Children" was written from a childhood memory. See, it works!Happy re-vision and happy reading!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Creative Write & Play -- Touch & Sound Discovery

July 1, 2009 Developing our sense of Touch

Several of you mentioned that touch is a hard sense for you to put into your writing. So, of course, I thought about that, and I came up with a fun experiment for all of us to try. Even if we don’t always see the touch or hear the sound, it occurred to me that those two are connected–you can’t have one without the other. At least I haven’t come up with an instance yet, but I wouldn’t mind if someone proved me wrong. I haven’t done a textbook study, so, yes, dear friends, this is physics of the senses ala Clara.

Touch creates sounds. Motion suggests touch and sound. You drop something on the floor and the sound it creates depends on the object you drop and the surface it hits. Crash! Boom! Bang! Thud. Thump. Crackle. Splatter. Boing. Plink. Plop. It’s even more fun to make up our own sound word based on what the object touches. Writers do it all the time. Often we get away with it, and it's really cool to see a word in print that we've made up.

For the rest of the week, right through the sound-tastic fireworks on the 4th of July, keep your notebook handy to record the sensory perceptions of touch and the precise subsequent sound. Touch doesn’t have to be just something you are touching with your fingers. Touch and sound are all around. If you have kids, get them involved, too. If you don't have kids, grab some friends. Can you come up with more touch/sounds than they can? Okay, writing scientists we’re off on an adventure of touch & sound discovery. Have a safe & happy 4th!