Thursday, December 6, 2007

Enchanted


Last weekend I had a choice. . . . Drop the kids at the theatre with their friends and go shopping, or see the movie with them and forget shopping. Hmmmmm. Big Decision.

Movie, . . . or shopping.

Time with kids at movie, . . . or time with self while shopping, errrr, I mean, most likely beating self up in trying to make perfect purchases.

Silly movie . . . one that might make me laugh, . . . or shopping in a harried, rushed, most frustrating way.

(I'm not a shopper--can you tell? Although lately, I've been hoping to somehow transform into some sort of Born-Again Super-Hero Shopper, something along the lines of Wonder Woman, so that I can at least get this year's Christmas list done. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.)

As it turned out, I saw the movie. ENCHANTED, it was, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Silly, yes. Comical, yes. Enjoyable, yes, although reasons for all of those who attended varied.

My 9-year-old son and his friend liked the action of the evil witch and the chipmunk shooting out an unmentionable quite entertaining, though the King Kong theatrics at the end really drew them in. Funny, I didn't catch a King Kong reference until they mentioned it, but as my daughter said, it had a little bit of everything -- Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella . . . and King Kong! Who woulda thunk. I was expecting the movie to stick to only true-blue fairy tales.

My 7-year-old son had the cutest synop of the experience. He said, "All they [the characters] did was talk about love, and sing about love, and act about love. . . . It was all about love!" But nevertheless, even with all that love stuff going on, he said he still liked it. Which really, in the end, is what I LOVED the most.

All in all, the movie was quite Enchanting, for everyone, with only the briefest of jaunts into shopping--after all, a girl's gotta find some way to get dressed for a ball in Manhattan, doesn't she? And not only that, but she even made it look fun. Hmmmm. Maybe I just found my newest role model. Grisella of Andalasia. Dream on. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

For Whom Do You Write?

A while back, I stumbled upon an interview by an author whose book was a recent booksellers’ pick. As an writer who’s always interested in what other authors have to say about their work and the craft, I clicked on the link.

His answers surprised me—painfully so, in a way that left the writer side of my brain banging its head against the wall. Why? For one thing, in answer to one of the preliminary questions, he—this amazing writer—something I aspire to, sweat over, and work to becoming—had no idea where the idea for his fantastic novel came from. Simple as that. “I have no idea,” he said. Nothing more, nothing less, no little tidbits expounding on how ideas for a great novel are born. . . .

The unfairness of it all! I, who mull and stew and toss and turn and lose sleep over the weaving of plot elements, the molding of characterizations, after being spurred by the tiniest of seeds, seeds that may be as tiny as a simple line, like, He burped, and then wiped his hand on his leg before offering it to me. Yeah, seeds like that, offering depth, intrigue, character, . . . okay, maybe not quite.

But anyway, I read on, thinking perhaps not all gifted and talented writers need to be blessed with inspiration to write something truly amazing. Perhaps some writers are good enough to sit down at a computer and simply begin a masterpiece, at just the right point, with just the right phrase. . . . So, what was his secret? I was dying to know. Perhaps I’d find it in the next question – For whom did this author write?

I read on with anticipation, I suppose, in part as a writer to uncover a glimpse of his mysterious powers, and in part as an avid reader, constantly in pursuit of the next great book to discover. I suppose I wanted him to say that he wrote that book for ME. After all, I liked the title. Or, readers like me. Women, wives, mothers, dreamers, bakers, hikers, nature lovers, skiers—any one of a variety of categories I could fit into. A category that would tell me, yes, this incredible author wrote that incredible book for me. It was ME he was thinking of while he wrote it, and thus, I should buy it, and sit down and read on with pleasure.

But surprisingly again, he hadn’t.

Well, okay, I thought, I guess I can understand that not every book ever published is going to be written for me. I certainly don’t fall into the businessman category, or the fisherwoman category (tho I can bait a hook), or the boxing category (tho I do know a bit of self-defense), or even—surprise-surprise—the ballet dancer’s category. . . . But I was slightly miffed to see that the audience the writer wrote for was so small, so exclusive, that hardly anyone had hope of fitting into it. Specifically, his audience merely included his wife, his editor, and his agent. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. Not even a smidgen of dirt of what type of people these people were.

Obviously, I don’t write like that. I'm quite certain many do it differently. And I’m placing all remaining hope of continued publication in the belief that we, as writers, work on getting our stories out by being pushed and pulled by various means.

Although honestly, the whole experience of reading that interview was akin to be slapped in the head with a 2x4. Initially, it was unnerving. Although later, the dull cranial pounding led to the illumination of a well-repeated mantra at many a writer’s conference I’ve attended. Know your audience and write for them.

I can’t possible imagine writing a book solely for my husband (who doesn’t read much fiction), my agent (who likes to be dazzled—ERG! The intimidation of it all!), or my editor (the last of whom left the building--permanently for other fortunes). Instead, I reaffirmed to myself that I write for three larger audiences. And I write for them happily. Middle-aged women who aren’t perfect, but have a sense of humor—this would be my mom-lit audience; kids ages 4 to 8—wide-eyed, smiley faced, picture book fans; and kids 8 to 12, who still retain a bit of innocence and reside in the middle grade aisles.

Although I’ll probably pick up that novel that was a bookseller’s-pick, anyway—just to see where it takes me, I can’t say I’ll ever re-read that interview. But I am thankful that his responses strengthened my own resolve to be a better writer by connecting with my audience, from the first line of page 1 and on.

Are you my audience? If you’ve stuck with me this far, you betcha. Welcome aboard! Am I yours? As an insatiable reader of fiction, all I can say is, I hope so!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

15 TIPS FROM AUTHORS AND EDITORS FOR WRITERS

Hi all,

A couple weekends ago I went to a fantastic writers conference in Eden, Utah, where the presenters shared all sorts of information geared toward helping us define and sharpen our careers. And it got me thinking . . . about all the great conferences I’ve been to in the past, and all the words of wisdom that I’ve heard along the way, and after a while I decided to dig out those old conference notes to see what I might have forgotten and relive moments that might be worth reliving.

Out of that pleasant exercise, I’ve come up with 15 TIPS FROM AUTHORS AND EDITORS FOR WRITERS.

15. Never under-estimate the power of gestation time. . . . And to quote Earnest Hemingway, Don’t leave your typewriter until you know what you’ll write the next day.
– David Sheffield, comedy film screenwriter

14. Revision ==> Re-vision.
– Ann Cannon, author, Charlotte's Rose

13. Don’t be afraid to throw out what you’ve done and try a new approach.
—Deborah Hopkinson, author, Fannie in the Kitchen,, Up Before Daybreak, Apples to Oregon

12. Write in Scenes. Show the character develop through what happens.
– Linda Sue Park, author, A Single Shard, Seesaw Girl

11. In a picture book, every word must sing.
– Julie Strauss-Gabel, Associate Editorial Director, Dutton

10. When I can imagine myself in the character’s skin, then I begin to write.
– Kathleen Duey, author, The Unicorn's Secret, The Faeries' Promise

9. Hook readers on the first page through tension, character, or voice. Show what makes that day different from any other.
– Susan Kochan, Editor, Putnam

8. Passion finds a way.
– Cameron Steve Wright, author, Letters for Emily

7. A novel is about the way things have to change in order to survive.
– Richard Peck, author, Here Lies the Librarian, The Last Safe Place on Earth

6. Understand what your character values, and what risk of losing that really means.
– Kim W. Justesen, author, My Brother, The Dog

5. To quote Richard Peck again, . . . “I noticed, while I was growing every minute at the typewriter, mysteriously, my readers remained the same age.”
So out of that, you can trust these words . . . “Know your audience, and write for them.”
-- Kay Lockner of AuthorMBA.com

4. Spend your words like money. Make sure there are no extras.
– Carol Lynch Williams, author, The True Colors of Caitlynne Jackson, If I Forget, You Remember

3. The rhythms in your writing mirror the rhythms in your life – the sound of an oscillating fan, the buzz of traffic, the gurgle of a mountain stream. Get at the heart of those rhythms – whether they be past or present – and you’ll get at the heart of what drives your narrative voice.
– Ken Brewer, poet, sum of accidents

2. Quite often, your instincts in your first draft are good. Use the editing process to get at the rhythms within and best word choice.
– Ken Brewer

And 1. . . . which is not gleaned from a conference, but are my favorite words to write by:

When you have gone so far that you can not manage one more step, then you’ve gone just half the distance you’re capable of.
– Greenland proverb


So there you have it. A small collection of useful tidbits sent floating out you. But because I’m only one person hitting conferences here and there, please feel free to share and post your own here.

Happy writing!

Shaunda

Thursday, October 4, 2007

To Wit, or Not To Wit . . . Two Bits of Advice

The weekend retreat at Bear Lake was well underway. Writing was getting done, professional storytelling was being had, manuscripts were being worked toward perfection, and the food--the food was pretty darn good, given our taking advantage of the latest harvests of the season, with peaches and tomatoes at the top of the list. Yes, overall, the retreat was going smoothly. . .

Until I woke up. Or only partly woke up.

No, this isn't a story where now I tell you the retreat was all dream. It was for real. And I was for real at it, and so were all the fellow writers that were there with me. And all was going smoothly, until Saturday morning, when things got a little exciting. . . . .


Let me give two bits of advice.


1. If you find yourself suddenly becoming dizzy, ask for help. Better yet, bring yourself to the floor immediately--don't let gravity do the work for you. This will cut down on bumps and bruises and the like.

2. If you find yourself inexplicably looking up into the eyes of Rick Walton, or some other writer that you admire tremendously, upon coming-to, don't think of this as a time to impress him or her by cracking a joke. Because more likely than not, you're going to be short-sighted on the delivery. Yes, muttering the words, "I'm dying," in an attempt to help lighten the situation, . . . will send all your fellow writers with their super-sonic imaginations into overdrive. It'll make them do things like call 911, or heaven-forbid, check to see if you need mouth-mouth resuscitation. Especially when after uttering such words, you pass out again.

Yes, at times like these, to wit, or not to wit, is not a question. It's a catapult for momentary disaster.

But never fear, dear readers, after a brief rest and sumptious morning feast, the writing retreat got back on track.

Turns out, this excitement was due to a nasty fainting virus that's been making it's way through the adult population in Cache Valley. As far as timing goes, I was either very lucky or unlucky, depending on how you look at it.

Make it a great week!
Shaunda