#TBT Post – Hemingway Revisited

I wrote this #ThrowBackThursday post for a group blog I was once a part of and it was originally published on that site on January 29, 2014. 

Of all the books I was forced to read back in high school, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA was one of the most painfully dull tomes I had to suffer through. The plot? An old fisherman cursed with a long dry spell has the worst experience of his life when he tries to break his losing streak by pursuing the catch of a lifetime, struggling for days to catch it only to see it slowly stripped away as he tries to bring it to shore. (Sorry, Spoilers!)

An entire book about fishing? BLECH! DEPRESSING! (Yes, I know it was deeper than that, but I was sixteen, give me a break.) 

I can see why it was his last book. I only hoped it was my last Hemingway book. 

Then I watched the HBO movie, Hemingway & Gellhorn, and really enjoyed it. It may have had more to do with Hemingway being presented in the lovely Clive Owen packaging, but whatever worked. (Now I can only picture Hemingway as Clive portrayed him – not a bad thing, if you ask me.) It got me thinking that maybe I should give the old sea dog another try. 

A few months after viewing the show, I was discussing it with my father and he had mentioned recently reading the book A MOVEABLE FEAST. He said it had a lot to do with his early life as a writer and was an excellent read. That kind of sold me on it more than anything else. (Sorry, Clive.)

If all else failed, I could imagine the gorgeous Clive Owen reading it to me. Right?

Clive Owen Reads

(Read me another story, Clive.)

Plot Summary:

Begun in the autumn of 1957 and published posthumously in 1964, Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast captures what it meant to be young and poor and writing in Paris during the 1920s. A correspondent for the Toronto Star, Hemingway arrived in Paris in 1921, three years after the trauma of the Great War and at the beginning of the transformation of Europe’s cultural landscape: Braque and Picasso were experimenting with cubist form; James Joyce, long living in self-imposed exile from his native Dublin, had just completed Ulysses; Gertrude Stein held court at 27 Rue de Fleurus, and deemed young Ernest a member of une generation perdue; and T.S. Eliot was a bank clerk in London. It was during these years that the as-of-yet unpublished young writer gathered the material for his first novel The Sun Also Rises, and the subsequent masterpieces that followed.

Among these small, reflective sketches are unforgettable encounters with the members of Hemingway’s slightly rag-tag circle of artists and writers, some also fated to achieve fame and glory, others to fall into obscurity. Here, too, is an evocation of the Paris that Hemingway knew as a young man – a map drawn in his distinct prose of the streets and cafes and bookshops that comprised the city in which he, as a young writer, sometimes struggling against the cold and hunger of near poverty, honed the skills of his craft.

A Moveable Feast is at once an elegy to the remarkable group for expatriates that gathered in Paris during the twenties and a testament to the risks and rewards of the writerly life. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Although this was an unusual piece to reintroduce myself to Hemingway since it was his last work and it was unfinished when he died, it made me curious enough to want to read some of his other works. I still have no desire to reread THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, but I would like to try THE SUN ALSO RISES, as it was the book he was writing during the time period of this book.

I did find the order of the chapters and the skipping around a little jarring at times, but when taken chapter by chapter as brief essays, they were really quite enjoyable. Overall I relished getting a feel for the period and for the writers living in Paris. I did have a strong desire to snag a time machine and zip back to Paris to surround myself with the intoxicating sights he described so well. What a fantastic time and place to be a writer! His insights on his own feelings about writing and his fellow expatriates were honest and touching and sometimes quite scathing, but above all always interesting.

Here is one my favorite sections on writing that I think every author should take to heart:

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of the blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that you knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.

Whenever you find yourself embellishing from your true writing, gut it back to the studs; your foundation of truth. Nicely put.

And that’s just one of the little gems about the craft I stumbled upon. I loved discovering them and I’m sure most other writers will as well.

One other thing Hemingway allows you to experience, to crawl into and feel deep down in your bones, was the hunger of the starving artist. The smells wafting from the open cafés made my stomach grumble as he talked of skipping meals to stretch his income and instead fed himself on viewing Cézanne paintings at the Luxembourg museum, feeding his artist’s soul. His hunger was almost a necessity to his creative process. He describes it as “good discipline”.

He talks about when he had an entire novel lost, when a bag was stolen at the Gare de Lyon. Every writer’s nightmare!

I knew it was probably a good thing that it was lost, but I knew too that I must write a novel. I would put it off though until I could not help doing it. I was damned if I would write one because it was what I should do if we were to eat regularly. When I had to write, then it would be no choice. Let the pressure build. In the meantime I would write a long story about whatever I knew best.

How many of us just on the cusp of publishing can relate to the struggles he describes?

If I had never given Hemingway another try, I wouldn’t have discovered these insights about his writing. I look back now at his deliberately terse sentences, where he’s culled away all ornamentation, and I see the beauty in them. Of course I am looking at them through very different eyes, as a writer myself. I still don’t like THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA and nothing you say can change my mind! But maybe there is something to learn from this old sea dog after all.

Have you ever given a writer a second chance? Were you surprised when you did?

 

Highlights from the Middle of the Map Conference SCBWI KS/MO

Last month, I attended the SCBWI Middle of the Map Kansas/Missouri Fall Conference in Overland Park, Kansas, put on by the fantastic SCBWI Kansas/Missouri group.

The conference started on Friday evening with a Mix and Mingle while critiques with speakers were held. On Saturday, the main event began with an all speaker panel and then most of the day was spent in breakout sessions, with a closing keynote and book signing with reception ending the day.

All Speaker Panel

All of the speakers at the conference participated in a panel answering questions from the moderator as well as questions from the audience.

Sarah Jane AbbottAssociate Editor for Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books at Simon & Schuster. She started her career at S&S as a publicity assistant before joining Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books as editorial assistant in 2014. She is also on the editorial board of Simon & Schuster’s OfftheShelf.com. She has had the pleasure of working on books such as The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast by Samantha M. Clark and Blue & Bertie by Kristyna Litten. She loves quirky, character driven picture books with a lot of heart; non-fiction picture books, especially about little-known, strong women; and unique, literary middle grade novels. Find her on Twitter at @SarahJaneEyre.

 

Katie HeitEditor for Scholastic. Katie Heit edits nonfiction picture books and chapter books, as well as select fiction picture book titles. She edits books by Sandra Markle, Monica Robinson, and Nick Seluk, among others. She is actively building her list and is interested in books that approach nonfiction in a unique, kid-friendly way. Find her on Twitter at @katieheit.

 

Jim HooverArt Director at Viking Children’s Books. A graduate of Rhode Island School of Design in Illustration, Jim has been in publishing now for twenty years. He speaks regularly at SCBWI and has designed and art directed hundreds of books including: PICTURE BOOKS (Tea Party Rules with K. G. Campbell, Shy with Deborah Freedman, Ella with Marcos Chin, Bus! Stop! with James Yang) NOVELS (Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch books, Max Brallier’s New York Times best-selling series The Last Kids on Earth) NONFICTION (National Book Award Finalist Elizabeth Partridge’s Marching for Freedom, Printz Award-winning John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth, and the up-coming Boots on the Ground, and the children’s book adaptation of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth) Jim lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. Find him on Twitter at @JimHoover17.

 

Alyssa Eisner HenkinLiterary Agent, and Executive Vice President, at Trident Media Group. After earning her Bachelors from the University of Pennsylvania, Alyssa fulfilled a childhood dream that she professed on a home video at the age of six: move to New York and work with books. In 1999, Alyssa began her career in editorial at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Here she found “kindred spirits” who loved Anne of Green Gables as much as she did and a kids book space that was rapidly growing. In late 2006 Alyssa (and her inner-entrepreneur) headed to Trident to expand the firm’s children’s book business. Over twelve years, hundreds of deals, and numerous bestsellers and award-winners later, Alyssa still delights in nurturing her books at every stage. From editing and idea-honing to collaborating with marketing, foreign, dramatic, merchandising, and audio partners, Alyssa works hard to ensure longevity for her authors’ work. She represents multiple award-winning and bestselling authors, including Julie Berry, Ruth Behar, Jen Bryant, and R.J. Palacio, whose novel Wonder has been on the New York Times Bestseller list since it came out in 2012 and was turned into a feature film by Lionsgate which came out in 2017. Find her on Twitter at @AgentHenkin.

 

Quressa RobinsonLiterary Agent with Nelson Literary. Quressa Robinson joined Nelson Literary Agency in 2017 after working at a previous agency as an editor for five years. She is originally from San Francisco, but has been living in New York City for over a decade. As a New York based agent, she is eager to build her MG, YA, and Adult lists. When not curled on her couch reading, she plays video games, enjoys too much TV-mostly Sailor Moon and Harry Potter (Slytherin!), eats delicious things, drinks champagne, hangs out with her very clever husband, and adds another “dramatic” color to her lipstick collection. Quressa is also a member of the 2017-2019 WNDB Walter Grant Committee and holds an MFA in Creative Writing: Fiction from Columbia University. Find her on Twitter at @qnrisawesome.

 

Alexandra LevickLiterary Agent with Writers House. Alexandra Levick has worked with a wide range of established New York Times bestsellers, national award winners, and debut clients. After graduating from the University of Rochester with a degree in English focused on Creative Writing, Alexandra attended New York University where she received her Masters of Science in Publishing with a specialization in Content Development. Prior to Writers House, she spent time at Sterling Lord Literistic, in publicity at Bloomsbury, and as a bookseller for Barnes and Noble. Today, she is building a broad list and works on everything from picture books to speculative adult fiction. Find her on Twitter @AllieLevick.

 

Giselle Anatol Moderator   Author/Professor – Gisell is a professor of English at the University of Kansas. She has edited three collections of essays on popular literature for children and young adults. She is also the author of THE THINGS THAT FLY IN THE NIGHT: Female Vampires in Literature of the Circus-Caribbean and African Diasapora.

 

First question asked was describe a typical day from your side of the desk.

Most of the speakers said they started by reading up on industry news and checking emails before diving in to their day.

Jim Hoover said, “Ideally I’ll have a cover up.” He likes to look at a piece of artwork first thing.

Katie Heit said that since her work is mostly focused on nonfiction, she hits those type of sites first, like the Smithsonian and National Geographic.

Alexandra Levick and Quressa Robinson agreed that there wasn’t really a typical day in the life of an agent. Alexandra said, “If I try to plan, it’s disastrous.” Quressa said that instead of a daily to-do list, she does weekly lists.

Next question asked about their pet peeves.

Almost all responded that it really got under their skin when they received submissions addressed incorrectly, with their name misspelled, queries addressed ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, or addressed to multiple people. (Although Quressa Robinson said she doesn’t like it when you misspell her name, she won’t hold it against you.)

Katie Heit said she also didn’t like it when authors included more than one manuscript in an email submission.

Sarah Jane Abbott clarified her pet peeve a little further: “When people haven’t done their research and send a query way out of my wheel house.”

Next question delved into what writers/illustrators should ask when choosing agent/editor to work with, specifically regarding chemistry.

Sarah Jane Abbott said you should ask about the vision your editor has for your story. If it doesn’t mesh with yours, this is important to know before you get started.

Alexandra Levick said you should ask about edits. Hopefully the goal is to make the book more your own – stronger. Also ask for references from their clients, who will be more honest about how agents work.

Quressa Robinson said you should definitely ask about their agenting style. “Some people aren’t phone people – like me.”

Last question asked when they would be willing to take a risk on a project.

Most responded with a need to feel passionate about the project as the precursor to championing a project.

Jim Hoover said simply if he sees the potential is there.

Katie Heit asked “Does it have a lot of potential?” Then after conversation with the author, can we craft this together? Does this make me really excited?

Alexandra Levick said she needs a really strong vision on how to edit it. Very solid ideas on how to edit and get to end goals.

Alyssa Henkin said if she feels the voice and feels so certain in her love for the story. The plot can be a mess – the plot is fixable.

Breakout Sessions

Alexandra Levick – How to Find the Right Literary Agent

Alexandra did her first internship at the University of Rochester. She worked for Bloomsbury for two years while pursuing a Masters degree where she fell in love with Children’s literature when she took a class on the subject. She currently works with senior agents Rebecca Sherman and Brianna Johnson at Writers House. She started there as an intern under Merrilee Heifetz, Neil Gaiman’s agent.

Alexandra had many great tips on how to go about the process of submitting, including what questions to ask and what information to include in your query letter.

One of the first things you need to have before you get started is a COMPLETED MANUSCRIPT. That’s right. You shouldn’t be querying unless your manuscript is completed. So, if that’s you, stop right now and get back to to your pages.

Finish.

Write on until you reach ‘The End’.

Then, continue reading. (Yes, I am also talking to myself.)

What you will need if you are querying:

  • Query letter
  • Sample pages
  • Synopsis
  • FULL manuscript (which, if you’ve read this far, you now have)

Every agent’s submission guidelines are almost always different. Make sure to do your research so you know what each one expects with a submission. What is important about following these guidelines is to show that you can follow instructions. (Yes, it is a test.)

Another interesting tip Alexandra gave was about using comp titles. The purpose of comps is to convey mood or a book’s place on the shelf. It’s better to have NO comps than to have ‘meh’ comps. Think of your examples in terms of “plot meets tone”. Give one comp title that has a comparable plot to your novel, and one that has a comparable tone. Using movies and songs as well as book titles are fine as well as any combination of the three. Also make sure your comp titles are RECENT! Published within about two years.

You can read about the submission guidelines for Alexandra Levick at Writers House here.

 

Sue Lowell Gallion – Beginnings, Endings, and That Murky Middle

 

 

 

 

Sue Lowell Gallion is the author of PUG MEETS PIG and PUG & PIG TRICK-OR-TREAT, which both received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly. Her latest books are the TIP AND TUCKER early reading series. Sue is the former SCBWI regional advisor of the KS/MO region.

Sue is no stranger to us here in the Oklahoma region of SCBWI. She has been a guest speaker at some of our SCBWI OK events as well as a guest on our monthly #okscbwichat on Twitter.

Sue gave some excellent advice on keeping your writing focused on its true purpose and how to get it unstuck when in the “murky middle”.

She said in the Beginning, sometimes we shortchange the rest of our manuscript when we agonize over the first sentence, the first page, the first hook.

She suggested READING PICTURE BOOKS WITH CHILDREN: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See by Megan Dowd Lambert. It will help you think of all the elements as you create your story.

Examples of stories with great beginnings:

  • ALMA AND HOW SHE GOT HER NAME by Juana Martinez-Neal
  • PENGUINAUT by Marcie Colleen, illustrated by Emma Yarlett
  • QUACKERS by Liz Wong
  • THE KING OF KINDERGARTEN by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Sue said the Middle is where her stories begin to wander because she gets tired of it or it’s time for recess.

Being too predictable can get you stuck in the middle. Ask yourself, does every sentence further the story? Does each trial and failure increase the tension? Make sure to stretch the tension out so your readers want to turn the page.

If you’re feeling lost in the middle, try writing the flap copy.

Examples of stories with great middles:

  • JABARI JUMPS by Gaia Cornwall
  • A KITE FOR MOON by Jane Yolen
  • TRUMAN by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Sue said you’ve got to stick the Ending! Don’t rush it or short-change it. The ending needs to be logical AND completely unexpected.

Most picture books end with hope, even if the story is not happy. And the main character needs to have a hand in the conclusion.

More great examples:

  • A LITTLE CHICKEN by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Dan Taylor
  • HELLO LIGHTHOUSE by Sophie Blackall
  • BOOT AND SHOE by Marla Frazee
  • BUNNY SLOPES and HUNGRY BUNNY by Claudia Rueda
  • CREEPY CARROTS by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown

The best compliment for a story after getting to the end, is that request to “Read it again!”.

 

Quressa Robinson – Plotting and Characterization: The Art of Conflict and Personality

Quressa brought her extensive knowledge to the task of teaching us to go deeper into our work on plot and character development. She put us through several writing exercises, which I always find painful under the best circumstances. Useful, maybe, but painful nonetheless.

She said the tension where a reader holds their breath when turning the page is what makes writing truly great.

(GOALS!)

She walked us through several different plotting triangle scenarios and discussed ascending and descending forces. It was very intense.

Quressa said that everyone’s story is different. The stakes in your story don’t have to be actual life and death, however, they do need to be high enough to matter.

If you’re having a problem with your plot, something that’s helpful is to try plotting backwards. Start at the climax of your story and work backwards. (This was actually the focus of one of the writing exercises – one I found very helpful.)

Also think about listing the external and internal stakes for each of your characters. Are their stakes high enough? What can you do to make them higher?

At one point during our discussion of the writing exercises, Quressa said, “Writing is a communal process.”

That is my favorite quote from this conference. Bar none.

“Writing is a communal process.”

And man, do I love my writing community.

I had a great time attending this conference and I hope to attend more outside my state. I love meeting new people and being around other writers.

What about you?

 

#TBT Post – Why Sensory Detail is Important

I wrote this #ThrowBackThursday post for The Great Noveling Adventure blog and it was originally published on April 21, 2014. 


 

Oriental Poppies by Georgia O'Keefe

Oriental Poppies by Georgia O’Keefe

 

If you’ve ever been told that your story was boring that it lacked excitement or depth or maybe that your dialogue felt like floating heads talking in an empty room, it might have been because you neglected the sensory details.

Tapping into what your characters see, smell, touch, taste, and hear can allow readers to experience the characters’ world on a deeper level. Adding sensory details can anchor your readers in your world, and make your story breathe with believability.

The key is to do this without overwhelming your writing with too many details. Page-long descriptions of what your character looks like can slow the pacing and lose your reader’s attention, sometimes forever. How do you strike that balance between talking heads in empty rooms and info dumps that put your readers to sleep?

I find studying poetry helps.

As this is National Poetry Month, it’s also a nice segue into the importance of reading more poetry for its own sake. What the poets can teach us, aside from paying attention to the rhythm and flow of words, is one thing many of us struggle with – economy of words. Poets also pay close attention to how words sound and feel when they come off the tongue. And more importantly, the emotions words evoke.

This can be the heart of sensory imagery. Word choices that trigger deep memories connected to our senses and can help paint pictures and allow readers to fill in the visual background themselves without you needing to describe every detail for them.

I reviewed a book of poetry this week on my blog that was a collection of poems about my home state. I was amazed at how some of the poems put me in touch with long-forgotten memories. Just the mention of ice old bottles of orange Fanta pulled from a lay-down cooler in one poem took me back to Oklahoma summertime and riding bikes with my friends to the town pool. It was an awakening of the senses from a few stanzas.

With the barest of words, poets can evoke scenes in your mind. “Brushstrokes” as one of my writing friends calls it. This is what you want in your own story.

Just in case you’re not familiar with sensory detail, I thought I’d show a quick example from a writer who does this so well. Here’s what a scene would look like without its sensory details from OUT OF THE EASY by Ruta Sepetys (and then I’ll show you the scene as it originally appears in her book).

 “Hello, Louise.”

“I said, ‘Hello, Louise.’”

“Hello, Willie,” said. Mother. “Willie, this is Josie.”

“So…you’ve returned.”

“Well, it’s been a long time,  Willie. I’m sure you can understand.”

“You look good.”

“I’m keeping to myself,” said Mother.

“Keeping yourself…yes. I heard you had a greenhorn from Tuscaloosa last night.”

“You heard about Tuscaloosa? Oh, he wasn’t a trick, Willie,” said Mother. “He was just a nice fella.”

“A nice fella who bought you those pearls, I guess,” said Willie.

“I’ve got good business,” said Willie. “Men think we’re headed to war. If that’s true, everyone will want their last jollies. We’d work well together, Louise, but…”

“Oh, she’s a good girl, Willie and she’s crazy smart. Even taught herself to read.”

“I don’t like kids.”

“I don’t like ’em much, either.”

“Really? So what do you do…if you don’t like kids?”

“Well, I go to school. I read. I cook, clean, and I make martinis for Mother.”

“You clean and make martinis? Your bow is crooked, girl. Have you always been that skinny?”

“I wasn’t feeling well for a few years,” said Mother quickly. “Josie is very resourceful, and-”

“I see that,” said Willie.

“I skipped first grade altogether and started second grade. Mother lost track I was supposed to be in school-but it didn’t matter much. She told the school we had transferred from another town, and I just started aright in second grade.”

“You skipped the first grade?”

“Yes, ma’am, and I don’t figure I missed anything at all.”

“Don’t ma’am me, girl. You’ll call me Willie. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mrs. Willie,” I replied.

“Not Mrs. Willie. Just Willie.”

“Actually, Willie, I prefer Jo, and honestly, I don’t care much for bows.”

“I didn’t ask for a light,” said Willie.

“No, but you’ve tapped your cigarette fifty-three times…now fifty-four, so I thought you might like to smoke it.”

“Fine Jo, light my cigarette and pour me a Scotch.”

“Neat or on the rocks?” I asked.

“Neat.”

This is what “talking heads” dialogue looks like.

Although, the writing isn’t bad, as is, you have no sense of where they are in time or place, how they are reacting to what’s being said, etc. Let’s see how the scene changes when we add all of the sensory details back in:

 

 “Hello, Louise.”

The voice was thick and had mileage on it. Her platinum-blonde hair was pulled tight in a clasp engraved with the initials W.W. The woman’s eyes, lined in charcoal, had wrinkles fringing out from the corners. Her lips were scarlet, but not bloody. She was pretty once.

The woman stared at me, then finally spoke. “I said, ‘Hello, Louise.’”

“Hello, Willie,” said. Mother. She dragged me in front of the chair. “Willie, this is Josie.”

I smiled and bent my scabby legs into my best curtsy. The arm with the red nails quickly waved me away to the settee across from her. Her bracelet jangled a discordant tune.

“So…you’ve returned.” Willie lifted a cigarette from a mother-of-pearl case and tapped it softly against the lid.

“Well, it’s been a long time,  Willie. I’m sure you can understand.”

Willie said nothing. A clock on the wall swung a ticktock rhythm. “You look good,” Willie finally said, still tapping the cigarette against its case.

“I’m keeping to myself,” said Mother, leaning back against the settee.

“Keeping yourself…yes. I heard you had a greenhorn from Tuscaloosa last night.”

Mother’s back stiffened. “You heard about Tuscaloosa?”

“Oh, he wasn’t a trick, Willie,” said Mother, looking into her lap. “He was just a nice fella.”

“A nice fella who bought you those pearls, I guess,” said Willie, tapping her cigarette harder and harder against the case.

Mother’s hand reached up to her neck, fingering the pearls.

“I’ve got good business,” said Willie. “Men think we’re headed to war. If that’s true, everyone will want their last jollies. We’d work well together, Louise, but…” She nodded in my direction.

“Oh, she’s a good girl, Willie and she’s crazy smart. Even taught herself to read.”

“I don’t like kids,” she spat, her eyes boring a hole through me.

I shrugged. “I don’t like ’em much, either.”

Mother pinched my arm, hard. I felt the skin snap. I bit my lip and tried not to wince. Mother became angry when I complained.

“Really?” Willie continued to stare. “So what do you do…if you don’t like kids?”

“Well, I go to school. I read. I cook, clean, and I make martinis for Mother.” I smiled at Mother and rubbed my arm.

“You clean and make martinis?” Willie raised a pointy eyebrow. Her sneer suddenly faded. “Your bow is crooked, girl. Have you always been that skinny?”

“I wasn’t feeling well for a few years,” said Mother quickly. “Josie is very resourceful, and-”

“I see that,” said Willie flatly, still tapping her cigarette.

I moved closer to Mother. “I skipped first grade altogether and started second grade. Mother lost track I was supposed to be in school-” Mother’s toe dug into my ankle. “But it didn’t matter much. She told the school we had transferred from another town, and I just started aright in second grade.”

“You skipped the first grade?” said Willie.

“Yes, ma’am, and I don’t figure I missed anything at all.”

“Don’t ma’am me, girl. You’ll call me Willie. Do you understand?” She shifted in her chair. I spied what looked like the butt of a gun stuffed down the side of the seat cushion.

“Yes, Mrs. Willie,” I replied.

“Not Mrs. Willie. Just Willie.”

I stared at her. “Actually, Willie, I prefer Jo, and honestly, I don’t care much for bows.” I pulled the ribbons from my thick brown bob and reached for the lighter on the table.

“I didn’t ask for a light,” said Willie.

“No, but you’ve tapped your cigarette fifty-three times…now fifty-four, so I thought you might like to smoke it.”

Willie sighed. “Fine Jo, light my cigarette and pour me a Scotch.”

“Neat or on the rocks?” I asked.

Her mouth opened in surprise, then snapped shut. “Neat.” She eyed me as I lit her cigarette.

 

See the difference? You get sight, sound, and even touch. These sensory details connect you in the world and let you feel what the characters are going through. They paint the scene. So, ready to get started?

If you think you could use a little more poetry in your life to help you get in touch with your sensory details or even to work on your rhythm and pacing and you need some reading suggestions, our state Poet Laureate had a few recommended poets to get you on your way:

Stephen Dunn

Ted Kooser

Billy Collins

Sharons Olds

Tony Hoagland

Mary Oliver

Martin Espada

Charles Bukowski

George Bilgere

Wendell Berry


 

Our Oklahoma Poet Laureate at the time of this post was the dynamic Nathan Brown. I highly recommend his poetry (and maybe even his singing.)

Welcome Back to the Adventure – a TGNA post

tgnahead

 

It’s Media Monday over at The Great Noveling Adventure and we are returning from our summer vacation. I’m discussing what those that are new to our blog can expect to find each day, along with a little motivational surprise at the end.

Here’s a preview:

Media Monday

Welcome back, everyone!

I hope you’re ready for a new season of great writing adventures. We at TGNA are ready, and we hope you’ll join us every week day for a different themed post as we travel along together.

For those who are new to the blog, here’s what to expect:

Media Mondays: These posts will share media gifts with a literary theme for our readers – downloads, printables, playlists, and more.

Travel Tuesdays: These posts will focus on guest posts, interviews, informative link roundups, and sometimes even posts that are actually about travel.

Writing Wednesdays: Excellent craft posts about writing, from beginnings to revisions, and for all levels of ability. You won’t want to miss them.

Things I’ve Read Thursdays: Book reviews! Posts where we get to talk about the thing we love most – books!

List of Five Fridays: Our most intriguing and surprising posts come from our favorite things. A list of five favorites can be anything that inspire us.

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TweetWith the return of TGNA blog posts, comes the return of weekday morning wordsprints on Twitter.

If you’d like some company as you write, please join us! I host AM #wordsprints over on the TGNA group Twitter handle @Novel_Adventure weekdays from 6-8am CST. We sprint in 20 minute blocks with ten minute breaks in between each session. This season, I’m throwing in some fun challenges each day to keep things interesting.

Hope to see you there!

2015 TBR Challenge – BRAVE ON THE PAGE Review

2015tbrbuttonMy third review for the Official 2015 TBR Pile Challenge is BRAVE ON THE PAGE; Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life edited by Laura Stanfill.

The goal of this challenge is “to finally read 12 books from your ‘to be read’ pile within twelve months”. To qualify for the challenge, books must be read and reviewed before the year is over, and all selections must have publishing dates from the year 2013 or older. (Here are the books I’ll be reading this year.)

I met the editor, Laura, through mutual blog admiration a few years ago. When she decided to take the plunge into creating her own small press, I applauded her efforts and followed her progress with great interest. This book is the first book her imprint, Forest Avenue Press, ever produced, but it is far from the last. They’ve actually opened their submissions nationally for the first time this past January. Based in Portland, Oregon, this imprint definitely has a Northwest flair and all the more reason for me to love it.

On to the review!

Brave on the PageBRAVE ON THE PAGE; Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life edited by Laura Stanfill

Published by: Forest Avenue Press

Release Date: October 2012

Genres: Writing Reference

Plot Summary:

Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life is a homegrown writers’ resource featuring interviews and essays by forty-two authors, including Scott Sparling, Yuvi Zalkow, Bart King, Gina Ochsner, Kristy Athens, Joanna Rose and Jon Bell.

“If one was not aware of the vibrant literary community that exists within the state of Oregon, then Brave on the Page would be the perfect introduction to the varied literary voices from the state’s working writers,” said the Los Angeles Review’s Renee K. Nicholson. “Separated into three sections, the first and third consisting of interviews and the second made up of flash essays, this book offers interesting advice and inspiration from journalists, novelists, middle-grade authors, poets, nonfiction writers, writer-activists, short story writers, and all kind of writers in-between.”

“For any aspiring writer who feels lonely at the keyboard, Brave on the Page is a treasure trove of inspiration and advice on the writing life that will without a doubt encourage,” said Portland Book Review reviewer Kristen Leigh. “In an artfully curated collection of interviews and flash essays written by Oregon writers and edited by Laura Stanfill, authors speak candidly with equal parts depth and grace about their craft.” (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

This book not only made me long to move back to Portland, it let me know that when I arrived, I would find a welcoming and supportive writing community. (ALMOST as fantastic as the one I have here in Oklahoma.)

Through many of the writer interviews, you learn that these artists believe in paying things forward, in giving back to their creative community and helping the newer writers along their own journey. I just love that sense of support and encouragement. Writing is HARD! You need mentors to guide you and encourage you.

Through the essays you find inspiration and kindred spirits. Here’s an excerpt from the eponymous essay, “Brave on the Page” by Kristen Forbes:

My writing comes from a place of terror and inadequacy. A few of the fears and insecurities that rattle in my brain on a regular basis: I’m afraid of death (and sometimes life). I’m afraid of failure (and also success). I’m afraid of pushing myself forward (but stagnation, too). I’m afraid of the idea that I may never fully know someone. I’m afraid that no one may ever fully know me. I’m afraid of silly things: technology and gossip. I’m afraid of bigger things: aging and loneliness. I’m frequently afraid of the world. I’m often afraid of myself.

On the page I don’t just write my own endings – I write my own beginnings and middles, too. I’m not at the mercy of things beyond my control; I’m allowed to tell whatever story I want to tell, unconfined by the paralyzing thoughts that plague me in real life.My fictional characters are braver than I’ll ever be.

Then there is the practical writing advice that is unique and interesting. When asked how he captured such intense physical scenes so well in his writing, author of WIRE TO WIRE Scott Sparling said, “I remember Robert Stone saying that the description of a fight is always more of a poem than prose, and that was useful to me.” How fascinating.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Great job, Laura!

Learn more about Laura Stanfill here.

Follow Laura on Twitter here.

 

I am a little behind in posting my reviews, as you can see with this March TBR book post. April’s TBR Challenge book is already finished and waiting to be posted. I shall do this very soon! Dying to crack open May’s book – SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater.

How are your yearly reading challenges going? Read any good books, lately?