Monday, May 5, 2014

A Writer's Potpourri of Clippings

I confess: I clip articles almost daily from printed newspapers and magazines delivered to my address.
(Home-delivered newspapers?  How about THAT for dating myself?!) 

Article-clipping is a Family Thing.
My mother clipped.  My sister still clips. 
My nieces and cousins do too.
Recipes. Advice columns.  Interviews.  Book reviews.  Movie write-ups.  Funny cartoons.  Touching quotes. 
Oh, and death notices and marriage announcements.
In other words, anything and everything that when sent says, “I saw this and I thought of you!”
I and my family’s current generation of women use – with great optimism, the U.S. Mails to share our clippings. 
The younger generation sends link-bearing emails or attached scans.
For obvious reasons, many of the articles my family sends on to me pertain to writing, children's books and authors.  Those clippings have a pile all their own, a pile I, the Happy Clipper add to often.  I call it My Writer’s Pile and it’s totally separate from my Story Ideas Pile.
Sometimes when I’m clipping an article, or truthfully, unevenly tearing out a section of a page, I have no idea WHY. 
The piece or item simply spoke to me and I think, “I bet I could use this someday.”
Sometimes, though, I know the recipient instantly– a fellow writer, a former student, a school class I’m about to visit, or even my TeachingAuthors readers.
Thinking Spring, I titled this post “A Writer's Potpourri of Clippings."
In checking the correct spelling and definitions, however – “a mixture of flowers, herbs, and spices that is usually kept in a jar and used for scent” and “a miscellaneous collection,” my eyes slipped down the page to discover the word’s 1749 origin – the French words -  pot pourri” for “rotten pot.”
Which got me thinking…
I often liken the writing process and that of growing a story (as well as a career) to the process inherent in maintaining a compost pile and its clippings.
Maybe magic of sorts is going on within My Writer’s Pile and I don’t even know it!
Toss the following three clippings into your Writer’s (Compost) Pile and see what happens.

By Nara Schoenberg, Tribune Newspapers – March 4, 2014
 “Plant-based baby names for girls overall are on the rise, and 10 previously low-profile botanicals – Lily, Violet, Willow, Hazel, Ivy, Olive, Dahlia, Juniper and Azalea – have risen rapidly.
 These 10 fast-rising names were given to a total of 19,500 baby girls in 2012 – more babies than received the No. 3 girls’ name, Isabella (18,900), according to data from the Social Security Administration."
I sent the original of this article to Cousin Jane in New Jersey whose first-born granddaughter is named Violet – after - I scanned and filed the article on my computer’s Hard Drive.
FYI: apparently there’s no parallel botanical trend in naming boys although the nature name “Canyon” has had recent traction (No. 1,462).
Naming characters is any writer’s job!
(Photo courtesy of Morgue File/mirabbi249-37-0)

An eclectic blog uncovers the tales behind strangers’ tattoos
By Lauren Morrow, O Magazine - April, 2013
I loved reading about and visiting illustrator Wendy MacNaughton’s and writer Isaac Fitzgerald’s blog Pen & Ink which reveals “the often hilarious, sometimes poignant stories behind these permanent remnants of our fleeting opinions, passions, and phases.”
Apparently I wasn’t alone.
This Fall Bloomsbury USA releases the two bloggers’ book PEN & INK: TATTOOS AND THE STORIES BEHIND THEM.
I haven’t used the idea or passed it on – ’til now.
Don’t you wonder sometimes, when you see an inked dolphin peeking out above a neighbor’s collar, “Why a dolphin?”
Or just what tattoo you might choose, if you haven’t already, and you want to break loose?
A character’s tattoos are a great way to come at knowing your Hero and knowing your Villain.

Artists’ book celebrates the
freedom and craft of art journaling
By Heather Schroering, Tribune Newspapers – April 20, 2014
Another two-partner idea – this time by Jenny Heid and Aaron Nieradka: scrapbooking with more layers and textures.                                                                      
Another blog: Everyday Is a Holiday.
When speaking to Young Authors, I advocate Journaling every chance I get.
I liked the fun idea this article suggested of adding Ephemera – such as handwritten letters, maps, vintage photos, fabric, movie and concert tickets, old game pieces, you-name-it.
I bet kids would like it too!
And instantly they’d SEE the value of concrete details.
I also think it’s yet another way for writers, young and old, to come at knowing their characters – and that’s why I scanned this article and emailed it to two of my writers.
For the record, and though a Luddite at heart,
I do actually read newspapers, journals and magazines online daily and find myself more and more (sigh) cutting-and-pasting, copying and/or scanning and emailing myself links to fascinating articles.
I hate to waste an interesting idea!
Esther Hershenhorn


LInda Baie said...

There is so much here I'd like to have a conversation, Esther! I have several old books from family that seem filled with articles cut from newspapers. I miss my mother and my mother-in-law who used to send clippings all the time. Now, my daughter and I send via e-mail, almost the same, but not quite. And we have several 'flower' names in our school now, I see the trend. Finally, love the look of that final book. All the students in school journal, as I have for many years, & we do urge them in journals & writers notebooks to add ephemera. I taught the older students & still have them returning & telling me they've kept all those journals/notebooks. I imagine when they're older, they will treasure them even more. Such a rich post-thank you!

Liz Steinglass said...

What a fun post. I love that you all clip things and send them to one another. Thank you for sharing a few of your clippings with us. I'm especially intrigued by the tattoo stories.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Thanks, Linda and Liz, for taking the time to comment.
I'm glad I struck a chord.
I'm especially glad to read, Linda, how your students "art journal."
FYI: this morning I clipped an article from my Chicago Tribune by Geoff Ziezulewicz - "What will happen to the life we lead online when we die?"
I can't find a link to it yet...but who knew there was a term "digital archeology" and that companies like Facebook have provisions for what happens to our posts when we're no longer on Earth hitting those keys?!

Janet McDonnell said...

Excellent advice! Even for a picture book writer.

Janet McDonnell said...

Woops, commented on the wrong post. The "excellent advice" comment was meant for the Kate Hannigan advice. As for this post, I'd like to thank you for the "stories behind tattoos" link. Fascinating stuff!

jan godown annino said...

Oh, synchronchronicity, this post calls out my name.
I'm a paper doll, too Esther.
Guilty - like picking up that paper newspaper at the end of the driveway. (And on weekends, the lovely local one is kept company by the NYT.)
Guilty - the snips of magazine, newsletter, bulletin, flyer, newspaper & the like all stuck in files.
Paper files from file cabinet days. We even have a golden oak file cabinet my husband found, a deal.
All these articles are story starters & fabulous posts, articles, workshop ideas, especially with spring, the Dahlia, Aster, Violet, names...
Thank you for your paper confessions.

And I know from Txtng Mama, Txtng Baby, you are also an up to the minute, digital gal, too... TY!

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for this, Esther! I'm a clipper, too. And I'm happy to say that the inspiration for my short story that was published in the I FOOLED YOU anthology came from a newspaper clipping in my Idea folder. Like you, I still clip from the paper editions. However, I also store links and articles on my computer and I have to admit they tend to be easier to find there.