Friday, September 20, 2019

Thank you, Lee Bennett Hopkins

Howdy, Campers, and Happy Poetry Friday! My poem, the link to our current book giveaway, and the PF link are all below.

Our current Book Giveaway, which ends September 25th, is for a copy of Deanie Yasner's debut middle grade novel, Essie Rose's RevelationTo enter, go to Esther's latest Student Success Story.

We lost a great one in August—"passionate educator and prolific children's poet and anthologist,* Lee Bennett Hopkins.  

Towards the end of August, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater offered her blog, The Poetry Farm, as a space to honor Lee, who died on August 8th. We at TeachingAuthors are celebrating Lee today.

I first met Lee about 35 years ago through my teacher, poet Myra Cohn Livingston, who was one of Lee's good friends. Over the years, Lee's praise, his honest--and at times, blunt--editorial notes, and the hand he held out to me to write my own books and to write poems for his anthologies, changed my life. Thank you, Lee.

Lee Bennett Hopkins ~ photo by Charles J Egita 

One of Lee's suggestions that I hear every time I write a poem or teach poetry, is: consider each time you use "the" and "a;" can you delete them It's amazing how intimate a poem can become without them.

Here is the cover of his anthology, SURPRISES (Harper and Row, 1984), which was the first I CAN READ poetry book.

And here is "Last Laugh," from that collection, one of my favorite LBH poems. (Keep in mind that in an I CAN READ book, there could only be 36 characters per line, including punctuation and spaces.)

by Lee Bennett Hopkins

They all laughed when I told them
I wanted to be

A woman in space
Floating so free.

But they won't laugh at me
When they finally see
My feet up on Mars
And my face on TV.

Thank you, Lee.

Fellow TeachingAuthor Esther Herschenhorn writes: "Lee's Pass the Poetry, Please! remains my go-to book on poetry for children - re the poems, the reading, the writing."

"He shared what he called his signature poem, "Good Books, Good Times!" in the Afterword of the 1998 Third Edition of this book. He created this poem in 1985 when he was chosen the Children's Book Council's National Book Week Poet. I love the poem. I also love the book's dedication - "To my Poet-friends who make it all possible.'" Click here for the full poem.

In 2009, when Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong asked me to write a poem to be included in their anthology honoring Lee for winning the 2009 NCTE Excellence in Children's Poetry award, I was scared. 
What could I contribute that others wouldn't?  I thought about Lee--what did I really know about him?  I knew that he loved Sondheim. I knew that his mailing address included the word "cove" in it. I pictured a cabin next to a quiet lake. Then I thought about the art of being an anthologist. What must it entail? Gathering, collecting, arranging.  

Although an early draft was from a poem's point of view, I'm glad that this is the version that was published:
for LBH 
by April Halprin Wayland

Walking along the shore at sunset in sandals,
you bend to collect the right rock, the best twig,
the perfect poem.

Washing them in a blue enamel bowl,
you turn on Mozart low,
barefoot in your kitchen by the cove.

Sitting on your heels on the wooden porch,
you position, then reposition each piece.
Here?  Here?

Stomping inside, slamming the door,
you turn on Sondheim

At sunrise in your slippers,
you come out on the porch
to shuffle them again.

Suddenly seeing it:
sequence, order, symmetry—

poem © 2019 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

How I imagine an anthologist works...
collecting, rearranging, creating unity.
photo by April Halprin Wayland

Hark! One more of Lee's anthologies is coming soon!  According to *Publishers Weekly obituary, "His most recently completed work, I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage, features poems from award-winning, diverse authors paired with artwork from illustrators of similar backgrounds, providing portraits of growing up in America. It will be published by Lee & Low in October."

Lee Bennett Hopkins expanded the world of poetry for children. 

Thank you, Lee.

To find out more about him, start with Renee Latulippe's 2013 interview of him at No Water River.

And don’t forget to enter our latest Book Giveaway: win a copy of Deanie Yasner's Essie Rose’s Revelation Summer!  Details here.

Thank you, wonderful Linda B, for hosting at TeacherDance today!

posted with love by April Halprin Wayland with help from Eli, Penny and Gin (Penny and Gin are short-term rentals)

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wednesday Writing Workout: The Villain’s Journey

Today's Wednesday Writing Workout is courtesy of Leanne Pankuch, my "Writing Buddy" and former critique group member. Long-time TeachingAuthors readers may recall this post where I mentioned Leanne. Well, I'm happy to share that Leanne's first novel, Dragon's Truth, was published earlier this year by Vinspire Publishing. In honor of the book's six-month birthday, Leanne is offering a special giveaway of the novel, which you can read about below.
Here's Leanne's official bio:

Born in Canada, Leanne Pankuch now lives in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley. She walks in the woods, plays with her dog, amuses her husband, reads way too many books, and sometimes moonlights as a substitute teacher. She also writes stories about dragons, dogs, and strong female characters who rush headlong into following their dreams with plenty of passion and not much planning. You can follow Leanne through her website and on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Leanne's debut young-adult novel, Dragon's Truth, is a marvelous blend of mystery and fantasy.  Here's a summary:

Fourteen-year-old Rhyannon Kember dreams of dragons, wizards, and magic. She feels constrained by her ordinary life and overshadowed by her beautiful sister Elspeth. When Elspeth is kidnapped, Rhyan embarks on a journey to save her sister and face the evil threatening their world. She finds friendship, adventure, love, and the magic and power she's been craving—but she also discovers a growing darkness within herself. Will she be able to control her abilities and save Elspeth? Will she choose the path of light? Or will she slip into the dragon's darkness?

NOTE: As a special promotion for the six-month publication anniversary of Dragon’s Truth, Leanne is giving away a signed copy of the novel along with a decorative map of the world of Dragon’s Truth. See her website for complete details.

And now, here's Leanne's great WWW, a twist on The Hero's Journey:

Wednesday Writing Workout:
The Villain’s Journey

In addition to fulfilling my dream of writing an epic fantasy with a female main character, my debut YA novel Dragon’s Truth reflects my long-time fascination with the concept of the monomyth, better known as The Hero’s Journey (THJ) – the term coined by academic Joseph Campbell. THJ is a classic story structure shared by many tales from different cultures. As many of you may already know, books (The Hunger Games, the Harry Potter series, The Hobbit), movies (Finding Nemo, Star Wars, Black Panther), and even TV, cable, and online series (Dora the Explorer, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things) have main characters who follow plot-paths that can be mapped to THJ.

But great storytelling doesn’t just involve heroes—you’ve got to have villains/antagonists, too. My main character, Rhyan, would never have set out on her adventure if her sister hadn’t been kidnapped by my villain. And who would Harry Potter have been without Voldemort?

When I sat down to begin the sequel to Dragon’s Truth, I not only plotted my MC’s journey, but my villain’s journey as well—I called this process shadow plotting. I used color-coded notecards and recorded the stages of each character’s movement through THJ—then I laid the cards out in parallel rows, lining them up according to the chapters where they occurred. The process was a revelation! It truly fleshed out my villain in my mind’s eye. For the first time, I recognized him as the hero of his own story—a story that began long before Rhyan ever set out on her adventure. As I began to write, that clearer image in my creative mind translated on to the page. My villain became a fuller and richer character—not just a vague phantom that does evil or is “bad” for some unknown reason. And my fantasy world and Rhyan’s story became more vivid and meaningful as a result.

Ready to try out shadow plotting with your own WIP? Using notecards or a document with labeled columns, answer the following questions about your main character and your antagonist/villain:
  1. Describe the Ordinary World/Setting for the character: What is their life like before their adventure begins? Where do they live? Do they have a family? Are they happy? Bored? 
  2. What is the Catalyst/Call to Adventure that begins the character’s story? Does a secret door open? Do they receive a mysterious letter? Find/need a magical object? Lose their dog? Find out their class is putting on a play? Consider running away? Going to college? Are they kidnapped? Do they meet a stranger? Does an annoying new kid move into town?
  3. When does the Catalyst/Call to Adventure occur for the character? At the beginning/In the first chapter of the book? Before the story in your book begins? Many years before?
Review the cards. Have you learned anything new about your villain/antagonist? Are they content in their life until the hero shows up? Or are they already near the end of their adventure when the hero throws a wrench in their plans? Do they even know/care about the hero and her quest/goal?

No matter your genre or format and regardless of your chosen plotting or structure device or plot/writing bible—The Writer’s Journey, Save the Cat, Wired for Story, Wonderbook, The Plot Whisperer, The Snowflake Method, etc.—I truly believe that shadow plotting can be a valuable, insightful tool for adding depth and authenticity to your characters and their story.
Our thanks to Leanne for today's WWW. Do let us know if you try this exercise, and how it works for you. And don't forget to enter to win a signed copy of the Dragon's Truth and a cool map! See Leanne's website for details. And if you haven't yet entered our TeachingsAuthors giveaway of Deanie Yasner's debut middle-grade novel, Essie Rose’s Revelation Summer, you can do so on this page.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Student Success Story + BOOK GIVEAWAY!

I love when my students and writers prove me right.
And Deanie Yasner, today’s Student Success Story star and author of the just-released middle grade novel Essie Rose’s Revelation Summer (Golden Alley Press), has done just that!

It was the fall of 2010 and Deanie, recently retired from teaching special education and working as a behavior consultant, was going for her Dream! She longed to write for children, so she’d sent on her picture book manuscript “Sammy’s Choice.” I recognized her talent instantly.  “You,” I told her, “are a Writer, with a deserved capital ‘W,’and a Writer for children.” She was sitting in the right church and in the right pew.

Soon she became the subject of my May 25, 2011 TeachingAuthors Shout-Out:
“A newly-declared and mighty talented children’s book writer, Deanie bravely applied for and won a full scholarship to Highlights’ upcoming Chautauqua. Her first-ever picture book submission brought a response in less than 24 hours!”

Boyds Mills Press’ High Five Magazine published “Finding Room for Teddy” in October, 2012.
Several magazine stories followed, in High Five and Ladybug, but it was her story she wanted and needed to tell to children. As she tells her Reader in her novel’s introduction, "I was an Old Soul child growing up in the deep South in the 1950’s, a member of the only Jewish family in a town where there were so many things I did not understand; for instance, the Jim Crow laws that kept people  separated by their skin tone.”

Deanie began writing Essie Rose Ginsberg’s story in 2013.  She’d never written a novel, period, let alone a novel for middle grade readers.  She’d never written historical fiction.
She knew the time. She knew the place.  She knew what the story was about:  loneliness, loyalty, bullying, friendship, loss and best of all, courage.
With such courage, Deanie kept on keepin’ on – learning her craft, honing her craft, revising like there was no tomorrow.  Rejections and admiring declines almost won out until she and Essie Rose wound up just where they belonged, with Golden Alley Press.

Golden Alley Press’ catalogue copy sums up Essie Rose’s Revelation Summer perfectly.

“There are so many things I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.”
     What happens when the lone Jewish girl in a small Mississippi town challenges the rules of segregation in the hot summer of 1953?
     Essie Rose Ginsberg, writer, loner, and all-time worrier, is hoping for a carefree summer vacation. But when the family’s beloved housekeeper is suddenly called away, Essie Rose must figure out how to "get on with her business" and make her Pearlie May proud. 
     When Daddy’s store is vandalized, when mean girls bully her, when her entry in the town’s essay contest is jeopardized because Pearlie May is not a Caucasian, Essie Rose’s worries become a reality. 
     The Fourth of July comes and goes without Pearlie May's return. Will she make it home in time for Essie Rose's 11th birthday? Will the Ginsbergs remain in Tipton, or will increasing discrimination and danger finally force them to return up North? 
     Read over her shoulder as Essie Rose captures it all in her Writer’s Notebook, chronicling a summer of friendship, love, loyalty, and “getting on with her business.

Thank you, Deanie, for so generously and bravely sharing yourself, your writing and Essie Rose with our TeachingAuthors Readers.  You give us heart and hope.
May your pluck and courage, as well as Essie Rose’s, help all of us keep keepin’ on to tell our stories!
Oh, and don’t forget, Readers, to enter our Book Giveaway to win a copy of Essie Rose’s Revelation Summer!  See the details below.  Deanie and her publisher Nancy Sayre are offering TWO copies, which means TWO winners!

Happy Successing!

Esther Hershenhorn

. . . . . . . . . . . .

It’s been nine years since I first welcomed you to the Children’s Book World, Deanie.  And now here you are, after several published stories in Ladybug and High Five, a Highlights Chautauqua scholarship, a contest win and attendance at numerous Writers Conferences, the author of your very first middle grade novel, Essie Rose's Revelation Summer. What might be just a few of the revelations you’ve experienced on this most singular Writer’s Journey – about the writing process, about writing for children, about yourself?
The most significant revelations I have experienced about the writing process itself were the demands it made on me to let go of my own preconceived notions, ideas, and expectations of what and who my characters were. I learned to muster my patience and trust to them to talk to me instead of me talking to them. I discovered that the writing process is simultaneously laborious and glorious, even mysterious.
When it came to writing for children, I discovered how difficult it was at times to take my adult self out of the picture and become a child so that I could experience the world through Essie Rose Ginsberg’s eyes and not Deanie Yasner’s. When those moments actually occurred, the experience was truly magical.
About myself, I discovered that I possessed the kind of courage, perseverance, determination and faith in this project that sustained me during all phases of this journey.  I also learned I could withstand the emotional roller coaster of having to dig deep within my soul to make my story authentic and my characters real and pure.

It was June of 2013 when we first worked together on this story.  Back then it was a novel in verse. Each meet-up, each iteration brought you a new challenge, something new to learn.  What were some of those challenges and new things you learned – and – most important, what enabled you to keep on keepin’ on?
With each meet-up and all the iterations it took to get this story to its completion, I learned the power of letting go of what didn’t work, the power of patience in letting the story unfold in its own way, and to embrace the uncertainty and surprises along the way.

Marion Dane Bauer advises writers: put your story in the story you’re telling if you want it to re-sound in your readers’ hearts.  Where does your story intersect with Essie Rose Ginsberg’s?
This story was truly mine to tell.  I was, and in many ways still am, Essie Rose Ginsberg. Like my character, I grew up a Jewish child in a small southern town in Mississippi where I felt different, with many things happening around me that I truly did not understand. Like my character, I am still a worrier, an observer, and a writer.

What do you hope Essie Rose's Revelation Summer means to your Readers?
It is my hope that my readers will be inspired and determined to do as Essie Rose did: muster their courage to be their best selves and find their own way to make their voices heard.

The writing process is a whole different animal from the publishing process, with its very own set of challenges.  Please share a little of bit of how you worked with your Golden Alley Press publisher/editor and how she’s readied you for this new chapter in your writer’s life?
From the very beginning, working with Nancy Sayre, my publisher and editor, proved to be an exercise in flawless communication as we progressed through our weekly real-time editing sessions. We worked page-by-page and had extra conversations when we needed to resolve specific issues. While challenging at times, the process was both exciting and educational as I quickly learned to trust Nancy’s insightful and creative editing skills.  Nancy expertly guided me through all phases from editing to launching. Now we’re working on marketing the book together.

You’re a Picture Book writer as well as a Middle Grade novelist.  What do you love about each of these singular formats?
I love the separate challenges each genre demands – the tightness and word constriction of “less” when writing a picture book, and the freedom of “more” when writing a novel.

When you cradle your book, as I know you’ve done often, and pinch both arms to make sure this is happening, what are you thinking now, what words do you exclaim?
That I am privileged to have experienced the exquisite joy of having created something …a book…from nothing…that my soul is alive and well as I exclaim in the words of Pearlie May Gibbs: AMEN AND HALLELUJAH.

Finally, what Words of Advice do you have for fellow writers traveling their Writers’ Plotlines?
I might advise my fellow writers:  Trust the process and never give up!

Oh, and since today is Poetry Friday and we connect with Writing the World for Kids, which just happens to be the blog of former TeachingAuthor Laura Salas, who is your favorite poet?
My favorite poet is Emily Dickenson.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Book Giveaway Instructions:

To enter our drawing for a chance to win Essie Rose’s Revelation Summer, use the Rafflecopter widget below.  You may enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options.

If you choose option 2, you MUST leave a comment on TODAY’S blog post or on
our TeachingAuthors Facebook page. If you haven’t already “liked” our Facebook page, please
do so today!
(If you prefer, you may submit your comment via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.)

Note: if you submit your comments via email or Facebook, YOU MUST STILL ENTER THE DRAWING VIA THE WIDGET BELOW.  The giveaway ends September 25 and is open to U.S. residents only.

If you’ve never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here’s info on how to enter a Rafflecopter
giveaway and the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

a Rafflecopter giveaway ;

Friday, September 6, 2019

Early Mornings From My Window

Spring and summer are my favorites.
Sunshiny  days.
Early mornings on my patio.
A cup of coffee,
my journal,
and a smooth writing pen
completes my morning ritual.

By Gwendolyn Hooks

Friday, August 30, 2019

My End of Summer Workspace and a Related Poem

We TeachingAuthors been sharing pictures of the view from, or of, our workspace, so let me start with this one:

This photo isn't exactly the view from my workspace. I took it while on my afternoon walk through the neighborhood. The tree caught my attention because its leaves are already starting to change colors. Can you tell? As beautiful as it is, for me, the tree is a sad reminder that summer is winding down, at least here in North America.

I'd been hoping to get away for a writing retreat this month, to spend several days focused on my current work-in-progress. And I'd planned to have pictures to share from that retreat. Sadly, I didn't manage to get away. Instead, I've been setting aside days at home devoted to the project. The following photo was taken in my office, and it will give you some clues about my project.

As you've probably guessed, I've been spending time reading and writing poetry. Of course, if you subscribe to my Creativity Newsletter, you already knew that. I shared a draft of a just-for-fun poem in my last newsletter and you can read it online here. (If you'd like to subscribe to the newsletter, which I send out every other month, you can do so here.)

In addition to reading and writing poetry, I've been listening to it, too, thanks to the Daily Poem podcast. That's where I recently heard Jane Kenyon's Three Songs at the End of Summer.   
Here's an excerpt from the poem:

Three Songs at the End of Summer (excerpt)
            by Jane Kenyon

A second crop of hay lies cut  
and turned. Five gleaming crows  
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,  
and like midwives and undertakers  
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,  
parting before me like the Red Sea.  
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Across the lake the campers have learned  
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.  
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone  
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,  
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.  
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod  
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;  
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese. . . .

       Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. 

Read all of “Three Songs at the End of Summer” at the Poetry Foundation website.

I'm looking forward to reading lots more great poetry today via the Poetry Friday roundup, which is hosted this week by Australian author and poet Kathryn Apel.

Remember to always Write with Joy! 

Friday, August 23, 2019

3 Dogs in My Writing Room!

Howdy, Campers, and Happy Poetry Friday!  (My poem and the link to PF is below.)

For a short and sunny summer read, we TeachingAuthors are posting the view from my / of my work space.  So far, Bobbi's shared summer windows and her animal editors , Mary Ann shared two rooms with a view...and coffee, Esther offered us picture book author Zakieh Mohammed's Wednesday Writing Workoutand then she shared a photo of the "one wonderous addition" from her summer windows.

If I turned around from my desk, I'd see Eli chewing on whatever toy he's chosen from his toy drawer...

...but usually I'm poeming, politicking and bouncing on the BOSU ball I stole from my husband years ago:

working at my desk, August 2013.
Photo by Jone MacCulloch
This is Our Summer of Dogs. My son and his fiancee are overseas, so Eli's two "nieces," Penny (the smart, shy, territorial butterscotch and white 8-year-old) and Gin (the bouncy, licky black 9-month-old puppy whose sibling's name was Tonic), are staying with us. For six weeks.

Everyone has chosen a toy from Eli's toy drawer.

Since Jone took the photo of me on the Bosu ball above, I've turned my desk to face the wall. (I rescued the letters from a business that was changing its name.)

Three dogs has been an adjustment.

That's the understatement of the year. I know it's not the same as moving to another state, changing my name, or becoming an electrician. Still, it feels as if I'm working on a master's degree in walking three dogs and picking up more than one poop at a time.

by April Halprin Wayland

One dog is just one.
Him and me.
Hear me hum.

Two dogs are just fine.
Two dogs.
In two straight lines.

Three dogs?  My gosh—unstoppable!
Friends say they will strengthen me.                                                   (I say they are all adoptable!)

poem (c) 2019 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

Have a wonderful last whiff of summer or beginning of a new school year, Campers!

And thank you, Amy, for hosting Poetry Friday at The Poem Farm
This week, Amy's hosting a celebration of the life of Lee Bennett Hopkins; she invites everyone who wishes to share a poem inspired by or including a line from a LBH poem. Tag with #DearOneLBH.  

Stay tuned! TeachingAuthors will continue the appreciation
of Lee's poetry on September 20th.

posted by April Halprin Wayland, with the help of Eli, Penny and Gin, with love

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Views From MY Windows This Summer…

I’m happy to report: this summer’s views from my Chicago hi-rise’s windows remain the same as shared in my July post two years ago… with but one wondrous addition when looking south:


I’m also happy to report: like Christine at today’s Poetry Friday link, I too have been wondering and wandering.
Feast your eyes on but a few of the people, places and “animals” my iPhone camera captured the past three months.

Enjoy the view wherever you are wandering and wondering!

Esther Hershenhorn

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Wednesday Writing Workout: The Reader’s Role

Meet my fellow Chicago writer, debut author Zakieh Mohammed, an award-winning teacher and Chicago public school administrator who kindly created today’s Wednesday Writing Workout.
Ripple Grove Press released Zakieh’s picture book A Girl Named October, gorgeously illustrated by Andrea Tripke, this past spring.

October’s story is especially timely, given the current demand for children’s books that address the importance of kindness and empathy.  She navigates her days, unaware how even the smallest memory, interaction and expression can impact the larger world.

It was Zakieh’s hope that by reaching the Reader and meaningfully interacting, October’s questions become the Reader’s.
She notes on her book’s dedication page that October was inspired by her youngest sister who spoke the central line - “I’m touching the world.”  The spirit and depth of those words stayed with Zakieh, even after her sister lost her battle with leukemia at the age of nine.

The flap copy notes, “Touching the world is no longer an abstract idea, but a concrete action that reveals how everything we do affects everyone around us.”

Reviewers lauded the text’s poetry, the lighthearted approach, yet the powerful message that everything around us holds value and offers connectivity.

Thank you, Zakieh, for reminding us of our role as authors.  We pose the questions, not answer them for our Readers. Answering them is our challenged Reader’s Role.

Enjoy today’s Wednesday Writing Workout!

Esther Hershenhorn

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Reader’s Role

     A Girl Named October asks a great deal of the reader. The pictures the illustrator drew capture the tone and spirit of the story, but the text itself is ultimately a series of unanswered questions about our place in the world and the power of our presence in everything.

     When I taught, stories expanded my students’ exposure to literature, demonstrated elements of writing, and allowed my students to become more reflective and ask themselves questions through the lens of their value system, bias, expectation, and hope.

● Why are we afraid to try things that are new or different? Green Eggs and Ham
● Why can telling the truth be difficult? The Emperor’s New Clothes
● Is the loss of one’s ideal equal to the loss of one’s life? Things Fall Apart

     The authors do not answer the questions for us, but pose them, and challenge us to consider the questions through ourselves and our own sensibilities. Whether the author is asking an overarching question, or a series of questions, creating an interplay between the printed story and the Reader is important, and an exercise all writers should undertake.

     Asking your Readers to reflect on their beliefs does not mean you are challenging their beliefs; rather you are allowing the reader space to unpack and better understand their truth. When developing a character or storyline, do you want the story to read in a monologic way or do you want to create opportunities for internal and external dialogue?

     A story allows us to do something so many mediums do not; we get to explore and discover even after the words have been formally printed onto a page. It is important to become the Reader to determine if what you as the author intended, does ask the Reader to reflect and struggle. In A Girl Named October, the Reader is part of the quest for answers, and is asked to respond for the silent protagonist:

● “I’m touching the world,” she said, her world seeming pleasant, calm, and full of purpose.
“There are so many ways, aren’t there?
● “I’m standing on the world,” she responded with certainty. Then, pointing at my feet, she asked, “Aren’t you?”
● “October smiled, handing me one [a book]. “When I read them, I can see farther. Can’t you?”
● “I speak loudly when I say nothing at all. You heard me, didn’t you?”

     Whether a picture book, chapter book, young adult novel, or adult novel-- whether a simple idea, humorous narrative, dramatic tale, or epic thriller, a writer needs to establish whether their story asks anything of the Reader,  whether what they are asking will resonate, and whether their story can ask more of the Reader.

     Using your manuscript(s) draft, write down your answer to the question: “What question(s) am I asking the Reader to explore?”

Consider what question(s) you want your Readers to ask themselves that go beyond the character and story, and towards reflection. You are asked to write down your response because, as writers, we know our stories backwards and forwards, in our head and in our heart, and assume our story’s message is clear; but, oftentimes, feedback suggests the motivation behind a character’s actions needs strengthening.

     If the story is about sharing, are you trying to teach a child about fairness? Equity? Kindness? There is no wrong answer, but it has to be the right question. Whether it is for a picture book or novel, the question you are posing to the Reader is critical to the engagement and investment of the Reader. This technique is different than being asked to write down the theme of your story. The theme can be a word or phrase, but it is static. Establishing the question you want to explore with your Readers makes your manuscript dynamic.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Two Rooms with a View

We Teaching Authors are looking out our windows this month (what else would you do in August?)
Coffee and a laptop on the deck.

To be honest, my home office has zero view. It was originally a tiny living room with plantation shutters. If you open the shutters the view is...a bunch of shrubbery, grown to where there is no view.  It's so claustrophobic, I only use it when I don't need to be inspired...just focused. Revisions and research and such. Nothing like a no-view room to keep you on task.

Here is where my laptop and I spend the majority of time in good weather...the back deck. Our lot is so heavily wooded that in summer I can imagine I'm on a Vermont mountain top (if I ignore the ancient swing set we've never gotten around to taking down.) We are surrounded by neighbors, but unless someone is mowing the lawn or using a chain saw, I feel alone in the woods.

We also have a rental house on Ocean Isle Beach, NC. We spend a lot of time there during the off-season (Oct-May) because it stays rented the rest of the time. When my husband and I designed it, I made sure to put in a writing porch off the master bedroom. Now that is some view.
Need coffee!

The ocean calms me, even on the days when it's so gloomy, you can't tell where the sky ends and the sea begins. For me a calm mind is a working mind. All the negative you-don't-know-what-you're-doing gremlins disappear. Words materialize on the page. Magic! When weather forces me inside, the view is the same from the dining room table. Even when fog rolls in, rain falls, and the waves explode on the shore, my creative mind stays in a Zen-like state.
And coffee appears, along with creativity.

No matter what the view, this is what writers aspire to achieve, this condition of creative mindfulness, aka, The Zone.  Go forth, and find your Creative Zone.
Find the horizon...I dare you!

Sunrise the morning before Hurricane Michael last fall.