Friday, October 25, 2019

2 Tips for Bridging the Middle Plus 2 Book Suggestions

Today I have the honor of kicking off our next TeachingAuthors topic: "Messy Middles." But before I get to my post, I want to congratulate the winner of our latest TeachingAuthors giveaway:


Carl will soon be receiving an autographed copy of Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons: An Enslaved Woman Fights For Freedom by my fellow TeachingAuthor, Gwendolyn Hooks. Our thanks to all who entered. Be sure to stay tuned--we'll have one more giveaway before the year ends. 

Now, for today's topic: It recently occurred to me that, while we've discussed story beginnings and the inspiration for them, we've never devoted a series to discussing middles. The reason? It's not an easy topic to address.

I'm currently teaching a writing class at College of DuPage called "Beginnings, Middles, and Ends," which is named for the book by Nancy Kress that we use as our class text. In the text, Kress herself has difficulty providing a precise definition for what we mean by the middle of a story.  She describes it in part as follows (italicized in the text):
"The middle of a story develops the story’s implicit promise by dramatizing incidents that increase conflict, reveal character, and put in place all the various forces that will collide at the story’s climax."
She goes on to say:
"In other words, the middle is a bridge—sometimes a long, winding bridge, sometimes a short, direct one. At one end of the bridge, the story's beginning introduces characters, conflict and (sometimes) symbols. Then in the middle, these same characters, conflicts, and (sometimes) symbols move across the bridge . . . . Some people change during their journey across the bridge; some don’t. Conflicts deepen. People become more emotional. The stakes may rise. By the time the characters reach the other end of the bridge, the forces determining their behavior are clear. At the far end of the bridge, these same forces will collide (the story’s climax)."
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Building that bridge can be a tricky process, especially if you're a pantser like me. (As I explained in this post, pantsers are writers who don't plot a novel in advance, but instead write by the "seat of their pants." The opposite of a pantser is a plotter--a writer who creates an outline or some sort of road map before actually writing the story.) 

While middles can cause problems for picture book and short story writers, too, the two tips I'm sharing today are probably most useful for novelists.

1. Feel free to write your story out of sequence.

When I was working on the middle of my first novel, Rosa, Sola, I got stuck. I didn't know what should happen next. After banging my head against a wall for a few days, I realized that I DID know what needed to happen a few chapters ahead, near the end of the novel. So I wrote that future scene next. I then created a patchwork of scenes to fill the gap--working on each scene as it occurred to me rather than in the story's chronological order. This seems such an obvious solution now, but when I share it with my writing students it often has the same AHA! effect it had on me at the time.

Image by sewingdirectory from Pixabay
 2. If your story takes a wrong turn, becomes boring to you, or you lose energy for it, reread it from the beginning and stop at the last scene where you're still interested/engaged in the story. 

I ran into this problem while writing Playing by Heart. I got to a point in the middle of the novel where I couldn't move forward. I realized it was because I didn't like the story anymore. When I reread the draft, I discovered that my protagonist, Emilia, had made a choice that was out of character, and that had sent her on a detour that made no sense. After I cut that out-of-character scene and all that followed, I was able to get the story got back on course.

My two book suggestions if you're having middle troubles: 

As you might guess, I recommend Kress's Beginnings, Middles, and Ends to writers struggling with middles. In addition to helpful tips and concrete examples, the book includes practical exercises to use on your own projects. The book is from Writer's Digest Books' Elements of Fiction Writing series and was initially published in 1993. Even though the publisher re-released it in paperback in 2011,  some of the content is a bit dated, but overall I think it's still a valuable tool for addressing issues not only with middles, but beginnings and ends, too.

By the way, if Kress's book sounds familiar, it may be because I included it on a list of twelve writing craft books I recommended in a post several years ago.

James Scott Bell was the author of not one, but two books on that list. My second suggestion for those dealing with middle issues is another of his craft books: Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between. I heard Bell speak at a writing conference about the approach he takes in this book, and it sounds like an intriguing one. I have to confess, I haven't tried it yet myself, but several authors I know have found the book helpful. If you've read Bell's book, please share your response to it in the comments. And if you have any suggestions for coping with messy middles, do let us know!

Don't forget to check out this week's Poetry Friday roundup hosted by Karen Edmisten.

Remember to always Write with Joy!

Friday, October 18, 2019

BRAVE THE PAGE: Any Writer’s Fuel – Young or Not - for NaNoWriMo and/or Simply Writing a Novel!

I know, I know. I can read the small print.  NaNoWriMo’s BRAVE THE PAGE’s subtitle clearly reads: “A Young Writer’s Guide to Telling Epic Stories.”

And if indeed, you are an elementary, middle school or high school writer planning to participate in NaNoWriMo in 13 days, or if you teach and/or work with and/or encourage such young writers planning to do the same, this book will not only guide and get you and/or your NaNoWriMo participants to the November 30 Finish Line; it ensures you’ll all keep keeping on in the 12 months that follow - revising, editing, submitting, connecting.
I offer an enthusiastic Thumbs Up to the authors, Rebecca Stern and Grant Faulkner, for delivering on their promise.
BRAVE THE PAGE (Viking, 2019) is a must-have/must-read book for any Young Writer planning to experience NaNoWriMo.

But here’s the thing. 
BRAVE THE PAGE succeeds so well at informing, inspiring and encouraging young novelists, it’s a must-have/must-read resource for writers of any age, of any kind of story, NaNoWriMo-engaged or not.
I’m raising all five hand digits to wildly High-Five each author twice!
BRAVE THE PAGE proves the truth that when an adult needs to learn and understand a particular subject matter, say, how to write a story, he or she should begin by reading a relevant children’s book. 😊

So, a few FYI Facts concerning NoWriMo, pronounced na-noh-rye-mo, the annual, Internet-based “creative writing project” that has taken place every November since 1999.

The goal for each participant: to write a 50,000 word manuscript. Writers, called “Wrimos,” intentionally focus on quantity vs. quality so they’ll have a first draft from which to work in subsequent revisions. 
The NaNoWriMo website offers resources, encouragement, tips and connections to a supportive community of writers.  Twenty-one Wrimos participated in 1999.  Today NaNoWriMo boasts 798,162 active novelists and 367,913 completed novels.

NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program offers a bounty of resources for the under-18 young writers and the K-12 educators who encourage them. For instance, writers can use an on-site writing space, Young Novelist Workbooks and Novel Notes for brainstorming, character sketching, research, etc. There’s also Camp NaNoWriMo. And young writers can indeed alter their word count – 1,000 words a day or even 20,000.

BRAVE THE PAGE is the latest offering from the Young Writers Program.  The NaNoWriMo-experienced authors know first-hand the writing process, the elements of story, a writer’s inner story and journey plus a whole host of tools that concretely instruct and guide. As important, they know their audience of young writers and how best to reach (and teach) them.

The Table of Contents scaffolds the content perfectly:

An introduction in which award-winning author Jason Reynolds likens writing a story to the experience of moving – “Pack, load, journey, unload, unpack. That’s a novel.” - plus a warm and grounding welcome to NaNoWriMo and its participants.
Part 2 GET SET
Part 3: WRITE!
Part 4: NOW WHAT?

The meaty, timely issues and questions presented within each of the four parts are truly those of any writer, young or once-young.

Where do ideas come from?
What kinds of writers are there?
How does one create a writing routine?
How does one plan a story?
How best to recruit characters and plot a plot and build a story’s world?
How best to begin?
What can be done when doubts and fears appear?
Oh, and what about what follows when the end is reached? How to edit and revise? How can writers keep writing?

All of the above, and then some, are answered and addressed by (1) several of today’s beloved children’s book authors (John Green, Marissa Meyer, Jennifer Niven, Daniel Jose Older, Danielle Page, Celia C. Perez, Scott Westerfield), especially in their affirming Pep Talks, (2) by numerous NaNoWriMo-experienced young writers and (3) via referenced children’s books familiar to all.  For instance,

From a Pep Talk by Marissa Meyer as to how to begin, “Write down the things you already love about your story. Or, start a list of what you like in other novels. Brainstorm challenges your  protagonist could encounter. Create a story playlist. Visualize success.”

“Set your word-count goal to something a bit longer than any story you’ve ever written before, but don’t overreach….Remember, you can always change your word-count goal halfway through story. – Simon, age 11

On Third Person Narrators: “The narrator tells us the thoughts, feelings and actions of one or more character, using the pronouns he, she, and they. Number the Stars, by Lois Lory, is an example of a book told in the third person.

Fortunately, the authors included the Dare Machine, “a magical machine” of sorts from the Young Writers Program website that puts forth prompts, tips and exercises.  In Part 1, the Dare Machine helps the writer begin; in Part 2, it helps the writer develop characters, create settings and figure out a plot.  In Part 3, it helps the writer move the story forward.  Part 3 also breaks the month down, and thus the writing – into weeks 1 through 4.  And again, it does so purposefully and concretely.

     For instance, concerning that Inner Editor who resides inside all writers,

     “Close your eyes and picture that person.
       Now draw that person.
       Not take that picture and throw it a going-away part!
      Then put that picture somewhere out of sight until you finish your draft.”

BRAVE THE PAGE provides a Writer’s Lair, a safe place to assess progress, and that all-important Rear View Mirror to assist with reflection.

And finally, I especially love how BRAVE THE PAGE encourages writers to find a mentor – a favorite book – that’s available 24-7, for free.

No matter our age, each of us has a story worth telling…and the right to tell it.  But that blank page can be oh, so scary when we’re gathering the courage to tell our stories to the world, especially if we’re new to the writing process.

Thank goodness all storytellers now have BRAVE THE PAGE to guide their writing.

And, thanks to Jama's Alphabet Soup for hosting today's Poetry Friday.  BRAVE THE PAGE  is certain to serve up a whole lot of  delicious food for thought.

Happy story-telling to writers of all ages!

Esther Hershenhorn
Be sure to enter our Book Giveaway for Gwendolyn Hooks’ ONA JUDGE OUTWITS THE WASHINGTONS

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wednesday Writing Workout: How to Fantastically Capture Your Historical Novel's Spirit in Four Easy Steps!

In 87 lifetimes I could never come to know the terrific and talented writers from all walks of life my teaching and coaching continue to bring me.
Teachers and librarians, of course.  Journalists. Booksellers.  Performance artists.  Actors and actresses.  Doctors. Lawyers. A tribal chief!  Environmentalists.  Venture capitalists. Activists. Politicians.  Entrepreneurs.  Inventors.  Technological wizards.  Cartoonists. Fine artists.  Print makers. Graphic designers.  A cosmetologist. And oh, several members of the clergy, including a Franciscan monk.
But never had I worked with a tried-and-true Egyptologist, especially one who was scaffolding her time-travel middle grade series on the Armarna Period whilst featuring a biracial boy from Chicago’s South Side!
Lucky me. 😊
And, now lucky you, because that Egyptologist is none other than Malayna Evans, the debut author of JAGGER JONES & THE MUMMY’S ANKH (Month9Books) and the generous creator of today’s Wednesday Writing Workout.
If Malayna learned anything as she wrote – and rewrote – Book One in her series, it was how to fantastically capture the spirit of an historical period in the telling of a story.

And what a story!
“Jagger Jones is a whiz kid from Chicago's South Side. Ask him anything about Ancient Egypt, and Jagger can fill hours describing all that he knows. But when he and his precocious little sister Aria fall more than three thousand years back in time to the court of Amarna, Egypt, Jagger discovers a truth that rocks his world: books don't teach you everything there is to know. Mummies, pyramids, and cool hieroglyphics make awesome movie props, but the ancient court of Amarna is full of over-sized scorpions, magical amulets, and evil deities determined to scare unwanted visitors away. If Jagger and Aria are to return safely home, they must find nine soul-infested gemstones, defeat an evil general, save the royal family, and figure out how to rescue themselves! Armed only with Jagger's knowledge of history and a few modern objects mined from his pockets and Aria's sparkly purse, the siblings have exactly one week to solve supernatural riddles and rescue the royal family. If they can pull it off, Jagger Jones just might return to Chicago a hero.”

A Utah native, Malayna now lives in Oak Park, Illinois.  She earned MA degrees in Greek and Roman history and the history of the ancient Near East before earning her Ph.D. in Egyptian history from the University of Chicago.  Along the way she created two children – whom she considers her real accomplishment – and started a marketing company she still runs today.  She’s represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency and blogs with fellow debut children’s book creators at On the Scene in 19.

Malayna indeed succeeded in capturing the spirit of the Armarna Period in this heart-stopping time-travel adventure, but she also infused a whole lot of her own singular positive Spirit – with a deserved capital “S” – into the telling, and IMHO – that’s why JAGGER JONES & THE MUMMY’S ANKH truly succeeds.

Thank you, Malayna, for sharing your writing adventure as well as your story and your smarts with our TeachingAuthors readers!

I wish you - and our readers, too - ankh, wedja, seneb.

Happy Spirit Capturing!

Esther Hershenhorn
Don't forget to enter our Book Giveaway of Gwendolyn Hooks' ONA JUDGE OUTWITS THE WASHINGTONS!

. . . . . .


One thing I learned during the many years it took me to earn my Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history, was how to be pedantic. So when my nine-year-old son suggested I write a book about a biracial kid like him lost in ancient Egypt, I brought my full knowledge of the ancient world to the task. And I ended up with … a snoozer!

No, really. It was dull, dreary, boring! There might be a middle grade reader out there somewhere who would have found my esoteric theories on Amarna Period genealogy thoughtful. But let’s be honest, probably not.

Fortunately, in addition to knowing how to be pedantic, I’ve also learned how to take advice. So when TeachingAuthors' own Esther Hershenhorn suggested I highlight all the history in my book yellow, then edit some of the unnecessary bits out, well, let’s just say version one might as well have been printed on yellow paper.

In the end, that first manuscript landed in the trashcan and very little of it survives in the book’s final form. Don’t get me wrong: there’s still an awful lot of history in the series. The magic spells are based on real spells, most of the people are historically attested, the places and setting details are real, and the artifacts, which are the heart of my story, can be found in museums across the globe. Even the plot was influenced by real upheavals of the time, as well as a specific tomb I’m partial to. History was the scaffolding I hung my story on.

But rather than lose myself in small historical details, on my second attempt, I focused on the fantasy, the story, and the spirit of ancient Egypt. Okay yeah, spirit is a pretty loose concept. So what do I mean by it? Well, I mean I tried to capture the vibe of ancient Egypt in big and small and, above all, well-integrated ways.

To capture the spirit in a big way, I needed a theme that would resonate authentically with an ancient Egyptian worldview. And I wanted something big, something like … the meaning of life itself. So I turned to an old blessing: ankh, wedja, seneb, which means (may you have) life, prosperity and health. Book one of the three book series tackles ancient notions of life, contrasting them with modern notions. That’s a wordy way to say I took the old boy-saves-princess storyline and aligned it with the spirit of ancient Egypt. So it’s not the princess’s life Jagger must save, but her afterlife. (Cue spooky music here.) Meanwhile, our South Side Chicago heroes are fighting for their own survival. (Books two and three similarly juxtapose ancient and modern notions of prosperity and health respectively.)

I also crafted a series of fantastical challenges based on things your average ancient Egyptian might have had nightmares about. Then, I amped those scary things up to fantasy level. So, for example, throughout the series, my brother-sister duo face over-sized scorpions, an obstinate sphinx, a mummy army, angry baboons, animated temple statues, a gravity-defying Nile, and the ultimate bad guy, an evil sun god. Every time I threw a problem at my main characters, I worked to ensure it was tethered to ancient beliefs. And then I let my characters combine ancient artifacts and magic with modern objects, Jagger’s book smarts, and Aria’s street smarts to problem solve.

On a micro level, I captured the spirit by weaving in various aspects of daily life that strike me as uniquely ancient Egyptian. Some of this was as easy as having my American kids learn to play a popular board game or sleep on the wooden headrests ancient Egyptians used as pillows. But I wanted to dig deeper. I wanted to incorporate aspects of ancient life that could really trigger the senses.

Anyone who has spent as much time studying ancient Egypt as I have will tell you it must have been a very smelly place. Yes, the world is fully of smelly places. But one senses the ancient Egyptians took their smells extra seriously. Scents show up in texts, poetry, and images. Pictures of women with lumps on their heads, for example, are believed to portray scented wax hats that would melt throughout the hot day and keep the wearer smelling yummy.

Unlike Jagger and his little sister Aria, I can’t travel back to the place and time that fascinates me so much and enjoy the sounds and smells. But as a storyteller, I can assign smells I associate with ancient Egypt to magic spells cast by my magician characters. As an historian, I’m pretty sure you can’t ward off giant crocodiles with gum from a little girl's purse and the scent of lotus blossoms, which is exactly why I eventually let Storyteller Malayna take the wheel.

You ready to try integrating history into your story? Okay, let’s do this.

1. First, get out your favorite highlighters and pens. Try reading through your WIP, highlighting all the bits of history in one color. If those bits are unnecessary for your story, underline them as well. Now take the fabulous Coco Chanel’s advice and “take one thing off" and lose most of the bits that are both highlighted and underlined. Consider limiting the number of unnecessary historical details to something like three or four sentences per chapter, max.

Good start. But what to do about all that highlighted history that is necessary? Well, here are a few exercises that might help you better integrate those bits.

2. Think about your story’s theme. Now think about the period in time your story is set in. How would a person in that time-frame think about the theme? Are you sure the theme would resonate for your characters the same way it does for you? If not, there might be an opportunity to level up there.
3. Make a long list of artifacts from the period. Think about how they functioned, either in reality, or, if your story is fantasy, in theory. Can any of those artifacts help propel your plot forward? Employing objects in challenges, solutions, and plot twists can be a fun way to merge the history with the plot.
4. Finally, make a list of things people from your period would fear on the left side of a wall or oversized paper. On the right side, write out the challenges your characters face. Are the things on the right side also on the left? If not, consider choosing challenges that are more authentic to the period by throwing some left-side terrors in your protagonist’s path.

In the end, the thing I’m most proud of with this book is the integration of real history into an over-the-top, fantastical hero tale. My greatest hope for the series is that readers will get lost in the adventure … and barely notice all the history they soak up on the way.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Book Giveaway and Release of my book, ONA JUDGE Outwits the Washingtons - An Enslaved Woman Fights for Freedom

One of the most exciting days in an author’s life is Book Release Day! It’s a time for parties with your critique group, friends, museum staff, librarians, and family. Those are the ones who helped you along the way. They gave you space to write, read your first attempts, answered your research requests and encouraged you to keep writing.

Then your author copies arrive in your mailbox.

Hurrah! Its book release fun time!
(See below for details of how to enter our giveaway to win your own autographed copy!)

Capstone Editions released Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons – An Enslaved Woman Fights For Freedom just in time for the Oklahoma Technology Association-Encyclomedia Conference. I introduced Ona to the world of teachers and librarians. Some knew Ona’s story, others did not. I never tire of sharing her with the world. She is a wonderful example of someone determined to live life on her own terms.

A new fan at EncycloMedia.
Ona was born on George Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation. Her mother was enslaved and her father was a white indentured servant from England. When Washington was elected president, Ona was one of the enslaved people who accompanied the family to New York and later to Philadelphia. She was Martha’s personal servant and attended to her needs at home and also accompanied her on visits to friends like Abigail Adams. Ona was allowed a small amount of freedom to explore Philadelphia on her own.

Why would she want to be free? She had more freedom than most Black people. She was allowed to run errands on her own, attend the circus, and was given a small amount of money to buy presents for her family on Mount Vernon. But it was not enough for Ona and she ran away. 

She was soon recognized in her new hometown of Portsmouth, Massachusetts and President Washington sent people to return her to Mount Vernon. Ona refused.  Despite several attempts, the Washingtons never succeed. Her life wasn't  easy. She was always considered a runaway. But Ona was firm. She would decide how to live her life.

Illustrator Simone Agoussoye & Author Gwendolyn Hooks at ALA
Sometimes as I write, I find myself stuck. I can’t find the perfect combination of words. They refuse to flow. During some of those moments, I wondered if I was doing justice to Ona’s story. Am I the person to write it? 

It certainly required a lot of research. I couldn’t have done it without the librarians on the other end of Ask A Librarian on the Library of Congress website. Mary V. Thompson, a Research Historian at the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington never seemed to tire of my constant emails.  

To relax during some of my dark moments, my sister and I took the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth to visit my daughter. Then we hopped on the Texas Eagle to Longview, Texas to visit our niece. I love reading on the train, looking out the window, and thinking.

We took a side trip to the Tyler Museum of Art. The paper exhibit began to clear my head. Amazing creativity! 

During another of my down moments, my son called. He is a Marine pilot and had just returned from a six-month deployment. He always calls when his plane lands and he's home again. He said, “I’m  “Portsmouth, New Hampshire.” I got so excited and upbeat.  It was a sign. His phone call unleashed my writing spirit. It said – Get back to your computer. Young readers need to know this brave young lady.

I listened to my spirit and ONA JUDGE OUTWITS THE WASHINGTONS-AN ENSLAVED WOMAN FIGHTS FOR FREEDOM is now out in the world.

"The attention-grabbing text and unique illustrations will make this a welcome addition for all history collections." - School Library Journal

Posted by Gwendolyn Hooks. Please leave comments.

Carmela here to share the details of how you can win your own autographed copy of Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons: An Enslaved Woman Fights For Freedom (Capstone Editions).

To enter our drawing, 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!

In your comment, we'd love if you would share either the title of a picture book biography you'd like to recommend or the name of a person who would make a good subject for a picture book biography.

(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 October 18, 2019 and is open to U.S. residents only.

P.S. 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

Monday, October 7, 2019

Congrats to our Giveaway Winners and Another Book Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of our Student Success Story giveaway of the middle-grade novel  Essie Rose’s Revelation Summer:

Linda M. and Kathleen D!

And a BIG thank you to all of you who participated in the giveaway. A reminder: be sure to watch your inboxes after you enter one of our giveaways! One of the winners first chosen by Rafflecopter never replied to our email notice, so we had to pick an alternate winner.

If you didn't win, stay tuned. We'll be offering another giveaway here soon.

Meanwhile, I'm currently running a book giveaway to celebrate the second anniversary of my young-adult novel Playing by Heart. I invite you to head over to my website to enter to win one of TWO autographed copies.

Remember to always Write with Joy!

Friday, October 4, 2019

My Well is Dry

  Note: I have written about this topic years ago, but this is a new post

The calendar says it's fall...not that you'd notice here in Atlanta. We've had over 90 consecutive days of temperatures over 90. Even if there's no noticeable change in the scenery or weather, it's a different season. So the question is...what did I accomplish this summer?

Two answers: not much and quite a lot.

The "not much" is my own writing. I did writing exercises with my Young Authors at Writing Camp this summer (three sessions of a week each.) Odd ball, random three to five pages of characters, situations, conflicts that MIGHT turn into something some day...or not.  But I keep those notebooks for future inspiration.
My inspiration--Young Writers at work

I'm tired. There's a lot of ongoing family stuff that just zaps my creativity.  My campers always inspire me...but as soon as I get home, I'm just tired. Beating myself up wasn't inspiring me. Reminding myself of all the times I've "powered through" didn't help.

Then I remembered something one of my Vermont College MFA mentors told me.

"Sometimes, Mary Ann, the 'well' is dry. It's going to happen. A well doesn't fill by staring into it. You have to go away for awhile, and stop thinking about it. Go back and check every now and then. And one day, you'll discover it HAS filled...and you'll be ready to write again."

So I stopped fretting about. I wrote in my journal and didn't tell myself this is drivel. No self judging. I read a LOT. New kids books, especially picture books. Memoirs, biographies, history...the stories of real life have always been more compelling to me than fiction. So it was a surprise when I found myself reading "women's fiction." I'm not sure what to call this's like "chick lit" only the protagonist are all "late middle agers."

This total aberration in reading habits began when I read an article about how difficult it was for the screenwriter of Where Did You Go, Bernadette? to adapt the book for screen. I'd read Bernadette years ago when it first came out. Yeah, I thought. That would be tough. The whole book is told from multiple viewpoints through texts, emails and letters...almost none of them from the main character, Bernadette. I re-read the book to see how I might've turned this into a movie script. (I never did see the movie, BTW.)

This lead to reading another book by the same author ...told in two POV's...very different. Easier to adapt to a visual medium.

Then I fell down the cyber rabbit hole.

At the end of most E-books, there is a section of "if-you-liked-this-book-you-might-like-this" books. You can read sample chapters before you buy. Most of these books have terrific opening chapters. So I'd read on.  For the first time since grad school, I was reading critically.  I don't know why it is easier for me to critique "adult" books. Maybe because I don't write them. Maybe because reading children's books intimidates me. But these "middle-aged-chick-lit" books enable me to see plot holes, convenient circumstances, half-baked characters (along with the fully realized ones), endings that satisfy...or don't. I could identify what it was that made me want to read to the end, even while finding flaws. What was driving the story?

With all this reading, I can feel the water level rising in my well. My journal entries are often observations of what I'm reading. I am thinking like a writer again, which is different from thinking about writing. I'm not pushing the process. I'll know when it's time to start working on those works that are currently in a state of suspended animation.

I know when I drop that bucket down, it will come up full.

The seasons will have changed.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman