January 30 Writing

I apologize for missing a few days – have been a bit under the weather. New reviews and spotlights will be coming soon. Here are the tips, tricks, and thoughts for today:

Birthdays: Walter Landor (1775), Gelett Burgess (1866), Saul Alinsky (1909), Barbara Tuchman (1912), Lloyd Alexander (1924), Shirley Hazzard (1931), Allan W. Eckert (1931), Richard Brautigan (1935), Gregory Benford (1941), Michael Dorris (1945), John Dufresne (1948), Judith Tarr (1955), Polly Horvath (1957)

Lloyd Alexander won the 1969 Newbery Medal for “The High King”

Allan W. Eckert won the 1972 Newbery Honor for “Incident at Hawk’s Hill”

Shirley Hazard is an Australian author and winner of the Booker Prize and American National Book Award for Fiction

Polly Horvath won 2003 National Book Award for Young People’s Fiction and Newbery Honor

Barbara Tuchman won the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for “The Guns of August”

Quote: “I want the reader to turn the page and keep on turning until the end. This is accomplished only when the narrative moves steadily ahead, not when it comes to a weary standstill, overloaded with every item uncovered in the research.” – Barbara Tuchman

Tip: Let the reader know what your characters are feeling, but not by telling us. Show us their anger, angst, love, hatred, etc. This can be best done through actions. Agitation is shown by tapping of the foot, drumming of the fingers, pacing. Use facial expressions, body movements, and even the way they talk.

Jumpstart: I saw that face across the room and I…

January 27 Writing

Birthdays: Lewis Carroll (1832), Mordecai Richler (1931), D.M. Thomas (1935), Julius Lester (1939), Clarissa Pinkola Estes (1945), Ethan Mordden (1949), Alexander Stuart (1955), James Grippando (1958)

Lewis Carroll is best known for his stories “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”

Quote: “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” – Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll is most famous for his book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”

Tip: What do you do to relax and recharge? What gives you the push to keep on going when you don’t want to? Make a list and once a week, pick something from it to do. Keeping yourself fresh keeps your writing fresh.

Jumpstart: Write a scene with the following: The fog crept in, covering the woods…

January 26 Writing

Birthdays: Birthdays: Mary Dodge (1831), Philip Jose Farmer (1918), Jules Feiffer (1929), Susan Griffin (1943), Angela Davis (1944), Christopher Hampton (1946), Jonathan Carroll (1949), Laurence Shames (1951), Nick Flynn (1960), Shannon Hale (1974)

Philip Jose Farmer was a prolific writer best known for his Riverworld science fiction novels.

Shannon Hale writes YA fantasy. Her novel “Princess Academy” won the Newbery Honor.

Susan Griffin’s book “A Chorus of Stones” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize

Jules Feiffer, an American cartoonist, won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize.

Thought for the day: “There’s almost always a point in a book where something happens that triggers the rest of the plot.” “Just write about what bites you and damn the rest.” – Jonathan Carroll

Tip: Learn the difference between “bring” and “take”. Bring is used to come from there to here (She will bring the candles with her.). Take goes from here to there (Take the book to the library.). Bring me a drink. Take this to the kitchen.

Jumpstart: What tattoo does your character hide from the world? Why? When and why did s/he get it? Does s/he regret the impulse? Why or why not?

January 25 Writing

Birthdays: Robert Burns (1759), W. Somerset Maugham (1874), Virginia Woolf (1882), Margery Sharp (1905), JG Farrell (1935), Gloria Naylor (1950), Stephen Chbosky (1970)

Robert Burns is known as the National Poet of Scotland.

Margery Sharp is best known for her children’s book “The Rescuers” that was made into a Disney movie.

Thought for the day: “Observe strangers. Let your own version of their life story shoot through your head — how they got where they are now, where they might be going — and fill in the blanks for yourself.” – Virginia Woolf

Tip: Start a list of words and phrases you tend to overuse. For me, this is “a bit” (among a lot of others – I have an entire sheet). When you edit your first draft, be sure to look for these phrases and see if you can rewrite them.

Jumpstart: Use the following: shotgun, pub, four-leaf-clover, knight – and finish this: There was no moon out that night…

New Reviews

Under Nonfiction:

TINY BUDDHA’S INNER STRENGTH JOURNAL by Lori Deschene – 5 Sparklers for this book of tips and coloring pages that help you find inner strength and self-esteem.

COOKING A LA HEART by Linda Hatchfield and Am Myrdal Miller – 4 Sparklers for this big book with 500 recipes based on the DASH diet.

And my favorite:

DREAMSNAKE by Vonda N. McIntyer

5+ sparklers for this old favorite.

I first read this book back in the 70s when it initially came out and loved it then, but my copy was lost over the years. It is recently back in print and reading it now, it is still as fascinating as it was then with great characters and amazing world building. Snake is a great lead character. As a healer in a dystopian society, she travels around with her snakes in what passes for doctors in the distant future. The different people she runs into run the gamut of desert nomad bands to snobbish mountain dwellers to paranoid city dwellers, and even an alien landscape and strange man who attempts to kill her. Definitely recommended for those who like science fiction.

January 23 Writing

Birthdays: Birthdays: M.B. Stendhal (1783), Louis Zukofsky (1904), Walter M. Miller Jr. (1923), Derek Walcott (1930), Tom Reamy (1935), Fred Wah (1939), Cathy Hopkins (1953)

Walter M. Miller, Jr. is best known for his book “A Canticle for Leibowitz”

Derek Walcott won the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Thought for the day: “Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out to it.” – Cathy Hopkins

 “The truest writers are those who see language not as a linguistic process but as a living element.” – Derek Walcott

Tip: Watch your pacing. For an intense scene, keep sentences shorter, stronger. For a relaxed scene, you can relax the sentences, making them longer and more flowing.

Jumpstart: Your character has $100.00 to live on for the month. What does s/he do? What time period is it and what country is s/he in? A hundred dollars goes much further in 1805 than today and means something different in the jungles of South America than New York City.

January 22 Writing

Birthdays: Francis Bacon (1561), John Donne (1572), Lord Byron (1788), August Strindberg (1849), Robert E. Howard (1906), Howard Moss (1922), Joseph Wambaugh (1937), James Carroll (1943)

Robert E. Howard was well-known for his character Conan the Barbarian. He is regarded as the father of the sword-and-sorcery subgenre of fantasy fiction.

Quote: “Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” – Francis Bacon

Tip: Watch out for the word “it” – often “it” can be changed to something stronger. The same with “thing”. Do a search on these words and see if you can rewrite into a stronger passage.

Jumpstart: Have you ever written poetry like John Donne or Lord Byron? Try writing some about what you see outside your window.

January 21 Writing

Birthdays: Richard Blackmur (1904), Judith Merril (1923), Eva Ibbotson (1925), Robert Neil Butler (1927), Gretel Ehrlich (1946), Louis Menand (1952), M.K. Hobson (1969)

Robert Neil Butler won the 1976 Pulitzer for Nonfiction for “Why Survive? Being Old in America”.

Thought for the day: “When I get stuck in a book now, I usually try putting an aunt in. I find it difficult to write a book without aunts.” – Eva Ibbotson

Tip: Keep your tenses in line. If you start out writing in present tense (I walk into the house and see his coat on the chair), stay with the present. If you use past (I walked into the house and saw his coat on the chair), stay with the past. Do not mix them (I walked into the house and see his coat on the chair).

Jumpstart: Use the following in a scene: taxi, spaceship, blizzard, New Year’s Eve.

January 20 Writing

Birthdays: Eugene Sue (1804), Nathaniel Willis (1806), Richard Le Gallienne (1866), Johannes Jensen (1873), Forrest Wilson (1883), Jean S. Macleid (1908), Abram Hill (1910), Joy Adamson (1910), Blair Lent (1930), Robert Olen Butler (1945), Nancy Kress (1948), R.A. Salvatore (1959), Tami Hoag (1959), Fareed Zakaria (1964), Vanessa Diffenbaugh (1978)

Johannes V. Jensen was a Danish author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1944.

Nancy Kress is an American science fiction writer (winner of both Hugo and Nebula awards) and also writes nonfiction books on writing.

Nathaniel Parker Willis was a poet and editor who worked with writers like E.A. Poe and Longfellow. He was the highest-paid magazine writer of his day.

R.A. Salvatore is best known for his Demon Wars Saga. Twenty-two of his titles have made the NYTimes bestseller list.

Robert Olen Butler won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1993 for “A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain”.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh is the co-founder of the Camelia Network – an organization that helps children aging out of foster care.

Eugene Sue – French novelist whose work “Mathilde” contains the first use of the phrase “revenge is a dish best served cold”.

Forrest Wilson won the 1942 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for “Crusader in Crinoline: The Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe”.

Blair Lent won the 1973 Caldecott Medal for Tikki Tikki Tembo.

Quote: ““You must learn to be three people at once: writer, character, and reader.” ― Nancy Kress, Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints

Tip: You can split wood, but please don’t split infinitives. An infinitive consists of “to” along with a verb: to run, to jump, to breathe, to play, etc. When you stick a modifier in between them—to quickly run, to suddenly jump, to deeply breathe, etc.—you’re splitting them. Move the modifier elsewhere: to run quickly, to jump suddenly, to breathe deeply. Sometimes moving the modifier creates an awkward phrase. In this case, try rewriting the sentence for better flow.

Jumpstart: Pick a room in your house – preferably one that you are not in – and describe it in detail – colors, furniture, knick-knacks, dust bunnies, everything. Use this description as a setting for a scene.

January 19

Birthdays: Edgar Allan Poe (1809), Alexander Woollcott (1887), Patricia Highsmith (1921),  Jean-Francois Revel (1924), Nina Bawden (1925), Margaret George (1943), Julian Barnes (1946), Paula Deen (1947), Eden Robinson (1968), Casey Sherman (1969), Edwidge Danticat (1969)

Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American author whose books have been nominated for multiple awards and “The Farming of Bones” won the American Book Award.

Patricia Highsmith was an American author (d.1995) whose psychological thrillers were adapted into more than twenty films, including “The Talented Mr. Ripley”.

Quote: “When you read a great book, you don’t escape from life, you plunge deeper into it.” – Julian Barnes

Tip: Look out for dangling modifiers. This happens when a modifier has nothing to modify. For instance: “Having run through the mud, new shoes were needed.”  In this sentence, there’s an action (having run) but no subject. A better way of writing this would be: Having run through the mud, Joan needed new shoes. Even better: Joan ran through the mud and now needed new shoes.

Jumpstart: In addition to being National Hot Tea Month, January is also National Oatmeal and National Soup month. Create a menu for your character using these three basics. Would s/he go for elegant or simple? Would s/he eat in a restaurant, diner, or at home? Alone or with someone? Write the scene.

Who hasn’t read Poe? I loved his books as a teen, and still do. They get into your head. From “The Telltale Heart” to “A Cask of Amontillado” to his poems like “The Raven” or “The Bells”, they are works that will live forever.