March 20 Writing

Birthdays: Ovid (43 B.C.), Henrik Ibsen (1828), Isabel Burton (1831), B.F. Skinner (1904), Bill Martin Jr (1916), Mitsumasa Anno (1926), Lois Lowry (1937), Ellen Conford (1942), Louis Sachar (1954), Nina Kiriki Hoffman (1955), Mary Roach (1959), A.J. Jacobs (1968), Emily Giffin (1972),

Lois Lowry won two Newbery Awards: “Number the Stars” and “The Giver”

Quote: “My personal opinion is that you should not worry about ‘being published’. You should enjoy writing, and writing more and more, so that you become better at it. I always sort of cringe when I hear, ‘I want to be a published writer’ from a kid. I’d rather hear, ‘I love to write’.” – Lois Lowry

Tip: Go through your work and look for weak verbs and change them to stronger, more descriptive ones. Instead of “he walked”, try: strode, crept, tiptoed, stomped, etc. to describe how he is walking.

Jumpstart: Your house is on fire. You live alone and have no pets so there is nobody else to worry about. What do you try to save?

March 19 Writing

Birthdays: Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821), Irving Wallace (1916), Philip Roth (1933), James Redfield (1950)

Philip Roth was a multiple winner of the National Book Award as well as the 1997 Pulitzer in Fiction for “American Pastoral”

Quote: “The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” – Philip Roth

Tip: Are you a panster or a plotter? A panster is someone who writes by the seat of their pants. They don’t know who the story is about or where it’s going, they just write and let the story go where it takes them. A plotter outlines everything beforehand. Most of us fall somewhere in between.

Jumpstart: Write a scene using words of only one syllable and short sentences like: “See Spot run.”, but do it as a murder mystery.

March 18 Writing

Birthdays: Stephane Mallarme (1842), Robert P. Tristram Coffin (1892), Wilfred Owen (1893), Richard Condon (1915), George Plimpton (1927), John Updike (1932), Joy Fielding (1945), Susan Patron (1948), Douglas Florian (1950), Franz Wright (1953)

Robert Coffin won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

John Updike won two Pulitzers for books in the Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom series.

Susan Patron won the 2007 Caldecott for “The Higher Power of Lucky”

Franz Wright won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Quote: “I think the most important part of storytelling is tension. It’s the constant tension of suspense that in a sense mirrors life, because nobody knows what’s going to happen three hours from now.” – Richard Condon

Tip: Many writers are members of groups for support and inspiration. Are you? Look around and see what’s available in your area, or online. Take classes. Bone up on the basics or go to deeper depths. Expand your mind.

Jumpstart: Write a scene about something you’re doing—perhaps a walk you take. Write it both from your perspective as an adult, then from a child’s perspective.

March 17 Writing

Birthdays: Kate Greenaway (1846), Paul Green (1894), Siegfried Lenz (1926), Penelope Lively (1933), Wendell Minor (1944), James Morrow (1947), William Gibson (1948), Peter Robinson (1950), Patrick McDonnell (1956), Amitava Kumar (1963),

Quote: “The pleasure of writing fiction is that you are always spotting some new approach, an alternative way of telling a story and manipulating characters; the novel is such a wonderfully flexible form.” – Penelope Lively

Tip: Do you treat your writing career like a business? You should. Set up spread sheets for your expenses and income. Get a file holder and set up files for your rejection letters, contracts, and other correspondence. Make a business plan. Get your business organized.

Jumpstart: Write a letter of appreciation to a former teacher or mentor. If the person is still alive, send it.

March 16 Writing

Birthdays: Sully Prudhomme (1839), Eric P. Kelly (1884), Emory Holloway (1885), Sid Fleischman (1920), Margaret Weis (1948), Alice Hoffman (1952),

Sully Prudhomme was the winner of the first Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901.

Eric Kelly won the 1929 Newbery Award for “The Trumpeter of Krakow”

Emory Holloway wone a Pulitzer Prize in Biography for his book on Walt Whitman.

Sid Fleischman won the 1987 Newbery Medal for “The Whipping Boy”

Quote: “Adult novels are as ephemeral as newspapers. Children’s books stay in print for decades.” – Sid Fleischman

Tip: Read a book. Any book. For a writer to truly succeed, s/he has to also be a reader. Read for pleasure, but also study the story. Rip it apart to see what makes it work.

Jumpstart: While walking through a parking garage, you hear a thump coming from the trunk of a car trunk. What do you do?

March 15 Writing

Birthdays: Paul Heyse (1830), Lady Augusta Gregory (1852), Charles Howard McIlwain (1871), Carl Schorske (1915), Richard Ellmann (1918), Lawrence Sanders (1920), Ruth White (1942), David Cronenberg (1943), James N Frey (1943), Lynda La Plante (1943), Heather Graham (1953), Ben Okri (1959), Simon Van Booy (1975)

Paul Heyse won the 1910 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Charles McIlwain won the 1924 Pulitzer Prize for “The American Revolution: A Constitutional Representation”

Carl Schorske won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction for “Fin-de-Siecle Vienna”

Quote: “To set a forest on fire, you light a match. To set a character on fire, you put him in conflict.” – James N. Frey

Tip: Google (or otherwise search) your name, or your pseudonym. How many places do you show up? Does anyone else share your name? Your writing should be the first thing people see about you, if that is your primary goal.

Jumpstart: Today is the “Ides of March”, a day that will live forever as a dark omen thanks to Shakespeare. What is your character’s “Ides of March”? What bad thing can happen to him or her on this day that would mark it as a day to remember (or forget)?

March 13 Writing

Birthdays: Hugh Walpole (1884), Janet Flanner (1892), Giorgos Seferis (1900), Margaret Craven (1901), Mircea Eliade (1907), L. Ron Hubbard (1911), Marie Rudsill (1911), W.O. Mitchell (1914), Ellen Raskin (1928), Diane Dillon (1933), Barry Hughart (1934), Ridley Pearson (1953), Caryl Phillips (1958), Alastair Reynolds (1966),

Giorgos Seferis won the 1963 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Ellen Raskin won the 1979 Newbery Medal for “The Westing Game”

Quote: “It comes down to hours and hours of work. I rewrite every novel no fewer than four times, sometimes as many as nine times. You can’t believe how many hours that consumes. It’s ENDLESS. You have to be patient to be a published writer, and you have to practice humility, because the editor (or teacher) is nearly always right.” – Ridley Pearson

Tip: Do you use a pseudonym? Do you want to? Make a list of possibilities and search for them online to make sure they’re not in use by someone else.

Jumpstart: In China, Ching Ming is a day when people visit the graves of their ancestors. Take a trip to a cemetery—the older the better—and note dates, ages, names, epitaphs (if any). Pick one or two and write about their life.

March 12 Writing

Birthdays: William C. Bruce (1860), Jack Kerouac (1922), Harry Harrison (1925), Edward Albee (1928), Virginia Hamilton (1936), Patricia Hampl (1946), Sandra Brown (1948), Naomi Shihab Nye (1952), Carl Hiaasen (1953), Ruth Ozeki (1956), Dave Eggers (1970),

William Bruce won the Pulitzer Prize in History for “Benjamin Franklin, Self-Revealed”

Jack Kerouac is best known for “On the Road”

Harry Harrison is best known for “Make Room! Make Room!”, the basis of the film “Soylent Green”

Virginia Hamilton was the winner of the 1975 Newbery Award for “M.C. Higgins, the Great”.

Quote: “You can do the best research and be making the strongest intellectual argument, but if readers don’t get past the third paragraph you’ve wasted your energy and valuable ink.” – Carl Hiaasen

Tip: You just got “the call” – make a list of questions to ask the agent or editor. Keep them handy for when it does happen, even if it’s through email.

Jumpstart: Finish this scene: Mama, forgive me… (use snow, game, cell phone, timer)

March 11 Writing

Birthdays: Wanda Gao (1893), Ezra Jack Keats (1916), Peter Sis (1949), Douglas Adams (1952), D.J. MacHale (1955), Libba Bray (1964), Deborah Copaken (1966), Sylvia Day (1973), Kate Brian (1974), Christopher Rice (1978)

Wanda Gao is known for the Newbery Medal winner “Millions of Cats”

Ezra Jack Keats won the 1963 Caldecott Medal for “The Snowy Day”

Douglas Adams is best known for his “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series

Quote: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

Tip: “Her eyes dropped to the floor.” – ewwww. Check your story for loose body parts. Unless it’s a horror story or gruesome murder scene, you shouldn’t leave them lying around. Her gaze can drop to the floor, but not her eyes. And don’t “toss yourself” anywhere. Unless you’re a clone.

Jumpstart: Create a comic book superhero. Male or female? Human? What powers does s/he have? How does s/he use them?