Thursday, June 30, 2016

Writer's Quotes - Jane Yolen

A guest post: Jane Yolen

This month's thought on writing: 
Poetry especially is not a One/Done writing activity. I constantly revisit and revise my poems. I read each line aloud to test its rhythm. I roll it around my tongue to find the sweet spot in each line. I tighten and cut to make the poem more compressed. I search out the sense and sensibility of the whole.
Sometimes I read a new poem to my critique group--an ongoing (40 years) group of seven professional and very well regarded children's bookwriters. Each day I see something good and something that needs work in a particular poem. Each word in a poem is sacred. So it better be the right one. Maybe I make a single word change, or add a new line, or an entire verse. Sometimes I take them out. 
The great French poet and philosopher Paul Valery said that a poem is never finished but abandoned. He didn't mean abandoned as in throwing the poem away. He meant there comes a moment when the poet abandons the poem to the universe, having given that particular poem his/her best shot at perfection. (And note the last part of that word. Uni-VERSE.) 
Time to write a new one. 
How many times do I revisit a poem? As many times as it needs. I often revise a poem 20-30 times before abandonment.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Writer's Quotes

Although this quote was given to us by a writer at the VCFA Alumni mini-residency, she thought that it actually was something her athletic coach wrote on the board before every game.
Any who - it applies to all of us:

Commitment --

The will of the mind to finish what the heart has started 
long after the mood in which the promise was made has faded.

Which is probably why we continue writing and writing even when we are sick and tired of writing until we finally finish the manuscript.

Return to Wonderland

Last week I took the full day flight back to Vermont.  Yes, it takes that long to fly from California to New Hampshire and then rent a car to get me to Montpelier, Vermont.
To attend the Alumni Mini-Residency.

Yes, I finally graduated, got my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults to add to my Masters in Library Science last summer at Vermont College of Fine Arts, which meant I was now an Alumni and could finally attend the mini-residency.  Why do I keep saying 'finally?"  Because It took me many years what with attending only the summer sessions.

On the other hand - it enabled me to spread out the cost of the grad school, so that I was not overwhelmed with $40,000 in debt when I graduated.  In fact, I had no debt at all because of a good savings plan prior to attending the college. (which is a good thing since I am now retired from my day job.)

Now that I've attended one of them, I know what to expect if and when I go to another.

Note to self - remember that someone who submitted the manuscript they read at the evening Reading session to the agents at the pitch session got an offer of representation.  (I used different pieces of writing and got good feedback, but no offer.)

Note to others - if you were one of the people complaining that all we learned during our four semesters at VCFA was how to write better, but nothing about the business of writing, this is where the focus is definitely on the business of writing.

It was great seeing so many other alumni.  The Weather was wonderful - perfect warm weather with soft breezes. The lectures were informative. And I love, love, love the drive through the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Writer's quotes - William Goldman

After reading Carry Elwes's memoir about his adventures filming the Princess Bride, I've been reading two books by the author of that book and screenplay - William Goldman.

Adventures in the Screen Trade
Which Lie did I Tell? - More Adventures in the Screen Trade

At the end of the second book he says:

A Good Story is something with an interesting premise that builds logically to a satisfying and surprising conclusion.

We get fed on stories in the cradle and forever on.
Want to read a good story?
Pick up The Little Engine That Could.  Soppy and primitive, sure, but today just by chance I read it again and let me tell you, you are rooting with all your heart for that crummy two-bit nothing of a train to get those toys over the mountain.

That's all it is, this business of writing.
Just get the fucking toys over the mountain.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Writer's Quotes

Ah here's the quote that Bruce Coville loves to quote. (because it's the spine in all of his tales.)

                        Always grab the reader by the throat in the first paragraph, sink your thumbs into his windpipe in the second, and hold him against the wall until the tag line.

Paul O'Neil, American writer

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Writer's Quotes

You can't wait for inspiration.
You have to go after it with a club
------- ----- Jack London (1876-1916)

Wow, he died a hundred years ago.  And we are still enjoying his books.
How about that?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

In Praise of RAs

Now, you're probably wondering what a RA is.
Actually, if you belong to SCBWI, you know what a RA is.  And yours are probably just as great as mine are.

Hmmm. For those who don't know what I'm talking about (all others just skip the next part):
SCBWI = Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
RA = Regional Advisors

Actually, they should be called - Regional Organizers.

The first Regional Advisors I knew were the organizers of the Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia region of the national organization.  They ended up being the co-authors of my first picture books
Busy Toes
Busy Fingers
both written by C.W. Bowie.
(you can see the book covers over there to the right of this blog)

 Claudine Wirths, Wendie Old, and Mary Bowman-Krhum.
(we assumed that there wouldn't be enough room on the spine of our books for all three names, so we squashed our names together and came up with our pen name. (I'm the W part)
We had fun writing the books. And more fun going around speaking about them and doing signings at conventions of librarians and teachers.

After they retired from being RA, other wonderful volunteers took over as Regional Advisor(s) of that region.
Did I mention that this position is a Volunteer position?  All that work/ no pay.

When I moved to San Diego, I discovered the local SCBWI group here was extremely active one.
The two co-Regional Advisors are Janice Yuwiler and Patricia Buckley. and the Assistant Regional Advisor is Debra Schmidt.

Besides all their work running this large SCBWI group, planning great monthly meetings with editors, agents and published authors as speakers. the three of them have given me personal help.

Well. Way back last July 2015, I attended the International SCBWI Conference (held every year in Los Angeles).  Why not? It was just a couple of hours north of San Diego.

I drove up on Thursday so I could get a good night's sleep because the Conference started bright and early Friday morning.  As I unpacked, I discovered I had forgotten several things from my ditty bag. Not knowing that the hotel would have supplied me with new ones, I rushed out of the hotel, down the hill to the nearby shopping center and bought some.  Once back in the room with my goodies, I continued unpacking and discovered I had forgotten my nightgown!

So - back I went down the hill to the Macy's store to buy a replacement. Luckily I found one very similar to the one I had bought at Macy's at home and carried it back up the hill.
By this time I was very tired.
I was looking forward to getting into the hotel pool and swimming some laps.
When I had almost reached the hotel, I was looking up the hill at the hotel and not where my feet were going.
Unfortunately, at that point one of the sidewalk slabs had risen about an inch above the others and I tripped.
I crashed. Hitting the side of my head on the sidewalk.
I was unconscious for a while. Don't know how long. Then I heard people approaching. Saw my glasses in the middle of the sidewalk. Grabbed them and clutched them close to me.
Eventually people helped me up and helped me into the hotel. At which point they went to find my RAs.

 The RAs helped me to my room. The hotel people gave me ice packs for my head.
And for the rest of the evening, just as I was settled down on the bed, someone would call my room to see how I was. The hotel. Each one of the RAs.
I kept checking my eyes for any sign of concussion, but there was no sign. (one pupil larger than the other)
Finally everyone let me sleep.

The next morning, Janice walked me to the nearby optician (in the shopping center) who quickly fixed my glasses. (the earpiece was warped - that's all)

As you can tell, I think RAs are wonderful !