Friday, December 31, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Writing Prompt: School Plays!
The idea for my new picture book, The Littlest Christmas Star, came from remembering my school Christmas play in first grade. I was one of the stars in the night sky hoping to lead Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. I had one line in the play and I was so shy and scared to say my line. But, rather than writing a story about a shy kid who doesn’t want to be in the play, I decided to write about a very outgoing boy who not only wants to be in the play, but he wants to be the STAR of the show!
So, here is your writing prompt: think about a school play you were in as a child. Or if you weren’t in a play, think of one your own child, niece, nephew, sibling, or friend was in instead. Think about the theme of that play and the role you or your loved one had. Is there a story behind the story? Maybe everything went wrong on opening day. Or maybe the lead forgot her lines.
Or, is there a new story to tell that spins off from the plot of the play itself? What about the character you portrayed - can you imagine what his or her life was like outside of the play? Or, what happened after the play was over (either in the life of the character, or in a continuation of the play’s story)?
So many fun picture book scenarios can spring from this. Now get busy! J
Bio: In addition to The Littlest Christmas Star, Brandi Dougherty is the author of the New York Times Best Seller The Littlest Pilgrim (Cartwheel Books 2008), and three middle grade novels: Miss Fortune (Scholastic, 2010), The Friendship Experiment (Scholastic, 2009), and The Valentine’s Day Disaster (Scholastic, 2008). She lives in San Francisco with her boyfriend and their dog.
Visit her at www.brandidougherty.com
Monday, December 6, 2010
Both books are set in fictional Georgia towns. Between Us Baxters takes place in Holcolmb County, Georgia in 1959 and Truth with a Capital T takes place in Tweedle, Georgia. (AKA: Twiddle-Your-Thumbs-Georgia, as there is not a lot to do.) I choose both to be in fictional towns rather than real-life towns as I like to be influenced by reality but not be tied to it. But, when it comes to setting aren’t we supposed to be portraying something real? After all, I write historical and contemporary fiction—not fantasy.
Well, for me, to produce realistic and vibrant settings I like to call upon a place, but to not stay tied to that place. For Between Us Baxters, I imagined Holcolmb County as Burke County, Georgia—a county not far from Augusta, Georgia where I taught high school in the mid-1990’s. I called upon the pine trees I loved, the willow I would sit under as a girl, and the scent of rain as it transformed red, cracked Georgia clay into mud. I used my senses—calling upon real details—the way a windshield fogs in the South from the inside out due to humidity, the way a tree can not only shade you but welcome you, and the way a trip into the woods alone can turn from feeling freeing to daunting in a matter of minutes as the sun goes down.
For Truth with a Capital T, I drew on the small town of Halleyville, Alabama where my grandpa and grandma Bell lived. My last trip to Halleyville, Alabama was when my grandpa died. But, I do remember being in the car, signing Kenny Rodgers songs on the trip from Chicago, and crossing over a bridge on the way into town. The bridge was just an itty, bitty thing. It went up and and then down—kind of the shape of a slinky (Yes, I am a 70’s kid) and before we knew it we were on the other side of the bridge. That bridge had a nickname and I am a sucker for nicknames: The Kiss-Me-Quick Bridge, because if you were going to kiss someone as you went over it better be quick. That bridge and its nickname worked its way into Truth with a Capital T. It is an integral part of the plot. Many a scene takes place under the bridge, in the muddy waters below and it is a place of great significance as Maebelle explores her family’s history and their mysterious past.
Writer Prompt/Creating Superb Settings
Think of a place that you love. That feels familiar to you. It can be a large scale, like an entire town, or small scale, like a tree or a bridge. Imagine being there. What do you see? What can you hear? How does the air smell? Brisk? Clean? Are you indoors or outside? Now, picture your main character in this spot. How does he/she think or feel about this place? Is it special to them or is it common place? Does your character have the same feelings about the place as you do or are they different, how so and why?
Have your character move around this place. Are they walking? Jumping? Sitting? Standing? Caressing worn upholstery? Kneading dough on a hard counter? Are they wading through a stream? Turning the pages of a book? Facing an enormous crowd? Watching a sunrise? Is anyone with them? If so, who? Is this person friend or foe? Does your character need to hide or does your character welcome this new guest? Are the quarters cramped or expansive?
Is this place currently in your work-in-progress? Could it be? Should it be?
When creating settings we have much to think about. We need to think about character, about the time and place of the story, but we can also spend some time not thinking, but imagining. For me, the magic happens when I plumb my own memories, combine those memories with who I know my main character to be, and then and only then do my settings come close to being superb.
Friday, December 3, 2010
This 40-page literary treasure chest unlocks the secrets of writing with the help of five folksy, but humorously drawn animals created by the talented Eva Montanari: Peguin, Duck, Rat, Cow and Lion. Together, they take the reader on a marvelous adventure in which he/she is an integral character who touches, sees, smells, hears, sees, ponders and learns.
Each illustrative spread proves informative and challenging, and can be easily used on many levels, in fiction or non-fiction, or by a child or an adult who is reviewing writing principles or revising a piece of writing.
Eva Montanari graduated with high honors from both the State Institute of Applied Arts and from The European Institute of Design in Milan. Her paintings have been exhibited on three continents, and she has worked with some of the most important agencies and magazines in Italy. Besides having illustrated several books, Eva has many covers to her credit, and has also written texts for her own picture books. Ms. Montanari lives in Rimini, Italy, where she was born in 1977. Show; Don’t Tell!, Secrets of Writing is Eva’s first book with Gingerbread House.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Dr Seuss, for example was a keen user of the anapest. An anapest is a type of meter. It is made up of three syllables, two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed syllable. Each group of these 3 syllables is called a foot and Dr Seuss liked to have 4 feet per line.
From ‘Horton Hears a Who’...
|On the fif|teenth of May| in the Jun|gle of Nool|
1 2 3 4
|In the heat| of the day| in the cool| of the pool|
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Writing Advice from Kelly DiPucchio/There’s No Place Like Om
Most writers don’t have any trouble bringing their attention inward. In fact, we’re pretty much stuck in our heads all the time. And that’s the problem. For most of us, our chatty minds just won’t shut up. In addition to our real world mind chatter, we’re also bombarded by the chatter that comes from our make-believe worlds. We’re constantly plotting and planning while loud, impatient characters compete for our attention. It can be very hard to cultivate creativity when your mind is so cluttered and noisy.
Meditation quiets the monkey mind. Have you ever stopped to listen to silence? As strange as that sounds, silence has a frequency. When we can attune ourselves to that frequency; when we can leave our expectations, our anxieties, and our egos aside, we create a gap in our consciousness. This gap allows us to become aligned with the creative forces of the universe and we literally become a channel through which information can flow. When this exchange of energy occurs, some really interesting things begin to happen: Inspiration. Clarity. Wonderment. Unexpected opportunities. It’s pretty amazing. If you don’t believe me, give it a try. Namaste!
Kelly DiPucchio is the award-winning author of several picture books, including New York Times bestseller, Grace For President. Her most recent children’s book, The Sandwich Swap, was co-authored with Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, and was featured on The Oprah Show and Good Morning America. Kelly lives with her family in southeastern Michigan. You can visit her on the web at: www.kellydipucchio.com
Bed Hogs (Disney-Hyperion, 2004)
Liberty’s Journey (Disney-Hyperion, 2004)
What’s the Magic Word? (HarperCollins, 2005)
Monday, November 15, 2010
Today fellow LICWI (Long Island Children's Writers and Illustrators) Member Wendy Wax has stopped by the Playground to share her real life inspiration that would become CITY WITCH, COUNTRY SWITCH!
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Eleven years later, Hope is still sharing her knowledge and expertise with other writers. I am honored to have her as my Guest Blogger at the Playground and to share her inspiration, as well as her sensitivity.
If I Wasn’t Afraid
by C. Hope Clark
When fear strikes, we usually let it lead, keeping it where we can see it, practically letting it grab us by the nose and pull us through out lives. Most people then dodge whatever it was that kindled the fear, thinking avoidance the best policy. That’s why we dodge book signings, presentations and even submissions. If we don’t go there, fear can’t find us.
The fear hasn’t gone anywhere. Because you drive around the pothole in the road you travel everyday doesn’t mean the hole isn’t there. Inevitably you’ll come back to it again unless you take an entirely different route or a longer way home, inconveniencing yourself.
But what if you weren’t afraid? Name one of your worries and reword it. For instance: What if I wasn’t afraid of rejection?
Think of this exercise as if you were placing yourself on the backside of the fear. Imagine stepping over it like a puddle, standing on the other side and describing what it’s like over there.
What if you weren’t afraid of rejection? You’d submit a story every week to an editor of a publication. Simple. Now look back at the concerns mentioned earlier.
· What if I wasn’t afraid of someone not liking me? I would smile and not get upset.
· What if I wasn’t afraid of forgetting what to say? I’d refer to my notes, collect my thoughts and continue speaking.
· What if I wasn’t afraid of tripping? I’d get up, brush off and keep walking. I’d joke about it with the crowd.
· What if I wasn’t afraid my voice would crack? I’d keep talking, drinking from a bottle of water as I went.
· What if I wasn’t afraid someone would walk out? I’d ignore the person leaving and keep presenting.
· What if I wasn’t afraid of talking too long? I’d have a final wrap-up sentence prepared and offer to speak to individuals once the session was over.
· What if I wasn’t afraid of low sales? I’d be researching how to make more sales.
Make a list of five fears. Write “I’m afraid of” before each one. Now come up with three answers for each one using the words “If I wasn’t afraid, I would…” Then the next time you are nervous or scared, mentally challenge yourself to address it in this manner.
At a conference in Florida, I suddenly learned I would be the after dinner speaker. Teaching small classes was one thing, but this was a room of two hundred writers including a few agents and editors from New York. I have night blindness, and as I stepped on the podium and laid out my notes, the lights went down leaving only a spot on me. I’d practiced the speech well, but not being able to readily read my notes left me rattled. I completed the motivational topic and stepped down feeling completely deflated, recognizing the episode as one of my lesser glories.
I asked myself, “What is so bad about this moment?” I was still greeted warmly by the crowd. None of these folks disliked me for the speech. I was perfectly fine. I’d stumbled through a presentation and come out in one piece, the world still rotating as usual. Now before I step up to speak, or stand to read an excerpt, I imagine “What if I wasn’t afraid of this moment?” and plow forward.
Soon you learn as I have that some of your fears are conquerable – as easy as stepping over a mud puddle.
After eleven years of editing FundsforWriters.com, and ten years of Writer's Digest awarding FundsforWriters the 101 Best Websites for Writers recognition, you'd think public appearances prove no obstacle for me. Thirty-six thousand readers each week read my newsletters. Online I'm daring. Otherwise, however, I'm like most writers, nervous to appear in front of a room, anxious about what people think. To this day, I save the personal emails from readers until the end of my day, for fear one of them tells me I suck!
I penned The Shy Writer: An Introvert's Guide to Writing Success as a protest against the standard coaching of the day - speak up, make presentations, and act extraverted. What the general public doesn't realize is that a person fearful of public appearances might be confident in her own skin -smart, talented and amazingly intriguing. So I reached into my bag of personal experiences and drew out all the tools I'd used to cope in a world that misinterprets extraverted as intellectually bright, and I organized them in The Shy Writer, knowing so many writers need assistance to self-promote without coming unglued.