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.