THE VERY BUSY SPIDER


THE VERY BUSY SPIDER

 by Natalie Bright

 

A recent Publishers Weekly article announced a new initiative involving publishers and more than 30 communities working to make popular eBooks available for free to children. The Open eBooks app is being developed by the New York Public Library. More kids reading and discovering stories is so exciting. I hope the ConnectED Library Challenge is a huge success.

For the Love of Books!

Remembering the joy I found as a child from my favorite books makes me think of Eric Carle’s THE VERY BUSY SPIDER.

My son loved that book. His father and I took turns reading it out loud. Every. Single. Night. Never mind that I joined a book club and received 2 to 3 new picture books each month. Our boy wasn’t interested. The sheer drudgery of reading Mr. Carle’s book over and over for many years became almost unbearable. My husband and I took turns talking in goofy voices for the animal parts, seeing who could keep a straight face the longest.

Being desperate, I offered a brilliant compromise. We would read two stories every night. One of his choosing and one of my choosing, from the growing pile of book club treasures. My son thought this over for several long seconds. “O-tay,” he says. “But we wead busy spider two times.”

So that’s what we did. One new book and then the spider book every night. Twice. Outsmarted by a three year old, I admit it, but who can argue with that logic when someone you care about loves a book that much?

Dyslexia Diagnosis

Several years later, when my son was in elementary school and struggling, we discovered he had dyslexia. After training sessions and classes which included parent’s participation as well, I understood his fascination with THE VERY BUSY SPIDER. It has clean lines, simple yet detailed illustrations, pages filled with white space; that book literally relaxed his over active brain. The story calmed him down after a day of sensory overload.

Honestly, I still cringe every time I see that cover. No matter how much I dreaded reading that book, what if I had insisted on reading the other books instead? His heart would have been broken, and his over-active mind would have never settled down for sleep.

Readers Have to Connect

As a writer I stand in awe of THE VERY BUSY SPIDER. I learned two lessons from my son and that book:

  1. Some readers may not connect with your stories. Every reader is different.
  2. Stop writing to catch the latest trend. If you’ve never reached the end, it might be time to start something new. If you’re not really into it, how can your readers connect? Write the kinds of books that burn in your heart and mind.

When I dropped the drudgery of writing to what’s popular, my clip file and pub credits grew. The characters that spoke to me gained me a literary agent.

Book Lovers to Do List:

Long before I was a writer, I was a book lover and reader. Here are a few ways we can all promote the joys of reading.

* Recommend a good book to a child or parent, even if it’s not yours.

* Post a book review for an author.

* Comment on an industry related blog and share the link.

* Keep writing the stories of your heart.

Obsession


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Obsession

By Nandy Ekle

 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I have been accused of having a touch of OCD. And maybe I do. Maybe do listen to the same song over and over, watch the same movie over and over, do the same activity over and over. Maybe I do have a specific way of doing every task, from the order of laundry loads to which ice cube comes out of the tray first.

I think, as a writer, the ability to obsess is important. Even if you have a short attention span, use the writing mood as intensely as possible. When you wake up in the morning, think about what perils your character will find during the day. As you shower, decide how your character will deal with these new obstacles. While you’re performing your day job, let your characters whisper to the right side of your brain while the left side performs the work. During your meals, allow the activity of your story to build. And when you lay down in your bed at night, your characters will put you to sleep so that you can start over the next day.

I really don’t know any other way to get the story out. When the mood is gone, it takes the words with it and you’ll be wandering around with characters frozen in mid sentence waiting for you to return. And one thing I’ve learned is the more I obsess about something, the deeper the obsession becomes.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

World Building


World Building

by Adam Huddleston

 

For writers who set their stories in the world as it exists today or in the past, the concept of world building may not be quite as important as it is to folks like me; the fledgling sci-fi/fantasy author. Real places with real people populate their work so they simply write what they know (or could find out through a basic internet search). What happens when you want to set your story on the planet Xynon in the Gordita galaxy? Or what if the country of your protagonist’s birth happens to be Fargan, where it rains peanut butter and jelly?

Mountains of books have been written on the subject of world building. I would highly recommend “The Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy” by Orson Scott Card, author of “Ender’s Game.” He takes the major facets of world building chapter by chapter and explains them very well.

Once you get a feel for the different aspects: geography, peoples, history, religion, flora/fauna, etc. it is just a matter of developing them into a cohesive environment. Generally speaking, the deeper you delve into each part of world-building, the richer your work will be.

Another bit of advice: If you are going to create something that does not exist in the real world, you must make it relatable to something that is. What I mean is, the reader needs to be able to understand what it is they are reading about. For example, if you say, “the warfle crawled along the ground” give a good description of it so the reader won’t be lost.

Along the same lines, use real adjectives and verbs. Don’t say “the warfle cavadered along the sand.” Your reader has no idea what “cavadered” means. Just use crawled, slunk, etc.

Hopefully these suggestions will give you a jump-start in the practice of world-building. Happy writing!

 

 

Same Song, Different Tune


Outtakes 195

Same Song, Different Tune

By Cait Collins

 

Three boys grew up together. They were closer than brothers. When they entered college, they chose the same major, planned to graduate together, and work together. But on graduation night one walks the stage to get his degree. Ten years later, they are reunited. What happened to separate the boys? What brought them back together?

On the surface, there is nothing new to this story. It’s been told time and again, because there are a limited number of stories. Depending on the instructor and the text book used, we were taught there are between four and seven stories; man against man, man against nature, man against himself, and coming of age are the most common themes. Yet each retelling can be new and exciting. It all depends on the writer, his theme, his characters, and the circumstances around which he builds the story.

What if the first boy was badly injured in a car accident while on vacation? The head injury resulted in a memory loss. He wanders the country looking for home. The second boy is forced to drop out of college when his mom, a single parent, dies suddenly. He has two younger siblings that need a guardian, and so he moves home to care for them; The third continues his studies, graduates, gets his masters degree, and makes a name for himself in his chosen profession. A news bulletin changes all three lives.

I’m playing with this story line.

I have a number of questions to deal with. What is the profession the boys planned to pursue? They need names. I’ll start out with Tom, Dick, and Harry. The characters will tell me who they really are. Who is the antagonist? I need three, maybe four major settings. What are their social backgrounds? Do they all have brothers and sisters? What secondary character will enter the story? Am I writing a novel or a novella? Is my work a mystery or closer to mainstream?

The process of creating a new work is both exciting and frustrating. There will be days when I am prolific and days when I struggle to write one paragraph. At this point I know one thing. Three boys, now men, will reunite. But will their reunion by joyous or a heartbreak? Truth is, I don’t know; however, they will tell me. The men will guide the story. I look forward to the adventure.

 

 

How Do I Manage My Social Media?


How Do I Manage My Social Media?

By Rory C. Keel

 

As we have already discovered, social media will help the writer in building their brand, platform or fan base for their writing. Social media is expected in the modern world of technology.

We previously explored the large variety of social media applications available to the writer such as blogs, business-to-customer avenues like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. We also looked at business-to-usiness focused applications such as LinkedIN. And let’s not forget the use of picture and video oriented social media venues such as Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube.

Managing Social Media

Now that we have a social media presence on the web, how does the writer manage the avenues he or she has chosen?

First, you must understand that social media is NOT FREE.

Are you surprised?

While you may not have pulled out your credit card to set up an account, you will pay by investing either time or money. Your time equals money and unless you are a professional blogger, the hours you spend managing your social media accounts are hours NOT spent on writing projects.

Secondly, you need to understand the different ways to manage your social media accounts.

Individual App Management

This will require you to log on to each application and enter information, reply to messages or requests for followers and manage the account yourself. If you have several different applications this can be time consuming.

The optimum average time one should spend managing all accounts should be no more than 15-20 minutes in the morning and the same amount of time in the afternoon.

Basic Simple Links

Basic simple links in the applications offer the user shortcuts to link them together. By linking these social media platforms, one entry can be made and it will be posted on all applications, saving time and money.

Management Programs and Services

When you achieve your fame as a writer, management services are available to manage these accounts for you. They range from free limited services to different levels of service for various monthly charges.

Next week we will discuss some general tips in using social media.

 Roryckeel.com

Creative Genius or Paranoia?


Creative Genius or Paranoia?

By Natalie Bright

The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person. FRANK BARRON, “Think”, Nov-Dec 1962.

People should realize that writers apply their vivid imaginations to every aspect of their lives. It’s an endless list, the things we can worry about, and the writing and submitting process is no exception. I’m not saying I’ve ever had any thoughts on this list (perhaps one—okay, two), but these issues have come up in conversation with creative types:

  • My children, husband, in-laws, co-workers, neighbors, my cat—the entire universe—have conspired to prevent me from finishing this book.
  • Why did I send that stupid and inappropriate email to my agent? I should have never asked that question. She’s never replied because obviously, I’ve been dropped as a client. Can I be any more unprofessional? My career is over.
  • No response. They never got it. It’s been 14 days, 8.5 hours, 22 minutes since my submission. I don’t like the way the new mailman looks at me. He probably never put it in the bin for mailing. The crazy postman sabotaged my writing career.
  • I can’t believe I let this story out into the world. What a piece of crap. No wonder I can’t sell anything. I’m a total joke to every editor in New York City. They probably read my work out loud at happy hour just for a good laugh.
  • My book would have sold by now except for my website. I need a complete redo with a more vivid color scheme, different pictures, new bio. A blog! I need a blog. And a tribe. How much does a tribe cost?
  • I’m done. It’s too hard. I can’t take all of this rejection. Who am I kidding? My dream. Is. Over. *sob* Hey! A great idea for a picture book just came into my head! I’ll sleep later, AFTER I finish the first draft…

…onward my WordsmithSix friends!

 Nataliebright.com

Heart


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Heart

By Nandy Ekle

The heart, the center, the core, the theme, the main idea. This is a very important part of your story. The heart is what the story is about.

Look at anatomy. On the outside we see skin, hair, fingernails. But we don’t see what’s under the skin. We don’t see the bones, the muscles, or the blood in its vessels. But we can look at the skin and see the evidence of those deeper body parts. Our skin has a firm shape because of the bones under it and it’s warm and has a rosy color because of the blood being pumped by the heart through the blood vessels.

Our stories are the same. We talk about story layers all the time, and that’s another good analogy—the onion theory. On the topmost layer of the story you have what’s happening at the moment. The next layer might be what’s going on inside the characters’ heads, and there might be a layer of tension between the characters because of the relationship between them. You could even have a layer of discovery and healing when the relationships change. But the very center of the story, the heart, is what the whole thing is really all about.

The other definition of “heart” I want to talk about sort of fits parallel with this one. Heart equals feelings. One of the best ways to connect with your reader is with emotions. You have a main character that wants something so much they are willing to risk everything to get it. You want your reader to feel this yearning and hunger as much as the character. You want your reader to feel every struggle, every disappointment, every victory with your character. When that happens, the center layer of your story goes right into the reader’s heart and they learn the same lesson the character learns.

In my blog next week, we will look at ways to burrow down into a reader’s heart and make your story become their story.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Let’s Get Emotional


Let’s Get Emotional

by Adam Huddleston

After reading an excerpt from the novel I’m working on to my critique group, the other members encouraged me to deepen the protagonist’s emotional connection to the reader. After looking through my submission, I couldn’t agree more. Here is why it is important and some ways to achieve it:

Readers have invested time and money into your story. They expect to experience a connection with the main character(s). They want to be immersed in every plot twist, conflict, and whatever else occurs along the way. If they feel cheated, they’re less likely to spend their hard-earned cash on your work in the future.

There are many ways to develop that connection. First and foremost, be sure to emphasize what your character is feeling inside in relation to what’s happening in the outside world. Also, don’t be afraid to let your character reminisce once in a while. As long as it’s not overdone, it can be a powerful tool to use. It’s important to remember that when writing, don’t confuse your emotional reaction to a situation with what the character would feel. Stay true to the story!

Happy writing!

Things to Write About


Outtakes 194

Things to Write About

By Cait Collins

 

The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto has done it again. I’ve enjoyed their first release 642 Things to Write About. The pages are full of ideas to spark a writer’s creative juices. The ideas are unique. For example, “Write two prayers for your character: one to be said in private, one to be said in public”. Or, “study a stranger. Go home and write a tragedy about his or her mother”. Or maybe write about “a tree from the point of view of one of its leaves”. Sounds interesting doesn’t it? I can assure you there are plenty of ideas in this journal to jump start the imagination. They also released 642 Things to Write About Young Writer’s Edition designed to inspire our younger aspiring authors.

If you think 642 ideas is impressive, the Grotto has another volume; 712 More Things to Write About. Yes, 712 more ideas. Try this. “What were you thinking the first time you made out with someone?” Then there is “Write about a time in your life when you narrowly escaped some terrible fate –but change the ending, and write as if the terrible thing actually happened.” And now “Write five messages from the Ouija board”. And if you are still not convinced everything is fair game, I challenge you to “Write for 10 minutes without stopping about everything that stops you from writing”.

Sometimes we may believe the muse has left us. Our minds are so clouded with what went wrong at work, your child needs braces and your dental insurance will pay less than half the cost, and the social function you’d rather skip. We allow our concerns to block our creativity. But these journals give so much inspiration. They are treasures for our tired, stressed minds. I do recommend them. Just think one short exercise may be the start of a short story, an article, or a novel.

Which social media platforms should a writer use?


Which social media platforms should I as a writer, have a presence on?

By Rory C. Keel

As we discussed on my blog post last week called Basic Social Media for Writers, that Social media for business has become the norm. For a writer it is no different, you are a business and your customers are your readers.

With literally hundreds of options to choose from such as Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube, it could drive a person mad. Before deciding on which social media venue to have a presence, you need to do your research.

RESEARCH

First, you need to develop a platform of readership. Choose a B2C social media platform. B2C simply means a business–to-customer platform that will allow you as a business, to focus on your genre and connect with your readers, the customers.

Second, understand what the venue is and how it works.

A Blog is a place to publish thoughts, tips, ideas. Regular blogs provide keyword-rich content for search engines and can help create you as an expert in your field.

Facebook, Google +, Myspace and other similar platforms, are used to connect and interact with your audience with personal and/or business pages

Twitter allows you to follow and connect with a target audience.

Tweeting about your writing with excerpts, answering questions, and offering helpful insights can help to build loyal readership.

YouTube is the top site for user generated video content. It’s a place to share your business by how-to videos, video readings, discussions, or simply a video introducing YOU.

Other social media sites use the medium of photos to share ideas and communication, such as Instagram and Pintrest.

Another type of social media platform is a B2B platform. B2B simply refers to a Business-to-Business platform. In another words a wholesaler to you as a business.

As a writer, you need access to editors, publishers, or agents. You might even need connections with an ink cartridge and paper supply company. You as a business can connect with others who offer services you need.

LinkedIN is an example of this type of platform and has a business focus.

Having the proper research and information, you can begin to formulate an idea of which social media platform to focus your attention.

With that in mind, next week we will discuss how to best manage your social media so that you will still have time to write.