Saturday, April 28, 2012

April Showers: The Wonder of Middle Grade Fiction

Hey, thanks for dropping by. I have more good news this week. My YA novel PLUMB CRAZY, in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, has moved on to the semi-finals. My book is in the top 50 of 5000.Please consider following the link to the Amazon site and liking or reviewing the excerpt if you will. I also had a story released on the Farfaria app called "Waiting for Princess Tea".

I am a writer with varied talents. I write in multiple genres for children, and today I'm going talk about the wonder of middle grade. Middle grade is about impossibility - animals talk, fairies grant wishes and aren't pouting skanks and, my favorite, BFF, best friends are forever.

This is the place of a literal world. Black is black and white is white. Shades of gray aren't welcome in this magical land. It weird and wonderful because magic is welcome but ambiguity is not. That just makes me laugh. This is the way it works, "When you wish upon a star your dreams come true". I think the best middle grade authors get this and won't disappoint us by answering a wish with an unending nightmare. I mean if the wish is a curse our intrepid hero is going to figure that out and break that wish!

To me the best middle grade faces the big questions of injustice with shining clarity. Good triumphs over evil. Orphans find homes. Lonely kids find friends. Ordinary kids go on extraordinary adventures. This is no shrinking violet genre. Good people die and that experience builds a foundation in characters so they can take life on.

I love middle grade and I love to write it. I think it's because my inner twelve-year-old is alive and well inside me, and she has so many stories to share. Finally, if you are interested, here is a blog that does a great job exploring middle grade fiction -- From the Mixed Up Files. I hope you worked so hard this week I know you are doing amazing things. I hope I said something here that helps you define your journey.

This week's doodle in the cover of my story in the Fanfaria app, illustrated by the talented. Alexandra Artigas.

And finally a quote to keep with you this week.

It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.  Mark Twain

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April Showers: Why write YA?

Hi folks, I'm glad you are dropping by! Please check out my quarter-finalist excerpt of PLUMB CRAZY in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. I had a lovely week, spending most of my days at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference. What fun! Best moment, I met some librarians and mentioned that I was an author was greeted by cheers: "Authors are our Rock Stars!" How encouraging is that? Author pals everywhere, but the highlight was Kathy Whitehead and Stasia Ward  Kehoe and myself, at The Grove and speaking of writerly things. Yay for good times!

Now for April showers, seeing as we had a deluge here today this seems more than appropriate. My post will be a little short this week because I'm up to my ears with stuff and nonsense to do. So here we go, I'm going to answer a question I heard at the TLA conference -- Why do you write YA? I think I write YA because it is the moment of invention in the human journey. Stories for adults are about reinvention of the self. Someone doesn't like who they have become and they change into someone else. You may tire of your life and go on a journey to eat, pray and love. You may find that you are on a journey for riches, but end up on Mars to hook up with the princess and save her planet too. You may be someone who has found your life is not about you but about getting your child to a sanctuary. This is every adult book on the shelf.

In young adult novels things are different; main characters discover who they are for the first time. This is the moment of first invention of self.

As a person, I came early to this first invention of self.  I wasn't a writer, but my first invention of self was a person of worth. I think this is something you hunger for when you are taking those first steps into awareness and when you find OMG! You know, I think every teen ought to have a little bubble overhead, proclaiming "Worthy! Worthy!." Another part of this invention, you get to answer the mythic questions for the very first time. Who are you? What do you want? The chance to explore these moments is a great journey to me. I especially like to surprise my characters with the overwhelming wonder of the true answers to their mythic questions. And last, the first invention is about exploring "the sudden drown of knowing" a little phrase I've borrowed from YA starlet author Katherine Grace Bond. This is the time of visions. The mind is on fire with knowing, and it's this deep understanding that is the fire in YA fiction.

Oh, if you are on this journey of writing for YA folks, I hope that you will infuse worthiness into your characters , that you write the best answers to the mythic questions, and finally wade into the deep waters of knowing.

No doodle of the week, instead here is Orson Scott Card crushing my head -- or, as my sister says: "Orson healing you from writer's block." I honestly am having a lot of fun in this life.

Well, finally a quote to keep with you --

O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.
William Shakespeare

Saturday, April 14, 2012

April Showers: Author Persona!

Hi, folks. I had the opportunity to hear Paul Christensen, poet and professor at Texas A&M, speak about author persona. He lit all kinds of fire in me about storytelling. This here is going to be Texas rain shower, the kind that makes you pull over the car and wait it out. Author persona is about who is telling your story. I know, you are, but it's not quite you, is it?

Persona is a term used by actors. It's the character played by the actor. Back in the day, ancient actors used a theatrical mask when playing a part. They held that mask in front of them and became the character behind the mask. Eventually the mask went by the wayside, and actors simply put forth the character. The mask was a symbol -- the everyday person is gone from this body, and a conjurer has appeared who brings forth voices. I'm calling it the aggrandized self. Who is telling your stories? Do you have a mask? Can you define it?

I'm going to make a confession. I think about the characters. I think about the plot. I delve into the information. I don't think I've ever thought about who is telling my story, my author persona, but I had noted that my stories seem to be coming from different places within me. The person telling the story, is me but not exactly. I'm a mouse in life. I'm a lion on paper. I've always noticed this difference. I love it when someone reads my work and looks at me and says, "Who are you?" I hate it when someone reads my work and goes "meh". I've gotten a sense that "meh" writing means that the mouse-me is getting in the way of the lion-me.

On top of that, I've always worried about writing in more than one genre. I mean that's crazy, right? I'm happy to report, this whole persona thing put my worries to rest forever. I have a several author personas not just one. All four are easy to quantify. I have a quintessential storyteller who sits on the back porch and doles out wisdom and lore to the neighbors in equal measures. I also have a wise, joke-cracking, fedora-wearing, unbound comedian lurking in here too. There's a twelve year old girl with way too much responsibility on her shoulders who feels there is so much more in the universe and no one will listen to her. And last I have this children's librarian who loves to read to the kids coming into her library who have limited opportunities and need to know, oh, so much more about the world. These are my personas. Not me, but the pieces of me, "the contradictory multitudes" spoken of by Walt Whitman in "Song of Myself" who tell my stories.

I think understanding who is telling your stories will help you execute them with more confidence. Confidence is everything, folks. The great writers put aside the hope for publication, the need for fame, the question if they will suceed or not etc. and give the reins to the "Persona" who does not fail. Let your persona(s) emerge. Here's the deal -- thank you, Paul Christensen -- the 'persona' will love wider, forgive more, be unafraid, and know the answers. The 'persona' will channel the hidden meaning on the page. What mask are you wearing? Are you afraid to put it on? Are you letting the noise of your real life hamper the storytelling of the "persona?" Oh, heady stuff, writer friends.

I really hope this helps. See you next week

Here is this week's doodle: "Baby."

Here is the fiery quote of the day:

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
Walt Whitman

Saturday, April 07, 2012

April Showers: Sure-fire Revison Techniques

Ah, April! I hope to water your work this week. I've been uber busy an need a breather for this week, so i will keep the post short and sweet. Spring is such a time of renewal. My best advice to create wonderful work -- learn how to revise.

I'm still learning how to revise. Many authors spin their wheels because they think the know how to revise but instead of moving their work forward they are creating a train wreck. So here are some techniques that really have helped me (techniques that move me forward). I hope they help you. Strengthen your work.

1. The point-of-no-return. What is the point-of-no-return? The mid-point of your novel. When Elizabeth realizes she is love with Mr. Darcy or when the Millennium Falcon is sucked into the Death Star by the tractor beam. You just can't go back after that stuff. Find the point-of-no-return in your novel and put it on the center page of your work. Clip it and paste to dead center and fit everything else around it. Your novel is better now.

2. No repeats. You get to say every thing one time. Ask yourself am I repeating myself. You might repeat descriptions. You might repeat plot points. You might go on about the way your character feels. You will strengthen your story by cutting out repeats of information.

3.Read your novel. Okay, this feels like a no-brainer, but there are a lot of ways to read your novel, and you should do as many reads as you can. Read your novel silently and aloud. Don't forget to record your reading and then listen to it. Have someone read your novel to you. Read your novel on paper, on screen and on ereader, change the fonts and read it again, change the fonts and read it again. Don't forget to read the whole thing in one afternoon. Do this a number of times. If you are worried about a section, read each line backwards.(I'm not joking.)

4. Toss out the ending. This may sound awful but I think writing another ending can help you. Ask yourself this question, what could happen that is more terrible than what has happened already? I mean if you have a romance, what is the most horrible thing that could happen to these clueless souls. If you have dystopian future, is there any way to make it more horrible -- kill somebody.

5. Leverage POV. I do this one all the time. I like to write in third person limited, but sometimes I find I'm drifting in emotional scenes, so I write the scenes in first person and when I'm done, I convert them to third person limited. It's a great way to find the appropriate interior introspection that makes fiction come alive. Another way I help myself out is to rewrite the scene from the POV of different characters. This helps me untangle how my characters should react in scenes. I also write a telling of chapters, this helps me get the plot on track.

That's a lot of stuff. You will be busy for weeks, but you will be very happy. Also, Please check out the excerpt of my YA comedy PLUMB CRAZY, a quarter finalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, Young Adult Division. Likes and reviews welcome. :)

Come back next week for more showers to make you work bloom.

Now for this week's doodle entitled "Rely."

Here is the quote:
Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
Henry Ford