books

David Levithan

I love the first book I’ve read by this writer – Every Day. I’m going to start reading all the rest now! David Levithan.

How To Create A Book With Your Toddler

 

Come and have a look at my tips for creating a book with your toddler over on Today’s Parent. It’s a fun way for you as a writer to try something crafty and new with words, even if you don’t have a toddler to hand!

Stuck in YA Books

I’m doing a blog tour this week and my first stop is at Stuck in YA Books.  Here’s a paragraph of my post…

The first tip is a simple tip, but it helps me whenever I feel grumpy or stressed about writing.  Just write.  It’s a bit like the Nike ad from the 90s: Just Do It.  Turns out that the marketing department at Nike had it right – just doing something is the best way to figure out if you are passionate about it, if you have something to say, if you want to do it again.  And again.  And again.  Because that’s what writers have to do.  Write.  Every day if possible.  And they have to write badly and they have to write messily and they have to get it wrong to figure out how to get it right!

Read the rest and explore their book reviews at their great site.

Lost Glove/Found Poem

Here’s a description from the Manchester Art Gallery of one of their objects, a glove:

Single glove in mid-brown leather, embroidered with gold metal thread and sequins.
elongated fingers with squared ends, edged in metal braid with trefoil designs at the knuckles, the braid and the stitching is extended c.1.5 beyond the end of the finger to the knuckle, the fourchettes on the inside of the 2 fingers have lost their stitching, separate thumb section, gauntlets embroidered in gold metal thread in chain stitch, feather stitch and raised pearl stitch, trailing floral motifs with a scattering of gold metal sequins, edged in a gold metal fringe which has come unstitched, gauntlet interlined with linen canvas with the yellow and beige stitching showing, original black silk lining to mask the stitching has largely disappeared although traces remain at the edges

Can you use these words, rearranged, to create a found poem?

Reading Tip

Challenge yourself to read an entire novel this weekend.  If you don’t feel you have time, make time.  Your writing will be better for it.

Resolutions

Okay, the next couple of days I’m going to be thinking about the goals and deadlines I’m setting myself as a writer over the next year.  I always do this and I think it’s helpful to set clear resolutions when it comes to something as slippery as writing.  Without fixed outlines, it can be hard to ever get that novel or short story on the page.  Months can slide by without the work I want to do getting done.  Writing needs dedication and, for me, dedication comes from setting myself a timeline and ensuring I meet it.

Have you thought about setting yourself writing goals this year?  Make your goals realisitic, specific and measurable and see if it helps you achieve what you want as a writer.  Think too about setting some goals for reading – I always write a list of books I plan to read through the upcoming year, believing that reading is crucial for any writer.

Write a list tonight of ten things you want to achieve in writing/reading over the next twelve months.  Hone and think about this list between now and New Year’s Eve.  When you toast in 2011, know your writing is off to a good start.

Why Write?

Keep writing. Keep doing it and doing it. Even in the moments when it’s so hurtful to think about writing. –Heather Armstrong

Writing can sometimes feel like the loneliest most pointless activity ever. Reading over the reams of words I’ve scribbled onto hundreds of pages, or reviewing a poem or a short story I’ve attempted can be depressing and tiring. Why did I bother? Who’s going to read it? Publishers reject most of the stuff they receive so what’s the point? Is what I’ve written even any good? How can I tell?

Good news. These are questions any writer has to wrestle with. It’s true that for most writers, especially as they’re starting out, very few people care if they’ve written their novel or told their story. That can feel terrifying. But what any real writer discovers is what matters is the act of writing, the excitement of creating something out of nothing, the pleasure in seeing your characters come to life, not getting published or getting a book on the bestseller lists (writing isn’t the best way to go about making money—I’m pretty sure trading in stocks or working as an accountant might be the way to go about that).

Sometimes writers forget that the point of writing isn’t publication and rave reviews. It’s wonderful when people read your work and report back on it. But more wonderful even than that is the thrill of crafting your imagination and making your words do what you want them to do.

I write because I love it. Eight years ago, I received seven rejection letters in one week. As I picked up the latest one from my mail box, I slipped and fell down the stairs to end up lying in a crushed heap of pathetic misery on the ground (with a very sore ankle). Sure, as I lay there, I asked myself all those questions about the point of writing. But I picked myself up, ignored the despair and got on with working on my next project.

For me, the point of writing is that it inspires and informs me. It thrills and excites me. It helps me understand my world.

Adair Lara

Adair Lara’s new book, Naked, Drunk and Writing is full of advice on how to write a personal essay or memoir. Two paragraphs in the opening of her essay What’s Your Angle? give a taste of her writing style and make me want to stop what I’m doing and craft an essay of my own:

Adair Lara: You can’t just come out and say what you have to say. That’s what people do on airplanes, when a man plops down next to you in the aisle seat of your flight to New York, spills peanuts all over the place (back when the cheapskate airlines at least gave you peanuts), and tells you about what his boss did to him the day before. You know how your eyes glaze over when you hear a story like that? That’s because of the way he’s telling his story. You need a good way to tell your story.

An angle is a way to tell a story. It is to the essay what a premise is to a book, or a handle is to advertising, or a high concept is to a movie (dinosaurs brought back to life for a theme park!). It’s a gimmick or twist or conceit that grabs the reader’s attention long enough for you to say what you want to say. Think of the angle as the Christmas tree. Once you have that six-foot pine standing up next to the piano, it’s pretty easy to see where the decorations go. Without the tree, what have you got? A lot of pretty balls on the floor.

You can read the rest here.

Workshop

I have a wonderful after lunch workshop with a group at the Univesity of Saskatchewan Bookstore’s grand re-opening.  We did some freewriting and then we wrote a short piece with the following heading:

The Time I Said Goodbye.

The work read outloud was very strong and moving.  Try the heading for yourself and see what you end up with on the page.

Festival of Words

Literature festivals are a great way to meet writers and to get an idea about what weird and wonderful (or terribly ordinary and dull) creatures we are.  Here at the Festival of Words in Moose Jaw (great name for a place), I’m looking forward to listening to (and reading with) my old teacher Steven Galloway – author of The Cellist of Sarajevo.  He taught me during a fiction workshop sometime during the year before Life on the Refrigerator Door was published and he gave me ideas about writing that really made me rethink what I was doing.  I remember coming to festivals as an audience member and looking at the writers on the stage wondering how on earth they managed to get what they wanted to say on the page.  So, Steven gave me ideas about how to do that and now I get to read on stage with him.  Neat.

The whole thing about literature festivals is that they’re a kind of escape for writers who spend WAY too much time stuffed in lonely old offices deleting sentences.  Here in Moose Jaw, it’ll be good to meet with other authors, and to hang out at the spa where the festival puts us up.  Margaret Atwood was here a  few years ago and I’ve met more than one writer who loved swimming past her in the mineral baths here.

Friends of ours are joining us.  One of them is an emerging writer himself.  The festival will – hopefully – inspire him to keep going with his writing.  He can sit and listen to writers reading from their books, and chat with writers about their process and get ideas from them.  Or just hang out at the spa.

If any of you are in Moose Jaw, then come along and see some of the many readings and events happening over the next couple of days.  Writing festivals are an alchemical mix of established writers with their readers, and of emerging writers with their favourite authors.  Come along to get inspired yourself (and try to fit in a swim!)