Friday, October 30, 2009

Feed your creative self

Like the quote at the bottom says, “…feed your creative self.” That’s exactly what I did the other day, taking advantage of the beautiful, sunny day that was just right for a “field trip.” I went down to pay a visit to my own city’s museum. I needed to do more research for one of the stories I’m working on. Took my camera and my notebook. I wandered through the museum taking pictures of exhibits I thought would come in handy for my work. I got permission, of course. It turned out to be more than I expected. The exhibits were extraordinary.

I ran into a clown, yes, a clown before I even got to my destination. I couldn’t resist taking her picture. Then a squirrel came up to within inches of where I stood next to a fence. Completely ignored me as it munched on some nuts. Even allowed me to take its picture. I thought that was pretty cool.

Another treat was the lush beauty of the grounds outside the museum. That was an inspiration in itself. The historical buildings and the stories behind them could also spark anyone’s imagination. Sometimes we writers need to take some time off to enjoy the beauty that is all around us. I’m sure there are landmarks in your town that are worth looking into, the people behind the scenes, the history, the “surprises” that are out there.

With my notebook full of notes and my camera loaded with pictures, I returned home, relaxed, full of ideas and ready to get back to writing. I recommend that you take a day off sometime – enjoy! Look around your own town. You just might discover treasures you didn’t know existed. And that can get any story started.

“Carve out a space in your day for quiet, uninterrupted thinking. Exercise and feed your creative self.” – Penny Raife Durant

Friday, October 23, 2009

Yesterday was my regular day to meet with my critique group. Instead of presenting the middle-grade novel I usually bring, I brought a picture book manuscript. This story had been stuck way back in my files for a long time. Sometimes I like to go back and try to resurrect some of my earlier pieces. This was a very rough draft – really rough. It was more of just jotting down a sort of theme for a story when the idea sparked ages ago.

Once the critique was over, I discovered that this little story does indeed have potential. The advice I got from my writer friends was excellent. Made me see this story in a new light. I shall devote some time to making it better. Once I’m convinced it’s the best that it can be, I’ll submit it. Then I’ll return to my middle-grade novel. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break between the different types of stories you’re working on. Gives you new perspective.

We all bring something different to the table. One writer is doing historical fiction. The other one mainstream while still another is working on a chapter book. Makes for a very interesting critique and fascinating conversation. Can you tell I love color by the pictures I take?

“How can you sit down to write until you have stood up to live?” – Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, October 18, 2009

If you haven’t joined a writing organization, you should do so now. You will really benefit when you join and get involved. A few days ago, we had one of our regular chapter SCBWI meetings. The topic was “School Visits.” One of our own local authors was the speaker. She had an excellent presentation that included not only our membership but some librarians and teachers from the area as well. There was feedback from both sides, the educators and the authors. We learned a lot from one another, i.e., what teachers expect from author visits and what authors offer during the presentations. An event such as this presented a wonderful opportunity for authors to meet and interact with educators and vice versa.

Some other topics at our chapter meetings have been on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, websites, blogs, etc. Critique groups have also sprouted from these gatherings. The support you get as a writer from groups such as these is invaluable. Join now.

I found an excellent blog on writing tools such as emotions, settings, etc., called “The Bookshelf Muse.” Check it out. Happy writing!

“People often ask, ‘How do you start a book?’ Well, I’ve always started this way … Chapter 1.” – Paula Danziger

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Florence, Italy

Here's another excerpt from the journal I kept while traveling in Italy a while back. Enjoy.

March 14 – Florence, Italy. The architecture of the buildings here is unbelievable. The streets are narrow – so narrow in some places that upon our arrival in Florence, the chartered bus could not maneuver its way through the street leading to our hotel. We all got off the bus several blocks away and pulled our luggage through the streets of Florence to our hotel. It was hilarious. A group of thirty-three people lugging their suitcases on the cobbled streets of Florence. We were quite a sight!

The hotel was a four-star one and elegant. We had a three-course dinner in the dining room where silver and china sparkled on the white-clothed tables. Of course, there was wine. Dessert was scrumptious. Some awesome pastry with strawberries and cream. My room had a balcony, although it was just for show. All night long until the wee hours of the morning, the streets below were filled with people talking and laughing as they walked by.

After breakfast the next day, we walked several blocks to a magnificent cathedral (one of many) where we celebrated Mass. It was raining and we tried to avoid puddles of water on the worn cobbled streets. We must have looked like little ducks waddling in line to some destination. Parts of the church are under renovation so we made our way through some scaffolding on the outside and inside. Some fading frescoes are still on the walls of the church. The pews and kneelers, of course, are not padded. 

Later that afternoon, we visited a monastery with hundreds of other tourists. It was cold, windy and rainy. I am glad I brought that woolen black shawl that makes me look like an old lady but shields me from the cold. Lucky for me that I brought my umbrella as well. Chinese girls (vendors) were all over the streets of Florence. They were selling silk scarves, some made in Rome, I guess because the word “Roma” was etched across the scarves. I wondered where these mostly young Chinese girls with the porcelain complexions lived in Florence. They looped the scarves over their arms, covering them with clear plastic to protect them from the rain. Dressed in loose silk pants and colorful quilted jackets, they looked like dolls. Mostly girls, but I did see some young Chinese men hawking umbrellas.

After dinner, we walked through St. Mark’s Square. It looked eerie at night, the giant statues of David, Hercules, Neptune and others looming over us as we walked by. Earlier that day, we had lunch in one of the cafeterias lining the square. We pay for everything in Euros.

Until next time, have a great writing day!

"Art is really the language of feeling." -- Steven Kellogg

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Libraries are cool!

Just got back from a one-hour writing workshop at my local library. The topic was writing stories about your family history. The instructor had us bring old, cherished photos of family members or events. First, we made a brief list (one-sentence to describe) of family stories handed down through the years. Then another list about stories handed down about us. Third list was about things we’ve kept throughout the years that have special meaning. We were allowed about three minutes for each list. I was amazed at how quickly those lists materialized.

Next, we took one of the pictures we had brought, studied it briefly, then wrote what we thought was the story behind the picture. After that, we wrote briefly about what we thought “was not” in the picture. You’ll find out this can be quite intriguing. The creative juices flowed with this exercise. Another exercise was holding an object of significant meaning to the person doing the writing and writing about it. You’d be surprised how quickly memories come alive and how soon ideas and emotions flow into your being.

Workshops such as these are fun, rewarding, and best of all – FREE. Look around for what your local libraries have to offer. Thank goodness for libraries!

You might also want to check out this blog KENS-5 South SA that features my books. Have a fun productive writing day! I encourage you to comment and sign up as a follower to my blog.

The greatest children’s books are about the journey to wisdom.” – Jane Yolen