Friday, September 23, 2016

The Way We Look At Books

by Tamara Passey

When you attend a writer's conference you can hear a buffet of advice--use active voice, not passive, no info-dumping, and so on. But not all writing advice is created equal. Every now and then you can come across some wisdom that can fundamentally change your writing life, if you let it.

J. Scott Savage
ANWA 2016 Keynote
The ANWA conference keynote speaker this year was J. Scott Savage. One of the things he said was "Your writing will change people's lives." It reminded me of something I heard him say several years earlier. He was speaking about his personal writing and publishing journey up to that time and said something I hadn't heard before. Something that changed the way I think about books and that I haven't forgotten since.

It went a little like this:

"If you've ever read a book and thought, 'how did that book get published?' thinking only of what was awful about the book, what you could be asking is 'how did that book get published?' with an eye for what was good about the book."

"If an agent liked the book and an editor worked on the book, and it is selling--look at what is working. Look for what the author did to reach an audience and connect with readers. That is what you want to emulate."

Maybe this had an impact on me because at that time I had written the first draft of my first novel and I was hoping for publication sooner rather than later. Instead of reading books for pure enjoyment, I began reading them with a critical eye and found myself wondering how or why certain books ever made it to the shelf. I thought it was my high standards for writing, but I'm sure there was some creative jealousies at work too. 

And so the way that he turned that question around changed my entire attitude. For the better.

Asking what works about a particular story or novel opened me up to positive energy. Focusing on the good and what the author did right, made a place in my mind for me to do the same. Looking for techniques that resonate with the reader made it possible for me to learn those techniques. And I'll take it one step further, being happy for the success of another author--helped me achieve my own.

Me--finally having a chance to thank Jeff Savage for some really great writing advice!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fall Wreath Non How To - Repost

This is a re-post in honor of the first day of autumn. 

I could probably come up with a better post title, but it's late and the heat wilted me today. So I went for the straight-forward approach, tell it like it is. 

First: The "Non" How To Make a Wreath that doesn't cost $50.
Why is it a Non-How-To?
Because I am NOT an expert. This is my first attempt at making a wreath. I don't even call my self crafty, unless we're talking about hiding chocolate. But I wanted a fall wreath and one that didn't cost more than a trip to see real foliage. So this is what I did. And if you are brave enough to copy my non-expert craftiness, please send me a picture -- I'd love to see new and improved versions of my beginner's luck. 

Straw wreath - a couple of dollars at WalMart
One bunch of fall foliage flowers and leaves - $5 - conveniently next to the wreaths
One roll of burlap ribbon - $5, maybe a little more
One package of wreath making pins - totally forget how much but they were also right next to the wreath bases. 

And heavy duty wire cutters. I borrowed a pair from the kindest neighbor on the planet. If you don't own any, you will have to use different flowers that don't require cutting.

I clipped the flowers and leaves from the bunch that I wanted to use. I removed the plastic from the straw wreath. A lot of straw went flying. Probably could have made the wreath in a barn instead of on my table, but that's hindsight for you. One note of caution (this is code for how I almost ruined the entire project): don't cut the twine that is responsible for keeping your straw wreath base in tact. It's not pretty. 

I chose to wrap the burlap ribbon around the entire wreath (mostly to help secure the section I cut loose--see above caution) - but if you want to conserve ribbon, you could wrap the exposed side only-(this is a personal choice somewhere in the realm of how to organize your sock drawer--at the end of the day you are the only one who will know or care :)

Secure the flowers with the extra long looking wreath pins as you see fit. That's right, I don't have a flower placing pattern for you to follow. This feels like stating the obvious, but I don't have any flower-arranging credentials so you are better off figuring out this step on your own. 

Tie or create a bow with the burlap ribbon. 
Hang on your door. Pretend it isn't 100+ degrees and enjoy!

Written in the fall of 2011 in AZ while reminiscing about the fall seasons of my little growing-up years in MA.

Hand Picked Fun

I don’t know what happened to my bathing suit
Summer up and left                                                                                       
Mom moved the sweaters
From my big sister’s drawer
To mine
And the sun inched west a little sooner each day
Taking all the fun with him

Until we piled into the maroon station wagon
And drove north
Long enough for us to wonder if Dad got lost

We found the trees. Green leaves gone to yellow and orange.
Did the colors bring the cool air?
I thought so, but they told me it was the other way around.

Rows and rows of heavy laden trees.
We picked for hours, climbing, stretching
Dropping, joking
With cold noses and fingers
We filled our bags and bushels full of red, ripe apples.

And the country store had heated, fresh pressed cider.
One sip and my brother laughed at my eyes
Popping from the burst of flavor
Sweet and spicy
And warm.
Like those apples had figured out a way
To store all the rays of summer sunshine.
Just for me.

Tamara Passey

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Quotes and Not-So-Deep Thoughts from the ANWA Conference 2016

Another great ANWA conference. I'm still reveling in the joy of it, and maybe the nerdiness too.

Not-So-Deep Thoughts

Advice: Check the chair before you sit on it. If it looks wet, it probably is. And you won't have time to run back to your room and change before you have to stand up and teach.
Yes, that happened. To me. Because I didn't look before I sat.

Philosophy: Overspending in the bookstore is really not overspending at all.
It's an investment in your mind. And we all know a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Thanks: To the woman who won my book as a door prize and stood up and cheered with so much enthusiasm I almost cried. I owe you a hug!

Observation: Pitches by the wall-sized water fountain--genius. No one could hear the 1,000 windmills churning away in the hearts, minds, and stomachs of all the pitchers!

Peggy Urry - Pitch Master

Quotes from the wild:

"In between the highest of highs and the lowest of lows is the magic." J. Scott Savage

"Your writing will change people's lives." J. Scott Savage

"Middle Grade readers have gatekeepers--don't offend them." J. Scott Savage

"Teens do not tolerate exposition." Heather Flaherty

"An author should never be satisfied with the limitations of someone else's world." Katherine Cowley

"Where is a good place for backstory? When the character is naturally thinking about it." Patricia Nelson

"I WILL Google you. Not one page, five pages of google results." Patricia Nelson

"You can't please everyone. You are not pizza." Anika Arrington

"We betray our readers when we wish away our own voice." Anika Arrington

J Scott Savaage - ANWA 2016 Keynote Address


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