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Archive for April, 2012

Imagine a story here.

Or, where are you going, who are you meeting, what happened in the airport?

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Nord Railway 2-8-0 No.4.193, from series 4.061...

Railway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently finished reading The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. It was recommended to my writing workshop by our teacher. She was so impressed with the writing that she wanted to use the book as a teaching tool. We’ve looked at¬† Orringer’s use of subtext, studied examples of interior turning points and emotional epiphanies. Talked about her use of tension.

Orringer makes Paris and Hungary in the late 1930′s and 1940′s come alive. Her characters are deep and interesting. The love story is endearing. Much of the story relates to the Holocaust, which is depressing, but her characters are so strong and honorable that we are willing to go with them on this terrible journey.

When I finished the book I was tapped out. I had entered her world so fully that I couldn’t pick up another book for days. I needed to linger there and mourn the end of the story and some of the characters. That is the grip of a great story, written by someone who has mastered their craft.

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Blaas Eugen Von An Interesting Story

Blaas Eugen Von An Interesting Story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently read a book entitled Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story by Christina Baldwin. It’s a lovely book, calm and quiet, but with great insight. It’s not a book about how to write, but more why we write. It shows us how story connects us and the power of stories.

This book can be skimmed for inspiration when we are bereft of ideas and wonder why we keep trying to get a story out. We are all storytellers in our own way, but not everyone is a storycatcher. Be on the lookout, ask questions, meet new people, and most of all be a listener.

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Moon Garden

Hydrangea

Hydrangea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Moon gardens have been around for a long time, but only recently  have recaptured the attention of gardeners. This garden is special in that it generally only has white flowers and tree blooms. The idea being, that under the moon it will reflect light looking romantic and mysterious.

It is best to create a small to mid-size moon garden as it can be visually overwhelming. Plant a variety of white flowering plants that come into bloom at various times of the year and keep in mind plants that will give off a scent in the evening. It is appropriate to put in silvery leaved plants and some contrasting green foliage.

Make sure to put the garden where it can get full moon light, or put in some low lighting. Add a special place to sit and you are ready to enjoy this very unusual and special garden.

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Imagine a story here.

Or, what major news event happened in this town/ valley?

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Write a scenario based on this picture.

Or, write about being from Kansas and visiting this market, or perhaps what you would select for dinner.

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Write a story based on this picture.

Or, tell the story of how this dog came to be with a particular person/ family.

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What story does this picture conjure up?

Or, who is meeting here and what are they going to discuss?

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What does this picture inspire you to write.

Or, write about meeting someone here for wine (who, why).

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Writers need to read. Much of that reading will be in the specific genre they want to write in, so they can glean that particular style. But in the end, excellent writing is what we all aim for. We strive to be at the A-game level with all the literary elements. So, I think it’s important to break away from your comfort zone and read top-notch novels across the spectrum.

At ALA Midwinter 2009 Youth Media Awards Annou...

ALA Youth Media Awards (Photo credit: americanlibraries)

For example, reading a book that wins the Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature, or any of YALSA’s Best of the Best. Of course, there’s the Newbery Award for children’s literature and the Caldecott Medal for best illustrations in a picture book. There is also the Sibert Medal for best informational (non-fiction) children’s book and the Coretta Scott King Award for African-American authors and illustrators.

There are also all the big awards given in adult literature each year: The Man Booker Prize, National Book Award, Edgar Award, Hugo Awards, Stonewall Book Awards, and more. I would also suggest reading something from an ethnic group other than your own, such as: The Asian American Literary Awards, Literary Awards for Latino Authors, Arab American Book Award, or The National Jewish Book Award.

I believe writers need to keep their minds open. We need to keep learning and observing all the time in order to bring the best out in our own writing. So, even if you just read one title from a few of these categories once every few years, it might surprise and inspire you in your own work.

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