Friday, July 31, 2015

Overheard #311

"If there's a ninja, there's a way."

Monday, July 27, 2015

My Camera is Back

The service department at Canon mailed back my camera today, so I went outside to feed the mosquitoes and try it out.

cranesbill geranium and unidentified insects 
shasta daisy

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Art and Craft of Children’s Book Writing: my recap at last

photograph by Krista Dondero Rausin

On July 5, I arrived in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard for a week-long workshop with Emma Dryden. It was held at Noepe Center for Literary Arts, a non-profit organization that offers both writing residencies and workshops.  I was delighted to be part of the first Thursdays in the Garden at Noepe when they open the doors to the public for evenings of music, readings and camaraderie.

On the first day of the workshop, Emma led us through a discussion of first pages. I was confident about my opening when I walked in. Since then, I’ve rewritten it at least six times, and it’s not done yet. The second day was devoted to voice. Emma gave us worksheets and exercises to help us discover the unique voices of our characters. I have worked through the questionnaire for every character in my novel. I learned much about the people who have lived in my brain for over a year now. The third day was devoted to world building. How hard could that be? My characters live in modern day Michigan. Again the workshop and worksheets pointed out many ways I can enrich my novel. The fourth day was all about revision. I plan to leap into these techniques during my upcoming writing retreat with The World’s Greatest Critique Group. The last day was questions and answers, but not until we delved into the inner reasons why we wrote our stories.

Best of all, I spent a week at a beautiful place, got to know nine fantastic writers, and had the privilege of being tutored by a genius editor who knows how to get authors to dig deeper and find new meaning in their writing.

And I ate some lobster.

Thanks to Krista Dondero Rausin for generously sharing her photograph. My camera is broken, so I have no pictures of hydrangeas, lighthouses or sailboats.

Friday, July 3, 2015

An Adventure

This blog has been neglected. My photography has too. I've been writing a lot (revising actually), riding my bike and playing my harp. I am now supposed to use two fingers and the thumb on each hand. Sure.

Tomorrow, I embark on a grand adventure!

First, I fly to Boston to spend the Fourth of July with Jeremy. On Sunday, I take the ferry to Martha's Vineyard for a workshop called The Art and Craft of Children's Book Writing, led by Emma Dryden. I'm very excited and a bit nervous. Certainly, I will learn much. I hope to post some pictures when I get back.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


The protagonist of my work-in-progress has a giant, impractical dream. She wants to attend the Julliard School as a harp major. Will she get there? Probably not, but my character will become a harp major at some college or conservatory. Many of the students I tutor dream impossible dreams as well.

As I worked on my manuscript, I realized I didn’t know much about the harp, so I contacted a local harpist and asked if I could hire her as a consultant. She agreed and told me I should take harp lessons as well. She offered to lend me a small folk harp for practicing. In the two lessons I’ve had so far, I’ve learned far more than I expected.

Here’s a progress report:
  • It would have been better if I’d learned to read bass clef as a child. I’m getting better.
  • My rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is often recognizable.
  • Sometimes when I see notes on the treble staff, my fingers still feel imaginary clarinet keys. (I played clarinet for about ten years.)
  • The arthritis in my left thumb makes it lazy.
  • Jeremy and his friends love to remind me to practice.
  • Most importantly, I’m learning which questions to ask my teacher to improve my manuscript. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Pollen Festival

We get so few honeybees these days, if one stops by the yard, I go full paparazzi. 

A bee fly enjoyed the peonies too.
The wasp preferred the strawberries. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Maass Moment

If you’ve fought your way through Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook or heard Donald Maass speak, you know what I’m talking about. The Maass Moment is when the protagonist goes beyond burning bridges; he sets himself adrift in a burning boat. All is lost.
As Thomas Wolfe wrote in You Can’t Go Home Again, “Son, son, you have been mad and drunken, furious and wild, filled with hatred and despair, and all the dark confusions of the soul – but so have we. 

There is no going back. The character and his world have changed.

Writing a Maass Moment is hard. The writer should not (in my opinion):

Spring the Maass Moment on an unsuspecting readership. In the workshop I attended in January, Donald Maass led us through a series of steps where the protagonist continues to undercut her goal until she comes to the point of no return. (Click here for Charlie Barshaw’s awesome review of that workshop.)

Allow the protagonist achieve the Maass Moment by being drunk and disorderly. Sure, people do that in real life, but the novel is much more effective if the crisis occurs through emotional strain rather than debauchery.

Let the character off too easily. By nature, I’m a peacemaker, so my characters tend to resolve conflicts. I go through the steps outlined in the workshop and rewrite each appropriate scene. But I note the page. The following day, I revisit that scene, and make it worse, forbid the characters to kiss and make up, make them to say hateful things, and force them to do the unforgivable. Then I revise again. And again. I never make it bad enough on the first few tries.  

Once the character has lost everything, she is free to do what was impossible before.