Archive for June, 2009

Lamorinda Weekly Announces California Young Writers Contest Winners

June 26, 2009

Take Time

June 26, 2009

Yesterday, my cousin from Wisconsin and I drove to a lovely winery and had lunch outside. Lush greenery gave us a sense of peace. We relaxed, and when the food came, we really took time to enjoy each and every bite. It isn’t every day we do this, is it?

As you eat today, sit with a notebook and pen by your side. Describe every morsel you eat. What does the sensation feel like on your tongue? List words describing the taste, texture, and smell.

What does your body feel like after you’ve taken the bite? Note your surroundings and your mood.

On her trip to California, Mary has kept a travel journal, noting the details she is experiencing, bits of dialogue she hears, and her impressions of everything. What a treasure this will be a long time from now, when her memories fade. What a gift it will be if she decides to write an essay or a piece of fiction or a poem about this later.

Have you ever used a journal or a note to create a creative piece? Try it now.

Paying attention

June 22, 2009

Writing Exercise: Take a pen and a notebook. Go to a public place. It could be a mall, a coffee shop, a train station, or a park.

Observe. Don’t stare, but watch for details. Jot down descriptions of what you see. Notice the specifics of characters and your setting. Listen for dialogue. What do your characters say and how do they say it? What do you think they are feeling at the time?

Later, highlight the details and characters you like best. Choose one. Create a “backstory” for this person. What is going on in his or her life? What does she want more than anything in the world? What does she fear? What will she do to get what she wants?

Create a story about your character.

Calling All Kids! New Writing Contest for You!

June 22, 2009

I received an e-mail from an author who found me online through an interview I did. She mentioned that she is a judge for a writing contest. I visited the site of the contest, and pasted some of the guidelines below, as well as the link.

Welcome to the 2009 Fiction Competition sponsored by Girls Horse Club. Since 2001 we’ve published blogs, stories, poetry, artwork, and photography created by and for horse girls around the world.

This year we’re raising the bar with a competition judged by popular horse fiction authors and award-winning media experts. Prizes will be awarded to first, second, and third place winners in two age groups—11 and younger, and 12 – 17. Please read the entry requirements, meet our judges, and learn how to enter below.

Let the competition begin!

At least one of the main characters must be a horse, and that character must play a key role in the storyline.
The story can be an adventure, a mystery, a fantasy or even science fiction — the entry must be narrative fiction, but all genres are welcome.
Entries are limited to 6000 words or less. Shorter stories are also welcome.
The competition is open to anyone age 17 or younger.
Entries will be judged in two age categories: 11 and younger, 12 through 17.
Stories previously published at GHC are eligible for entry as long as they meet the requirements.
Entries must be original, written by the submitting author.
Entries will not be edited prior to judging. To assure the judges are not distracted by incorrect spelling, grammar, etc., the author is responsible for polishing her story prior to entry.
Only one entry per author.
All entries remain the property of the author. By entering, the author grants Plan B Enterprises, Inc., the parent company of Girls Horse Club, the right to publish the story at and in related promotional materials.
Only the winning entries will be published.
Prizes will be awarded to first, second and third place stories in each age group (6 total prize packages).
A mailing address is not required for entry, but is required to award prizes. Please check with a parent before entering to make sure it’s OK to provide a mailing address if you win a prize. Winners who are not able to provide a mailing address may choose to donate their prize package to a horse-related non-profit organization.

ENTRY FORM OPENS: Saturday June 27, 2009 ENTRY DEADLINE: Sunday August 23, 2009 at noon Pacific Time WINNERS ANNOUNCED: Saturday September 12, 2009
Please use the email link at the bottom of any page to contact us for sponsorship rates or to arrange a prize donation.

Write a Mystery

June 19, 2009

In a mystery, a change happens in the beginning of the book that propels the story forward.

What are the elements in a mystery? A crime, detective, witnesses, suspects. To have suspects you must have motives.

Clues may be physical and psychological. (Hey! A motive!) You can have a chase in your story, where the detective follows the suspect.
Mysteries are the most moral of all genres, because the criminal never wins.

***To make your mystery suspenseful, use short sentences for your exciting scenes.

You may use the “time-running out” idea. (Remember the scene with Dorothy locked away with the flying monkey? Every time the camera showed us the sand running through that glass, our heart quickened several beats . . .)

Put your sleuth in danger.
And the climax is the most dangerous of all. It could be a physical danger, or her reputation.

How to: Plot backwards. Find the solution to your mystery FIRST. Then decide which clues you will show your sleuth.

Plant a clue by burying it. Point your reader’s attention somewhere else. At the end of the story, the reader should be saying, “Gee whiz, now why didn’t I catch that clue?”

Choose one of these to get started:
1. Your story is set in a movie theater. Your main character has just bought a large popcorn and sits down to watch the movie.
2. Carnival music plays, and your main character buys a ticket to ride on the ferris wheel.
3. “Open wide,” says the dentist.
Your main character hears a scream. It isn’t from tooth pain . . .
4. Or use one of your own settings and ideas to write a mystery.

If you’d like to share the first few lines of your mystery story, place them on the comment section of this blog.
Or write in a title or two of your favorite mysteries.
A few of my favorite mystery authors include Dashiell Hammett, Mary Downing Hahn (ghost stories) and Joan Lowery Nixon.

Most Active Poetry Reading In SF BAY AREA!

June 17, 2009

On Sunday I attended the most active poetry reading in the San Francisco Bay Area! Would you believe it’s in Crockett? Held on the second Sunday of the month, from 4 – 6 pm at Valona Market, 1323 Pomona Street, and led by Pleasant Hill poet David Alpaugh, the event has been an ongoing creative entertainment and expression for the past seven years.

I was amazed at the number of diverse poets we have in the area. Some performances were of famous dearly departed poets such as Ida Coolbrith. Others were the performer’s own works.

Not everyone in the packed cafe took the stage. Many people, like me, were there to appreciate the poetry and the poets. One man read a poem which felt and sounded like a picture book. I told him so and hope he’ll do something with it.

Some poems had me blinking away tears. Others . . . one about old men playing bocce ball, had me thinking about poetry and metaphor. Some made me smile and outright laugh.

Interested in sparking your own creativity? Join the next reading on July 12. Hope to see you there!

More on the contest . . .

June 17, 2009

Always read those writer guidelines!

The contest mentioned in two posts below requires a membership of $12.95 a year, unfortunately. But if that is twelve contests a year, it is pretty reasonable. (Adult contests often have fees too to be able to cover costs and pay their judges.) This is a business and not a non-profit like our California Writers Club.

Ideas for Writing

June 17, 2009

From Fatima:
During the summer, I am going to write entries for some contests. But I have a really hard time thinking about what to write about. What should I do to get ideas of what to write about?

Great topic, Fatima. Hopefully, you will check here and scroll backwards. I’ve put some writing prompts, or story starters to help you begin. Here are some more:

1. Use a first line from any book you can find. Continue writing a NEW story.

2. You are an object. What happens to you? How do you feel?

3. Write a story using one of these first lines:
It’s not my fault that . . . .
If I had been born 100 years ago . . .

She sat by the door listening for . . .

4. Write an alphabet paragraph. Example: Aaron bought Carol diamonds.
Each . . .

5. Write a scene in five sentences. The last word in one sentence is the first word in the next.

6. Choose a picture from a magazine, newspaper, or art book. Use it as inspiration for a story or essay. (You can do this one over and over again and it’s very helpful to adult authors too. We use “people pictures” as sources for characters in our books.)

7. List as many different and exciting verbs as you can. Then make a list of strong nouns. Combine them to start a story.

8. Choose a wordless picture book that has been published. Create the text that could accompany the pictures.

9. Start a story. After you write a few paragraphs, trade stories with another person. Write the middle and the ending of the other person’s story. (You can do this online too. I once did this with a friend and each day we’d write another paragraph to the story, and then e-mail it to the other person. We had a ball!)

10. Create a unique character. What is her/his passion? List words that relate to that passion. (If the character likes to cook, list words like barbecue, bake, condiment, dash, fry, grease, grill, mash, pulp, sizzle, toast . . .) Come up with as many as you can. Sprinkle some of them throughout your story for “flavor” and humor. Also list metaphors. (as soft as . . .) Can you use any of your theme words to create a simile or metaphor to use in your story? (As soft as bread dough . . .)

Students! Monthly Online Writing Contest

June 17, 2009

Check here each month to see the new contest. Although it’s too late for this month’s contest deadline (June 10) we should check back for July’s contest. Amazon gift cards are given as prizes!

Drama and Emotion Captures Readers

June 12, 2009

What is the most dramatic moment of your life? Did you have an emotion so overwhelming that you could barely cope?

In your writing today or this weekend, use this as a motivation for a story or scene. First, write about it exactly as it happened to you. Slow-down-the-moment with details, description and your thoughts as it happened. Quicken the pace when there is action with active verbs, dialogue and fragments of sentences.

Next, use this idea but turn it into FICTION. Create an imaginary character. Have this event happen to him or her. How can you make it MORE dramatic? MORE suspenseful? Make it WORSE? Heighten the emotion for the reader? Add more conflict and make it more important to the main character.