Archive for November, 2011

How the Movie Descendents Can Make YOU a Better Writer

November 28, 2011

 I saw the George Clooney movie Descendents over the Thanksgiving weekend.  It left me in awe of the script writers and actors. If you are interested in any type of writing, this is a MUST SEE movie. Many movies dealing with deep emotions often gloss over them, don’t delve deeply enough into real relationships, or they go for the schmaltz – – the melodrama, without taking time to really connect with the audience.

The IMDB site’s summary of Descendents states: “A land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident.”

As for the acting, George Clooney is able to show shock, grief, and horror within moments all within his facial expressions and body movements. His daughters, who show their grief and relationship issues in rebellious ways, are also supreme actresses. Shailene Woodley plays his teenage daughter while Amara Miller is Scottie, the elementary-aged youngster.

As a writer I was impressed with the depths of the relationships. Timing is everything. We learn different elements of the plot and as it develops, and the relationships between each of the characters change. This is shown not only through their dialogue and actions, but through the looks they exchange between each other, their gestures, and their body movements. As the strength of their family deepens, our connection to them as an audience becomes stronger.

How can we as authors connect our characters to our readers? Through showing and not telling:   writing with five senses and not generalities. Instead of writing “They loved each other” show this love through dialogue, a specific action that is unique to the characters and can this can be repeated again later. We need to really know who our characters are. We may have to write more about them than we will ever include in the manuscript for publication.

Writing Prompts:

1. Take a notebook and a pen with you when you watch Descendents. Jot down specific notes on what works with this script. Keep your eyes on the screen so you don’t miss a moment. Write messy! When the movie is over, go home or to a cafe and use one of the characters as a basis of a poem.

2. Write about a character as the basis of a scene in a story. Choose a scene they may have not included in the movie. Don’t use any of their dialogue but create your own.

3. Remember these exercises are not for publication, but for our own writing growth and experience. By using a good role model, we can grow a lot within our own writing.

Discover more about the movie here:

What to Write? Suggestions from Children’s Librarians

November 16, 2011

Do you enjoy writing nonfiction for kids?  Wonder what librarians need on their bookshelves?  Wonder no longer:

Great Writing Advice on Plot, Tone, and How to Begin

November 14, 2011

Jessica Barksdale Inclan led a fabulous workshop this past Saturday at the Mt. Diablo Branch’s California Writers Club. Here are a few great ideas she shared: 

 If your work is too dark throughout?   Toni Morrison had this problem in her acclaimed novel, Beloved. The author said she “engineered moments of lightness.”

Don’t know where to start?   “Write little pieces and they’ll start talking to each other.”

Why would anyone want to write in second person? It’s good for hiding pain. Read the poem “House of Horrors” by Tom Sayars.

Her best words on plot?  Plot is tension. It’s developed by presenting a promise and then dropping bits and pieces in along the way. Your writing should be like a mystery. Don’t show everything at once.

Current trend: Editors hate prologues.  Call it chapter one!  They hate introductions.  Call it chapter one!

 Writing Prompt:

1.  Read your current project or a piece you have written.  Does the tone provide different feelings/emotions?   There should be a balance of light and dark, highs and lows.  Use Toni Morrison’s advice if there isn’t.

2.  Try writing a poem, essay or short story in second person.  Or take one of the pieces you have written or a character you have developed and try this point of view here.

3.  Read a work you have written and check to see you haven’t told too much too soon.  Is there enough suspense and tension in your writing?  You may have to take away or drop in more hints of mystery to create a better plot.

Peace inside Chaos: Writing throughout Noise

November 7, 2011

My husband painted a labyrinth on our deck.  Ah.  Now I can wander and gaze into the open space behind us where tall oaks spread their branches, squirrels scamper and birds sing to the deer. 

Just before Halloween, I took my first meditative stroll.  The sun glinted through the colored leaves, its warmth welcomed me along with the fresh scents of fall; I took a deep breath and began.  

Peace.  One with nature. 

Then a mechanical voice screeched, “A HA HA HA HA!  Happy Halloweeeen!”

I’m jolted out of my calm; my pulse races, and heart beats.  I took a deep breath and tried to refocus.  One more step and . . . .

“A HA HA HA HA!  Happy Halloweeeen!”  it shrieked.

I gritted my teeth.  No matter what I WILL obtain peace.   Another step forward and . . .

“A HA HA HA HA!  Happy Halloweeeen!”

Now my head began to pound. 

Okay.  Let’s get this blasted circular obstacle course over with.  I sped up, and got dizzy.  I noticed each time I stepped toward the right half of the deck, the monster repeated its screeching mantra to me. 

The neighbor’s holiday decoration is motion sensitive

At the end, my head twirled from my too-fast circular run/walk and my eardrums pounded as the monster next door continued its rant. 

I guess we have to get along with people who are very different from ourselves, learn to live with interruptions, and write in spite of lifelong distractions. 

In the midst of the chaos of your life, may you carve out moments of peace.  Go inward, no matter what is exploding around you and find that inner core. 

And write. 

Writing Prompts: 

1.  Go to a very busy place such as an airport, a popular hang-out or cafe.  Sit with a notebook or laptop and write no matter what.  Get in a routine of writing throughout noise around you. 

2.  Write about a chaotic time in your life.  How did you grow or change from this experience?

3.  Choose a character who is living through action and chaos but discovers inner peace.

Freshman and Sophmore Poetry Contest Deadline: Nov. 15, 2011

November 4, 2011
What is the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest?

Now in its forty-eighth year, the contest is sponsored by Hollins University and awards prizes for the best poems submitted by girls who are sophomores or juniors in high school or preparatory school.

What are the prizes?

First place (one winner)

  • $200 cash prize
  • Free registration, transportation to, and housing for the Lex Allen Literary Festival at Hollins University on March 10, 2012.
  • Publication in Cargoes, Hollins’ student literary magazine
  • Ten copies of Cargoes

Second place (six winners)

  • $25 cash prize
  • Publication in Cargoes
  • Two copies of Cargoes
What are the requirements?
  • Must be a sophomore or junior in high school or preparatory school
  • Students must submit their poem(s) online. Students must have a faculty sponsor.
  • No more than two poems by any one student may be submitted (Microsoft Word or text document only)
  • Please label additional pages with the author’s name, title of poem, and page number
  • Each entry must include the following information on the poem(s):
    • Author’s name
    • Author’s mailing address
    • Author’s phone number and/or e-mail address
    • Year of author’s high school graduation
    • Faculty sponsor’s name and e-mail address
    • Author’s school
    • Address of author’s school
    • Phone number of author’s school
What is the deadline for entries?

November 15.

Who chooses the winning poems?

Winners are chosen by students and faculty members in the creative writing program at Hollins.

When are winners notified?

Mid-February 2012.

Who was Nancy Thorp?

Nancy Thorp, Hollins class of 1960, was a young poet who showed great promise when she was a student. Following her death in 1962, her family established the Nancy Thorp Contest to encourage the work of young poets.

For more information:

Celebrate Haiti Poster Project!

November 4, 2011

Visit Clinton Bush Celebrate Haiti Poster Project

Remember.  Celebrate.  Haiti.

Get vibrant.  Get history.  Get creative.  Get fun!