Archive for May, 2012

Stumped in your creativity? It’s a GOOD THING!

May 28, 2012

Jonah Lehrer says in his book, Imagine, “Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with a feeling with frustration, the dull ache of not being able to find the answer. We have worked hard, but we’ve hit the wall. We have no idea what to do next.”

It’s comforting to know that a block within our writing is not only normal, but leads us to inspiration.

According to Lehrer, “The act of being stumped – – – is an essential part of the creative process. Before we can find the answer – before we probably even know the question – – – we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced that a solution is beyond our reach. We need to have wrestled with the problem and lost.”

So if you are muddling through your mushy middle or plodding through a particularly picky plot point, don’t worry, just wonder. Lehrer points out that the best creativity happens not when we are trying too hard, but when we aren’t. Daydreaming, sleeping, and NOT thinking about it actually is part of creativity too.

Now I’m going to relax, daydream and eat chocolate.  After all, it’s writing, right?

Writing Prompts:

1. Read Imagine, by Jonah Lehrer and come up with out-of-the-box ways to create your art.

2. Write without sitting in front of your computer and minus a writing instrument in your hand.

3. Draw an object or a person you’ve seen every day. Lehrer points out that drawing is a different kind of thinking. We observe more acutely when we must recreate it.

4. Now write about what you’ve drawn.

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CALLING ALL TEEN WRITERS

May 18, 2012
 Join A Lafayette, California Teen Writing Group!
 
Break out your pens again! We’re having another teen writing group, and we would love for you to join us. 
 
Writing can be a solitary pursuit… but it doesn’t have to be! Want to meet other enthusiastic teen writers? Come to a teen writing group at the Lafayette Library! We’ll chat, share ideas and experiences about our writing, and — of course — write alongside each other with prompts. We aim to create a fun, welcoming teen community of writers that encourages and supports its members. 
 
This is an open and free group (8th-12th grade preferred). Just bring paper, your favorite writing tool, and enthusiasm!
 
Saturday, May 19th
1:30-3:00 PM
In the Willow Room 
(behind the information desk )
 
Lafayette Library 
3491 Mount Diablo Boulevard
Lafayette, CA 94549
 
Please reply to marisalchow@gmail.com if you can make our next meeting. We hope you can join us. If you have any teen writer friends who may be interested in our group, please forward them this announcement. We’re always looking to expand our group! 

Objects Create Character

May 16, 2012

My husband and I visited an estate sale recently.  Upon entering the house, a row of mink coats in various colors and lengths hung on a rack.  Bob and I exchanged glances. 

These people were moneyed.  She probably wore these before the prevalence of PETA either would have made her aware or feel pressured. The furniture surrounding us still looked vibrant and well-made; nothing thrift-shop or hand-me-down here.  The living room chairs matched the couch; the dining room set’s rich, dark wood under a sparkling chandelier made me feel like I should change from shorts into more formal wear. 

A flashback image of my parents’ own living room hit me.  Their couch had survived an entire lifetime; when the springs finally gave out my mother had it redone rather than “waste it” and buy a new one.  My parents never had a dining room; we ate our meals in the kitchen.  Our table’s base came from a farm auction, where my mom bid a dollar or two on it, and then my dad attached one of his own tabletops.  The chairs never matched.  But they worked just fine.   

Back at the estate sale, we moved into the bedroom where we saw saint statues decorating the dresser; religious icons hung from the walls. 

“Where is Bill?” asked a voice in the hall. 

“In the Jesus room,” answered another. 

Everyone around us laughed. I examined the prayerful items and found a treasure for myself – a saint that would join my altar in my office. 

In another room, the woman’s jewelry displayed good taste.  I’m sure her good jewelry stayed with the family.  But the costume jewels were still lovely and fun.  The guest room bed was covered with the most beautiful stacks of sheets I’ve ever seen.  How many pairs?  Too many to count.  Unfortunately, none the right size for us.  But gorgeous, all the same. 

“She had great taste,” I tell the young woman in the room.

“Has,” she said.  “She’s just moved to assisted-living.”

“Good.  Make sure she knows what lovely items she has and what joy they will now bring to others.”

Bob flipped through the record collection in another room.  “They loved opera,” he said. 

I bought a baking sheet, the best I now own, for $1.00.  Somehow, the biscuits I made that night, tasted better than before. 

Writing Prompt:

  1. You can gather a person’s life by the objects they own.  What does your character have in her house?  What do you see when you enter?  What collection does she own?  What is in her closet?  What type of music does she listen to?  Books does she read? 
  2. Find a picture in a magazine or newspaper of an object.  Choose the first one you see.  Write about its owner.  Who is he?  What is he like?  Does he enjoy this object?  How does he use this?  When?  Write a scene with the person and the object. 
  3. What does your character have on his/her night table?  Dresser?  Desk? 
  4. There is a fire in your main character’s house.  He/she has time to grab ONE object.  The most important one.  What is that object?  Why is it so important?  Write about the character’s history with this object. 

Teen Writing Group Meets at Lafayette, CA Library

May 6, 2012
CALLING ALL TEEN WRITERS!  

Break out your pens again! We’re having another teen writing group, and we would love for you to join us. 

Writing can be a solitary pursuit… but it doesn’t have to be! Want to meet other enthusiastic teen writers? Come to a teen writing group at the Lafayette Library! We’ll chat, share ideas and experiences about our writing, and — of course — write alongside each other with prompts. We aim to create a fun, welcoming teen community of writers that encourages and supports its members. 

This is an open and free group (8th-12th grade preferred). Just bring paper, your favorite writing tool, and enthusiasm! 🙂 

Saturday, May 19th
1:30-3:00 PM
In the Willow Room 
(behind the information desk )

Lafayette Library 
3491 Mount Diablo Boulevard
Lafayette, CA 94549

Please reply to marisalchow@gmail.com if you can make our next meeting. We hope you can join us. If you have any teen writer friends who may be interested in our group, please forward them this announcement. We’re always looking to expand our group! 

Six Tips in the Art of Revision

May 4, 2012

Rewriting becomes addictive.  Newbery winning author Lois Lowry says she can’t read any of her published books with a pen in her hand or she’ll start naturally editing them. 

When my son brought home teacher letters from school I’d find myself editing their words. 

So what should you look for in your revision process?  

1.  Ask yourself, is there enough reason for the reader to turn the page?  Enough suspense, emotion, or unanswered questions?  Can you begin with less explanation or more drama and conflict?

2.  Does each and every word need to be there?  Does it propel the plot forward?  Show character depth? 

3.  Your character dialogue should show tension, character and/or emotion.  If your characters are just talking to talk, cut their words.  Every line they say should have a meaning – – or even a double meaning.  They might say one thing while having a secondary agenda or thought. 

4.  Read your story like you’ve never seen it before.  Are you showing and not telling?  Are there senses and specific details?  How can you incorporate these?

5.  If you are stuck in your rewriting, call in a trusted writing friend or critique group. 

6.  Put your work away for a while.  Time may be your best friend.  Looking at your piece with fresh eyes sometimes is the best possible revision advice there is. 

Writing Prompt: 

1.  Change weak verbs in your manuscript to active verbs.   

2.  Read or re-read Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style for reminders of how to write “tight.”  Get rid of any unnecessary words that simply take up space.  How short can you make your manuscript and retain the meaning?

3.  Purge your manuscript of adverbs when possible.  The same if you’ve piled on too many adjectives.  You don’t want to be accused of over-writing.