Friday, April 30, 2010

Heart and Mind: Engaging the Reader

Beth Bruno is a columnist, author and book editor. Her first book, Wild Tulips, was published in 2001 and went into a second printing in 2002. Beth is on the board of the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association (CAPA) and has worked with numerous literary agents and publishers. Based on her referrals, several authors whose manuscripts she edited have seen mainstream publication. Her eclectic interests have given her broad experience in editing, and she shares two key insights here.

AA: What aspect of the writer-editor relationship is key to the success of working together?

BB: After completing a sample edit, the author and I shape the focus of the editing together. Providing feedback during the process is an integral part of our collaboration.

AA: What do feel is the most important requirement for a book, fiction or nonfiction, to be published?

BB: If the author doesn't effectively engage the mind and heart of the reader, the work probably won't find its way to publication.

Visit Beth Bruno at Book Editing Associates. Also visit Preditors and Editors, a trusted guide for information on publishers and writing services for serious writers.

Visit CAPA University for information on the seventh-annual writers conference on May 8 in Hartford, CT. Keynote speakers are doctors Henry Lee and Jerry Labriola on “Writing True Crime."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Inspiration: Capturing the Emotion

A writer's inspiration has boundless sources, everything from dreams to doing laundry. What makes the difference is how that inspiration gets put to use.

Poet Doris Henderson, author of What Gets Lost, talks about her inspiration and how she uses it. Note the eloquent language of her explanations.

AA: What inspires you as a poet, and how do you put that to use?

DH: Dreams are a wonderful source of inspiration. A woman is drowning, and calling my name. I can't see her in the evening dusk. The water is terribly cold. I strain, I wait, then suddenly the calling stops, and I am alone. "Would you have plunged into that icy water if you had seen her, just glimpsed her? Would she have pulled you under? You walk away, and no one calls your name." It's not necessary to recall every detail of the dream. And you can change portions of it to make the story more effective. The important thing is how the dream made you feel. This is what you try to recapture.

AA: Is there a way to hone the ability to put inspiration to use?

DH: There is the "free write." Write in a notebook every day for ten minutes or so. Write quickly, whatever comes to mind. Do not censor yourself! You will discover thoughts and feelings you didn't know you had: "I wish to be a mountain lion in my next life. A lazy one." These pages can be a source of new poems, or they can just be "warm-up" exercises. Either way, you get the creative juices flowing. It may take many revisions to refine the poem, but the kernel of it is there.

Visit Doris Henderson at Antrim House Books. Also visit the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, for ways to develop your creativity. Also visit The Connecticut Poetry Society.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Inspiration and Ideas: A Poet's Take

Prolific poet Doris Henderson, author of the poetry collection What Gets Lost, has been published in various literary journals and anthologies. She also has three chapbooks: Transformations, Leaving the Plaza and Distances. This week, she discusses the role and sources of inspiration in writing.

AA: What's the role of inspiration in poetry?

DH: Inspiration in writing — certainly it plays a major role. Poets don't plan their work by figuring it out logically ahead of time. It has to be spontaneous, at least in the first draft. Sometimes it comes from memories — moments from childhood, recollections of one's relatives. I see my grandfather sitting with his visiting "little sister," drinking homemade elderberry wine and reminiscing about their past life in Italy, by the hour, completely transported, as though their present life didn't exist at all.

AA: Poets often an original perspective and approach to writing? Where does that come from?

DH: Another approach is to have a different "take," or point of view, on an ordinary experience, like pulling weeds, and it suddenly occurs to you that we are intruding on their territory, not the other way around. What are they thinking? "In June the heather weed and Queen Anne's lace blow their heady fumes. They long to put us all to sleep for just a century or two, with all the engines rusting in the field, sweet William, tiny buttercups sprouting from broken hub caps, wild grass over the dirt-blown roadway, sunflowers over the plate glass windows at the mall..."

Visit Doris Henderson at Antrim House Books. Also visit the Academy of American Poets for more information on this creative genre.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Flexible Flyers: Writing in Multiple Genres

Writer Dawn Aldrich, author of the children's picture book Auntie's House, is working on a nonfiction book for adult daughters of divorce. Today, she talks about deadlines, accountability and audience.

AA: How do you feel about deadlines that also demand a shift in different writing styles?

DA: Now, with the rewrite of my adult book looming over me, as well as composing another children's story, I find myself torn between these two genres. I read last night that writing in multiple genres simultaneously doesn't prove productive. To some extent that's true.

AA: How do you divide your time and writing efforts between writing for children and writing for adults?

DA: While I tend to gravitate to children's writing because it's fun, the adult book stays on the back burner. However, by joining a writers' group that includes some well-seasoned authors and editors, I've received encouragement and accountability to keep up. Writing for my blog, Dawn's New Day, also keeps me in practice and accountable to my adult audience.

Visit Dawn at her blog, Dawn's New Day, or her website, Dawn Aldrich.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Great Divide: The Challenges of Writing in Multiple Genres

Writer and busy mom Dawn Aldrich, author of the children's picture book Auntie's House, is working on a nonfiction book for adult daughters of divorce.

Today, Dawn discusses the emotional and professional challenges of writing in multiple genres.

AA: In what ways did shifting gears from writing for children to writing for adults challenge you as a writer

DA: Switching gears to write adult nonfiction last summer was a challenge in every way. It challenged me emotionally because I had to relive some painful experiences. It challenged me academically as I researched and read other authors' work on the subject.

AA: What about your writing and the professional side of being an author?

DA: It challenged my writing as I sometimes lost my true voice and bored my reader. It challenged me professionally as I learned the value of being guided by an outline, composing a professional book proposal, learning to handle rejection from publishers.

Visit Dawn at her blog, Dawn's New Day, or her website, Dawn Aldrich.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Writing in Multiple Genres: Challenges and Conflict

Dawn Aldrich is a writer and mother, and the author of Auntie's House, a children's picture book. She's also a member of the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association, and is working on a nonfiction book for adult daughters of divorce.
Here, Dawn discusses what it's like to shift gears to write in a different genre.

AA: What is it like to make such a dramatic shift from children's books to adult nonfiction?

DA: Writing in multiple genres makes me feel a bit schizophrenic at times. While my subjects for both my children's and adult audiences are based on true stories, the words I choose, the voice I use and the focus of my writing must be completely different.

AA: What were the challenges, and how did you resolve them?

DA: Writing my children's book, Auntie's House, was very easy. Based on my relationship with my great niece and the days she spent playing at my home, research was minimal. The simple words worked their way out on paper in the child's voice and in rhyme in one sitting. My biggest challenge was coming up with a problem for my character to solve. As my editor explained, without a problem for the child to solve, all I had was a nice little poem. Inventing the problem took some creative thinking and revisiting my own childhood experiences at several aunts' homes. I asked myself, "What made those visits enjoyable or not so enjoyable?" My answer was the toys or the lack of them. Once the problem appeared, the story took on life and not only entertained the reader but also engaged them in solving the problem of the missing toys!

Visit Dawn's blog, Dawn's New Day or her website Dawn Aldrich.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Something Lovely: Revising, With Christiana Langenberg

Award-winning author Christiana Langenberg is not only a writer, but a professor and a very busy mom. Thanks again to Christiana for her fresh, down to earth perspective on revision as part of the writing process.

AA: What is it about the process that you find exhilarating?

CL: Revision is time-consuming, but it's also my favorite part of the writing process. It's where the real excavation of the story takes place. Getting the first full draft hammered out is torture compared to the relative giddiness of being able to have back at it and work that lump of clay into something lovely.

AA: How do you deal with the inevitable distractions?

CL: Because I work full time and am constantly interrupted by students and advisees, and I have classes to teach and student stories/essays to grade, (not to mention children who apparently need to be fed regularly), I'm not always guaranteed a long block of time to concentrate on revisions, so I have to make do with chunks of minutes or hours here and there. In the rare event, though, that I do have a whole day or two to myself, I can definitely spend nine or 10 hours fine-tooth-combing a story and working at my keyboard with few breaks.

For Christiana's compilation Half of What I Know, visit Christiana Langenberg.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Revising Is Writing: With Christiana Langenberg

Here's another post from multiple award-winning author Christiana Langenberg. Also an honored short story writer, Christiana authored the compilation Half of What I Know.

AA: How you approach the revision process?

CL: Usually after I've fleshed out an entire story and it's undergone 10 or so revisions, I start paying attention to the language, the prose rhythm, sometimes even the placement of certain consonants and vowel sounds. I want to be allergic to deliberate alliteration or moments in the narrative where the language calls attention to itself in an "ooh this is pretty writing" kind of way. I figure the lyricism of the prose should feel UN-conscious to the reader. Put another way, the reader should be able to move through the story without overt YOU ARE HERE....DID YOU GET THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THAT?...places in the writing (language use) and should arrive at the end of the story with lots of reasons to remember both the characters and the prose used to evoke them. I guess I've just sort of outlined my personal philosophy there on the importance of crafting the prose itself and not simply focusing on revealing character and advancing plot.

For Christiana's Half of What I Know, visit Christiana Langenberg.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Wrong or Write: Adventures in Imaginative Writing

Writer, blogger and satirist Lauren Salkin blows open the doors of traditional thoughts on writing and the writing life. Today, she posts on imagination.

"Sometimes there are regrets after I realize the word I deleted, and can't undo, actually fit the phrase perfectly. If only words were like a pair of shoes to put on and get a sense of how they feel in motion. It's hard when words lie like dead weights on the page, with no personality or color. Though, colorful red or green words hurt my eyes and are distracting on the page. It is the way in which the words flow that makes them colorful. And that is a very good reason for tap, tap, tapping the keys. I enjoy hearing the clicking sound. It means that something is happening right below my nose. Somehow, my lips and chin are involved but only through proximity."

"Sound is good for writing, as long as it is comforting and not annoying like the dry cleaning bags. Often when I write I can't see what lands on the page until I look at the monitor. Like dry cleaning bags, writing can also be surprising, especially when a word appears like gobbledygook. Sometimes, I supervise the progression of words and stare at the white rectangle that is supposed to simulate a page. I can make words appear or go away, like an old blouse that hangs in the dark, scary part of the closet with seasonally incorrect clothes. Sometimes, my mind is dark and scary. But, I need to go there at times to air out my thoughts with the tap, tap, tapping of keys. That's why I write, to right the wrong."

For more musings from the gravitational pull of the mind, visit Lauren's blog, Think Spin.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wrong or Write: On Inspiration and the Writing Life

Writer, blogger and satirist Lauren Salkin blows open the doors of traditional thoughts on writing and the writing life. Today, she posts on inspiration.

"It's a good thing I enjoy surprises now and then. A good game of, 'what's inside the dry cleaning bag?'offers hours of stimulating interactive fun, without commercial interruption. My closet has to be fun, yet orderly. I don't want to waste time hunting for casual clothes and that requires some kind of system."

"I like my closet organized by season. It's hard to find a summer blouse hanging among the winter blouses. Long sleeves have an advantage over short and often dwarf them, unless the short-sleeve blouse is colorful like its spring and summer counterparts. Choosing the correct, seasonally colored blouse is similar to choosing the correct word in a sentence. Placing the wrong verb in the wrong place can really screw things up, as does choosing the wrong pair of shoes for an outfit. Once you've arrived at the office, it's too late. Those shoes aren't going away until the end of the day, when they're tossed in the closet. Words, on the other hand, can go away at any given moment with a strike of a key."

For more musings from the gravitational pull of the mind, visit Lauren's blog, Think Spin.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Wrong or Write: On Organization and Inspiration

Lauren Salkin is a writer, blogger and satirist whose musings blow open the doors of traditional thoughts on writing. This week, Lauren posts on organization, procrastination and inspiration. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference.

On organization:
"Every time I sit down at the computer a message scrolls across my brain, 'Clean out the closet!' I used to think it was a deterrent, but in fact it was a well disguised metaphor. My subconscious realized something my consciousness didn't. Cleaning out a closet is a lot like writing: getting rid of unnecessary items, and then arranging clothing, shoes and accessories into some type of accessible order."

"Even though words aren't color-coordinated or seasonal like a story, a closet has protagonists: new clothes and antagonists: old clothes. The new clothes taunt the old clothes, as do the plastic dry cleaning bags that are annoying and noisy when handled. Sometimes, plastic sticks to my hand, reminding me that I need to pay attention to the clothing inside."

For more musings from the gravitational pull of the mind, visit Lauren's blog, Think Spin.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Working With Editors: Questions to Ask Before Signing Up

Here's the last post in the series on working with editors.

Before hiring an editor, ask these questions:
  • How long have you been doing this?
  • What's your specialty (fiction or nonfiction, and genre)?
  • How much do you charge, and how do you charge (by the hour or the page)?
  • What books have you edited? Would I know any?
  • Can I give you a four- to five-page writing sample to edit free of charge before committing?
  • What's included in your price (character development, plot, transitions, etc.)?
Bottom Line: At some point, all of us work with an editor, maybe more than one at various stages of the work — before your agent sees the manuscript and before publication. So, it's important to understand and make the most of the relationship. Remember that balance is key, and when in doubt ask before assuming.