Category Archives: The Write Sisters

We are “Yesterday’s children writing for today’s kids.” We started as a critique group and grew to be friends and business partners. It is our goal to spread our love for children’s books and writing, and to share our expertise with others.

The Write Sisters: Poetry Friday: Falling

October 18, 2012 at 11:02AM

A 29-year-old stewardess fell … to her
death tonight when she was swept
through an emergency door that sud-
denly sprang open … The body …
was found … three hours after the
                              —New York Times
The states when they black out and lie there rolling    when they turn
To something transcontinental    move by    drawing moonlight out of the great
One-sided stone hung off the starboard wingtip    some sleeper next to
An engine is groaning for coffee    and there is faintly coming in
Somewhere the vast beast-whistle of space. In the galley with its racks
Of trays    she rummages for a blanket    and moves in her slim tailored
Uniform to pin it over the cry at the top of the door. As though she blew

The door down with a silent blast from her lungs    frozen    she is black
Out finding herself    with the plane nowhere and her body taking by the throat
The undying cry of the void    falling    living    beginning to be something
That no one has ever been and lived through    screaming without enough air
Still neat    lipsticked    stockinged    girdled by regulation    her hat
Still on    her arms and legs in no world    and yet spaced also strangely
With utter placid rightness on thin air    taking her time    she holds it
In many places    and now, still thousands of feet from her death she seems
To slow    she develops interest    she turns in her maneuverable body 

To watch it. She is hung high up in the overwhelming middle of things in her

Self    in low body-whistling wrapped intensely    in all her dark dance-weight
Coming down from a marvellous leap    with the delaying, dumfounding ease
Of a dream of being drawn    like endless moonlight to the harvest soil
Of a central state of one’s country    with a great gradual warmth coming
Over her    floating    finding more and more breath in what she has been using
For breath    as the levels become more human    seeing clouds placed honestly
Below her left and right    riding slowly toward them    she clasps it all
To her and can hang her hands and feet in it in peculiar ways    and
Her eyes opened wide by wind, can open her mouth as wide    wider and suck
All the heat from the cornfields    can go down on her back with a feeling

The Write Sisters: Mentor Monday – Considering the Picture Book

October 15, 2012 at 12:16PM

Mark Twain once said, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”  It was his way of saying that writing short is hard.  I imagine, if he were alive today, he would not be writing picture books.

Many people, new to the world of children’s writing, decide to write picture books because they think it’s easy.  After all, the stories are short and simple, and an illustrator will do half the work.  But writing a picture book—a good picture book—is hard.  Yes, there are always those who have the knack, but for most people, telling a story in five hundred words or less is difficult work.  If you are up to the task and arecontemplating writing a picture book, here are a few things to consider.    


A picture book is almost always 32 pages.  Several of those pages will be devoted to front matter and end papers, leaving even fewer pages for story.  Word count will range between no words at all to about 1,000 words.  300 to 500 words seems to be the average.


 The picture book’s main audience is obviously small children, but your story must also appeal to adults who will be reading the book to, or along with, the child.  If you can grab the adults, too, they will have no problem reading your story over and over and over again to the children in their lives.


 Do you have one?  Is it kid friendly?  Is there a beginning, middle, and end?  A problem to solve?  Is it fun, adventurous, scary or mysterious?  If all you have is a lesson, reconsider.  Kids want, and appreciate, a good story as much as adults.  How often would you read if your choices were limited to things like eating properly, driving carefully, being a good employee, avoiding stress?  Give kids a story.  If there’s a lesson to be learned, let it be implied. 


 Illustrations are what make the picture book a picture book.  Even if you aren’t the illustrator, you have to consider them.  Does your story have enough illustration possibilities?  Remember, you have 32 pages to fill, and not every page will be a double page spread.  Will the possible illustrations all be different, (good) or will they all be pretty much the same?  (not so good.)  Be sure your story gives an illustrator plenty to work with.


Since your word count is limited, be sure the words you use do the job.  Choose strong verbs and specific nouns.  Omit adjectives and adverbs, and most descriptions.  These are generally things an illustrator can convey in her illustrations.  And a picture book is not an easy reader.  Don’t be afraid to use big words if they are the rights words.

 Page Turns

Consider how your manuscript will be laid out in book form.  What words go on what pages?  Is there an element of surprise with each page turn?  Or a question raised before the turn?  Do the tension and suspense rise?  Does the plot move forward?   Does the mere act of turning the page bring anticipation?  Does it make the child wonder what will happen next?

 The Ending

 Does it satisfy?  Does it bring a smile, a laugh, a tear or sigh to the reader and listener?  There’s really no way to know until it gets read by others.  Consider showing it to a critique group.  Your kids, family, friends and neighbors don’t count.  They are too close to you to tell you the truth.  Find some other writers, preferably some who know more than you, to get some impartial opinions.

The journey may be hard and/or challenging, or you may discover you’re one of those people to whom this comes easily, but regardless of where you fit, ending up with a book in your hand is a thrill.  If it’s what you want to do, go for it! 

The Write Sisters: Poetry Friday

October 12, 2012 at 11:04AM

And after a long time traveling
you will enter a silence

you will know it is winter
by the way your dreams
tremble like stones
when the wind comes

              — Lance Henson, Cheyenne

Betsy is hosting Poetry Friday over at Teaching Young Writers. Head on over for a hearty, warming dose of verse . . .

The Write Sisters: Women of Wednesday: Fannie Farmer

October 10, 2012 at 08:37AM

Growing up I thought that Fannie Farmer was a made-up name, like Betty Crocker or Aunt Jemima. But in fact, Fannie Merritt Farmer was a very real, very remarkable woman, one to whom almost every one of us owes a considerable debt.
Fannie was born in Boston in 1857. Her family moved to Medford, a pleasant suburb, when she was a child. Fannie’s parents believed that their four daughters (Fannie was the eldest) should have a good education, and she graduated from high school with plans to attend college. Shortly after graduation, however, she suffered a stroke which left her an invalid in her parents’ home, paralyzed on one side.
With several years of hard work and determination Fannie gradually regained the use of her limbs, although she always had a limp. In her twenties she found work as a domestic servant with a family named Shaw. There she discovered she had both an interest in and a knack for cooking. At thirty-one, Fannie finally embarked on furthering her education, enrolling at the Boston Cooking School.
Fannie distinguished herself at school and when she graduated in 1889 she was invited to become the assistant director. She took the job, while also pursuing further education, taking classes at Harvard Medical School. She was interested in exploring the connections between diet and health.
Just two years after Fannie graduated from the Boston Cooking School, the director died and Fannie was appointed to replace her. She held the position for eleven years. It was while she was running the Boston Cooking School that she wrote the cookbook that made her famous: her update of The Boston Cooking School Cookbook went to 21 editions before Fannie’s death in 1915, and is still in print today. Among the innovations Fannie introduced at the Boston Cooking School and in her cookbook was the idea of standardized measures: instead of saying “a lump of butter the size of a hen’s egg” a recipe would say “three tablespoons of butter” – and the cook’s tablespoon would be the same size, whether it was in the kitchen of a grand hotel in Florida or a hospital in Boston. Standard measure makes it possible to reproduce a recipe without actually watching someone else make it. This is so obvious to us today that it’s hard to believe it has not always been so, but you don’t have to go back very far to find those “hen’s egg” recipes. (One of my aunts, being of a scientific bent of mind, followed my grandmother around the kitchen , measuring the amount of flour/sugar/milk in the container before and after my grandmother added it to the recipe, in order to determine how much of each she was using. . . .)
In 1901 Fannie resigned from the Boston Cooking School and opened a school aimed not at those who would become professional cooks but at housewives interested in improving their cooking skills for their families. The notion of “domestic science,” which had been promoted in the 19th century by such notable women as Catherine Beecher and Ellen Swallow Richards had been taught mostly by land grant colleges in rural areas. Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery brought the idea to women in an urban area, many of them second and third generation immigrants moving into the middle class. The school offered weekly lectures to non-students, and Fannie wrote a column for Woman’s Home Companion, spreading her ideas of creative and healthful cooking to a wide audience.
Fannie’s determination showed through when she suffered another paralytic stroke later in life: she continued to teach and lecture from her wheelchair; the last one just 10 days before her death. In this day of countless cookbooks, food magazines, TV channels and websites dedicated to food preparation, it’s hard to believe that there was a time, not long ago, where family cooks either cooked exactly the foods their mothers had made, or ventured into the vast unknown without a map. Fannie Farmer, with our measuring cups held high, we salute you!

The Write Sisters: Mentor Monday: It’s all in your Point of View

October 08, 2012 at 10:19PM

My “what’s being published these days” project has yielded one rather dramatic piece of information, one which requires further investigation, because my sample set is so small – but so far, 86% of the historical fiction I’ve looked at features a first-person narrator.
Really?? Eight-six percent? That’s a huge majority. I knew that the first-person narrator was trendy.  I didn’t realize it had virtually taken over.
I have been wracking my brain and I cannot remember one example of an historical novel from the dozens I read as a young teen that was written in the first person. (I’m sure there must have been some – go ahead and remind me.) Even if I’ve forgotten a few, I am fairly certain that the vast majority of the historical fiction published in the fifties and sixties were told in the third person; some omniscient, more limited, but very, very few in the voice of the protagonist or another character in the narrative. (One reason I feel this is true is because of the big deal they made about the first person narrator when we read Moby Dick in school.)
I really, really don’t want to re-write the WIP in the first person! (Cue whiny toddler voice here.) However, this does have me reviewing the pros-and-cons of the point of view options. 
First person narrator is when the story is told by an individual from their own point of view. The narrator can be the main character – this is the most common approach. The primary advantage of this is that it encourages the reader to identify with the main character, to be more emotionally involved from the beginning. In first person the narrator tells the story as she lived it, and typically tells how she felt and what she thought as events unfolded.
The narrator doesn’t need to be the main character; another common approach is a first person narrative from the point of view of a secondary or even a minor character. These are more difficult because the primary limitation of the first person narrator, the inability to report anything outside the narrator’s “field of vision,” can be a major hurdle if the narrator only sees the main character in one sphere of his life, at school, perhaps. If the narrator is the main character’s best friend, it may be believable for the MC to tell everything they did and thought and felt since their last meeting; but it’s still difficult to do well. 
The third approach to the first person narrator is even more uncommon but when done well is highly memorable: this is the storyteller narrator who is not a character in the story but still addresses the reader directly: Lemony Snicket, or the narrator in Tale of Despereaux.  (For an interesting exercise, compare the first-person narratives in Because of Winn Dixieand Tale of Desperaux. Same author, both first person narrators, very different voices.)
A significant pitfall of the first-person narrator for historical fiction is that world-building is difficult. It is awkward for the characters to explain the facts of their daily lives, either in speech or in thought. It’s likely to sound forced or false. But without the details, the reader will tend to picture the character’s activities in images from the reader’s experience, a kind of anachronism-by-omission. First person narratives also give rise to scenes in which characters catch glimpses of themselves in mirrors or describe unflattering photographs as writers try to weave some description into that first-person structure.
Third person narratives are divided into the third-person-omniscient, third-person- objective, and third-person-limited-omniscient. The third-person objective is the most straightforward: the narrator tells the story as if describing a movie to a blind person: no commentary, no information beyond what can be seen or heard in the action, but the narrator, not limited to one character’s perspective, can see things that happen when the main character isn’t there (or even when no characters are there to see the action).
The third-person omniscient narrator is unlimited by space and time, able to describe not only what is happening but why, sharing the thoughts and feelings of any character. This sounds like it would be the easiest approach for the writer but it is difficult to do well: the tendency is to “head-hop” from one character to another, which can leave the reader feeling confused or whip-lashed.  Handled skillfully, the third-person-omniscient provides for the greatest breadth and depth of narrative: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a recent superlative example.
Third-person limited-omniscient seems to be a compromise between the first-person and the third-person: the narrative is in the third person, so the narrator is able to talk about the main character and their world without sounding forced,  but the “watcher” can also report the point of view character’s thoughts and feelings, so the reader can identify emotionally with the character. The vast majority of those books I devoured as a young reader were third-person limited-omniscient narratives.
Another variation is the alternating point-of-view: either first-person or third-person limited-omniscient,  where the point of view moves from one character to another, sometimes in alternating chapters. Both options allow the writer to explore the thoughts and feelings of more than one character while retaining the ability to describe details of a scene from the outside. Is this flexibility a useful approach or a cop-out for the lazy (or timid) writer? I fear this may be the question (or dagger) before me. 

The Write Sisters: Poetry Friday–Carl Sandburg

October 05, 2012 at 12:01AM

I suppose everyone is familiar with this small poem by Carl Sandburg:


The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

This poem is found in many children’s anthologies because of its utter simplicity and beauty.

Sadly, I didn’t know much about Sandburg other than he was a poet, wrote a massive biography of Abraham Lincoln, and he was married to the photographer, Edward Steichen’s sister, Lillian. (I had read, and was entranced by, a biography of Edward Steichen many years ago, but that’s a story for another time.)

Last week I happened upon the PBS American Masters’ program, “The Day Carl Sandburg Died.” It was a fascinating look at a multifaceted man. I’m so glad to have seen it; click on the link and you can watch it, too.

The most surprising part of the film was the mention of two U.S. presidents, Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, consulting with Sandburg, a poet, during times of crisis. Imagine that. Today, we have a presidential candidate who wants to eliminate funding for one of the last places Americans can find poetry and poets still celebrated–PBS.

Carl Sandburg’s last home in North Carolina has been made into a National Historic Site, and from the photos on the website, it looks gorgeous. Also on the website is a virtual Sandburg museum where you can learn more about Carl and his family.

Stop by Laura Salas’ blog for today’s Poetry Friday Round-Up.

Photo courtesy National Park Service.

The Write Sisters: Mentor Monday: What’s Anton Chekhov Doing With That Gun?

October 01, 2012 at 12:30AM

Some months back, Barbara wrote a terrific piece about how inserting the right prop in your story can help define your character’s job, her personality, emotional state, or just keep the story moving. You can reread Barb’s entry here:

The point is, if you insert a prop in your story, it should do something, not just fill in the description of the character’s milieu. Playwright Anton Chekhov is credited with pointing out this plot device. He stated that if a gun appears in Act I of a story, it had better be fired in a later act. Embedding a prop in the story that appears to be insignificant but later leads to some kind of story resolution is related to the technique called foreshadowing. There are, however, slight differences between the two.

Chekhov’s Gun refers to an actual prop that will be used later on. Barbara’s blog entry mentioned Harry Potter’s wand. It is essential that Harry buy just the right wand. Not only will its power be important, but it will also link him to other characters in the story.

In The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins uses a bow and arrow as prop. Katniss Everdeen is shown early on hunting for food for her family. That particular bow will not be used to win the Games. Instead it foreshadows the skills Katniss might need to survive the Games. By using it Katniss demonstrates that she is brave (she is willing to hunt outside the permitted boundaries of District 12), she is clever (she not only hunts for food for her family but to trade for necessities) and she is skillful (she has developed the calm demeanor and sharp eye of the hunter).
Bravery, cleverness, and hunting skills are intangible traits but they tell us a lot about our heroine. And, they foreshadow her future success.

What if the Games did not involve life or death? What if Collins had decided to make the Games revolve around a Texas Hold ‘Em tournament? Katniss’s ability with a bow would have been superfluous: it would be a Red Herring.

Red Herrings have their place in certain types of story, most notably mysteries. Just because the weird neighbor across the street has a Civil War knife collection, it won’t necessarily follow that he’s the killer. But if the victim’s body has stab wounds, the reader will put Mr. Neighbor high on the suspect list. And that’s what the author wants the reader to do. This sort of technique adds tension to the story.

As a novelist, you sometimes have to add “Chekhov’s gun” after you’ve written the first draft of the story. Not all of us write using pre-determined outlines. Some of us are seat-of-the-pants writers who let the characters show us where they want to go. If you’re in that category, you might find, at the end of chapter 10, that your character defeats the antagonist with a well-placed karate chop. If so, you’d best go back and hang a black Gi in the closet in chapter 1.

In other words, give your protagonist something to shoot.

The Write Sisters: Poetry Friday–“Full of the Moon”

September 27, 2012 at 11:49PM

The Write Sisters: Women of Wednesday – Lilly Ledbetter

September 26, 2012 at 01:24PM

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law.  This law provided equal pay for equal work, that a woman who did the same job as a man, for the same amount of hours, was supposed to receive the same pay.  That was almost 50 years ago.  Yet today, in 2012, the average woman makes only about 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.  Why?  After all, if the law says a woman must be paid the same as a man, why don’t businesses abide by the law?
The answer is simple.  They don’t have to.  Anyone being underpaid—male or female—may feel they’re being discriminated against, but they can’t know unless they are aware of what their peers in a company are making, and we don’t share that kind of information with each other.  It’s considered taboo and inappropriate.  So, employers can pay employees whatever they want.  How will you ever know what you should be getting?
Lilly Ledbetter had the feeling she wasn’t being paid as well as her male counterparts.  One of her immediate supervisors even hinted at it, but Lilly never had any proof.  Shortly before she retired, someone slipped a scrap of paper into her mailbox at work with the names and salaries of some of her male counterparts on it.  It was all the proof she needed.


Lilly was born in Possum Trot, Alabama, in a home with no electricity or running water.  She grew up, got married, had two children, and worked as a manager at an accounting firm.  In 1979, she applied for a job at Goodyear in Gadsen, Alabama and was one of the first women hired there in a managerial position.  She ran the overnight shift.

This was 1979, a time when women were once more starting to speak up and speak out about their rights.  Many men, and even women, believed they should just be quiet, go home and take care of their husbands and children.  Women who were hired in predominantly male positions were often harassed and given a hard time in order to get them to quit.  Lilly faced this situation, but she didn’t quit.  She did her job and did it well.  She got regular pay raises and, in 1996, received a Top Performance Award.

Throughout the years, Lilly believed she was not being paid what her male counterparts were, but it wasn’t until she was about to retire that she learned the truth.  Someone slipped a note, with names and numbers on it, into her work mailbox.  Lilly was making $3,727 a month.  Her lowest paid male counterpart was making over $4,000 a month, and her highest paid male counterpart was making over $5,000 a month.  And if one added up all that money over all those months and all those years, Lilly Ledbetter had been shortchanged a considerable sum.  Add to that the fact that all the money she didn’t receive affected her retirement fund, and the loss was even greater.

Lilly sued and won.  The jury awarded her approximately 3.5 million dollars.  Unfortunately, there was a cap in cases like hers, and the judge reduced her award to $360,000.  Then Goodyear appealed.  They said Lilly only had 180 days after that first discriminatory check was issued in which to file her claim.  Almost two decades had gone by.  The Statute of Limitations had run out.  The court agreed with Goodyear and Lilly’s award vanished into thin air. 

Lilly didn’t give up.  She took her case to the Supreme Court.  Lilly believed that she should have had 180 days after each and everydiscriminatory check in which to file her claim.  In a five to four decision, the court sided with Goodyear.  Lilly lost her case.

But something else happened that day.  One of the dissenters of that decision just happened to be Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the only woman on the Supreme Court at the time, and a woman who had spent her early law years fighting for women’s rights.  She read her opinion from the bench, which basically called on Congress to change the law.

Lilly listened to what Justice Ginsberg had to say and acted on it.  She spoke out on radio shows and testified before congress.  She got the word out.  She didn’t have to.  Her case was over and she had lost.  She wasn’t going to gain anything by changing the law.  But her daughter would gain, and her granddaughters, and all the other women in the country who were being discriminated against, so she took her fight to congress, and in 2009, the first bill President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which resets the 180 day deadline with each discriminatory check.

Lilly is now over 70 years old and lives in Jacksonville, Alabama.  She still speaks out to make women aware of their rights.   For a nice video put together by the Annenburg Foundation which gives more details about her and the law she fought for, click here.  And remember, equal pay for equal work is not an employer’s prerogative.  It’s the law.  Are you getting what you deserve?


The Write Sisters: The Joys of Writing

September 24, 2012 at 01:07PM

Pulling the spark, the idea,
the flint that lights the flame,
out of thin air.
Thinking through a plot,
outside in a lawn chair,
on a sunny day,
as the birds sing.
Typing ‘Chapter 1’
and contemplating the adventure.
Finding the perfect word,
            a killer opening sentence,
                        writing one damned good paragraph.
Walking away,
after a particularly productive day.
Getting so sucked into your world,
time disappears.
The roll, when words flow
from mind to fingers
with the ease
of breath.
Making it real,
creating a world and characters
who could truly exist.
Knowing it works,
knowing it’s good.
Reaching ‘the end,’
            and understanding
it’s just the beginning.
You’ve had your coffee, you’ve read your blogs, now go and be joyous.

The Write Sisters: Poetry Friday–Between Two Souls

September 21, 2012 at 12:01AM

I can’t remember who recommended the book Between Two Souls: Conversations with Ryōkan by Mary Lou Kownacki, but, I in turn, am going to recommend it to you. This is from the introduction by Joan D. Chittister:

But when time and space come together–when what is learned here and now becomes an echo of the there and then–we call it wisdom. It becomes a measure of eternal truth. It transcends history and eclipses what is different in behalf of what is the same.

That’s what happens in this book. Here two monastics, one a nineteenth-century Buddhist, the other a twenty-first century Roman Catholic Benedictine, become a sounding board for one another. The become the voice of eternity over time. They become a common call to us across the divide of time that warns us not to miss the moment, not to squander our souls.

And so we are introduced to the conversation that takes place in poems. Here’s an example:

I walk about with my staff.
Old farmers spot me
And call me over for a drink.
We sit in the field
Using leaves for plates.
Pleasanty drunk and so happy
I drift off peacefully
Sprawled out on a paddy bank.


Mid autumn —
I rake leaves
In the front yard.
Neighborhood children call to me.
Soon we are jumping from
      Leaf pile to leaf pile.
I haven’t felt this young
Since last year
Writing a good poem.
Exhausted, we lie in the leaves
And watch winter clouds take shape.


Moments in time captured. Moments that we, too, can have, if only we make a point of going outside, being among people, and letting go!

I hope you will look for a copy of Between Two Souls–and then, recommend it to a friend.

From here you should head over to No Water River where Renee is hosting the Round-Up.

The Write Sisters: Mentor Monday: Research Reading

September 17, 2012 at 06:37AM

I’m on vacation this week, and with two trans-continental flights, I brought research in my carry-on – not materials about some specific subject, but a diverse collection of novels. How is this research? Well they’re all historical fiction, middle-grade or young adult; so they are examples of the kind of book I’m currently revising. Most important, they were all published within the last decade.

You see, I love historical fiction. I read a ton of it as a kid – in fact, before I studied history at university, almost everything I knew about history, I learned from historical fiction (this is why I am so passionate about the accuracy of the background – setting and characterization as well as plot – in my historical fiction). But the fiction I was immersed in as a child and a young adult is OLD now (some of it was old then, truth be told). And as I said a month ago, what is being published today is quite different from what was being published then. So it is important to read more recently published books.
This is harder than it sounds. My local bookstore, awesome though it may be, can’t possibly stock anything like a complete selection of ten years’ worth of MG/YA historical fiction. So I was forced to (and grateful for) the internet.
To begin with, I did a search (using Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as publisher’s sites and such sources as Verla Kay’s bulletin board) and compiled a list of YA/MG’s classified as historical fiction and published since 2001. And yes, that’s more than 10 years. And it doesn’t account for the fact that a book published in 2001 was probably sold y the author in 1998 or 1999. I even included a few that are widely acclaimed and still being reprinted even though they’re a little older (Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793*, for example). 
Then I went through and eliminated fantasy and magical realism, which in the post-Harry world, reduced my list dramatically. Much as I may enjoy historical fantasy (and I do) I think that my book does not compete with and also will not be helpfully informed by elements of magic. I also eliminated a few books that looked like self-published titles or those that were super-specialized (true stories based on family history and published by local history or university presses) because I am hoping to sell my manuscript to a trade publisher.
Next, I wanted to try and do this without spending too much money. This meant finding the books in my local library or the consortium to which my library belongs. My library is pretty good for a small town, but like every library these days, they’re counting pennies. So only a few of the books on my list were on the shelves. A few more turned up scattered across the consortium. These form the first and second round of my research.
My next step will be to purchase a select few of those not available through my library, particularly some that have been published in 2010-2012. And I’m open to suggestions! Given my criteria, what would YOU recommend?
*and would someone explain to me why Fever is shelved in the YA section, even though my library does have some authors who have some books  “upstairs” (in YA) and others “downstairs” (with the MGs)?

The Write Sisters: Poetry Friday–“In an Abandoned Garden”

September 14, 2012 at 12:01AM

Wouldn’t you love to have the day off today to ramble through a garden and then sit for a while to watch and listen as summer hurries toward its inevitable end? Or maybe, to simply sit and read a book? If you can’t, let this poem stand in for you:

In an Abandoned Garden
by Han-Shan, translated by Burton Watson

My house is at the foot of the green cliff,
My garden, a jumble of weeds I no longer bother to mow.
New vines dangle in twisted strands
Over old rocks rising steep and high.
Monkeys make off with the mountain fruits,
The white heron crams his bill with fish from the pond,
While I, with a book or two of the immortals,
Read under the trees–mumble, mumble.

Ha! Wasn’t the “mumble, mumble” a surprise!

There’s a Round-Up being held at Random Noodling, hosted by yours truly. See you over there!

Arundel Castle (1905) picture courtesy Library of Congress. It’s not a Chinese garden, and there are no monkeys, but I can well imagine a white heron, and a reader, can’t you?


The Write Sisters: Women of Wednesday: Victoria Arlen

September 12, 2012 at 04:20AM

As I write this the 2012 Paralympic Games are ending in London.  Over one thousand athletes competed in the games.  New Hampshire’s Victoria Arlen was one of them.

Victoria was born in September, 1994.  She has one older brother and two brothers who happened to have been born on the same day she was. As if being a triplet wasn’t interesting enough, Victoria can now also claim the title of Gold Medal Swimmer.  Still not impressive enough?  How about the fact that she only started competitive swimming a little over a year ago?  How about the fact that a few years before that she suffered from transverse myelitis, a disorder that turned  an eleven-year-old girl from active to comatose?

Once Victoria was diagnosed, treatment began but left her paralyzed from the waist down.  Therapy and learning how to play sled hockey built up her stamina.  Victoria decided she wanted to be able to swim again and began competing.
Victoria, the daughter of Jacqueline and Larry Arlen is a senior at Exeter High School. She is trying her hand at acting and modeling and continues to play sled hockey as well as tennis. She’s also looking at colleges.
At this year’s Paralympics, Victoria competed in five events including the 50 meter freestyle and the 100 meter breaststroke. She won gold in the 100 meter freestyle and 3 silver medals in the other events. 
British journalist Paul Kelso, writes in the United Kingdom’s The Telegraph: “…Arlen could even turn USA on to an event it largely ignores.”
He’s right.  We should pay more attention to the Paralympic Games—and especially to Victoria Arlen.

The Write Sisters: Mentor Monday: The Semantics of Influence; The Influence of Semantics

September 10, 2012 at 04:59AM

Part of your job as a story writer is to make your reader feel certain attitudes towards the characters you create. This goal can be accomplished by the use, or the decision to not use, certain words or phrases. L. Frank Baum told us how to feel about witches by including certain descriptors in their names.  It was not merely Glinda but Glinda the Good Witch. And, you know what he called the other one. 
Examples of such word usage abound in our lives and it only takes a glance at the way media influences the public to get a taste of what you can accomplish in your own writing.
A Connecticut-based energy company wants to build a power line that would run from Canada through our home state of New Hampshire.  There are—as there always are—two opinions about this proposal. Whether the line is built depends on how the story is told and how the story is read.
To the Connecticut company, the power line is the hero of the story—the protagonist.  Like most protagonists Mr. Line is flawed.  In this case, his flaw is his need to cut down acres of forest in order to accomplish the greater good of providing cheaper, cleaner energy.  His story, when told in this way, goes something like this:
“The power line will create over one thousand jobs for New Hampshire and bring cheaper electricity to New England.”
Opponents to the project are primarily the folks in the northern part of New Hampshire. In the upper counties, there is little industry. A majority of the people “above the notches” as we say ‘round here, earn their living in tourism.  They see Mr. Line as the villain—the antagonist. They envision miles of beautiful forest land sliced up and destroyed and see visitors heading east to Maine or west to Vermont to get their fill of untouched scenery.  And, taking their vacation dollars with them. So, the Above-the-Notches folks might read the synopsis of Mr. Line’s story this way:
 “The power line will create over one thousand [temporary] jobs for[skilled workers brought to] New Hampshire and bring cheaper electricity to [Connecticut].      
By leaving out (or adding) just a few key words, the entire story has changed.
You’ve probably noticed the same thing in the media during this hectic election time. One or two words can change your opinion about just about any fact such as the following reported in several different outlets this week.  How do you feel after you read each version?
96,000 new jobs were created in August.
Only 96,000 jobs were created in August.

Just as the media writers can sway our opinions by adding or failing to mention certain words you, the novelist, have the same power over your child reader. You can also change the perception mid-story. J.K. Rowling teased her young readers about Professor Snape throughout 6 novels (Is he good?  Is he the enemy?) 

Great mystery novels have crimes committed by the character you least suspected.  The mystery writer leads you skillfully by the words he/she chooses.

So pick up your pencil.  Or your eraser.  Type.  Or delete.  Influence your reader.

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