Friday, February 24, 2012

Be wise. Revise!

"Revise, revise, revise. Revise until the dang thing stands up and sings!"

This was the advice that award-winning author Graham Salisbury had for young writers. Mr. Salisbury was the visiting author for the Junior League of Richmond's Junior Book and Author event this year. He captivated his audience, young and old alike, with tales of growing up in Hawaii, narrowly escaping vicious eels, maintaining a cool reputation amid shark attacks, and being swept out to sea during a boy scout campout at the beach. But when it came to writing, he was all about revision. "That's when the fun starts," he said. "If you want to be a writer, you want revision. You need revision. You love revision."

His words made me think about how I have come to enjoy the revision process. When I began to see the benefits that diligent it yields, I became a big fan of revision. Here are some of the things revision gives you:

- A better sense of what story you are trying to tell.
- A clearer understanding of your characters.
- Stronger dramatic moments and funnier humorous moments.
- A richer setting.
- Themes that are more fully developed and resonant.
- Consistency in all aspects of the story.

Well, the list is much longer, but that's a start. What else does revision buy you?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

In Praise of Non-Fiction

Posts on this blog frequently concern works of fiction. Indeed, fiction is what I, myself, am most passionate about writing. I do, however, write 50 -60 book reviews a year for Children’s Literature and most of the books assigned to me are non-fiction. And I love reading them! Over the years, to name only a few of the topics covered in the books I’ve reviewed, I have learned more than I ever thought possible about forensics, climatology, space travel, computer science and medicine, not to mention in-depth studies of many foreign countries and cultures.

So last week I picked up a non-fiction book to read for pleasure: Stephanie Sammartino McPherson’s recent publication, ICEBERG RIGHT AHEAD! The Tragedy of the Titanic. It is beautifully illustrated with photographs, matching the glory of any picture book out there. The drama that unfolded on that April night begins with the first sentence. This book captured and held my interest equally with any fictional adventure I have ever read. I was reminded how consistent the requirements for good writing (and great reading) are across all genres and categories: your writing must captivate and keep the reader’s interest, move the plot forward with the right pacing and rhythm. If illustrated, the book must use images that are relevant and expand on the story, images that are wonderful to look at on their own. With those standards as your guide, you’ll do well whatever you write.

In the interest of full disclosure, Stephanie Sammartino McPherson is a member of our Richmond Children’s Critique group. (See bio at left) ICEBERG RIGHT AHEAD! Is published by Twenty-First Century Books/Lerner Publishing, ISBN: 978-0-7613-6756-7

Friday, February 10, 2012

Illuminations From The Illustrator

Recently I was tasked with writing a short piece on my ‘intention’ as an artist, as part of an application to exhibit in a gallery. It required a bit more contemplation than I had imagined it would. My first response was frustration – how do I explain myself as an artist? Why do I need to? This reaction was quickly followed by a groan of resignation (after all a statement of some kind was required). Then, lo and behold (and several cups of coffee later): enlightenment! I heard the echo of that ancient wisdom, ‘if I can explain to myself why I paint, then I can paint with more creativity and freedom.’ I realized that the same is true for my writing. If I can say, ‘this is my intent…’ clearly and lucidly, then my writing will be clearer, more focused and ultimately, more successful. Try writing a similar statement for your writing. Why do you write? What is your intent? Even if you think you already know, putting your intention into words can make a big difference in your writing life.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Show a little book love

Valentine's Day is coming up--the day we make an extra effort to show love to the people that mean the most to us. This year, think about the authors of the books you love. Of course, the best way to support authors is to buy their books. But you can do an author a HUGE favor by taking a few simple steps beyond that. You'd be surprised to know how much it means to an author when readers take time to show their public support.

1. Write a positive book review and post in on Amazon.

2. Write a positive book review (you can even copy and paste the one you used in step 1) and post it on Goodreads, Shelfari, or barnes&

3. Click the "like" button on Amazon.

4. Tweet about how much you enjoyed the book. Include the author's Twitter name if possible.

5. Make a short positive comment about the book or the author on Facebook.

6. Ask your local library to carry the book if they don't already do so. Many libraries have suggestions cards specifically for this purpose.

7. Buy the book as a gift for a friend or family member. For a thrifty alternative, see suggestion #8.

8. Give/lend your copy of the book to someone you think will enjoy it. And ask them to pass it on when they're done.

9. Use the power of word of mouth. Tell someone, somehow, some way, how much you liked the book.