Thursday, May 28, 2009

What is Magic Fairy Dust Made of? Where does it come from?

What book characters have become real to you?

When the Good Fairy waves her magic wand, Fairy Dust flies and "POOF" Pinnochio becomes a real boy. Easy for her, right? Wave. Sparkle. Poof. But did you ever stop to think about where this Magic Fairy Dust comes from?

Well. . . I'll tell ya what. One thing that I've learned from this workshop is that this natural resource is not easily mined. Mined. That's right. The stuff that Magic Fairy dust is made of comes deep from the caverns that many do not dare to go and this Fairy dust isn't just handed over, you have to work for it. . . and in our very first morning session, Rich Wallace led us there. Let me explain:

This is where it started. From this cozy living room on a warm country morning, Rich led us into the depths of our memories; that dark forbidden place where Fairy Dust is born. The magic that can turn a paper character in to a flesh and blood person to whom we can relate.

Rich's advice to us was this: Use the emotional heat from your experience and give it to your characters.

You don't have to make every story a direct experience from your life. But you can add the feelings of anticipation, sadness, love, etc. pluck it out of your life and add it to whatever circumstance is in your story.

Rich also told us to put ourselves inside of each of your characters heads. Even the antagonist. Because to have a believable antagonist, he/she needs to seem real to the reader. So, instead of having just a skeletal villan, we need to put flesh and blood on his bones. Since we tend to hate our own antagonists and want the reader to hate him/her, we tend to only think of them as bad. But to give the antagonist more depth, Rich suggests that we ask ourselves this: "What do you like best about your antagonist?"

Rich led us through an exercise where we were to think of a life changing moment from our past. First we were to list details that we remember; emotions, those involved, sensory details, words spoken, etc.

Once we made our list of details, we went back and wrote the memory in story form. Then we each shared our memory with the group. This was like a therapy session. I think if Rich had not become a writer he may have very well made a good therapist. We all reconnected to that time in our life and the emotion showed in our voices. Many of us even cried.

Our final assignment was to take the emotion from that moment in our lives and start a new story that involved the emotions we had just dug up. (I'll share more about what I came up with in a later post.)

This was such an awesome exercise and it was interesting to hear how each of the other ladies processed their emotions.

But mining a memory and putting it into a story isn't easy. You may not want to go back and face certain emotional moments. You may not want to put those feelings into a story for fear of showing a more vulnerable side of yourself. You may even come out liking something about your antagonist and relating to him/her even though you really don't want to.

So. Next time you read a book where a character or scene moves you, one where you can relate and connect. . . I'd say that you'd better bet your bippy that the author had to face a struggle to mine those gems and graft them into the story.

It's not easy, but ohhhhh. . . the difference it makes!

For me, One of the most memorable characters that I've read lately is Katniss from "The Hunger Games" Even though I've never been in her situation, I feel like she was written in a way that I can relate and feel for her. I wanted to stay with her through the whole ride.

What are some of the most memorable characters that you've encountered?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In a cabin in the woods; Writing in style!

If you're ever interested in going on a writing retreat, the Highlights Founders Workshops are well worth it. Even if your low on $$$$$ they do offer scholarships.

This is the main house. This is where we got pampered and had our sessions. They have unbelievable cooks that are willing to cook to order if you have special dietary needs. Before I even got to the retreat center I was already hearing "rave reviews" over the food. Let me tell you, it's not just hype. Stuffed portabella mushrooms, grilled meats, waffles, scrambled eggs, fresh fruits, fresh baked cookies, gourmet desserts . . . nom, nom, nom, nom, nom. I must stop now. I'm getting hungry.

But even w/ all the fancy food, the kitchen is homey and the fridge is stocked w/ an assortment of beverages and they make you feel at home so that you can grab whatever you need at any time.

Only a short gravel-road distance from the main house are the cabins. There are about 21 or so. . . I forget how many.
We each had our own cabin. This was mine. Sweet #17 where approx. 20 caterpillars greeted me on the prorch and I had a great view of the woods.

The inside of the cabins are clean, well furnished and each room had a mini-fridge and a cofee maker.
On our first evening we ate dinner on the screened in front porch as we sat around and got to know each other better. Our facilitator was author Rich Wallace. He was so nice, patient and down to earth and was a wealth of information. I couldn't think of anyone who could do a better job. I'll share more of what we learned fromr Rich in future posts.

So, I've shared my dreamy writing retreat space. Now you tell me. Where is your dream writing retreat? Have you been there already?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Highlights of Higlights: Day 1

Today's blog is brought to you by: The horse that wanted to be Pooh Bear.

HI! I'm back from my writing retreat! Did you miss me? I missed you!

You know how sometimes you get a mental image of how something is going to be, but you're dead wrong? That's what happened to me this weekend.

I grew up with Highlights magazine. They were in every doctors office and school. Now that I'm an adult, Highlights is still going strong and is known as the Creme-de la Creme of Children's magazines. I've always thought that if I could have an article published in Highlights, then it means I've made it! If I'm good enough for them, I can write anything!

I suppose that's why I had a mental image of the Highlights editorial offices to be New Yorkish; A hustle and bustle of editors rushing around in black suits and uncomfortable shoes among offices that are furnished in a way that would make James Bond jealous.

So, imagine my surprise when we arrive in Honesdale PA, (a quaint town with beautiful churches and an old-time feel) and I arrived at the building below. I didn't really know where I was. At first I thought I was at the retreat center. But then again, that couldn't be right because I was under the impression that the retreat was out in the middle of nowhere.

Eventually (because I'm quick witted and all) I realized that this beautiful old home was the Highlights Editorial offices.

I wasn't disappointed in the least to find that my imagined stream-lined, pseudo New York office wasn't a reality. This down-home, small town feel was a breath of fresh air.

Before heading out to the retreat center, they gave us a tour of the Highlights Editorial office.

This is the foyer. I felt so cozy and right at home. :0)

This is one of the editorial offices. We got to hear from several of the editors. They were all so nice.

Speaking of feeling at home . . . I was giddy when the tour included visuals of how the Highlights covers have changed over the years. One of the covers they used as their modern example was illustrated by my friend and critique buddy, Karen Lee. How fun to go so far away and see things that are so near and dear to me. :0)

They also had Karen's cover framed and hung on the wall. (I know such cool people!)
I just thought it was interesting to see one of the first (and this may be the very first) covers of Highlights.

And then they took us out into the woods, in the middle of nowhere . . . more to come.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Lost and Found Project: My favorite Artist has done it again.

Funny and smart writing is my favorite kind of read, so I guess adorable and smart art would be my obvious fave as well. That's why Ian Sands is my FaVoRiTesT artist. His creations are whimsical yet there's a deeper meaning behind the art. He's an artist that thinks out of the box . . . or should I say out of the frame. Even his art has a hard time being contained inside the proverbial four corners. Ian constantly has some creative scheme afoot. He loves art and I can tell that he loves it when people enjoy art. He gets people involved. He even gets his students excited about art when school is out.

He's the kind of artist that creates a 6 ft. monster and places it on a park bench in the downtown Apex area. He uses art for political statements. What did I tell you. Fun with a deeper meaning. his critters are adorable. . . but just sit back and think about what he might be trying to say. It's fun!

Just when I think he can't get any more creative . . . he goes and thinks up something more creative-califragilisticexpealidocious!

Picture this: an interactive art exhibit. He placed 22 critters around downtown Apex that encouraged the finder to return the critter to the exhibit hall. It's like a super-cool exhbit invitation! This video (below) explains it better. (and, I must add, his 8 year old son created the video.)

Enjoy! :0)

Friday, May 15, 2009

I've been thinking of 100 different ways. . . .


I've been thinking about trying a creative writing exercise. You know how artists will take an object like a coffee cup and draw that same object from different angles every day for a specified number of days?

Well, I was wondering if maybe I could benefit from a similar exercise as a writer. Maybe I should pick an object that I see everyday, like a tree or a building etc. and try to think of 100 different ways to describe that one object.

Has anyone ever tried that before? Anyone want to try it with me?

Now .. . . what object should I pick? hmmmmm . . . .

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Do you have your book goggles on?

Today's blog is brought to you by Citizens against Steroid Use for Melons.

I just picked up Downsiders by Neal Shusterman from the library last night. I"ve been on a Shusterman kick. This is my 18th book in the "50 books in 2009" challenge. 4 of those are Shusterman books. Downsiders will make #5. Shusterman is creative, witty and takes his characters to places where I find myself thinking "Whoa! I can't believe what he just did to that character!"

But recently I've noticed another thing that Shusterman books do to me. Each one has an everyday element in the book that I can't help but think about when I see that object in real life.

Everytime I see a fortune cookie, I think of Everlost.

Everytime I hear the phrase "Unwind" I think of his book UNWIND. Which by the way, I can't say that I'm going to "unwind" anymore, because the word makes me think of the word in terms of the Shusterman book. It's just too creepy for me to say anymore.

I think of THE EYES OF KID MIDAS, when I see sunglasses.

I think of FULL TILT when I see amusement park rides.

And although I've only just started DOWNSIDERS, I'm certain that I'll never look at another manhole cover the same again.

Shusterman's writing is so vivid and powerful that those common objects connect me back to his books. I'd love to be able to write like that! It's like I'm looking at the world through book goggles.

What about you? Are you wearing book goggles? What things in everyday life remind you of a book? Was it the writing, or an experience or memory from the time that you read the book?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Start Wearing Purple . . . All your sanity and wits they will all vanish, I promise

I don't know about you, but I could use a case of the Monday Morning giggles. This song does it for me. It's wacked out, so if you need something to make sense in order to tickle your funny bone. . . this won't do it for you. It does for me though. :0P

So . . . Start wearing purple for me nooooowwwwwww!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

ohhhhhh! YAY!

It seems as if my unfortunate dealings w/ illness this past month have inspired Author Jacqui Robbins.

I feel so special! :0)

Monday, May 4, 2009

May is looking good!

May is looking better for me than April. April about did me in. This gives a whole new meaning to April showers bring May flowers. My April was more like a down pour, but I do have some pretty awesome May flowers coming up!

First, is that my 16 year Anniversary is on the 8th. 16 years! Wow!

Then, my critique group is hosting an SCBWI Schmooze at Quail Ridge Books on May 17th. You're welcome to come if you're in the area.

And then today . . . I finished making travel plans to attend a writing retreat for a Highlights Founders Workshop called Mining Your Memories led by author, Rich Wallace. I read one of his books, "Restless" a coupe of weeks ago. It was very clever and entertaining.

I learned so much from the Chapel Hill retreat that I attended last year. It was a great experience for me in so many ways.

ahhhhhh . . . having things to look forward to feels really, really good!