Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Book Week

Ahhh, remember The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, BANNED; or, the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling, BANNED. 

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, now that was a great one, BANNED. 

Starting to get worried?  Check here to see the list of other great books that have been BANNED.

Who, what, when, where, why and how have these books been BANNED?  If that's not what you're thinking then perhaps you should be. 

From where are they banned?  Libraries and school libraries.  By whom are they banned?  "Libraries, schools, towns, sometimes governments."

Not a lot of people know this about me but here it goes:  From 1997 until roughly 1999 I tried to find the rights to a book called Two Girls and a Mystery by May Hollis Barton.  I wanted to write a screenplay from this book and I needed the screen rights.  I eventually found the rights in possession of Simon and Schuster for $2500.  Fair price but I didn't have the money at the time. 

It's not the rights that bothered me and changed my view of the world, it was what I learned along the way.

May Hollis Barton was a pseudonym for a group of ghost writers that belonged to the Edward Stratemeyer Syndicate in Orange, New Jersey.  Not familiar with the Edward Stratemeyer Syndicate?  Sure you are, they pumped out the beloved Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series amongst others.  Business was booming for Edward Stratemeyer and his little syndicate but soon his series books fell under the BANNED list.  And one of the big proponents of this banning came from the chief librarian of the Boy Scouts of America when he put out an article entitled, "Blowing Out the Boy's Brains."  Although the Boys Scouts of America didn't begin the ban on Edward Stratemeyer series books, it further fueled the public.  These books were pulled from library shelves around 1927 and didn't make a comeback until the 1960's. 

I mean 1927 and 1960's.  Those are the years I think of when I think about banned and burned books, definitely not 2010.  But it's true.  The list for BANNED books in the United States grows and changes each year.  Baffling to me.

Sure.  You might not want your kid to read a certain book, so don't let them.  But don't prevent others from reading these books.  Your opinion is subjective.  Don't make up my mind for me or my children.

Check out the following links for more information about the Edward Stratemeyer Syndicate:

The Mysterious Case of the Edward Stratemeyer Syndicate by Carole Kismaric & Marvin Heiferman

The Secret of the Old Clock

Fore more links to blogs who care about banned books go here:

League of Extraordinary Writers

Read a Banned Book

I have to go pick up my kindergartener from half-day kinder now.  Go protest if you get a chance!   Happy Monday!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'm on a Crusade, Please Join Me

Just since yesterday, thanks to the Writing Experiment, I have gained new followers and have started following a lot of great new blogs.  (I'm excited to check my Dashboard every day now)

Over at Rach Writes she has a Writer's Platform Building Crusade going on and I have climbed aboard.  Care to join all of us? 

We are part of a new generation of writers and we must embrace it.  Let me take you back in time for a second to 1998, the year I started dabbling in the publishing world.  It wasn't pretty, people!  In 1998 I was twenty years old, living as a resident tourist in an apartment in Hollywood, California and dial-up was my best friend and worst enemy.  There were no online forms for agents, no Query Tracker.  My view into the publishing world was from a large book called The Writer's Market.  They didn't have a fun interactive website like they do now, or I didn't know about it.  I was buying lots of stamps and waiting for months for rejections to my queries. 

That wasn't even the worst of it.  Blogging was non-existent, so I was writing in a vacuum with no one to write with that understood the writing world.  It was no wonder so many classic writers offed themselves or became depressed alcoholics.  It's not safe to be a writer without friends.  That's why I put my fiction aside for a bit and have now come back to it twelve years later.  (Sure, I kept my lofty writing goals in my head and I never gave up on my journals, but I didn't query again for twelve years.)

Us writers need each other and blogging is the best way for us to have a group and still be alone with our thoughts when we need to be.  Thank you bloging world for being here when I'm down and when the words won't spill out across my blank pages.

Thank you Rachael Harrie for the crusade! 

Friday, September 24, 2010

How to Write Compelling Characters

I am participating in Elana Johnson's blog experiment today.  She has an interesting topic running on her site which is, How to Write Compelling Characters.

I've spent most of today really thinking about this (I mean really pondering; there are already almost two hundred people ahead of me on this topic) in a way that I'm not even sure if someone else has already mentioned it.

I was able to read a few of the then 184 participant's ways of making their characters compelling and I think they all did a great job and I agree with them.

Here are my two cents:

I enjoy following characters (main or sidekicks) who surprise me.  Of course, I like to be able to relate to these characters as a reader but it's enjoyable to come across a character who has an opinion that I don't necessarily agree with.  Maybe it's the main character but maybe it's the sidekick who occasionally reacts to a situation in the opposite way I would in the same situation. 

There are several ways to achieve this type of surprise element with a character:  Get loud in the library, hate something most people like, be funny at an inappropriate time, etc..  Try not to make your character annoying; nothing in excess, but surprise the reader.  Inevitably this will make them flawed in a charming or compelling way. 

In The Breakout Novel Workbook, by Donald Maass he has the writer think about something the protagonist or antagonist would NEVER do and then have them do that in the story.  It's a great book for going back through your story and pulling out the types of compelling qualities you might not have thought of yet.

Okay, I have to go back and read some more ways to write compelling characters.  Have fun writing!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

When Did I Get So Wordy?

I love working with a writing group.  If you don't already have a writing group then go out and round one up right away.  That's what I did.  I follow a couple of blogs who speak so lovingly about their writing groups that I was jealous, envious, no jealous, well, that seems harsh so let's go with envious and keep jealous in the back of our minds.  I couldn't just stew in my envy/jealousy.  I had to put a feeler out.  I literally used NaNoWriMo as an excuse to find my group.  I figured, who doesn't have Write a Book One Day on their bucket list? 

It's nice to have a goal in mind to write a book.  We started out by coming up with our ideas, outlining, sketching, and now using prompts to stoke our creativity while we patiently wait for NaNo to begin. 

I'm learning a lot about myself through prompts.  First, I don't write short stories all that well, but I'm not that bad at writing scenes.  The difference?  To me, it's the set up, the clear beginning, and ending.  Often, my scenes start out with more dialogue and less narrative.  I could just be out of practice.  I used to write short stories, but even then my teachers would say my ideas were too complex to fit into the word limit and they could see where I needed more room to develop my story.  But, I didn't really think I could write a book until this year.  I actually just wanted to write good journal entries.  That didn't happen.  Journal entries are harsh, abrupt feelings for the moment and hardly as formulated as a story should be, at least that's the way my journals read. 

Most astonishing to me of late, is that I'm so much more wordy than I used to be.  In 1998, I was taking a creative writing class and struggling to write short stories on a regular basis and use up all the word limit space.  Now, I'm wordy.  It seems I've gotten a taste for writing books and now having to fit story inside 1,000 words or less is a challenge.  I have no idea what this says about me as a writer.  It feels nice to know that when I sit down with a notepad or in front of my computer, I have stuff to say. 

There have been times over the last eight years that I've attempted to write a book and after the first page I've stopped dead in my tracks.  I have yet to go back and finish those stories.  Over the last two years, when I think back, I filled notepads and journals faster than I had in the past, that might have been a leading indication that I was headed toward a book.

I'm still new to this but my biggest fear is lack of words.  Starting a book isn't the only time I've come up short on words, I found myself stuck more than once while I was writing my book.  I just didn't know if I could reach my goal of 75,000 words.  I was shocked at 15,000 words, and after 25,000 words.  Getting to 75,000 words was a great feeling of accomplishment, but not one that came without fear of whether or not I could do it again. 

When I'm feeling sick, or exhausted and I can't write and maybe those feelings go on for a week, I actually wonder if I'll be able to sit down and write again.  There are even times when I look at the writing prompts and have no clue where the story is going to come from, but amazingly enough, it comes. 

I'm anxious to see how my writing comes along in November. 

What is your biggest fear in regards to your writing craft?

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Used to Want to Be Buried in My VW Bug...

I have to admit, my writing group and I are getting anxious for NaNoWriMo that's why we've started using writing prompts.  (I'll take whatever I can get.  My characters for my NaNo book are trying to break out of my head and onto paper so a writing prompt is a great distraction.)

Our writing prompt was to write for ten minutes using I used to think...
1994 - Sat in front of the Gorilla Gage restaurant for 20 years
I used to think I wanted to be buried in my Volkswagen bug. Seriously, I even wrote it in my will. I’ve been through more with my bug than I have with any single person, at least until I got married and had children.

I think my bug is a great representation of me. When I was sixteen and looking for a car, I was looking for a bug. For some reason in 1994 bugs in Utah weren’t cheap. I looked at quite a few until one day my mom, my sister Anna, and my then boyfriend, Russ all spotted my pink bug sitting off the road with a For Sale sign. After a bit of negotiation I got the bug for $2500. My grandpa spotted me the $500 down payment and the owner let me pay $101.04 per month for 2 years.

Right away this bug was trouble. I have had this car now for sixteen years. Throughout that time I’ve been broken down in driveways, intersections, gas stations, car washes, and parking lots. Seriously, I’ve spent some quality time on the side of the road, inside the cab of AAA tow trucks, and in repair garages. I even got the same tow truck driver twice while I was living in Hollywood.

2004 - Sanding is no easy task.
This is a trouble making bug but sometimes the situations were more funny than frustrating. I couldn’t wait to take my dad for a drive in it for the first time but it was icy out and the dead of winter in Utah and sure enough, I spun her all the way around. When the car stopped spinning, my dad and I just looked at each other, no words for at least a minute or two. I guess that was one way for my car to bring my dad and me closer together.

As a teenager I was known to honk my horn at anyone who ticked me off, well my car got me back for this one day. At first the horn just stopped working. Then I inadvertently honked the horn while I was turning and like magic the horn worked again. I could honk as long as I was turning, so that’s what I did. Then one day, I honked the horn and it didn’t stop honking itself for a few minutes. Needless to say, I was embarrassed. After that, I’ve been careful not to use my horn in any car so much. A lesson in respect I would say.

There’s nothing quite like driving a bug in the snow when the heater only works in the back and you find yourself scraping the inside of the windows and then jumping out at red lights to scrape the outside. Or, overheating in the hot California summer and then having to sit on the side of the road until she cools down. It doesn’t matter, I still love her.

But not everyone likes my bug. She’s been laughed at, had a milkshake thrown on her, had her gas siphoned, car stereo and dash ripped out, been wrecked, have been painted two different colors by a color blind painter, and has had multiple children lean bikes and scooters on her all while keeping her composer.

She’s definitely a member of the family and a large part of my life. I’ll keep her until I die, or until she rusts to the ground and I sweep her into a jar for safekeeping. But I don’t think I want to be buried inside her anymore, and I’m still not sure why I really wanted to before. Maybe because I have a hard time thinking about how someone else might treat her. There are just some parts of myself I’m not ready to let go of and I know I’ll never be able to take her with me when I go.
2004 - A refurb for our 10th anniversary.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Is It Just Me?

I think my personality prevents me from writing level-headed female MC's whose darkness still comes off as chipper. 

People who don't know me very well see a nice blonde-haired, blue-eyed lady who talks so quietly they could never see me getting upset, but those who know me would probably agree that I'm just Emily the Strange on the inside, wearing all black, feeling cynical and less than optimistic when crossed.

I want to be normal, and less enraged at general stupidity, but I have a hard time overlooking the quirks emanating from the random natured people around me.  Perhaps this is the uttermost reason I need to write, small things stand out to me in a way that makes me think, "You're kidding, right?"

For example, last week I was volunteering in my son's kindergarten class along with another mom and a grandma who makes rounds at the school (an on-the-fly volunteer).  I like to keep to myself and just do my thing, but of course, something or someone always crosses the line from common sense and courtesy into something like anarchy in solidarity (I'm an extremist at times, bear with me).

After the first round of kids left my table I got up and sharpened the pencils in my cup and then waited for the next round of kids.  When all the kids had taken their seats, I overheard the grandma at the table next to me say, "Let me get some sharpened pencils for you kids."  And then she came over to my table, grabbed a handful of sharpened pencils from my cup replacing them with her unsharpened pencils. 

I was stupefied first, and then as the seconds passed, I became angry.  In the way of common courtesy I (perhaps wrongfully) assume that we are all on level playing fields as far as age (this might be an indication that I truly believe in a higher power although I'm still questioning religion in my life).

I couldn't start a fight with the woman, so I sunk so low that I became passive aggressive.  The only people around me who could possibly relate to my feelings were the five-year-olds, that's when I became one.  When one of the kids at the table pointed to the cup of pencils and said, "Why are only some of these sharpened?"  I immediately pointed to the grandma and said, "She took them." 

Now, eight days later, I'm still shaking my head about this woman and her actions.  I can't stop thinking, "What kind of person does that anyway?"

See why I have a problem writing female main characters?  This must be why the MC's for the next two books I plan to write are male POV's. 

It might just be me, but male POV's don't seem to get the same stigma for being grumpy and depressed as female MC's do.

My mom thinks I should takes notes from Erma Bombeck and write a book about all the idiocy I encounter, but for now I'm sticking to MG and YA, while avoiding the female MC until I get a good grasp on how to lighten her up by detaching her from me.  

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Clearing Off My Bookshelf

I love to read and it shows in the way my bookshelf is sagging and my night table is running low on space for my remote controls.

Perhaps, someone else would like to have these books.  I'm willing to trade for books I haven't read yet.  That way we can just spend shipping costs.  Let me know if you're interested in any of these books:

My Bookshelf

Catching Fire & Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Both HB, no Hunger Games because it was lent to me originally)  TRADED!!!!  Yay!

The Wake Trilogy by Lisa McMann  (Wake (SB), Fade & Gone (HB))

The House of Night Series by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast (All 7 books; Tempted, Burned, Hunted (HB))

Blue Bloods Series by Melissa de la Cruz (All 5 books; Van Alan Legacy & Keys to the Repository (HB))

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern (HB)

The Short Second Life of Brea Tanner by Stephanie Meyer (HB)

Evermore & Blue Moon by Alyson Noel (SB)  (as soon as I finish I have Shadowland & Dark Flame in HB)

Send me a message if you're interested.