Thursday, July 26, 2012

Quoth the Writer

Feel like some quotes today? Hope you enjoy these:
  • Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money. -- Jules Renard
  • Inspiration is the act of drawing up a chair to the writing desk. -- Anonymous
  • There's more of yourself in a book than a play. That's why we know all about Dickens and not much about Shakespeare. -- Sir John Mortimer
  • Nothing stops me writing except flu. -- Fay Weldon
  • When a book leaves your hands, it belongs to God. He may use it to save a few souls or to try a few others, but I think that for the writer to worry is to take over God's business. -- Flannery O'Connor
  • There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. -- Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Once a writer is born into a family, that family is doomed. -- Czselaw Milosz
  • A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say. -- Italo Calvino
Have you heard any good quotes lately?

    Thursday, July 19, 2012

    July Critique Giveaway

    It's critique time. Enter to win!
    • I will critique TWO manuscripts. "Manuscript" means the first 1000 words of your children's magazine story, chapter book, MG novel, or YA novel.
    • No picture books, easy readers, poetry, or nonfiction.
    • Just comment on this post and state that you wish to enter.
    • Extra entries for following, Facebooking, tweeting, blogging, etc.
    • Include your email, OR check back to see if you've won!
    • Enter now through Wednesday, August 1.
    • Please, no stories that you intend to enter in an ICL Children's Writer contest.
    • Winners announced Thursday, August 2.
    Let the entering begin!

    Thursday, July 12, 2012

    Creativity Tidbits

    I've been reading Imagine: How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer, which explains what's going on in the brain when we create. Here are some interesting tidbits from that book. Some are intuitive, but at least one is counterintuitive, which I always find fascinating. And naturally I can't resist a bit of my own commentary.
    • A relaxed state of mind is important for creativity, more important than relentless focus. Trying to force insight can actually prevent it. Directed daydreaming -- musing on the thing you want a creative solution to, while walking or showering, say -- works better. Though classroom teachers and sometimes parents may go half crazy dealing with daydreamers, these are the folks who are going to invent things and solve problems. We need them, and we need them not to change! 
    • Stimulants such as caffeine, Adderall, and Ritalin make creative epiphanies less likely.
    • However, these drugs make tedious details more interesting, and increase short-term memory. This is why writers, mathematicians, and scientists have taken amphetimines while revising, or when trying to fit diverse ideas together. They see more trees, but tend to lose the forest.
    • Undergrads with ADHD, in fields such as drama, art, and science, were found to be more creative than people without the disorder, both in creativity tests and practical applications, such as having won science fairs or ribbons at juried art shows.
    • Being surrounded by blue walls makes us more creative. (I knew there was a reason all the rooms in our house are blue. :)) Scientists say that we associate blue with sky, sea, and horizons, and alpha waves in our brains increase.
    • Travel increases creativity, because when you're in a place where you're the outsider, you don't have your surroundings in their usual boxes. "Our thoughts are shackled by the familiar."
    • Cities increase creativity for much the same reason. We think in new ways when we're exposed to variety.
    • Brainstorming doesn't work! Studies have shown that a group comes up with more and better ideas if they work alone and later pool their results. Brainstorming groups are normally directed to throw ideas out there without criticizing them. But studies have shown that including debate and criticism in a group discussion produces better results. This seems counter-intuitive; for so long we've been sold on the idea that everybody is "right." However, say the scientists, if everyone is right then there's no real incentive to embrace the other guy's thoughts. The absence of criticism keeps everybody in the same place -- where they were when the meeting started. Example: John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They were competitive and prickly together, and it drove them both to produce better music.
    Must be why critique groups work. :)

    Thursday, July 5, 2012

    Emily's Fortune, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

    Eight-year-old Emily Wiggins lives with her widowed mother in the servants' quarters of the big white house owned by the wealthy Miss Luella Nash. Old Miss Nash is prim, stern, and orderly -- except when she races her horse and carriage through town, grinning wildly and shouting, "Faster, faster!" Alas, one day Emily's mother and Miss Nash go shopping, Miss Nash at the reins, and the carriage tips over and falls into the river. Only the horse survives, and Emily is now an orphan.
    Emily's neighbors, Mrs. Ready (who always states the problem), Mrs. Aim (who always asks the relevant question), and Mrs. Fire (who always has the answer) help her get ready to travel by train and stagecoach to loving Aunt Hilda, her aunt by marriage. Far better than falling into the clutches of Uncle Victor, her mother's no-good, weasel-eyed, tiger-tattooed brother. But then Miss Catchum of Catchum Child-Catching Services butts in. Her office gets a handsome bonus only when an orphan is placed with a blood relative. So there's no help for it other than to outsmart Miss C and get Emily onto the train.
    Soon she meets fellow orphan Jackson, finds out that Catchum Child-Catching Services has branches in every town on the route, and to her shock finds a poster with her name and picture on it that announces she is heir to Miss Nash's ten-million-dollar fortune. And who is soon on her trail? Not just Miss Catchum, who wants her bonus, but Uncle Victor, who wants Emily's loot. She has to get safely to Aunt Hilda, who she knows loved her before anything was known about any money.  As for Jackson -- can she really trust that he won't turn her in?
    Published in 2010, this book is fast moving; filled with funny, large-font cliffhanger chapter endings like "And what in blinkin' bloomers do you think she saw?" and "Now what in the hokie smokies could that mean?"; and ends exactly the way we'd want this kind of story to end. A western of the rootin'-tootin' variety, this will appeal to younger MG readers, reluctant readers, and any who like their MG fiction to be a bit of a romp. That it's a western aimed at girls doesn't hurt, either. Recommended.