Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's Goof-Off Day!

Aim your arrow to shoot each colored ball at groups of at least two of that same color. Shoot all the balls before they reach the bottom! Click here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Quoth the Writer

There's nothing like a good quote for eliciting those lightbulb moments, or assuring you that somebody gets you, or provoking you to say "I never thought about that," or, "Yes, this exactly!" or maybe even "Nahhh."  Here's what two writers have to say about writing.

Katherine Paterson:
  • And what am I doing while the world is falling apart? I am sitting in my little study in front of my typewriter trying to find words and put them together.
  • I have no more right to tell readers how they should respond to what I have written than they had to tell me how to write it.
  • The best people to talk about a book...are not writers, but readers.
  • To me, writing and reading are both gifts, neither of which has meaning without the other.
  • 'Don't you feel constricted writing for children?' they ask. William, don't you find fourteen tightly rhymed lines an absolute prison? Form is not a bar to free expression...
  • I will not write a book that closes in despair.
  • There are few things, apparently, more helpful to a writer than having once been a weird little kid.
  • The only problem with writing as a job is that it interferes with my reading.
  • Though truth is seldom comfortable, it is, finally, the strongest comfort.
  • Those of us who write for children are called, not to do something to a child, but to be someone for a child.
Annie Dillard:
  • It is the beginning of a work that the writer throws away.
  • The line of words is a fiber optic, flexible as wire; it illumines the path just before its fragile tip.
  • When you...know what comes next, and yet cannot go on...either the logic has developed a hairline fracture that will shortly split it up the middle, or you are approaching a fatal mistake.
  • It takes years to write a book -- between two and ten years. Less is so rare as to be statistically insignificant.
  • Novels written with film contracts in mind have a faint but unmistakable, and ruinous, odor.
  • I cannot imagine a sorrier pursuit than struggling for years to write a book that attempts to appeal to people who do not read in the first place.
  • Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.
  • I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend.
  • Writing every book, the writer must solve two problems: Can it be done? and, "Can I do it?
  • Write as if you were dying....That is, after all, the case.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Here Comes the Groom!

I must suspend the critique giveaway this month, as our family is, ahem, "otherwise engaged." Our son's June 25 wedding is almost here! He couldn't be marrying a sweeter girl. We're so proud of both of them.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June Book Giveaway Winner! says the winner of Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt is: Jeff King!

You have 30 days to claim your prize, Jeff. No later than July 13, email me at marcia at marciahoehne dot com, giving me your postal address, and I'll acknowledge receipt and get that right out to you!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Critiquing: Questions vs. Comments

Win OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt! Enter through June 12. Scroll down one post.

I went to an excellent revision workshop by author Pat Schmatz a couple weekends ago, and one thing the attendees did was exchange manuscripts for critique -- sort of. In the type of critiquing I'm used to, we jot comments and suggestions in the margins as we read, pointing out spots where we got confused ("Is Lizzie outside the house looking in, or inside the house looking out?"); POV trouble ("You've entered the thoughts and feelings of three people in the space of two paragraphs"); passages that drag; places where dialogue predominates too much over action or setting, giving a "talking heads" effect; emotional reactions that aren't quite convincing; character motivation that seems lacking -- in short, anything we can find that needs a second look. But when we exchanged mss. at the workshop, Pat gave very specific instructions: "ASK QUESTIONS ONLY, about things that pique your curiosity." It's not that I've never asked questions in a critique, or in a student manuscript, because I have and do. But the overall approach in this workshop exercise was to be one of asking questions, not making comments, and the idea of sticking to questions only was new. It made me realize a few things:
  • Asking questions means I can't enter "automatic critique mode" and make any of the comments I would normally make, such as "POV slip" or "His hair was short two pages ago; now it's long." I have to get out of the box, change my mindset. It means I'm primed to see in a fresh way before I even start reading.
  • Asking questions makes me focus on the bigger picture. First, with this method, line edits are out. A comment like "POV slip" becomes a related but more macro question: "Whose story is this?" Next to a passage that I suspect goes into too much detail about a minor character, I might jot, "Will this character be important later?" Or, to use the above example of long/short hair, the question might become, "Do you have a clear mental picture of Wilbert's appearance?"
  • Asking questions leaves ownership of the story with the author. This way, the critiquer isn't suggesting fixes. Instead, she's raising questions and leaving the answers to the writer.
  • Asking questions is freeing for the critiquer when revision is at the macro, big-picture stage. It prevents the critiquer from getting bogged down in trying to point out "everything," and keeps the early revision focus on larger aspects such as voice, conflict, character development, motivation, plot points, and sense of place. 
It occurred to me that if I'm on the receiving end of a question critique, I think I'd like to know this: Does this question mean you're confused at this spot and need the question answered now in order to understand or stick with the story? Or is it something to consider for the chapter or book as a whole, i.e., globally, not locally? As long as I have that distinction, I feel like I've gotten a glimpse into a reader's reaction to the story and can begin to work out answers to any answer-less questions. I'm reminded of John Gardner's statement something to the effect that the really good novelist anticipates and answers any questions the reader can reasonably ask. So this question approach to critiquing, if we've only heretofore dabbled around the edges of it, can raise us to new levels as both writers and critiquers. Thanks, Pat. :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

June Book Giveaway

In last Thursday's post, here, or scroll down two posts, I blogged about this fantastic book. Well, I can't think of a better book to give away.

To be entered in the drawing:
  • Comment on this post anytime from now through Sunday, June 12.
  • For an additional entry, become or be a follower, and mention that in the comment.
  • For additional entries, link to this contest and give the URLs.
Winner will be announced Monday, June 13.

So, come one, come all--and meanwhile have a great day in the world of books.