Friday, December 21, 2012

Poetry Friday: a poem and a song

I just noticed that “light” is a theme for many of the Poetry Friday posts. By coincidence, I am sharing a poem about light by William Butler Yeats. 

Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
By William Butler Yeats

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,  
Enwrought with golden and silver light,  
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths  
Of night and light and the half light,  
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;  
I have spread my dreams under your feet;  
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Perhaps many of you already know and love the poem. But have you heard it set to music? I hadn’t but was blown away by Mark Sirett’s composition based on Yeat’s poem. 

My daughter’s high school choir performed “Cloths of Heaven” and I’m hoping that you’ll be able to hear it in the YouTube video I am attempting to embed here. I love how the choir embellishes some of the words by drawing them out and/or repeating them.

I created a video that shares the sound recording but displays the poem so that listeners can read along. But you can also click to play it and then scroll up to the top of this post where the poem might be easier to read.
Hope you enjoy it!

Check out the Poetry Friday roundup at my juicy little universe.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Relief Effort

My heart goes out to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy.

To help with the relief effort, Kate Messner is hosting KidLitCares—an online talent auction.
Please check out the Skype author visits, manuscript critiques, and other services available to bid on here. Winners will make donations, their highest bid, to the Red Cross disaster relief fund.

Such a great idea!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Paper Piles

After several drafts and many rounds of revisions, my YA novel is a polished document stored on my desktop and a few other places. As I step back and look around, it’s obvious that I need to do something about all of this paper. I want a different approach to organization with my next novel.

So I treated myself to a new writing tool—one I’m hoping will help get some of the paper organized into one tidy place on my computer. Yes, I finally got Scrivener and I’m excited to start learning how to use it. The corkboard feature sounds especially helpful for organizing scenes. I’m hoping Scrivener is the answer to my very organized paper mess.

I know that I won’t eliminate the use of paper altogether, but I’d like to reduce the amount of it I use.  Looking around my office, I’m noticing six types of paper I use often. Each type serves a unique purpose.

I use notebooks for plotting, the pre-writing of scenes, ideas for alternate scenes, the brainstorming of names and places, doodling and daydreaming about characters. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give up my beloved notebooks.

I turn to cue cards to create plot walls. Scrivener’s corkboard feature can definitely help with this.

When I’m typing away, I so often reach for notes to jot down a reminder about a character or an event so that I can go back and make sure I’ve been consistent with changes I’ve made. I reach for the notes to write down words, images, or scenes that I want to see in a future chapter while I’m already hard at work on a current chapter. These notes pile up and I can imagine that there must be a better way of managing them. Scrivener?

When I break from the computer to go get a tea in the kitchen, I’ll often think of a better way to word something, or come up with solution to a problem. I always end up grabbing paper towels or mail envelopes to scribble on and those pile up with the notes back up in the office. Maybe I can work out a system to type up written notes and store them in Scrivener as well.

Computer paper takes up the most space in my office. I can’t imagine editing without a hard copy of my work at every stage of the game but I’d like to keep critiques sent via email from writing partners in my computer to cut down on printing.

I will share what I learn about Scrivener in future posts. If you use it, I’d love to hear about it. I know I’ll still reach for sticky notes and paper towels and I'll definitely scribble out ideas in a notebook, but I’m hoping that Scrivener will de-clutter at least some of these piles of paper.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Farm Animals

A little over a week ago, we travelled north for an hour and a half to visit the Georgian Bay area for a few days. Once there, we enjoyed the sun and beaches, the pines and poplars, and a movie outside under the stars.

The hilly drive there and back is something I always look forward to because of the gorgeous farms that we pass on our way. For miles, bright green or yellow fields stretch out toward the horizon as far as our eyes can see.  Roaming freely over those hills, are the stars of this scenic show. Horses gallop within white fences or sip from streams, their manes flowing in the breeze. Cows graze in pastures, or rest in the shade of trees. Pigs lounge closer to red barns set against blue skies.

We never tire of this scene, interrupting each other in conversation to point and say, “Look!” and the teenagers in the backseats exclaiming a combined “Aww!” with more volume than you’d expect. The fact that they were wearing earphones might have had something to do with it but I still enjoyed their enthusiasm.

The farm fun was not over as we pulled into our driveway, arriving back home. We noticed a box half-hidden by our doormat. I broke open the box to find the adorable faces of cows, horses and pigs looking up from book covers at me. The books I wrote for Capstone’s new Farm Animals series are now available!

The books are intended for PreK-Grade 2 readers. Through leveled text, kids will experience ‘a day in the life’ of each farm animal. The photographs are absolutely stunning and feature cows grazing in fields, pigs at play, and horses in action. Kids will learn interesting facts like how soon after birth a calf can stand, why pigs like to roll in mud puddles, and how tall the biggest horses can be. 

You can preview the books at the Capstone website. Once there, simply click on the book cover or title. On a new page, you'll see a preview option directly underneath the book. Hope you trot on over and check them out! 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Walk a Mile

Throughout the process of writing my novel, I stopped in my tracks and tried walking in another direction. At other times, I slipped off my main character’s shoes and walked a mile or two in the shoes of other characters, which helped me think outside of the first person perspective. To achieve all of this, I opened up a new ‘experimental’ document.

This technique worked on two levels. First, when something felt a little ‘off’ in the direction a character decided to take in my original document, I could still move forward knowing in the back of my mind that I could experiment later. Sometimes the ‘off’ feeling was smoothed over once I wrote a little more and realized why my character needed to do/say what he or she did. Having that ‘experimental document’ just sitting on my desktop, waiting to be opened, allowed me to move forward with a possibly iffy decision.

But then if that off feeling only worsened, that’s when I’d turn to the experimental document. Writing in the openness of the new document, allowed my character the freedom to feel out or test other trails, stumble upon new things she hadn’t known about herself.

Having the safety net of the original just sitting there for me to go back to allowed for risk-taking.  I challenged myself to explore other turns or possibilities in the plot or in the choices of a character. Most of the time, my ‘experimental’ scenes and chapters ended up being inserted into the original document, and older scenes deleted.

If I didn’t use the experimental document, I still gained new insights about a minor character, for example, who had become more fleshed out in my mind, having walked in her shoes.

Do you ever wonder what would have happened if your character had made a different choice than the one s/he did? Or if your novel is in first person, do you ever experiment with the perspectives of other characters in separate documents?

Monday, June 4, 2012

WIP Update

Writing my novel has been a process of ‘two steps forward, one step back’ because I was not able to take the advice of some writers and just plunge forward without looking back. I did turn around and ponder. I sometimes second-guessed the motives or choices of my characters. I challenged them to take risks. I tried different approaches to scenes. 

As I wrote and I changed something about a character, or about the plot, I couldn’t help myself from going back and making related changes throughout the novel as I wrote the first draft. I revised as I went along. I took breaks. I set the manuscript aside often to gain perspective. After two years of working this way, I finally finished a first draft of my YA novel.

At first, I was in shock. My reaction? No reaction. Again, I put the manuscript to the side and took a deep breath. I exhaled. And then, a few days later, came a great sense of satisfaction. Not that my novel is anywhere near perfect or ready for submission but this first draft is complete. It is currently 68, 696 words and 242 pages in length.

Now, as I wait for feedback from a few people, I am hoping to develop some emotional distance from the novel so that I can be as open as possible to critiques.
In a week or so, after absorbing feedback, I’ll move on to another round of revisions.

When you finish a first draft of a piece of writing, how do you prepare yourself for the next stage of revision?