Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thorny Character

I regularly read the blog of Nathan Bransford: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/

In a recent posting: “Do you own your characters or do your characters own you?” he wrote:
 
“At the same time, I always find it curious to hear authors so completely in thrall to their worlds and characters, and I start wondering, "Wait a second, who's in charge here?"

Once the characters and worlds begin to take life it can be a danger if the author lets the characters take the story in a completely different direction. Willful characters can walk themselves straight out of a plot if the author loses touch with the story and instead just follows the characters' whims.”
I wonder if Mr. Bransford has hacked into my computer because that is exactly what has happened in my story. One of my favorite characters has walked out of the story. For days I have been pondering what I should do about him. I have revised the story to keep him in and I have revised the story without him. Both have high points and I cannot decide which is superior. My story has its own reality and is very much alive in my mind. This world must be conveyed for readers. I want everyone to be as engrossed in this world as I am.
 
I love all of my characters. Each character has his unique life story and personality. How could this happen to my story line? Should I keep working to keep him in this story? Maybe he is such a good character that he needs his own story. The quandary is painful! Writing is painful! Stay tuned to see what happens.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Words, Words, Words



My brain has turned into alphabet soup! I do not want to think of how many words I am writing and typing every day. I could probably quadruple the number by counting the words read each day. My desk is piled high with my dictionaries and thesaurus, not to mention a grammar primer.

Can someone please tell me why, with all the words I am swimming in each day, that I seem to get stuck numerous times a day hunting for a word? Why is my mind drawing complete blanks?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Society of Children Books Writers and Illustrators

It is safe for me to say that if it were not for the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), I would be going about trying getting published completely backwards! For months I have been reading and studying their great web site: http://www.scbwi.org/ .
 
I have been avidly pouring over the SCBWI’s Publication Guide. The guide is also available on-line to members. It contains so much valuable information! There are chapters on Preparing & Submitting; Legal Questions; Publicizing Your Published Work; School Visits; Market Survey’s; and Directories and Resources. Each chapter is so full of valuable knowledge that I am studying harder than I have in years.
 
My regional chapter, Southern Breeze, is full of talented writers and illustrators who generously share their expertise through the web site and newsletter. I am constantly amazed at how generously these members answer questions, celebrate each others successes, and provide information that others might be interested in. I understand the conferences are marvelous. I plan to be at the winter conference; hopefully with a manuscript for critiquing!
 
I can certainly see why so many first-time published authors express so much appreciation to SCBWI and the Southern Breeze chapter. I assure you that when I do get published it will be due in great part to the advice I gleaned from this great organization and its many members.

Peace,
Beth

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Still Refining

You may have noticed that I am still refining this blog.  I finally figured out how to add the email subscription feature.  Please sign up and receive my new postings on email.

I also added a device to link you to Elizabeth Dulemba's coloring pages.  She is an author and illustrator that has some of the cutest color sheets to go with her books, holidays, and many other occassions.  Parents, grandparents and teachers may find them a nice resource.  I do!

Peace,
Beth

Books by Marianne Richmond

I know you will not be surprised that four years ago I was browsing through the children’s section of a book store. The cover of one particular book enthralled me. The illustration and title of Marianne Richmond’s I Love You So…drew me in immediately. We were expecting our first grandchild and the story brought tears to my eyes. It is such an endearing and loving story. Of course I bought it for my grandson! He and I read this book every time I visit. He has even memorized parts of it. My daughter and I both give this book as our gift to new babies. We are anxiously awaiting the birth of two more grandchildren in a few months and you can bet that each of these will also receive I Love You So… from Gran and Big Dad.
 
Imagine my thrill to have recently found another of her books: Happy Birthday to You! As my precious grandson turns four years old on Friday, he will be receiving this book from his Gran and Big Dad. Shhh! Don’t tell him the surprise. You can rest assured that Elliott and I will be cuddled up reading this book many, many times.
 
These books are full of joy and love for the uniqueness of each special child. In a world filled with such violence and turmoil, the books of Marianna Richmond are delightful experience in a world of peace, joy and love. In fact, I Love You So... was awarded the Mom's Choice Award in 2005.  Ms. Richmond is the author and illustrator of her books. The illustrations are wonderful. Even when Elliott was an infant he would carefully study each and every page. Eventually I will have all of her books! You can learn more about Marianne Richmond on her website and blog at http://www.mariannerichmond.com/

Peace,

Beth

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dick Francis-RIP 10/31/1920-2/14/2010

I cannot allow the death of Dick Francis to pass without comment. He have provided me with a lifetime of exciting, “can’t put this down” reading pleasure. In fact, two weeks ago I had read Shattered once again. It held me spellbound, although I had read it several times previously. Mr. Francis wrote over forty books throughout his long award winning career. I have read every one of his books at least once except the latest. I can assure you that I will be reading Even Money very soon. Crossfire is scheduled to come out later this year. I will be anxiously awaiting this release.
 
My entire realm of knowledge of horses and horseracing has come from Dick Francis. He wrote such wonderful descriptions of the horses, tracks, jockeys, trainers, and the various races that I feel like I have been to each and everyone one of them. Each of his main characters seems like old friends.
 
Mr. Francis is my inspiration. Just imagine he is a champion jockey riding for the Queen Mother in the 1956 Grand National and his horse collapses just before crossing the finish line in first place. Then the horse gets back up apparently unhurt. What a mystery! How embarrassing. He retires from racing soon afterwards.
 
The inspiration lies in the fact that a year his autobiography, The Sport of Queens, was published. He worked as a sports writer for a while. Dead Cert was published in 1962 followed by a book a year for over forty years. Amazing!
 
A marriage of 53 years is also inspiring. His beloved Mary edited and proof read all of his books. She even helped with the research. It has been said that research led to Mary taking flying lessons. I need to stay clear of flying scenes in my stories because I am quite sure my husband will not taking flying lessons. What wonderful devotion on Mary’s part. Mr. Francis did not write any books for several years after Mary died in 2000. It seems the devotion was felt both ways.
 
Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The New Baby

I was recently in Savannah for the 189th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. Any trip to Savannah is an opportunity to visit E. Shaver, Bookseller. Once I get through all the marvelous displays just inside the entrance, I usually head to the rooms of children’s books. I found the perfect book for my three year old grandson, Elliott.

Elliott is expecting a little brother in May. We are all looking forward to this new addition to our family. During my last visit with Elliott, he was standing on his bathroom stool at his sink brushing his teeth. He began telling me how he was going to teach his brother to brush his teeth. “Gran, you will need to go buy me some more Shrek toothpaste!” concluded Elliott. Oh my, Elliott is going to disappointed with that little toothless mouth!

I bought one of Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter stories: The New Baby. In this delightful story, the little critter is thinking exactly like Elliott. He thinks the new baby is going to enter the family as a “mini me”. Little Critter and Elliott assume the new baby will play and act exactly as they play and act. Little Critter has a rude awakening concerning newborn babies. But soon he learns all the wonderful things he can do with the new baby. This is exactly the story I want to share with my grandson.

Do you wonder what else I bought? Well, I actually did not get to E. Shavers until nearly closing. I simply ran out of time! Hopefully another trip to Savannah will be in the near future. If you get to Savannah, be sure to check out the delightful E. Shaver, Bookseller
( www.savannahoffthebeatenpath.com/Shops/shaver%27s.htm ) .

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Urge to Write

In my last posting I said that writing is as important to me as eating. Actually writing may take precedence as I am often so immersed in my research and writing that I work right through mealtimes. Not only do I frequently work through mealtimes, I do not even notice that I missed a meal or two. I don’t even notice until my stomach growls so loudly that I think the dogs need to go outside. My waist could certainly afford to lose several inches but not through starvation.

I have been writing fairly seriously for ten years. The focus of the majority of my writing then was educational: instructional and thematic units and high interest low level stories. I ‘played’ with several children stories but they definitely took the backseat. I am now working diligently to get these same stories into publishable shape.

I am currently focusing on two stories. I work on one until I hit a brick wall or the story seems to fizzle. Then I switch to the other story. This seems to help me to maintain my excitement about both stories. It is amazing how a fresh eye will open up the most obvious solution or direction for the story. I have promised myself a special treat when one it ready for a critique.

My home office is most accommodating for writing. The two dogs and I have the house to ourselves for nine to ten hours most days. We live in a quiet rural area that provides few disruptions. The arrangement is nearly perfect for writing.

I do have a problem though. Ideas, solutions, resource thoughts, characterizations, and much more see to bounce around in my head constantly. Thoughts come to me at the oddest times. My memory is not what it used to be so I have notebooks and notepads everywhere-by the bed, my chair, my desk, table, car, patio, purse-even in the bathroom. The heart of my problem is that I spend too much time going through a mountain of notebooks to find a particular ‘idea’. I would love to know: how do you effectively organize all these thoughts/ideas/solutions?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Beginning to Blog

Here it is! This is my very first posting on my very first blog. How did I wind up here? My development into a writer took root in my life-long love of reading. I find reading as natural as breathing and writing as important as eating. I would never attempt to answer the age old question: “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” My parents read to me from my birth. The Episcopal Church and the public library were the first places we located when we moved to new places-which we did often. Even today libraries and bookstores are my favorite places to visit.

What do I read? I read anything and everything. The last few years my best times have been reading with my grandson, Elliott. We like nothing better than curling up together with a stack of books. I especially love a good mystery. As a girl, I helped Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys solve many mysteries. Soon I moved on to become the sidekick of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. I always have a mystery ‘in progress’.

Books ‘in progress’ can be found on my bedside table, in my home office, by my recliner, in my car (I do not read while driving-these are for waiting rooms and the like), and in my purse. Although I read all types of books, there will always be stacks of children’s books, ‘how to’ write and become published books, Bible studies/ meditations/spirituality books, gardening books, cookbooks, and reference books.

After 31.5 great years in education as a teacher and administrator, I retired at the end of this past school year. I am reveling in the additional forty to sixty hours a week I can now devote to reading and writing. I am embracing writing as my full-time job. In the months to come, I will share my journey with you and hope to benefit from all of your expertise and encouragement.