Archive for the ‘Authors’ Category

How Maori Healers Transform You . . . And Your Writing

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Several years ago, when my ninety-year-old dad was alive, he asked me, “Elizabeth, what’s it like to have a headache?”

He had to be kidding.

“So Dad, you’ve never had a headache?”

“Never,” he said.

After I picked myself off of the floor, I explained the sensations of headaches – - throbbing, “sickishness,” sharp shooting pains – - and then I told him about migraines. Multiply the former headache sensations by 100, add nausea and dizziness and you’ve got one.    

Recently, when I heard of Maori healers’ therapeutic powers and that they’d be in my area, I made an appointment.

As a healer gazed down at me lying on the massage table, she probed my torso with her hands. “You’ve had pelvic trauma.”

“Really? Do you mean the C-section I had years ago?”

 “Earlier than that,” she said. “You had it when you were very young.”

 What could she be talking about?

 “An operation for a hernia when I was two?” I said.

 “Ah, yes. That would do it.”

 “Do what?”

 “Damage is felt in your neck and head.”

 While I lay on a bodywork table, she sang a Maori prayer while placing her hands on me. At least I assume it was a prayer. Perhaps it was a catchy Travel to New Zealand jingle?

 Then she got to work. She exerted so much pressure with her hands on my torso I thought I’d end up in China.

 “Is it supposed to hurt this much?” I asked her between gasps.  

 “Yes,” she said. “Breathe and you’ll feel better.”

 How could I since my internal organs were now in my lungs?

 At least it wasn’t a headache. In fact, my headache had gone. Was it was pain transference?

“Let go,” she advised.

 I obeyed, willing my body to relax and breathe. Closing my eyes, I discovered the pressure soon alleviated. 

Maybe I was getting used to living in China?

“Elizabeth,” said the healer.

 I opened my eyes.  Legs.  I followed the legs up . . . up . . . and saw her standing on top of me, touching the ceiling with a hand for balance.

“I don’t believe this,” I said.

An immense male Maori healer standing nearby said, “Get down and I’ll get up there.”

“She’d never let you,” said my healer.

After all, China wasn’t built in a day.

 Maori Healer 72014

Writing Prompts:

  1. During your writing, we should also let go. Too often our left brain’s structured thinking destroys or inhibits our creativity. Meditate before you begin your writing session to open up all of your possibilities.
  2. As you brainstorm possible ideas, whether they are plot prospects, character traits, or article ideas, don’t take your first one. Keep going until you know, within your intuition, it’s the right one.
  3. Got a plot problem? Stuck inside a scene? No metaphors to create theme? Keep paper and pen everywhere so you’re ready when your subconscious is.

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Discover Behind-the-Scenes Secrets at Chronicle Books!

Monday, July 21st, 2014

 

Admit it.  You’ve always wondered what goes on behind the scenes in book publishing.  Discover how editors and publishers make their magic!  Editor Melissa Manlove will give a fascinating presentation this Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 7 pm, at 1846 Union Street, San Francisco.

PLUS – - get 25% off everything in the Chronicle Store!

 

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Make a Scene with Jordan Rosenfeld

Monday, April 14th, 2014

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How can you write a scene with emotional impact, reader involvement, and suspense? 

Author Jordan Rosenfeld spoke to the California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch and shared valuable tips for writers of all genres.  

 With every scene you create, ask yourself, what is the point of the scene?  Does it move your story forward, or is it just a block of setting description?  In showing setting, make your character interact with her surroundings

Great advice!  I critiqued manuscripts at one conference where a writer created a lovely Victorian Christmas which dominated the first chapter.  I suggested she weave in the setting elements as the character acted and reacted, foreshadowing the mystery ahead. 

She said, “Great idea!  But this house doesn’t play a role in the rest of my story at all.”  So why include it?  Once she began writing with her plot and character in mind, her character acted, reacted, and experienced the setting through sensory images.  It wasn’t overblown this time, and she created a reason for her scene to be there: she introduced characters and hinted at the mystery coming.

Rosenfeld advised writers create tension through emotional complexity.  Characters can experience more than one feeling at a time.  The uncertainty can be showed through their thoughts and dialogue, the writer’s word choice, how a word sounds, and imagery

For more information, read her book, Make Scenes, published through Writer’s Digest, and visit her website:  www.jordanrosenfeld.net  

Writing Prompts:

  1. It’s your turn!  Create a scene by involving your character in the setting shown through the elements above.  Make sure your scene moves the story’s plot forward.  Ask yourself:  Why must it be here?
  2. Tony Serra, attorney for Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Cow, at a federal court appearance said, “Law enforcement is supposed to investigate crime and criminal activity.  In this case, they created crime and criminal activity.”  (Source:  Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle.)  Use this quote to create a scene employing Rosenfeld’s advice. 
  3. Write an article, nonfiction piece, or essay with a scene focusing on the tips above.

 

Mt. Diablo Writers Club Three-Dimensional Characters Workshop

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Marilyn Atlas will present a workshop on “Creating Three-Dimensional, Non-Stereotypical Characters” at the next luncheon meeting of the Mt. Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club (CWC) on Saturday, March 8, 2014 at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill.

Ms. Atlas will discuss how to create three-dimensional characters, using examples from film and television. Among other techniques, she will use Myers Briggs and astrology as inspirations.

She is a talent/literary manager, who has worked for major publishers, and has projects in development for both movies and theater.

Check-in is from 8:30 to 9:00 am. Full breakfast will be served from 9:00 to 9:30 am. The general meeting is at 9:30 am, followed by the workshop from 9:45am to 12:45pm. The cost is $45 for CWC members, $55 for guests.

Reservations are required, and must be received no later than noon on Wednesday, March 5th. Contact Robin Gigoux at ragig@aol.com, or phone 925-933-9670. Expect confirmation only if you e-mail your reservation.

The California Writers Club Mt. Diablo Branch web address is: http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/

Holidays Zap Your Writing Time? Discover How to Write during December

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Looking for the perfect gift for Aunt Edna, Uncle Irving and your mother? Search no more!

Write individual poems, stories or create personal art work for your friends and relatives. A gift made especially for the recipient will be long-appreciated.

In my circle of friends, K crochets me beautiful scarves; W makes jewelry. My son oil paints and takes photographs.

Which creative endeavor will you choose for each person on your list?

**Another creative idea for the people on your list: an autographed copy of an author’s book. If you can’t attend the author’s talk or book signing, find contact information on the web and ask if the author will sign a label for your recipent.

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Visit this site for a definition of modern authors!

http://nyti.ms/IegLmn

What secret elements make a quest/adventure book great?

Monday, November 25th, 2013

If you’d like to read a great new middle grade, choose Clare Vanderpool’s Navigating Early, a quest adventure story about a boy dealing with his mother’s death after WWII. Sent to a Maine boarding school, protagonist, Jack, is unhappy and feeling friendless until he’s intrigued with Early Arden, a unique character with a fascination about pi, who leads him through Appalachia.

Vanderpool’s poetic style lures the reader forward. Here is a scene where they fish with Gunnar, a minor character they meet on their journey. Gunnar carries an emotional, heart-wrenching past.

“You have a fine cast,” called Gunnar.

“I know. My brother taught me before he went to the war.” Early swished his line back and forth. The motion seemed to take him away somewhere.

Gunnar’s expression registered what he knew, what we all knew, of the fate of so many of those brothers who went to war. He looked at me, asking the question he didn’t want to say out loud. Did Early’s brother make it back?

I shook my head in answer. No, Fisher was dead.

Gunnar allowed the quiet to take over as Early moved farther out into the water and into his own thoughts.

Finally, Gunnar spoke, his voice so fluid and moving, it could have come from the river itself. “I once hear a poem about angling. It say when you send out your line, it is like you cast out your troubles to let the current carry them away. I keep casting.”

I liked the sound of that. The river pressed and nudged, each of us responding to it in different ways, allowing it to move us apart and into our own place within it.

Notice the unique dialogue of Gunnar, creating a fully formed person in just a few lines and a second layer of meaning within the words, so you’re not just reading a scene about fishing.

Another aspect which is fascinating about this book is how this Newbery Medal-winning author broke the rules. (In order to break the rules, you must first establish that you know them.) Although in writing adult novels (and nearly always in the movies), authors (and screenwriters) are allowed to fictionalize history for the sake of character and plot. In children’s books, this has been a distinct no-no. Why? We don’t want to confuse nonfiction facts with untruths for kids. But at the end of this book, Vanderpool has a page: PI: FACT OR FICTION? Here she lists the truths about this captivating number, since she has bent the truth within her story.

Writing Prompts:

1. Write a quest/adventure short story with the above elements in mind. Before you begin, think and wonder about your story, developing the plot and characters within you. Daydream, jot notes, and free write about the back story of each character first.

2. Can you write a quest poem? Any style you choose!

3. Create a piece of art with a quest/adventure theme.

4. As you begin reading a book, use post-it notes to mark the scenes that are evocative. Why do they work so well?

Workshops to Learn Writing

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

One wanna-be writer asked me why I was attending a poetry workshop if I had no intention of ever becoming a poet.    Writers of all genres have many skills they can impart.

Apply their techniques to your own paragraph/scene/chapter/project.  Ask them probing craft questions.  When you have a thoughtful problem within your own work,  make it into a universal question in which the others in the workshop can benefit from the answer. 

In the case of the author above, I did my own research by typing David Corbett onto Amazon. He received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, not easy to accomplish. 

Are there any spare minutes in the workshop for extra questions? It looks like his books are a master of suspense, so although his workshop focuses on character and plot, I’d ask him a question on his suspense technique, because EVERY book, nonfiction or fiction, requires this important element. 

What do you need to know about plot and character?  How can you be enriched by another author’s take on it?  His advice?  If you are fortunate to be in an area where an author is speaking or teaching, take the opportunity to listen, learn, and write. 

Do you feel like your writing isn’t fresh and unique 100% of the time?   We all feel this way.  Do something about it.  Learn from other authors.

Jonathan Franzen – Writing Fiction and Memoir

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections, Freedom, two other novels, a work of nonfiction and two collections of essays, gave a talk the other night and I was a fortunate attendee.

He spoke with thoughtfulness and richness.  When the audience asked questions, Franzen didn’t merely pop off answers from the top of his head, but gave them much consideration; the answers were from deep reflections, much like his writing. 

“Reading and writing fiction is an act of social engagement.”

“A character dies on the page if you can’t hear his or her voice.”

“A novel is a personal struggle.  What is fiction after all if not purposeful dreaming?”

“If fiction is easy to write it’s not any good.” 

(He mentioned he wasn’t talking about fun, light reading.)

“Take autobiographical risks.  Trust people you know to love the whole you.  All writers have to be loyal to themselves.”  His brother was similar to the character, Gary, in The Corrections, in that he was also working on a family album.  But Franzen learned not to be concerned because he knew his brother had his own life.  After his brother read the book he called him.  “John?” he said.  “This is your brother.  (Pause.) Gary!” 

“Tone, language, character – - – even a great TV show like Breaking Bad can’t do moral subtly. I’m trying to defeat other media.” 

“A writer wants to be alone in a room.  He’s easily ashamed and is an exhibitionist.”

“I’ve grown a thick skin.  I’ve learned not to Google myself.” 

“I never thought I’d do nonfiction.  I thought it was a betrayal of the novel.” 

Favorite bird at the moment?  The California Towhee.  Why?  Subtle.  Charismatic.  Not shy. 

Just like Jonathan Franzen. 

Writing Prompts:

1.  Franzen gave a plug for Memoir Journal, a nonprofit that is a literary magazine and also holds writing workshops.  Check this publication out a memoirjournal.net    

They are open to submissions for memoir pieces, with $500 and publication as their top prizes.  Write a memoir following their submission policy.   

2.  Choose one small autobiographical detail and combine it with a fictional character in your story.  Make sure it enhances and adds depth to your character and story.   

3.  Create a character with one or all of these descriptions:  subtle, charismatic, not shy.

Best Advice from Authors and Editors

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

I attended a Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators one-day conference in Rocklin, California this weekend.  Fabulous speakers gave terrific writing techniques and marketing tips which not only apply to those interested in writing for children, but writing for anyone.

Here are some gems:

Lin Oliver, who founded SCBWI with Steven Mooser in 1971, quoted well-known authors who have spoken at the L.A. conference since its inception.  

She quoted Bruce Coville:  “Follow your weirdness.” 

Lin also recommends for every book you write  you should read 500 of those types of books to get a feel for that genre.  Which books inspire you most? 

Andrea Tompa, editor at Candlewick Press discussed the process of revision in which she gave detailed questions we should ask ourselves as we go through our projects.    As she quoted Roald Dahl, “Good writing is essentially rewriting.”

Andrea advised us to think about both the internal and external stakes for our characters.  What are they?  How are they resolved?   Many times writers forget about internal growth which needs to happen to their main character. 

Agent Minju Chang from Bookstop Literary Agency spoke about emotions in books.  Make sure you build a bond with your main character and reader.   She quoted Maya Angelou:  ” . . . People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Sterling Editor Brett Duquette talked about voice, the most elusive technique in writing craft of all, in my opinion.  He defined it as the language used in harmony with the characters, narrative, style . . .

For a good example of picture book voice he suggested The Caveman A B.C. Story by Janee Trasler, where the voice begins within the title of the story.  For older books he recommended the play Peter Pan by M.M Barrie and The Fault in our Stars by John Green, among others.

One of several exercises he gave us was this:  Place your character in mortal danger.  Write a complete scene.  (Not necessarily to be used in your book – just to learn about your character)  You will learn a lot about your character through this writing prompt.

And although the agents and editors said they were tired of paranormal books and would love to see contemporary fiction, they advised write what you must and disregard the trends.  Just keep it fresh and unique!

Now . . . back to writing!

Make ‘em Laugh! Free Comedy Writing Workshop!

Monday, January 16th, 2012

What: Make ‘em Laugh!  Write Funny: Learn comedy techniques from two published authors

Who: Grades 6 – 8                             

When: January 21, 2012  9 a.m. – Noon

Cost: FREE!

Where: Walnut Creek Public Library, 1644 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek, CA  94596 

977-3340

What makes readers laugh?  How can YOU create humor in your writing?  Develop quirky, funny characters through games, writing tips, techniques and exercises so you’ll produce a humorous plot, action and dialogue in a terrific page-turning story.

Two professional children’s authors who love writing share their best secrets on writing! You’ll get a chance to ask questions about the publishing world, write, play some games, meet other writers, and “talk books.”

 Led by children’s authors Sarah Wilson and Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff.  

Visit them at www.sarahwilsonbooks.com  and www.lizbooks.com

 Bring pen and paper and get ready to WRITE!

Register for the Walnut CreekJan. 21 workshop here: http://tinyurl.com/7humdhm

*** Special Note***  Good idea to bring a notebook or clipboard too, as we may only have chairs and not desks in this room.