Sunday, January 25, 2009

Every day events transformed to fiction

I was reading A WRITER'S GUIDE TO FICTION by Elizabeth Lyon. She discusses the difference between a series of events and a cohesive plot, first listing unrelated incidents, then turning them into plot with an overarching emotional context. Intriguing, I thought.
I decided to try it myself. I took some incidents that had happened to me the day before, shot them through with emotional context--in my case, insecurity--and chango-presto, I had plot.
Try it for yourself and see what happens.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Africa Doesn't Matter

Usually I review children's books here, but I just finished AFRICA DOESN'T MATTER: How the West Has Failed the Poorest Continent and What We Can Do About It by Giles Bolton. It's an eye-opening book. In the midst of the financial crisis, we tend to get caught up with our own concerns here in the States, but in Africa people live in incredible poverty--even when the rest of the world is prospering. And now, during financial crisis, we worry about losing jobs, while they worry about eating.
Ireland, China, and India have shown us how a country can lift itself out of poverty, given the chance. It would take very little, comparitively, of the world's resources to give the African nations their chance.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Dragonfly Pool

This Intermediate novel by Eva Ibbotson breaks the rules. It begins in the adults' point of view. They will miss their beloved Tilly when she's gone! Tilly, the main character, never seems to have problems of her own. She just takes on everyone else's problem. And I'm not really sure if Tilly or Prince Karil is really the protagonist. Tilly doesn't change, but Prince Karil does. Still this book set during WWII is engrossing, as Tilly and her friends smuggle the prince out his tiny country and away from Hitler's clutches. It reminded me of THE SILVER SWORD, a book I read over and over and over again as a child.
I stayed up late to finish it, even though I was fighting a cold--a bad choice health-wise. But when I was done, I did realize that though I admired Tilly, and I enjoyed sharing her adventure with her prince, I felt distant from her. That was the risk of running around in other people's POV for a good part of the book. But I'm not sure kids would care.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

first lines and a heavenly book

My writer's group has been playing with first lines for the last week or so, emailing off a new first line each day. At the end of the exercise, we asked each other what made a great first line.
We discussed how a first line should pique curiosity, dive into action, etc. But I found as I read everyone's lines that the ones that appealed to me most introduced engaging characters that I wanted to get to know better.
Anyone else have thoughts on those all-important first lines?

Also, I just finished a heavenly book, THE POSSIBILITIES OF SAINTHOOD. Antonia Lucia Labella wrestles with catholic school uniforms, making homemade pasta for her family's grocery store downstairs, and being a fifteen year old who has never been kissed. But her real goal in life is to be the church's first living saint, and she petitions the Vatican weekly. The book is funny and poignant, a must read.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Since the new year's begun, I've started each day with my journal. I do a writing exercise or two. Right now I'm using prompts from Elizabeth Berg's book, ESCAPING INTO THE OPEN.
I've also issued a writing challenge to my group--to come up with an opening line every day this week.
This morning I was reading over my responses to the prompts and thinking that they were pitiful, but I reminded myself that they didn't have to be good. They were just warm-ups.
A few minutes later I realized the worth of what I was doing. As I spooned sugar into my second cup of coffee, a drop stained the sugar in the bowl and my grandmother returned to me in a rush. I never would have been attentive to that small detail if I hadn't done the exercises first.