Sunday, February 28, 2010

Novels in Verse

I recently wrote a narrative poem, which is picture book length, but a bit advanced for the picture book set. An editor suggested I might build it into a novel. That idea is a bit daunting, but I've been reading novels in verse to explore the possibilities.

I fell in love with Diamond Willow by Helen Frost. It's quite unusual, with a shape poem on each page based on the shape of the "diamond willow" pattern. Apparently, in the far north, willows that have been scarred sometimes develop a diamond pattern around the wound. This wood is often used to create special objects.

The main character in the book is named Diamond Willow, and the painful scars of her life develop into beautiful new patterns.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Play on Titles

Today I read an article on how a title can help sell your book, to an agent, an editor, or a reader. The article went on to talk about how the title must suit the genre. So I decided to play with giving common phrases a new twist to convert them into titles. I wondered what type of books these might be:
U-Maul--a suspense thriller?
Sky Queen--biography of a female aviator?
Surf's Down--murder mystery of a beach bum?
Moondoggle--expose of a scam at NASA?
The Spice is Right--cookbook?
I'd love to see what others can come up with.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

School visits and creative nonfiction

I just returned from doing a school visit to Paine School in Foster, RI. I've been invited to speak there year after year. It's always a pleasure to return. The school has such an upbeat and creative culture. Today was the hundredth day of school, a big celebration for the younger grades. The upper grades were playing a science Jeopardy Game to prepare for an upcoming quiz.

I gave my talk on THE BLACK REGIMENT OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. And I was reminded of how honored I feel to have been chosen to tell this important story. One student asked me whether I prefer to write nonfiction, fiction, or poetry and I realized I couldn't chose one over the other. I love the creative freedom of fiction. I love playing with words and images through poetry. And I love learning about a new topic and figuring out how to tell my subject's story so that the reader can see its beating heart.

Perhaps the piece of writing that I'm proudest of is my biography of Dian Fossey in WOMEN OF THE GOLDEN STATE: 25 CALIFORNIA WOMEN YOU SHOULD KNOW.