Monday, July 25, 2011

Google +

Have you heard about this yet, Google +? It's supposedly some sort of new social media, and writers have been encouraged to check it out, create a profile, and "advertise" themselves. I've avoided it so far because I don't quite understand it. Facebook, I get. Twitter, ehh, not so much. I've been waiting around, seeing how Google + pans out before I even think about joining. And now, I'm glad I waited...

Here's the first blog entry I've seen (link here) that blatantly tells writers to hold off using Google +, at least for now. Very informative.

Have any of y'all started using it yet? What was your experience?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Showing -- It's All in the Details

I've written a few blog entries on the Showing vs. Telling concept, and I spend quite a bit of time on it with my Creative Writing students. Mostly because it's so challenging to pinpoint. What IS "telling?" How can you avoid it? How do you correct it? I mean, it's not like a simple grammar error you can quickly recognize and correct--a misspelled word, a misplaced modifier, a run-on. Showing vs. Telling is much more complicated.

Well, last night while reading Elin Hilderbrand's wonderful novel, Silver Girl, I came across the perfect example of showing, rather than telling.

In a nutshell, the protagonist has experienced a traumatic event--her husband has been imprisoned for fraud, and everything she ever owned/bought has been stripped away. She's gone from being the wife of a billionaire to a poverty-stricken shell of a woman.

Instead of telling the reader that, instead of glossing over the details and giving the reader information "about" the situation, Ms. Hilderbrand takes a simple scene in which the protagonist has gone shopping with a friend, and turns it into "showing." We walk with the protagonist, through shop after shop, as she picks up something she likes (vivid descriptions of the items are given), then reminds herself she can't afford it. She puts it back.

In one fancy store, her friend looks at some crystal candlesticks and scoffs at the $400-apiece price tag. In a (sort-of) flashback, the protagonist remembers how, not even a few weeks ago, she could've bought those same candlesticks (by the dozen!) without even a second thought--how the purchase would've given her the 'rush' she needed whenever she bought something new, then how the candlesticks would have eventually sat on the shelf, unnoticed, having lost their initial appeal. Wasted.

Now, that is showing. It's all in the details, the descriptions. And the flashbacks. Instead of telling us ABOUT the protagonist's state, or making a general, vague commentary on her previous life versus this one, the author has walked us through a quick scene in which we're given detailed examples of what money used to mean to her, and what it means to her now. Ms. Hilderbrand lets her readers jump to the proper conclusion themselves, instead of forcing it on them by "telling." Brilliant.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Advice from Stephen King

If you haven't already purchased Stephen King's book, On Writing, do yourself a favor, and run, don't walk, to find and devour this book. I'm too squeamish for most of his novels and stories, but as a Creative Writing teacher, I find his advice "on writing" to be completely spot-on. And brilliant. And humorous.

So, to close my little author-interview series, I thought I'd present this link. It's not a King interview, but this link contains wonderful excerpts from On Writing (courtesy of GoodReads.com).

Enjoy!

Shared Experience

I've blogged before about the personal decision one makes, whether to publish or not to publish. Some writers adore the solitude and privacy of sharing their thoughts only with themselves. They want to protect what's theirs, not let anyone else see it. Which is completely fine, completely their choice. Others, though, have the desire to let others see their work, to let them read their ideas and thoughts, to share their characters and stories.

Along those lines, I must admit - I do want to see my work in print. It's about several things: wanting people's feedback, hoping readers gain some enjoyment/entertainment from my writing, even just seeing my words physically in print, in book form. It would be amazing!

Certainly, being published wouldn't change my stories, wouldn't make them more important or more valuable than when I first put them on paper. But -- for me -- they gain a new "life" when others read them. I can't even express the rush I feel whenever a friend or relative asks to read my work, then tells me how much they enjoyed it. Through that experience, we've shared something special. It's like they've taken a peek into a very personal corner of who I am, and have validated what they've seen.

Not that I crave that validation (though it is extremely fulfilling!). But, having my work read by someone is a unique and personal experience that I would love to have one day on a larger scale. No doubt.

I came across a quote today, and, for me, I think it's true:

"No matter how much I adore writing, no matter the pleasure my stories give me, it isn't until books are read that they really start to breathe."  ~Kate Morton

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Anne Tyler Interviews

So, continuing this little series where I'm offering author interviews, I've found a couple of great ones from Anne Tyler. She publishes women's literary fiction. Although I don't usually read literary fiction (I admire it, but find it too dense and heady for pleasure reading), I adore Anne Tyler's fiction. She has the gift of taking ordinary, even bland situations, and breathing life into them by her brilliant writing, alone. I love the way she crafts a sentence, the way her mind works, the way she describes the human condition. I never just "read" her works -- I always end up studying them.

Interestingly, she's quite well known for not giving interviews, so these are rare gems:

Link 1 (source: USA Today)

Link 2 (source: WritersDigest.com)

Enjoy!!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Berg Interview

Here's another author interview I've found, by a favorite author of mine: Elizabeth Berg. She writes women's fiction, and she's one of the few able to merge commercial and literary fiction effortlessly. Her plots and characters are entertaining and moving, while her detail and insights are deep and thought-provoking.

Link to the interview (source: A Life of Spice)

The interview is brief, but valuable, as she talks about the writing process. And, I think it's a nice little sneak peek into her book, Escaping Into the Open. In it, she discusses the writing process in great detail, talks about her own writing experiences, and offers wonderful creative exercises.

In fact, I find the book so valuable that I assign it in my Creative Writing classes. It's excellent. My students usually don't follow my weekly reading assignments (stretched out over the semester) -- instead, they gobble up Ms. Berg's book in a couple of days!

Mostly, the book feels like a lovely writer-to-writer conversation, and I think that's why it reaches writers (including myself) so successfully. The tone isn't intimidating or preachy. Ms. Berg somehow wraps up crucial information and tidbits about the writing process inside a format that's accessible and warm. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Gold Mine

So, I'm doing a little series on the blog this week, where I post links to author interviews. I find them fascinating and helpful--seeing what published authors' techniques and tricks and tips are, as well as finding out their background (how long it took to get published, whether they wanted to give up, etc).

Well, today I found a gold mine -- a link to several interviews, all on one page, of my favorite women's fiction author, Rosamunde Pilcher. She's a Scottish author (now in her 80's, and sadly, retired) who wrote The Shell Seekers and Coming Home, as well as dozens of other novels. She, perhaps more than any other author, has influenced my writing the most. She writes what I call "comfort" fiction--one of those books you want to curl up with on a cold winter's night by a roaring fireside. She has an amazing gift for detailed, vivid descriptions that put the reader right there inside the scenes.

Her son, Robin Pilcher, now writes in that same vein (and his style is extremely similar to his mother's). What a legacy!

Here's the link I found - click here. Granted, some of these interviews highlight more of Ms. Pilcher's personal life and her background than specific writing tips (although there are a couple of interviews where she does talk specifically about the writing process). But, I find even those personal details quite fascinating. I love seeing where an author came from. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

If Only My Muse Would Obey Me This Easily

Heh.

(And yes, this is partly an excuse to post another Darcy video -- she learned how to shake!!):


video

Friday, July 1, 2011

Author Interviews

Summer has gotten away from me (halfway through, really?!?!), and I find I'm blogging less often. So, to make up for it, I thought I'd spend a few entries posting author interviews. Authors, by nature, seem a bit reclusive (or, at least, they're not in the spotlight like other celebrities often are).

Thus, when I come across a detailed, insightful interview of an author, I'm always pleased. I love reading their thoughts, especially about their craft -- how they handle the process, what their tricks are, how creativity guides them, etc. I can learn a lot from reading these interviews.

To kick off my little series, here's an interview I found, from the author I've talked so much about recently, Elin Hilderbrand -- click here. (source: Bea's Book Nook)

My favorite quote from the interview (because I'm always preaching this to my students - it's so true!): I'm always reading; I consider it as much a part of my job as writing.

Another favorite (again, so true!): Once your book is finished, get an agent. And then let him worry about selling your book; you worry about writing your next novel.

Enjoy!