Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday rewind- Point of View

Today is Friday, but I am working on the quick-write from yesterday.  It's funny, because my plan is to structure my book based on the voices of two characters, and a scene that I had written from the antagonist's point of view has been running around in my head for a while now.  My plan was to re-write it from the perspective of the protagonist anyway, so this is the perfect option for me.
 

Thursday's Quick-Write option #2 is from Kate Messner and it’s about exploring points of view.  Here's my protagonist's perspective on the library scene.


Not many people know that the library is open for browsing during the lunch hour.  To be honest, I don't think many people care.  Its much more fun to join the fray of gossip in the cafe.  Take a break from thinking and school and whisper about Mindy, who has been throwing up in the bathroom between classes.  Or Geena, who wears the same pair of jeans every Thursday- jeans from Target.  Can you believe it?  My group of friends- if you can call them that- has endless tidbits of information for discussion during lunch.  Laughing, loud exchanges, faking their way to popularity with rumors spread strategically throughout the day.  Lunchtime is the best way to gather momentum for the latest greatest tale of woe.
I'm not sure why they chose to include me in their silliness.  Kenzie, Tori, and Cammie took in Beth, the "new girl" this year as their pet project (they re-named me "Lizzie").  Mom would be so proud.  She made sure that I was equipped this time with all of the "right" stuff.  Designer clothes, highlights in my hair, jewelry- all of the latest trends are represented on yours truly.  The only thing I wouldn't alter- glasses.  Can't stand contacts, so she bought a ridiculous pair of frames that were extremely overpriced, in my opinion.  Overlooking that one character flaw, my new BFFs were happy to help me jump onto the fast train to social bliss with all of my surface value.

I need the library today.  I need a break from the chatter to clear the screaming voice inside my head.  That voice that knows its all pretend and reminds me of who I really am.  Non-fiction.  I inhale deeply, taking in the redolent mix of ink, must, and pencil shavings.  Walking slowly through the 300s, I can feel myself moving closer to home with each soundless step.  Exhaling slowly, my heart jumps as I find it.  Special Education: A Guide for Parents and Teachers.   Relieved to be the solitary user of the library, I quickly grab the book and make my way to the checkout before the bell rings.  I'll just slip it into my backpack before heading straight to World Cultures.  Who needs lunch, anyway?  I have a granola bar that will get me through until dismissal.
Wait.  I know it was here, next to the printer by the door.  Where is it?  A wave of panic rushes to my head, and I can feel it compressing a black clamp between my eyes, making me lose my balance.  My journal.  My life.  My bag.  WHERE IS IT???

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Character Sketches and Melodies

While I had grand plans of making great gains with my writing last week while on vacation, unfortunately sketchy internet connection resulted in a Teachers Write! snafu.  Intermittent internet is infuriatingly inconvenient!  Hah!  But I'm back! 

This week's work is exciting to me for many reasons.  First, I know that I am a visual learner, and I love to doodle and draw.  I remember walking two blocks to a neighborhood art class as a kid, and taking out my sketch pad conjures up loads of fuzzy feelings for me.  Next, I also love music.  I have a very eclectic musical taste, and I had a blast using our family iTunes library yesterday to put a soundtrack to my characters' stories and voices.   Third, I am just excited to be back to my writing work!  (Is that a good third reason?  I think so.)  Anyway, I combined the Monday mini-lesson with Tuesday's quick-write, and I think that the result is pretty exciting (for me, anyway- I feel momentum)!!

So, here we go:
From Kate Messner's blog:  Monday's Mini-is courtesy of Ruth McNally Barshaw, author of the hilarious and illustrated Ellie McDoodle series.  She invited us to explore the connections between art and writing, and shared some of her own sketches and storyboards (which were AWESOME!)

In my WIP (if you can really call it that), I have two characters who appear to be antagonistic, but I see a connection between them. Just taking the time to put their physical characteristics on paper and think about them as "people" was tremendous.  What would they wear?  What do they like?  How do they perceive themselves as they make choices about what they eat and do?
I had been struggling with their names, as well, and after drawing them, POOF!  They named themselves.  It was amazing! 


On Tuesday, Julie True Kingsley joined us with a writing prompt on character development through music.  I must admit, this was the opposite of a "Quick Write" because I played and played with music for a long time.  However, the taking my sketch from the previous day and providing a musical concurrence between the characters helped me find depth within my characters.

Here are the nuts and bolts of the exercise:

Step One:

I used my sketch from the day before. :)

Step Two:
Find songs that match your character’s inner and outer character.  I did both my protagonist and antagonist today.  (Overachiever!)

Beth- protagonist
Outside: Coldplay Paradise
Beth emanates perfection.  She's pretty, smart, organized and and artistic.  She is also very internal and private and does not share her life, family issues, and inner conflicts and struggles.  She has built up walls around herself and believes that if she just thinks and acts like everyone expects, then she will be ok.  She won't let anyone get too close or they may shatter her to pieces.
Inside: Foo Fighters The Pretender or maybe Green Day She 
Her inner voice knows that it is all just a sham, and she is repressing serious anger issues and is self-depreciating.  She is suppressing this inner voice and it will eventually lead to some bad stuff.

Dani- antagonist
Outside:  Wolfmother The Joker and the Thief
Dani is a "jock" and very social.  She jokes around with others, often for her own benefit, and can be cruel at times.  She has a very tough exterior and uses bravado to prevent others from seeing her true self and her perceived weaknesses.
Inside: Death Cab for Cutie I Will Follow You Into the Dark
Dani wants to be seen in a feminine way,  especially by her long time "bud" (I don't know his name yet- need to draw him, too) who actually has a crush on Beth.  Dani is fiercly loyal to her "bud" and sees Beth's lack of interest as insulting, infuriating, and unfair (because Dani is the only one who TRULY loves him).  Her love is intense, and pure (in her mind), and she has no idea how to express those feelings.

Step three:
Write your character's story with the music playing!  See what happens...

Below is a section of the story that I have been extending.  The existing part is in black, and today's dialogue is in blue.  I decided to focus on Dani's voice.

"Yo, Dave.  Gimme a pencil."
"Forgot yours again, Dani?"
"No.  I gave it to Steve in third period.  Dumbass broke his and he didn't give it back."
"Here's two.  One for now and one for later, a special present."
"Thanks so much.  I'll cherish them forever."
I roll my eyes and turn around, but I can feel the warmth of his touch in the wood of those yellow #2s.  I resist the urge to put them up to my nose to see if they smell like him, like fresh cut grass and fabric softener.  Those opportunities to get close to him, to take in his scent, have become fewer and fewer as we've gotten older.  The days of intramural soccer, racing down the field together, the occasional foul and tumble into each other are memories now.  Varsity sports have separated us by gender, and our connection balances on the edge of our mutual love of the game.  It doesn't matter that we are still neighbors, those random dorbell rings and invitations to join into spontaneous ball games are in the past.  Our only real opportunities to connect anymore are relegated to Language arts period 4 in the form of a pencil.  I slide one into my backpack, next to my pack of Bic's.  Yeah, I could have used a pen.  David prefers pencils.

The period bell rings and at last we are released into the swell of hormone-ridden hallways.  The sweet smell of Axe combined with mint and sweat, lockers slamming, laughing and whispers engulf me as I head to the cafeteria.  Nonsense.  The energy it must take to be popular.  Thrashing through the swarm of Hollister and Abercrombie, I imagine a place where I might belong.  Not here.
As I round the corner, turquoise blue catches my eye.  Of course.  Now it all makes sense.
Of course she is in the library at lunchtime.  I'm sure Miss I-Am-So-Smart-And-Perfect is thinking that she can get another shiny "A+" to add to her perfect GPA by spending her time trolling around with the librarian instead of ruining her perfect figure eating in the cafeteria.
What is wrong with her?  She sits in front of me in Lit class, and has yet to say a word to anyone but Mr. Sykes.  I study her glossy honey locks, held in place by a gold clip every day.   So does David, sitting in the seat next to mine.  I see him watching her, waiting for an awkward opportunity to catch her eye that never comes, because she never turns around.  Miss Stiff-Neck.
Who does she think she is?   She thinks that she can just ignore the rest of us, her subordinates, by raising her hand, always getting a, "Very insightful!" or a, "Nice analogy!" from the teacher.   Miss Gifted-Dream-Student would never think of associating with the rest of us peons occupying her air.
What does he see in her?  Poor David, the notion that she would ever consider him as a potential prom date has him oozing with want.  For two years I've witnessed his pathetic attempts to engage in conversation, his faulty pedestrian attempts to make her smile.  Yet his ardent efforts are continually met with lukewarm murmurs and indifference. 
When he smiles at her, she doesn't know that he chipped his front tooth in third grade sliding into home plate.  When he looks at her, she doesn't see how his deep jade eyes seek entry into her soul.  She doesn't feel the bass rhythm of his voice resonating deep in her heart.   I do.

 There she goes, her aura floating into the Non-Fiction section.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.

She has everything, knows everything, and yet she has no clue when it comes to David's attention.  I wonder what Miss Look-At-My-Expensive-Monogrammed-Backpack will do when she discovers her precious bag has disappeared and vomited its contents all over the courtyard?
Let me know.  I'll be eating lunch.


This exercise- sketching and providing a musical concurrence was VERY helpful.   When I was extending the piece above, I even overlapped both of the girls' outside songs while I read my existing work- the resulting effect was a mess, and very conflicted, and awesome.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Quick Write 6/12 - A letter to her mother

Today's #TeachersWrite writing prompt is courtesy of guest author Jeannine Atkins.  http://www.Jeannineatkins.com


I've decided to write my letter from my main character to her mother.  I haven't really decided on their relationship yet, and I'm hoping that this medium will help me better define their roles.  Please note that this is no reflection on my own relationship to my mother!

Mom,
I'm writing to let you know that I will not be spending the summer with you in New York.  I've gotten a job at ArcCrest as a care assistant.  I know that my tuition to U. of Penn is covered, between your payments and my scholarship award, but I also need to make some spending money of my own.  You must understand that I need to do this for myself.  Yes, that's where Jimmy lives, and I'll see him every day- that is part of it, too.  
More importantly, though, I need to do this for me.  All of my life, people have said to me, "You look just like your mother,"  "You have the same smile," and "You're like a minature version of Sandy!"  I get it, we come from the same gene pool.  I can see your face right now, like mine, with furrowed eyebrows and pinched lips as you read this.  I do not want to disappoint you.  I also do not want to be you.  I want to be me.  Spending the summer in New York as a shadow to the great and powerful Sandra Bell, partner at Dubner, Walker, and Bell is not for me.  It's not my future.
My future is here, with Dad and Jimmy in Pennsylvania.  I want to be a teacher, and work with kids just like my brother.  You know, Jimmy comes from the same gene pool as me, too.  He just got an extra one on his 21st chromosome.   I know that his arrival was hard on you.  Maybe that's why you dove headfirst into your career.  Maybe that is why you left.  
But I am not like you.  I need to stay.  I hope some part of you can understand.
Krissy
 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Outline?

Today I begin my first official day of summer!  Hooray!
Husband off to work? Check!
Kids still sleeping? Check!
Coffee?  Check!

Our mini-lesson is on outlining today, which is perfect timing, because I have a whole lot of story ideas in my head, and a whole lot of Nothing on paper.  I'm excited for the opportunity to start to flesh out my thoughts to create some kind of cohesive outline.

What's that?  Kid is awake.  Asking for breakfast.  I tell him to go get some cereal.  He can do that.
Dog is barking.  Tell kid to take dog outside.

Back to work.  Post-its are my friend.  Is there anything better than Post-its?  I envision my bulletin board covered with a network of intricately placed Post-its, outlining my masterpiece of literary perfection.  Arrows marking my plot lines, codes like stars and check marks indicating tension and conflict, rising action, a climax, and the amazing resolution that will make my readers cry.

What's that? Kid #2 is awake.  His eye is swollen shut, and red shiny bumps cover the left side of his body.  Poison ivy.  I give him the ivy wash, tell him to take a shower, strip his bed and put his bedcoverings, clothing, and towel from yesterday into the washing machine.  Make a mental note to call doctor after I finish my outline.

Sitting back down into my chair, I furiously write on Post-its, because I know that the clock is ticking and the end of my writing time is near.  I stick them on my storyboard.


It's good to have high expectations, right?

The storyboard image of my mind is vastly different from the output I generated this morning, but it is a start.  At least my Nothing is now Something, even if that Something is Not Much.

Writing is hard work.
Why do I love this torment so much?  I think that is a post for another day and another blog.  In the meantime, I will continue to Post-it, write, ponder, and battle the evil Poison Ivy.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Library Revision

I've been working today on my revision of Thursday's prompt.  After an afternoon of word-smithing, I have lost my steam.  Here is attempt #2.  Feedback is welcomed!  Thank you!!



The period bell rings and at last we are released into the swell of hormone-ridden hallways.  The sweet smell of Axe combined with mint and sweat, lockers slamming, laughing and whispers engulf me as I head to the cafeteria.  Nonsense.  The energy it must take to be popular.  Thrashing through the swarm of Hollister and Abercrombie, I imagine a place where I might belong.  Not here.
As I round the corner, turquoise blue catches my eye.  Of course.  Now it all makes sense.
Of course she is in the library at lunchtime.  I'm sure Miss I-Am-So-Smart-And-Perfect is thinking that she can get another shiny "A+" to add to her perfect GPA by spending her time trolling around with the librarian instead of ruining her perfect figure eating in the cafeteria.
What is wrong with her?  She sits in front of me in Lit class, and has yet to say a word to anyone but Mr. Sykes.  I study her glossy honey locks, held in place by a gold clip every day.   So does David, sitting in the seat next to mine.  I see him watching her, waiting for an awkward opportunity to catch her eye that never comes, because she never turns around.  Miss Stiff-Neck.
Who does she think she is?   She thinks that she can just ignore the rest of us, her subordinates, by raising her hand, always getting a, "Very insightful!" or a, "Nice analogy!" from the teacher.   Miss Gifted-Dream-Student would never think of associating with the rest of us peons occupying her air.
What does he see in her?  Poor David, the notion that she would ever consider him as a potential prom date has him oozing with want.  For two years I've witnessed his pathetic attempts to engage in conversation, his faulty pedestrian attempts to make her smile.  Yet his ardent efforts are continually met with lukewarm murmurs and indifference.
When he smiles at her, she doesn't know that he chipped his front tooth in third grade sliding into home plate.  When he looks at her, she doesn't see how his deep jade eyes seek entry into her soul.  When he speaks, she doesn't hear the sound of his ____________.   I do.

 There she goes, her aura floating into the Non-Fiction section.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.

She has everything, and yet she has no clue of the value of David's attention.  I wonder what Miss Look-At-My-Expensive-Monogrammed-Backpack will do when she discovers her precious bag has disappeared and vomited its contents all over the courtyard?
Let me know.  I'll be eating lunch.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thursday Quick-Write 6/7

Courtesy of Teachers Write! virtual writing camp:

Today’s Thursday Quick-Write from guest-author Margo Sorenson!
Here's my quick write.  I chose to write in the format of a monologue in the voice of my antagonist:

Of course she is in the library at lunchtime.  I'm sure Miss I-Am-So-Smart-And-Perfect is thinking that she can get another shiny "A+" to add to her perfect GPA by spending her time trolling around with the librarian instead of ruining her perfect figure eating in the cafeteria.
What is wrong with her?  She sits in front of me in Lit class, and has yet to say a word to anyone but Mr. Sykes.  I study her glossy honey locks, held in place by a gold clip every day.   So does David, sitting in the seat next to mine.  I see him watching her, waiting for an awkward opportunity to catch her eye that never comes, because she never turns around.  Miss Stiff-Neck.
Who does she think she is?   She thinks that she can just ignore the rest of us, raising her hand, always getting a, "Very insightful!" or a, "Nice analogy!" from the teacher.   Miss Gifted-Dream-Student would never think of associating with the rest of us peons occupying her air.
There she goes, her aura floating into the Non-Fiction section.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.
I wonder what Miss Look-At-My-Expensive-Monogrammed-Backpack will do when she discovers her precious bag has disappeared and vomited its contents all over the courtyard?
Let me know.  I'll be eating lunch.


Wednesday Q&A 6/6

Wednesday's Q & A was an opportunity for those of us participating in Teachers Write! to ask for advice and guidance from a panel of real live authors.  Margo Sorensen and Kate Messner herself responded to my question about that urgent writing voice that lives inside my head.  I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to ask my questions to such amazing writing experts directly.  You can read their responses here.

Hi everyone,
I have been reading the questions and comments this evening, and I love all of the wonderful resources, support, and advice given by everyone in this writing community. Thank you!
My question is this: How do you, as a writer, balance your “real world” with your “story world” and remain grounded? This is day 3 of writing camp, and already I am feeling the pull of the writer inside of me. I really shouldn’t neglect my children, husband, and puppy, right? I’ve committed to my writing schedule (as assigned on Day 1), but my thoughts are continually returning to story ideas as I weed, do the dishes, cook dinner, and drive. How do you manage that urgent little voice inside your head?
Kristin




Now that I'm finally "cooking" my writing ideas through this writing camp experience, I've found that my stovetop has turned up the heat on a stew in my brain that has been simmering for years.   It's not even close to being edible, but I'll keep adding spices and stirring... and turn off the burner when I need to take a break and spend time with my family!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesday 6/5 Quick-Write

Today's Quick Write is courtesy of Kate Messner, the wonderful author, teacher, and co-creator of Teachers Write! summer camp.  From her blog:


Tuesday Quick-Write:
Two minute quick-write:

As a teenager, I spent the majority of my time after-school and summer mornings at the Ice Palace, a skating rink in Allentown, PA.  In this place I was free.  In this place I worked, I played, I laughed, I flew, I fell... and fell again.  But I always got back up.  I could be me.


One-minute write:

  • Everything you SEE 
hockey puck marked boards, frozen spit on the ice from the hockey players, ice like glass, black spongy flooring to protect our sharp blades, Mary hooked up to the harness with her coach trying a double axel
  • Everything you HEAR
blades cutting into the ice, crack of a clean landing, slosh, shush of spray as you hockey stop, click of my toe-pick as I flip, clunk, ring, singing blades, my breathing- becoming quick and even
  • Everything you SMELL
humid, heavy, cold air smelling of sweat and mildew and leather.  Smells like snow and winter before a storm
  • Everything you FEEL
humid, heavy cold air, warm thick fuzzy mittens, fast, racing, flying, muscles warm and strong, jumping, free, alive

Here's my re-written, more descriptive paragraph revision.

Pulling open the heavy wooden door, I lug my bag to the bench, plop down, and dig out my skates.  I see that Mary is already on the ice, strapped to the harness with her coach working out the landing on her double axel.  I lace up and step onto the black spongy, scuffed, and worn flooring leading out to the rink.  The humid, cold-heavy air hits my face as I step through the hockey puck marked boards onto the smooth glass surface.  I breathe it in, sweat, mildew, and leather, and curse under my breath at the stupid hockey players as I glide past the frozen yellow-green gobs they spit near their bench.
Rounding the corner a second time, I can feel my breathing, quick and even as my silver blades cut thin white lines in the shine below.  Their sharp edges crackle and sing as I turn, crunching my toe-pick and springing upward.   My legs, warm and strong, know exactly what to do.  I am flying, spinning, fast and free.  I am finally me.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Scrambled Eggs

Today's assignment is to go back to a room of your childhood.  I, of course, went directly to the kitchen, with my Dad making breakfast.  I added a little bit of fiction to the scene, though, because I am playing with stories!


Daddy makes the best pancakes on the planet.  The thought of brown butter crispy edges that are a bit salty make me lick my lips as I hop out of bed.  Coffee mixed with bacon hits my nose next as I round the corner to the kitchen.
"Good morning, Missy," Daddy smiles as I head over to the counter to help.  I can't remember when he started calling me that, Missy, Miss Kris.  I'm almost 12 years old, and I've asked him to call me Kristin.  I'm going to Junior High next year, and I would prefer to be called by my real name.
"How about scrambling some eggs?"  He hands me the carton, and I start cracking them into the bowl.  Tapping each one perfectly on the countertop, the yellow yolks plop one by one together, like sunny morning polka dots.
Crack one, plop, crack two, plop, crack three.  The rhythm of our morning work hums like the gentle strumming of his 6 string guitar.  Daddy flips the bacon, the sizzle and pop of fat adding notes of staccato as we continue.  Crack, plop.  Crack.
What IS that red stuff in the bowl?  I inhale with surprise.  Is that... blood?  My heart pounds as I consider the scarlet ooze dripping from the shell.
"Daddy?"
His serene gaze crinkes into a grimace as he ponders my predicament.  "How many eggs are left?"
"Two."
"I'll be back.  Flip the pancakes," he snaps.
The door slams and I hear the rumble the engine as he backs out of the driveway.   The music is gone.

Making Time

I am a ponderer.  A thinker.  I reflect and consider things and ask questions.  I wonder.

Too much.

I use lots of time to plan and brainstorm ideas for writing, but my biggest problem is the action.  Getting started.

Now that my children are approaching their Teen Years, I know that mornings will be the best time for me to write.  After my husband heads off to work, I will have no problem carving out at least 30 minutes first thing each day to sit at my lovely writing desk and type away while I drink my coffee.  For me, however, the biggest challenge will be typing that first word.

So here is my plan:  I will allow myself to consider, ruminate, postulate, and mull over my words for exactly 5 minutes, and then I will begin.  I have a timer.

If, by chance, my children happen to arise early on a summer morn, I'll make sure they know that they may not interrupt my writing time. 

Ready?  Set.  Go!!



Friday, June 1, 2012

The Adventure Begins!

Welcome to my #TeachersWrite blog page! 
Created in honor of the summer writing experiment facilitated by Kate Messner, this blog will contain many experiments, drafts, failed attempts, and (hopefully) literary masterpieces as I write with the support of a fantastic writing community that consists of teachers and librarians.  I am excited for this opportunity to stretch myself and learn, and I hope that all who visit will take the time to comment, give feedback, and leave words of encouragement along the way.  
The adventure begins on Monday, June 4th!!