Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Last Class

Today I had my last Craft of Writing class, and tomorrow I have my last History and Crit class. Today was the more sad of the two days because I looooove my Craft of Writing class and I looooove my professor. I wish I could take this same exact group of people and just continue the class next summer. We took our teacher out to lunch after class, and I also bought a card for everyone to sign. We all want to keep in touch with her.

Today, our last assignment, was to create a final product that we would call our "Masterpiece." It was essentially supposed to be a final copy of the first chapter of the book we've been working on for the last 6 weeks. We were also supposed to include the working title, book cover (which I drew myself!), book jacket blurb, a pretend "About the Author" and pretend praise for the book. Here is my cover (though it is a mirror image and I can't figure out how to flip it. And then below is my pretend jacket blurb etc. Enjoy this glimpse of what I've been working on!

Being smart isn’t a good thing.

Getting the right answers on a test can get you killed.

The world doesn’t need smart people. We have computers now.

When her parents are killed for being too intelligent, Idalis knows it’s only a matter of time before she and her younger brother, Liam, meet the same fate. Idalis’ world is full of secrecy, violence, and deception. Can she survive? Is there anyone out there to trust?

About the Author

________ Hughes grew up in *********, just outside of our nation’s capital. She is very close with her two brothers, ______ and ______.  She received her Masters in Children’s Literature at ******* University. She was also a middle school teacher for ten years. Her favorite authors are Lois Lowry and J.K. Rowling, and she loves reading all genres of fiction. She also enjoys playing volleyball and being outside. Outwit is her first novel.

Praise for Outwit

“Hughes’ first novel deserves an A+ for taking its readers through a life and death question of what - and who - is really important. Sensitivity and science fiction walk hand in hand throughout her pages.” - Author, Nancy Ruth Patterson

Outwit has a setting that is both eerie and familiar despite being set far in the future. The allusions to the Underground Railroad and prejudices in our past blend seamlessly with the story and give this science fiction novel a grounding realism. The thought-provoking and serious issues raised in this book will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Great things can be expected from this first-time novelist.” -Booklist (note: This is PRETEND praise. Not Real!)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Critique Day

Sooooo... Today we had a critique day, where we brought in 3 copies of our first chapter in it's most final form. We got into groups of 4 and took turns reading people's work and giving feedback.

I just got finished reading through what my peers wrote(which wasn't much), and... how do I put this? My friend, "S" gave me the best feedback. She posed questions I hadn't considered, and pointed out exact places to elaborate. The other two people's feedback wasn't quite as useful. One kept suggesting I cut out words that would have turned a lot of my sentences into fragments, but then again my criticism for her was that she overused sentence fragments. And she recommended I change the order of some parts, but I don't understand the reasoning behind some of the moves. Then the other guy is adorable, but didn't write much. Though he made a couple of good formatting suggestions.

And now I feel kind of bad because I pretty much bled ink on their paper. I didn't leave a space unmarked. And I don't know if their self-esteem is ready to see that on their work...

Especially as a teacher and having lots of practice grading, this is something I'm used to doing. And I don't think the others in my group were. But in addition to that, this class has made me really analytical of writing, and I read differently now than I used to. So I really saw today, for the first time, that I have the potential to be a book editor. My teacher even told me individually that she thought I'd make an excellent book editor. Pretty cool. It's like another career path has opened up before me that doesn't look too shabby.

My teacher was absolutely adorable and bought ALL of us a copy of one of her books and autographed them for us. Then she also wrote a pretend review blurb for our books.

I don't have my blurb with me at the moment, but it was really sweet and she said something about my book "blending sentimentality and science fiction seamlessly." I may not have the wording right but it was something like that.

I'm exhausted because I've been staying up until the wee hours of the night and then not sleeping terribly well. But I'll be home in 4 days, where I will surely catch up on sleep in my own beautiful bed. Until then, I'll be proofreading and revising papers...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tight Writing

I've been really happy with this sci-fi book I've been writing. As you can probably tell from past posts. After speaking with my teacher on Wednesday, I worked out possible solutions to issues I was having.

One issue I was having was whether or not to have a villain. The book is primarily about survival in a hostile environment. But my teacher proposed the question of how did the world get this way, and I decided that I did in fact need a villain.

So I spent all of Wednesday night creating two villains. And I'm extremely happy with the results. There will be lots of deception/twists. Things won't be as they appear. And my villains will juxtapose nicely with my main character.

So today, I spent a good four hours in the library doing something I've NEVER done before. I took every scene I'd written so far, and completely mixed them around and re-ordered them. I created a new outline, moved things around, cut things, and wrote new stuff to fill in the seams. The result is even better than I imagined. It almost feels like I didn't write it because I couldn't possibly have made things fit together that way.

I'm just thinking back to how I wrote before this summer... Not that it was bad, just not as deep. Not as complex. I couldn't have written this story. This story is so tight, and everything I've written before seems loose by comparison.

I wish I could post more details about the story, but I can't if I want it to be published. But if anyone wants to be a test reader later on in the process, let me know ;)


We've been doing presentations each class, and the girl who went today was probably my favorite presentation so far. There is a new brand of literary criticism that analyzes books for how the present environmental issues. Especially in children's literature, the criticism looks at the didactic nature of a book and how a book teaches a child about the human/nature relationship.

She used eco-criticism on the last book in the Atherton series, The Dark Planet, which I haven't read, but still really enjoyed listening to her analysis. She said that while Carman did a good job of showing that in order for humans to lead a healthy happy life, they need a clean environment to live in (correspondingly if you have a filthy, uncared for environment you will live a correspondingly sickly, unhappy life), Carman also failed at conveying a key message. In the book, The Dark Planet (a polluted and overcrowded planet that brings out disease in it's inhabitants) is miraculously cleaned up with crystals that are suddenly found and released. This is not sending a good message to our youth because it's essentially advocating complacency and instilling the idea that miraculous technology will eventually come along to clean up our messes.

I also liked the point she made in her presentation about the lack of species diversity on the utopian satellite planet. In their utopian world, there are only horses, sheep, rabbits, and a handful of genetically engineered creatures/plants. There are no fish, birds, or insects. What does this say to our youth about protecting endangered species?

Really fun presentation to listen to. I did not get bored once. Then we talked about folktales... where I did get bored. I just wanted to get out so I could work on my writing, which I'm going to do as soon as I finish this post!

Only 4 more classes!!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Coming Together

Seeing a book come together from nothing over the past 5 weeks is pretty fantastic. I had 3 other works-in-progress when I arrived at grad school, but none of which are as complex and ambitious as what I have before me now. Seeing the themes and richness in this idea really shows how far I've come and how much my graduate classes has given me.

One of the speakers we had at the beginning of the 6 weeks was asked the question, "Could you have done what you've done without going through an MFA program? (MFA = Masters in Fine Arts) He answered wholeheartedly "No." He said he grew so much while pursuing his masters here, and he would never have been published if he hadn't gone through an MFA program.

I don't think it's so much that the teachers are showing me how to create a character, or how to outline a plot. You have to do that on your own, and there isn't any magic formula. What the program is doing for me is exposing me to literature I probably wouldn't have read on my own, teaching me how to read like a writer, and making me question the words I put on a page. I think I'm developing more of the mentality of a writer by being immersed in it.

Writing isn't just telling a story and loving your characters. That's all well and good, but there is a great deal more to think about. I honestly believe that by the end of this I will have a novel I can be proud of, with more layers to it than I would have written on my own. And maybe I'll earn a little respect and success in the publishing world too... dreaming big :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"The Others"

Today in class we looked at both The Outsiders and Harriet the Spy as novels about outcasts or as my professor kept referring to "the others." (I kept thinking of Lost.) He meant the not-quite-perfect children. Kids on the outside of the social circle.

It was an interesting approach. We talked about how the greasers in The Outsiders really aren't at the bottom of the food chain socially. In the book there is mention of the hoods, which are at the bottom because they are described as the more uneducated bunch. Ponyboy, his brothers, and the rest of the greasers are actually more of the middle class. If it weren't for their parent's death, Darry could have gone on to college on an athletic scholarship. Ponyboy is smart and gets good grades. They have more potential than the hoods, and that's probably why the Socs see them as more of a threat. Because there is the possibility that Ponyboy and his brothers might one day be their equals.

I decided I'm not such a fan of Harriet the Spy. Here's why: Harriet does not learn anything after people find her journal and read it. She writes down such mean and horrible things. She's sees it as the truth, and so there's nothing wrong. She writes things like:



That isn't the TRUTH. That's just plain mean! And by the end of the book, she doesn't develop any sort of heart or compassion. She simply says, "Ole Golly was right. Sometimes you have to lie." The lesson she learns from the whole book is that you have to lie to have friends. That's a terrible lesson to learn.

I had a very hard time liking Harriet at all reading this as an adult. I think as a kid, I thought she was shocking. I probably thought it was cool she had a secret notebook. But she's a mean kid.

After class tomorrow, I meeting with my teacher to discuss my novel. I made a two page list of road blocks I've encountered. Maybe she can help me brainstorm ways around them.

Monday, July 19, 2010

7 more classes...!

I will be done with classes next Thursday, and I have a lot to do before then. A 2500 word term paper that will involve lots of researching and analysis and a Masterpiece/Book Jacket to create. I really, really, really miss home. And I really, really want to go to the beach because it just doesn't feel like summer until I've been to the beach. I normally head to Bethany the week after school lets out in June, and not getting there until August has left me craving sand and sunscreen. Maybe we won't get so much snow next year and I can squeeze in a weekend before I leave for Roanoke next summer. We'll see.

I've e-mailed my professor for his opinion on my term paper, but I think I'm going to do a feminist analysis of The Country Bunny with the Little Gold Shoes and look at how that picture book portrayed women. I'm sick of Marxism, and I want to stay away from that approach...

The Masterpiece is essentially to polish up the sci-fi dystopian project I've been working on. Then I need to create a book jacket which includes the cover art and jacket summary, etc. That should be fun. It just might be tricky to polish this thing up because there are still some things about the future setting that I'm not sure about and still working out.

I did a presentation today on Children's book series, which I had a lot of fun preparing for. It was only supposed to be a 20 minute presentation, I went over by 10 minutes, and I rushed and left out a TON of stuff I could have and wanted to say. I could easily have spoken for an hour. It was a little disheartening that I didn't get to everything. Oh well. My teacher liked it. She said when I was done, "I'm not even going to ask you how long that presentation took to make."

This time has definitely gone by fast. I will most of all miss the Library and my Craft of Writing class (mostly the teacher). But boy! I can't wait to come home!

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak


This picture book is about a boy named Mickey who hears noises downstairs in the night, and goes on an adventure to help three chefs get milk for their cake.


This book is highly controversial because there is frontal male nudity in the pictures. Mickey loses his clothes when he falls into the night kitchen. I think this part was kind of unnecessary, but hey, it was Maurice Sendak, illustrating genius. The book is very pretty and detailed. The story is rather silly. It was interesting to see that there are some very clear allusions to WWII. From the Jewish star in a thing of salt, to the chefs having Hitler mustaches, to Mickey getting put in an oven, and Mickey flying a patriotic airplane. There is definitely some deep allusions to WWII embedded in the illustrations.

This book is my professor's favorite Sendak book, but I have to say mine is still Chicken Soup with Rice. :)

Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry


Anastasia writes all her secrets in a green notebook, from the important things that happen to her, to things she hates, to things she loves. In this first book in the series, we see Anastasia go through lessons about poetry, the death of her grandmother, and the birth of her baby brother.


Anastasia is a charming, silly, and original character that I fell in love with. How did I not read this series by Lois Lowry until now! It just made me love Lowry more. I laughed and smiled to myself several times. I would recommend this to an elementary aged girl in a heartbeat, but also want my mom to read it as well. :)

One discouraging thing is this series is hard to find in Barnes and Noble. I ordered it on my kindle after I couldn't find it. But I would definitely recommend ordering the whole series off Amazon if you have a 3rd grade girl that loves to read! Definitely a higher quality series for children.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Awesome Day :)

I am having a fantabulous day, but first let me review Wintergirls and then I'll tell you all about my day's loveliness.


Eighteen year-old Lia battles her eating disorder and tries to come to grips with feeling guilty for her best friend’s death. Mature subject matter includes: eating disorders, depression, self-mutilation, drugs and alcohol, death, and ghosts.

My Review

There are certain topics and subject matter that I try to avoid in books/literature. This book pretty much had every single topic that disturbs me. I had heard buzz about this book before I read it, but then discovered what it was about and said, "I'm not reading that!" Then it was on the reading list for my grad school class, and I couldn't avoid it. Do I regret reading it? Yeah. I hate the images I now have in my head and it is without a doubt the most depressing and darkest book that I have ever read. HOWEVER, the author is an amazing writer, and the things she does in this book (writing techniques/use of language, etc.) takes the reader on an astounding journey into the mind of a girl with an eating disorder. This is not a book you'll want to read, but is a book that will change the way you look at eating disorders and mental illness. Is it important that this book got written? Yes. Definitely. But it is a very difficult read.

My Fabulous Day

On a lighter note, I have a had a lovely day! I was expecting to be dead tired and needing a nap about now because I was up until 2:30 am. After finishing my homework about Wintergirls, I was totally creeped out by the ghost scenes in the book and needed to dilute my mind before going to bed. (I have a very active imagination when it comes to creepy stuff and nightmares are pretty much guaranteed when my brain is on that track.) So I pulled out my laptop since I have no TV, and I didn't bring any DVDs, so I browsed Hulu for recent junky TV, and stumbled across the Bachelorette... And after two hours of ridiculous romance, I was ready to have nice dreams instead of scary ones.

So while I should be exhausted right now, I'm not! After having a lively and engaging discussion in class about Wintergirls, we moved on to writing. My teacher told me she was so mad last night because she read my story and I left her with a cliff-hangar ending. She wanted to know what happened "after the lights went out." She's been saying how dark my piece is and told me I needed a hopeful ending. (Though my work is nowhere near as dark as Wintergirls. Not even within the same hemisphere.)

Our assignment today was to decide on a symbol that would reappear throughout our novel, and then write a scene where that symbol appears. I went outside to brainstorm and then was giddy when I came back in, and told her, "I'm going to write a mushy love scene." Which definitely got her curiosity up because there has not even been the hint of romance. So she let me read first, and it was really fun. I got good feedback, applause, etc. My symbol is the blue color of a boy's eyes and the blue color changes in meaning for the main character over the course of the book. I love the idea, and it fell into place beautifully.

After class I went to a student reading (grad students reading their work aloud to an audience). My favorite story was one about a genie, hamster, and a plastic pool full of spit. It was hilarious!

Then on my way to Panera, I discovered I had a parking ticket. Which stinks, but I'm going to contest it. I was parked in visitor parking near the library, but there aren't any signs that say you can't park there if you have a permit. I had only parked there yesterday because I had to run into the library when is was pouring rain, but I made sure not to park in the 30 minute only spaces. Then I forgot I left my car there and just walked back to my dorm instead of driving back. Grrr... I've decided I'm not going to contest it today because I'm in a very good mood and not a fiesty mood. I'll go by the office tomorrow.

Today, I'm going to work on a PowerPoint on series books for children, or maybe write for a bit. I don't have a lot of homework for class tomorrow since we're doing picture books (which is probably a good thing since I'm sure I'll pass out early tonight after I lose my energy high.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Presentation Results

So today I gave a big 30 minute presentation in my History and Criticism class. Each student was assigned a different type of criticism and then we had to use that type of criticism to analyze the book of our choice. I got Marxist criticism, and decided to apply it to the first two books of Patrick Carman's Atherton series.

I made a 40 slide PowerPoint presentation (technically it was in Keynote, but most people don't know what that is), and spent A LOT of time on this. And trust me--reading about Marxism isn't how I'd like to be spending my time this summer.

I was pretty confident in my presentation. My professor expressed during the first class that he doesn't know how to use PowerPoint, so I kind of figured anything I do with technology would be impressive due to his lack of know-how. My thesis is essentially accusing Patrick Carman of promoting Communist ideals to children through his books.

So I presented, it went well. I knew what I was talking about. I answered questions at the end. Did my professor say one word of feedback? NO.

As a teacher myself, I always give my students feedback at the end of a presentation. I usually use a 2:1 ratio, two positive things to one thing to work on. Something like, "I like how you approached this..." or "This idea was really fascinating..." and then "If you wanted to work on this, you might want to refine your point about..."

I don't know why he didn't do that... Did he think that kind of feedback is private? Because I wouldn't have cared, and I think my classmates would have liked to hear some feedback to get an idea of what he's looking for when it comes their turn to present. So I've resolved to e-mail him tonight, and ask for his advice on how to turn this presentation into my term paper.

Oh well. It's done. I have a reading log on Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson to do this afternoon, but I'm hoping I have time to work on my sci-fi book project. Will post on Wintergirls tomorrow (super depressing and disturbing book).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Looking For Alaska by John Green

Brief Summary

Sixteen year-old Miles Halter heads off to boarding school looking for "the Great Perhaps." He wants to "live life to the fullest." At Culver Creek Boarding School, he meets the sexy but screwed-up Alaska who will leave him a different person than when he arrived.


This book won the Printz Award (the teen/YA equivalent of the Newbery for Children). Definitely a well written book, but full of profanity, drugs/alcohol, and sex. Think Catcher in the Rye-esque coming of age story. I liked this better than I did Catcher in the Rye, but I'd never been a Holden Caulfield fan. I wouldn't go around recommending this book to people because I'd be wary of what people would think of the risque subject matter, plus it's more of a boy book. But it is exceptionally well-written and I can see why the author won the Printz for this work.

Has anyone read this year's Printz winner, Going Bovine? It sounds sooooo strange, that I haven't made myself go read it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Secret Garden = Adam & Eve?

I made my whole class laugh and giggle today, including my professor. We read The Secret Garden for class today and we were in the middle of discussing it. We've been talking about how literary critics can make up bogus connections to literature.

So I started coming up with my own bogus theory about The Secret Garden being a religious metaphor. Mary shows Colin the forbidden garden just as Eve gave Adam the forbidden apple. The robin leads Mary to the garden just like the snake/devil led Eve to the apple. Mr. Craven forbid one garden but said they were free to go in any of the other gardens just like God said they could eat from any tree except that one.

Everyone was giggling because it was pretty silly. My Professor said that's how bad literary criticism starts.

On my 5 hour drive home, I thought about my sci-fi book, and a character popped into my head fully formed and wove himself into my plot and gave me the book's ending. I wish I could figure out how/why that happens in my writer brain. How a character fully forms himself like that, like a real person. The subconscious brain is an amazing thing.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Lawson

Hattie Big Sky was my favorite book so far this summer. If you want great historical fiction, you've got it.


In the midst of World War I, sixteen year-old Hattie Inez Brooks heads west to Montana to prove up her Uncle’s claim. She has no idea what kinds of challenges await her from farming 40 acres of land all on her own to blizzards to the Spanish influenza. While there she also witnesses the ugly side of prejudice, and stands up for what is right. Will she fall for the handsome Traft Martin or will she wait for Charlie who is fighting overseas? And finally, will she establish a home for herself and no longer be Hattie Here-and-There?

My Review

This book was a Newbery Honor and it definitely deserved it. Hattie is such a strong female character and the story is so well-knit. Every event is important to the development of the story. The format of the book is fun because the chapters start with either a letter or news article written by Hattie. Plus, I like books where the author throws huge challenges at their characters, and one after another, Hattie definitely faced some enormous challenges.

Highly recommend this book for girls! (Boys maybe not as much.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I think I'm onto something...

So, in my craft of writing class, we end with people reading aloud from what they've been working on. I haven't gotten to read in awhile, but last class, I handed in three scenes I had written over the weekend. I was really wondering what my teacher would think because she doesn't strike me as a science fiction person.

Well, she asked me to read first today, and I was really happy because I take that as she wants to hear more! I explained the concept to the class, and then read the scene I wrote during the 30 minute freewriting that class.

And... I got a substantially noisy round of applause! Not one of those polite "that was nice" round of applause, but a real one... like "Wow! That was cool!"

I was concerned before I read aloud because no one else is writing any sort of dark / science fiction type stuff. But they liked the eerie tone and they thought I did a great job of creating suspense. They also said the idea was very original (something that's never been done before), and they could see how I might have been inspired by The Giver.

A few posts ago, I wrote about how I felt like I was in a dilemma because I have so many projects that I keep hopping around to. I've been thinking about this project non-stop (the dystopian sci-fi one I'm working on in class) and I've come to a conclusion after a lot of soul searching.

I think a first book is critical for a new author. It can make or break you. I think this book is a more advanced idea than some of my other projects, and I think it has a lot more to say about the world. So to contradict my earlier post, I'm going to switch projects. I am going to focus on this book because I would really like this book to be my first. I think it's very marketable, fits with what a lot of companies are publishing, and is the kind of thing that would show I'm serious about writing. It's not just a pretty little fun story.

I've also been reading blogs of authors and hearing authors speak. One recurring topic with them is that they say their early writing wasn't good enough to be published. Some even went on to say that they threw out everything they wrote before the age of 21.

And looking back at my original project, there are some things I'd really have to redo and consider. I've developed a lot since I started that project 4-5 years ago. It doesn't mean that I don't love the characters or want to finish it. But maybe it's not the right time for it, and I can come back to it when I have the experience to know HOW to fix it.

I feel like I'm rambling, but I'm happy with where things are going. Today has been a good day. I mean, how often do beginning writers get a round of applause? I'd say today was pretty FANTASTIC. :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Meeting Marly Youmans

Every summer, Hollins arranges for a writer-in-residence to live on campus and meet with students to discuss writing. Last night, Marly Youmans spoke for the first time and then today, I met with her one on one.

Last night, she spoke mostly about her current project which is a book she is writing with her 13 year old son in mind. She is writing a book that has lots of action, plot twists, monsters, etc. BUT NO BORING DESCRIPTIONS OF LANDSCAPE. She read three excerpts from her works-in-progress (they don't even have a publishing date yet), and I really enjoyed listening to them. The first book has evil robot librarians. Sounds like something my kids would like!

Back in April or May, we were told that if we wanted Marly to read a manuscript, we should send it to her ahead of time. I sent her the first 20 pages of my original ocean-inspired project thinking maybe she could give me some ideas to help me rectify pacing and point-of-view issues.

Her feedback was that she loved the family that I've created. She thought they were full of charm and very fresh. She thought my writing was most genuine when I wrote from their perspective. She saw no problems with my pacing, in fact she said mine was better paced than most of the other manuscripts she read.

Her constructive feedback was the villains in the story felt too "cartoony" and typical. One idea we threw around was that the villains felt too contrived when I was telling the story from their point-of-view, but perhaps if we see the villains from the kid's point-of-view only, then it's okay for them to be over the top because kids see people that way. I don't know if that makes sense how I'm explaining it... but it made sense while we were talking and it makes sense in MY head.

If you want to check out Marly Youmans, her website is:

I have so much work to do for tomorrow, and I'm getting drowsy. Might need to go get coffee.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tiring weekend?

This weekend wore me out more than classes. Halloween Party (I know it's July. Don't ask.) I was kind of disappointed in the costumes. I'd heard it was a big deal, and was expecting cool, kid's lit themed costumes-- and it was a let down. There were only 3-4 cool costumes, including my own last minute Harry Potter costume. Oh well.

Then a 4th of July potluck... where there wasn't any hotdogs or hamburgers. Just salads and dessert. Kind of lame. And then I'd heard you could see the fireworks really well from a hill on campus... not so much. Fireworks also lame.

But both were late nights and both wore me out. And today I had to drag myself out of bed to class. Luckily I love this class.

Brief Summary
In the early 1960s, two daughters deal with being abandoned by their mother who feels she must pursue her dream of a music career in Nashville before it’s too late.

Thoughts on the Book
This book was written by the woman who was supposed to teach the class. And we didn't hold back when we were discussing it... because she wasn't there. The biggest strength of the book, in my opinion, is the conflict with the mother. There are several other subplots, but the core of the book is the protagonist, Garnet, learning to deal with the fact that her mother is not a good mother. This is pretty tough subject matter that I haven't seen handled frequently in Children's Lit.

Our criticism was multifaceted. My biggest criticism was that the climax came too early in the novel. Garnet goes to Nashville to confront her mother and learns just how much her mother has been lying and cheating. But after this last big moment with the mother, there is still another 100 pages in the book! Other criticisms were that there was way too much description and unnecessary detail as well as too many subplots without strong meaning. The book didn't feel as well knit together as some of the others that we've read.

However, if for some reason, I had someone looking for a book with a strong mother/daughter conflict, I would recommend this book in a heartbeat. That part of the book was done very well.

Publishing Discussion

We had a discussion in class today where we began by going around the table sharing our dreams about writing. Here's what I said:

"I read a lot of author's blogs online, and see that they spend a lot of time traveling and talking about their books, whether at schools, conferences, or book events. I would love to be successful enough at writing that I could quit teaching, but travel the country talking to kids about my books and just reading in general."

No one else mentioned the traveling aspect or talking to kids about books. But that is the kind of interaction I want to have, and that will be my test that I've made it in the publishing industry. If I can draw a crowd--I've made it!

Our teacher then went on and shared her own experiences in the publishing industry, which are dream-like and not realistic at all. A friend sent in her manuscript to a publishing house, who forwarded it to an editor who handled that kind of material, who called from New York City, asked my teacher to come up in the next few days to chat, and when she got to NYC they told her they were going to publish her book. A fairy tale, correct? It doesn't normally work that way.

She went on to explain about query letters, agents, self-publishing, etc. Most of which I knew because I've already done a lot of reading up/research on the industry. It surprises me that so many of my peers haven't done that.

Two big resources where I've learned about the publishing industry are:

#2 = the blogs of authors I enjoy.
Pretty much every author has some sort of website, and many of them keep daily blogs. My two favorites are Lois Lowry and Maggie Stiefvater. (Maggie has lots of good writer tips/advice and she's adorable.) But I have over 20 authors bookmarked in their own folder, and when I'm having a lazy-stay-in-bed-until-noon-with-my-laptop kind of morning, I'll often go through author websites/blogs for a few hours like I'm reading the newspaper. I highly recommend any aspiring author do the same.

In Class Writing Exercise

Inspired by today's book discussion, we had to write a scene where our main character is disappointed or betrayed by someone. This was perfect for the story I'm working on! I had no trouble with this prompt and easily scribbled out three pages in half an hour.

Next class, we are going to have to write a scene where the setting has a prominent role in the conflict. That one I'll have to think about, but I already have some ideas.

Ahhhh! Such a long post! Gotta go do work!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What I've been reading...

So I read something like 450 pages yesterday. That's a lot. Most of which in a rocking chair. Here's what I read:

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
Semiprecious by D. Anne Love

Thoughts on Bree Tanner
When I write, I always like to switch to other characters' points-of-view. It usually becomes a problem because then I want their point-of-view in the story and I end up with 7 characters all trying to tell the same story. But it's fun. So I understand why Meyer liked to do the same thing (with Edward in Midnight Sun and now Bree in this novella). The story actually was pretty interesting. It held my interest even though I knew the outcome. And she did create a couple of fleshed out characters that haven't appeared in the Twilight books. I was surprised at how well thought out this was. The only thing I'm going to poke fun at is Meyer clearly wants her dream man to be her protector. Over and over again, her male love interests protect women. I don't think she can write a romance and not put that in there. If you want to read the novella about Bree, it's free online for the next 72 hours (until July 5th). Just google Bree Tanner.

Beginning Thoughts after reading Semiprecious
I'll probably do another post after I discuss this book in class. The author was supposed to be my professor, but couldn't teach the class. This is one of the books she's published. I couldn't help but notice LOTS of similarities between the books on the reading list she created.

-Two deal with Communists (and then a third has hate against Germans during WWII)
-Two have Native American influences
-Three protagonists who move and must deal with making new friends
-All of them take place in the past
-All but one take place in a small, rural town
-Three have a teenage older sister who is obsessed with boys, clothes, and make-up
-All have a white main character. (In fact I think the only non-white character was an Indian.)

I'm getting really bored of these types of books. I'm really sick of realistic fiction. That doesn't mean these were all bad books. I just really think she should have had more diversity in the reading list.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Thoughts on Stephenie Meyer

A lot of people (especially writers) give Stephenie Meyer a hard time. And rightfully so, her books are not terribly well written and Breaking Dawn makes me want to hurl.


I do think you have to examine any extremely successful person and examine why they were able to stand out among the crowd. She DID get published. She HAS made millions. So she must have done a few things right.

Here are my guesses as to why Meyer had such success:

I think Harry Potter had a very large female reader population who was left with nothing once that series finished. All these girls/young women were looking for a nice chunky book series to fill a hole. I think Meyer was lucky enough to fill that niche.

First Love
A huge aspect of why Meyer has been so successful is that she was able to recreate what it feels like to fall in love that first time. You can argue with me all you want, but I really do think she did this well. Though, this is also what makes her writing poor because in order to capture this feeling, she did things like describe Edward's eyes 876,253 times (I made that number up, but you get the point.) All the repetitious descriptions of Edward, while poor writing, do take girls back to when they were teenagers where they would obsess over that one boy. From doodling his name over and over and over. To memorizing where he'd be at different parts of he school day. The repetition of her writing reminds us what it was like to be all-consumed by thoughts of one person.

Love Triangle
I don't think the series would have been nearly as successful without Jacob. If the books had just been about Bella and Edward, it would have sizzled out much earlier. The smartest choice Meyer ever made was to put Edward on the backburner for book 2 and take the time to develop Jacob's character. And then, what she did was make two characters that are such polar opposites. I must say that she did a good job in making both characters so different, but still making them both lovable. Edward being uptight, cold, protective, dangerous. Jacob being a fun-loving, warm, honest, comforting. I really do think she did a good job of developing these two characters. They are the ones that drive the stories.

Soooooo... Yeah, Stephenie Meyer is no Shakespeare. Yeah, her last book is a joke and she doesn't know how to end a series. Yeah, there are better writers out there who deserve to make more money than she does. But the reading population doesn't buy books based on how well written they are. Meyer is a commercial/popular writer who found a niche, created a brand, and milked it for all its worth. She found a subject with mass appeal.

And so I think a lot of the writers who criticize her have been bitten by jealousy. But if you want to make money off your writing, it's not just how pretty your words sound, you have to consider your audience. Does this have mass appeal or is it too edgy? You have to think about it. Meyer hit on a idea with mass appeal, and then gave her audience what they wanted most.

And yes, I will admit I saw Eclipse last night. And yes, I enjoyed every minute of it. (Though that will probably be the last Twilight movie I enjoy.)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

Today's class was finally a little better. The first hour and a half was still just the professor rambling on and not making much sense, but then after the break, all the students started talking about Alice in Wonderland and it became a lot less boring.

If you haven't read Alice in Wonderland and only know of the Disney version, you're really doing yourself a disservice. Disney really slaughtered the whole mood and charming bits. The best part of the story is Alice's thought processes. She is so funny in how she thinks about the world, and she is such a charming character. You don't get that from either the Disney movie or the Tim Burton film. I feel like the films focus more on the world of Wonderland and its inhabitants when really its Alice's views and interactions that made the story so wonderful. For example, at one point when Alice is growing extremely tall, she has a whole conversation with herself about how she'll be too tall to put on her shoes and stockings. And whoever shall do that for her feet now? And she even pretends that she will have to write letters to her feet now. For if she can hardly see them, she can't speak to them. She sounds just like a 7 year old girl, and made me laugh.

I highly recommend reading Alice in Wonderland, and I hear Through the Looking Glass is even better. I was dreading reading it, but thoroughly enjoyed it once I got started.