Friday, November 7, 2014

The Little Things...

I was recently in an auto accident. I am fine, but my car isn't. It was totaled. It was an old car, circa 2000, but I liked it. It was a Volvo and very dependable. It may not have been the best looking car in the parking lot, with its many scratches and dings, but it was good to me. I will be renting a car for a week, then it will be time to look for something new, or at least newer. I don't care if a car is new, as long as it runs well, and gets me where I'm going. I live in a rural area, so I'm in my car a lot.

This past week, being home from work (my hands were badly bruised and swollen, especially my right, but thankfully not broken), I've had lots of time to think about things. I know it's been said many times before, but it really is the little things in life that make a big difference. This week, it was the little things I couldn't do. I couldn't hold my coffee mug. I struggled with getting dressed. I couldn't do a downward facing dog, never mind try to pet my dog.

As I pondered these things, it made me aware of the little things in the world-building of fiction. What are the little things a character struggles with, or the little things they do to gain attention? What are the little things he/she likes, or hates about a friend? What are the little things that make the setting seem real? What are the little things that make the reader want to keep reading?

All of these little things work together to bring about the bigger picture in a story. So, don't rule out the little things as being important. Little things can make a big difference. Like clutching a favorite mug filled with warm, sweet coffee.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Writer's Paradise

I spent a week on Martha's Vineyard in quaint Edgartown, participating in a children's writing retreat at a lovely inn called Noepe Center for Literary Arts. I call it a writer's paradise. Anyone interested in writing, at any point in their writing path, should consider spending time here. The offerings include residencies, workshops, poetry readings and even book launches. The setting is idyllic, perfect for inspiration and muse finding.

"Noepe has a very simple mission: to provide established and emerging writers with time and space to create, and the resources and community to support, encourage and inspire writers at all stages of their writing career."

It was a small, intimate gathering of twelve women, all with works-in-progress in various genres and stages of development, and one wonderful mentor, Emma Dryden, of drydenbks. We spent each morning on a different topic, with hand-outs, writing exercises, and wisdom from Emma. Morning workshops focused on first pages, voice, world-building, and revision.

Nuggets gleaned from Emma's workshops:
  • What you leave off the page, can be as important as what's on the page.
  • The first line/page is the crystallization of the whole story.
  • Most books use the home/away/home theme.
  • Allow space for the reader's emotions. 
  • Create rules for the protagonist's world and a personal set for your protagonist.
  • In the first draft, write with abandon! Keep it messy and do not edit!
  • Paraphrase your story in ten pages, then five pages, then one page, one paragraph, one sentence. 
  • Cut the first paragraph and the last paragraph from each scene.
  • List all the decisions your protagonist and antagonist makes. Do the same with supporting characters. The characters' decisions/actions should interfere with the protagonist's.
  • List the first ten things each character does. 
  • Ask yourself why you have to write this story.
My thoughts:
  • I know what my protagonist really wants.
  • I know why I have to write this story.
  • Revision takes a long time and there are many processes to choose from.
  • The scariest revision process is probably the one I should use.
  • My beginning needed work, but I'm on the right track. 
  • Children's writers are bright, generous, and fun to be with. (Okay, I already knew that.)
  • When you find a great mentor like Emma, feel fortunate. (I do!)
I feel blessed to have been a part of this inspiring, emotional, week-long journey. For more info about this amazing place, check out the website at For more info on drydebks, go to