Thursday, December 30, 2010

Yawn

I listen to quite a bit of public radio. I usually really like the programming choices, but...

The Writer's Almanac is so boring !!!!

I'm sorry to Mr. Keillor, but he is not interesting to listen to. He makes me want to fall asleep. I'm afraid that I'm going to crash because of him someday. I would advise not listening while driving. Each day when he comes on, I have such conflicting feelings. I know that he is going to talk about a wonderful writer(s) and read a beautiful piece of poetry, and these are things that I truly want to know about and listen to, but his monotone pipes just make me tune out. I don't think he is getting people excited about reading. Napping maybe. But definitely not reading. I wish that program would update itself. It has such potential.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Reading...

I just spent almost the entire day reading my workshop packet for the upcoming residency. I was both impressed and disappointed at various moments, but I still feel the same way that I did before I even received the packets: It is nearly impossible to critique and offer suggestions on a piece that is only 15-20 pages long.

I was talking with my uncle over the holiday about this and he agreed. He is very interested to find out how these workshop sessions are run, as am I.

The reaction I am hoping for for my submission would go something like this: "I have no idea what the book is about, but you have piqued my interest enough that there is no way I want to put it down yet."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Turn the Page

Wow!

I was given so many wonderful books for Christmas. I can't wait to read them. A huge thank you to all of the members of my family.

I hope everyone one enjoyed a peaceful holiday.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Library Selections


As I've previously stated, the little desk to the left is my favorite place to write. It's in the Rutland Free Library next to the audiobooks.

Since I spend quite a bit of time in the lib, I have made some interesting observations.

1) The thing I see people doing most on the public computers = Playing Games

2) I sit in one of three sections on a given day: Audiobooks, Crafts and Hobbies, or Histories and Biographies. They rank in that order in terms of number of sign outs. Audiobooks over Histories by approx. 10-1.

3) I see quite a few children's books being checked out by parents. That's refreshing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thief

Amazing language, rich characters, original narration, poignant subject mater and a fierce lesson in morality are just some of the reasons why The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one of the most critically acclaimed novels for young adults in the last five years. Interestingly enough, these same attributes make it very hard for children and teens, the story’s supposed target audience, to get all that the critics claim they should from the book.

The front and back covers of the book are littered with praise from major newspapers and publications, as are several pages inside. The list of honors and awards the book has won are printed in a smaller font, just to fit them all onto a single page together. Inside the back cover, the publisher even includes a special study guide for teacher’s to use with their students.

It seems as though most everyone has destined the novel for legendary status, but I would like to pose two simple questions: Do young readers understand this book? Do they even like it?


Friday, December 17, 2010

Short Stories Rock

I love short stories. They are completely under-appreciated.

I just spent the afternoon writing the first six pages of a story about a boy that wins a spectacular grand prize in a food shelter raffle. It just came to me, and it's awesome.

Just wanted to share that.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Research

Part of the story I'm currently working on deals with some current/futuristic techie lingo and processes. I was just thinking about how lucky I am to have the internet to search with.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not afraid to hit up the dewey decimal cards for some info, but it sure is a lot easier online. I can't imagine how much library time some of the great sci-fi novelists and screen writers had to put in in their day.

Lots of Reading to do!

I received my workshop packet from VCFA today. It is a very diverse collection of writing from what seems to be a very diverse group of writers. I don't know why, but for some reason I thought that I was going to be in a group with all first semester students. That's not the case at all. There is one student that will graduate at the end of the residency, two starting their final semester, two starting their third, three starting their second, and two other new students.

At first glance, there are several submissions that are excerpts from books that I probably wouldn't pick up on my own, so I'm really looking forward to branching out and seeing what my peers have to offer. There is no doubt that this process is going to make me a better writer. I just hope that the others like my stuff and have some great suggestions.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Friendly People

I received a nice email from a current student at VCFA today. She was given my contact info to see if I needed any questions answered as an incoming student. This is the type of thing that could seem very generic, but it wasn't. I could tell that she wasn't bothered at all. She was genuinely psyched to welcome a new student to the school. Hopefully I get some great answers back to the questions I asked, and I am looking forward to meeting more friendly and excited people next month.

I also learned that David Macaulay and Katherine Paterson will both be author's in residence during my first residency in January.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Three Things

I'm on the road in Burlington today with a few things on my mind:

1) I can't believe how many smokers there are in this town. Wake up people!

2) I have been thinking a lot about the workshop packets that I will soon be receiving. I'm pretty nervous about critiquing other students' work. The pieces are 15-20 page excerpts. How much of a story can you really gather from that? I am definitely the type of reader that takes in a whole book. Some books start slow and some start fast, but is that really an indication of the overall strength of the novel? I guess I will figure it out as I begin reading.

3) I saw Santa at the mall today. He was a good one, and it made me smile.

Monday, December 6, 2010

SCBWI

I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. It is a great resource for anyone interested in writing, especially if you have hopes to become published. I just received their annual publication guide in the mail, and it contains extensive information on agents and their contact details.

This book is worth at least 100 hours of google searching.

Figgy Pudding

I want some

Friday, December 3, 2010

Workshop Submission

Whew! It's in. I just submitted my piece for the workshop I will be a part of at the VCFA January residency. As I mentioned before, it is a critique group of 2 faculty and 10-12 students. I'm really excited to take part. In a couple of weeks, I'll get a packet containing all of my group's submissions, so that we can read each other's work and prepare for the workshop beforehand.

I can't wait to see what kinds of things my peers have written about. Mine is the first four chapters of my novel featuring JT Barrows. I know some of you know his name from either reading or hearing samples, or just hearing me talk about him from time to time. The submission follows JT's last day of his freshman year in high school, where he gets in a fight against five bullies. It also includes a flashback to Ancient Rome. Too complicated to connect the dots right now. Maybe I'll post a full teaser in the coming days.

Happy weekend!

NOOOOOOOO

I'm at the library and someone is in my seat!

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, browse the older posts (there's not that many).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Clear Mind

It amazes me to think about how much more productive I can be as a writer now that I don't have a full-time job to compete with.

Working at Eaglebrook - and even Williams to some extent - took up so much space in my head, that my creative side had to struggle to reach the surface. It is only since leaving those old thoughts behind that I have really begun to flourish as a writer.

I am extremely lucky and grateful to have a spouse that encourages my dreams and is willing to support me while I have a go at this. If I had to work full-time, I don't think that I would be able to learn as effectively or come close to reaching my potential.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Strike Out

I think it is very important for me to admit that my first attempts to have my book published have all been rejected.

Don't get me wrong. I still know that my story or a future story will get published, but my initial attempts were not as strong as they could have been. The early chapters lacked something, my query letter wasn't good enough and my mindset about revisions needed to improve.

I have become a much better writer in the past few years, and I now know that the stuff I banged out in 2007 just isn't going to cut it anymore, for me or anyone else.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Is Something Missing Here?



Norwich won the National Championship last season. This is a picture from the newspaper of the banner raising. I see the coach, the school president, the athletic director, two deep-pocketed alums...

WHERE ARE THE PLAYERS !!!!!!!?????

This is a perfect example of why I have such a love/hate relationship with athletics. Sports are supposed to be just one part of a well-rounded school experience. They are about building character, learning to work with others and living out dreams. They are not supposed to be about a group of old men trying to win one last time.

Well, congrats old guys! You did it. I'm sorry if I forgot to notice. I guess I was too busy cheering on your student-athletes.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Harry Snoozer and the Sleeping Teddy Bear Part 1/4

I'm sorry. I wish I was on the other side of the fence - and I even slept on it after seeing HP7 Part 1 yesterday - but I feel ripped off. Splitting the final movie in two was a money making scheme, nothing more. They could have easily made it a bit longer and crammed in the action. I can't remember the last time I watched a movie with so many awkward lulls.

On a bright note, It's snowing outside my window. That always makes me happy.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thanks to everyone who has been checking this thing out. I hope you all have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Voice

Voice is such an important part of the writing process. A strong or distinct voice can make or break the believability of a character.

Interestingly enough, to me at least, reading voice is also important. I tend to have very specific voices in my head when reading dialogue. For example, I recently read the first two books by Will Adams, The Alexander Cipher and The Exodus Quest. His stories center around the adventures of British archeologist Daniel Knox. When Knox speaks, I hear a very refined and brave Orlando Bloom in my head. Think Legolas or Balian rather than Paris. Weird? Maybe. But I could give hundreds of more examples of other characters, too.

I was just wondering if most people have a similar experience, or if they simply hear variations of their own voice?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pandora is Great!

And I don't mean the planet from Avatar.

Pandora Radio is tremendous. It has saved me a lot recently.

I like to write in public places like libraries and cafes because they allow me to take breaks for walking around, eating, people watching, etc., but I absolutely loathe having to listen to the inevitable loud person that strolls in and wants everyone within four miles to hear their conversation. That's when I put the headphones on.

I will admit that music distracts me at times, but it isn't even remotely as bad as Jane and John Smith's discussion about their daughter's incompetent math teacher, or the two old guys that tell Jewish jokes in the library on rainy days. UGH!

Thank you Pandora.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Eureka

I finally have a name for my character that I have been struggling with.

This is huge news. Now I can really get some things going.

That didn't take long


Well, my slightly joyous/reflective/somber post about not skating was a waste of time. I ended up playing in the Norwich Alumni Game on Saturday morning. I actually did pretty well, but my legs are still sore.

This kid to the left was our ref! Absolutely priceless. His father was my D partner and told me that all the little guy wants to do is ref. It reminds me of a scene in Mighty Ducks 2 when Bombay is trying to convince people to create an Air Loafer for kids that want to coach.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It may not look like much, but...



This little microfilm station, in a tiny corner of the Rutland Free Library next to the audiobooks, is the most productive writing habitat I have ever come across.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Choosing a Name

What goes into choosing a name?
A name can be a very large part of an identity, so I think that names should be chosen with care and purpose. Whether it's a person, a pet, or a character, I take naming very seriously.
Although I don't have any children, I have been part of naming people. Nicknames can be fun and fitting, but they can also be very cruel and inappropriate. Think twice before giving someone a nickname.
I have named many pets, and I find that my first instinct usually fits the pet nicely. Animals deserve names chosen with some thought too. One of our cats has a long-lost sister that was named Scurvy by the guy that bought her (Yes, he even told the humane society that he was buying the cat to be a frat house mascot, and they sold her to him anyway).
The story I'm writing at the moment is part political conspiracy part dystopian adventure, and it features a character that I haven't named yet. I just can't think of a name that fits him. He is one of two main characters and the story won't get moving until I have something to call him. I hope it comes to me soon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ice?

An observation: I think that this is the longest I have gone without putting on skates since I was 3 years old, and I have no idea when I will put them on again.

Typing

I have been getting a slew of emails from VCFA, and I am really starting to get excited. A large part of the first residency is a workshop group that I will be part of. Each group has 2 faculty members and 10-12 students. We submit a draft of a story or novel excerpt the first week of December, and the program directors make groups based on similarity of submission. We then read each other's work and offer critiques, suggestions, etc. My writing has been so solitary up to this point that I'm eager to go through this process. Hopefully my ego allows me to be a willing participant.

For those that are interested, check out the school website: Vermont College of Fine Arts

Friday, November 12, 2010

Here goes nothing

I fully understand that this blog may have very few followers for quite a while. I'm ok with that. This space is really just a place for me to live on the internet since I dislike most social media. This is much more introspective.
I have just been accepted into the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, so this will also be a place for me to reflect on my studies, the writing craft, and my quest to be published.
That's all for a first post. I don't want to go crazy.