Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Thrill of Writing


My next VCFA workshop deadline is approaching, and I really wanted to create something new. I felt like the other pieces I have -- especially the beginnings which work best for workshop -- wouldn't really benefit from the experience. I'm either too happy with how they work right now, or I know they're too jumbled to be fixable at this point.

So, I took the last few days and created something new. Non-linear realistic fiction. Not usually what I write. And it was thrilling. It still is. I'm excited about the project. And that's how I know that this is all worth it after a year and half in school for writing. It's still fun.

After essays and essays and revisions and revisions and a critical thesis and character exercises that have made me want to pull out all my hair at one time or another, I still love writing. I can't not write, and that's refreshing.


Just Finished: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Currently Reading: Holes by Louis Sachar
Up Next: Tracing Stars by Erin E. Moulton

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Author Photos

 They're awesome! Especially the ones from the 80's and early 90's. James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, and Tom Clancy have a few legendary poses.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Revision Time

I'm finished with my critical thesis. Hooray!

I analyzed how writers craft engaging sports scenes for young readers. I started my paper with a bare-bones hockey scene that lacks emotion and is full of way too much sport-specific language. Throughout the thesis, I redraft the scene five or six times, trying to incorporate different techniques I learned while researching. I tried to pinpoint exactly what makes certain scenes successful, and I kept revising my hockey scene until I turned it into a scene I could be proud of.

I won't bore you with my entire thesis, but I will post the original and final scenes here, which serve as the opening and conclusion for my paper. Read them with writing craft in mind. Think about what makes the final scene better than the original.


Original

David deked past his checker with a slight toe-drag, digging his feet into the ice as he crossed over to his left, the puck cupped neatly on his backhand. He drove wide, heading for the bottom of the face-off circle. Another defender lunged at him with a sweep-check, cutting off his lane to the net. He swung his hips around, pivoting onto his forehand, head up, looking for an open teammate.

James made a cut from the left point toward the slot, finding a patch of open ice, lifting his stick to signal for the puck. David caught James' gaze and sent a pass directly onto his tape. James collected the pass and flung a shot toward goal in one motion. The puck sailed on net, slipping past the opposing goalie's outstretched blocker. Score!

David skated over and gave James a fist-pound with his glove as the rest of their teammates mauled him from behind. Their celebratory pile moved behind the net and against the glass. Their team had the lead, 3-2, with only three minutes left the third period. They skated as a unit to the bench for a line change, their coach showering praise in their direction.



Final



David flew past the Hawks’ defender with a quick shift of the puck, reaching top speed as he headed deep into the offensive zone on his weak side.
He looked toward the goal. He needed to make something happen. Someone needed to make a play. Why not me?
            He shifted his weight, waiting. Patience. Patience.
            Another defender lunged at him, sweeping his stick back and forth. David's lane to the net was blocked. Red shirts everywhere.
            He curled onto his strong side, lifting his head up, looking for a white shirt. A friendly shirt. C'mon, c'mon. Someone make a move. Make a move, quick.
            "Here, here." James cut free from his defensive position, finding a patch of open ice in front of the net. "Davy!" He shook his stick up and down, giving David a target.
            Just me and you. David looked his defender off and slid a pass directly onto the blade of James' stick, the black puck meeting the white grip of the tape.
            James fired a shot toward goal. Fast. Fluid. It sailed high on net. The goalie stretched…
            Too slow. The puck slipped into the top left-hand corner, colliding with the mesh of the net.
            "Yes!" David stabbed his stick in the air. Yes! He skated to James. They bumped fists. The rest of their teammates mauled them from behind, everybody slapping hands and patting heads.
            "Way to go."
            "Nice finish, boys."
            "We got this."
            We do got this. We have this.
            They took the lead, 3-2. Only a couple minutes left. David led the charge back to the bench for a breather. The home crowd started chanting. Cowbells and whistles echoed off the domed ceiling. Does it get any better?
            The second line took their place on the ice. David sat on the bench next to James. Can’t relax. Not yet. More work to do.
            As if reading his mind, Coach Hines appeared behind them, handing James a water bottle, patting David on the shoulder. "Don't get too comfortable, boys. I'm gonna need your line back out there to finish this thing off."
            David took a breath, sweat dripping off the tip of his nose. He looked at the time clock. A minute and a half. Ninety seconds till we’re champions.
            He already knew where they could hang the banner. That blank spot on the wall above the concession stand. Up near the window where his dad stood. Front and center for all to see. We got this.
            He wanted it. He needed to get back on the ice. Sitting on the bench was like torture. The seconds seemed like hours. He bumped his fist against his leg as each second passed.
            Tick.
            Bump.
            Tick.
            We got this!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Never

Sometimes I finish a book, and I say, "Wow, I'll never be a published writer."

Jumped by VCFA faculty member Rita Williams-Garcia made me feel this way. It was just too amazing. The way it deals with perceptions -- of ourselves and of those around us -- just blew me away. The voices of the different girls depicted were so real and distinct, I found myself reading certain passages over and over again just to live in their descriptions a little longer.

It's a feeling that only the best books can give me, and it's addicting. It's fun to come across a piece of writing that's so fresh, it makes me feel like I could never have created it. It also makes me want to produce the best writing I can, so that maybe someday someone might feel the same way about something I've written.