Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gateway Books

In celebration of today's release of Eclipse, I want to praise the Twilight saga.  Now, this is not meant to be a forum to debate Stephenie Meyer's writing skills (we all know there are passionate feelings on both sides of the spectrum).  Instead, I want to focus on her books from the viewpoint of a high school English teacher.

As writers, it's easy for us to question why some books get published, especially when we feel adamant that we are better writers.  But as an English teacher, I've learned to appreciate any book that my students read.  My job is to get my students to read.  And to enjoy reading.  If it means they read a Twilight novel rather than Shakespeare, I'm okay with that.  Because at least they're reading.

We've all heard the term "gateway drugs."  (If not, defines it here.)  But have you ever heard of gateway books?  These are the books that turn non-readers into readers.  I see that happen every school year. 

That's why I put every book I buy (or win in a contest or obtain as a donation) on my classroom shelf.  Because I never know which book will be the next gateway book for my students.  If I can help at least one non-reader become a reader, I'll feel like I've done my job.  

Let's be realistic as writers.  We need readers.  How else can we make a living as writers?  I applaud those writers, the ones like Stephenie Meyer, who can spin a great story and create energetic teen readers.

Here's my question to you: What were your gateway books?  Which ones helped you to become readers and/or writers? 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why Do You Write?

I spent the past week at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference (WIFYR).  It put me on a rollercoaster of emotions.  Being around so many fabulous published and pre-published authors made me feel inferior at times.  

Several presenters asked the following question: Why do you write?  I thought it would be interesting to find out why everyone writes.  I admit this is somewhat selfish of me because I really could use the inspiration right now (but I doubt I'm the only one who could be lifted up from other people's examples).

Here's my answer to the question: Why do you write?  I write because: 
  • I have stories to tell.
  • I like the sense of accomplishment I feel after finishing a first draft.
  • It's a rush of excitement when characters or scenes write themselves.
  • When I'm not writing, I can't stop thinking about my characters.
  • Even though it's hard at times, I really enjoy writing. 
So now it's your turn: Why do you write?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Attack of the Inner Editor

I have a very strong inner editor.  In arm wrestles, she always wins.  What does this mean for my writing?  Sometimes it takes hours for me to write a chapter.

I envy those who can sit at their computer and just write.  Even when they know it's not perfect and it will ultimately need some serious revision.  

I can't do that.  I've tried, trust me.  But I can't stop myself from going back to reread and rewrite.  In fact, before each writing session, I review the previous chapter and rewrite words, sentences, even entire paragraphs.  I suffer from a bad case of perfectionism.

In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott spends one chapter championing bad first drafts and another chapter denouncing perfectionism.  She states, "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.  It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft" (28).  She continues, "Perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force ... Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up.  But clutter and mess show that life is being lived" (28).

Do you agree with Anne Lamott?  What do you do to restrain your own inner editor?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Point of View Preferences

I never really spend time considering the point of view of my manuscripts.  I just write whatever feels "right" as I begin my story.  That means that my first manuscript is in first person, while my current WIP is in third person.

Now, I'm wondering if I should be less arbitrary with my point of view decision.  Fifty pages into my current WIP, I'm considering a change to first person, like my first novel.  I just don't think third person is working well, especially since a major conflict of my story is my main character's mental illness.  In a first person point of view, I think I'll be able to better capture her inner turmoil.

Before I take the time to transform my entire WIP into first person, I'd like a second opinion from my wonderful blogging community.  What do you think?

Do you have any POV preferences?  How do you choose what POV to use?  Are there any POV's that you dislike as a reader?  As a writer?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Contest Winner!!!

Thanks for everyone who participated in my 100 Follower Contest!

I've been busily preparing for the end of the school year, and this week is no exception (final grades, yearbook stomp, graduation, etc.).  Consequently, my blogging has been pushed to the back of my mind.  I apologize for my absence!  

But I promise to return in full force next week.  Somehow I'll figure out how to balance blogging with my writing time.  I'm so excited to begin writing full-time!

OK, here's what you've been waiting for: the winner of the 100 Followers Contest!  I used to generate my winner from the comments.  And the winner of a $20 Barnes and Noble gift card goes to ...

Congratulations to #15 ...

Thanks again for participating!  Have a great week!