Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Writing Tips and Advise from Authors

I subscribe to quite a few blogs and I admit that sometimes the number of posts I peruse each day can be daunting. Recently, I read a post in which the blogger decided to delete all of his blog subscriptions and start over with fresh perspective. His thinking was that he subscribes to the blogs of people who think just like he does, so the posts really don't push his thinking. And I admire that for him. But, I don't have that problem. I subscribe to a variety of blogs, but my favorites...the ones I look forward to each day...the ones that push my thinking, are those of children's and young adult authors. I don't know how they find the time to write such great posts and also such great books, but I'm glad they do.

I'm especially thrilled when these authors blog about their writing. I enjoy getting a glimpse into their writing practices, but I also benefit from the tips and advise I gain for my own writing and to also share with my students. So, I've decided to gather up these tips and advise and compile them each week and share them with you.

The first author's post is not really about writing. It's about reading...all kinds of reading. Shannon Hale's post "Let em eat pictures" was about how many parents encourage their children to stop reading books with pictures and move to books with only text. As a literacy educator, I get this question all the time. Especially about graphic novels. It was so refreshing to read Shannon's response:
The best thing in the world is hearing about that kid who didn't like to read, then read Rapunzel's Revenge in one sitting and now wants to read more. Those stories are the most satisfying of my career. I'm so happy there are so many age-appropriate graphic novels out there now. Don't fear them! Reading graphic novels is working two parts of their brains--they're learning to decode word symbols and picture symbols, creating a movie in their mind out of static pictures and words on a page. It's exciting and in no way immature.

In a follow-up post, "How to be a reader: Making yourself fully literate," Shannon writes, "I'd like to propose that the goal is not to have kids/teens/adults get to the point where we'll only read unillustrated prose novels, but to get kids/teens/adults confident in reading and literate enough to navigate this world." Hallelujah! Can I get an amen? In this post, Shannon talks about the importance of being able to navigate three different media in the information rich society we live in: prose novels, illustrated books, and audio books. I was so glad to read her thoughts about audio books. As you may know, I'm a big fan of audio books, but, as Shannon acknowledges, many teachers and parents think listening to audio books is "cheating." Shannon replies,
Listening to books read is a wonderful way to become more literate. For some reason, some people consider listening to an audio book "cheating" or "not really reading." Hogwash. Learning to absorb information given in audio is vital. Listening to an audio book is different than talking to someone on the phone. Following a story told aloud is developing a listening and comprehending skill that would serve us all well.

Ok. I feel better. Now, on to writing. Susan Beth Pfeffer is the author of the YA novels Life As We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone [among others]. Both stories are set in the same time period--in the future after a meteor hits the moon and disrupts its orbit--but each book is about what happens to a family in two different locations as a result of the catastrophic events that take place. Susan is now writing book three and discusses the difficulty of writing a sequel in her post "B3 turns fifty." Where do you get this kind of insight except from someone who has not only been successful writing a sequel, but is in the middle of doing it again!

Cheryl Klein, children's book editor extraordinaire, writes about the importance of voice in fiction in her post "Oy Vey: Voice, and Also Twilight." She writes, "...voice is to fiction as air is to life: It's simultaneously everything and nothing, essential to have and impossible to grasp, all-encompassing and absolutely individual." Voice is one of those essential elements that make or break a book for me and in this post, Cheryl analyzes the voice in Twilight. I never made it far enough into Twilight to have an opinion on the emotional aspect of the book which Cheryl writes about since I couldn't get beyond "it's not a good book."

Barbara O'Connor wrote a post about "Lessons from dead matter," which I thought was fascinating! The dead matter, or the notes and editorial comments from a manuscript that has been published, is from her book Greetings from Nowhere. I learned so much from this post. First, I would have thrown the dead matter in the garbage (after all, it's dead). But, obviously, that's not the kind of person Barbara is. She turned it into a learning experience. I think about all of the time teachers spend giving kids feedback on their writing only to have the kids throw the papers in the garbage (isn't that what I just said I would have done with the dead matter? oops!). Of course, for kids, it all depends on how the feedback is provided. Barbara's thoughts in this post would make a great series of writing workshop minilessons which would tie together beautifully if the teacher were also reading aloud Greetings from Nowhere!

Cynthia Lord, author of Rules, gives us a tour of her desk (which is NOT cluttered) in the first part of her post, Five Things on Friday. I love to see where authors work and Cynthia has her very own "writing house" in her back yard. Very cool!

Justine Larbalestier, author of the Magic and Madness series and How to Ditch Your Fairy started the year off with January is Writing Advise Month. She is taking questions about the writing process from readers and responding on her blog. She's written nine posts so far on such topics as characterization, backstory, plot similarities, point of view, getting ideas and getting unstuck. The depth and detail of each post is amazing. This is great advice for everyone, but I would think middle and high school teachers could use Justine's posts for relevant, real life examples when discussing these elements in reading and writing.

Thank you to all of the authors who take the time to share their thouhts about reading and writing. Keep 'em coming!

1 comment:

Audio Books said...

thanks for these nice writing tips.