Reviews, rants, and tidbits from an overpassionate novelist

Archive for the ‘WRITING TIPS’ Category

JAPANESE SUPERMODELS, DEFINITIONS OF LITERATURE, AND THE LIME GREEN GOODBYE. WTC?

Yes, my blog is totally revamped. The content will still be basically the same. I’m just taking it in a more useful direction. With any luck.

I wanted a title that would catch people’s attention and stay true to my blog’s theme. TELL ME YOUR STORY, TELL ME YOUR SONG works because:

  1. I really do want to connect with people more and my blogs forum-like.
  2. I want to help others improve their writing abilities.
  3. The caps and the lyrics reference are catchy.

The new theme is more professional, less painful on the eyes, and beautifully clean. I love it.

So today was my first day back at USC. Oh my god. I love my schedule. Again.

1)  AMERICAN LIT with Professor Cowart

This class got me fired up. Looking online I thought Prof. Cowart seemed pretty scary, but in person I loved him. He’s wonderfully eloquent and can recite lines of poetry. He spouted off three wonderful definitions of literature:

  • “An excellent book that delights and informs” ~ Horace
  • “The axe for the frozen sea within us” ~ Franz Kafka
  • “News that stays news” ~ Ezra Pound

It wasn’t like he made a show of it either. He was simply talking about something that interested him and needed use of those quotes to express himself. He went on to talk about impressions of America, still impressed upon the American psyche and reflected in literature, as Eden-like; immigrants saw the new world as an open chance to morally begin again.

Once they cleared out the Native Americans, anyway.

2) ELEMENTARY JAPANESE with Baba-sensei is always awesome. Very sweet lady, very laid back. My only complaint would be that she moves too slow. I plan to move at a better pace this semester and place out of an intermediate class.

3)  JAPANESE CULTURE THROUGH ANIME with Professor Miyazaki = Win. Several times over. We took a quiz that went something like this:

  • Do you like anime from Japan?
  • Would you tie your friends to chairs and force them to watch Japanese anime until they too became hopelessly addicted? (My answer:  Depends on how fiercely they bite.)
  • Would you go without eating to buy the latest DVD release from Japan? (Not with corporations experimenting with letting things leak on the internet these days, we wouldn’t….)
  • Do you go home and watch Yuri and Kei, also known as The Dirty Pair?
  • Do you go to anime conventions… dressed in only a teeny weeny itsy bitsy yellow tiger print bikini like Lum from Urusei Yatsura?

This class is going to be something else. Miyazaki-sensei is like supermodel pretty too. Lots of boys.

4) CREATIVE WRITING with Professor Waldron (Barilla)

I was terrified of this class. I’m very nervous about getting a Masters in Creative Writing, very anxious that it will destroy more creativity than it breeds. The first few classes I take will set that tone.

Tomorrow I’ll find out about British Lit. And hopefully I’ll be back in the language lab with Taku-san, our TA from Tokyo University! xD Now if only he weren’t boring as crap….

A PROMPT FOR YOU

Tell me about your favorite class of all time. Was it a second grade music class? A college course with a crazy professor? Do you believe in education at all? Can’t wait to hear from you!

Love & Peace

STUDIES OF STORYTELLING

I have a very unique way of battling writer’s block. When I can’t seem to make a story fit together, I go back and review the first fundamentals of storytelling I ever learned…by watching Disney movies.

Yes, this works! I’ve told quite a few other writers about it who’ve seen where I’m coming from. Classic stories told in ways that have caused people to love them all their lives. If you’re shooting to be a bestseller (though maybe not a Pulitzer), why not pay a little attention?

I’ve started making a study of storytelling in everything I watch. As an 18-year-old, I believe I am still entitled to my share of anime and That’s 70’s Show, not to mention movies with friends. I always try to pay attention to character development, narration as the way the story unfolds, the effects of setting and time. I suppose I can attribute it to my teacher Mr. Ford, who invented a class called Film & Fiction in the Fort Mill school district and taught students to appreciate film as art. It was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken.

Writing isn’t the only form of storytelling out there. It’s not even the most popular anymore. There is lots of room for writers to take advantage.

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PUNCTUATION IS LIKE SEX

This is taken from a worksheet I received at the SWA Conference last month, and I just had to share. Cheryl Norman’s Novel Writing Class, as you can imagine, was hilarious.

Punctuation is like Sex:

  1. Commas are not like kisses. They should not be scattered freely among your beloved words.
  2. Like spouses, exclamation marks should ideally come one per person, per lifetime. (Except in YA, I personally believe.)
  3. Parenthetical asides are like secrets between friends–not a good idea.

THE TOP 7 DOWNFALLS OF WRITERS

Again, I made this list with the help of a workshop I received in Cheryl Norman’s Novel Writing Class at the Southeastern Writer’s Workshop.

The Top 7 Downfalls of Writers:

  1. Lack of self-discipline
  2. Failing to use biological time positively (Ex. Are you a morning person? A night person?)
  3. Creating distractions/giving in to them
  4. Failing to finish individual pieces of work
  5. Failing to set goals that are high enough
  6. Not honoring one’s own unique material and VOICE
  7. Failing to acknowledge the duality within the creative person (Ex. Extend yourself! See what you can do.)

BREAKING INTO THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY

As my blog readers know, I attended the Southeastern Writer’s Conference last month and got a bit of a shock. Miss Stephanie and–godforbid–Edward flipping Cullen did far more for me than I ever could have dreamed.

The industry is in a sad condition right now. That is undeniable. Agent in Residence Mollie Glick gave a speech about her job as a literary agent and revealed that a large part of it is keeping up with editors. Not only are editors moving and shuffling around between publishers and houses these days, they’re dropping like flies. Entire branches and houses are getting cut off.

It’s dark.

Apparently, Borders booksellers has nearly gone bankrupt several times within the past year and have survived by a miracle. (I’m very interested in this situation and there may be a post about it soon.) Without a doubt, the disappearance of a major booksellers would be disastrous to the industry. E-books would probably take off, boosting the printed word toward an obsolete state.

How do you break in when things are this bad? Where is the hope?

  1. Okay. Competition is high. It’s always been high. Relatively, it’s not that much of a difference.
  2. One market is still booming. One genre is easier than ever to break into. Respect for it is growing, and its popularity is wonderful. This is the Young Adult market, especially Fantasy. My market.

Four people–Emily Sue Harvey, Cheryl Norman, Mollie Glick, and Holly McClure–all remarked on how well the YA market is doing at the conference last month. About a week after it ended, I was in a bookstore, and I asked an employee if she was familiar with the YA section and if she could tell me what was selling best. She pointed to a few titles, naming one I’d never heard of (which made it all the more beneficial to me). “Anything to do with vampires, witches, or fairies. Actually,” she said, pausing, “that’s most of what we get coming through here right now.”

I almost cried.

If you’re a young adult fantasy writer, now is the time to step up and shoot for it. Despite the economic downturn, we are the ones who have been empowered. And it’s probably all thanks to Miss Stephanie Meyer and Mr. Edward Cullen!

THE OPPOSITE OF WAR

Because I understand that there is no money to be made in poetry (except the occasionally $30 contest award) I’m going to post my poem, The Opposite of War. Last week it got 2nd place in the Smith Moseley Award for Poetry at the SWA conference =) It’s about the World Scout Jamboree in 2007.

The Opposite of War

I’ve lost my accent somewhere.
Maybe I dropped in the Thames,
or it fell victim to a ghost of the Tower,
or a Windsor swan plucked it from my fingers like bread,
but I hope it was swallowed, drowned,
trampled by polished boots
during the changing of the palace guard
because I have never felt so screamingly blended
and whole. I could never find it anyway
in this seek-and-flutter of color—
Skin like rice and beans and bread,
Vegetarian choices and tea.

And the uniforms:
A modern exotic salad,
with British, American, Norwegian, Polish, Korean,
iceberg khaki,
Japanese spinach leaves, curly banana crisps,
topped with Malaysian mangoes,
Chilean blueberries,
rich German raspberries,
a sprig of French Parsley,
and fruits and seeds like stagelights
all topped with white summer light for a dressing.

One line seemed universal:
“Where are you from?”
One line in London streets,
Roman exhibits, and the Queen’s roses
threaded with bees,
echoed later when tears fell from beneath
a cowboy hat
onto a lotus flower—
and though we never closed at night,
the wedges of our worlds
unfurled and overlapped,
tied with “Where are you from?”

And the Prince sliced chocolate cake for us with his helicopter,
golden dragons slithered from camp to camp,
business cards fluttered everywhere like leaves.
We did more than I can list.
We ran mountains with metal slides,
built catapults, rang church bells,
painted, planted, traded, sailed.
But mostly we danced
in every language.

Forty thousand of us—
dancing to O-zone,
cursing at vending machines,
and arguing about African education—
from 216 countries
all over the Earth—
each with a different view
of God above it
and Satan inside it—
We babbled about the falling ame
and family.

I’d never felt, heard, eaten so many wonders—
and I’d never seen a gentleman cry like that,
screaming through the arms around him
that she was a blond half-Asian.
She had died in his arms four months before.

In the thick and thesis of our new summary of earth,
we were reminded of things that fall away.
And did soldiers guide us all here by the hands,
disappear so that we could curse at vending machines
as one world, one family?
Because if the World Wars
The Trail of Tears, the Boxer Rebellion,
The Rape of Nanking, the Ravage of Africa,
The Russian Starvations–

And if
Iraq

Darfur, Sudan

Georgia, Europe

Mumbai, India

The Gaza Strip

If these things wound and kill,
our many colors
evoke life with their vividness
life that manifests as stop-and-go conga lines
neckerchiefs of many signatures
international flirtation.
They keep it safe
by sealing it in pictures that steal souls
and snatching business cards straight out of the wind.
Our blending colors heal and keep alive.

SHINY THINGS: MY NOT-SO-INNER CHILD

Everything in my life is colorful: like blaring rainbows. I’m eighteen, but I’m not growing up any too fast, I hate to say. And I’m not even gay. I’m not even male!

Here are a few examples:

1. My Incrediboy T-shirt. I have been known to walk around the mall as an advertisement for my friend Lee Clevenger, the author of the Incrediboy series. See below.

2. I have a Little Mermaid motif in my book, so I’ve got a little Ariel crazy lately. I have T-shirts. I was also given Little Mermaid stickers as a graduation present.

3. Okay, I might like Beauty and the Beast, too. And Aladdin. I listen to these soundtracks on a regular basis.

4. Fine, I just like old Disney movies.

5. The pigtails. I pull them off. I have to say. I become quite Moe.

6. I have an attraction to shiny things. But don’t all women? Haha. Maybe I actually have an attraction to cheap shiny things. That’s a little more concerning. I ❤ glowsticks.

7. I have a tendency to stick my tongue out in road rage.

8. I have a weakness for paint. And playing in it. And sometimes making a mess.

9. I love crazy socks! =D

So I challenge you:  explore your inner child. What do you do–or have the impulse to do–that may be considered by others to be slightly childish? Knowing may open doors to creativity.

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