Friday, March 26, 2010

Spoken Like a Frankenpoet

I'm not sure what exactly inspired me today, but I went to my CD shelf (yes, I still have one) and pulled out a CD I bought oh, 12 or 13 years ago.  Scott Wicken's Something Wicken This Way Comes! I originally bought the CD during the Edmonton Folk Festival after hearing Scott Wicken perform.  I think what originally drew me to him was the word Frankenpoet printed on the side cover of the CD jacket. 

To this day, I really have no clue what a Frankenpoet is (probably a production    company or something) but his presence on stage and his words captivated me.  Never before had I been interested in Spoken word poetry, and really, I can take or leave most poetry.  But the way he expressed himself, the raw thoughts he wrote, spoke and recorded made me think about life and how I and others perceived it.

He takes the most ordinary things and makes them a story, a guy walking down the street becomes a character with a story we need to question and wonder about.  So, I'm sitting here now, wondering how many stories have  I missed, because I haven't looked around me.  Not at the people whose stories I already know, but the Joe on White Ave, or in the Winnipeg bus station, or even the flies in the light fixture.  

Tomorrow, I'm setting out with a goal.  A goal to find a character, a story, a poem in the ordinary; to let my mind wonder, wander and create. 

On my iPod:

Crazy Dave by Scott Wicken

If you're interested in any of Scott Wicken's work, you can check out his website at Scott Wicken he has free downloads of his music, spoken word poetry and rants.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Author Website

After months of debating about the usefulness of a website when I'm not even published yet, I've gone ahead and created one.  It may not be the best site, but I like it :)  I've managed to set up the basics and I feel like it's something I can develop more as I grow in my career (or at least the career I hope to have!)

On my iPod:

Sound Strange by Captain Tractor

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Voice meets Content

I had an interesting moment today reading an expository piece by one of my students.  The prompt asked the student to tell about where they would go on vacation if they could go anywhere in the world.  Well, this particular student began with Yippee! Where would I go if I could go anywhere in the world? I'd go to... 

This really got me thinking about how to teach voice in writing and how connections between voice and content play such a vital role in producing quality pieces.  This particular student had been taught that by adding in an interjection it added voice.  True - sometimes.  They've also been taught to use a question paraphrasing the prompt to create a topic sentence.  Good - but not great. And together it made me question if voice can really be taught.

Until I joined The Next Big Writer my reading was really limited to romance and classics I was forced to read in high school and university.  Now I've had the opportunity to read so many different writers and styles that voice has taken on a new meaning to me.  I look at some of the stories I've read (sexy vampires, love starved virgins, serial killers, warrior princesses from other worlds)  and I realize that those characters and stories aren't just a collection of words on paper, they're the voice of the writer.  So many of these novels I've read, I could never even imagine creating.  Yet to the author, they're completely natural.

All of this leads me to wonder how far can you take the process of teaching writing. Not everyone who writes can write well, and I truly think that voice is what separates the good from the bad.  A story can be well organized, descriptive, and grammatically correct yet do nothing for the reader.  Another piece could be riddled with inconsistencies, and spelling mistakes yet the voice of the author draws the reader in so that nothing but the characters and tale matter.

What does this have to do with the student's writing?  Well, I just wonder how this child got to the point where they thought it was okay to have a complete disconnect between their voice and their content.  Obviously they've been taught, somewhere along the way, these 'rules' of voice and organization, and along that same road through school they've lost their own voice.  It's possible they never had one, but this kind of teaching doesn't help develope one either.  Is it good to use interjections to create voice?  Sure - if they fit the content. Is it okay to use a question paraphrasing the prompt as a topic sentence - sure, if you can't think of anything better and you're out of time.

As a teacher, I wonder how to grade a paper like this. Content? Good. Organization? Good. Conventions? Good. Voice? Zilch. A student who studies and applies these learned 'rules' does his or her best.  They've done what they've been told is 'good' writing. Yet, I can't imagine how much more formulaic it can get.  It's like the five sentence, five paragraph structure I learned in high school.  I didn't have to think about making connections, just filling in the blank lines.  Does this really work? For some people undoubtedly.

Just as in art a child needs to learn how to draw a straight line, children need to learn the structure of writing. But like art, writing is subjective. Math has an answer.  It's right or wrong, but with art and writing there are rules that are meant to be broken.  Imagine if Picasso only painted realism, or if Shakespeare used the same number of sentences per paragraph in his plays.  We can't teach a child to be the next Picasso or Shakespeare, but we can teach them to emulate the greats to find a style, a voice that suits them, that inspires them to find their own.

The rules are there, yes. Teach them, show them and then show them better. Or we may end up with a bookstore full of:  Whee! One day my dog died. I felt sad and blue.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

First draft of query for Liar

I thought I'd post this here, mainly to give myself the encouragement to continue working on it.  This is my first draft of the query for The Gifted: Liar. 

Lies.  Everyone tells them and at seventeen, Phoebe Maddock was never very good at telling when someone was lying.  It’s supposed to be her gift.  Her sisters, Chloe and Lily have been using their gifts since birth.  But for Phoebe it just never happened.  Then her best friend, Tonya tells a fib so small it seems inconsequential.  Even if Phoebe had managed to ignored the severe cramps, there was no way she could pretend she didn’t hear the whisper of Liar in her head.

That’s when things get complicated.  Sure, it’s nice knowing that her crush is hot for her and it’s even nicer knowing that her dead mother did love her, but when Tonya’s lies continue, Phoebe begins to suspect that her friend is hiding something far worse than a date with a guy she met on line.  But in lies, intention is everything and Tonya’s lies are a cry for help that Phoebe can’t ignore.

The Gifted: Liar (Paranormal YA, 70,000 words) is the first novel in a trilogy following the Maddock sisters.  

On my iPod:

36-24-36 by Violent Femmes

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Delay Tactics

The Evolution of Janie - third round of revisions in process

Songbird - first round of edits in process

The Gifted: Liar - first draft in process

The Gifted: Witness - outline in process

The Gifted: Heal Me - outline in process

Last Day - still in concept development

My final realization?  I've managed to find every delay tactic in the book or in my case the internet!  I turn on the computer with every intention of finishing something, but first I need to check FaceBook, email, tNBW, PerezHilton, TMZ and then I need to check them again.  I open a file to work and I'm suddenly aware of the fact that I also need to check out MNS Entertainment and QueryTracker and let's not forget about Agent Query Connect.  I had such great goals at the beginning of the year, heck even at the beginning of February they were still there.  So, what happened to my drive? I feel like I'm in neutral, gently rocking back and forth in the wind hoping that I'll inch forward to the edge of the hill and plummet down into overdrive.  Is today that day? Maybe.  We'll see.  I have to check my email first.

On my iPod:

She Ain't Pretty (She just Looks that Way) by The Northern Pikes