Friday, June 25, 2010

Journal: Collections

Cookie jars fill the window of a local antique and collectibles shop. On the second shelf is a mouse cookie jar like one we had when I was a kid. We didn't have it long. Maybe the idea of having a mouse around a bunch of crumbs bothered my mom the same way it did me.Waiting at the stoplight, I always glance over at the cookie jar display and wonder where the collection came from and where they will go next.

When I was a child, my grandmother was extremely concerned I didn't collect anything. My brother collected buttons. And he kept boxes of unopened Star Wars action figures in his closet. Grandma believed every child should collect something, so she began bringing me spoons when she went on a trip. She was a tad flustered when I asked her why anyone would collect spoons without a fork and knife. Many years and a lot of spoons later I realized I collected coins. I loved when people brought me money from far away lands like Canada or Mexico and was thrilled when I'd discover something as ancient as a wheat penny or buffalo nickel. I wanted to savor the possibility of travel and keep history safe. I'd just never thought of my little stash as a collection. They were simply something I kept in a tin in the top drawer of my dresser.

What people collect reveals something about them. The serial killer for which the tv series Dexter is named collects blood samples of his victims. He's a blood spatter analyst.

Journal: Do you have a collection? Write about it. What does your collection say about you? OR Create a character interacting with his or her collection.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Journal: unexpected weather

Every reader recognizes the use of weather to set the mood. Thunder and lightning arouse apprehension in an audience. If the wind changes, well, the reader expects something in the story to go a different direction. If the sun is shining, we're happy. If a cloud suddenly floats in front of that sunshine to create a shadow, then we expect something ominous. A rainbow...
...symbolizes hope. Movies and books have created cliches in the use of weather, but they're important tools in a story.

Weather changes lives. It changes characters. It changes plots. What happens when unexpected weather strikes? Can it help? Hurt?

Any Oklahoma insurance agent will tell you that you can't predict it. Our state experienced a 100 year storm season for hail and ice TWO years in a row, which means that a storm that should occur only once every 100 years happened two years in a row. On top of that, record snow hit our state. Sadly, last week many homes in the Oklahoma City area were flooded and few of the owners had flood insurance because they didn't live in a flood zone. They weren't counting on the 500 year rainstorm--yep, once every 500 years.

Journal: Write about unexpected weather. Avoid cliches!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Journal: Voice

As authors we try to find our writing style. Our something that sets us apart. We try to recreate on the page something as original as we are.

It's called voice.

I just finished Kristin Walker's debut novel, and I love her voice. The novel is told in first person, and I totally want to meet her protagonist. Like so many other novels, Walker uses a Jane Austen structure and refers to Pride and Prejudice frequently. The main character's is just as compelling as Elizabeth Bennett or Cher Horowitz of the '95 film Clueless, another Austen nod. Fiona is funny. She's flawed. She's real.

Are you searching for your voice? Check out this novel.

Journal: Write a scene with two students and a teacher. Write it from each person's distinct point of view.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Me: How many ears do you have?

Max: Twooooooo.

Me: (yep, my son is a genius. No doubt about it. Wait...) Max, how many noses do you have?

Max: Twooooooo.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Journal: your old story

Setting is difficult for me.

As a reader, I don't pay much attention to it because I'm more interested in the people. I always have been. When I first read Anne of Green Gables, my young eyes skimmed pages of description. I was not interested in the setting. I was the same way with Gone With the Wind. Perhaps it's because the heroines are so compelling. I love a girl with an attitude. Or perhaps I have no patience. Who knows?

Unfortunately, due to my tendency to skim/skip description in reading, I've long found it difficult to write settings properly.

So I've had to work.


But, as they say, hard work pays off. At my last writing group, one of the members said, "'I can't write setting.' That's your old story. Your new story is that you write it well."

Insert hallelujah and thank-you-much here!

Her phrasing seemed lovely to me. I relished the idea of not having to be just one thing forever and ever the end.

Journal: What is your old story? What is your new story? How did you journey from one story to another?