Posts tagged November 2012 Star Author

Tiny Collections

I am a collector of small things. One of the great things about being a writer is that even a hobby like collecting can be part of the job. Do you like to write? Here are a three collections you could start for yourself.

I’ve been collecting postcards and photographs since my great aunt started sending me art postcards before I could read or write. Hundreds of postcards and photographs fit nicely in a shoebox. Read my last post to discover how collecting images inspires my writing.

In elementary school I started collecting names. The smallest notebook has space for dozens of names. Characters like LeRoy Pence (Dear Papa), Harold Sylvester George Klein (Little Klein), and Verlon Leek (Button Down) were inspired by names I collected as far back as 3rd grade. Whenever you hear a name that you like the sound of, or is interesting to you, write it down.

And my favorite tiny collection? Words. I keep my words on small slips of paper in an ordinary jar. Sometimes a word just strikes my fancy and I’ll write it down: labyrinth. If I’m feeling verb-y, I’ll go to a cookbook and write down all the action words: mix, stir, whisk, sift… Sometimes I start thinking of a group of words and add a bunch at once. Recently I added words I like saying out loud: Iowa, Ohio, Maori, autumn, iota, swift, oriel, oleo.

I started collecting words with my writers group several years ago. We drew words from our word jars each time we met, then each of us would write something using the same four words for our next meeting.

Every chapter in Little Klein was written using those word jar words. Harold turns out to be sickly so I could  have his mother warm a teakettle day and night. A storm arose when I had to use the word wind. 

If you like to write, I think you’ll have as much fun as I do collecting pictures, names, and words. Better yet, grab a friend and start collecting together. Then watch your writing soar!

Comments (6) »

Picture Your Story

DEAR PAPA is fiction, but it was inspired by family photographs, three of which appear on the cover of the book.

Say two writers get this assignment: Write about an elephant.

One writer thinks: What happens to the elephant? 

The other thinks: Who is the elephant? 

One writer starts by considering story, the other by considering character.

I am the second kind of writer. I can’t start writing a story until I know my main character.

So where do characters come from? For me, it all begins with pictures. After my first post, commenter Ella shared that she’d read Dear Papa, so I’ll use Dear Papa as an example.

My grandpa died when my mom and her siblings were young so I never met him. I asked my aunt once what he was like. She started by telling me that she wrote a letter to him before he died when she was in fifth grade. I asked to see the letter but we couldn’t find it. What we found instead were boxes of old family photographs.

I was particularly taken with a picture of my aunt as a child. This looks like a girl who could have an adventure, I thought. As is my way, I misremembered the facts and thought she’d told me that she had written her father a letter after he died.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that girl and her letter. So, with the photo taped on my computer screen in front of me, I wrote a letter like I thought she might have written, made up a name for her, then invented an adventure for her and just kept writing.

Here’s a writing game for you:

Look for a childhood picture of one of your parents or grandparents, aunts or uncles. Spend some time imagining what they might have been like as a child.

Study the picture and ask yourself, what could have been happening right before the picture was taken, what might have happened afterwards? Then set your timer (see last post) and see where your imagination takes you!

Comments (12) »

Trick and Treat

Hello from Monterey, California! I’m writing to you from yesterday. Christchurch is twenty hours ahead of Monterey, so you’ve reached November before me. How is it so far? I am thrilled to be on a virtual visit to New Zealand this month as your November Star Author.

Since it is Halloween in California, I’ll begin with a writing trick and a reading treat.

Do you ever have trouble getting started writing? Maybe it’s an essay for school and you just can’t come up with the first line, or a story that is fantastic in your imagination, but you can’t seem to get it onto the page. Getting started is my number one writing challenge.

The next time you’re stuck, try the timer trick:

Grab the kitchen timer. Get paper and pen or open a new document on your computer.

Ready? Now set the timer for 15 minutes and press start. Write as fast as you can, without stopping, without erasing, until that timer buzzes.

Don’t worry about spelling. Don’t worry about getting the facts right. Perfection is not the goal. This is a draft. Just write. You’ll be surprised what tumbles out of your head and onto the page. If 15 minutes feels daunting, start with 5.

Look for more writing tips this month, as well as the story of where my stories come from, and maybe even a word game or two.

For now I’ll leave with you with a treat. The sweetest reading treat of all: a poem.

Like Christchurch, Monterey is bordered by hills and the Pacific Ocean. Fog hovers out my morning window as I write, so here is a fog poem by Carl Sandburg:

FOG
 
The fog comes
on little cat feet
 
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

 

Comments (12) »

Meet our November Star Author – Anne Ylvisaker

Our fantastic November Star Author is Anne Ylvisaker (pronounced ill-vuh-sah-ker).  Anne is joining us from all the way over in America!  She is the author of four children’s novels including Button DownThe Luck of the Buttons, Little Klein, and Dear Papa,  as well as a board book, and nineteen nonfiction books for young readers  Anne grew up near the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota and now lives in Monterey, California.

Thanks for joining us Anne!  We’re looking forward to hearing all about your books and your writing.

Comments off

%d bloggers like this: