After the war, factories began to make toys again, and Ellouise discovers a marvelous surprise when her parents take her to the city to see Santa Claus, a baby doll that opens and closes its eyes.
Information to help others become better readers, writers, designers, and illustrators
Becoming a good editor of your own work takes time and practice, but it’s worth it. You will learn how to improve the structure and style of your writing, communicate more clearly, and eliminate grammatical errors.Plus, if you can edit your own writing, you will be able to better edit the writing of others.
Isaac Justesen gives the following tips for editing in Freelance Writers
1. Read Your Writing in a New Format
If you typed it, print it out. Alternatively, convert your Word document to PDF format, or change your text to a different font, color, and size. These techniques will help you see your content from an “outsider’s” perspective and give you a more critical eye.
2. Take a Break
Let your writing rest for a few hours or overnight. Putting a literal distance between you and your work also creates an emotional distance. When you return to it, you’re more likely to spot awkward phrases and obvious mistakes.
3. Read it Out Loud
To discover the rhythm of your writing, read it out loud. The best writing sounds smooth, so if you find yourself stammering through poorly worded sentences, you know it needs improving.
4. Remove Uncertain Language
Good communication sounds authoritative, so avoid wishy-washy sentences. If you use phrases like “seems to be” or “could be a reason for,” you sound indecisive and it weakens your message.
5. Avoid Repetitive Phrases
Try not to rely on certain words or phrases to make your point; readers will notice when you repeat yourself. Aim for variety. Use a word frequency counter to find repetitive words and scan a thesaurus to find alternatives.
6. Eliminate Filler Words
Use your word processor’s find functionality to search for “there,” “here,” and “it” to find redundant words and phrases.
7. Remove Weak “To Be” Verbs
Using versions of the verb “to be” can weaken the words that follow. Replace “am,” “is,” “are,” “was,” “were,” “been,” and “being” with stronger alternatives. For example:
Weak sentence: They were not enjoying the editing process.
Strong sentence: They hated the editing process.
Stronger sentence: The editing process repulsed them.
8. Remove Weak Adjectives
Weak adjectives also spoil your writing. When describing nouns and pronouns, use more powerful adjectives and avoid the words “really” or “very.”
Weak sentence: He was really scared of snakes.
Strong sentence: He was terrified of snakes. (note the use of "to be" verb, passive voice)
Stronger sentence: Snakes terrified him.
9. Use Grammarly to Find Mistakes
The Grammarly proofreading tool looks at spelling and grammar mistakes and checks more than 250 advanced rules to find mistakes such as double negatives, run-on sentences, and dangling modifiers. After you’ve used Grammarly a few times, you’ll start to see common weaknesses in your writing. (Note: Grammarly is not always correct and does not find all problems, but it does help.)
10. Separate Your Editing Tasks
If the thought of editing your own work terrifies you, break down the tasks into a series of manageable steps. In the first read-through, check your ideas flow logically. In the next read-through, look at sentence structure, and so on.
Editing tips from Jerry B. Jenkins:
• Editors can tell within a page or two how much editing would be required to make a manuscript publishable; if it would take a lot of work in every sentence, the labor cost alone would disqualify it.
• An editor can tell immediately whether a writer understands what it means to grab a reader by the throat and not let go.
• Have too many characters been introduced too quickly?
• Does the writer understand point of view?
• Is the setting and tone interesting?
• Do we have a sense of where the story is headed, or is there too much throat clearing? (See below for an explanation.)
• Is the story subtle and evocative, or is it on-the-nose?
Yes, a professional editor can determine all this with a quick read of the first two to three pages. Therefore, what can you do to make your writing better and/or make yourself a better receiver of editing advice?
1. Develop a thick skin or at least to pretend to. It’s not easy. But, we writers need to listen to our editors—even if that means listening to ourselves!
2. Avoid throat-clearing. This is a literary term for a story or chapter that finally begins after a page or two of scene setting and background. Get on with it.
3. Choose the normal word over the obtuse. When you’re tempted to show off your vocabulary or a fancy turn of phrase, think reader-first and keep your content king. Don’t intrude. Get out of the way of your message.
4. Omit needless words. A rule that follows its own advice. This should be the hallmark of every writer.
5. Avoid subtle redundancies.“She nodded her head in agreement.” Those last four words could be deleted. What else would she nod but her head? And, when she nods, we need not be told she’s in agreement.
“He clapped his hands.” What else would he clap?
“She shrugged her shoulders.” What else?
“He blinked his eyes.” Same question.
“They heard the sound of a train whistle.” The sound of could be deleted.
6. Avoid the words up and down …unless they’re really needed. He rigged [up] the device. She sat [down] on the couch.
7. Usually delete the word that. Use it only for clarity.
8. Give the reader credit.Once you’ve established something, you don’t need to repeat it.
Example: “They walked through the open door and sat down across from each other in chairs.”
If they walked in and sat, we can assume the door was open, the direction was down, and—unless told otherwise—there were chairs. So you can write: “They walked in and sat across from each other.”
Avoid quotation marks around words used in another context, as if the reader wouldn’t “get it” otherwise. (Notice how subtly insulting that is.)
9. Avoid telling what’s not happening.
“He didn’t respond.”
“She didn’t say anything.”
“The crowded room never got quiet.”
If you don’t say these things happened, we’ll assume they didn’t.
10. Avoid being an adjectival maniac. Good writing is a thing of strong nouns and verbs, not adjectives. Use them sparingly.
Novelist and editor Sol Stein says one plus one equals one-half (1+1=1/2), meaning the power of your words is diminished by not picking just the better one. “He proved a scrappy, active fighter,” is more powerful if you settle on the stronger of those two adjectives. Less is more. Which would you choose?
11. Avoid hedging verbs, like smiled slightly, almost laughed, frowned a bit, etc.
12. Avoid the term literally—when you mean figuratively.
“I literally died when I heard that.” R.I.P.
“My eyes literally fell out of my head.” There’s a story I’d like to read.
“I was literally climbing the walls.” You have a future in horror films.
13. Avoid too much stage direction. You don’t need to tell every action of every character in each scene, what they’re doing with each hand, etc.
14. Maintain a single Point of View (POV) or perspective (if using third person POV) for every scene.
Failing to do so is one of the most common errors beginning writers make. Amateurs often defend themselves against this criticism by citing classics by famous authors who violated this. Times change. Readers’ tastes change. This is the rule for today, and it’s true of what sells.
15. Avoid clichés and not just words and phrases. There are also clichéd situations, like starting your story with the main character waking to an alarm clock; having a character describe herself while looking in a full-length mirror; having future love interests literally bump into each other upon first meeting, etc.
16. Resist the urge to explain (RUE).
Marian was mad. She pounded the table. “George, you’re going to drive me crazy,” she said, angrily.
“You can do it!” George encouraged said.
17. Show, don’t tell.
If Marian pounds the table and chooses those words, we don’t need to be told she’s mad. If George says she can do it, we know he was encouraging.
18. Avoid mannerisms of attribution. People say things; they don’t wheeze, gasp, sigh, laugh, grunt, snort, reply, retort, exclaim, or declare them. John dropped onto the couch. “I’m beat.” Not: John was exhausted. He dropped onto the couch and exclaimed tiredly, “I’m beat.”
“I hate you,” Jill said, narrowing her eyes.
Not: “I hate you,” Jill blurted ferociously.
Sometimes people whisper or shout or mumble, but let your choice of words imply whether they are grumbling, etc. If it’s important that they sigh or laugh, separate the action from the dialogue:
Jim sighed. “I just can’t take any more,” he said. [Usually you can even drop the attribution he said if you have described his action first. We know who’s speaking.]
19. Specifics add the ring of truth. Yes, even to fiction.
20. Avoid similar character names.
In fact, avoid even the same first initials.
21. Avoid mannerisms of punctuation, type styles, and sizes.
“He…was…DEAD!” doesn’t make a character any more dramatically expired than “He was dead.”
Hopefully, the preceding tips will help you be a better editor and a better writer who is edited.
Contributed by Karen Cioffi
Children, the environment, and storytelling: a few simple words yet when combined can become a powerhouse for teaching children the importance of taking care of our planet.
I belong to a number of writing groups, and was moderator of a children’s writing critique group. What I began to notice is how we as authors are missing the mark. I began to wonder why more authors aren’t incorporating conservation tidbits into their story telling.
The Perfect Format
Writers have the perfect format for teaching and molding children, and the perfect opportunity. From picture books to young adult novels, conservation and the environment are topics that authors should be thinking of writing about, or at least weave into their stories.
The saying goes, “you are what you eat,” well children become what they learn whether through their environment, including schooling, or reading.
If young children are afforded reading material that paints a picture of the benefits and consequences of conservation in simple and entertaining stories, what better way to instill a sense that they can be part of the solution and help protect our environment.
If those same children, while growing up, continue to read fiction and non-fiction stories that make mention of conservation and our environment, how much more will it have an impact on them and become a part of their lives.
While most authors may not want to devote their time to writing books about the environment, just a sentence or scene woven into a story will certainly have an effect.
It can be a subtle mention. For example, if it’s a scene with a couple of friends hanging out or on their way somewhere, one or two sentences in the scene might be:
Lucas held the soda bottle in his hand, aimed carefully, and tossed it right into the trash can.
“Nice shot, Lucas, but that goes in the recycling pail,” said Thomas.
This would be the extent of the comment or mention of conservation in the story. It’s short, almost unseen, and yet it becomes a part of the reader’s experience.
Isn’t this what writers want to do, leave an imprint in the minds and hearts of their readers? And, it’s all the more gratifying if it’s a child’s mind and heart that you're helping to develop and mold.
Why not make our potentially thought provoking and lasting words take root.
In addition to entertaining through our books and stories, we can make a difference in our future, our children’s future and the planet’s future.
I took advantage of using storytelling to engage children and bring awareness about our environment with a three-book picture book series: The Adventures of Planetman.
The first book is available for sale: The Case of the Plastic Rings.
It's a great book for any children's home library and school library.
This article was originally published at:
Children, the Environment, and Story Telling
The last quarter of the year seems to fly by. Besides writing projects, holiday planning and family activities fill the calendar. Despite how the pandemic has changed our plans, a mountain of tasks remains. What happens if a large writing or editing project comes your way?
In October, an author asked me to edit a 117,000 word manuscript. Since then, two more authors have inquired about my services. I’ve also looked at a couple more projects. Now, how to figure out what I can add to my already jam-packed schedule.
If you’re facing the same dilemma, the first thing to do is take out a piece of paper or fire up your computer—I go the paperless route because it’s one less thing to lose—and make three columns: family/home, work, volunteering. Under each heading, list all you have to do for the next two months, noting deadlines where necessary. Then the actual work begins.
Review each item on your to-do list to see if it’s something you must work on, can delegate, or change the deadline on. You must also discipline yourself by eliminating distractions and interruptions and consider if you have the time to dedicate to volunteering.
Let’s talk more about these and see how to create that realistic schedule you’re looking for.
Delegate What You Can
The easiest way to remove things from your to-do list is to delegate what you can. Gasp! You mean I am expected to allow someone else to handle things I only trust myself to do?
I know how tough it is to give up control of things, because I struggle with it every day. Unless you want the entire holiday season to pass you by without enjoying a minute, you need to ask for help. You can delegate household chores, errands, and meal preparation to other members of your household. Even small children can help keep the living areas of your home clean by picking up their messes before bedtime. Family might gripe when you ask, but they will enjoy a less stressed you and appreciate more time together during the holidays.
Are These Firm Deadlines?
If a large project comes your way that you want to add to your already jam-packed schedule, it might mean you have to consider changing deadlines on smaller projects. You should not do this without giving it a great deal of thought. Some things to consider are:
Once you’ve damaged a relationship, it takes a tremendous amount of work to repair it, if the client even allows you that opportunity. On the flip side, if the new project will have a positive impact on your career, it is worth finding ways to make it happen.
Going with less than five hours of sleep for a month is not the right way!
Talk to your clients, keeping them informed of your progress. If it becomes necessary to move a deadline, let them know in plenty of time and be ready to offer them a new “firm” deadline for the completion of the project.
Planning ahead is vital to creating that realistic writing schedule you’re looking for. Here are some tips:
Many of these suggestions will work year round.
Distractions, Interruptions, and Time Wasters, Oh my!
Distractions, interruptions, and time wasters can threaten any project, no matter the size. It is especially important when approaching a large project during the holiday season to eliminate all things that steal time away from your writing/editing.
Setting aside a time during the day to return phone messages and emails will keep you focused on work. It is important, especially when you’re juggling multiple projects and family or volunteer activities, that you discipline yourself not to check email or surf the Internet instead of writing. Don’t fool yourself by saying it will only take a few seconds. It rarely takes a few seconds. As you train yourself, you can also train your family to respect your writing time and not interrupt your work schedule.
With many students learning partially or fully remote, you may have less time available in your schedule. Take time at the end of each day to plan the next day’s schedule and write out your to-do list. While you can’t plan for every interruption, put in frequent breaks so you can help with online learning. Post your schedule where family can see it. That way they will know when you’re available to help. In addition, have items readily available to entertain children once their school day ends: books, crafts, and maybe an hour’s worth of television or video games will help.
Do I Have Time for Volunteering?
We all like to give back to our community. It sets an excellent example for our children and makes us feel good about ourselves. The problem is we may find it hard to say no even when we don’t have the time.
Look at your list and see how many items are under the volunteering column, then ask yourself if involvement in all those activities is realistic this time of year. That two-letter word, “no” can be difficult to say, but you’re not saying no forever, just for now.
One thing that will reduce stress around the holidays is getting the right amount of sleep. Burning the candles at both ends helps no one, and won’t make you more productive. Get the required amount of sleep each night so you’ll have a well-rested mind to tackle your projects and anything unexpected that comes your way.
You can have a realistic schedule around the holidays that will allow you to consider taking on new projects. Use these tips to help create the balance that works best for you.
It may seem like becoming an author today is a no-brainer. You just write something, get it up on Kindle, and you’re an author.
Well, that’s true, but I wouldn’t consider you an author. And, neither would any other experienced authors. And, chances are, if you get any readers, they wouldn’t call you an author.
To be an author, you need to create a quality book. You need to write a story that’s well written, that’s engaging, and that you can be proud to have your name on. Before this can happen, you have to have some knowledge of what you’re doing.
Below are five fundamental rules for ‘new to the arena’ authors.
1 Learn the craft of writing. Even seasoned writers are always honing their skills.
You can take online courses or classes. You can enroll in college classes. You can read, read, read books on writing. And, just as important, you should read books in the genre you want to write.
Tip: Don’t read exclusively in that genre, read in a number of genres, but focus on the genre you want to write in.
In addition, there are many writing blogs that offer great tips on the craft of writing. Take advantage of them.
Tip2: Learning the craft of writing includes learning how to self-edit your work.
2. Join a critique group and writing groups with new and experienced writers.
Even seasoned writers have trouble finding the trouble spots in their own stories. For this reason, you must belong to a writing group and critique group.
Critique groups see what you don’t. They spot: holes in your story, areas where you’re lacking clarity, grammatical errors, and so much more.
It’s essential to have your story critiqued or edited before you submit it for publication. This includes self-publishing. Just because you’re by-passing the publishing house gatekeepers, doesn’t mean you can forego having a polished story.
3. If you can afford it, work with a writing coach.
This really does make a difference. You get answers to all your questions, along with guidance and advice. Just be sure the coach knows her business.
There are lots and lots of people claiming to have the ability to teach you the ropes. Check them out first, before paying them. A good way to find reputable writing coaches is to ask other experienced writers.
4 Learn about marketing and book promotion.
Yep, this is a requirement of being an author. Even if you’re traditionally published, you’ll need to know the book marketing ropes. Look at heavy-hitter James Patterson’s TV commercials. He knows he has to market his own books.
Obviously, most of us can’t afford TV commercials, but if do online searches, you'll find many free articles, webinars, and even courses on how to promote and market your books. Take advantage of them.
The internet is severely overcrowded. There are thousands, more likely millions, of authors trying to sell their books. This means you need an edge. You need knowledge. You need something that will bring you to the forefront, or at least close to it.
Tip: If you’re thinking of hiring a service to help with your book marketing, be sure they’re reputable and know what they’re doing. Ask questions, such as:
- What’s the total cost?
- What distribution outlets will they use?
- Are press releases included? If so, which ones will be used?
- How long will the campaign last?
- What type of social media promotion do they use?
In other words, find out exactly what you’re paying for. And, ask around if anyone knows of them and if they’re reputable.
5. Pay it forward.
Help other writers who are starting out. Okay, I know this isn't a prerequisite to becoming an author, but it should be.
Established authors have always taken the time to help other writers. I’ve benefited from this and now I do the same. I even created a blog with other experienced authors and we share writing and marketing tips. You can check it out at Writers on the Move http://writersonthemove.com,
Then, what you learn, pass along.
These are five of the basic elements of becoming an author. I hope they help you reach your writing goals.
You can check out Karen's Books at: https://www.4rvpublishing.com/karen-cioffi.html
By Karen Cioffi
Writing is a personal experience. Each writer faces his or her own obstacles and processes. But, one common aspect of writing is it always starts with an idea.
You may take that idea and turn it into an outline. You then take your outline and sprinkle it with letters and words and watch it grow. Words turn into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into chapters.
The journey can take months and even years.
It's the love of writing, the love of your story, and the hope of publication keep you dedicated.
Then the day finally arrives. Your manuscript is complete. The query letter is ready. All you have to do is submit, submit, and submit again.
But, hold on a minute.
Have you gone over all the necessary steps to ensure your manuscript is actually ready to be submitted to a publisher or agent?
There are eight steps that every writer, especially those new to the business of writing, should follow before submitting a manuscript:
1. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Then self-edit your story until it’s the best it can be.
2. Make sure you belong to a critique group in your genre and submit your manuscript to them.
3. Revise your story again taking into account the critiques you received.
Here you want to use common sense in regard to which critiques you listen to. If all your critique group members tell you a particular section of your children’s story isn't age appropriate, listen.
If one member tells you he/she doesn’t like the protagonist’s name, use your own discretion.
4. Resubmit the manuscript to the critique group again. See if you’ve revised or removed all the problem areas.
5. Proofread and self-edit the manuscript until you think it’s perfect.
6. Print the manuscript and check it again. You’ll be surprised at the different types of errors that will be found in this format. You should use a colored pen or pencil for these corrections so they’ll be easy to spot later on.
7. Now, it’s time for the final corrections. Give it another go over.
8. Have your manuscript professionally edited.
If you’re questioning why you need to have your manuscript professionally edited after going to the trouble of having it critiqued and worked on it meticulously and endlessly, the answer is simple: An author and a critique group are not a match for the expert eyes of a professional editor.
Did you and your critique group catch all the punctuation errors?
How about knowing when or if it is permissible to use quotation marks outside of dialogue?
Do you know about the Find function on your word program to check for over used words, such as 'was' and 'very.'
What about ellipsis dots, or the over use of adjectives and adverbs?
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Isn’t it understandable why it’s important to take that extra step, and yes, expense, to have your manuscript edited?
If you’re undecided, ask the professional writers you know if they recommend it. You can also ask if they could recommend a qualified and affordable editor.
The powers that be, editors, agents, reviewers, and publishers, all know the difference between a professionally edited manuscript and one that is not.
Every house needs a solid foundation, right? Getting your manuscript professional edited is the same thing - it will provide a solid foundation.
The number of authors seeking publishers and/or agents is staggering.
Yet, the number of publishers and agents is limited. If your budget allows, give your manuscript every advantage possible.
One of those advantages is having it professionally edited. It can be the deciding factor in whether your manuscript makes it to the editor’s ‘to read’ pile or the trash pile.
Fall bookselling season is here. Known as the best time of the year for book sales, everything in 2020 looks a little different because of the pandemic's impact on book clubs, local author events, and school book fairs.
The silver lining is an August report from NPD that states the U.S. print book market is up 5.5% over the same time period in 2019. The same report predicts the book market is on track to have one of its best years since NPD Bookscan began tracking data in 2004.
Are you ready?
Some organizers of cancelled events are opting for virtual events. Debut authors are experiencing varied levels of success with virtual events when combined with more traditional methods. Consider getting together with a few author friends and holding a live virtual event.
Social media helps you reach people via your ability to engage others on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Using holidays, big and small, as a way to promote your books can be helpful. World Kindness Day takes place on November 13 each year. The purpose of that holiday is “to highlight good deeds in the community focusing on the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us.” If your book involves an act of kindness, you could highlight it on November 13 or on Random Acts of Kindness Day, which is February 17.
Social media ads are also a way to promote your book. The social media site you choose will depend upon who is your target market and where they socialize. This article from BigCommerce discusses social media advertising.
Don't Forget the Locals
Despite the pandemic, local newspapers still need human interest stories, independent book stores still hold author events (even if they are virtual), and local schools may need workshop ideas that tie into their curriculum. Reach out to your local contacts and let them know you are there to help.
Printers may experience production delays, so be sure to order your books early.
Using these tips, you can prepare yourself to sell during the holiday book buying season.
I arrived at Brian Heinz's house to find him boxing books for a book event, boxes piled everywhere.
"Sorry," he said. "I have to work every minute possible, but ask away. I can answer and do this, too." He pointed at the books and boxes. He removed a stack of books from am arm chair. "Have a seat."
"All right." After I sat, I brought out my well-used list of questions and turned on my recorder. "First, how did/does your history and home background affect your writing?"
Brian's voice, a bit muffled, came from inside a cabinet as he grabbed more books. "As a boy, my friends and I often rode bikes to lakes and ponds on eastern Long Island. We found pleasure in risk-taking and formed lifelong bonds of friendship, similar to the characters in Peabody Pond." He plunked books on a table beside an empty box.
As he placed books in the box, he continued, "From childhood to adulthood, I harbored a
fascination with the natural world and the uncanny behaviors and adaptations of
animal life. Growing up in a moderately rural area on an island where saltwater
environs were also nearby. My mother, born in Ireland, taught me to read before
I entered Kindergarten and by third grade I was engrossed in treading outdoor
adventure novels like White Fang and Call of the Wild by the great American
writer Jack London. These books shaped my love of the genre."
Referring to my list, I responded, "Thanks. Tell us something about your educational background that made you a better, or more caring, writer."
"After high school I attended Stony Brook University and received my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education with an emphasis on Science and Language Arts. When I entered the teaching profession, I ran staff development programs in outdoor education and integrated teaching strategies." He stacked the filled box on top of another on the floor. "My young classroom students enjoyed five all-day canoe trips on the navigable rivers of Long Island, which instilled in them a deep appreciation of all things wild and developed them a sense of good stewardship for the ecological health of our planet."
He grabbed another empty box and plopped it on the table. "I spent 28 years as a classroom teacher. As a published author of award-winning books, I was an adjunct professor at Hofstra University teaching the Summer Writers Program."
I watched him pack more books before asking the next question. "Please share your hobbies, interests, or activities with us, you know the ones for during your leisure time (I laughed)m if you have any."
He grinned and sat in his office chair before answering. "I have traveled extensively to natural parks, hiking and photographing, throughout the United States. Much of my travel provided research for my true-to-life picture books on the natural world. This includes two weeks in the Cheyenne River Canyon to study a herd of wild mustangs for one of my books, and an overland dogsled trip at -20 degrees for research on my polar bear adventure. I have camped across Canada and visited several European countries, including Ireland, to visit my mothers birthplace and home.
"I’m a naval history buff and have built many museum-quality plank-on-frame ship models of famous sailing vessels throughout history.
"I also enjoy woodworking and have built
furniture pieces from native wood in my workshop at our vacation home in New
York’s Adirondack Mountains."
Surprised he found time for anything other than writing or attending book events, I paused a moment before introducing the next topic.
"Authors are often asked when they started writing or what triggered their interest in writing. I’d like to know that, too, but I would especially like to know what keeps you writing."
Brian tilted his head to one side to look out the window. "My interest in writing began in elementary school and was a direct result of my mother creating in me a lifelong love of language and literature. I recall composing stories in fourth grade and was in honors English classes through high school. Writing can be a lonely effort, but when a piece is complete and well-accepted by my writers’ group, the satisfaction is intense. But, most importantly, the piece must move me emotionally, or I cast it aside. If I have lost interest, so will my reader.
"I visit many dozens of schools each year presenting programs, and the joy I see in the eyes of young children who have purchased and read my books makes the effort worthwhile. I receive many letters from teachers and their students attesting to their love of my books and use of language. All of this fuels my fire to write, tied to my own curiosity about the world and life in general. In my travels to bookstores, schools, and libraries far from my home, I am always gratified to see my books on display."
I nodded. "I understand that thrill seeing one's book in stores, but how do you manage to write and care for your family,too?"
"My wife, Judy, is a
valued partner. She travels with me on research trips, and I trust her as my
first reader. She is intelligent, deeply read, and widely read. And, she is
honest in her comments and appraisals. When I am deeply involved in creating a
new work, she respects my space and the time I require. What writer could ask for
more?" Brian stood and walked to another cabinet. "When a bookstore has me sign books, they order them, but other times, I take copies, and I need to finish. Now, next question?"
"All right, I will ask and you answer. What inspired you to write your most recent book?"
"Incidents and relationships from my own childhood for sure, and my inherent interest in the natural world. These attributes joined forces with my love of classic sci-fi and monster movies and the slow percolating began. During my school visits while teaching writing workshops, I often created a verbal scenario to demonstrate how quickly an author can create character, setting, and tension while incorporating vivid sensory details to allow the reader the vicarious sense of being ‘in the moment.’ I set the character, Connor, out on a pond in an old boat when something strikes the floor of the boat from beneath the water. At the second strike, the bottom splits and water rushes in. Then I tell them that the character can’t swim and the boat is going down with no idea as to what lies beneath.
Brian paused a moment. "I would leave it there for students to ponder, but every student
begged to know what was in the water. I realized if young readers could be so
deeply taken in from just a couple of paragraphs, the idea deserved to be fully
realized. Peabody Pond was born as a result of writing workshops in elementary
and middle schools."
"Next question: How did you decide the title for your book? Would you share something about your book?"
"Since the novel is a blend of sci-fi, mystery, suspense, and horror,(with
considerable humorous elements to balance the more intense emotional scenes), I
wanted a simple title of a seeming bucolic and serene place that belied the
frightening world about to be unleashed. My great joy was in creating the
eclectic cast of antagonistic characters and creating situations that brought
them together as allies with a common goal. Their internal growth had to be
addressed as well. What do they learn from each other and about each other that changes
their view of people and the world. It couldn’t simply be a ‘thriller’ novel."
"Interesting. Do you have a particular writing process or technique, and if so, what?"
Brian set another box of books on the top of a pile. "I have no set
schedule. I react when an idea pokes at me and won’t quit. It demands to be
heard. It could be something interesting I saw or heard or read that had me
cogitating. Once I have the germ of an idea, I have to find a physical structure
upon which to hang my words, then a contextual framework for the language. My
books employ a variety of structures."
"How do you feel when you complete a book?"
"Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones often sang, 'I
can’t get no satisfaction.' Not so for me. The satisfaction is deep and is tied to excitement in sharing the work
with my writing colleagues before sending the piece out for publication."
"Brian, what are your writing achievement and goals?"
"Simply, to grow. I’ve written and published picture books in fiction and nonfiction, in verse and in prose, from the humorous to the serious. I’ve been published in multiple genres: historical, fantasy, coming-of-age, how-to, professional classroom texts,humor, adventure, and nature. I have published with nine publishing houses, and my books have garnered many starred reviews and awards. I always try to spread my wings and try something new. I make it a point to write close to my subject and with a sense of immediacy to the reader."
"Well, thanks for submitting Peabody Pond to 4RV Publishing. Now, how do any
writing groups benefit you and your writing? If you’re not in a writing group,
Brian sat in his chair. "I am a founding member of a writing group on Long Island, The Long Island Children’s Writers and Illustratorsor (LICWI). We began more than twenty-five years ago with twelve members and now boast a roster of 105, made up of both published and unpublished writers. We meet monthly for several hours and read and critique members’ works in progress. The feedback is frank and honest, but never abrasive or condescending. Every one of my published works has been read to the group.
"Writing groups are important in keeping you in the
fold and sharing ideas with like-minded people who love literature and the
writing process. I am also a member of the national organization SCBWI (Society
of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I also belong to the Author’s
Guild. It is always gratifying when a new and previously unpublished member
signs their first book contract to the applause of the group."
"Does writing help better you as a person? How?"
"It seems the more I write, the more I learn
about myself. I sometimes find in creating a character and placing them in an
emotional incident, I see myself and recall past misdoings of my own which
reshapes my thoughts on my behavior for the future. It’s a bit of a catharsis
and can be a healing moment, too."
"What advice do you have for a new writer, Brian?"
"Read, read, read, but with the eye and ear of a writer. Be analytical. How did this author open the story and why this way? How quickly were the character, setting, and tension revealed? Is there evidence of emotional tone? Sensory detail? You want to enjoy the story, but pay attention to the elements of the crtaft and how they are employed by the author.
"Attend writers’ conferences and listen to the speakers. The experience and knowledge provided by senior editors and writers at the workshop offerings can’t be measured.
"Subscribe to well-respected writing magazines like The Writer and digest the information. Put it to work.
"Be persistent, patient, and professional.
Every fine writer collected a sackful of rejections. They didn’t quit. If you
were meant to write, you will write. Read Stephen King’s memoir On Writing for
some startling revelations about learning the craft and dealing with rejection.
I nodded. "What is your favorite genre to read? Your favorite author or authors?"
"Favorite genre is still outdoor adventure / survival stories, but I read historical books, biographies, thrillers, and others.
"My favorite authors include Jack London,
Stephen King, and Bill Bryson."
"Thank you, Brian. Do you have any other comment?"
"This is a field of struggle and reward. You may spend an inordinate amount of time and effort to create a literary piece with no idea as to whether it will see the light of day in a magazine or as a book, but the rewards offered by publication is like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The satisfaction is and sense of accomplishment can often overshadow the remunerative rewards … which can also be considerable."
Peabody Pond can be purchased online through the author's 4RV Publishing page or from other online stores.