Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Booker Award

My goodness! Jeff Hargett from Strands of Pattern awarded me The Booker Award! I am excited to share my favorite books with you.
Here are the rules for this award:

This award is for book bloggers only. To receive this award the blog must be at least 50% about books (reading or writing is okay).

Along with receiving this award, you must also share your top five favorite books you have ever read. (More than five is okay).

You must give this award to 5-10 other lucky book blogs you adore.

My 7 favorite books (I could go on)
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Years of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks
Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell
Tending Roses by Lisa Wingate
Rainwater by Sandra Brown
Katherine by Anya Seton
Coming Up for Air by Patti Callahan Henry

I'd like to pass this Award Forward:
Donna Hatch at DONNA HATCH ~ Romance Author, two time Golden Quill finalist and winner
Betsy Love at Betsy Love - LDS Author
Marsha Ward at Writer in the Pines
Taffy at The Book Addict
Leslie Pugh at Leslie Pugh - One Word at a Time
Brittany Gulbrandsen at Britney Gulbrandsen

 Thanks, Jeff. I appreciate the thought.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Daisies Under Our Wheels

I marvel at the women in my writer’s group who can listen to someone’s manuscript and, right away, tell you everything that’s wrong with it. I can’t do that. I have to read a piece and reflect on it before I can see the errors. Sometimes I play the mute in my meetings because the mistakes that others find don’t seem as apparent to me just by listening to the story once. I guess I am a visual person. Either that, or my fellow authors are just better writers than I am.

When I listen or read another’s work, I concentrate on the entertainment value rather than critique, unless something jumps out at me and pushes me out of the story. This morning someone in an online group posed the question: Does our status as writers make us more critical or more forgiving in our critiques? Hmm…that’s a question I've mulled over for some time. In my experience, most writers are quick to criticize, always trying to improve their manuscripts, yet determined to fix someone else’s work along the way.

Isn’t that what we writers tend to do? Once we’re rolling over the weeds in our own manuscripts, it’s hard to stop the momentum, and we sometimes catch a flower or two under our wheels. By nature, I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I want to build them up as a writer before poking and prodding at their grammar. And yes, this is a tough business. We’re told if we don’t have the mettle to handle critique, we need to find another creative avenue to satisfy our muse. But how many great writers, athletes, artists… fill in the blank…could have shined had they received encouragement rather than harsh criticism from their peers? Isn’t our critique just one opinion?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to help someone improve their writing. I just hope we see and relay the potential in others as we mark their pages with our sharp, red pencils. With our corrective and picayunish drive for perfection, we ought to especially use care with budding writers. Go ahead and crack the whip on your own work, but leave some dignity and hope for those aspiring to rise from the dregs. Writing is a tough pursuit, but I guarantee we will never utter the last word on any piece we critique, so why not approach our critiques with humility. Let’s see the daisies in other authors’ work, instead of just the rocks. Who knows, we might discover we've encouraged the next bestselling author in the process.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I love lyrical fiction. You know, the kind of writing that makes you feel as though you are lying in the cool grass with the book’s character, enjoying the gentle wisp of breeze rustling your hair, the faint whiff of summer roses permeating the air. I can almost hear the music of the trees as they swish against each other, the distant bay of dog, disturbed by a jogger passing by. Every sense tingles; every vivid word I read nudges me to wake and experience the scene as though I were there.

I found such a descriptive writer recently. Patti Callahan Henry is the author of eight novels about southern living and self-discovery. Critics compare her to Patricia Gaffney and Mary Alice Monroe, and now that I’ve read Patti’s books, I want to explore what the others have to say. I’ve placed her novels on my shelf alongside Kate Morton’s works. I’m excited to have found another literary favorite. I want to write my own manuscripts that touch others as deeply as their books have touched me. They inspire me and make me want to sit down at the computer, lasso words and corral them onto the page in ways that will best communicate the thoughts inside me. And though I may never reach such heights as these fine writers, I am grateful for their talent and what their genius does to me.

How about you? Who are your favorite authors, and what impassions you about their writing? Please share so others may sample their work.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Accuracy In Fiction

How accurate does an author need to be when writing fiction? I found a variety of opinions on the topic. Most agree that a work of fiction is exactly that—not meant to be factual. One definition of the word explains that fiction “is a pretense that does not represent actuality but has been invented.” With that description, need I say more?

However, many writers argue an author of fiction needs to be at least correct in setting or in technology or about the era in which they write. I do as much research as I can before I weave a story, but even the most carefully-researched novel can contain factual errors. If you weren’t in the thick of the battle, or haven’t participated in the latest high-tech gadgetry, or have never set foot on a submarine, you are at a disadvantage compared to those who have or did. No amount of research can take the place of first-hand experiences.

One problem arises when intelligent, educated, well-read individuals take what they read in a novel as fact. And if they catch you in a fabrication, they may put your book down and never read anything you write again. The controversy that surrounded Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, proves that many “educated” individuals were offended by the concepts he presented in that work. Brown’s statement in the beginning of his book that claimed some of what he wrote was fact might have added to the chaos, but the book was fiction.

Another issue develops because information that someone may have considered accurate years ago may now prove obsolete. Evidence continues to break on the horizon, and our fast-paced, sci-fi, mechanistic society waits for no one. Getting our hands on the most accurate research is difficult, at best.

So how can a fiction writer satisfy the fact lover’s appetite and still retain license to create the story they want to spin? I say it’s a war we are almost certain to fail. But should we fret about it? A more accurate detail will always lurk around the corner or surface the day after your novel hits the bookstore shelves. Just check the essentials the best you can, stay true to your own accuracy-meter, and type like mad. But the most important element is to use your imagination. After all, you’re writing fiction, and I dare anyone to dispute that fact.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

I'd Rather Be an Introvert

A few posts ago, I suggested writers might be more introverted than actors. I recently read a blog that discussed introverts, and the author listed several myths surrounding them that I believe sum up the majority of creative people in the world. Here is his list:

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become extroverts

Does that sound like any of the prejudices against you creative individuals out there?

The author explained introverts were people who liked to talk, but they needed a reason to engage in conversation with others, a reason to interact. They are not aloof or rude; they just find small talk unnecessary. And get an introvert in a discussion on that which they are passionate about, and you may find yourself captive for hours.

Unfortunately, extroverts find it hard to understand that the inner world of the introvert is much more exciting and stimulating than the thrill-seeking, mile-a-minute opportunities they levitate toward. But what is wrong with that? Over-stimulation often provides too many distractions for an artist. These activities get in the way of the genius that comes in the still, small moments—those moments that provide a great deal of fun and relaxation.

The more I delved into that blog article, the more I recognized myself in the author’s description. Only, I always thought there was something wrong with me. I always wondered why I couldn’t be more like an extrovert. After all, they seem to get results faster and are more accepted than those with quite, thoughtful natures. No matter how I tried, I just couldn’t fix myself to act differently either.

So be it. I look at what I’ve accomplished in creativity, and I am grateful. I wouldn’t trade who I am for all the acceptance on the planet. And although, I’d like exciting experiences filed away in my brain so I know what I’m talking about when my characters climb a mountain or shoot a gun, I’d much rather be behind the computer and living my thrills on the page.

How about you?