Sunday, February 26, 2012

Crazy Haiku as a Cure for Writer's Block

I hate the times I find myself searching for words I should recall with ease.

I'm calling this writer's word block. When I'd like to use profound, powerful words, I sometimes interrupt my draft with self-notes like:[the mom is crying, but what's an original way to say this?] In the blog Throwing Up Words, author and BYU professor Chris Crowe introduced me to Zombie Haiku. He suggested it as a cure for writer's block, and he's right. Here's another site that's fun, too:

The exercise of condensing thought into the compact 5 syllable, 7 syllable, 5 syllable pattern is not only addicting, but also helps word selection. While my haiku won't win awards, I'll give two examples. In a scene I'm writing, I have an angry mom who's really just scared. I could say that, but it's boring.

Here are the first two lines of the haiku I started to help me:

Anger coats her words
Stop sign hands, each nail chewed short

I had to play with the third line a lot. It started as "fear beneath each quick"

What I like about haiku is the metal energy of replacing general, bland words with specific, clear language. It should be dense with meaning. This line is unclear.

You might find that even after you stop writing your haiku, it doesn't leave you. My brain will keep repeating the rhythm, trying out new words as I do. So after I'd written this down, another line popped into my head: "each quick fear-knawed deep." Hmm. Sounds nice, but sacrifices clarity for word play, so it's still not right.

Here's what I finally ended up with:

Anger coats her words
Stop sign hands, each nail chewed short
fear knaws down each quick.

In my second scene, a girl goes to a hospital to visit her very ill father. I originally wrote about how she touches her dad's hand and it's cold. That bugged me, and I had trouble writing the rest of the scene. So I wrote out two haikus.

The first one wasn't that great:

Pen sits within reach
Of fingers without strength or will
Another hand signs

If this were my manuscript, I'd insert a note: [boring--better descriptive words?]

The second one accomplished it's purpose. I realize I'd started the scene wrong. The daughter needs to hesitate as she enters the room, move to where she can see his eyes,then, finally, touch his hand.

Head bent close to chest
Child-proud eyes, now daughter-blind
Hand's warmth yet comforts.

Okay, maybe this is too much word play, but I fixed my scene. Notice the dad's hands changed. The warm hands provided the daughter with a needed reminder that even if the dad couldn't see her, the part of him that loved her was still very much alive.

I challenge you to try some haiku. To get the juices flowing, go back to my post on Paranormal Haiku, or better, Chris Crowe's. Post some in the comments--the crazier, the better (as long as they stay PG.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool

Does a Newbery award-winning book really need a review?

Regardless, I liked it enough that I'm going to do one anyway. All I can say is that when Emily had to do a book report on a historical fiction, and said she hated all historical fiction, I wish this had fit her lexile so she could have read it. Historical, yes, but even my historical-hating daughter would have liked it. Set in the depression, Abilene Tucker gets sent to live in the town of Manifest with an aging bachelor who knew her father. The Preacher is an interesting combination of religious man and moonshiner, and the backdrop of the depression, the beginnings of WWII, and a city whose coal mine makes it a melting pot of cultures, are fascinating. She discovers a treasure box full of items and a gypsy lady who knows the story behind each one. As she hears the stories of Jinx, she learns the untold history of the boy she eventually realizes is her father. Masterfully told through her point of view and the stories, this book deserves the praise it's received.


Book Review:

I don’t like it when books surprise me by turning into a fantasy half-way through. This one does have a surprise, but Ruth White handled it so well that I loved it. Loved it enough to tell my picky teen she had to read it. Meggie has nightmares about the man who entered her California classroom with a gun, saying he was an alien hunter and going to shoot the alien. The family, consisting of Mom, Grandpa, Meggie and her brother David, move to a small town where rumors spread of aliens “suck out your soul by your toes,” I had enough hints that something unusual was going on. But what I found out was going on was so exactly the opposite of what I thought that I felt delighted and amazed at Ruth White’s creativity.
I can’t tell more without spoiling it, but the author creates a society that reminds me of Ally Condie’s MATCHED and CROSSED. Combine that with good characterization and great plot, and it’s a practically perfect story. The ending wraps everything up perhaps too neatly, but don’t we all love a good happy outcome for characters we love?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

WIFYR Assistant Critique Deadlines

This is going to be a very specific post, sorry. I'll do some more haiku follow-up and book reviews later.

WIFYR assistants: After talking to Kristyn Crowe, I realize we need to clarify this critique process better.

Mandatory dates for getting an agent/editor consultation:

Everyone's work that did not get critiqued in person on January 28th, including synopses and query paragraphs that didn't get read, should be turned in by Feb. 18th. For Debbie's group, we did exchange synopses and queries already, and I'd like your critique comments back by the 18th.

Everyone should read these chapters, synopses, and queries (submitted on the 18th) for their group that they haven't already critiqued, and send their comments to the list serve by March 3rd.

This should complete the first round of critiquing. We will then start the critique process over. Review the comments you received from the first critique, make changes to your work, and turn your work back in to the list serve by March 19th. (3 things, pic. book or five pages, query paragraph, and synopses-- 1 page if possible.)

Read your group's new, revised submissions. Then send your critique comments back to the list serve by March 31rst. If you'd like to continue to ask for help and comments after this, you can, but that part is no longer mandatory.

All finalized, revised chapters or picture book, plus the synopses, will be due, THIS TIME TO MY E-MAIL, by June 2nd at the latest. (Hold onto your query--it's for when you submit later on, if you choose to.)

Hope this helps. Please comment to let me know you get this and understand it, okay?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Site is Live!

The site is up! Go take a peek at it--

And we're also having a contest on Facebook--tell us one amazing thing you've learned from past attendance at the conference, and you could win!

Okay, I got one great haiku, but there have got to be more of you. Come on, be brave and share!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

WIFYR Update and Paranormal Haiku

Writing and Illustrating for Young Authors always has two editors and an agent. However, this year,WIFYR will have two agents and two editors! Add to that Kirk Shaw's dual capacity as faculty and editor, plus agent Amy Jameson, and it's going to be great! A big writing contest is also in the works, with a serious prize!

The website caught a bad cold (okay, malware) that delayed things, but registration will be happening before we know it.

Meanwhile, Chris Crowe's recent blog post introduced me to zombie haiku.

It's a great way to practice concise word choice and get the creative life-blood flowing(hee.) I had no idea how therapeutic and addictive these can be. When I wrote these, my mind got going, and the patterns wouldn't stop running through my head.

Since I've wasted valuable writing time on these, I'm going to torture you with the results. After you groan over mine, I challenge you to write some better ones.

Paranormal: (vampires, ghosts, werewolves, goblins, fairies, angels, zombies, etc.), haiku: five syllable first line, seven syllable second line, five again for the third, Please keep the gore, etc., clean. Have fun!

Werewolf forest sign:
Stop in woods on snowy night
Strongly encouraged.

Feathered fall from bliss
Caught by sparking hands at dawn
Vampire eats angel

(My apologies to Jane Austen fans:)

Darcy proclaims love
Vampire Lizzy spurns his plea
The Prey is Pre-juiced

Universal truth
Lone man possessing fortune
But lacks possessed bride

Love binds groom in sleep
Red hourglass weaves night’s web
Widow’s prey at dawn

Computer screen breaks
Tech blames virus, but I know
It’s pixielated

Zombie seeks his prey
Stumbles on ribs now picked clean
Werewolves ate heart’s dream

Okay, they're getting worse. Time to stop. Please try it--you can do better than this.