Refreshed and invigorated from Desert Nights Rising Stars writing conference this past weekend, I've added to my writer's tool box. I look forward to exercising the tools and applying them.
My debt of gratitude to the organizers from Arizona State (including author Jewell Parker Rhodes and Karen Sideris) and instructors, including YA authors Bill Konigsberg and Tom Leveen. Colors Michael Schiffer and Jay Boyer who was a Carnegie Foundation Arizona Professor of the year brought new insight into screenwriting structure and dialog. Like many writer's conference, the screenwriting sessions opened new ideas on constructing and composing dialog. Barbara Peters shared book marketing advice. it was a delight to meet Allison Moore from Little Brown again. There was a crime fic/mystery panel with author's Deborah Ledford, Dana Stabenow, and T Jefferson Parker--again different points of view to open my creative mind. And they were just part of a wonderful weekend.
My sci/fi friends will be unhappy that I didn't have time for the workshops involving Alan Dean Foster, Michael A Stackpole, or Gary Cook. Alan did read one night. And I had no time for literary fiction and poetry sessions that in the past have proven invaluable. There simply wasn't time.
If you decide to attend a writer's conference, remember that networking and learning is only a small part of what takes place. Although, I took copious notes that I meticulously e-file for future use, it's the opening of the writer's ear, mind, and eye that proves most valuable. Often my note taking slipped away as I organized a new thought shared and how it would mesh in my current work.
That new view points stays with you for a long time after you've packed up and head home. I desperately try to keep that new view point fresh and present for several months until the next conference.
I'll post later on how Michael's insights shifted and confirmed some deep structural decisions I've made in my 2nd Kami Files manuscript. as I sat and watched the interestingly different film 3 Days to Kill. The scenes with the overlapping dialog and film like the learning to ride the bicycle one is exactly what I'm trying to create with the plot threads in my manuscript. The threads cross several decades and I've been afraid that it wouldn't work due to lack of talent and tools on my part. Just seeing those film scenes with my new point of view gives me hope that confirms the end result can be powerful. I may still not manage it, but I'm going to get damn close to getting it right.
- May - 2016: Upcoming, I'll be participating in Desert Sleuth's Donald Maass Workshop. I'm afraid it sold out months ago, but if you have questions, contact me.Apr - 2016: A 2nd Kami Short will release in the Malice Domestic anthology in Bethesda MD. I'll also be moderating a panel with authors Karen Pullen, Sue Cox, and Gretchen Archer. Don't miss the fun! I'll have special edition signed copies of the 1st Kami Short from the SinC - Desert Sleuth anthology to hand out for free.Apr - 2016: An adult short story, Big Horn Mountain Carnivores, was selected as the adult category winner in the Tempe Community Writing Contest loosely associated with Arizona State University! The e- & print release where I read a portion of the story was the greatest fun. Thank you everyone who came by! Free download here (scroll to bottom):Aug - 2015: Politics of Chaos was released at an event attended by the awesome NYTimes best-selling author Sara Paretsky! Also, a flash fiction entitled, "Lightning" was 3rd runner up in the national 2015 Writers Police Academy's contest.
July - 2015: NYC FBI headquarters. Many thrilling authors were there, the presentations were fantastic, and the experience was a solid 15 on a 10 point scale. Thank you to the International Thriller Writers for inviting me. Thank you to the men and women of the FBI.
MAY - 2015: The Poisoned Pen submitted Chaos Theory for the 2015 Edgar's young adult novel award. Please note that submission is NOT a nomination. Still, it is an exciting development.
MAR - 2015:Tucson Festival of Books booksigning! Great time by all.
FEB - 2015: CHAOS THEORY, released by The Poisoned Pencil, an imprint of The Poisoned Pen Press - one of the nation's largest publishers of hard-back mysteries.
MAR - 2013: Meg was honored to receive a year long mentorship from author Jan Blazanin through the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators - Iowa. Ms. Blazanin praised Meg's multiple characters' distinct and age appropriate voices.
Her writing blog is located at megevonne.blogspot.com contains reviews and writing craft tools.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Ten Suggestions for Reading in Public
Once your book is published you become passive and the reader becomes active. The dynamics change when you read your work in public. Now you are back in charge in the most wonderful way. You make decisions about how the listener will hear your words. Here’s how. For ease, let’s use the beginning of the Gettysburg Address. Of the five handwritten originals, this one is from the ABC website. Use it as your template for the exercises.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
Goal One: CLARITY - Place a forward slash between the words AND every syllable. Read it out loud with a heartbeat pause at each slash. It feels un-natural, but trust me. The pause gives the word following importance in the ear of your listener. Note how the written comma, semi-colon, and period mean nothing to the reader getting the meaning across. More on this later.
Goal Two: BREATHE - Take time to breathe; chart it. A dramatic pause is NOT a giant gasp to gather oxygen for a deprived body. Learn to plan when to breathe in your oral interpretation notes.
Goal Three: VENUE – Don’t be comfortable. Your goal is to be active, not passive like you’ll feel in a comfy easy chair. Instead hang onto a podium or lean against a stool.
Goal Four: EMPHASIS – Pick out the words you want to emphasize and those you want to de-emphasize. Now vary the pause with a relative importance using one / for heartbeat, // for two, and /// for three. See example below. (Notice that the comma often is followed by unimportant words—like ‘a’, ‘and’, ‘as’. Periods are followed by ‘now’, ‘we’. I doubt those are the words deserving the importance the pause places on them. When reading out loud you barely break at those grammar marks which were so important when seeing them on the page. You are reading to someone’s ear.)
Four score and seven years ago our /fathers brought forth on this continent, a /new //nation, /conceived in Li/ber/ty, and ///dedicated to the proposition that ///all //men are /created //equal.
Try different combinations and hear the difference. You make the choice of importance through conscious decisions of what YOU want to stress.
Goal Five: VOLUME – underline words you want to say louder. Whereas the pauses provide importance to words, volume provides hard substance. In the example above draw a single underline mark beneath 'new', 'conceived', 'dedicated'. Double underline ‘all’ and triple underline ‘equal’. Increase your volume on single underlines, louder for double, and still louder for triple.
Goal Six: MELODY – Now you play with the forward marks and the underlined volume marks. Notice, as you read, how the increase in volume on one word leads to a new gentle or perhaps violent dawning for the next in line. Look at ‘/new //nation’. You can roll gently off the increased volume of ‘new’ into an elongated and even louder ‘nation’, giving it an awe inspiring elegance. By this point, you’ve moved the 2D words to 3D and given them a forward movement. Use vocal variance from soprano to bass to color the work and give it a melody. No monotones!
Goal Seven: PACE – If you thought you were harsh with your editing knife writing your first pages, it will be baby play compared to this step. You can’t emphasize every word through an extended reading. You’ll bore your listeners. They crave the pauses, but too many and you deaden their ears. Therefore, you chose what is important and what is not. Every word is important and must be perfectly clear, but you must decide what is MOST important. Then you learn to crisply rush over the less important. The listener accepts it, but will CRAVE the paused & volume controlled important words.
This means you can virtually run sentences together, completely ignore prepositional phrases, and all sorts of things to attain your goal. Sometimes things like a long series of prepositional phrases so pretty to the eye on the page, get be just as lyrical as you bounce quickly across the surface of them for your listeners. “Over the bridge and through the snow to…” The bridge and the snow aren’t important words--over and through are. The phrases add flavor and beats that lead up to the important /grandmother’s /house we go. There is a great short story by John Greene, I think, that is filled with tension and suspense, but just before each ‘got you’ moment he lulls the reader with beautiful ten or twelve prepositional phrases. Then BOOM.
Goal Eight: EMOTIONAL TONE – We’ve changed your words from 2D on the page to 3D for the listener’s ear and given it forward motion and drive. Now we add EMOTION or more accurately an EMOTIONAL HOME. You won’t read about a death with the same tone as reading about two kids playing in the sandbox. Smile when you answer a phone and the person on the other end will hear it. Imagine your pet dying and your words convey sadness. Find emotion in your printed words and let it out. Don’t act it out, but let your voice hold the emotion. If you want to get clinical, it’s a matter of tightness in your vocal box and facial expression, perhaps use your hands, and the all incredible vibrato you can add like an opera singer can. Yeah, that one takes practice—so keep it simple.
Goal Nine and Ten: HAVE FUN – and so will your readers.