Aug 31, 2014

Spillworthy Writing Workshops

In Spillworthy, Ulysses takes his best writing and transfers it to pizza boxes to display in his neighborhood.  For this Hermit Festival workshop, I chose a smaller form--playing cards repurposed as trading cards.  Spillworthy says a medium pizza box is about the right size for a short essay.  For our group, the trading card turned out to be a great size for micro-poetry.

Kids created all their cards around Hermit Fest observations. If their cards referenced anyone in attendance at the festival, they could go get signatures on the cards.  The performers and vendors responded to the kids with such joy.  It was a gorgeous thing to see.

We're heading back to Indian Creek Winery for a second workshop day today, starting at 12:40 by the stump stage.  Any kids who can't make it to the stage on time, can find me and I'll set them up with a notebook and blank trading cards.  

Aug 3, 2014

Five Years of #Amwriting

Today the #amwriting hashtag is five years old.  In some ways, I can't believe the last five years have flown by so quickly.  And yet, when I think of where I was in my life five years ago, so very much has changed.

I began writing six months after my dad died, suddenly feeling the incredible urgency of my own mortality.  If I didn't begin writing in earnest right then, I might never do it.  In truth, writing was also an escape from the pain of losing him, a way to begin healing a past that lingered incomplete.

I didn't know how to develop plot lines then and every new technique seemed like the one I would stick with forever.  It took me a couple years to discover that I plotted each story using techniques particular to that story.  My favorite technique was always the one I was currently using.

I talked about blocking action with toys--especially my vintage Little People.

I put sticky notes up on an entire wall.

I used a tri-fold board, writing scene after scene on sticky notes I could then move around.  And the whole thing folded away when I no longer was using it!

I fell in love with arcs for a while.  I had plot arcs and character arcs and risk arcs.

I did phase drafting--where the whole story was quickly written out in short scene notes, to be fleshed out later.

I made flow charts for writing and revising.

I had a clothes line with index cards pinned up for every scene.

I used mind-mapping and clustering techniques, using a method I called cluster plotting.

Today I am mapping out my current book using a large, artist clipboard with a light-weight, manilla poster board attached.  For some reason it's very important to me to do all this work in pencil and I'm using a kid's jumbo pencil to create bold lines. I also have vintage yardsticks and rulers which are somehow integral to creating the lines for my chart.

I'm no longer drawing arcs, but I'm aware of them in the background. I'm no longer using Little People, but I still see them on the page. I no longer phase draft in a disciplined way, but I run through scenes in my head and I know I learned that technique through phase drafting.

Patterns exist within patterns.

I started writing six months after my dad died.  I started publishing six months after my mom died. I'm still burning the candle at both ends, still learning, still working on the way the words fold together and the way the plot takes shape.

Just as I learned from various approaches to plotting, so did I learn from various approaches to publishing.  I signed with an agent and I fired an agent. I evaluated contracts and actually signed a couple. I experienced professional editing, both by a publisher and by an editor I hired myself.

Today I hear all those voices in my head, evaluating the writing and the market, evaluating the ideas. Today I'm committed to independent publishing, but I'm forever influenced by a traditional path that alternately nourished and suffocated my spirit.

It's strange to me to realize just how indebted I am to traditional publishing.  Without years of rejection forcing me to improve my craft, I would have published work not ready for print.  Without the extraordinary limitations of traditional publishing, coupled with ridiculously low advance offers, I would never have been brave enough to turn toward an independent path.

When I think of those who started using the #amwriting tag years ago, I see people learning from the paths they've chosen, adapting as the industry changes, deciding how to move forward, but all the while telling stories.  Industry changes and will continue to change, but writers are people with stories. We'll find the right way to plot each story we need to tell.  We'll find the right way to reach people with that story. I can't wait to see what the next five years will bring.


Next on the #amwriting birthday blog hop:

Aug 1, 2014

#Amwriting Birthday Party!

Wow.  I turned the calendar page this morning and realized #amwriting turns 5 years old on Sunday.

This seems like reason to have a party, doesn't it?

Anyone up for a blog hop party?

The rules are simple. You must be a participant in the #amwriting community on Twitter. This is a party. Please don't be that guy who thinks we've never seen a rant about people tweeting rather than writing. This is not the place for it. This is also not the place for a page-long advertisement for your work. It is fine to include links to your work after an insightful article. Do not simply put up a page of buy-Buy-BUY.

Prepare a post for your own blog about one of the following topics: 1) what the twitter group has meant to you as a writer ~or~ if you've been posting here for years, 2) tell us about your own development as a writer since you started using the hashtag.  This can include tasteful links to buy your work or a compendium of the most useful writing sites you've discovered over the years. (Please make sure the links are still active.)

In the comments below, tell us that you plan to participate and include 1) The topic for your post and 2) your blog address.

On Sunday, include a link to the next post in the comments. Make sure your link goes to a live post that adheres to the above rules.  If it does not, then link to the next post in the comments. (If it's the last post, link to the first.)

The last time we had an #amwriting blog hop party, participants had some of their highest traffic ever.  I know this doesn't give you much prep time, but short and spontaneous posts are perfect. We want time to catch up with old friends and meet new friends in the process, so we don't have a lot of time to spend on each post.  Raise a glass, open a present, release some balloons, provide a link or two, and then give us the next link.

*This blog uses G+ comments. If this doesn't work for you, you can email me your topic and web site address and I'll post it here for you.