Monday, October 27, 2008

Writerly Report from the Trenches

The life of a writer mom is never dull. The last couple of weeks have been no exception. Just a few of the writerly to-dos I've crossed off my list recently:

Harvest Literacy Conference
J's and my presentation at Saint Xavier University about writers' workshops for youth and teens went quite well. The room was full. Feedback was positive. What you should keep in mind before offering your own teen writers' workshop:

1. Don't lecture.
2. Be flexible.
3. Keep activities short.
4. Look for hands-on ways to illustrate various aspects of the craft.
5. Provide a safe, supportive, creative environment.
6. Offer an open mic. The majority of the teens we work with want to read.
7. I said it earlier, but it's so essential when working with teens that it bears repeating: be flexible.

Critique group
J, A and I met last week. A was the only one who submitted creative. It's been this way for the last couple or three meetings. J and I are still working, but not on our novels.

J's been working hard on her new website, LitforAll. The site is based on the premise that great art isn't created in a vacuum. Readers are encouraged to explore the connections between some of the world's most famous writers and the peers of their time.

I've been working on short stories for Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. Since the end of August I've completed and submitted three. Along the way, I've shared a couple of my drafts in progress with the group. But, in general, I've worked on my own because crit group deadlines didn't lend themselves to my schedule.

Our group celebrated a milestone not long ago. We've been together three years. Hard to believe it's been that long. We found each other in the fall of 05, not long after I graduated from Vermont College. I feel so fortunate to have found this group. Without it, I know I would have dropped kicked my novel by now. Thanks, ladies. You inspire me to keep going in the face of fear, self-doubt, and life's little conspiracies. You keep me honest with your editor's eyes. And you encourage me to trust the process.

Teen Writers' Workshop
Last Friday's teen writers' workshop was a blast. Our topic, writing ghost stories, was well attended. Kate Gingold, an old high school friend and fellow children's book author, talked about her most recent book project, Haunted by History: Spectres in a Small Town, and shared her own personal connection to things that go bump in the night. After her talk, Kate helped us read a ghost story to the light of an electric candle and glowing pumpkins. After discussing the elements that make the story work--mood, atmosphere, language, plot, and, of course, a ghost with an agenda--we built a group ghost story using the lessons we'd learned, and objects drawn from a witch's hat--a clawed hand, a roll of tape, and a bat, just to name a few. The teens jumped at the chance to share stories about their own ghostly encounters. We ran out of time, but extended the meeting after it became evident that most everyone had come ready to read at open mic, and was eager to do so.

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