Posts Tagged ‘creative writing journal’

Want to discuss your favorite young adult books?  Learn about current publishing trends?  See me looking all nervous and awkward in person?  If you’re in the Dallas area on March 25th, you’re in luck!

The ABCs of YA, Sunday, March 25 2012, 1 PM   Lucky Dog Books  10801 Garland Road, Dallas 75218

Behold my graphic design skillz.

Come to the Writer’s Garret and talk YA with Kristen Dickson and me in a free Writers’ Block about YA.

Click here for all the details.  From the Garret’s website:

Join various members of The Writer’s Garret community for an open discussion of one of the most vibrant genres in publishing today: Young Adult Fiction. Learn about publishing trends, gender and race issues, censorship, and writing for teens and twenty-somethings. We will save time to discuss your favorite books: from contemporary romances, to urban dystopias… and even vampires, werewolves, and magicians.

So, if you’re in the area on Sunday the 25th, we would love for you to join our discussion.  Please don’t make us stand there with no audience.  That would be super awkward indeed.

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I am supposed to be keeping a journal as I read my two books for class. I’ve been reading them, yes, but the writing I’ve been doing has not been here on the blog. Instead, I’ve been inspired to work on the umpteenth rewrite of my novel instead. Francine Prose has helped me to really analyze my sentences – not just the structure, but also their worth.

As a result, I’ve hacked away a bunch of superfluous sentences (Strunk and White would be so proud, as their mantra of “omit needless words!” sings in my head each time I press “delete.”). I think I’m finally getting to a place where I understand what is really integral to the story, and I know that cutting huge chunks of crappy writing is okay, because if I choose to replace those words, I will type in something much more meaningful instead.

So classmates, sorry I’ve been such a shitty blogger. I’ve been writing instead, and the Great American YA Novel thanks you for your patience!

Incidentally, I’m writing this on my iPhone at Pearl Cup, enjoying a latte and beautiful spring day while two girls discuss Neil LaBute plays at the table behind me. It is indeed a good day.

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I kind of feel like a fraud writing this.  Full disclosure: before beginning my writing program last fall, I hadn’t taken an English or literature class since 1995, and that was high school (I tested out of  college English).  So I feel a little silly trying to write in a scholarly way about something I’m reading, because I’m ridiculously out of practice.  And I’m sure that there was a lot of information covered in college lit and writing classes, and I’m just now playing catch-up.

Anyway, I’m just going to write this in typical Mandy fashion, with honesty, humor, and not too many technical terms.  And I’ll probably use too many adverbs.

So… even though I said in my earlier post that I could skip around in This is PUSH if I wanted to, I started with the first two pieces anyway, like a good little sheep.

The book opens with a creative nonfiction story called “The Lost Chapter,” by Eireann Corrigan.  Corrigan wrote a poetry memoir called You Remind Me of You, which deals with her ex-boyfriend Daniel’s attempted suicide.  I haven’t read You Remind Me of You, but I was able to glean enough of the story by reading “The Lost Chapter,” which addresses Jim, the guy she was dating at the time Daniel shot himself.

The tragic thing is that Jim died in a car accident not long after they broke up (which happened soon after Daniel’s attempted suicide).  “The Lost Chapter” is an apology of sorts to Jim, because Corrigan gave him such a bit part in her memoir, even going so far as to change his name to Ben.  The story packs a huge emotional wallop, especially for a reader unfamiliar with Corrigan’s poetry memoir (which I now want to read).

Corrigan uses a specific pattern in many of her sentences: groups of three.  Consider her contrast between the two boys (all italics are mine):  “Daniel, the kid I wrote most of my poems about was in college and on acid and generally unavailable. And this guy had even bluer eyes and wrote poems and went to Rutgers nearby.”  And more about Jim: “My parents approved of him so intensely that they moved my curfew back an hour, even though he had hair to his shoulders and drove a red sports car and my brother said he looked like smoked weed. This pattern repeats again and again throughout the piece, and to me, the pattern gives the story a very rhythmic quality.

I guess it’s no surprise that a poet’s creative nonfiction would have a rhythmic, lyrical quality.  She often writes in incomplete sentences (clauses, really), a trait that I share with her.  For example, “We used to tell ourselves that we at least owed it to Jim to love each other hard and well, as if that would somehow make it worth the world losing him. But of course it couldn’t. Not even on the planet of the most selfish. Not even on the ninth moon of the most careless.”

I was pleasantly surprised by this piece, and it was so heartfelt and moving that even I was crying a little bit by the end.

So I wiped my eyes and went on to the next piece, the eagerly-awaited Marcus Zusak story “The First Six Killers.”  Readers, I loved it.  It’s a strange, quirky little story about Henry, a young guy who digs graves and plays the flute, and Aretha, the girl he grows to love.  And of course, being Zusak, it’s rather dark.  I won’t tell you the whole story, because you should just go read it.  Right now.

Zusak is apparently a huge fan of simile, and he employs it so well.  His narrator, Henry Shipps, on himself: “I have a face like darkness.  I have a smile like an uncomfortable tide.”  And on his mother and father: “Arnold Shipps also has a darkness face, but he has a smile like a shoulder.  Zelda shipps has red hair.  Her face is white and a little bit grey, like the clouds.”

What is “a smile like a shoulder” anyway?

More similes:

  • “My voice sounds like a crooked trolley”
  • “I am like a rainy day”
  • “The funeral was like a merry-go-round. The people circled the grave.”

And my favorite example: “The trees of the cemetery are also too big. Their shade is like voices. When it’s windy it’s like they’re clearing their throats.”  Later he says, “We stood there, the girl and me.  We stood amongst the voice shadows, the graves and the cooling tears on her face.”  I love that he took a simile (their shade is like voices) and turned it into a noun (voice shadows).

His metaphors are particularly fun.  Take this passage:

“Saturday is routine, like this:
My alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m.
My cornflakes are earthquakes in the still of the morning.
I brush my teeth.
I go to work.”

I believe I actually gasped a little when I read that.  Henry’s morning ritual… mundane, mundane, amazing metaphor, mundane, mundane. I love it.

Beyond just similes and metaphors, Zusak’s masterful imagery is all over this piece.

  • “Later, though, her voice gave me a cracked mouth and a dry riverbed throat.”
  • “I only looked down at my grave digging shirt. Right down the middle of it, there was a staircase of blood.”
  • “I was in the supermarket and there was a small girl with crinkle-cut hair, a smile like a toy, and cheeks filled with artificial cherry coloring.”

Reading work like this has made me realize how much lyricism and imagery is still missing from my own work (this is a good observation for me to make!).  You know, I feel like making a shirt that proclaims how much of a Marcus Zusak fangirl I’ve become.

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Welcome back!

Last week, I had my first class meeting for Intermediate – Advanced Creative Writing through The Writers Garret.  I’m very excited about this class, which includes some friends from the class I took last fall as well as a few people I’ve never worked with before.  I already love the class.

Anyway, in addition to studying language, voice, and form, completing writing exercises, and creating a student chapbook, we will also:

keep a journal in which they will synopsize, comment on, and otherwise record their reading experience of both one (1) work of literature in any genre, provided that work has been published within the last 10 years (or since 2000) OR one (1) current issue of a literary magazine OR one (1) anthology of contemporary / “new” writing AND one (1) work of literary theory, criticism or “craft.”  These journals will be made available to (i.e., shared in class) all members of the class and will form the basis of the in-class discussion that will occur in the second week of each unit, and entries for a given week should be made in consideration of the broader topic under discussion (language, voice, or form.)

So, we’re going to keep a journal about our experiences with two works, specifically from a writer’s perspective, while focusing on the three main topics of our class.  I’m going to be doing the journaling here, because this is already my spot for writing about writing (among other things).

I haven’t chosen my critical work yet, though I have narrowed it down to just a few options.  I did chose this as my book/journal/anthology:

This Is Push

This is PUSH: New Stories from the Edge

The Top 7 Reasons I Chose This is PUSH: New Stories from the Edge:

  1. I already own it. What can I say?  I’m cheap, and I have a library with a ton of books I’ve purchased but never read.
  2. Markus Zusak is in it. Have you read Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief?  I thought it was absolutely brilliant.
  3. David Levithan is the editor. I’ve read a couple of Levithan’s books, but until I bought this, I didn’t know he was also the editor at PUSH, an edgy Scholastic imprint.  The teenage gay boy in me (yeah, he’s in there) really loves David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy, and come on, this is the guy who co-wrote Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.
  4. There are multiple genres within the anthology. When I was standing in front of my bookshelf, trying to decide between this and a couple of last contenders, I flipped through the pages and saw poetry!  And then I saw a short play!  And… what exactly is that Markus Zusak piece anyway?!  Some of the works are short enough to be flash fiction, and I took a class on that last fall and fell in love with it.  And the rest are probably classified as short stories, something I’m working on already.  Our erstwhile Lead Instructor, Joe Milazzo, wants us to stretch ourselves genre-wise a bit, and I love that I’ll be able to experience multiple genres here.
  5. I can skip around. I was daunted by the idea of reading a really long memoir or novel that would require me to read from start to finish, and This Is PUSH will allow me to skip around.  If I want to read the last story during the section on language, I can.
  6. I haven’t read most of these authors. I’m hoping to discover some new favorites.
  7. It’s Young Adult without being… Young Adult. This isn’t going to be fairies, werewolves, and vampires.  I checked.

So, ta-da! Welcome to my first choice.  I’m going to crack it open tonight (sorry, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, you’ll just have to wait), and I’ll read with an eye for language.  And tomorrow I’ll chose my critical work and announce it here.  I’m sure you’ll be on the edge of your seat, breathless with anticipation.

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