Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

Hooray for Flash Fiction

In the interests of full disclosure, this post was supposed to go up yesterday. However, we lost power for several hours and nothing was charged, so you get it today instead! (Sorry.)

Hi, guys! It’s the end of July (now the beginning of August), however the heck that happened. I have had a very good couple of weeks since we stumbled home from our road trip. I’m finally feeling a little more like myself, and I’ve gotten quite a bit done.

I finished the last nonfiction book, and am currently putting together betas for the books/workbooks.

I made three finalized drawings for the Landsquid picture book as examples for an illustration portfolio (so now I only need to type up the manuscript and put together a list of places/agents to submit to, and then…I think I’m good to go?).

And I wrote the middles and ends of five short stories for my flash fiction class. While the class wants you to aim for 500 words a story, the first two are around 1000. That’s on purpose, since I’m submitting one to an anthology and planning on using the other one as a freebie for my newsletter, so I wanted them to be a little more substantial.

I’m pretty pleased with all five stories, truth be told, though two of them are only borderline spec fic and so I’m not 100% sure what to do with them.

But, best of all, I wrote.

If you remember, after certain traumatic events back in May, I was having a really hard time with fiction. So having five completed short stories feels really nice.

And since we’re into August now, we can talk about plans for this month! Or at least for next week, because that’s about as far as I’ve gotten. WriYe is doing a challenge called 7DN (or Seven Day Novel), where you write a minimum of 15K of a novel in a week. It must be a new project, and it should have some semblance of a complete arc.

I’ve got a horror/scifi idea I’ve been poking which I think would be perfect for the challenge, so I need to outline that here in the next few days. And I think the challenge will be a good indicator of whether or not I can give Nano a try this year.

How did July go for you? How’s August looking?

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Foundational Books: Winnie the Pooh

This one works somewhat backwards from normal because I, like many people in my generation, came into Winnie the Pooh through the Disney movies/TV shows. We had a VHS of the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh that I watched to destruction, and I was a great fan of the New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh television series.

(Seriously, it was a fantastic show and I wish they would re-release it in some form so I could show it to the small, mobile ones.)

I loved the characters, the way they’re all willing to help and go on adventures in their own ways. I liked that they’re so rarely going against each other as a source of conflict, and I liked how each character is given the opportunity to push beyond whatever their core element is, to grow as the situation demanded.

(Tigger has been and shall always be my favorite, but I am also fond of everyone else. Rabbit’s probably my second favorite.)

When I was 15, my grandmother, who knew of my great love for Tigger (I have never been subtle in my preferences, and at the time had several t-shirts and stuffed toys of the character, and we’d been to Disney World the year before and I’d managed to find Tigger for a picture), gave me a lovely hardback edition that’s a combination of Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. It’s fabric-bound and has golden bees engraved on the cover.

I still have it. And the small, mobile ones and I are into The House at Pooh Corner now.

The original stories are refreshing, each chapter a standalone adventure that never gets too scary or sad, peppered with little bits of silliness and a sense of love and friendship, especially between Christopher Robin and Pooh, or Pooh and Piglet.

It’s a nice thing to share with my family.

I know A.A. Milne came to resent the Pooh books, and Christopher Milne was never comfortable with the fame that came along with them, which gets into the argument about creation vs. creator that we see a lot, but the stories themselves are sweet, and I appreciate that they show that it’s okay to love your friends and to help them when you can.

(Also, if you’ve not read A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, I highly recommend it. Apparently the only mystery he ever wrote, which is too bad.)

Read the Winnie the Pooh books, squiders? Thoughts on the books versus the animated versions? Favorite A.A. Milne book/play?

Foundational Books: Everything by Louis Sachar

I was originally just going to talk about the Wayside School series, but here we are.

Did you guys read those? They’re each a collection of short stories that take place at Wayside school, a school that, instead of being 30 classrooms next to each other on the ground, is 30 stories tall, one classroom on each floor.

(There is no 19th floor.)

(Except when there is.)

The stories themselves are vaguely horror, with evil teachers doing crazy things and weird kids with weirder traits. They mostly take place on the 30th floor, with the same class, so you get to know the kids and their quirks and there’s continuity throughout the series.

And there were a couple of books in the series about weird math, which I may or may not have enjoyed a dangerous amount.

The Wayside School books are an interesting mix of clever and weird, so when Holes came out, I remember being surprised that it was by the same author. I think I read some of Louis Sachar’s non-Wayside books previously, but they didn’t make much of an impact.

Holes, however, is brilliant and I love it a lot. And apparently so did everybody else since it won the Newberry and the National Book Award.

I remember being deeply invested in Stanley as a character, and being impressed with how interconnected each character was to each other, either in the present, or in the past. I think it’s probably the first book I read that had so many levels of story present.

It’s also not a terribly depressing book, despite some of its subject matter. I almost feel like that’s more effective, that if you make everything dark and gritty and horrible it just puts people off and makes it harder to see the lessons the story is trying to teach.

What do you think, squiders? Did you read the Wayside School series or Holes? Or was there another Louis Sachar book that fit your interests better?

Foundational Books: Alien Secrets by Annette Curtis Klause

Woo, squiders, it took me a while to figure out what this book was. I mean, I remembered the book itself–I read it probably a dozen times as a kid. I remembered the main character’s name.

I did not, apparently, remember the title of the book properly, nor could I find it in my basement stash (which is where the books I took from home ended up). Hooray for the Internet, I guess.

(But where did the book end up, then? Questions, questions.)

Alien Secrets is a 1993 children’s science fiction novel by Annette Curtis Klause.

This was probably one of the first science fiction books I read that was really, truly science fiction. (That wasn’t related to Star Trek, at least.) A lot of the books we read when I was a kid was your standard collection of Caldecotts and Newberry winners–things like Maniac McGee, Number the Stars, Caddie Woodlawn, Bridge to Terabithia, Where the Red Fern Grows–all wonderful books in their own rights, of course.

The closest thing I think I’d read before was A Wrinkle in Time, which is arguably science fiction, but it’s not mainstream science fiction, with spaceships and aliens and all that jazz.

At this point it’s been a long time, and I don’t remember the story too well (and with my copy currently MIA, I couldn’t flip back through it to remind myself). The main character Puck (not her real name, never is) makes friends with an alien on her way to meet up with her parents, who are on another planet. Said alien has had an important artifact stolen from him, so there’s a degree of mystery to the story.

Now that I’ve looked the book up on the Internet, I can see that there’s wildly varying views on it (Publisher’s Weekly, for example, did not care for the book’s pacing), but, for me, this was an important book, and helped cement my love of science fiction.

Read Alien Secrets, squiders? What book do you feel got you into science fiction and/or your favorite genre when you were a kid?

Foundational Books Intro

Good morning, squiders! I wanted to introduce a series I’m going to be doing over the next few weeks (and then on and off afterwards) where I go back and look at books that have been meaningful to me throughout my life for one reason or another. (Series will be included altogether rather than separately.)

(And I think, at least at this point, we’re only going to talk fiction. Nonfiction has its place and time, and while it can be extremely beneficial, it’s not really the same. There is a reason humanity needs stories, after all.)

Some we’ll probably have touched on before, here and there, and things, at least at the beginning, will probably skew towards children’s and middle grade books, but hey!

I think it’s really interesting to go back and look at the books and the media that have had the greatest effect on a person, to see what they learned and how that shaped them into who they are today.

And if you guys have had similar experiences or different experiences (with the book in question or just in general), I’d love to hear about them as well!

PowerPoint is Hard and Boring

Happy Tuesday, squiders! It’s a busy week around these parts (again) (we may have overbooked ourselves just a tad) but it’s fine. Everything is fine.

::nervous laughter::

So, if you guys have been around the last few months, you know I’ve been working on a Skillshare class to supplement my nonfiction book series (also in progress). There are, of course, a number of ways to make a class, but seeing how, at least for this first class, I’m not actively demo-ing anything, it seemed to make the most sense to make a PowerPoint with a voice-over track. (The intro and projects videos will be true videos, but the main content is in PowerPoint.)

Great, right? PowerPoint. I used it all the time back in high school and college for presentations. Very helpful.

I don’t know what’s changed, honestly. I mean, they moved the menus around, but they did that for all the Office stuff, so not that weird. I found the animations and the drawing stuff and, really, what more do you need?

So that’s not it. And the content is also fine–I’ve got a palette and fonts that match the workbooks I put together, and this is a subject I’m familiar with and am perfectly happy to talk on, so it’s not that hard to put the slides together.

Except it feels like pulling teeth. Why?

Best I can figure is because I’m writing out the script in the notes as I go. This seemed to make the most sense to me, so that I know the points I’m hitting/have hit and can keep track of what I’ve covered, and so that it will be easier when recording the voice over because I won’t have to think too hard about what I’m saying for each slide (and will hopefully avoid “um”ing all over the place).

Being prepared is a good thing, Kit.

I don’t know. It just seems way harder and more time consuming than it should be.

Any tips, squiders? Any thoughts why it seems like it’s taking so long? If you were taking a writing class (say on expanding ideas or learning how to outline) would you rather have the visuals of a presentation or watch someone lecture?

WriYe and Pen Names

Man, this week, squiders. The small, mobile ones have summer camps at the museum/zoo, which are conveniently next to each other, but are inconveniently an hour drive from our house. So I either have to stay here all day (and I have the smaller one for half the day, because she’s not old enough for full day), or I have to drive up, drop one, drive home, drive back, drop the other, get both, and then drive home again.

I am so, so sick of driving the same stretch of road.

And I’ve had to go back, because I have been sick. Apparently I have contracted tonsillitis from goodness knows where, and so I have had to go to the doctor’s, to make sure my tonsils don’t need to be removed. Yay.

(It’s excellent timing, as I’m supposed to be teaching songs to kids next week and can barely talk at the moment. Yay. I am so thrilled.)

But enough about that. Ugh, seriously.

Though I realize we’re most of the way through June, here’s the WriYe blog prompt for the month.

Real name vs pen name? Is one better than the other? Why or why not?

This is a question I struggle with all the time. Should I write under a pen name? Should I have multiple pen names for different genres? For adult stuff versus kid stuff?

It’s actually a subject I routinely bring up in discussions with other writers, who are probably all sick of me asking.

I’ve heard arguments both ways. Your real name is easily to maintain legally, if someone’s pirating you. Pen names help separate your real life from your public life. Using one name lets you show the breadth of your work, whereas using pen names lets you target specific reader groups so they know they’re going to get something they like.

I’ve given it a lot of thought, and to be honest, still have no clue. Right now I figure I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Bonus:
Which would you use? Real or pen name? Why?

Well, I do use my real name right now. It is nice and alliterative (I had another writer at a conference ask me if it were real once), and it’s also nicely gender neutral, which can be a plus when writing speculative fiction.

But I am still on the fence.

Next week I should have more time, squiders, so I’ll see you then!