Writing Prompt Wednesday- Young Adult

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For some of us, our teen years are way back in our review mirror. It is hard for us to access what it is like to be a teen today. Therefore, it makes it more difficult to craft a young adult novel which will appeal to the modern young adult mind.

One of the biggest challenges teens face is this search for their identity. There is so much more out there to model and morph a teen’s identity and mostly the stuff out there is more harmful. I think about social media and how it impacts our teens. Not only are teens getting bullied at school, now they come home, log onto a social media site, and the bullying continues and escalates.

Today’s writing prompt is helping you get inside the mind of a modern teen.

Do, what I like to call, a mind dump (write everything that comes into your mind) about a single episode you remember from growing up as a teen.

Now, take that event and insert some type of social media site. What happens when your character logs onto Facebook after the event? What would your character’s status updates look like in regards to the single event you remember? What are the comments? Hell, build your character a Facebook (not a real one, but one you draft on paper- we don’t need any more fake profiles out there).

For example: Maybe your character missed the winning goal in soccer. Your character already feels like poop on a stick and his teammates are already dumping on him. Then your character logs onto Facebook and sees someone’s put the missed goal on YouTube and has it linked onto his page. The comments underneath the post are, “epic fail” and, “way to blow the game, asswipe” and the comments continue.  What does your character do now?

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Review of Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

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by Samantha LaFountain

Shade is the first book in a three part series written by Jeri Smith-Ready and published by Simon Pulse. The story is set in a world where everyone born after the “Shift” has the ability to see ghosts. The main character, Aura, works as an interpreter to help ghosts pass on by bringing them justice. Her thoughts on ghosts change drastically when her boyfriend, Logan, becomes one. As this happens a new boy, Zachary, moves to town with a boatload of mystery and an alluring Scottish accent. Aura is forced to work on a school project with him and tries to ignore how much she likes him, especially when her dead boyfriend is around. There is a trial, romance, heartache, grief, and huge overarching mystery about the Shift which is the focus for the rest of the series.

I truly believe in Aura’s character, her hopes and dreams, but more so in her honest confusion during the most overwhelming moments. In the moments of Logan’s death she thought, “I wanted to move far away, take someone else’s past and future. It would hurt too much to be me right now.” Those words hit me hard as I thought of my own moments of loss. Aura is a very self-reliant character but I feel her vulnerability as she questions her decisions and the future. More so when she questions herself part way through the novel, saying to herself, “I don’t know what I’ve become.” I feel her guilt as she realizes she needs to move on without Logan and what that could mean for him. I think one of the best themes explored is the idea of what would happen if our loved ones didn’t pass on when they died?

Readers learn the rules of this new world through the characters, which I prefer over a giant information dump in one go. In the very first chapter readers learn how ghosts find peace in the universe by suing the living, through a simple conversation between two characters. No moment goes un-wasted in this story. I am a bit weary when there is a sexual scene; the scenes in this book are tastefully done; however,  they tend to pull a reader out of the narration. For example, Aura’s turmoil about how she almost lost her virginity with Logan seems out of place; but, this self-reflection becomes very important later on in the story.

I suppose my only criticism is Zachary seems a little too flawless and understanding but I can tell a reader has not seen the last of him yet. I can’t wait to see how his relationship develops with Aura, especially after the big reveal about their connection. I’m excited to read the rest of the series and to learn more about this world. There are some pretty big questions left to be answered which keeps a reader hungry for the next book.

Writing Prompt Wednesday- Poetry

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A friend of mine once said every person resembles an animal. Ever since she said those words, I started seeing animals in people.

Today’s writing prompt is inspired by a chapter in Ted Hughes’ book, Poetry in the Making called “Writing About People.” Hughes discusses how people are generally nosy by nature and when writers first describe someone, they tend to describe people in generic specifics (i.e. she had blues eyes and wore brown on Mondays).

In my opinion, poetry is the genre in which a writer can really play with words and images.

For the exercise, take a person in your life (could even be a famous person you admire) and write down all their physical details. What color are their eyes? What kind of mouth do they have? What’s their body type?

Now, just like in last week’s prompt, I want you to cross out the things everyone has in common (i.e. the eye color). Take only those details of the person which are unique to him or her. Start looking for an animal who shares those same kinds of details.

Lastly, start crafting a poem in which you compare the person to the animal.

Writing Prompt Wednesday- Creative Nonfiction

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One of the biggest challenges people face when starting out in creative non-fiction is trying to find the true story in the tragedy. Everyone has felt the pain of a lost love; everyone has someone very important and special who died suddenly (or died of cancer).

Since we all have those stories in our life, they aren’t the ones you want to write because you want to give your reader an answer to the questions, “why this story?” and “why this point in the story?”

Also, from my personal experience writing about my life, I can never get the story on paper (or computer screen). The prompt I propose for today gives a person a way to walk around the tragic event.

Today’s exercise asks you to make a timeline of the event. Once you have the timeline done, start crossing off events everyone has in common. What you are left with are the events specific to you and in those events is your true story.

 

(Inspired by Kyle Minor’s Chapter, “The Question of Where We Begin” in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction http://http://www.rosemetalpress.com/Catalog/FGWFNF.html)

Interview With Stripped Editor Nicole Monaghan

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There is so much talk about gender in writing. Many claim women shouldn’t or even can’t write believable male characters. Furthermore, women shouldn’t even attempt to write a narration from a male’s point of view. The converse is true for males and women characters.

This theory was challenged last year with the PS Books publication of Stripped: An Anthology of Anonymous Flash edited by Nicole Monaghan.

Now authors are being “stripped” of the anonymous status and on February 9th some of the authors from the collection will be reading their own stories.

I wanted to talk with Nicole Monaghan to discuss what impact this book had on her and those who partook in the challenge of identifying the authors. Below is our interview.

 

Wittle:  You do a lot of work in flash fiction. You even have a literary journal devoted to the 25 word short story. What appeals to you about this genre?

Monaghan: I love that we get deeply into the characters’ desires and motivations within a short space of time by exploring their tiny but significant experiences.

 

Wittle:  When you thought of the idea of a collection of flash pieces with the author’s identity and gender “stripped” away, what was the key that unlocked this idea?

Monaghan: I was blogging about how amazed I was at how well flash fiction writers were writing from the perspective of the opposite gender and how it would be a cool thing if we didn’t know who wrote what for a year.  Marc Schuster, then-Acquisitions Editor for PS Books, suggested I put together an anthology.

 

Wittle:  Now that the authors are putting their clothes on and claiming their stories, what do you think is the most important thing you have learned from this experiment?

Monaghan:  I’ve learned that we really are all the same.  We all want to matter.  That’s why we, as writers, can create characters of the opposite sex.  And that’s why readers have trouble figuring out if the author is a man or a woman.

 

Wittle: What reactions have you gotten from readers? Has anyone been very vocal about knowing which author wrote what?

Monaghan: Most people who have told me how they fared in their guessing have said they didn’t guess much better than random guessing would yield:  about 50% correct.

 

Wittle:  The first time I ever heard of the playwright Tracy Letts, I thought Tracy was a woman. When I found out Tracy is a man, it changed only the inner voice of his plays and not the plays or material itself. How much of a role do you think gender plays into how a reader interacts with the material?

Monaghan: I think it’s impossible for a reader not to feel the author lurking.  I think when we read anything, there are an infinite number of factors affecting our experience of the read:  our mood, what we had for lunch that we did or didn’t enjoy, what we’re anticipating that evening, whether the character reminds us of our favorite aunt, the fact that the character has an identical emotional wound to our own, and on and on.  My point is that I believe we bring quite a lot to our reading, and we impose ourselves onto it, naturally.  This includes what we perceive the author to have “meant” and those assumptions are extensions of how we imagine them.  Is it a man or a woman?  Are they in their twenties, forties, sixties?  Do they have a family or are they an independent traveler?  Are they also athletic, interested in politics, or do they have a bent for all things scientific?  I think we cannot help but let these things bleed into our reading and interpretation of the work, unless the author is anonymous.

 

Wittle: I once got criticized for writing a male character. I was told I needed to have my male friends read the story because no guy would do what my character did in the story. Do you think the gender of the writer means he or she cannot write from the opposite sex point of view?

Monaghan: Nope!  See my answer to number 3.

 

Wittle: How has creating this book, stripping away the gender and identity of the authors, played into your own writing?

Monaghan: It was liberating to work really hard on a story, draft for longer than I normally do, and then not tell anyone (except my best friend, after months, when I just had to tell someone), which story was mine.  It made me feel excited to fully step into a male character, figure out who he was and say exactly what I thought he’d say, and do exactly what I thought he’d do.  Perhaps with other work I’ve written from a male perspective, I wasn’t as brave.