Nanowrimo Reflection and Pushcart Nomination (via Jim Breslin)

Writing Tips

An interesting thing happened after National Novel Writing Month. This Friday, I sat with my friend and editor Sue Gregson to absorb her feedback on my Nano manuscript from 2009. It turned out that her recommendations on that manuscript aligned with my insights on having survived Nanowrimo for a second time. When I had reviewed my manuscript after Nano last year, I found that in many sections I had reverted to writing more of an outline than a tr … Read More

via Jim Breslin

Read Poetry To Your Children (via MonkeyReader)

Writing Tips

Gary R. Hess

Reading poetry to children might sound a bit tedious. In today’s world, we often convince ourselves that we don’t have time for the simple tasks in life. We make excuses such as “I need to run to the store” or “I need to do the laundry” or even “my favorite television show is on.” Once you know the great positive influence poetry plays in children’s lives, you might magically find some time to read together.

Poetry can play an important part in the development of children. Actually, according to Beginning to read: Thinking and learning abut print, children who are without phonemic awareness find difficulty in learning to read and write. Instead of focusing on the phonemes, the children focus on the meaning of the word.

Luckily, reading poetry to children is a great way to avoid later learning problems. Children’s rhymes such as Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss do the job perfectly. By simply reading the rhymes with children, they work effectively towards helping the children gain phonemic awareness.

Once you think about about this, it makes sense. With rhymes, it’s easy for children to know the phonetic pronunciation. When they see the word “bat” in a poem after the word “cat”, they know exactly what the word is suppose to sound like.

Even though we live in a busy world with entertainment all around us, we still need to find time for the ones we love–especially when dealing with children’s education. By simply reading poetry with your child at an early age, you will help them understand the phonemes of words and get a jump start on reading and writing.

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference Address (a fragment) (via Abominations)

Writing Tips

This past weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference on the topic of Contemporary Fiction. In anticipation of this event, I started putting together some notes but eventually abandoned the idea of reading from a manuscript in favor of speaking extemporaneously on the subject. Although what follows is far from complete, it covers a few of the points I made over the course of the weekend. The Hostage Paradigm a … Read More

via Abominations

Michelle Wittle On Taking Back Proper Grammar

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

I know my grammar is bad. I change tenses sometimes even in the same sentence. There are common words that still confuse me. I even wonder how I passed my grammar course in college. But there is one thing I do know.

The word “AND” is a conjunction. Actually, “and” is called a coordinating conjunction meaning it connects two or more sentences of equal structures in a sentence(Understanding English Grammar, Kolln and Funk, 388). My best friends at Strunk and White say basically the same thing about coordinating conjunctions (coordinating conjunctions join two similar grammatical structures together in the same sentence Elements of Style, 91). Basically it means there are two similar structures in the same sentence and these are linked by the coordinating connection.  Here is a very basic example taken from Kolln and Funk:  Tim and Mary went to the baseball game. In the sentence there are two subjects (which are the same grammatical structure) connected by the word “and.”

I bring this all up today because I fear for our sentences. Somewhere along the line, someone got it in his or her head to start a sentence with “and” is perfectly acceptable. In most of the research into why this is happening, people are blaming emails, facebook, and twitter. I can see blaming them for poor spelling; however, I would not say they are to blame for this “and” thing.  I don’t know why it has started but I know it needs to stop.

I don’t understand the reasoning for beginning a sentence with “and.” Are people looking to be the next e.e. cummings? Do people not understand the function of a conjunction? When did “and” become an article verses a conjunction?

When I see “and” starting a sentence it is like seeing an all I can eat sundae buffet; I don’t know where to start or what to pick, but I know it’s all getting destroyed.

Using “and” to start a sentence leads to sentence fragments (another one of my grammar pet peeves I will discuss in my next blog). Sentence fragments dumb down any writing. I understand in dialogue sentence fragments can have a purpose. No one really speaks in complete thoughts.  But outside of dialogue, there is no justifying a sentence fragment. Okay, I hear the argument about setting a narrator’s tone, but let’s save the argument for the other blog.

The bottom line is do not use “and” to start a sentence. I don’t care if people are willing to accept the use of it, we can’t accept it. We are better than this!

Michelle Wittle On Author Heroes

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

Why did I want to become a writer?

I’ll be honest; I have no idea why I want to be a writer. A part of me feels like I am doing it to honor my father. He wanted so badly to be a writer and he had a big red photo album of rejection letters to prove his determination. His early death stopped his dream and I always felt I should pick up the cliché torch and keep running. However, just wanting to do something my father did really doesn’t explain it. I feel like it is something I have always been and denying it any longer is just denying me air or water. I am a writer. I can’t run from it.

But who shaped me into being this writer?

When I first started reading, I was entranced by Judy Blume. She made me see life wasn’t always pretty and it was okay. That was just the way life was sometimes. From her, I understood how creating real and honest characters can help a reader feel real and less abnormal.

In college, of course I fell in love with Sylvia Plath. In my opinion, no one can show raw emotion better than Plath. I wanted to emulate that style. I wanted to pour my pain on the page and ask for nothing but for readers to see it and feel it. I didn’t want pity or sympathy. I just wanted someone to hear me.

Dorothy Parker had such a witty and sharp tongue. I loved how with so few words, Parker would leave the reader with a powerful image. She was a silent snake and I wanted that for myself as well. I wanted to use few words and leave my reader with just an image to hold onto.

Augusten Burroughs showed me life can be a mess. However,what you do with that mess is what counts. Do you let it just roll over you, or do you watch as Jesus pets the cow? He showed me why I was tuned into writing to begin with and for that he is one of my heroes.

David Sedaris uses his situations and life to not only tell a funny story, but to teach a lesson. He is what creative nonfiction is and if you are curious about the genre, I suggest you really look at his writings. He tells snippets from his life, we laugh, but at the end there is always the lesson he learns from the experience.

Lastly, I am now learning about the genius of Lucy Grealy. She used a horrific experience and asked us not to look at the situation, but what she learned from it. She had cancer and while that was a tough thing to overcome, she showed readers she was more than a disease. She suffered the same insecurities and thoughts everyone else can suffer in a lifetime. She asked her readers to not pity or feel sorry for her but to see her for all that she was and I want the same thing.

Augusten Burroughs taught me to write. David Sedaris taught me the genre I needed to focus my writing in. Lucy Grealy taught me how to write in the genre.

These are my writing heroes and I am thankful to have been exposed to all of them. They have shaped my soul and my writing and there are not enough words to express my gratitude for them paving the way and going first.