Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Question & Conclusion! TWSB: Day 9

Today is the last day of the Teen Writers Summer Blogfest. It's been fun - although I have missed a few days, so in the next week or so I'll probably go back and fill a few gaps in.

Anyway, today is nice and simple. The blogfest participants have received a few questions to answer, regarding middle-grade and teen fiction. I'm just going to answer one. So here goes:

Middle grade novels are defined as books for the 8-12 age range. Do teens still read middle grade fiction as they get older (for example, Harry Potter is an example of middle grade that's read by teens and adults) or are they naturally attracted to books with older themes and characters? Is it uncool to still read middle grade as you enter your teens?

Naturally, when you get to being a teenager, you begin to break away from middle-grade and children's stories, and venture more in the YA and adult's literature. But even so, I still enjoy reading middle-grade, because I find that they are more simple than YA stories - which is not to say that they are simple, it's just to say that they are not so complex that you get lost (as a teen, yes, sometimes I do get lost in fiction written for older audiences). For example, like the Harry Potter series, the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini could be classed as middle-grade, but it still captures older audiences as well. If the writer can achieve this effect, then I don't see the problem with teens reading such stories.

*     *     *     *     *

So, the Teen Writers Summer Blogfest comes to an end. I'd like to thank Brittany from Hills and Corkscrews for being an excellent host, and also all the other blogfest participants. Thanks for a great week!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sentence-By-Sentence Story! TWSB: Day 6

Today for the Teen Writers Summer Blogfest, the theme is contest/giveaway. What I've planned isn't quite either of those, but I figured that it fits into the same box: a game.

You probably all knew what this is about when you read the title, but let me clear it up for you if you're unsure. We are going to be telling a story. Together. One person posts with their part of the story, the next continues it, etc. Your writing doesn't have to be great, as long as it tells the story. If you actively check JM Tohline's blog, you may have participated in this kind of thing before.

To get more people involved a have a more fun story, it would be great if you could tell people about this using facebook or twitter or any other ... things ... you might have at your disposal! Thanks.

Anyway, on to rules. They are:
  • You must post three sentences. No more, no less. Three.
  • After contributing, you must wait for two other people to comment before you can contribute again.
That's all.

Got it?


Now let the fun begin. I'll start:

The pink sky was yielding to the gathering twilight when I heard her scream. The noise pierced the suburban streets, and I sank deeper into my chair, trying to ignore the youth next-door. Then I suddenly sat alert as I looked towards the trampoline - Kylie was gone.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Interview with Paul Joseph! TWSB: Day Four

I'm privileged that, for Day Four of the Teen Writers Summer Blogfest, I have been able to interview a writer/blogger that I look up to and admire. I've been following Paul Joseph's blog for some time now, and I have enjoy talking to him and reading his posts, and he has also been rather encouraging at times. So, considering that he is an inspiring figure, I asked him to tell me a little more about him and his writing.

This is what he came up with:

When did you realise or decide that you wanted to be a writer?

I’m not sure I ever decided this; more so, the decision seemed to find me.  I’ve always loved writing.  I like telling stories.  I like making things up in my head that are more exciting than what’s going on around me.  When I was a teacher, my kids thought they had the easiest time getting me off track.  What they didn’t know was I wanted to get off track.  I wanted to tell stories that would have them laughing (or crying) more than I wanted to talk about the reasons the Roman Empire fell (don’t worry; I still covered my curriculum - every single requirement).  Before introducing a writing assignment, I wrote my own entertaining sample.  When I looked over the podium and saw thirty pairs of eyes glued to me as I read aloud, I knew I did something right. 

I remember my eleventh grade English teacher reading my medieval legend to the class because I “nailed it.”  The more people told me to write, the more I believed I could.  And the more Young Adult Literature I read, the more motivated I was to tackle my own project.  Fast forward a few years.  I lost my job (and then lost my second and eventually third job) and had a lot of time on my hands. I was bummed; I needed something to fill my creative void.   It seemed like the perfect opportunity to give writing a shot.

At what age did you attempt to write your first novel (or "novel"), and what was it about?

I had a fantastic sixth grade teacher who assigned a short story project.  At the young age of eleven, it was the most excited I had ever been for an assignment.  By the due date, I completed a fifty page handwritten novella; it was a contemporary story inspired by a middle grade novel my teacher read to our class.  The characters evolved from my classmates, and the plot unfolded from my perceptions of what middle school should be like.  Each day, we were required to show the teacher what we’d written.  I vividly remember her scanning my chicken scratch for the first time.  She reached a line that said something like: I sat at the kitchen table.  I cut through the stack of buttermilk pancakes on my plate.  My teacher looked to me and said, “It’s like I’m reading something right out of the library.”  I never forgot that.  I still have my story.

When I sat down to attempt my first serious novel, I was twenty-five (I’d turn twenty-six two weeks later).  I was channel surfing and stumbled upon an interview with a certain reality star I won’t name.  She was discussing her NYT bestseller, and I thought, well hell.  I shut off the TV, locked myself in my room, and typed eight single-spaced pages of absolutely nothing.  But, I had taken the plunge.  I had the time and desire to write; I just needed someone to push me.  Airheads writing books gave me that push.

What misconceptions did you have about writing before you started?

Honestly, I’m not sure I had any conceptions.  I knew I had no idea what I was doing.  I still have no idea what I’m doing; I’m just better at pretending.  I do remember thinking I could bang out a draft in six months.  If you replace the six with twenty-one, I’d have been right on track.  I thought if ideas were pouring out, they had to be good.  It turns out most of the ideas pouring out of me were scrapped.  I’m a piece by piece kind of guy; it takes me a few days to get the foundation for each scene the way I want it.  A chapter can take as long as two weeks to be drafted. 
Have you ever taken creative writing classes?

Not one.  I’ve never been a fan of letting others influence my creative process.   I’m not saying writing classes are bad or that I wouldn’t benefit from them. I’m far from an expert – I’m first to admit I have a lot to learn.  But with my personality and demeanor, I’d have a hard time getting through the experience. I’m a loner; I’d much rather teach myself. 

I should clarify that the self-taught method takes a lot of time and commitment.  I write and read practically every day.  This includes weekends and often, holidays.  I visit blogs, many managed by seasoned writers and agents, and consider every piece of advice offered.  I visit websites and read books on the craft (Stephen King’s On Writing has been the most helpful to date).  I take notes.  I interact with writers and form relationships with trustworthy people who steer me in the right direction.  And when the time comes, I have a number of beta readers from different walks of life ready to offer input.  But for me, the most important thing is to feel my way through before opening the door to others.  Nobody can be as close to a story as the person writing it.

How do you overcome "writer's block"?

There is usually a lot of screaming –screaming, kicking, and crying.  There may or may not be cursing involved.  I get blocked a lot.  I tend to take a lot of walks and naps in hopes of clearing my head.  I go to the gym and do intense cardio to release my frustration.  I also like sitting in the sauna and sweating out my negative energy.

Writer’s block is different for everyone.  In my case, it’s rarely because I don’t know what happens next.  I find myself blocked when the words don’t match my vision; time away usually helps me fix that.  When I find myself blocked from the progression of the story, I seek out inspiration.  Music, television shows (especially shows dealing with similar storylines or characters) and reading help jog my creativity.

What do you love the most about writing?

Creating.  Plain and simple; I write because I’m in love with creating – people, relationships, and circumstances.  As far as I’m concerned, my protagonists are real people who are out there living a life they relay to me to transcribe.  The two of us share a brain; we just have an agreement to never meet in person. 
What do you hate the most about writing?

Doubt.  Anyone who hopes to see their work printed knows there is no way of predicting whether or not that will happen.  In some ways, it motivates me to do the best job I can.  On the other hand, if it doesn’t happen, there is no way to get the time, energy, and sacrifices back.  That’s scary.  When you dive into a project requiring this much time and dedication, the opportunity cost gets pretty expensive.  Writing has saved me in so many ways; however, it also became my excuse.  I’ve prolonged setting myself up with a stable career (not that I have many options at this point) and I let it distract me from all the things a person in my position should be doing.  Most days, I say whatever.  Other days, I wonder if I should have ridden the teaching train to one more stop – worked as a sub or cafeteria worker in hopes of something opening up.  The only thing I can say is I never passed up a real job so I could sit at my laptop and pretend to be a novelist.  In fact, for two years, I looked like crazy (and spent a ridiculous amount of money applying for positions).  The way I see it, there is a lot of doubt and uncertainty in everything I do.  Gone are the days of job security in America.  So, that’s my justification; I just wish it made me more confident in the path I’ve chosen.
What would your advice be to a beginning aspiring writer?

Ha!  Well, I’d probably start by telling them to ask someone more qualified to give them advice.  Then, if they still insisted I answer their question, I would tell them to never let anyone talk them down.  I would also say to take care of your mind, body, and spirit.  A writer’s psychological health is crucial; it’s too easy to be trapped in a vacuum of depression, anxiety, and fear.  That doesn’t help us move forward.  Surround yourself with positive energy.  Make friends in the writing community.  Find people who believe in you and learn from the experiences of one another.  A little encouragement goes a long way.

I couldn't help but smile at many of Paul's responses, or think about how I knew a similar feeling, or that THIS IS THE TRUTH. I did enjoy reading through these, and I hope you did too. They really do show insight into the thoughts of the creator behind the words. So, I'd like to thank Paul for taking the time to answer my questions and providing a little insight into his writing journey - and I encourage you to check out his blog too.

That's it for today. See you back here tomorrow!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Excerpt! TWSB: Day 3

So, apparently Day Two of the blogfest didn't happen for me, which is annoying because I wrote out the whole post - and then blogger decided to fail and not let me publish it. So I lost it, and instead I'm just going to move onto Day Three. Excerpt!

I know it's supposed to be prose, but I'm going to share a poem I wrote last year. Some of you may recognise it:

Yesterday draws ever nearer;
Besieged again by fiery foes:
Another passion, only fairer,
Another love, a loves he loathes.

Starts again the game of chance;
Wanders he through shattered past.
A swirling never-ending dance
To find the one he loves at last.

Retracing paths through history,
Cutting feet on ancient glass.
This oft-used road: a mystery.
Dried clots of blood amongst the grass.

Broken diamonds vastly scattered,
This knife-sharp beauty that he knows.
The dark, dead sight of what once mattered,
Renewed again, a lively rose.

But why do roses have such thorns?
Irresistible and sweet,
Yet piercing like the monster's horns.
How long will love for pain repeat?

Yesterday draws ever nearer;
Besieged again by fiery foes:
Another passion, only fairer,
Another love, a loves he loathes.

Hope you enjoyed that! Now I'm off for some sleep, so I'll see you tomorrow which (hopefully) and interview - actually I still need to sort that completely. Sleep goes on hold once more. Off to work!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Introduction! TWSB: Day 1

I confess: today is 2 July, and according to the Teen Writers Summer Blogfest schedule, I should have posted this on 1 July. However, considering that fact that I live in New Zealand, thirteen hours ahead of GMT and leading the world into the future, I figure that it's still 1 July in many parts of the planet. And therefore I give myself license to post this today.

Anyway! Today (yesterday - see above) is the first day of the Teen Writers Summer Blogfest, hosted by Brittany over at Hills and Corkscrews. And Day One requires me to introduce myself - which couldn't come at a better time, considering that I've been getting lots of new followers who found me through my guest post on Paul Joseph's blog.

So, first of all, you might want to check out my About Me page. After that, you can proceed to watch me interview myself, just because ... well ... just because:

Favourite genre to read?

Fantasy. For simply one reason: it transports me - far more than other genres do. Fantasy takes me to a different world which I pour myself into. I become set on finding out as much as I can about the people, the culture, the foreign feel. That's what I love about it, and that's why I read it.

Favourite movies?

All Science Fiction, they are: The Matrix; The Island; Avatar; Inception; Minority Report. I love these movies because many of them deal with alternate realities, which I find interesting. And also, Sci-Fi on screen is simply amazing - that far of world just comes alive. They often have clever themes and ideas to portray.

Weirdest thing about me?

I'm crazy enough to be a writer. I ignore all the warnings, and I write. I love it. I'm passionate about it.

Dream job?

Guess. Seriously, guess.

Least favourite thing to do?

End this post way too soon and say good-bye because I need to go out. Ask me questions in the comments if you so desire, and I will see you back here tomorrow for Day Two of the Teen Writers Summer Blogfest!
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