Excerpts

Writing Craze

book_and_featherAs some of you know, I have begun taking online classes in pursuit of my MFA in Creative Writing. This endeavor has pushed me to write a LOT this summer. The summer is half gone, but I have written a chapter of Aloha Spirit, started a new flying horse book, written a short story and created four separate scenes. That doesn’t count the articles, chapters, and workshop postings I’ve had to read and thoughtfully comment on. It’s exhilarating. Required classes when I used to go to college always consisted of some really dull, or dully presented, subjects. Now, however, I am immersed in something I absolutely love to do–write! So today I thought I’d post a bit from Aloha Spirit:

On May 12, 1939, we board the Matsonia, one of Matson Lines’ finest ships. Every color is vivid, from the green rim of Punch Bowl on the hill above the city to the sapphire ocean below. On the pier, brass instruments flash in the sun as the Marine band in their white uniforms plays Aloha ‘Oe, Queen Liliʻuokalani’s beautiful song of farewell. Hawai’ian girls hula nearby, their hair twisted with white pikake that gives sweetness to the air. Family and friends wave smiling goodbyes, their clothing adding dots of color to the scene.

Behind the joyous leavetaking, green palm trees sway behind the Royal Hawai’ian Hotel, also known as the Pink Lady. Waikiki’s pale cream sand stretches toward Diamond Head, majestic as always above Honolulu. On the white ship, I am so covered in fragrant leis, orange and purple and yellow and pink, I can hardly breathe. It seems like every flower in Hawai’i has given its life to send Manley and I off in style to the World’s Fair in San Francisco.

I turn to wave toward Pearl Harbor, out of sight beyond Hickam Field, in farewell to Earl, who couldn’t get away from his new job. I imagine seeing past Hickam Field, its gray runways, planes, barracks, quonset huts, and jeeps, to Pearl Harbor with its American navy ships. Over there everything is drab and businesslike.  

The smokestacks with the big blue M belch dark clouds. The ship churns water as it pulls away from the dock. Honolulu fades until I can’t make out the Pink Lady. All eyes fasten on Diamond Head, the last view of home. In keeping with tradition, we throw leis overboard as we pass the extinct volcano as a promise that we will return to the islands. We watch until Diamond Head fades to purple distance and blends into the ocean.

About Writing

Last Day of School

  Every year, the last day of school comes as a surprise. I prepare for it for months, planning activities to keep the students entertained while the clock ticks down, but it’s still a surprise when it arrives. By fifth grade, the students know the year is over when grades close so everything after that is a challenge to keep them interested enough not to die of boredom.

This year, I filled some of that time by reading On a Wing and a Dare to them. I’ve had some experience reading my work to adult reviewers and having adults read it themselves. Their comments and questions have been relevant and helpful as I polish this manuscript, but they are not my target audience.

On a Wing and a Dare is Young Adult fantasy, so I like to get young adult feedback when possible. Now I know my newly eleven year old students are hardly young adults, but they read voraciously and they were available. But reading to children is very different. Adults respect the effort it takes to write 65,000 words. Adults recognize that those words represent a piece of your soul. Adults temper their comments so as not to offend. Children don’t do that. Don’t ever read your work to a child unless you are prepared for blatant honesty.

If you lose their interest, they start side conversations while you are reading. They laugh out loud and you realize they are laughing at something a classmate did, not your work (which is good, since you weren’t reading a funny part). You start to read a new chapter, and a few groan out loud.

But I never set out to appeal to absolutely everyone. In my class there are students who hate Hunger Games, other students who despise Twilight, some who cannot stand Eragon, and a few who dislike The Mysterious Benedict Society. With my novel-in-progress,  I offer them the opportunity to change what they don’t like in a book before it is published. It’s a heady power.

So most took it seriously. Most of them were able to remember a chapter that they loved. They followed the theme, understood the message, and loved or hated the characters they were supposed to love or hate. They gave me a good discussion about a chapter I was having trouble with, and helped me rework the ending.

The biggest problem with reading to children, though, is that they are demanding. They want the next novel NOW. Don’t they realize it took me two years to get this one to this point?

And that’s what summer is all about–writing! I’m looking forward to reviewing other writers’ work and finishing On a Wing and a Dare’s polish. I’m working on a historical fiction piece called Under the Almond Trees, and I guess I’d better start outlining another flying horse saga. The first day of school is August 17–I’d better get busy!

On my Kindle: Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

About Writing

Summer Writing

The weather is finally warming up and summer vacation will be here soon.  Parents and children alike will be looking for things to do to keep those long summer days busy–in between vacations and trips to the beach and pool parties and movies of course!

I know some parents enroll their kids in computer camp and scout camp and ballet camp and camping camp, but even so there will be hours that are empty.  My first choice for those hours is to pick up a book and curl up outside under a tree to read.  My second choice is to write.

Practice writing all summer long, and you will be a much better writer come fall.  Does that mean you have to write an essay every day? No!  Practice sharing emotion through your writing.  Here are some ideas how you can do that:

1.  Keep a journal.  Do more than just record the day’s events.  Write about how the things that happened made you feel.  Later, when your mood has changed, read what you wrote and see if you can recapture how you felt.

2.  Write descriptions.  Practice using sensory details that show what you saw, heard, tasted, smelled, touched, and felt with your heart.  Describe your home, a vacation spot, a pet, a relative. . . the possibilities are endless!

3.  Keep a list of awesome words.  If you encounter a great word in your reading, jot it down so you can use it in your writing.  ‘Alabaster’ is one of those words, and ‘scamper.’

4.  Subscribe to this blog and/or check back frequently.  I’ll have some fun exercises you can do online.  AND…..the person who does the best job responding to posts over the summer WILL GET A PRIZE COME FALL.  This year will be easier than ever, since school starts back up in mid-August–there’s only 8 weeks of summer!  This contest is open to everyone, even parents!  You do not have to be a student at my school–I’ll mail you yourprize.  Keep checking this space for prize announcements.

Post samples of your writing here.  We can enjoy each other’s work!

On my Kindle:  A River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters