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Monday, October 28, 2013

If You're Writing a Memoir Keep the Kleenex Handy

I started writing the sequel to "Don't Be Give Up," several times and slowly, inch by inch, I wrote several chapters. The other day I was writing about a special time in my life when my dad and I went fishing together and saw a movie about Will Rogers. It was a happy time, but when I read it to my husband, Joe, I burst into tears. I surprised both of us. My tears came because two months later my dad died. I was angry because just as I was beginning to know my dad, he was gone. I am determined to finish my book, but I know there will be other times when the tears will come.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Don't Throw Away Anything You've Written

There are several reasons why writers should never throw away anything that they've written, no matter how bad they think it might be. If for no other reason, those poorly written paragraphs will show authors how far they've come. Sometimes as I've read what I've written years ago I find an idea, a phrase, or an entire page that I can use again. This is especially helpful when writing autobiographically. A poem I wrote in the seventh grade had many flaws, but the sentence above it from my English teacher encouraged me to continue writing. "Do save your poems," she wrote. I began to think maybe one day I could be a writer. A diary I kept for a short time is an invaluable source. A romance novel I wrote was rejected by several agents because I didn't have any steamy sex scenes. I put it aside until I heard about a romance novel contest. Rereading my book, I found I liked it. I entered a contest and won first prize. I'm still selling copies of it. Now that I've convinced you never to throw anything away, I have to modify that statement. If you have written something that is libleous, mean or cruel, by all means destroy it. Words have enormous power. Use them well.

Monday, October 7, 2013

What's the Best Way to Write a Book?

When I'm asked what the best way to write a book, my immediate answer is: There is no best way. Writers use a variety of techniques, and you'll want to find the method that works for you. Some authors outline their books before they write. They know how the story will progress and how it ends. Other authors begin with an idea and write in chronological order, making changes as they go. When I was asked how long it too me to write my first book, "Don't Be Give Up," I said, "Thirty years." I was teaching full time and could only write during the summers or vacations. Since this story was about my life during World War II when I was five, I wrote as I remembered events. The process was similiar to making a quilt. Cutting out the squares and then sewing them together. Bits and pieces came together. I phoned my uncles who fought in the war and had wonderful conversations with them. I didn't realize all of the medals and commendations they had received. Since my uncles are dead now, I treasure those conversations which I never would have had if I hadn't written the book. I thought When a friend thought I had written a children's book because of the point of view, I wrote about significant historial events from the point of view of an adult at the beginning of several chapters. Writing my second book, "School Success: 500 Ways Busy Parents Can Help Their Children Succeed in School," was developed in a more methodical way. The original title was 25 ways. I'd read books for parents to help with their children's education but they were very dense with information. Few parents were going to wade through a lot of words to find the ideas they wanted, so I labeled and nunbered each concept and then explained it. This way parents could skim the book quickly to find the techniques they were looking for. As I wrote, I kept the word "busy" in my mind. At the end of the book was a reference section, a phonics program, a list of spelling words, multiplication tables and division facts. Although I wrote both "Don't Be Give Up," and "School Success," I used different techniques. Don't feel that you have to use anyone else's methods of writing. The best technique is the one you have onfidence in and one that results in a finished book.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

So You Want to Be a Writer.

When someone asks me how to become a writer, my first response is: "Write." Many people talk about what they want to write but don't actually compose anything. The writers I know have to write. Whether this is a curse or blessing depends on how well the writing is going. There are moments in writers' lives, yes, even successful, best selling authors, when they wonder why they are spending so much time in this endeavor, or if anyone is interesting in reading it, or if it's good enough. If you have a passion for writing, you will continue despite disappointments and self doubt because you must. If you want to be a writer, you must also learn to rewrite. This is much easier if you have a friend or a writing group that is knowledgeable. Near my computer, I have a cartoon with a skeleton sitting at a desk. The caption reads: This is absolutely, positively, the last rewrite. The first draft of "Fall in Love with an Orange Tree or a Book" was rejected by an agent who said she didn't think I was addressing enough of the issues faced by illegal immigrants. A friend said my book was too "Anglo." Of course, I was disappointed, but I took the criticism and rewrote the book. I blush when I think how bad the first draft was and thrilled that after many rewrites I am proud of my book. Next blog: How to be a published writer.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Preparing for a Television Interview

I'm fortunate to have been interviewed for the TV program, "California Life with Heather Dawson" which appears on stations throughout California. Years ago Heather interviewed me about my books, "Don't Be Give Up" and "School Success". I was thrilled to have this opportunity. Recently she sent a reporter from Fresno Channel 24 to interview me about my recent books: "Sarah Darlin'" and "Fall in Love with an Orange Tree or a Book". For these interviews I prepared questions for the reporter to ask. This can be a bit tricky because some reporters want to ask their own questions. In this case, he was delighted that I had them. Previous to the interview, I prepared my answers which made the interview go smoothly. We did two interviews in one take each. During my first interview, I was very nervous, but finally after all these years I have given myself permission to make mistakes. This has decreased my anxiety about a thousand per cent, and I did a better job. I only wished I had learned this lesson long ago. One humorous incident. I was miked for the interview, but I didn't realize I was live when I went to the bathroom. Embarrassed!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Taking Suggestions for Rewriting

Recently a beginning author was crticized for using sentence fragments in the blurb on her book. She insisted that she was going to leave it just as it is. I hope she reconsiders. When I write, I would like to think that my first draft is brilliant, but I'm realistic enough to know it never is, neither is the 2nd draft, or the 3rd, or the 4th. Only in revising am I able to correct mistakes, find a better way of saying somthing, and write better. Most of my writing critique group members are published authors, but we meet at my house on Wednesday evenings to read our work and listen to suggestions for improvement. Marilyn Meredith has published 35 books, but she still brings her chapter to us for comments. She has said often that if no one gave her suggestions, she would be disappointed. My writing friends have corrected typos for me, asked me to clarify what I'd written, and in two cases, suggested I start all over. I value these friends because they have helped me become a better writer. I have a cartoon near my computer. It shows a skeleton sitting at a desk with a computer on it. The caption reads: This is absolutely, positively the last rewrite! I can certainlyo relate to that.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Writing With Friends

Writing my book "Fall in Love With an Orange Tree or a Book" would never have happened without the help of my friends. My main character, Elena, is fictional, but most of what she experiences happened to one of my Latino honor students. I wanted to write about Latino girls who are passionate about education. One of them was Diana Ward gave me the title. When she came to the U.S. from Mexico, her mother told her, "Fall in love with an orange tree or a book." What she meant by that was for Diana to choose a life working in the fields or an education. Diana chose an education and now is the Director of Migrant Education for the Porterville Public Schools. When I wanted to describe a farm labor camp, my neighbor, Lily said, "I grew up in the Woodville Labor Camp. Let's go." We visited a friend of hers and I was able to describe the camp for my book. I can't describe the thrill I receive when readers praise the book. My writer's group is invaluable. One of our members read the first draft and after I listened to what she said, I rewrote most of the book.