Thursday at Chautauqua
What an amazing experience this is. First of all, I really feel like these people are my people. Does that make sense? I have made friends here that I KNOW will become mentors, friends, encouragers, critique partners, and so on for life. At one point I laughingly likened it to college (mostly the part about being away—back then it was my parents, now it’s my children—ha), but it is actually proven to be quite an accurate analogy. It’s a unique shared experience that bonds us for life. In college the experiences that bond you for life are often marked by embarrassment and immaturity, but here it’s all good. My writing life will definitely be marked by ‘before Chautauqua’ versus ‘after Chautauqua’. This morning Kent Brown made reference to departure on Saturday with the phrase “thinking the unthinkable” and that’s exactly how it feels. I don’t even want to think about leaving yet.
I’m feeling a little guilty for falling behind on my blog this week. THE Garry Brown, Kent Brown’s very generous brother, commented this morning that he’d been reading (wow!) and observed that I’d “pooped out”, SO that fired me up to get back to business. As you can imagine, things grew crazier every day with my frantic effort to soak up every drop.
An amazing surprise brought Linda Sue Park here for a morning on Thursday, even though she was not on faculty this week. I was thrilled to see her name because I’ve heard “Linda Sueberry” speak on another occasion, and I knew what a gifted speaker she was. She did not disappoint. Let me give you a few highlights (no pun intended).
She said she would share a few thoughts on writing, but if we wanted exact directions, we should go bake a cake. She reminded us that writing has a magic formula for each writer and then each project may have yet another formula. That’s the fun, right?
A few points:
1. Reading is TRAINING for writers. Free one-on-one writing tutorials from the greatest writers. Reading is total immersion in the language of writing. Strive to read 1000 books in your genre.
2. Finish your entire manuscript before you revise. Keep the voice. Good writers push through until the end.
3. In response to critique, try it their way. Then try it your way again if you like. Write scenes several different ways. Think of it as play, not a lifetime commitment.
4. Get a critique partner. The most important characteristic they should embody is that they read a lot.
Think of your work as play. If you’re in a hurry, again, bake a cake.
Write the angle no one else is writing.
We have ‘lunch and learns’ every day which are very cool. Today I attended the most incredible, amazing lunch and learn with illustrator Floyd Cooper where he demonstrated technique. He is an amazing artist, a gifted teacher, and I truly felt a glimpse of heaven when watching him work. How can you not believe in God when you see such gifts? It was a very moving experience.
Next session with Sandra Wallace and Rich Wallace. I’ve really grown to like this couple. He is well-known for his YA sports novels although they are truly just novels that happen to have a sports setting. I attended this Writing about Sports for Kids session not because I’m dying to write about sports but because his session the day before was so good and informative, I knew it would be a great learning experience.
Every book is about a character on a quest against adversity in a particular situation. An antagonistic character probably livens things up, and your protag learns to persevere despite obstacles and setbacks. The time frame should show the character literally racing against the clock. The story ends in triumph or not. Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel is a great example of structure.
Recommended reading: DAIRY QUEEN by Kathryn Murdock and everything by Rich Wallace.
Oh, when writing sports scenes, the narrator acts as the play by play while the color is provided by the protag’s reaction. Bob back and forth between the two to get a realistic scene.
Sports is a glaringly overlooked subject although tons of kids want to read it. Consider that genre for mag articles, novels, etc. especially if you’d like to write a female voice. Think WRESTLING STURBRIDGE by Rich Wallace but the girl version.
Last session was Ten Ways to Crank up the Creativity by Andrew Gutelle. Now let me remind you that there are three sessions (at least) going on at all times. So the ones I share are only a tiny piece of the wonderful opportunities to learn and study your craft. In Andrew Gutelle’s session we actually did a bunch of exercises to stretch our creativity and it must have worked because toward the end I wrote a song about this Chautauqua workshop to the tune of Jimmy Buffett’s Pencil Thin Moustache, as hilarious as that sounds. I won’t bore you with the whole thing, but here’s the chorus:
Wish I had a place at Chautauqua
Then we all could stay.
Time would freeze, I could write as I please
We’d exchange and critique at the end of the day.
SO that’s all about Thursday and the very fun fund raising auction was that night (raising money for scholarships for next year), so anyone who’s reading who thinks Chautauqua isn’t a reality, serious consider applying. It will change your everything. Xoxox Thanks for reading.
My Mission Statement
I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.