Dramaquill's All Things Writing

May 25, 2008

What’s the SCBWI?

Are you a children’s book writer or illustrator?  Even if you aren’t published in the kidlit genre, the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) is an organization you should become familiar with and consider joining.

For the aspiring writers & illustrators looking for their first break, the SCBWI offers a plethora of resources including:

* writing conferences (international and regional)

*a network of writers/illustrators/publishers/editors/agents/librarians/teachers/
  booksellers – all available to offer valuable information to SCBWI members

*a bi-monthly newsletter

*grants/awards (Golden Kite award)

*a website filled with constantly updated information for anyone seriously
  considering writing and/or illustrating children’s books (online discussion groups/
  current market listings/critique exchange opps/links to member’s websites
& so much more

And there’s one other benefit that I feel is really an important one for writers looking to get their first book published.  Let me explain.  Many publishers’ guidelines state that they only accept work from agents.  But how does one get an agent without being published.  It’s such a catch-22. There are some publishers who still accept unsolicited manuscripts but there aren’t as many of those these days.  However, many publishers (even those who prefer agented subs) will look at packages from unpublished writers if they are members of the SCBWI.  So, belonging to the SCBWI could get your foot in an otherwise “private” door.

And the best part is that there are two different membership levels:

1.   Full membership (writers & illustrators commercially published or
produced as well as agents, publishers & editors)

2.  Associate membership (unpublished writers & illustrators or those
published in a field other than kidlit)

Full members can have a link to their own website, too.

I’m a proud member of the SCBWI, and have been for the past four years.

Check them out online at:   http://www.scbwi.org/

 

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May 20, 2008

Waiting…waiting…waiting…

Why do you write?

I write because I have to.  I can’t stop the ideas from creeping into my mind and begging to be released onto paper. 

I write because I enjoy watching the effect my writing has on every reader.

I write because it’s part of my job – my favorite part!  (I write original playscripts for our drama department)

I write because, like most writers, I do want to be published. (Currently finishing my final revision on my adult suspense novel and working on a YA novel)

And luckily, I have had some success in the publishing world.  One of my essays was featured in a book published by Penguin Putnam called “Dear Mom:  I’ve always wanted You to Know
http://www.lettersfromtheheart.com/store.htm

I’ve had some articles published online:
http://www.musicalmakers.org/mmanswers.html
http://www.absolutewrite.com/screenwriting/business_of_playwriting.htm
and in the ezine for Filbert Publishing.

Several of my children’s poems have appeared in both Online magazines as well as national children’s magazines:
http://www.weeonesmag.com/  (Sept. 2004 issue emag)
http://www.writing-world.com/foster/foster04.shtml  (April 2006 issue of Dragonfly Spirit emag)
http://www.myfriendmagazine.com/  (May 2005 magazine)
and two upcoming acceptances for 2009 in Hopscotch for Girls magazine (What’s a Marsupial? and The Language of Tap)
http://www.funforkidzmagazines.com/frameset2.html?target=hs

Subbing out your work, waiting for a rejection or acceptance, and waiting for the final product to hit the shelves can span from several weeks to several years.  I sometimes feel like being a writer is like being in the longest line at some government office – the line that seems to never move as the clock ticks away the moments of your life.

But there are things I can do while I play this neverending waiting game:

1.     Let go of whatever I’ve subbed out and get busy on the next project.
2.     Keep the file of rejections that proves I’m a working writer.
3.     Keep a two-year calendar and highlight all the dates of my acceptances so I
        can look forward to those days.
4.     Keep reading works in your chosen genres.
5.     Stay on top of new trends in the publishing world.
6.     Blog about how annoying wa

And hey, get up from the computer once in a while and remember that even though you’re working hard at being a writer, there’s still a whole wonderful world out there to enjoy.

 So – what are you waiting for?

May 16, 2008

Weather and productivity – what’s your connection?

Talking to writers always fascinates me.  I enjoy hearing about everything from where writers get their ideas to their favorite places to write.  Some writers only conceive new chapters at the computer.  Some prefer the portable word processor, the Alphasmart.  Personally, I really connect using my favorite brand of pens and a large, hard cover journal with lined pages.

But more than the tools that I use, the weather has a profound effect on my productivity and I feel lucky to live in a place with four very distinct seasons. 

If I’m indoors in my little home office, I love writing when it’s cold, windy and rainy outside.  The gloomy weather, coupled with a hot cup of java provides me with the perfect scenerio to get down to some serious writing.  And it’s during those rainstorms that I must abandon my “pen in hand” writing method for the computer because once the words start coming, the only way I can keep up with my brain is to type.

So why don’t I get the same boost from those dark, cold winter nights?  Is it the cup of cocoa that numbs my power to create and instead encourages me to curl up in the front of the TV with a good movie?

Believe it or not, I actually prefer my little windowless home office to a bright cheery room or even the outdoors.  If it’s gloomy outside, the entire house has that cozy feel of darkness approaching when I turn on the soft, energy efficient light. But if it’s a sunny day, a window tempts me to abandon all thoughts of writing and get outside and enjoy the weather.

I must admit that I do, at times, enjoy writing outside amid the beauty of mother nature.  Sitting on a beach on a sunny afternoon, feeling the moisture from the surf as the waves splash onto the sandy shore provide me with a place to destress as well as scribble down new ideas for stories, or create new characters.  But as far as productivity goes, the rainy day wins hands down every time.

So does your writing have a connection to the weather? 

***For those unfamiliar with the Alphasmart portable word processor, check them out online at:

http://www.alphasmart.com/Retail/

May 11, 2008

Internet resources for novel writers

Writing a novel is an exciting venture but it can also be a daunting task due to the sheer size of the project.  From plotting to character development and interaction to genre, working on a novel requires a lot of time, patience, creativity and research.

Having had my suspense novel manuscript critiqued by a published, professional author, I also found out a lot about making the manuscript “saleable”, something I hadn’t even thought about as I slogged through my first revisions. 

For all you novel writers out there, I’d like to share just some of the many fine webpages available to help you get your manuscript finished and ready for submission.

Although I haven’t tried this method yet, it looks like an interesting exercise.  I’d love to hear from anyone who has used it:  THE SNOWFLAKE METHOD
http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php

PLOTTING YOUR NOVEL by Lee Masterson
http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles/plot.html

If you’re writing a novel in the suspense genre, I highly recommend studying one of the masters in the field, Mary Higgins Clark
http://www.simonsays.com/content/destination.cfm?tab=1&pid=352932

For those who need a boot just to get started on the novel they’ve always wanted to write, try the Nanowrimo challenge
http://www.nanowrimo.org/

FREE AND AFFORDABLE ONLINE WRITING COURSES
http://www.docnmail.com/learnmore/writing/novels.htm

MYSTERY MENTOR Marilyn Henderson
Marilyn did the professional critique of my novel and it was well worth every cent I spent. 
http://www.mysterymentor.com/

HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL IN 100 DAYS OR LESS (for those who need inspiration getting started)
http://www.peacecorpswriters.org/pages/depts/resources/resour_writers/100daysbook/bk100da.html

***FREE***PLAINTEXT HANDOUTS FROM A COLLEGE PROFESSOR
http://www.steampunk.com/sfch/writing/ckilian/

GET WRITING – WRITING A NOVEL
http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/getwriting/A2982008

ABOUT.COM has tons of “writing” information.  Plug in “writing” or “novel writing” into the search box and you’ll get more than enough pages of information
http://www.about.com/
And here are some wordpress.com blogs on novel writing:

http://glasstoobigbook.wordpress.com/2005/07/14/novel-writing-advice/

http://kayedacus.com/2008/04/11/upcoming-blog-series-writing-the-romance-novel/

Okay, I’ve done a little of the legwork for you so that you can spend less time searching for information on the internet and more time writing that novel.

 

May 5, 2008

Writing plays for kids

One of the perks of owning my own performing arts studio is getting to write original playscripts for our acting classes. 

With all the great plays out there you may be asking yourself, “Why go to all that work?”

I admit that I have utilized many fine resources as fodder for our acting kids.  There are tons of books out there with monologues, scenes, small playlets, one acts, full lengths, musicals, etc. etc. etc. 

But the trouble with using most of these for classwork is that it’s tough to find a play with exactly the right amount of girl/boy roles and numbers of performers registered in every class.  Our mandate has always been to let each child create a role, eliminating anyone from being a townsperson or one of the chorus.

Now I’m sure if we could afford to buy up every available script for all of our different age ranges, we could find something appropriate every semester.  But, with limited funds for such a vast library and ever changing class sizes, the writer in me decided to venture into the world of playwriting.

After all, when I was a child, I spent many a summer day creating scenerios to play with my friends and took it upon myself to cast parts, improvise lines, direct everyone and even act in some scenes myself.  So, somewhere along the road it was inevitable that I would desire to try my hand at playwriting.

The response to these original scripts has been fantastic and the children delight in giving input into subject matter and even plot features.  By writing the parts after meeting the individuals, I’m introduced to some great personality traits that I can use to develop my characters.

And the best perk of all is that I’ve managed to sell some of my playscripts to drama clubs, drama departments and children’s theatres.

The biggest challenge though is the time frame in which I have to produce the scripts.  The final registration is the day before the class begins, then I have exactly two weeks to work with the kids, get my ideas and draft a play that they will enjoy.  Now, multiply this by three different age levels having three different semesters/school year and I’m cranking out nine original playscripts between September and June.  So even in this challenge comes a perk:  I’m great with deadlines.

So far, my pirate musical, my hillbilly plays and my murder mystery have been the most popular but with each new semester and each new set of ideas, who knows what I’ll come up with next.

 

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