Archive for the ‘TEENWrite Workshops’ Category:

Plotting and Healing

Extract of Plot Elixir BottleExtract of Plot Elixir Bottle Plot Elixir Bottle Blue
Six weeks ago I made the wildly improbable promise to give twenty hours a week to my verse-novel.  Between writing classes, French classes, and subbing grades K-12, my life is already packed to the rafters. But I decided that if Varian Johnson could write at 4:00 in the morning and finish multiple books while working fulltime as an engineer (my agent tipped me off), so could I (well, except for the engineering bit.)

I’m missing a lot of Facebook posts, I go to bed a lot earlier, and my family doesn’t see me much on Saturdays, but those blissful hours are the curative for the low-grade malaise I’ve carried around since I started working fulltime.

Writers need to write ink and quill. We need to plot plot key and dream cloudand stare staring eyesinto space until we hear the exact right word and pluck it out of the ether. That takes significant time. But when our souls are nourished, we’ve got a whole lot more to give to the rest of our lives.

The bonus is that teaching, which has always brought me joy, is even richer now. I can’t wait to share with you the aha writing moments, born of those twenty hours, that have made plots and subplots slide into place.

Want to join me? We’ll be plotting, we’ll be listening and we’ll be healing that restless writer in all of us so that the words can do their work.

The Plot Thickens, Thursdays beginning January 8 at Bellevue College*, North Campus

Poetry and Healing, one-day workshop, Saturday, February 14 at Bellevue College*, North Campus

TEENWrite: Advanced Fiction Writing, Tuesdays, January 13-February 24 (Session A) and March 3-April 7 (Session B). Teens and college-age, limited enrollment, apply with a writing sample. Deadline for Session A: January 3. For Session B: February 10.

Fancy some live-action roleplaying? My son, Aaron directs EpicWrite. Here’s what they’re up to. (You might run into me there, too.)

EpicWrite Winter Events: Epicwrite Beyond “Sundermoon Kickoff” (ages18+ NEW!) January 3, Winter EpicWrite overnight “Elegy” (ages 11+) January 30-31

*to save the $10 registration fee, sign up for Bellevue College classes by December 28.

 

Writing the Hidden Story

SpyI love those “aha!” moments when a character sneaks up on me–and I suddenly realize I’m not writing the book I thought I was writing. It might mean big changes, but it invariably makes a deeper and more authentic story than the one I started with. This is just as true for memoir as it is for fiction

As I prepare for my fall writing classes, “Writing the Hidden Story” and “Poetry and Healing,” at Bellevue College, I’ve been contemplating what leads to “aha!” moments.

The keys are sinking, blinking and linking.

Sink

A hidden story is subterranean. To get there, close the door for uninterrupted time. Sit in a comfortable position, slow your breathing, and focus on a scene. “Going in” feels like literally sinking down, down, down. Keep going until you begin to see through the eyes of your character (or your younger self, as the case may be.) Where are you located in the setting? How do you feel emotionally? How is your body responding? More than once I’ve been surprised to find my palms clammy and my breath quickening as my character takes me to a difficult encounter. When I begin to write, the words that come out are strikingly full-bodied and true. I’m often astonished, later, that I wrote them.

Blink

This would seem to be the opposite of sinking—but it’s not. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink talks about world-changing decisions that were made in microseconds. To “blink” is to capture and use that fleeting thought at the edge of your subconscious. One way to do this is to write a series of questions and answer them as quickly as you can. Examples are “Who would I like to read my book to?” and “What must I never write about?” We did this in a writing class by “becoming” our characters and asking each other surprise questions. When a student asked my character, “What are you most afraid of losing?” I blurted, “My brother.” Up to that point, the brother had played a significant, but not key role in the book. “Blinking” led to rethinking.

Link

What if you are writing a character and a story so different from you and your world that they seem to have no connection? This happened to me when I wrote The Legend of the Valentine, whose protagonist, Marcus, is a black child in the South at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Since I’m northern, female and white, I strongly questioned whether I had a right to write the story. Finally, a wise education director at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga challenged me to sink into my 8-year-old self and see Marcus across the classroom. Only after “being” that younger self with her curiosity, biases and naïveté could I begin to link my own experiences to Marcus’s. I did know what it was like to have a storytelling grandmother, and to face a bully, so I sank into that, and Marcus came to life.

 

Here are some fall classes and writing events. I’d love to see you there!

Writing the Hidden Story

Thursdays beginning September 18 at Bellevue College, North Campus (Note that the print catalog description is incorrect and describes the Plotting and Scheming class instead of Hidden Story.)

Poetry and Healing

One-day workshop, Saturday, September 27 at Bellevue College, North Campus

Epicwrite in the Park

One-day Live-Action Roleplaying and Writing event Saturday, September 20 in Carnation.

Epicwrite Overnight, “Nefarious Nemeses,”

October 10-11 at Cornet Bay Retreat Center, Whidbey Island

TEENWrite: Advanced Fiction Writing

Tuesdays, October 21-December 16, location TBD. Teens and college-age, limited enrollment, apply with a writing sample. Deadline: September 26.

Can We Talk?

I have not shared any of my work-in-progress here because it has felt too close to the bone. It’s a YA. It’s about art. And it’s about time-travel. It’s about a girl who feels responsible for keeping someone else alive, and how she goes back in time and thinks she wants to stay there. It’s a verse-novel, so it’s made up entirely of poems.

But it’s time for some mutual sharing. I’m looking for a small group of young people (high school/college) and some art. We’d all need pens and notebooks and maybe sketchpads. I’m going to share part of the book with you and then we’ll talk about the girl in the book and maybe about ourselves, too. Then we’ll need the art, because art has this amazing capacity for healing. We’re going to each choose a piece of art–on a gallery wall, maybe, and sit with it for a while, and write. The fancy term for this is “ekphrastic poetry” (a term I like very much).

That’s about it.  The workshop would be free (I got a 4Culture grant for it), so all I need is the people and the art. I could take a max of maybe a dozen. If you know someone who doesn’t usually get to do this kind of thing because of money, let me know. We’ll figure out the dates when we’ve got the people, but I’d like to do it in the summer. The only constraint is it has to happen in King County. Who’s in? Who can find us some art?

Here’s an excerpt from the book. In this poem, Alice, the main character, is staring at a Jackson Pollack painting at the Seattle Art Museum.

Jackson Pollack--Sea ChangeSea Change

I could get lost here

In the tarry black of the Pollack.

It spiders me in,

Webbing faces, flames,

The sails of ships.

 

When I’m here,

I’m not there,

Not home,

Alert to every change

In his cadence.

 

If I climbed into this painting,

Tumbled

Into the starry depths

I would land somewhere

Quiet.

 

What would it be

To stop the ringing fear

Inside my head?

To lose my footing

And fall, no way

for anyone to reach me?

 

I would land in a hall of mirrors,

Each self beckoning me

To follow in and in

Until all I could hear

Was my own abandoned voice.

©2014 Katherine Grace Bond, from Looking-Glass Girl, manuscript in progress

 

3 Ways to Coax Secrets out of Your Characters

 

Marvin Whickpucket refuses to behave. When you want him to defeat the evil Onchnu, he won’t. Instead, he sits on the couch, surfs cable and eats potato skins.

Sad Marvin (147x200)

“This is boring!” you tell him. “Why are you acting this way?”

“I miss Ilandra,” he says. “We had a fight. She said we were through.”

“Why didn’t you TELL me?” you say, incredulous.

Marvin shrugs. “You never asked.”

~

For nine years of Teenage Novelist classes, Marvin Whickpucket has been a sort of poster boy. (If you’ve attended, you understand references to the evil Onchnu.) And if you’re a TEENWriter, you are accustomed to talking to your characters, even if your family doesn’t quite understand.

Here are a few ways to get Marvin to talk back:

1)  Text him. He may be snarky with his initial replies, but let the conversation roll and he’ll be more forthcoming.

Marvin, what was the fight about?

Never mind.

I’m asking because I care.

Sure, you do.

Cross my heart.

It’s stupid.

I won’t tell.

Isn’t that what you do? Tell people every blessed thing I say?

Come on. It’ll help to talk about it.

Fine. Ilandra hates my waffles. Waffles are what brought us together, but it turns out she hates the ones I make.

You got your feelings hurt?

Yes. Okay? After jumping through space-time portals for 150 years, we broke up over a waffle.

Wow. That’s…really sad, Marvin.

Pathetic. I don’t know what to do.

…and so on.

2) Ask him to write you a letter that begins, “I have never told you, but…”

Dear Katherine,

I have never told you, but Ilandra is not what you think. 152 years ago, when I first encountered the Kleeg battalions, I faced a young, beautiful general. Yes, it’s true. Ilandra is a Kleeg. Her father destroyed my planet. But once she offered me waffles, I couldn’t resist her charms…

3) Become Marvin. He must have a favorite shirt. A hat. A Tri-Millenium-412 blaster. Put these things on. Find fellow writers who are willing to bring to life characters from their own books. Gather in your backyard or in a park or at EpicWrite, and create a story together. Then, go out for waffles.

4) Join us in Snohomish July 29-August 2 for “Talking to Your Characters.” Learn how to deepen your story by listening to your characters.  Each class allows for hands-on exercises based on your work-in-progress and time for group critique.

In a Writing Rut? Steal from Another Author (but not really.)

I don’t know about you, but after years of writing, I notice that I get into a stylistic rut. As I have mentioned before on this blog, the solution is theft. Today I’m going to steal from author Janet Lee Carey, creator of Dragon’s Keep, The Beast of Noor, Dragonswood and many other books. This particular bit of larceny is from The Beast of Noor.

I’ve broken part of a scene down into its elements: dialogue, setting detail, internal monologue, etc. In this scene, Hanna, who is a dreamwalker, confronts her brother Miles, who used his secret shapeshifting ability to save her from the supernatural beast known as the Shriker.

Hanna lunged forward and pushed him on the chest. (character action) “Don’t!” she cried. “Don’t lie about it anymore! I saw you leap from the high branch, so I thought you’d die, but you didn’t. You…flew.” (dialogue)

Miles sucked in a startled breath and held it. (character action)

“You changed. Your body changed. I saw it happen. And you saved me from the Shriker.” (dialogue) Hanna looked up at him not so much with anger now as wonder. (character action.) He’d seen that look before when she’d knelt before the altar in the kirk. (internal monologue) It gave him a strange, tingling feeling to be so admired. (sensory detail) But he saw fear in her eyes as well (character detail), and he didn’t like that so much. (internal monologue)

High above a golden blade of sunlight pierced the clouds. (setting detail) Hanna was still looking at him, waiting for a word. (character action) “It’s true,” she insisted. “All of what I saw in the deeps. Isn’t it?” (dialogue)

A drop of sweat slid down Mile’s forehead. (sensory detail) He wiped it away with his sleeve. (character action) He couldn’t go on fooling her. What now? (internal monologue)

 

Now, taking these elements in the same order, I have created an entirely new (and rather silly) scene for an entirely different book.

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Kweeg H-41 jumped from the mossy wall, landing on her side and rolling. “Bleezbat!” she huffed. “Lexar didn’t tell me this required vanquishing primitive ecosystems.”  She examined her torn tunic.

“You were expecting a space pod with a driver?” Ilik-J16 smirked and offered his hand.

She would eat quantum rats before she’d accept any help from Ilik. Her bum smarted where it had hit a root. Ilik’s silver tunic was spotless, as usual. Kweeg suspected he’d spent his bonus on nano-cleaners for it, just to irritate her.

The ground was freezing as well as rooty. Kweeg hauled herself to her feet, glaring. She ignored Ilik’s proffered hand. “Lexar wants us there tomorrow,” she snarled. “The least he could do is provide transport.” Her left foot was beginning to throb and some kind of murderous plant was poking her. She jerked her arm away from the foliage and gave it a rub. When she got home—if she ever got home—she would fill Lexar’s sleeping compartment with Plutonian Slugs.

Not only is this a lot of fun to do, it’s not a way you would normally write. You can break the scene down into even more detailed elements if you like. While it would drive me crazy to do long passages using this method, I find that short bits help me to analyze my usual style and see whether there is something in the rhythm and pacing of another author’s prose that I could use to change up my own.

If you know a teen writer interested in gathering with other teens who write, check out our TEENWrite summer classes at Uppercase Books in Snohomish.

 

Six Annoying Statements Adults Make to Teen Writers

Samantha Face Palm (640x533) (2)

I list these to educate and enlighten: Don’t be that guy.

1) “You should find something else to supplement that–like math!”–Submitted by Sydney

2) “Oh, I would like to read that!” *never does*–Submitted by Emily

3) “Oh! That sounds just like (insert famous story/movie by other author)!”–Submitted by Robbie

4) “Empire State Building should be capitalized. And ‘cat’s’ is a possessive, not a plural. What on earth are they teaching you in school?”

I’m dyslexic. And in school you always seem to get marks for punctuation and not imagination.–Charlotte

5) “Are you getting published?”

That actually annoys me. Just cos I write doesn’t mean I want to throw my words out there for anyone to read.–Kelsey

6) “Oh, that’s nice; you like to write. Do you write from your imagination? … Magic! Do you write about fairies and unicorns and princesses?”
“No, I write epic battles between dragons and bloodmages who can squeeze the life out of their opponent with a wave of their hand. It’s quite interesting, really.”
“How fun! Do the dragons sparkle?”

Kill me now.Lauren

TEENWrite Teenage Novelist Day Camp

If you are a teen who takes your writing seriously, you may want to join us at Uppercase Bookshop in Snohomish for one of three TEENWrite Teenage Novelist day camps in July.

Session 1 What’s the Big Idea?: From Idea to Storyline M-F July 15-19 9-11 AM REGISTER

Session 2 Plotting and Scheming: Plan Your Novel from Start to Finish July 22-26 4-6 PM REGISTER

Session 3 Talking to Your Characters: Create Characters so Authentic, They’ll Talk Back! July 29-August 2 4-6 PM REGISTER

(Sessions may be taken independently of each other.)

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A Wizard, a Rock Star and an Alchemist Walk Into a Parallel Universe

Addison Alchemist

And here’s what to do if you find yourself in such a situation:

A) If you are the wizard

  1.  Realize that this is probably your fault.
  2.  However, if you are a somewhat unstable wizard, seek similarly unstable companion-wizards. A consortium of this kind tends to wake up sleeping orcs, which will alleviate boredom.
  3.  Once you’ve got a suitable wizarding cadre with the requisite number of wicked creatures in pursuit, go find a rock star.

B) If you are the rock star

  1. Sigh and say, “Oh, no, not again.”
  2. However, if you are a demon-slaying rock star you must act nonchalant, so that any demons you encounter can be lulled into unwariness. Tell the demons you are a country singer. Tell them you play the fiddle and just made a Faustian deal with their boss.
  3. Realize you want out of the deal. Start looking up alchemists in the Yellow Pages (since you are in a pre-technological era.)

C) If you are the alchemist

  1. Search your pockets for the Elixir of Life, which you realize with dismay was left in a previous parallel universe at exactly the moment you had located it.
  2. Begin your life’s work over again. Plunge into despair when you remember the long centuries searching for the Elixir. Question the purpose of your existence.
  3. Notice that you are being followed, nay energetically chased by a demon-slaying rock star, several demons, a conclave of eccentric wizards and at least twelve orcs. Begin to be vaguely happy, then solidly optimistic, then delirious with joy.

 

If this is not the way your weekends usually go, consider signing up for EpicWrite, taking place May 17 and 18 at Camp Huston.

 

 

5 Rights Teen Writers Deserve

…and teen non-writers deserve them, too.

hayden

Teens have taught me a bunch about writing over the last couple of decades–both the teens who have already written five novels and the ones who would rather scrub under the refrigerator than pick up a pen. For a lot of teens, writing was ruined for them by third grade. For others, dutifully writing their five-paragraph essays, their love affair with writing is made up of clandestine moments, stolen from their more “important” term papers and college applications.

The needs of these writers are simple, but those needs often can’t–or won’t–be accommodated in school. They come down to two basic principles: ownership and community. Here’s what I think most teens ask of their parents, mentors, friends and teachers when it comes to their writing.

1. I have a right to secret writing. I may keep a private journal. It may have poems or stories in it; it may have letters I never send; it may have just random thoughts. But it is not for public consumption; it is not for anyone who wants to check my spelling or penmanship; it is not even there so you can read my poetry, celebrate my talent and understand me better. When and if I want to share it with someone, I will. In the meantime, do not ask.

2. I have a right to choose what I write about. I know I’ll have assignments for school that I don’t choose; I get that. But I have a right to channel my creativity in a way that rocks my world–even if my song lyrics make no sense to you or my spokenword piece might shock Great Aunt Betty. I have a right to create my own body of work.

3. If I am part of a writing group or class, I have a right to either share my work or not share it. Sometimes sharing my work with a group is helpful and feels good. But sometimes the writing isn’t yet ready to share. And some writing will never be ready to share. I have a right to know I can write from a deep place inside of myself, or that I can experiment and the teacher will not demand to have the work read.

4. I have a right to accept or reject critique. If I choose to get feedback on my work (and I can choose not to), I am not obligated to change the work in the way the critiquer suggests. Even if the person giving the critique is my best friend. Even if it is my mom. Even if it is an award-winning author. I have a right to decide what is useful to the piece and what is not, and to base my revisions on the advice believe best serves the work.

5. I have a right to be listened to, encouraged, and respected. If I can find a group of people who feel like my “tribe,” because they are just as strange and quirky as I am, I may show them my secret writing–misspellings and all. I may share my spokenword piece with them and hear theirs. I may write weird, experimental collaborations with some of them. I may listen to their critique and weigh it carefully, because not only are we all becoming stronger writers, these people know me. And the real reason I write is to know and to be known.

 

If you know a teen still looking for a “tribe” of creatives, we’d love to have them at our TEENWrite EPIC overnight May 17-18 at Camp Huston. Our 10th anniversary Summer TEENWrite EPIC camp will be July 8-12 at Fort Casey.

 

What I Learned by "Winning" NaNoWriMo Through Cheating and Trickery

…and yes, I am going to buy the tee-shirt.

 

 

The task? Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Usually, Iuse NationalNovel Writing Month to get as much word count aspossible on my work-in-progress. This is already cheating—but since I’ve nevercome close to winning, I haven’t felt guilty about it.

 

But three days before the start of this year’s NaNo, myeditor says, “Katherine, we need to start thinking about 2013.” Now,this does not constitute a book contract, but it does constitute a challenge. Idecide to begin a new novel on November 1 and that this year I will”win” NaNoWriMo.

 

 

Day 1: Brainstorm—characters, ideas, suggestions from Facebookfriends, (Hula Hoops, a camel, a zeppelin and “copious amounts ofdefenestration.”) I write all this sort of thing into what Janet LeeCarey calls a “story journal.” At The Lyons’ Den in Bothell, I try to write the opening scene, but a man at the nexttable is determined to attract my attention. I turn him into an eleven-year-oldgirl with black fingernail polish and add him to my word count. My goal is2,000 words a day. I’m going to finish early!

 

Day 2: Teaching day. Spend the entire day on lessons, and theentire evening hosting the Duvall 1st Wednesday Poetry Reading at Match Coffee and Wine Bar in Duvall, But, it’s only Day 2, right?

 

Day 3: Up to 1710 words. I’ll catch up.

 

Day 4: Paesano’s Coffee in Monroe. Lots of story journaling. A hunky, shirtless guy on a dirtbike has appeared and called my heroine Principessa.All in all, not a bad writing day.

 

Day 5: My son takes the SAT, so I hole up at Caffé Ladro in Edmonds and write. I hear an NPRinterview on Joan of Arc and decide she’ll have to go into thebook—somehow.

 

Day 8: My protagonist nearly drowns, so I spent many hoursresearching water safety on Mario Vittone’s blog. Then I teach a teen poetry workshop for RASP.

 

Days 9-14:Hunky guy doesn’t want protagonistto know he saved her life. Girl with black fingernail polish followsprotagonist everywhere. Up to 12,769 words. Still behind, but I have lots oftime.

 

Day 15: Wee hours of the morning. I watch a live feed of theeviction of Occupy Wall Street from Zucotti Park. Suddenly my screen freezes.When I reboot, my entire D drive is gone. Restore takes all day.

 

Day 16: Teaching day. D drive disappears again overnight.

 

Day 17: Restore.

 

Days18-19: TEENWriteBecause I’ve put TEENWrite into thebook, I come as my protagonist’s character, an elf.

 

Days20–26: School break. When I’ve had a goodwriting day, I get to watch Dr. Who.Make it to 17,963. 32k to go, which is somewhat alarming. Make plan for writing8k per day which is, frankly, impossible. Paste the story I wrote at TEENWrite into the book for another 857words. This is not really cheating.

 

Day 27: My daughter, Sarah walks by my office and says innocently,“Why don’t you include your story journal in your word count? It IS part ofwriting your novel.” Word count jumps suddenly by 7k.

 

Day 28: My friend, MollyBlaisdell dares me to write over 8k in a day.She uses Muppet Movie tickets as bait. (Molly’s picture book THE BIG FUZZY COAT is a contender on theMeeGenius Author Challenge) I add 8265words, including Psalm69, which I cut and paste in its entirety. (One of the characters prays alot.)

 

Day 29: One of my characters says, “Do you want me to tell you whatHindus believe?” Bing “What do Hindus Believe?”Seconds later I have 160 more words. Realize that one of my characters is a CatStevens fan, and paste the lyrics to “TheWind,” “I Wish, I Wish” and “How Can I Tell You?” into my story journal (nowpart of my word count). I go to The Wayward Coffeehouse in Seattle, where I write like crazy with a bunch of otherWrimos.

 

Day 30: Teaching day. Have not slept since yesterday. Phone meetingwith publicist in the morning. Get son from clarinet lesson. Grade stuff. Conversewith a student about leprechauns. Teach in an even more crazed fashion thanusual. Go home. I have seven hours to finish this book. 7775 words to go. Hunkyguy in book writes a very nice song. Characters sneak into the Lan SuChinese Garden. By 11:15 PM, I have 47k… There isNO WAY I will write 3,000 words in 45 minutes! I wrack my brains. And this iswhere the real cheating begins: My “secret blog” contains words. And myprotagonist and I muse about similar things… I paste in two blog posts. Notenough. I write more on the Lan Su scene. Still not enough. It is 11:52. Didn’tI start another book with that one character who’s in this book? I paste in theopening of that book And…I WIN!!!!!

 

So, now Ihave learned my lesson: It doesn’t matterwhether you win or lose; it’s how you play the game? No. It matters thatyou win.

 

1) In 30 days, I have writtenapproximately 150 manuscript pages. I have a full outline and 19 characters. Ifpressed, I could probably write a synopsis tomorrow. (Note to Leah—please don’tpress. The one I send later will be better.)

 

2) This manuscript contains huge gaps,but the writing is actually pretty good—maybe even better than writing I’ddeliberated over.

 

3) When there’s no time to figure outall the whys and whens, write “the heart of the scene.” Like the heart of the TARDIS, that’swhere all the power is, anyway.

 

4) DIALOGUE is the backbone of a novel.

 

5) Get a little help from your friends:When I was ready to give up, my friends were there with cheers and challenges.And, I got great tips from the Nanowrimoforums, which I’d never thought I had time for.

 

6) Even though I am a NaNoWriMoRebel I still feel giddy with success. Hitting that 50k, even with “illegal”content, gives me the confidence that I needto turn a viable book into a publishable book.
Katherine