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11/21/14

Ursula Le Guin Accepts Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle)The Other Wind (The Earthsea Cycle)

Changing Planes: StoriesThese are powerful words from Ursula Le Guin's acceptance speech at the National Book Awards last night in New York, where she won the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

She was my favorite writers as a teen -- I read every fantasy book written for children, and gobbled her books up. They were for adults technically, but I didn't care.

She is as profound here as in any of her books:

"I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. … The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom."

Here is a link to the whole article, New Yorker article.
Ursula K. Le Guin"We need writers who remember freedom."
Her message about profits is aimed at the Industry.
Maybe this is the genius of science fiction, it imagines a different world and doesn't just accept the one we live in as fact.

Thank you, Ursula, for saving me from my awkward, pre-teen years, when I wanted to escape to a different world, a different planet, where every one was equal and boys and girls could live in harmony.

This was so important to me then, and somehow your worlds gave me that much-needed sense of freedom.

Any one else want to ad a few words of praise for one of America's truly great writers?




 

11/12/14

WRITING NON-FICTION


Non Fiction Research Best Practices
What is non-fiction and why don't we consider it as exciting as fiction?
The world is a strange and wonderful place that needs to be written about, so that kids may learn about it.

THERE IS A NEED FOR NON-FICTION. LIBRARIANS, TEACHERS AND PARENTS are looking for new and interesting educational titles, NOT TO MENTION PUBLISHERS.

The Hollywood Writer's Schmooze met in October to discuss Non-Fiction --
This is the LINK here:
SCBWI SCHMOOZE BLOG 

And some useful RESEARCH GUIDLINES:
 
Non-Fiction Writing Best Practices
 
1.   Wikopedia can be a staring point, but it is not a reliable source.

2. Get two references for every fact you state.

3. Keep track of all your sources. Note the page number, date and place of publication. Not to mention the author and title of the work.

4. Use primary sources wherever possible. These are letters or journals or newspaper articles from the time the events occurred. As opposed to secondary sources, which are already researched pieces.

5. When using primary material, read between the lines. Try to get a feeling for the tone and point of view of the writing itself, Is it an advertisement, a folksy letter or an official document? Does the author have an agenda? What is it? 

4.    Always seek to verify and keep in mind how reliable your source is. What is the agenda or purpose?
A flier designed to recruit people into the army has a specific purpose and portrays the army in a certain light.

Most writers of FICTION already know about POV (Point of View).
In non-fiction writing...you don't create, so much as discover your point of view.

5. Every piece of information you get may have a different point of view, but eventually you may be able to start classifying your information in some useful way that will enable you to start writing and showing the various sides of your story.

5.    If you are researching a person, try to get a feeling for who the person was. What was their personality? How do their actions illustrate their beliefs?

Non-fiction writer research works in a reverse way to fiction writing. We try to not see how the person's life SHOWS what we want to TELL.

When you touch on the theme of a person's life, you will find a thread to connect to audiences today...

6.    Do not be afraid to revise dramatically.

As you research, you may be surprised and find information you never anticipated finding. Let the facts guide you. Chose to highlight certain aspects over others, but do not change or alter the truth.

If you do, you have crossed over into fiction or historical fiction.

Good luck!!

There are many great non-fiction stories out there just waiting to be written.
I am working on a project of my own, which I will divulge soon.

Hope you found this article useful.

Please forward it to those you know writing non-fiction, or interested.

What kind of non-fiction do you think needs to be written?

Are you writing non-fiction?
Let me know about it, please . . . thanks!

And happy writing!!!
 

10/28/14

Street art with a message

Some interesting street art in Hollywood these days. This artist seems to be commenting on the new cell phone posture -- 

10/22/14

A Bit About My Movie Family History

Here's a link to a great article on our family history and the history of the LAEMMLE THEATERS for the 75th Anniversary.

http://www.pleasethepalate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Growing-Up-Laemmle-Laemmle-75th-Book.pdf

Not only to I remember seeing ANNIE HALL for the first time at my Uncle Bob's Theater, but I remember also seeing the lesser known, Allegro Non Troppo, a wonderful Italian animated spoof of Disney's Fantasia.

here's a link to that too: Allegro Non Troppo

Enjoy! 

8/14/14

Soon to be released: THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH by Jennifer L. Holm

NETGALLEY REVIEW: The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
The latest middle grade novel by three time Newberry winning author, Jennifer L. Holm.
Release date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Why this book is great: (from a middle grade reader's point of view)
  1. It helps you think about science.
  2. It helps you learn to respect older people, who may actually have a lot of wisdom about things that you never realized.
  3. It's set in Berkeley or the Bay Area, which is just a great area.
  4. There is a Halloween part that is funny.
  5. It helps you think about science (oh, yeah, I already said that)
  6. It tells you about some of the inventions in science during the last century.
  7. It even talks about the Atom Bomb, but not in a freaky way, in a good way (which is weird but an interesting surprise).
A review from my point of view for fellow writers and readers:
THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH by Jennifer L. Holm tells the story of Ellie, an eleven year old who "has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then, one day..." (from the books intro) 
Now, I will continue in my own words:
A gawky, science-genius shows up in the form of a teen-ager, but it's really her grandfather, who has been living nearby, but with whom Ellie does not have a super-close relationship because her mother is a drama-type, works in a theater, and her dad's (though mostly out of the picture, except when he returns to fix the toilet) is a working, stage actor.
Her grandfather has always given his daughter (Ellie's mom) a hard time for not going into science. And considers drama for flakes. But this new scientific influence, is just what Ellie needs, since she isn't the showy-extraverted type anyway.
Without spoiling anything, let me just say, that this book is a fun, cute, heartwarming and educational, and NOT SAPPY. It rang true to me, because Berkeley -- or Bes-erk-ly, as we used to call it -- is a free-spirit sort-of-place, with hippies and artists running amok, but also some amazing science going on. (Think Livermore Labs etc) and sometimes the two do collide.
This middle grade novel is excellently written and structured, and worth studying for any writer of Middle Grade fiction. I loved the way realism is enhanced just a tad with the fantasy element of the grandfather-turned-young-again. Everything is handled in a contemporary style, so it rings true. Just a little twist on reality.  The characters are introduced well. And the short preface about the goldfish is just enough to give you a feel for the character's inner life, before heading into the story. 
The theme is fairly evident in the beginning – the challenge of a young person to take her older relative seriously for his amazing accomplishments. The book creates  somewhat suspenseful premise to keep you engaged and turning pages. I was hooked from the beginning because Ellie's voice is so genuine.
The story could have been a bit more suspenseful. It could have been more dramatic during the final conflict. But the change that the main character experiences is gradual, and does not really hinge on the climax. Though, it is really the grandfather that is forced to make a tough choice.
The question of belief and standing up for what you feel is right -- an age old theme -- does often does mark a transition from childhood to adulthood that may kids experience around the age of 11 or 12.  I hope young readers love this book as much as I did.
I highly recommend this book!!
Jennifer L. Holm is a three time Newberry Honor recipient, and a NY Times bestselling author.  
You can pre-order the book on Amazon. Let me know what YOU think. Write your own review in the comment section. Thanks.

 
 

6/2/14

how to write a synopsis

Step 1) Start with a Hook: this should be a paragraph or two similar to the blurb on the back of a book. Mood and tone are important. Use special adjectives, but don't over do them.

Step 2) Introduction of Characters: Introduce the main characters of your book. Tell their MOTIVATION, CONFLICT and GOALS. Stay away from detailed descriptions unless this information is pertinent to your story.

Step 3) Construct the Body of your Synopsis: Using paragraphs, write the high points of your story in chronological order. Keep the paragraphs tight with only important details. Each scene should include: ACTIION, REACTION and a DECISION.  

Example: Sam takes Jeremy's lunch box at recess. This makes Sam run after him, fall down and skin his knee. Sam decides he will always take a paper bag lunch that he can throw away from now on.

Step 4) Use 3 or 4 paragraphs to write the CRISIS and RESOLUTION of the Story. Keep this simple but make sure you show your main character's reactions. Don't keep editors/agents guessing. The synopsis must include the resolution to your story.

Step 5) Rewrite, revise and polish until each sentence flows and conveys the power of your story. Strong adjectives and verbs will help. Stay in present tense. Third person -- even if the story is told in 1st person.

Step 6) Take out any extra words.

Step 7) Read through to check that the character arc is there.

And good luck! Did I forget anything? Do you have anything to add?

Extra Note: The lengths of synopses can vary. (This is the proper plural, comes from Latin.) They can be anything from one page to three or four pages or more.

Stick to what ever you are asked for.
And keep all the versions.
You may need them!

Sign up to follow -- the post will be about writing from now on. I promise. Enough ramblin', this girl's gettin' down to business:)
(Thanks to Vivian Beck for an article that inspired this.)




 

5/28/14

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Good-bye, Maya Angelou.
The title above is one of the best titles ever penned.

From an article in AP today, after she passed away at 86 in South Carolina of an unspecified illness.
"I'm not modest," she told The Associated Press in 2013. "I have no modesty. Modesty is a learned behavior. But I do pray for humility, because humility comes from the inside out."
 
[Inspiring words, no?]

"Her story awed millions. The young single mother who worked at strip clubs to earn a living later danced and sang on stages around the world. A black woman born poor wrote and recited the most popular presidential inaugural poem in history. A childhood victim of rape, shamed into silence, eventually told her story through one of the most widely read memoirs of the past few decades."

[I read Maya's autobiography, I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS, when I was traveling in my 20s and it had a profound affect on me, as a young woman. I felt connected to all women through out the world in a struggle for dignity . . . Maya in Egypt, married, struggling against an oppressive husband . . . and me traveling alone in the Israel and Kenya, learning to fend for myself.]
[I read of her struggle in relationships -- to balance passion and art -- to express herself and to take care of her son -- to be free and to be responsible. I read 4 of the 7 autobiographies, as many as I could find.]

The title phrase: "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" haunts me, because there are still women today in mostly-metaphoric cages, struggling to sing. A woman in Pakistan was stoned to death by her family for marrying the man she loved.

[I was thrilled to read of Maya living in Laurel Canyon with her son and making his favorite meal to cheer him up, when they weren't getting along too well. She described it in detail and I could tell she was a great cook.]

[I loved her commitment to writing herself -- to telling us about her own personal journey, as it related to the world and the times she was living in. She saw herself as part of a bigger picture --something that is a sure sign of genius.]

"She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace," her son Guy Johnson said to AP.

"She called herself a poet, in love with the "sound of language," ''the music in language," as she explained to The Associated Press in 2013. But she lived so many lives. She was a wonder to Toni Morrison, who marveled at Angelou's freedom from inhibition, her willingness to celebrate her own achievements. She was a mentor to Oprah Winfrey, whom she befriended when Winfrey was still a local television reporter, and often appeared on her friend's talk show program."

"She mastered several languages and published not just poetry, but advice books, cookbooks and children's stories. She wrote music, plays and screenplays, received an Emmy nomination for her acting in "Roots," and never lost her passion for dance, the art she considered closest to poetry."

[And through it all she was a caring, courageous mother to her son, and strong, independent, passionate woman. She will be sorely missed.]