The nature of the creative process

Yes, this is 20 minutes long, but it is well worth your time as a creative individual.  In this TED presentation, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, talks about how to create a distance between yourself and the anxiety about possible reactions to your work as well as why creativity sometimes comes together and sometimes not.

You may have heard an excerpt from this talk before, when the creative process of fellow writer, poet Ruth Stone.  It is well worth the time to watch the whole thing as Gilbert discusses the creative process of several well known artists.

Look at the comments and you’ll see that not everyone agrees with her.  Those of you who know me well can guess when and where I’m rolling my eyes towards the ceiling.   But she will definitely give you something to consider.

Special thanks to agent Janet Reid who originally brought the complete presentation to my attention when she posted about it on her own blog.


Olympics Opening Ceremony Celebrates Children’s Literature

For those of you who missed it, the Olympics Opening Ceremony was a grand celebration of British children’s literature.  Follow this link to take a  look.

There are villains from Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland to Harry Potter’s Voldemort.  Amazingly enough, they weren’t vanquished by one Harry Potter but by dozens of Mary Poppins’ (Poppinses just sounds too Gollum).   Truly, truly, Mary Poppins with her magical umbrella, complete with parrot, was by far my favorite part of the entire ceremony, although Rowan Atkinson cracked me up.

Do enjoy the two videos.

Sorry for the inability to embed the videos.  NBC provides a Youtube link but it just takes you to Youtube in general.  Teases.



Ghost Buddy by Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler

The amazing writing duo of Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler have a new series out — Zero to Hero is the first book in the new Ghost Buddy series.

Lin Oliver is one of my all time favorite people — she’s absolutely darling, full of energy and ideas and so willing to share.  Imagine her paired with the outgoing wit that is Henry Winkler.  It’s no surprise that their books are hugely successful.

Their first series, Hank Zipzer, is about Winkler’s experiences as someone who is dyslexic.  Given his problems with reading, it isn’t surprising that Winkler didn’t read a book until he was 30 years old.  Still, he has something to tell young readers — you have greatness inside you.

The new Ghost Buddy books are about friendship, bullying, and being responsible.

Check out the video below.

You can also see an interview that Winkler did on the Today show — although I couldn’t embed this one.  They spend as much time talking about the Fonz as they do about the book, but it still gives you some insight into Winkler.

Check out these books and see what humor can bring to a story.



RIP Else Homelund Minarik

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about the recent death of Donald Sobol, writer of the Encyclopedia Brown series.

Unfortunately, Else Homelund Minarik, the Danish-born author of the well-known beginning reader series “Little Bear” (HarperCollins), died July 12.

Mrs. Minarik began her career as a writer after teaching first grade for several years.  As a teacher, she discovered how few books were both interesting and easy enough for new readers who still struggled to sound their way through each syllable.  Yes, there was Dick and Jane but Minarik felt these stories were too dry to actively engage children.

Instead, she wrote “Little Bear,” which was illustrated by Maurice Sendak and published by renowned editor Ursula Nordstrom.  The book was not only Minarik’s first but also the first book in the still popular “I Can Read!” series.

Minarik went on to write over 40 children’s books, including more titles featuring Little Bear, but none of the others achieved the popularity of her debut title.

Why not pick it up and see if it inspires you to write a beginning reader?

–SueBE references one of my blog posts

It’s always a great feeling when someone recognizes your work.  Imagine the happy dance I did when my WOW! editor dropped me an e-mail to let me know that one of my Muffin posts had been listed on  Click here to read Allena Tapia’s post about my Muffin post on Referencing Expert Sources.

So much of my research involves interviewing experts in their field.  If this isn’t something you’ve considered doing to enhance your own work, you might want to give it some thought.  Interviews are a great way to add the latest and greatest information to your articles, going above and beyond what someone else has already published in some way.

Editors love primary sources so why not add interviews to your current project?



RIP Donald Sobol

Sadly, children’s writing has lost another celebrated author.  Donald Sobol died on Wednesday, July 11th.

Personally, I’ve always found Sobol to be very inspiring.  Why?  Because he didn’t start out as a children’s writer.  During WWII, he served in the Army Corps of Engineers.  After the war, he was a copywriter at the New York Sun until he started working there as a reporter.

It wasn’t until 1957 that he started writing mysteries.  Encyclopedia Brown was inspired when he was doing some research at the library and the librarian handed him the wrong book.  I’m not sure what he wanted, but what he got was a puzzle book with puzzles on one side of the page and solutions on the other.  Why not use this idea in a mystery series?

Why not indeed.  Sobol wrote the first book in the series in 1963.  He wrote more than 80 books and in 1976 won an Edgar Award for Encyclopedia Brown.  Encyclopedia Brown is published in 12 languages and is featured in many classrooms and children’s libraries.  2013 will bring us the 50th anniversary of the Encyclopedia Brown series with the publication of  Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Soccer Scheme.

I wonder — just how soon can we pre-order our copies?


Character Emotion

One way to help readers connect with your characters is through emotion.  While they may never have had to rescue their parents from alien invaders, they have been afraid.  This is most effective when you go beyond “Brett was afraid.”  And I don’t mean telling your reader that he was “very afraid” or even “terrified.”  You need to show your reader the fear and let the reader come along for the ride.

What does Brett do when he’s afraid?  Perhaps he shrinks back.  Or maybe he shakes.  But if that’s all I’ve got for my readers it is going to get old fast.

Fortunately, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have taken steps to help their fellow writers out.  They have compiled an Emotion Thesaurus full of physical, mental and emotional actions.

Check out my review of this handy resource on the Muffin.  You can even enter a giveaway to win your own copy.  Good luck!




I Write Like Cory Doctorow

Just a silly little app to wind up the week.  Whose writing does your work most resemble?
I visited I Write Like and discovered that:

I write like
Cory Doctorow
Which is completely ok by me.  I only wish that the editors would realize this.
Analyze your own work and post the results in the comments below.
Note:  Different writing samples will yield different results.  My second sample (fiction) yielded a much less pleasing result than my Doctorow sample (a blog post) so I have blotted it from my memory.

Restarting the Flow — What to Do When the Words Won’t Come

A week or so ago, I wrote about what to do when you can’t meet a deadline.  Little did I know that I was going to be faced with that vary situation in just a few days time.

Many of the articles I write are based on interviews.  I had two deadlines on the same day and needed 9 or more interviews total to be able to write them.  One week before the articles were due, and I was still gathering the interviews.  With the 4th of July falling in the middle of the week, many people had taken extra time off work.  As they came back, they were returning my calls but it wasn’t going to be fast enough.

I tried roughing out the articles, knowing that I could fit quotes in at the last minute.   Not only did the writing not flow, it didn’t even flow like molasses on a cold day.  It was much more like continental drift.   Sure, I was getting words on paper, but this would not be even close to suitable for my editor.

I sent her a quick e-mail asking for a one week extension on the pair.

Two more interviews came in for each.  I still had a few to gather, but I decided to try working with the material I now had.  Yes, I had more information, but with the pressure off, the words came quickly.  I shifted the organizing of each piece a bit and the new material helped, but that wasn’t the whole reason things were working.

The pressure was off.  I could sit back and just write.   As I type this up, one article is all but ready to turn in three days before the original deadline.  The other isn’t quite as polished, and probably they will take 2 to 3 more drafts each, but now it looks do-able.

When the words won’t flow, look for the source of pressure that has tied you in a knot.  You may not be able to do anything about it, but if you can, you may be surprised by the results.


What Will You Find?

A somewhat silly, suspenseful take on what makes libraries such great places.

It sums up very nicely what I love about doing research.  Although I may start out looking for information that shows X or Y, I never know exactly what I will find.  Often I’ll find a tidbit that takes me off in another direction altogether.  Or I’ll find something that contradicts some commonly held belief.

What do you love about doing research?