One Writer’s Journey

May 16, 2018

Library of Congress: Benjamin Franklin collection now online

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:38 am
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If you write either historical fiction or nonfiction, you need to become familiar with the Library of Congress.  Their holdings are vast and they are making an effort to make more available online.  Their digital collections can be found here and encompass social history, music and invention.

The newest collection to make its way into the digital universe are the Benjamin Franklin Papers. Click through and you can view approximately 8,000 most of which are from the 1770s and 1780s. The collection includes both his work in politics and his work in science and although not all of it is online, this is a start.

Additional collections include:

Alexander Bell Family Papers: The online collection contains about 51,500 images of correspondence, scientific notebooks,  blueprints, and more.

After the Day of Infamy: These man-on-the-street interviews were recorded following the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The collection consists of 12 hours total although I’m not sure how much has been digitized.

Ansel Adam’s Photographs of Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar : I just recently learned about these photos so I was excited to see that they can be found at the Library of Congress.

Explore the various collections and you will find sheet music, film, and more.  Keep in mind that just because the material is available does not mean there is no copyright.  But often the Library does not own the copyright so if you want to use an image in your work you may have to go through the effort of contacting the copy right holder.

Personally, that isn’t a problem for me because I tend to use the material here as inspiration.  What would it be like to be a professional woman, a Red Cross instructor, interred at Manzanar?  How natural were Curtis’ Native American portraits and how staged?  Why would they have been staged?  If they were, are they still valuable.

The next time you are stuck for something to write about, spend some time in the collections of the Library of Congress.


December 19, 2017

Titles and Wordplay: An Opportunity to Make Your Own Story

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:26 am
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Recently I read a post about how illustrator Jake Parker came up with cover for The 12 Sleighs of ChristmasOh, it’s just like the 12 Days of Christmas.  Funny!   Before long, I too was playing with the title of the carol.

The 12 Brays of Christmas, a Missouri mules picture book.

The 12 Greys of Christmas, a picture book of alien encounters.

Drays, phrase, mays or maize . . .

The 12 Maize of Christmas, colorful corn for Chris Kringle.

Whether you start with a carol or a folk tale, wordplay is a great opportunity to generate story ideas.  My son’s favorite when he was a preschooler was the Three Little Pears.  We had started out with the made up story The Three Little Rocket Ships, which he liked because he was a rocket crazy kid who could tell a Mercury Redstone from an Atlas at a glance.  But the story he loved was the Three Little Pears.

Little Pears.  Little Squares.  Little Mares.

When you get into the habit of playing with words, the possibilities are endless.  Kids love silly.  You just need to find something that you can use to generate a workable story.  You can play around to come up with your title and story idea, your setting (New York, New Pork, New Fork) and character names (see Three Little Pears) and more.

Granted your brain has to be in a playful mood but that’s okay.  When it is take advantage of this opportunity to generate a little of silly story ideas.




December 13, 2017

MOOC: An Opportunity to Learn and Generate Story Ideas

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:50 am
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For those of you who aren’t familiar with the phrase, an MOOC is a massive open online course.  These are online classes often with video-taped lectures, readings and quizes, papers or projects.  These courses are a great opportunity to learn something new.  And with that knowledge, I often gain a handful of stories ideas per course.

The majority of courses I’ve taken have been through Coursera. Top institutions around the world offer courses through Coursera.  I’ve had classes through the Smithsonian, University of Virginia, Duke and Northwestern.  Although you can pay for credit, I’ve always taken the free version.

My husband and I also took a class on comic book history through edX.  edX was founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012.  The class was through the Smithsonian and featured guest lectures by Stan Lee.

Two other sites that offer MOOC are:

The Khan Academy which partner with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, and MIT.

United Nations Institute for Training and Research which is a training arm of the United Nations. UNITAR courses that are open to the public include courses on Environmentalism and Climate Change.  I’m considering several of these but most likely won’t be signing up until after Christmas.

What interests you? I’ve taken a wide variety of classes including:

History classes like “Luther and the West,” “Introduction to Ancient Egypt and Its Civilization,” “The Kennedy Half Century,” and “Age of Jefferson.”

Anthropology classes including “Osteoarchaeology: The Truth in Our Bones” and “Human Evolution: Past and Future.”
Science classes such as “Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life” and “Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology.”
As well as “Copyright for Educators & Librarians” and “Art & Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies For Your Classroom.”


Some classes I’ve enjoyed more than others.  The Astrobiology class just about lost me.  It was more chemistry than “oh look a planet” but I learned a lot and came out of it with some ideas.

I’m a firm believer in life-long learning.  Besides don’t you want to know the latest and greatest info on various topics so that you can stay in step with your readers?


July 3, 2017

Why You Should Brainstorm aka Don’t Always Go with Idea #1

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:56 am
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I’m half way through judging entries for a flash fiction contest.  That’s 40 pieces and I’ve read 20 so far.  The funny thing?  The number of duplicates.  I’m not saying that entire stories have been duplicated but I will tell you that I’m seeing the same themes again and again. Granted this is a women’s fiction contest, so the duplicates that I’m seeing are husbands women wish were gone, child sexual abuse, negligent parents, and having to deal with aging parents.

Whether you are writing for young readers or adults, the issues are similar. Yes, we need to write about things that will click with our readers but we need to go beyond these “clickable” issues.  We need to find a way to make the things that the characters are dealing with new and fresh.

One way to do this is to brainstorm.  Go with a theme that will click with your reader but then brainstorm the details.  Go beyond the things that other people will have considered.  Note:  I don’t say the things that other people may have considered.  I say will because . . . really?  I’m seeing these same things again and again and again.  You want to give the reader something fresh.

So maybe you go ahead and write that book about the first day of school.  But maybe this is the first day of Martian Kindergarten.  Or penguin preschool.

Or you write that book about the character that doesn’t want to go to bed . . . in the morning.  Why?  Because she’s a vampire and those ridiculous birds won’t quit chirping.  Or she’s convinced that her parents go out and sun bathe without her.

Start with that theme your reader will get (step parents, school, moving, breaking up with a boyfriend) and give it a twist or twelve.  And before you settle on the perfect twist?  Brainstorm.  Because the best idea might be number 3 or number 7.  You won’t know until you have a list to choose from.




October 30, 2015

Brainstorming via mem

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:14 am
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I love looking at the various mems my friends post on Facebook.  Okay, not the political ones so much but the funny ones, the historic ones, and the “what would you…” variety.  They are wonderful opportunities to brainstorm story ideas.

What magical power do you posess?  What superpower?  What supernatural ability?

Those are all great opportunities to brainstorm.  What would be the best superpower?  Personally, I have no interest in flying and superspeed which just mean that I ran into more things more quickly.  No thanks.  Mind reading? That would probably get old fast.  I’d be annoyed whenever someone lied.  Xray vision?  That would be tempting.  I am, as my grandmother called it, a nosey Parker.  I was never 100% certain what that meant beyond “nosey.”

I may not have settled on the best superpower, but look at all those potential story ideas!  That could keep me going for a while.

Historical mems are just as good.  I posted this one on Columbus Day.  The full story potential didn’t strike me until me friend Walter commented on it.  “I claim this Astin Martin in the name of Spain.”  Whoa.  What is your character really tried this?  It couldn’t possibly work unless he had found some extraordinary legal loophole.  That could be a wild story.

Then another friend posted a mem today about the women who were against suffrage.  That’s the sort of thing we sometimes forget.  Not everyone, not even all women, thought it was a great idea.  Why would a woman work against it?  I could see this one working as either nonfiction or fiction.

When you are stuck for a story idea, take a closer look at the mem’s your friends post.  Maybe one of them will spark a story idea.  And, if it does, you can tell your spouse that Facebook time now counts as research.



May 26, 2014

Story Ideas

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:12 am

Where do you get your ideas?

I have to admit — wherever I happen to be, I find ideas.  It might be because I’m curious about so many things.  It doesn’t matter if I’m reading a book, watching aDSCF4199 movie or out with my family even if we happen to be strolling through a cemetery.  Yes, we do sometimes stroll through cemeteries.  Check out this awesome inscription that we found on a headstone in Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY.  Here is definitely a story to be told.

Where can you find a story this Memorial Day?



January 4, 2012

Printing Bones in 3D

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:26 am
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It’s no mystery — IMO (nothing humble about it) printing in 3D is super cool.  I’ve seen articles on printing tools and other components but what about bone?

Technology Review had an article about printing 3D bones so that they could be implanted in patients to create a framework for bone cell growth.  The thought is that this could be used extensively for dentistry.

Of course, you can also “print” fossils as seen in this video.

But what if you printed a fossil and inserted it into a “patient”?  Creepy but the natural pathway for a writer’s brain.


May 5, 2011

Abandon by Meg Cabot

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 12:52 am
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For about a year now, I’ve been noodling over an idea for a young adult novel.  I just happen to love the myth of Persephone.  I have no clue why, because Persephone in the myth is a bit . . . my grandmother would have called her a milk toast.  Interpret that as you will.

So what’s the problem?  One day last week, I was piddling around, having a head cold, reading blogs instead of writing.  In my piddling, I came across this video.

What happens when you have an idea for a book and then discover that someone has already written it?  Normally, my advice would be, go ahead and write your book.  But what if the author you’re up against is Meg Cabot?

In Meg’s defense, I haven’t read the book yet and don’t know the finer points of the plot.  Maybe her Persephone and Hades are in many ways very unlike my Persephone and Hades.  I do, after all, have some pretty firm ideas concerning these two characters, where the myth went wrong and why it went wrong.  But Meg Cabot?  Really? Was this completely and entirely necessary?

I’m still noodling my story over but am definitely going to have to read Abandon to see if it too closely parallels my own idea.  Then I’ll decide what to do.


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