One Writer’s Journey

February 1, 2017

TED: Learning about Story

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:48 am
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tedMost of you already know that I’m something of a TED Talk fan.  TED talks were originally about Technology, Education and Design.  They have expanded and cover just about every topic you can imagine including story.  Here are some of my favorites that, as fellow writers, you might find interesting.

Sisonke Msimang’s talk on the power (and limitations) of story.  Click here.

Novelist Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s talk about the dangers of only hearing a single story about a given place.  Click here.

Eman Mohammed’s talk on telling hidden stories and gender norms.  Click here.

How Tracy Chevalier looked at a painting and wrote an entire novel.  Click here.

Film maker Andrew Stanton on the art of storytelling.  Before you click here, TED warns viewers about graphic language so I shall too.

Director Shekhar Kapur on creative inspiration.  Click here.

Writer and director J.J. Abrams talks about his love of mystery.  Click here.

Novelist Amy Tan on where creativity hides.  Click here.

The next time you need a bit of inspiration, click on one of these talks and see how someone else works.  I always come away ready to write and I get you will too.


November 17, 2016

Our Audience: Listening to What Teens Have to Say

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:26 am
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teen-boyOne of the best things about the internet is that it gives us a chance to connect with a wide variety of people.  Some of these people are even our target readers.  You can check out what teens post in chats or the videos that they post on Youtube.  Some of my favorites are the Ted videos by teens.  These are teens who were passionate enough about something that they managed to make adults sit up and take notice which is no small feat.

Maybe you’re writing a book about a young musician who makes it big.  How does a teen break into the music world?  Check out Tallia Storm’s Discovering the Storm. She was a 13 year-old musician when she opened for Elton John.  This is the story of how she managed to pull that off.

Or you could be writing a book about a young scientist.  How do you work when you don’t have access to a lab?  How do you acquire the things you need?  Angela Zhang, the 17-year-old creator of a nanoparticle, talks about Breaking Down the Unknown while Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao discuss how the mistakes they made, in discovering a bacteria that can break down plastic, led to future discoveries.

You can access other TedXTeen talks here.  Musicians, scientists, writers and more have recorded TED talks.  Teens who are into computers, who have survived war and who are great problem solvers have also made their voices heard.  You don’t have to chase down your own reluctant teen ager to find out what his or her contemporaries think.  Instead, check out these videos and let them both inform and inspire your writing.  You may find a story taking off in a whole new direction with a voice of its own.


December 15, 2015

Diversity in Literature: Reading around the world

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:17 am
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The children’s publishing community is an amazing thing.  We step forward and help each other all the time.  But I learned about another astonishing community to day — the community of book lovers world wide.

Ann Morgan is a British author and editor who realized that she wasn’t too terribly impressed by what her bookshelves said about her.  You’ve heard the saying — a person’s bookshelves say a lot about them.  Morgan thought of herself as a fairly worldly person but her bookshelves told another story.  Yes, they were full but they were full of books from Britain and North America.

She admitted to herself that this was not who she wanted to be — a xenophobic reader — so she issued herself a challenge for 2012.  She would read a book from every country in the world.  I’m not sure she really had any clue what she was getting into when she started this project but as she progressed she not only found amazing books, she connected with fellow book lovers.

Check out her story in the video below.

You can find her book list here.  It includes the list of countries, the books she considered from each and a link to her comments on the book she ultimately read.

Maybe just maybe some of you would like to issue yourself a challenge for the new year?



February 24, 2015

Book Art

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:28 am
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Do not destroy books.  That’s generally my mantra.  But once in a while an artist manages to convince me that what they are doing is creation and not destruction.  One of those artists is Brian Dettmer.

Dettmer acknowledge that some people find his work disturbing because what they see is the destruction of a book.  The cool thing?  Dettmer acknowledges that this opinion matters, because we think of books as living things, things that evolve and change and grow.

For his part, Dettmer is helping books do just that.  He helps us to see something new inside of them because that’s where his art originates — from the inside of the book itself.  He seals the outside surface of the book he is work with and then carves into it to reveal images and words in layers.

Part of the reason that he works with books is that he loves their yin and yang and I’m glad he brought this dichotomy to my attention. The words in books create pictures in our minds, but when we look at the images in books we think about them using language.  Get it — yin and yang.

One reason that Dettmer is willing to work with books in creating is art is that he does’t believe that books will die out.  I’m going to make you watch his video (below) to find out why.  And, you really do want to see this video so that you can check out both his creations and how he thinks about the books we work so hard to create.




September 29, 2014

A Book Is a Door

I recently discovered this TED talk by Mac Barnett.  Barnett is the author of Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, the book that Barnett discusses in the video, but also several books illustrated by Dan Santat including Oh No! Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World.

It isn’t uncommon for writers to think of their books as doors between the world of the reader and the world of story.  After all, we spend a lot of time finding ways to hook our readers, engage their interest and keep them reading.  At the extreme, we have books in which the narrator speaks to the reader, as Lemony Snickett does in the Series of Unfortunate Events books.

Barnett challenges us to use this door in a different way — to bring the world of story into the world of the reader.  He tells how he did this in Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem.  The book design includes an end paper advertisement.  Send in a SASE and the company will send you your very own blue whale.  What do readers who send in a SASE get?  You’ll have to watch the video the find out.  Suffice it to say that they are invited into the world of the story.

Barnett has done this with his books, when he worked as a camp counselor and again with a tutoring program where participants pass through unique retail space (think pirate supply store or time travel mart) to get to the educational program.  Watch the video and be inspired to find ways to bring your story out into the world of the reader.




December 18, 2013

Karen Thompson Walker: What a Novelist Has to Say about Fear and Creativity

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:27 am
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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I found this TED talk, “What Fear Can Teach Us” by novelist Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles. The beauty of using the treadmill for a minimum of 40 minutes most days is this —  you’re going to be on the treadmill whether you watch the TED talk or not, so you might as well be both amused and educated.

Not surprisingly, I’m glad I did.  Walker’s presentation pulls in a wide variety of information including the story of the whale ship Essex and how fear played a role in the decision made by the survivors.  She also compares fear to spinning stories and writing.  She states that good readers bring both an artist’s passion and a scientist’s coolness of judgement to the story.

Here to speak for herself is Walker:


The next time my character is facing two fearful solutions, maybe I’ll have the foresight to keep in mind that subtle fears are often the truest.  And that the lurid?  Often leads to disaster.



October 8, 2012

US Poet Laureate Billy Collins speaks about “Everyday Moments, Caught in Time”

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:22 am
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I have to admit that before I saw this video, I wasn’t familiar with the work of Billy Collins.  Since I viewed the video, I have requested one of his collections, The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems, from my local library.  What can I say.  This TED talk with Billy Collins is brilliant.

For one thing, Collins has got to be one of the most quotable speakers I have ever heard.  Maybe its because he is a poet and writing in short, sharp lines is close kin to writing sound bites.  Whatever the reason, he had several lines that have stuck with me.

“Bugs Bunny is my muse.”

When I hear authors speak about their childhood influences, I squirm while they marvel about their earliest readings of Voltaire and Dante.  Me?   Think more along the lines of viewing Abbott and Costello and Godzilla.

“[If people encounter poetry in unexpected places,] they don’t have time to deploy their anti-poetry deflector shields, the ones that were installed in high school.”  Collins had this to say about why he let his work be set to film in spite of disastrous attempts to set it to music.  How did he know about my anti-poetry deflector shields?  I thought they were concealed by the line of my jacket.

Collins then goes on to share several poems set to film.  Although the first one is fun, I really liked the second which features his views on the creative process.  Basically, sometimes we drive our writing and other times it plops us down where it wants us.

Collins wraps up the presentation by reading a new poem called “To My Favorite 17 Year-0ld high school girl.”

Listen to him read that particular poem and see if you aren’t looking at your own efforts wondering what more you could do doing.  Sure, you’re laughing, but you aren’t resting quite as easy as you were before — Darn that Billy Collins.


July 31, 2012

The nature of the creative process

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:12 am
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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.


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