Thursday, August 28, 2008

Writing Down the Bones

"It is odd that we never question the feasibility of a football team practicing long hours for one game; yet in writing we rarely give ourselves the space for practice." This quote comes from Natalie Goldberg in her book 'Writing Down the Bones'. In this book, Ms. Goldberg stresses how writing practice helps writers to learn to 'trust their own minds and create confidence in their own experiences'. She talks about taking our experiences and composting them like we do garbage, turning them over until they turn into organic soil.
One of her goals was to write a notebook a month. She mentioned that she had a pile of notebooks five feet high, just from writing practice. "It is a good idea to have a page in your notebook where you jot down, as they come to you, ideas of topics to write about." She advised, in one of her chapters. In the same chapter, she also listed topic ideas.
Ms. Goldberg talks about discipline and tricks to help yourself do your practice writing. She also stressed that it is important that you put your heart and soul into it. If you find that you are bored, go away for awhile and come back. You have to put energy into it to make it worthwhile.
The use of original detail in writing is important. "Using details you actually know and have seen will give your writing believability and truthfulness." Be aware of the details around you and when you have a moment write them down. Care about them.
There is a chapter called 'Don't Marry the Fly' where the writer is warned about getting caught up in honing in on a specific detail at the expense of your story. This chick is sharp.
There is a chapter on the importance of listening, and one on the use of verbs. Writers are encouraged to be specific. To learn about the topic they are writing about and speak that way. Don't just say flower, say geranium and know what a geranium is.
Ms. Goldberg gives a lot of practical advice, mixed with some zen type philosophy about how writing can be improved. I enjoyed this book and found some helpful tips. It may not be every ones cup of tea, but if you read it, and like it, Ms. Goldberg has since written other writing books, including 'Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life, Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America, and Thunder and Lightening: Cracking Open the Writer's Craft. These books can be purchased on Amazon, or I'm sure you can probably find them at the local library.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


For September's illustration for Stories for Children Magazine, I decided to try using prismacolor pencils. It didn't turn out too bad. They are much smoother to work with than regular pencil crayons and you can layer with them if you use them lightly. You can burnish them for kind of a polished effect at the end of your drawing if you wish. It depends on the strength of your paper, you don't want to burnish right through to the table. You'll want to seal your finished drawing with a fixative, the same as if you were drawing with charcoal or pastels. Prismacolor pencils can be pricey, but you can find them at a discount at places like Blick art supplies or

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Writing Magic

This week I thought I would share one of my favorite books on writing with you. It also happens to be by one of my favorite children's writers. The book is called Writing Magic and is by Gail Carson Levine. She is the author of a ton of fun books including Ella Enchanted, The Princess tales and the Two Princesses of Bamarre. If you haven't read any of them, I strongly suggest you do. Gail has a sense of humor that pervades her writing and just makes her stories a lot of fun to read. But I digress, I want to tell you about her book on writing, it is written for young writers, but anyone can benefit from her wit and wisdom. Each chapter begins with an explanation and always end in a writing prompt and a challenge. If you follow the book the way it was meant, you won't only read, you'll do a whole lot of fun writing.
Gail discusses the importance of details, character development, point of view, voice, showing and not telling, dialogue, humor, writer's block, etc. I've given this book to several friends because to me it covers so many important aspects of writing, in a simple yet straightforward way. If you are interested in taking a look, you can click on Gail Carson Levine's link under Links for Children's writers to see the cover of the book and suggested places to purchase it. You may be able to get a copy at the local library, or if they don't have one, request that they get one in.
Writing should be a magic thing to those of us who enjoy it. Hopefully this book will be helpful to any newbies out there with basic questions and a desire to learn.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Have you heard of Lookybook? Well now you have. Lookybook has been rated by Time Magazine as one of the top 50 new websites this year. It is a place that you can go and not only see the darling covers of children's picture books, but actually open the pages and read the darn things. Then after you read them, you can give them your rating, rant and rave about them, or tear them to bits, and build your personal library of children's books. Cool, eh. I would recommend this site to writers and illustrators alike. It's a great place to find awesome illustration and fun writing to boot. Books are new, new, new, and are what publishers are putting out right now. It's a great place for newbies to see what's out there. To find Lookybook, go to or click on Lookybook under Links For Children's Writers on my blog. Now go looky at some bookys.