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Member Since 16 Jul 2012
Offline Last Active Sep 17 2016 09:21 PM

Topics I've Started

a: Diagraming Your Plot: The Big Picture

Today, 08:00 AM

I have a confession to make – unlike so many of my fellow Muffin bloggers, fiction intimidates me. I have ideas for fictional stories. But actually carrying them out? I can pull off the occasional picture book.

But, as I wrote about in “Putting Your Story Aside,” sometimes I come up with a story that is just too big for a picture book. I quickly realized that in this case the correct solution wasn’t going to be finding a way to shape my premise into a picture book. This time around the solution was going to be finding a different, longer form for the story.

Once I figured that out, I froze up. I needed to figure out my basic plot points. I knew that, but plot diagrams and I have a dicey relationship. All that scrolling from one screen to another or flipping pages is just distracting. And, NO, I can’t get enough information on one page.

I’m not sure why it took me several days to figure this out but eventually I hit on a solution. Years ago, I made a story board the size of a poster frame. That way I didn’t have to flip from page to page when I visually mapped out a picture book. If I could make a super-sized story board, surely I could make a larger-than-normal plot diagram.

Behold! The Big Picture Plot Diagram. In a former life, it was part of a foam core science fair board. I’m using one panel, approximately 1 foot by 3 feet. Then I stapled red yarn to mark the ¼ point and the ¾ point. Then I used black yarn to mark your basic plot line. It seems overly simple but after waffling for something like 10 days it helped me outline my book.

First, I outlined my mentor text on orange post-its. Remember, fiction intimidates me. Outlining a mentor text helped me put together various things I already knew and spot several problems with my original idea. I saw how to better introduce my characters and how the solution to the big problem has to come out of a flaw in one of their personalities. I know, I know. That’s the sort of advice that you read all the time, but outlining my mentor text let me see it.

Next I outlined my own book on green post-its. The great thing about post-it notes on a giant foam board was that when the tension failed to escalate correctly, I could easily move one chapter and insert another. No flipping back and forth. No cutting and scrolling and pasting. You just pick up a post-it and then put it down three inches farther along in the plot.

And I did it without any of page turns or screen scrolls that I find so distracting. Outlining both books took me two hours.

Maybe none of you have these problems.

Then again, maybe, just maybe, there is someone who is just as visual as I am and needs a highly visual, big picture solution. It may not slice, it may not dice, but the Big Picture Plot Diagram may still be just what you need.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins October 9th.

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a: Blue Hair Don't Care; the Lesson of "Just Keep Scrolling"

Yesterday, 07:01 AM

Photo Credit Olivia Brey of Oh! Photography
The picture you see here is probably not the first controversial thing I posted on social media, and I can tell you for a fact my recent post about allowing my kids to cuss is not the last thing that will spark some negative comments. I love the positive vibes you can get from social media done right. I love being connected to my tribe even when we may not share the same neighborhoods (geographically speaking). Every once in a while though, something can be posted or shared quite innocently and heat up into a raging inferno of emotions and conflicting view points.

An important thing to remember when we are talking about the spoken word, the written word, social media, or writing a book/short story is something my dad would say:

"You can't please all of the people all of the time"

If I say, share, or type something, it is never with the intention of hurting someone. Intentions are important when it comes to keeping it all in perspective for both the writer and the reader. An equally important tool is this one:

"Just Keep Scrolling"
"Do Not Engage"

You don't like my kids haircut or the color of his hair?
You think it's terrible that someone would breastfeed their toddler?
You would never recommend that book because the F word is included so often?
You are upset about that picture of a farmer because you're a vegetarian?
You won't read anything by that author because she divorced her husband and became a lesbian?
He was once a she so you'll never patronize his coffee shop much less share his FB page?

...the list is endless...

We are all entitled to our opinions. Even the best of friends don't agree on everything. Even my husband and I can agree to disagree when it comes to certain topics. What we don't do is engage in the negativity. If I see something on social media I don't like, I keep scrolling. When someone says something negative about me, my articles, my religion, my this that or the next thing, I just simply don't engage them. Is it because I have nothing to say? Absolutely not...it's because I know I won't change their mind and arguing only builds walls. I'm all about building bridges.

Have you ever engaged with the negativity? As authors, I think it's only natural to want to defend our work like a mother defends her child. What has been your experience?

What about social media, do you follow the "Just Keep Scrolling" motto or do you have something that works better for you? What do you do if you see something you disagree with or something that hurts you?

Please share your ideas, experiences, and comments - we would love to hear from you!

Crystal is a council secretary and musician at her church, birth mother, babywearing cloth diapering
mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 10, Andre 9, Breccan 3, Delphine 2, and baby Eudora due this fall), two dogs, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff here, and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!

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a: The National Book Festival

20 August 2017 - 03:36 PM

One of my favorite events of the year is fast approaching: The National Book Festival. Put on by The Library of Congress, it unites authors and their readers.

The format has changed over the years. Until recently, it was held outside in Washington, D.C. on the West Lawn along the National Mall. I have many fond memories ducking in and out of the tents, listening to authors like Lois Lowry, Diana Gabaldon and Neil Gaiman – riveted as they shared their passion for writing with thousands of eager fans.

As it was an outdoor event, we sometimes had to brave the elements. Rain wasn’t enough to stop me from listening to Katherine Patterson, even if I didn’t have a seat and I was soaking wet, standing in mud. There is a palpable excitement that exists among like-minded people who love reading and writing that not even fifty-degree weather and pouring rain can erase.

The festival is now held in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center – still in Washington, D.C. – but it is no less magical. Instead of speaking in tents, the authors and illustrators speak in large rooms which can hold twice the people. And as if having the chance to hear your favorite authors talk about their work wasn’t amazing enough, the festival also offers book-signings, performances, discussion panels, and my personal favorite – The Pavilion of States. Each state showcases up-and-coming authors and literacy movements in their area. It is a treasure-trove for teachers. I walk away with posters, bookmarks, pens, pencils, and a myriad of other freebies that I still use every year.

Last year, I stumbled upon Scholastic Books who was giving away free, hardcover, young-adult novels. My heart stopped and I dashed to get in line, jumping up and down like a child. In my opinion, there is no better gift than a free book. I also had the opportunity to hear Stephen King speak. Ever seen a grown woman geek out when one of her favorite authors of all time walks onto the stage? You would have if you’d been sitting next to me.

When I mentioned the festival to some of the teachers in my school, they had never heard of it, and so it occurred to me that, perhaps, there were fellow writers who didn’t know about the festival either. If you are in the general D.C. area, I highly recommend going. Every year I walk away with valuable writing advice. I’m inspired to kick-start a new idea. I’m reminded by the 200,000 plus people who attend, that reading and writing do still matter.

The festival is on Saturday, September 2nd this year. You can find me hanging on the every word of M.T. Anderson, Ernest Gaines, and David Baldacci.

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.

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a: Friday Speak Out!: Are You a Writer?

18 August 2017 - 08:00 AM

by Mary-Lane Kamberg

Are you just embarking on the writer’s journey and feel reluctant to call yourself a “real” writer? Don’t be intimidated to declare yourself a member of the tribe. Take heart, fellow traveler. Check off the items that apply to you on following list. The more you check off, the better creds you have. However, even if you check only the last one, you’re in. You are a writer.

You might be a writer if:

· You find a grammatical error in a New York Times best seller and think, I can do better than that!

· You miss your exit on the Interstate because you’re working out the next plot twist for your novel.

· You hear “last call” at the library.

· You eavesdrop in a restaurant and think, I’m gonna use that!

· You thrive on conflict.

· On an airplane a flight attendant tells you to turn off electronic devices, and you close the hardcover book you’re reading.

· You love office supplies.

· You hear “last call” at Barnes and Noble.

· Sitting behind home plate at a Major League Baseball game, you see a pitch coming right at you until the protective netting catches it. You think, so that’s what it’s like to see a fast ball screaming toward your head. I’m gonna use that!

· You go to Chipotle to read the cups.

· You think pajamas qualify as “business casual.”

· You procrastinate until the last possible minute and still meet your deadline.

· You’re addicted to adrenaline.

· You have unread books stacked all over the house.

· You hear “last call” at Starbucks.

· Your favorite friends are other writers.

· Your only friends are other writers.

· You might have a friend who is an artist or musician.

· You walk into a plate glass window and think, so that’s what it feels like to get punched in the nose. I’m gonna use that!

· You tell your spouse to stop creeping up behind you and reading over your shoulder.

· You hear “last call” at Staples.

· You pick up a cereal box and turn to the back just to have something to read.

· You meet someone with an unusual name and think, I’m gonna use that!

· Your cat walks across your computer keyboard. You interrupt your writing session to feed her.

· You look up from a late night writing session and see the sun and hear birds singing.

· You people-watch from a corner at Whole Foods.

· You think of an idea for a poem, story, novel, essay, article or book and think, I’m gonna use that! And you do.

* * *
Mary-Lane Kamberg is a professional writer/editor/speaker in the Kansas City area. She is the author of more than 30 books, including The I Love To Write Book: Ideas and Tips for Young Writers and The "I Don't Know How to Cook" Book. She writes nonfiction books for middle school and high school libraries and has published a poetry chapbook Seed Rain. She roots for the Jayhawks during March Madness.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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a: It's all good

17 August 2017 - 09:30 AM

In the Netflix movie The Incredible Jessica James, the lead character (played by Jessica Williams) asks Tony-award winning playwright Sarah Jones when she knew she had made it. And Jones responds that she doesn't know she's made it, and success is about what it (playwriting) means to her (James).

James says she loves writing plays and Jones responds with something like: Then you are doing it, you are already in it, and that's all there is.

It's the same for any writer who wonders if he or she is a real writer. You are already doing it, so you don't need to wonder. This is all there is. Of course there will be moments of triumph. Sometimes it's an award or other recognition. But what you are doing now - the research, or maybe writing the (near) perfect sentence. Or it might be discovering a great coffee shop in which to write, and feel so good about it that it makes you believe you can write anything. That moment of joy is what it feels like to be a successful writer.

Or maybe it's getting your office organized, or finding the perfect software to write your novel, or even reading books by your favorite author in the hope that some of his or her ability to write will rub off on you. Other ways of realizing success is about finding your people. Maybe you join a local chapter of the state writer's guild. And maybe it's not a great fit, but within that group you find three or four writers who form the best critique group you've ever had, and you hate to miss those meetings because those people know what it means to be a writer, and you feel the same way when you are with them.

This is what brings joy to writers. Of course we want to succeed, but we are already succeeding, and loving these moments because that's when we feel most like who we are. These moments are when we are the best definition of ourselves as writers.

So maybe you will never have a book on the New York Times Best Seller List, or a Pulitzer, or be known to the masses as a great writer. But that's OK, because you are a writer anyway, and that's all there is, but it's all good.

Mary Horner is the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, and teaches communications at St. Charles and St. Louis Community Colleges. Her short story titled Shirley and the Apricot Tree will be published this fall in Kansas City Voices.

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