There’s a quote about sculpting, attributed to Michelangelo, that I often paraphrase for students when I’m talking about the art of revising:
In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.… more
Something that has always stuck with me from pioneer tales is the images of the keepsakes and other non-mandatory items pioneer families often had to discard on the trail as the trip became harder and the oxen grew weary of pulling the overloaded wagons.
This is just one of the reasons on the very long list of why I would have made the world’s worst pioneer — I can’t pack for a weekend without schlepping along half my household goods.… more
Once, in one of my (not uncommon) moments of thinking that I could no longer handle the ﬁnancial uncertainty of the children’s book writing life, I read a book that purported to match creative people to potential career pursuits. I read the advice, ﬁlled out the quizzes, and ﬁnally received my assigned “type.” With great anticipation I turned to the section at the back of the book where possible career paths were listed by type.… more
Recently, I’ve been thinking back on a time when my focus was riveted on helping to care for a family member who was dealing with serious medical issues. It’s been stressful to have this large “life moment” disrupt my normal routine, but it also brings with it a certain kind of clarity. It’s kind of like driving at night on a country road, when the only thing you see clearly is what is illuminated by your headlight beams; you’re aware of the shadowy shapes of other objects ﬂashing by along the roadside, but the illuminated area in front of you is what gets your primary attention.… more
A few years back, I had one frightening week. I had my head down, working hard, when I heard a commotion outside. I got up to look out my front window and saw the SWAT team marching towards my house, carrying guns and wearing bullet-proof vests. Once the sound of the news helicopters alerted me to turn on the TV, I found out what was going on: there had been a workplace shooting in my normally quiet neighborhood, and at first law enforcement thought the gunman might be on the loose.… more
When I was a kid growing up in the north woods of Minnesota, a group of my neighborhood friends had a “Chipmunk Fort.” It was constructed out of a pile of old fencing materials in my friend Paul’s backyard; each kid had their own “house” in the fort. We spent some time collecting pretty rocks and oddly shaped sticks and soft clumps of moss to decorate our houses.… more
Ask your young writers to imagine a social media proﬁle for their main character. What games do they play? Do they win? Do they cheat? What would their online proﬁle say? Do they lie when they’re online, and if so, what about?
To be able to learn how to get somewhere, I have to drive the route myself. Riding shotgun doesn’t work if I’m trying to memorize the route; somehow the feeling of the necessary twists and turns has to seep up through the steering wheel and into the pores of my hands for me to be able to reliably retain it.… more
I try to deliver regular advice you can use to aid and inspire your young writers, but this week I’m leaning on the wisdom of others.
This is advice I’ve found helpful those times it feels like my writing wheels are stuck in deep mud and spinning wildly and I’ll never gain traction again. Here, from a variety of astute advisors, are the best tactics for when you’re stuck as a writer:
“BIC” —children’s writer extraordinaire Jane Yolen
Explanation: Short for “Butt‚ In Chair,” which means put your back end on a seating device, in front of the keyboard, or notebook and pencil, and write — whether you think you can do it today or not.… more