Friday, January 30, 2009

What I learned from my dog today

I'm taking a teensy break from manuscript writing to share some dog philosphy:

Follow the people who teach you things. Stick close to the ones you love and respect. When you feel something is wrong, speak up. When you feel silly, it's occasionally okay to toilet paper the house. Find your place in the sun.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

On Hope

This has been a glorious week! Not only did we get a healthy reminder of hope in our pockets if we only stuff our hands in (thank you, President Obama), but I did my yearly interviews of prospective Northwestern students today.

I must say that, based on the young voices I heard today, the state of the union is hopeful! Yes, there were those who were, dare I say it, mediocre in an interview setting. But then, meeting one kid in particular, I was relieved that our future could be placed in not only capable but intelligent, caring, life-passionate, humorous and even charismatic hands. I actually ENJOYED my time with this kid, and we both were sorry to see it end.

I only hope (ah, there it is again) that I can write characters who jump off the page like that, who give readers hope.

It's still a very young year...what are your hopes?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sometimes other people's words say it best. Here's the link to Newbery winner Susan Patron's comments on the value of the Newbery to young readers:,0,5330448.story

All kinds of kids need all kinds of books, so keep writing from your heart.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Pause for Pinter

Happy New Year!

I am SO glad to see 2008 fade into the sunset and give birth to a new year of hope for us all! I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't mention the recent passing of one of my favorite playwrights, Harold Pinter. He was an actor's dream - sparse dialogue with lots of room to fill empty spaces, and to make those spaces become all sorts of things...including increasingly menacing and uncomfortable. I was fortunate to be in more than one Pinter play, starting in high school and on into my life at Northwestern.

The NY Times described Pinter's work as showing "the ominous in the everyday and the noise within silence". Director Peter Hall said "words are weapons that the characters use to discomfort or destroy each other." But my favorite is what Pinter himself said: "One way of looking at speech is to say it is a constant strategem to cover nakedness".

I know that somewhere, he has infiltrated my writer-self. I find it reassuring to think that the page does not always need to be filled up with dialogue, that sometimes pauses and what's going on in the subtext, under the surface, tells us much more. We need to show what our characters are doing, not simply let the reader hear what they're saying, especially when they contradict each other. We can't be afraid to let them be naked on the page.

Perhaps that's why I write some of my books in free verse - the sparseness of poetry lets you say worlds more than if you vomited words onto the page. And when you DO use words, they need to be the absolute best.

Whichever your medium is, choose your words, and your lack of words, carefully...then let your characters have fun filling the spaces!