Masterclass Monday: I Have Something In Common With Maya Angelou

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In honor of World Poetry Day, I thought I’d focus on writing advice from one of the greats: Maya Angelou. And in my research, I turned up a surprising fact: Maya Angelou preferred to do her writing in a hotel room. She even kept one in her home town that she paid for on a monthly basis. It turns out she and I have that in common. Not the monthly rental – I can’t afford that, but I also prefer to get out of the house to the relative quiet of a hotel room when I can swing it.

She was also known for wearing turbans, and it turns out that’s writing-related, too. She had a tendency to play with her hair and twist it while she wrote, and one of her former husbands used to be jealous of her writing to the point where he’d know she’d been writing if her hair was messed up. She took to wearing the turban to hide her secret addiction to prose. Continue reading

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Masterclass Monday: Madeleine L’Engle Reminds Us To “Disturb The Universe”

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“The stories I cared about, the stories I read and reread, were usually stories which dared to disturb the universe, which asked questions rather than gave answers.”

I love this quote. And Madeleine L’Engle was the very first YA author that I ever read. A Wrinkle In Time has got to be one of my all-time favorite books, combining wild science fiction with amazing adventure, and then that wonderful gut-punch at the end when Meg decides to just love Charles Wallace. (Spoiler, I know, but not really if you don’t know the book. Oh, and if you don’t know the book. Read it.)

Madeleine has some great tips for writers, several of which I pulled from this in-depth interview with Scholastic. Here are some of my favorites: Continue reading

You Want To Write? Well How About That! Here Are Some Tips From A Cat In A Hat! #amwriting

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Whether he’s teaching us how to have fun on a rainy day, or feeding us odd-colored food, or reminding us that “unless someone cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not,” Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Suess) knew how to weave an imaginative tale with an underlying message that still resonates with all ages.

I want to share with you something he once said about his writing that I particularly love:

“I tend to basically exaggerate in life, and in writing, it’s fine to exaggerate. I really enjoy overstating for the purpose of getting a laugh. It’s very flattering, that laugh, and at the same time it gives pleasure to the audience and accomplishes more than writing very serious things. For another thing, writing is easier than digging ditches. Well, actually that’s an exaggeration. It isn’t.”

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MasterClass Monday: Pixar’s Pete Docter Tells Us How To Write An Oscar-Winning Story

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I was cheering last night when Inside Out won the Oscar for Best Animated Picture, as I’m sure a lot of you were doing, as well. That movie had it all, and so hilariously, beautifully and poignantly captured growing up and teen emotions in a way that resonated right off the screen.

The story was written by Pixar’s amazing Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera. Pete is also known for writing the equally poignant Up, as well as directing and animating other great works like Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and Wall-E.

Pete has some great insight into making a good story (and animating it), and when discussing Inside Out, he laid out this little bit of insight that I found particularly interesting: Continue reading

Masterclass Monday: Ursula K. Le Guin Reminds Us To Throw Out The Rulebook

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I first began reading Ursula K. Le Guin with The Lathe of Heaven, and from there I moved on to the Earthsea series, devouring book after book of fantastical worlds and incredible civilizations and compelling characters. She was a master at world-building, society-building and relationship-building.

And like any good Sci-Fi writer, she’ll tell you to hell with the rules, write the story that’s in your head. Use exposition if you need to. Write about fantastical stuff outside the realm of personal knowledge if it makes a good story.

I found a great compilation of some of her best quotes on the subject of writing, and this one is one of my personal favorites: Continue reading

MasterClass: Holly Black Covers All The Bases

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I’m doing a MasterClass Tuesday this week since an unexpected five hour drive through a blizzard derailed me yesterday. This week, we’re going to reap the wisdom of Holly Black, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles, Tithe, Valiant and Ironside.

Holly has one of the most comprehensive lists of writing tips I have ever seen, covering everything from inspiration, to process, to titling, to pitching, and post-publishing, including links to other resources. Spend some time on this one – she’s really made it worth your while!

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MasterClass Monday: Are You There Writers? It’s Judy Blume

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The very first Judy Blume book I ever read was “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” and I remember at the time being very firmly convinced that the author was twelve years old. Then I read “Forever” and I was equally convinced she was seventeen. Then I read “Wifey” and was absolutely sure she was a middle-aged housewife.

And yeah, I’m dating myself with some of those titles, I know. But her frank conversational style, and her ability to tap into themes that all ages can relate to make her writing shine, and the fact that she’s been equally successful writing for the children’s, YA and adult markets makes her my personal hero. Continue reading

MasterClass Monday: Cassandra Clare Has Extensive Writing Tips

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably run into the name Cassandra Clare. As the author of the wildly popular Mortal Instruments series (and movie, and now spun off to Shadowhunters, a new TV series), she’s made a real name for herself in world-building YA.

Luckily for us, she is also a wealth of great writing tips, and is not hesitant at all to share them on her personal blog.

One of my favorite pointers had to do with plot development, where she drops this terrific gem: Continue reading

Masterclass Monday: James Cameron On Creativity

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I’ve always loved James Cameron movies. Sure, they can get a little preachy (I’m looking at you, Avatar) but the man knows how to spin a good, climactic tale and his dialogue is solid. I was curious about his writing process, and I came across this great article from Anne Cassidy at Fast Company. She interviewed Cameron by phone and he had some great pointers regarding the creative process. Continue reading

Veronica Roth Has Some Advice For Young Authors

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Veronica Roth is the author of the wildly popular Divergent series (among other works). It may seem to you like she churns out bestsellers with a blindfold on while typing with one arm behind her back, but the truth is, she once produced mediocre work and felt the sting of critics more times than she can count.

She offers some excellent advice in four parts, highlighted here in this Goodreads post, and item number one is also my favorite piece of writer advice to pass along when someone asks: Continue reading