SHOW, DON’T TELL.

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Sometimes it takes years to get something through one’s head. Show. Don’t tell. It’s one of the first things we learned as writing students, right? It’s one of the first things we teach our students. I can spot it immediately when reading someone else’s work. But when I’m writing, I have to admit I just don’t see the world in terms of images and details. I experience it in sensations. And I process it in abstractions. This is probably what makes me a writer, my intense emotional experience of everything around me and my need to make sense of it intellectually. But it also makes me a bad writer. I get it.

But even when I try to put in details, I am disgusted. For embarrassment, I come up with blushed, then cross out and write, her cheeks flushed. They turned pink? Her face turned red? Her heart started thumping wildly? Ugh. Grimacing, I cross out all of this and safely return to, “She felt embarrassed.”

A few weeks ago, one of my friends suggested just going on the Internet and googling a word to see what effects it came up with, and steal. So nowadays, that is how I do my research. What does a drug addict look like? What are the symptoms of drug addiction? I come up with “dull grey skin.” Wallah! Nice. I am getting the hang of it. Today, I wanted to say that one of my characters was apoplectic. I like that word. It was one of my favorite words as a teenager, penciled in neatly in my book of words. But boldly, I get on the Internet. “What does someone look like when he is apoplectic?” I ask. It only comes back with synonyms, each more abstract than the other. “What are the symptoms of someone having a stroke?” I ask. I get a downturned mouth, loss of speech, and loss of arm motion. Nice. Steal.

From the Brilliant James Allen Hall, Author of “Now You’re the Enemy”: Why I Write

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Because not to express what is urgent in me would be painful; to hold in the beauty and ruin that the world gives one is too hard a burden. I take the easy way: out. Also, because I believe that saying it will change things. For me, and for others. And when I say others, I mean Others.

Zany Zahid Compares the book Hugo Cabret to Classic Movies.

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Which book did you read recently?

The Invention of Huge Cabret.

Can you describe it?

It is a very interesting book about a boy named Hugo. His dad used to be a clockmaker and he was like an apprentice with him and when his dad died in an accident where his house burned down and he burnt with it Hugo started living in the clocks of a plaza and has been keeping the clocks maintained. Hugo’s father actually found this automaton in the museum and no one using it or displaying it, so he took it and decided to fix it. And once he passed away and Hugo took it and kept stealing parts from a toymaker secretly and slowly fixing the automaton after it got broken in the fire the dad died in. Then one day he gets caught by the toymaker. Hugo … [is] able to fix the automaton and finds a message from his father and he discovers a secret about the toymaker.

It is not a picture book or a graphic novel or a flip book or a movie either. Can you describe the unique experience of reading this book?

Actually, it does have some pictures that tell the story from the point of view of Hugo and also from the point of view of a friend that Hugo makes. I really enjoyed it because when it showed the picture it helped me understand what the characters looked like and how the scenery was.

But how were the pictures different from an illustrated novel like A Series of Unfortunate Events?

In A Series of Unfortunate Events, it repeatedly has pictures. Almost half the book is pictures. The author … I think he uses the picture to tell part of the story. I think it was a pretty nice and unique way to do so.

How many pages of pictures were there at a time?

It depends, usually five or more.

When you reached the pages of pictures, what were you doing?

When I reached the pictures, I remembered parts from the story I read recently and tried to figure out what the author was trying to day in the pictures and what was happening. The pictures were in sequence and order, slowly building up, and once I get to the last picture it all builds up and I understand what it means!

Can you compare this reading experience to reading another book?

Well, in A Series of Unfortunate Events, once I looked at the pictures on the cover of the Baudelaire orphans, I tried to picture what would happen and what it would look like. And in the Invention of Hugo Cabret it showed exactly what the author was trying to show instead of trying to imagine it myself as I was doing in the Series of Unfortunate Events.

Which book did you like better? Why?

A series of Unfortunate Events. Well, I always listened to it with music in my room. And also, when I read it in school my teacher would turn on some music. It felt like the right kind of book with the right amount of suspense and how Lemony Snicket writes it. His type of writing.

His writing style?

Hmm. I also learned some new words.

So, the Invention of Hugo Cabret you enjoyed for…

The thing is, in the Series of Unfortunate Events, there were 13 books I could keep on each story and progressing through each chapter instead of reading only one book and it would be put to an end. The writing style in Huge Cabret, I liked that style also, but in the Series of Events, the Baudelaire children would have to solve and go through lots of ordeals and get out of them, and I enjoyed the series of Unfortunate Events more because of the writing style and the suspense and how the Baudelaire children had to solve these problems. I naturally enjoyed that.

Since the book Invention of Hugo Cabret is almost like a movie, what was your experience of watching the movie Hugo?

Well, I actually watched the move first. After I watched the movie, there was a book fair at my school. And I remembered that I watched the movie. And when I read the book, they were actually similar. Actually,  [they were] almost exactly the same. Usually, some books, like Percy Jackson, I watched the movie and when I read the book there were some different events and the book was actually sort of better.  But with the Invention of Hugo Cabret there were only a few changes. They actually showed some of the pictures in the movie.

Out of 10, how would you rate the book?

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, I rate it eight and a half.

Would you recommend the book?

Yes, I would recommend it very much. I think the sort of genre it is — the style of the book —  it is kind of like those classic films like Flubber and Jumanji that people like to watch. They are the kind of movies that a lot of people remember — sometimes the plot of it. They are exciting because they make you imagine these unrealistic things can happen. Reading the book was like watching a movie, especially when they gave you the pictures to project in your mind.

Waiting for Mr. Darcy.

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Recently, I read Pride and Prejudice again to celebrate the beginning of summer. And because I love the book so much it started me thinking about Mr. Darcy and about writing, and the connection between the two.

Writers often ask the question, “How do you justify writing when there is so much suffering going on?” This always seemed to me a valid question, until it didn’t.

For a time I struggled so much with all that was going on around me, war and poverty and all kinds of social injustice, that I could barely write without the heavy footfall of politics hanging over my work. I wiped out all traces of humor, and action, and romance diligently, thinking them too light!

But recently, those very misfortunes in the world that made me feel guilty about writing, fantasizing, and especially dreaming about having a book out seem to me the reason to write, fantasize, and dream about book covers. Because there is so much suffering and wrong in this world, and I acknowledge it, and I feel, and I want to be engaged, but I also feel powerless, but I also want to live, and be happy, and be light and warm, and I want to make something of my moment in the world, I create fiction. Those things don’t seem at odds with each other anymore.

I understand now why readers read romances, or mysteries, or horror, and why on earth they read to laugh. Because as I get older, so do I. I read to be diverted. And I write to fantasize, to escape to a place I make for myself, just for a moment. All the things that seemed self-indulgent and superfluous at one time – humor and romance, and fantasy – are things that I now desperately depend on to survive. And it doesn’t seem light anymore – it seems serious business.

I was going to fit Candide by Voltaire in all of this – how Voltaire both critiques the literature/theater of the times as being escapist and also has his noble disillusioned Venetian character Pococurante show how excessive critique of the arts can also lead one astray – but the intellectual effort proved too much. So I leave it there and return to lightness…

My favorite author Diana Wynne Jones writes about a garden as a place of fantasy, and why this place is desperately important. She writes about her childhood during the war and because Diana does it so well I will let her go on for a while (click here for the actual article), “For all this, the perpetual riot and mayhem in which we lived then was always like a brick wall cutting me off from anything truly imaginative. Life was too restless and pragmatic to give one a chance to think. I got glimpses of what was cut off from books. There was a volume of Arthur Mee’s encyclopedia among my few books with a picture in it of a girl learning to play the piano. The piano was up against a brick wall, beyond which was a wonderful garden to which the girl had access only through strenuous endeavour. I actually cried when I first saw it, not because my mother had forbidden music lessons on the grounds that I was not musical, but because it seemed exactly to describe my situation – and I could see no way to penetrate that wall.

The queer thing was that the conference centre did in fact possess just such a garden. It was known as the Other Garden. The garden that everyone saw was pleasant enough, though somewhat boringly laid out around a large square of grass. The Other Garden was quite different. It was like that garden in folktales where the king has counted all the apples. It was across a road, walled away from everyone, a blaze of manicured lawn leading to a tunnel of roses ending in an inlaid wood summer house, where espalier apple trees of types that are no longer grown surrounded like hedges plots of fruit, flowers and vegetables. The bees had a plot of their own because they did not get on with the visionary gardener. Something about this garden caused the visionary gardener to build little shrine-like places in the wall niches and ornament them with posies and old Venetian glass. My father would not let anyone go there. He kept the large old key to it in his pocket and it often took several days of pleading to get him to release it to me, grudgingly, for an hour or so. When I got there I simply wandered, in utter bliss. I talked to the bees, who never once stung me, although they pursued the visionary gardener once a week, in clouds, and occasionally turned on my father too; I ate apples; I watched things grow; and I never once connected it with the garden in the piano-playing picture, though that was more or less what it was. I remember I did try to connect it with The Secret Garden. I dragged a copy of that past the censor, with my mother saying, ‘Oh very well then, read it if you must, but remember it’s nothing but sentimental nonsense!’ and tried, in a puzzled way, to lay it alongside the Other Garden. But the Other Garden had nothing to do with sentimental nonsense. I couldn’t make it out.

I see now that the two gardens of the conference centre came to represent to me the activities of the two sides of the human brain, the first concerned with day-to-day living and the second with all creative needs. But I put it to myself more in terms of enchantment as opposed to the mundane.”

This brings me back to Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy. I think how many of us have read this book and loved this book and waited all our lives for a love like Mr. Darcy. And then I realize that not only do we read fiction and write fiction to escape the tyrannies of living, but also that we create fictions about our lives. In my head, in my heart, I created this image of love a long time ago, and I recreated it a hundred times more, to make my life fit in with a romantic vision I had of it. And this vision, this place in my mind, is all important, as it gives me a way to shape my life, to have wishes for it, and to take it there (to create our lives as a place of enchantment, as Diana writes, as opposed to the mundane). Living itself, therefore, seems to me like writing fiction, of willfully ignoring all the muck about us and charting a clear, bright way through it all, according to our imaginations – a bright garden filled with sunshine.

Anthony Barone Says Most Kids Like to Read Books About Kids Who Save the World Because They Want to Save the World Themselves. Yes, We Are Talking About Maximum Ride! Put on Your Seatbelts and Get Ready!

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Which is your favorite book/series? What is it about?

My favorite book series is Maximum Ride. It’s about a group of six and eventually eleven kids that were kidnapped at birth and experimented on by evil scientist that get wings and other powers.  They escape and live in Coloradofor a while.  Then Angel, the youngest, is kidnapped again and when Max and the others go to rescue her they succeed andgo on a hunt to find out who their parents are. Max then gets a message from a mysterious voice, that no one else can hear, that tells her to save the world.

Why do you like it? 

It’s like a high violence, Jackie Chan, sci-fi, pre-apocalyptic version of the Box Car Children.  What’s not to like?

It seems pretty amazing to have wings and fly over the world. Is ita wish-fulfilling fantasy book or a dark book? Are there feel good bits? Funnybits? Is there a mystery? Can you give an overall sense of the feel of thebook? 

There are mainly funny bits.  Make that, silly, crazy, funny bits.  Aside from that it includes all of the otherparts like dark and wish-fulfilling fantasy and there are lots of mystery bitsincluding: Who is the voice Max hears in her head? Can Max really save theworld?  Is the scientist that rescued them from the science lab good or bad?

In the first story, Max’s purpose is to save the world. Do you likebooks in which a character has to save the world? 

Yes.

Why do you think so many books are about this theme? 

Because they are the most popular among kids.

Why do you think kids like these kinds of stories? 

Because there are plenty of kids that want to save the world themselves.

So there are two groups of genetically enhanced people: half-human, halfbird kids and then half-human/half-wolf people (erasers) who are chasing thehalf-human/half-bird kids. Are the half-human/half-wolf kids all bad? 

No.  I think they are just misguided because mostof them are orphans or were raised from embryos and don’t know any better.

If you could meet James Patterson and have dinner with him, what onequestion would you ask him?

Are you going to do any other series with a similarplot to Maximum Ride?

In the first book, a lot of people complain that “it ends, but itdoesn’t finish.”  How should an author ideallyend a book when there is more coming in a series? What series does this reallywell?

Maximum Ride has the best endings because they are suspenseful and satisfying and they include excerpts from the next book in the seriesand in some special editions of books they give excerpts from every otherbook.

This book is described by various people as a thrilling rollercoaster ride, thriller/adventure, a fast-paced read, and so on. Do these kindsof books appeal to you?

Yes.

Do quieter books have any chance against these fast-paced novels? I mean, is there any quiet book that you like as much as or more than the Maximum Ride books?

Well, I really like Harry Potter, but I prefer Maximum Ride,because one minute they’re flying, the next, they’re being attacked by cyborgs,whereas in Harry Potter, it takes them two pages to start dueling, then it’s overin a second.

It’s a series. Do the books get better or worse?

Better. But my cousin thinks they get worse.

Max says, “”If you dare read this story you become part of the Experiment.I know it sounds a little mysterious- but it’s all I can say for now,” -Max. What does this mean?

I think it means that if you read on, you’ll know too much,and be in danger.

How can an author make a young adult believe in something fantastic?

By inserting a thin band of logic and reality in the midst of outrageous fantasies.

For example, the Percy Jackson books are about children of gods! Harry Potter is about a school for wizards! And the Maximum Ride books are about genetically enhanced kids who can fly! Why does fantasy appeal to kids?

Because, like I said before, some kids want to go on fantasy journeys themselves.

Ah!

Jericho Brown Writes About Why He Writes.

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I will never understand the spirit of my ancestors, but I know it. I know it lives in me. And though fear insists on itself, I intend to acknowledge this spirit as one that overcomes us. I write because my writing mind is the only chance I have of becoming the manifestation of their hope. I write because my writing mind is the only chance I have of becoming what the living dead are for me. I exist because I was impossible for someone else to be before me.

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Jericho Brown, Author of Please and Winner of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Poetry, the American Book Award, and the Whiting Writers’ Award.

http://jerichobrown.com/

Nina McConigley, Laurie Clements Lambeth, Steve Wolfe, and Gabriela Maya Write About Why They Write.

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Nina McConigley:

I write because it’s the only way how I know to make sense of the world. All of my thoughts at times feel like puzzle pieces, and sitting down to write makes me arrange them, order them, and then to see a bigger picture. I don’t know if anything made me a writer. I always wrote in a diary, wrote stories, and loved to read. I think even if I was a scientist, I would like writing reports. It’s the way I can express everything in my head.

Gabriela Maya:

I don’t know… I just did! As soon as I could write. I liked stories, deciding what would happen in them, creating the worlds in which they took place. Being in control. I think that’s still the case, though now there is also a love if language. But yes. Being the creator.

Laurie Clements Lambeth:

Why do I write? Sometimes I write to resolve or tease out an obsession–an image, a medical report, an action witnessed, something I said or heard (usually the wrong thing). But I also write to figure things out, to work things through. And let’s face it: that which is the source of obsession is often the question we are trying to answer when we write. But that may be more true for poets than fiction writers. At times, and at my favorite moments, it can amount to an accretion, a salad or collage of different angles on a subject, from The Wizard of Oz to a chicken we had who laid green eggs, to a neglected pomegranate tree, to my most current investigation, a painting by Degas. All the memories and images add up to some kind of hazy answer for the present moment. And the answers are almost always surprising, as though the writing knows more than my controlling brain does. Which doesn’t make sense, but does. In my poetry, too, I can say I write because I must reshape loss and separate it from myself.

Steve Wolfe:

When I was a kid it was the only thing I was naturally good at without trying.

Why I Write

Miah Arnold, Author of Sweet Land of Bigamy.

Baloney

As a child, I lied continuously. I told the new students at Myton Elementary I could talk to insects, I said that I knew by first name every single cricket, mosquito, horsefly, butterfly, or moth in town. I can also clearly recall telling a boy named Rowdy I was one of the children singing “We don’t need no education…” in Pink Floyd’s The Wall and I can still feel the burning intensity of my indignation when he didn’t believe me.

In third grade I fell in love with a strapping, popular, young farm boy named Geoffrey. As in every great love story, there was a hitch: everybody in class, including Geoffrey, hated me for a multitude of reasons that are probably not unique in essence, but unique to the specifics of rural Utah: Mormons hated me as the daughter of the owner of the Three Legged Dog Saloon; Utes hated me as a white girl; girls hated me not because I was motherless, but because it showed in my uncombed hair and ratty clothing; and the boys, of course, hated me equally because the girls did and because I was a girl. I was also, maybe, the richest girl in a town where eighty-five percent of the people lived far below Federal poverty levels.

My personality did not make up for my shortcomings: I was introverted and afraid to talk about most anything I saw at my home behind the bar (literally, my house was attached to the saloon) because there were always rumors the Mormons were trying to take me away from my father’s tainted world. When I did talk, as I’ve already confessed, I was partial to pretending.

It therefore took some real thinking, on my part, to sway dear Geoffrey’s estimation of me into a more becoming light, and my eight-year-old sensibility guided me in the right direction: I told him that I had little bags of candy made for each person in class, and that at the end of each day, depending on how nice people were to me, I added bounty to the loot. “Your bag is already the fullest,” I told him, and we became good friends.

By mid-year it so happened that only two people in school had any candy at all in their bags: Geoffrey and a girl named Alecia (she was a year older, despised for her Jehovah’s Witness upbringing). To keep jealousy at bay, of course, I told Geoffrey that while Alecia’s candy was contained in an Albertson’s paper grocery bag, his had nearly filled an entire Hefty garbage sack.

For the class picnic we rode the bus to some person’s farm, and the principal’s daughter, Sonya Taylor, passed around what she called a “Slam Book”—a notebook in which every student in class had a page. Sonya had written our names out at the top of the pages ahead of time and our job was to write what we really thought about everyone in the class, anonymously, beneath their names. The book didn’t circulate to me until most everybody else had signed. Before adding my own input, I turned to my page to see how I’d fared. On line one Sonya—it had to be her, it was her book—wrote Full of Baloney, and nearly everybody else in class repeated the same words. There were twenty-eight Full of Baloneys and one nice thing written about me: The nicest girl in the whole school. I knew Geoffrey had written it because he had ignored Sonya’s anonymity rule and signed his name next to it.

You might call Geoffrey merely a dunce, and I, merely a liar, but that’s not the heart of the story. For Geoffrey’s part, what if he was a boy who liked hearing somebody tell him stories? He stayed with my story of the bags of candy through the third grade, and into the fourth, when I moved in with my father’s new wife inSalt Lake City. It had been a glorious idea, this bag of mysterious candies, and that was enough for him.

Though I told lots of stories as a child, I hadn’t considered myself a liar (or a storyteller), and I was surprised that the class considered me one. I couldn’t remember lying because there was a part of me that really was making a bag for Geoffrey and Alecia—I spent nights plotting how I would sneak into my father’s bar while he slept, and how I would steal the Babe Ruth’s and Wrigley’s Spearmint gum from him. I fretted about the lack of variety available to me. And though it’s true I couldn’t talk to insects, I really wanted to. Friendless as I generally was, I wanted to enter the world of imagination, to enter that community where I might be understood and appreciated.

My being full of baloney, then, was my being full of hope, I think, or of better ideas about who I was than what the people around me would offer. Full of baloney was being aware of the extent of my own potentiality. My stories said: I am not who you think I am, I am not a person living in the world you live in, I am going to grow up and go away and live a life you all could never imagine. You’ll see you were wrong about me, you’ll see that I can dazzle you, no matter how revolting I appear to you now.

The Magnificent Maha and the Ludicrous Lilli Discuss the Most Powerful Heroine in a Book and Such.

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The Magnificent Maha and the Ludicrous Lilli Discuss the Most Powerful Heroine in a Book.

Who is the most powerful heroine in a Book?

Maha: Katniss.

Lilli: Because she practically saves her little sister from going into the stupid, idiotic hunger games.

Maha: Because of her skill and her ability to fight and her need to protect herself and others.

Who is the most romantic evil guy in a book?

Lilli: Count Olaf because he tries to marry Violet to get her fortune.

How does that make him romantic??

Lilli: Because marrying is romantic.

Maha: Cato. Because he’s very vicious.

Lilli: But he kills girls and then laughs about it. He bites girls’ heads off!

Maha: Exactly. That’s the evil part. And he’s so evil, he’s romantically evil.

Whom should Bella choose, Edward or Jacob?

Maha: I think she should choose Jacob because otherwise she would lose Edward eventually because she would die before him or she would herself have to become a vampire and that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

Lilli: But she truly loves Edward in her heart.

Maha: But I think she should go with Jacob because it is good for him too because if they get together she won’t have to turn into anything and also Jacob will not be immortal and will live a normal human life. Just turn into a wolf occasionally.

Lilli: But I think in the last book they get married and have a baby.

Maha: But Jacob imprints on the baby.

What would happen if Voldemort met Count Olaf?

Lilli: They would be besties.

Maha: Voldemort would fall asleep with Count Olaf’s horrible tries at acting. And Lord Voldemort will not be able to believe Count Olaf’s ludicrousness.