Saturday, January 25, 2014

More about our writing group and its members

Our critique group is led by Sally Alexander, author of a remarkable book: She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer.  Sally lost her sight in her twenties but doesn't let that hold her back, even though her hearing is now also a problem.  In addition to several books, Sally writes a blog I highly recommend: Traveling through the Mist.
Sally teaches at Chatham University and reads profusely, sharing with the group information that may help us with our writing.  I'm always impressed when, after one of our group reads, she makes just the right suggestions--sometimes very detailed--for improvement.

I've had excellent suggestion from other group members as well.  I recently found a draft of what I've called "my farm story," which  a class member--a young mother and former teacher--had read.  Her notations were a combination of praise ("I like this description of Benny--so succinct") and helpful suggestions ("would a ten-year-old have said this?--sounds adult to me.")

My dearest friend, also a group member, has read through a number of drafts, catching errors of all types.

In the next post, I'll tell you about a contest I entered.  I didn't win but learned a great deal about improving my story by participating.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Twenty-five years could it be?

More than twenty-five years passed from Uncle Abe's letters recalling his boyhood escapades to the publication of Duck Dreams: City Boy to Farmer Boy.  How could that be?

Part of it is that I had to learn to write for children.  I had published numerous articles about children's books and writers for children.  Two books ate up a good deal of time and energy in those twenty-five years.  One was for adults, urging parents to read to their children and recommending books likely to engage children.  This book, which went into three editions, was a collaboration with Professor Margaret Mary Kimmel.  Maggie taught children's literature in the Library Science Department; I taught it in the English Department.  The second book,  Short Takes, was a collection of stories I compiled for middle-grade children.  I chose the stories, recruited the writers--Lois Lowry, Philippa Pearce, Robert Cormier, E. L. Konigsburg, and others--and I  wrote introductions to each story.  But this wasn't teaching me to write for children.

About when Short Takes came out, I took a key step that would prepare me to write for children.  I joined Sally Alexander's critique group.  No one could have helped me more--Sally is herself a marvelous writer.  As a critic and teacher, she is unparalleled.  More on our group--its leader and helpful participants--in the next blog entry.