Category Archives: craft

League of Exceptional Writers–Inside the Actor’s Studio

Ever wonder what happens after the publisher buys the book but before it goes to print? Editor Abby Ranger is our guest this month. She’ll give us a look at what happen inside a big publishing house and all the things they to do make a story shine.

The League of Exceptional Writers is a free mentoring program sponsored by the Oregon Society of Children’s book Writers and Illustrators and hosted by the Cedar Hills Powell’s Bookstore. We meet every second Saturday at 2pm from October to May. Avid readers and writers ages 8 to 18 are welcome. Please share the poster below with your friends, your school and your library.

League of Exceptional Writers–Create Comics the Lowriders in Space Way

Grab your ball point pens! The author of the Lowriders in Space graphic novels is here to talk about how to write and draw comics in the distinctive ball point pen style. Lost of fun for writers, comics fans, and artists.

The League of Exceptional Writers is a free mentoring program sponsored by the Oregon Society of Children’s book Writers and Illustrators and hosted by the Cedar Hills Powell’s Bookstore. We meet every second Saturday at 2pm from October to May. Avid readers and writers ages 8 to 18 are welcome. Please share the poster below with your friends, your school and your library.

The Pleasures of being a Secret Poet

Poetry has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother and father both read poetry, and I had a big picture book of poetry I read and reread so often that many of those poems linger in my mind though I never consciously memorized them. “A violet by a mossy stone half hidden from the eye. Fair as a star when only one is shining in the sky” is a line that reliably comes to mind every time I go hiking and find wildflowers clinging to unlikely spots along the trail.

My fourth grade teacher, an exceedingly no-nonsense woman named Ms. Jacques, seemed to have two great loves to communicate to my nine year old self: long division and poetry. She taught me dozens of poetic forms from Haiku to the ballad and (what seems more impressive to me now) showed me how to scan a line to fit the meter of the line before it. I loved the structure of writing to a particular format. Hunting for just the right word to fill out the rhythm or rhyme of a line was so much more game-like than ordinary writing which I detested at the time for its irritating reliance on standard spelling and punctuation. With a poem I could invent words to my heart’s debliss and dispense with punctuation entirely
Ms. Jacques introduced me to my first literary crush, the deliciously uncapitalized e e cummings. Since cummings had neither a first name nor a gender, my nine year old self imagined a pleasant, furry alien who might, should I come across him in my ramblings in the woods, translate for me the poetry of slugs and squirrels and sword ferns.
Eventually college broadened considerably my repertoire of poetry while siphoning off much of the pleasure I found in reading it and all of the joy I took in creating it. I stopped writing poems for years and didn’t miss it until I started reading poetry to my own children and writing my own stories.
 
Novels are so long, I’ve returned to poetry to give me the satisfaction of writing something I can finish a draft of in a single day. By contrast it takes 3 to 9 months to complete a single draft of even a short novel.
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When I get stuck or discouraged, poetry gives me a reliable lift and often a fresh perspective on a character if I opt to write a poem in the voice of one of my characters from a work in progress.
It’s a huge relief to write something that I will not only never sell, but never show anyone. I think having work that lives in my own mind and heart but not in the world is extraordinarily valuable.
How about you? Do you have things you write just for your own pleasure? Let me know in the comments!

Middle Grade Monday book review: The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson

I’m going to try to read all the books that are on the 2015-16 OBOB list with me and I’m so happy to start with a wonderful book by my friend and fellow Portlander, Deborah Hopkinson. This is a story after my heart because epidemiology was my 9780375848186mother’s field. It’s an account of how the enterprising Dr. Snow and a couple of street urchins proved that a cholera epidemic that a broke out in Victorian London was caused not by the heavily polluted air but by the contaminated water in the Broad Street pump.

Three things for a kid reader to love:

1. Any kid who lives Bones or CSI or other tv crime scene procedurals will love this. It’s full of real nitty gritty details of how to prove that disease is water-borne when the water tastes fine and the air stinks. Great fun, and not “teach-y”

2. Cool historical maps of the epidemic are in the back matter. Love Maps!

3. The narrator, a kid who goes by the name Eel, is appealing and keeps the events on a very human scale. In finding and answer to the riddle of the Broad Street pump, Eel finds a home and protection and education for his beloved little brother.

Something for the writer to think about:

Any story about an epidemic is going to be tragic and this one doesn’t shrink from death. However, and this is the important distinction to me, it doesn’t revel in death or glamorize suffering. It’s a fine line to walk and I think it’s handled beautifully. Well worth a read just to see how Deborah gets the balance just right.

Also I’m going to tag this as a diverse book in terms of class. It addresses very directly the injustices Eel faces because of his economic status. It’s easy to over-look or romanticize the poor. Here’s a book that in my opinion does them justice. The low-income characters are a mix of good and bad actors and the upper-income characters are an equally mixed bag in terms of personal virtue. Bravo!