Introducing Page Masters Book Club

Welcome to Page Masters Book Club!!!!

Part of being a great writer is being a good reader.

It’s been said by so many authors, that it’s easier to keep track of which writer HASN’T given this specific advice. But even then, no one comes readily to mind.

Therefore, part of this website will be dedicated to reading.

Every month, look here for two new book club selections. One will be a general audience selection and the second will be from the Young Adult (YA) or Middle Grade (MG) or Picture Book (PB) markets.

Selections will be posted at the start of the month, and during the last week, The Tyrant of the Blog (or her esteemed associates) will post questions and beg for YOUR comments.
Possible discussion will focus on A) our general worshiping or abjuring of the book, B) the book as a mentor text and what we as writers can take away from it, and C) sources of inspiration. Plus, any other stray thoughts that spring full or half or only fractionally formed from our heads, like Athena from Zeus. (Yes, I know that is a fragment; Mrs. D, my senior English teacher would require a notation here of ‘frag’ in order to use this in a written work). So, frag (frag).

For our inaugural Page Masters book club selections, The Tyrant and her faithful advisers have chosen the following novels:

August Book Club1

 

General Selection:
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

Middle Grade Selection:
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

For official Page Masters Posts, check out the Page Masters link in our sidebar. That’s where we’ll post new information and hold book club discussions.

So, choose one book or both books. We won’t hold your passion for reading against you. But, get reading!!

We’ll see you back here on Thursday August 28th, 2014 to begin discussing.

Until then,

Happy Reading!!

Writing Thrombosis

This July I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo. That’s a writing challenge, and I set a goal of 30,000 words for myself.

See, I’ve had this story bouncing around my head for quite a while. When I got frustrated at work or at home or at the grocery store, it would pop and say, “You could be writing me…”. You know, instead of doing whatever was causing boucoups stress. Every night before I went to sleep, the characters would stand up and start acting out scenes from their story. I even went to a writing conference and ended up pitching this as yet unwritten manuscript to an agent during a critique. He thought it was a good idea, and that cemented my resolve. I HAD to write it.

So I joined Camp NaNoWriMo for the month of July to help motivate me to put my “butt in the chair” (as Jane Yolen likes to say), and get that first draft written down.

At first it was easy to turn off my inner editor and just write. I knew my story because it had been building in my head for months. I knew my characters because they populated my dreams. I wrote and wrote and wrote.

Then, with only 3,000 words to go, I contracted the dreaded Writing Thrombosis. That’s the medical term for Writer’s Block: when your judgmental, inner editor lodges itself between your brain and your finger and all your ideas and words are obstructed.

 

Publication1

Suddenly, I couldn’t see past the repetition of the phrase “nodded her head,” or all the adverbs I used to describe how my characters said what, or the fact that my main character was always jumping on and off his horse. I was ashamed of how little tension was present in what was meant to be a climactic scene. My inner editor demanded I go back and fix every mistake before finishing those last 3,000 words and resolving the conflict of my story. What was I going to do?

Experts say when this happens, you should get your butt out of your chair (le gasp!) and go for a walk. Read a book or take a break from writing so that your creative veins can expand and your Writing Thrombosis will ease. Ideas will flow more easily, new possibilities will arise. It is good advice.

But, I tried it, and it didn’t work. I knew where my story was going. I knew how my characters were acting (even if it wasn’t described in the most effective manner). My ideas were there, they just couldn’t get past the inner editor.

So, I purposely wrote a bad sentence:

The boy jumped on his horse and nodded his head.

My inner editor screamed at me. I almost deleted it. But instead, I wrote another:

“I’m going with or without you,” he said fiercely.

I think at that point, my inner editor fainted. And that was all it took. The next 3,000 words came easily again. Some of them were very good words. Some of them were okay words. And some of them were downright ugly.

Most importantly, by the end of the day, I had a completed manuscript. A first draft that could be revised over and over for repetitious words, vivid verbs, imagery, improving my POV, deepening characterization, adding tension… the list goes on. I have a lot of work to do before I am ready to share my story.

But I’m one step closer, and now I sleep a little easier, except for the new characters that keep jumping up to say, “Look at me! Look at me!”

I did it!!

The Land of Stories

It finally arrived.

At the end of the school year, my 5th grade students put together an anthology of their favorite stories, poems and essays that they wrote throughout the year.

They revised. And revised. And revised, and got exasperated when I suggested they revise some more.

Then they competed in brutal rock, paper, scissors battles to determine who would use the limited number of computers in my classroom to type and publish their stories.

Each and every student painstakingly chose their favorite fonts and text size for their masterpiece. Seriously. They tried every possible combination of fonts and sizes ten times. TEN TIMES.

Then, finally, we printed off the manuscript (complete with illustrations!) and sent it off to a vanity publishing company to print copies for the classroom and for any students that wanted to pay the $20 fee.

And here it is:
Land of Stories Book Cover

What I love about it:

  • The kids cared so much about their stories that they painstakingly explored every font and font size ten times to make sure it was presented in the perfect way to their readers. They cared!
  • And their parents cared. I couldn’t believe how many of our parents shelled out the twenty bucks to buy this sucker. Keep in mind, 95% of my students receive free lunch and breakfast and it is often the only meals they get.
  • I have definitive proof that my students didn’t tune out every word I said. They learned! Each story shows at least one great skill that the kids learned this year. It’s not consistent throughout every story, but everything we learned is in here somewhere. For example:
    • One girl nailed exposition through dialogue. Her origin story is about why porcupines have spikes (Spoiler alert: A family of porcupines get tangled in cactus and leave the quills in).  But the origin is revealed when Father Porcupine asks, “Are they everywhere?” and Mother says, “Yes! We can’t get them out.” and Father replies, “Well, we’ll just leave them in.”
    • One boy demonstrated his mastery of figurative language in describing the setting, how his character moves and how his character feels. Metaphors and similes pervade his story like barnacles on a blue whale. Obvious, yes, but they are pertinent and add depth to his story.
    • My favorite poem is about a big, green, three-eyed beast who tried to eat the narrator for its feast. It has imagery, rhyme, and the ending is just funny.
      (No spoiler alerts here: you’ll have to read the book).
    • My kids demonstrated their master understanding of conflict. And talk about tension! My students LOVED making their characters suffer. We had one story of a haunted ship where everyone except our protagonist was brutally murdered, another horror story where the protagonist sacrifices herself to ensure the future safety of all who live in the town. There is a story about a trampled wife and consequent descent into homelessness and a love story a la Romeo and Juliet where the tragic couple end up decapitated.

 

  • Most importantly, I have a little bit of each of my students to keep with me through the years. A little bit of their souls are captured within the pages of this book. And anytime I start to miss them (after I’ve forgotten the traumatic experiences they put me through, of course), I can open it up and see the brilliance of their imaginations and the spark of life that they deigned to share with me this past year.

So it begins.

Welcome.

After a year of writing down the plots and characters that sprang from my brain, like Athena from Zeus, I have finally decided to share them with more than my wonderful critique partners.

Conveniently, I have also landed my dream job of teaching creative writing and journalism to middle school students, giving me a glorious abundance of guest writers and contributors to make this blog something more than a personal cathartic expulsion.

So I have created this online playground where I and my students can carouse (well, I will carouse- students shall just frolic), explore, experiment and discover the wonders of writing and publishing.

Unfortunately, I have to wait until August to add students. Until then, it’s all me.

So, for whatever audience we gain- here’s what you’re signing up for:

  • Weekly posts highlighting the writing that my students and I are creating
  • Resource pages on the craft and practice of writing (and journalism)
  • Writing Prompts and Inspirational Sparks
  • Whatever else I, The Commander of Creativity and Tyrant of the Blog, deem acceptable to publish

I hope you enjoy!