Thought for the day:
“Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you make the whole trip that way.” ~ E.L. Doctorow, writer ~
A gift for my writer friends:
Here are some links I think you will find valuable – three great ones this week.
If you don’t read anything else this week, click HERE and read this AMAZING blog post on contracts.
For an excellent post on first chapters, click HERE.
To read a terrific post on crafting a good pitch, click HERE.
For my wonderful giveaway, the winner is Priscilla Strapp! (Cue the trumpets!) Priscilla is a teacher and writer involved with The Writers’ Manor, which offers all kinds of services including retreats. Check out what they offer by clicking HERE. Priscilla, I will put the book in the mail right away.
If you didn’t win, no worries. Joyce Magnin, author of Cake, is doing a guest post and giving away an autographed copy of Cake, so make sure you read to the end to find out how to win. I will turn this over to Joyce, but remember, read to the end to find out how to win Cake.
A few years ago someone asked me what I thought at the time was a very strange question. She asked, “Why do you always kill off the parents in your stories?” At first I was kind of taken aback. But then, as I thought about it I realized she was correct. I seem to like to write about orphans, just like Wilma Sue in my newest book, Cake. I write about children, and even adults who have been abandoned or have lost their parents in one way or another. Death just seems the easiest to write.
But I had to ask myself why? What is it about the orphan archetype that attracts me? Well, first of all let’s talk about archetypes; there are many. For a study on the subject, research literary archetypes and you’ll learn that they can be found in all literature. There is the Orphan, my favorite and then there’s the Trickster, the Shape Shifter, Herald etc. They all have unique roles to play in a story.
Think about the fairy tales you know. They all have one thing in common—orphans and parents who abandoned their child, or were killed, or in many stories the orphan is adopted by an evil stepmother. It’s universal. And so, the fact that I gravitate toward the orphan archetype is no mystery, but still why?
I think it’s because this is me–the orphan. And if, as they say, all fiction is autobiographical, then it makes sense. I never really felt like I belonged anywhere. Even in my own family. My parents did not die young or abandon me, but they did leave me to my own devices pretty much all the time. I felt abandoned and un-loved, like an outsider looking into a world where I could never belong.
I was utterly word-struck by the age of three, and reading everything I could get my hands on by the age of nine. I discovered an amazing place called the Library where I would spend much of my days–particularly my teenage days–safe with a trillion words scattered across a million books. I was essentially hiding from the dangers of growing up.
I knew, perhaps from reading so much, the dangers of adolescence, of lightning rod salesmen and Catchers in the Rye. I knew what it meant to have a Separate Peace and it was true that No One Promised Me a Rose Garden, but it was okay to be Harriet the Spy. I longed to become Anne of Green Gables, and entertain the notion and horror of Dracula. I found myself traveling with a rag tag band of Hobbits to Mordor. I understood why The Caged Bird Sings. I chased my own White Whale, and tumbled down a rabbit hole. And because there was no one to help me navigate the turbulent waters of adolescence, I turned to books for answers. I found Anna Karenina and read, “Happy families are all alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
And there it was– the power of words to affirm me, to inform me that I was not alone. Dysfunctional families existed even in 19th century Russia, a half world away from me and my little spot in the library. Dysfunction existed, I discovered, even before Jesus was born.
The Bible became literature, a place of story, wars and battles for not only land but body, spirit and mind. The Bible had much to say to me about the Power of Words, the words we write and those we speak. Even the words we don’t speak. Words I learned could destroy, break, or build and even change an entire nation.
The Atomic Bomb had the power to kill, the power to annihilate entire cities and all the people in it–the babies, the elders, the young men and women their dogs and chickens, their vegetable gardens and sky. But what good is that? Should that be the goal, to obtain this power? To cause unspeakable destruction with these words that can change lives? Words can bring about salvation, redemption, healing, peace, tolerance, and understanding. They can give communities a future.
When I started writing it was only natural that my protagonist would exemplify that orphan prototype. This is not unusual for middle grade literature. Think about it: Dorothy, Maniac Magee, Pippi Longstocking, and Wilma Sue, whose mother abandoned her on the steps of the Daylily Home for Children (or, as Wilma Sue call it, The Daylily Home for Unwanted and Misunderstood Children). As the story opens, she is on her way to her fifth foster home.Young Wilma Sue is the perfect Orphan archetype, and she plays the role well. But through all her trial and missteps, Wilma Sue learns one vital truth: She is worthy of receiving and giving love. And she learns quite a lot about chickens. Give it a read. You might just see yourself in Wilma Sue.
Joyce Magnin is the author of five novels, including the popular Bright’s Pond series and the 2011 middle grade novel Carrying Mason. She is also a frequent speaker and writing instructor. Magnin lives with her son in Pennsylvania. Her newest novel, Cake, is now available in stores. Magnin’s websites can be found HERE and HERE. She is also on Twitter (handle: @joycemagnin) and Facebook at (JoyceMagnin).
Thanks, Joyce, for sharing that and for the second copy of Cake for a giveaway.
You can have a chance to win my gently used hardback copy by leaving a comment below. If you are not yet a follower, please become one and tell me that. I will put your name in twice. If you are already a follower, thank you very much, let me know and I will put your name in twice. You can receive extra chances by linking to this post on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media and tell me you are doing that.
Don’t forget to stop by Shannon Messenger’s wonderful blog for more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday links. Click HERE to find it.
On the book giveaway, this is for U.S. only. Sorry, but it would be too expensive for me to send books out of the country. But please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. Remember, if you have trouble leaving a comment, click on the title of the post and it will give you just this post with a comments section on the bottom. Also, if you haven’t signed up by email, please do. Just look in the upper right-hand corner of this page, pop your email address in, and you will receive an email each time I put up a new post. Your information will not be shared with anyone.