Thursday, July 28, 2011

When the writing gets tough

A friend emailed to ask how my writing was going. I told her that I've been praying a lot about the book I'm writing. That it's been difficult because I'm dealing with a very dysfunctional family, and I write things that I  can't imagine an adult ever saying to a child and about really mean things that girls do to my character. I don't have any experience to draw on from my own life so it's a real challenge.

At the same time, I feel God is helping me, leading me down this path to find the right words at the right time. I hope that in the end, it's a powerful story of redemption. I can't wait until I write the ending because it's going to take the reader by total surprise, I think. There's a twist that gives us hope and a peace of mind and a reminder that love can overcome even the darkest moments of our lives. 

Have you had a similar experience in your writing? Have you written horrible things that you can only imagine but have no real-life experience with? How do you handle it? I find myself even crying at times, my heart feels so broken and I ache for this character. I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Verbs, verbs, verbs

Last week, I had the opportunity to tune into a webinar by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jacqui Banaszynski. Jacqui has spent 30 years in the newspaper business, both as a reporter and editor. She holds a Knight Chair professorship at the Missouri School of Journalism, is an editing fellow at the Poynter Institute and coaches student and professional journalists around the world.

Her webinar was on Adding Verbs with Verve and Volume to Your Writing. Here’s some of what she had to say. I’m sharing it with my literary friends because I think that what she says applies to all writing. So, here’s what I remember:

1.Verbs drive sentences and hold them together. Nouns label; without verbs, they do nothing.

2. The strongest writing is visual, and verbs achieve this. Paint pictures with verbs.

3. Verbs drive the bus (and the story). They drive the action and draw the reader in.

4. Verbs attribute. Do not “trick them out.” “Said” says it all. Don’t say “articulated” or “reiterated.” Say “said.” Readers will read right over “said.” Don’t dress up the part of speech that doesn’t need to be dressed up. “A pig is a pig is a pig and it’s just fine.”

5. Also, watch loaded verbs, such as acknowledged, argued, defended.

6. On whether to use “says” or “said,” Jacqui says that “said” feels more definitive and declarative while “says” feels more casual and timeless.

7. Ditch the adverbs. –ly adverbs just make work awkward. Read your writing out loud. Look at all the –ly verbs and try to find a better verb. ie. instead of walked heavily, say trudged. Instead of sang lustily, use belted or wailed.

8. Better to use strong verb to show rather than adverb to tell.

9. Verbs elevate.

10. Verbs show energy and action.

11. Verbs put you in the scene.

12. Verbs show (the visible, emotional and metaphorical) ie. slouched is a verb that shows action

13. Verbs add (or subtract) volume. Don’t overdo them, though.

14. Verbs bend time. Writers struggle with transitions. Change verb tense to change time or tone.

15. Verbs surprise. Ie. Sun slams down. Insects buzz. Pregnant moon rises.

16. Verbs provide structure. Keep them parallel for power.

17. Jacqui suggests printing out your story and highlighting the verbs then reviewing the verbs to make sure they’re as strong and precise as they can be.

18. Play with language to enchant, surprise and provoke.

19. Language is a tool; writing is a craft.

20. Verbs are the only part of our language that can stand alone and make perfect sense: Go. Home. Imagine. Pray. Dream. Sing. Ask. Speak. Swim. March.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Are you a dreamer?

What's your dream? Have you set goals to attain it? You don't have to answer these questions for me, but you should know the answers for yourself. Good luck achieving your dreams!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Amazing Spider-Man trailer

The "Amazing Spider-Man" hits theaters next summer. It deals with Spider-Man’s creation story. Marc Webb directs and Andrew Garfield (who played Eduardo Saverin in "The Social Network") plays Spider-Man, Emma Stone plays his love interest, Gwen Stacy, and Ryhs Ifans plays the villain, The Lizard. What do you think of the trailer?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sweet summer memories

When I was little, a Mennonite would come by the house every summer and invite all of the kids on my street  to attend Bible school. We'd wait at the corner each night and he would pick us up in his black car and take us to the meetinghouse, built in 1810, down the road. I looked forward to it every year.
I still remember the song we sang when Bible school ended for the night. (Bible school is over and we are going home. Goodbye. Goodbye. We hope to see you soon.) And we always had cookies and punch, another reason why I liked this Bible school.
Sometimes, I wish my children could have experienced my childhood -- life in a small town with one traffic light, snowballs sold off the back of a neighbor's porch, a park program that always featured a penny carnival and tons of contests, a winding stream to slosh through and oh so much more. What about you? Any summer memories to share?

A minute list: Hot, hot, hot

It's dang hot here! That can only mean one thing, besides stay inside! It's time for a minute list. You know the drill.  Copy and paste the list in comments and describe each in a word or two, taking no more than a minute to complete the list. Mine is in ()'s. Can't wait to see your lists and stay cool.

Ice (cold)
Sun (hot)
Flowers (thirsty)
Grass (dry)
Pool (above ground)
Ice-cream (mint chocolate chip)
Watermelon (seedless)
Fan (plastic)
Bird bath (crowded)
Skin (sweaty)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's so hot...

Finish this sentence. It's so hot...

Best obit ever!

Just had to share this dude's obit. Put a big smile on my face as I'm sure it will yours. Definitely worth your time to read. What would you like your obit to say?

Monday, July 18, 2011

My beloved Borders

Say it ain't so! No Borders will be like no candy stores or ice-cream parlors or amusement parks. Where will my kids hang out on a Friday and Saturday night? Where will I hang out on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon? Where will I write and read and buy coffee and people watch and...... I'll be lost. How about you?

Quote of the day

"A writer is working when he's staring out of the window."
--Burton Rascoe

Soooo true! What other times are you "working?"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Website can help writers research

Have you played with the Google website What Do You Love? It's pretty neat. You type in what it is you love, hit the button, and Google demonstrates how different Google products can show you different things about your topic. Watch the vid and then try it. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I write like...

Thanks to my friend Marcy who introduced me to this cool tool. Not sure how accurate it is, but why not give it a try. Tell me which famous writer you write like. The tool does this by analyzing your word choice and writing style and comparing them with those of the famous writers.

I write like
Chuck Palahniuk

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Harry Potter 'Friday' parody

You just knew this was going to happen with the final installment of Harry Potter premiering Friday. HP takes overs Rebecca Black's "Friday."

Some other HP links:
Harry Potter going digital
"Deathly Hallows" trailer
Harry Potter v. Voldemort rap
Harry Potter Puppet Pals

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's in the details...

Hemingway said: Details make stories human, and the more human a story can be, the better.

I think details bring a story to life. They place us smack dab in the middle so that we can see and feel and smell and hear.

 It's just not a stately mansion, but a stone estate with a circular driveway and a three-tier granite fountain with scalloped edges in front. (from WIP)

It's not a pretty girl but a girl with an hour-glass body and endless legs and mane of curly hair that falls softly down her back.

As an exercise, describe a character or a place from your WIP in comments.

I hope you a great writing week and that you use details to bring your writing to life.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cool interactive shuttle presentation

Check out our cool online interactive space shuttle presentation.  The space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to launch at 11:26 a.m. today -- culminating the 30-year run of what aerospace experts call the most amazing space vehicle ever built.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Quote(s) of the day

Some great quotes from one of my fave authors:

"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default."

"It takes much bravery to stand up to our enemies but we need as much bravery to stand up to our friends."

"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."

"It is our choices, Harry, that show us who we truly are, far more than our abilities."

Some great travel posts:
Wizarding World of Harry Potter from A to Z
Harry Potter travel tips

For fun:
Harry Potter vs. Voldemort rap
Harry Potter puppet pals
Deathly Hallows movie trailer

Sites to check out: potter

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wow! What an inspirational video

This is an incredible story.

Quotes of the day

Pastor Greg said this morning, "We find joy in life, not in things." SO TRUE. He also said, "Do the right things for the right reasons." ALSO TRUE..... Great sermon this morning.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Using social media to cover 'Extreme Makeover' story

I first heard about Brian Keefer at the dentist office where his aunt worked. I was there for a six-month checkup, and Mel shared Brian's story with me.

She told me how he was president of the gymnastics club at Lock Haven. How he ran track and field and played volleyball. And she told me about the day that all changed - the day he attempted a triple front flip, more than he had ever attempted.

It was weeks after the gymnastics injury that paralyzed him from the chest down. At the time, Brian was at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia.

I remember thinking at the time how one second can change your life forever. It wasn't the first time I had heard of a promising young athlete becoming paralyzed. When I was a sophomore in college, I covered a story about a football player who dived into the shallow end of a pool. He, too, was paralyzed from the chest down.

That story remains one of the most difficult of my career. To watch someone who made headlines on the gridiron not be able to brush his teeth was difficult. I remember drowning in an avalanche of tears after leaving Elizabethtown Hospital for Children and Youth where I had spent the day reporting the story.

But it was also one of the most rewarding stories I ever covered. I witnessed a star athlete overcome enormous obstacles, and I learned a valuable life lesson in the process. Even today I can't help but smile when I think of Bob Yordy speeding around campus in his wheelchair.

When I returned to the office after my dental appointment, I asked one of my reporters, Jen Vogelsong, to contact the Keefers and tell Brian's story. Jen did just that, spending weeks reporting the story and spending time with Brian and his family. On Oct. 5, 2008, her story ran on the front page of the York Sunday News.

The package included the main story and smaller pieces of text that we in the industry refer to as breakouts. The breakouts included everything from explaining quadriplegia to telling people how they could donate to a medical fund set up to help Brian.

Lots of great photos accompanied the story. There was Brian soaking up the sun in front of his Newberry Township home on his first day back after about 10 weeks at Magee. Brian surprising his cousins during a volleyball practice at Red Land High School. And a photo of Brian's parents, Dawn and Steve, struggling to get him into their minivan for the first time.

But there were no tweets.

No Facebook updates.

No blog posts.

No videos or slideshows or Twitpics.

There was just the published story in the paper, which was also put on

Flash forward to the week of June 19.

News that the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" crew was going to renovate Brian's home spread like an Internet virus.

There were tweets.

Facebook updates and blog posts.

Videos and slideshows and Twitpics. And stories, lots of stories, and photos in print.

Put simply, reporters and photographers told this story in multiple ways using tools that allowed us to be immediate and thorough all at once.

We reported facts that were fleeting (tweeting: "The bus is here!") and we documented the entire story in a way that will stand forever (like the 87-image photo slideshow or the time-lapse video), and we shared it on a mass scale (newspaper, web) and we shared it person-to-person (Facebook).

I had always been touched by Brian's story and his determination, like Bob, to overcome such an enormous challenge. There's something about fighting for the underdog that gets me pumped.

When I wasn't checking, where all of the coverage was aggregated under one tab, I was checking my Twitter feed or the blogosphere or Facebook for the latest.

I learned on Facebook that my friend Margie White and her daughter, Jess, visited the site a few times. They were pumped, too.

I read a tweet by Paul Kuehnel about neighbors making Welcome Home signs and saw the Twitpic he included. His tweet was retweeted.

And I watched videos on the Green Mesh blog that brought tears to my eyes.

The ways in which we reported, produced and shared this story have radically changed in just a few short years since Jen first wrote about Brian. And the ways in which I consumed the story and shared it have changed, too.

I will always remember a quote from Brian in Jen's story.

"Someday I'll get up and surprise you."

Brian, I pray for that surprise. And when it happens, you can be sure that we will share your news with the world.


Read about Extreme Makeover visit here.

Follow me:
Twitter: @Buffyandrews

--Smart magazine
--York Daily Record/Sunday News

--Buffy's World
--Buffy's Write Zone