Friday, March 22, 2013

People watching

I'm sitting in Pearson Airport, in Toronto(a.k.a. center of the known universe), waiting for a flight to Ottawa.  I love this airport because it is very busy and gives ample opportunity to one of my favorite pastimes.  People watching.

People watching is a great pass time for any writer as it gives you lots of fodder to develop characters.  Pearson is filled with characters.  Toronto is the most ethnically diverse city in the world and they are all represented here at Pearson.

When I see someone that really catches my eye I take careful note of how they walk, stand, dress, speak (where possible) and file this away in my ever present journal for future use.  Looking for a grizzled old guy to be the ferryman in your next novel?  He'll probably walk by in the first ten minutes you're here.  Maybe a space raider for a SF novel.  He, or she, is here as well.

I read an article a few days ago about making maximum use of your day by never "killing time" since you are given a fixed allotment of it and you shouldn't waste a minute.  So, for a writer, people watching becomes a great way to fill up those 10 and 15 minute intervals in your day with a productive exercise.

I have to go.  Here comes the ferryman I was waiting for.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I love the way younger kids think!

I had a couple of very cute/funny things happen last Friday at Lower Coverdale Elementary school.  Illustrator/author Jennifer Aikman-Smith and I were doing a Writers in the School Program (WISP)  for the day. For those who may not have done one of these we meet with the various age groups, talk about writing and illustrating, how we work together as a team to make a book, answer questions and so on.

In the afternoon we did an enrichment session with a grade 2 class and we met with the students involved in the Hackmatack program.  This is usually a more intensive, hands on writing/drawing class with lots of good Q&A.  The Hackmatack students are selected because of their interest in writing and illustrating.

We often get asked our ages or how long we have been writing or drawing and I'm sure we sound like crypt keepers to these young people.  After lunch, one young lady in grade two asked me how old I was and when I told her she looked puzzled, and said,"That can't be right, you're shorter than Jennifer."  Now that describes a lot of people since Jenn is quite tall but I didn't catch how that related to age.  Then I realized that when you're 6, pretty well anyone older than you is taller.  Therefore, Jenn is taller than me and must be older.  Seems perfectly logical once you figure it out.

The other thing that I laughed at happened in the morning.  Jenn was doing her magic at the flip chart, drawing amazing pictures for the kids when I mentioned a rapper squirrel she had just added to the drawing should have a "boom-box" on its shoulder.  One little girl in grade three said, "Boom box!  Than's from the eighties!  I waited for her to add, "When dinosaurs ruled the earth.", but she didn't.  Got a great laugh from the teachers since they were of the same vintage as I am - more or less.

However, both of these made me think about looking at something from someone else's perspective, something we do as writers all the time.  Often, it's little details like the two I mentioned above that makes a story told from someone else's point of view more real.  Lesson learned.  Again.  Thanks kids.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Trying to Get Back in the Groove

So I guess it's time to get started on this blog again.  Posting once every two or three years just doesn't cut it.  Time has been a bit scare this past year as last March I started a 2 year term as President of the NB Real Estate Association and now I have to travel a lot more.  Any spare writing time I can scrape up either goes into a book or my real estate blog.  This poor little orphan has been sadly neglected.  That has got to change.

In the past year my writing career has had a boost by having my second book, "Emily Finds a Dragon", put on the short list for the Hackmatack Children's Award.  It was one of 10 English middle grade books selected to be read this year by selected students in grades 3-6.  They then vote for a favorite.  The award will be handed out in May of this year.  I was very excited to have my second book nominated and winning would be very amazing.

I have finished "Jimmy and Cinder" as far as I can take it.  Any more work will be the result of directions from either an agent or an editor.  I'm now working on the first draft of the next one.  This will be a bit older audience again and should finish out in the 50,000 word range, maybe as much as 60,000.  I see this one being for grade 5 to 6 range.  I try to get 3000 words a week done but it doesn't always happen.

I have been doing more Writer in the School visits with Jennifer, my illustrator/editor/publisher.  She does a lot of them.  Being an illustrator and an author makes her very good at keeping the smaller kids amused.  I'm learning more about it and hopefully can do some on my own eventually.  I keep getting ideas from Jennifer, and I occasionally think of something myself!

One message we try to impress upon the elementary school students is that the ability to write clear, concise sentences is a necessary skill even if you have no intention of being a writer for a living.  As we embrace more electronic communication, we are actually writing more and not less.  Clarity is necessity since it's hard to convey emotion in an email or text.  I even see it on the real estate side of my life as more and more REALTORS use email and text to set up appointments.  We rarely speak on the phone anymore.  Sort of sad, but that is the way society is going.

I guess that's why writing will never go out of style.  Just the format will change.