Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

Review- Art of the Fold February 21, 2019

Filed under: book reviews,Poetry,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 9:16 pm
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A fantastic resource for poets and book artists to make beautiful chapbooks.

I have a writer-artist friend on Pender Island who posted this book that she got for Christmas. I was so impressed that I bought a copy of my own!  With great thanks to Andrea Spalding, I’m delighted to share this book with you.

Hedi Kyle & Ulla Warchol have compiled a variety of techniques in Art of the Fold.  This is a GORGEOUS book! It will teach you how to make amazing folded art books that you can use with beautiful papers to create stunning, one of a kind, art books for your poetry and other special words.  Here’s a video of me showing some of the little practice books I made, while learning the techniques, with a peak at the book itself.

 

The beauty of this book is how Kyle and Warchol give you the bones of the books, but the scope of how you can apply the examples to make your own project is unlimited.  I am SO excited to buy special paper and make some lovely art books to give to special people in my world.  What a great resource for learning techniques of book folding.  I am so excited to use these with my English students!

You can buy Art of the Fold on Amazon, and you really should!

(I’m an Amazon Affiliate, so buying from the link gives me a penny or two for the recommendation).

(My dog decided to wrestle his bed all over the living room while I was recording the video , excuse his enthusiastic growls and brief appearances in the background! lol He finally abandoned it against a chair. Silly boy.)

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writing-conference power February 19, 2019

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 8:49 pm
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I’m a huge advocate of the writing conference as a crucial key to a writer’s development.  For many years, I thought they were silly and over-priced.  I figured I could learn anything I needed to know by reading books about the writing craft and business.

What I didn’t understand was the importance of connection.  Writers tend to be solitary creatures. Their creativity happens when they’re alone.  Often our friends and family members don’t understand the stress of having to kill off a character we love, or the trauma of maintaining our words per day quota, or the soul-destroying nature of the twelfth (or hundred and twelfth) rejection letter for a project we adore.

Other writers do.

When you sit in a room with other writers, hear their stories, and realize they have the same kind of feelings and experiences you do, you realize you aren’t the only one. You’re not weird! (Well, maybe you are, but it’s probably a good weird, and you realize there are a lot of weirder people and you thoroughly enjoy being in their weird company!).  You feel like you belong.  You listen, you learn, you laugh, and you long for it to last.

Next March I am going to a new conference for me: Creative Ink in Burnaby, BC.  I see that some of my friends from other conferences (Surrey International, When Words Collide in Calgary, Word on the Lake in Salmon Arm) will be there. How great!

If you’re in BC and you’ve never been to a conference, this one is a good price ($80 for the weekend) and has some phenomenal people presenting and attending, so I already know it’s going to be great.  Learn about the craft and business of the writing life.  Share some weird.  Enjoy some fun.  Buy some books.

If you decide to go, tell them I sent you!

Creative Ink is at the Delta Marriott Burnaby, BC  March 29-31, 2019.

 

Giveaway! Book promo.

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 5:51 am
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A couple of weeks ago, I did a book review for The Emotion Thesaurus 2nd edition.  Today is official release day, and the authors have an amazing contest going!  

I love their product and I love writing conferences, so I fully endorse The Emotion Thesaurus 2nd edition AND their contest.  Here’s their info:

This second edition is more than a new cover. It’s been been enhanced and expanded to include 55 new entries and double the teaching material. Now we can go even deeper when showing our characters’ emotions!

You can read some of the reviews on Goodreads or find more information here

Also, one more thing to share…a MEGA-OPPORTUNITY to win something amazing!

GIVEAWAY ALERT:

To celebrate the new book & its dedicated readers, Angela and Becca have an unbelievable giveaway on right now: one person will win a free writing retreat, conference, workshop, or professional membership to a writing organization, winner’s choice (up to $500 US, with some other conditions which are listed on the WHW site).

What conference would you attend if the fee was already paid for…or would you choose a retreat? Something else? Decisions, decisions! This giveaway ends on February 26th, so hurry over and enter!

 

writing-talent v tenacity February 16, 2019

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:50 pm
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When I’m speaking to new writers, whether they be young or old, I spend time discussing the difference between talent and tenacity.

When you start, you may be discouraged because you see others with greater talent than you, but if you have tenacity, your dedication will develop talent, your resilience will keep you practising, your perseverence at pushing on doors will get you opportunities.  The most talented person who just holes up in a burrow will stagnate if they don’t work with what they’ve got.  So if you WANT it, you need to be tenacious, and eventually, you will achieve your goals.

So much success in life relies on simply not giving up.

Caitriona Balfe, the actor who plays Claire Randall in Outlander, said some similar regarding making it as an actor, in a recent interview for The Irish Times,

a lot of it is just having the f***ing balls and grit to stick around and be persistent in the face of a lot of rejection. But I think that also comes from having a belief that if [there is] something you love to do so much, something that feels that it comes naturally, that in some way it has to be what you’re meant to do.

That’s it.  As Dory puts it, “Just keep swimming.”

 

Review- The Emotion Thesaurus 2nd ed. January 27, 2019

Millions of people want to write books. A few of them will actually start writing. A few of those will finish writing.  If you’re stranded between starting and finishing, sadly aware that you’re missing something, then Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi could be your salvation.

Ackerman and Puglisi have created a series of thesauri that help writers develop powerful, engaging characters and settings.  These non-traditional tools can help a writer find new angles, depth, and vocabulary for what they want to convey.   I have a few of them, both for my personal reference and for my creative writing classes.  I was delighted with the opportunity to see their latest release, in exchange for a fair review.

The latest tool in the arsenal is a re-vamp of the first thesaurus.  The Emotion Thesaurus 2nd edition has almost doubled the first edition.  There are articles on how and why to use various emotions, as well as 55 more emotions to examine.

The articles are clear and easy to apply.  I will be using “Emotion and Dialogue” with my creative writing students.

Each emotion entry provides

  • a definition
  • a long list of physical signals and behaviours of the emotion in action
  • internal responses to the emotion
  • mental responses to the emotion
  • acute or long-term impacts of the emotion
  • signs that the emotion is being suppressed
  • where it may escalate or de-escalate
  • power verbs associated with the emotion.

Now, sure, you would probably be able to figure out a lot of these areas if you contemplated long and hard, but more likely you’d settle for the first few things that occured to you, and miss a variety of points that would add depth to your characterization.  While you were thinking, you wouldn’t be writing more on the story.

When you find a sign of an emotion that you’d never considered, and it gives you new directions  at the same time, you’ve struck gold.  It leads to plot points you may not have considered. I will make good use of this book.

The Emotion Thesaurus 2nd edition is a valuable tool to help writers save time, develop depth, and learn more about their characters.  Highly recommended for your writers’ toolbox!

Visit their website to explore the entry for schadenfreude as an example of what you can expect.

You can buy The Emotion Thesaurus 2nd ed. at the usual sites.  If you use the link at left, I earn a bit as an Amazon Affiliate.

 

 

workshop notes: Back story by Diana Gabaldon November 30, 2018

The following notes were taken at Surrey International Writers’ Conference, October 21, 2012. (On Oct 23, 2012 I posted a blog that said I’d post notes ‘soon.’  Is six years later soon? lol)  

What to do with the Back story

Diana Gabaldon

SIWC 2012 Friday  

Backstory is what happened to your characters before they got to your front story.  Backstory still exists, the secret story you’re not telling, but you may give the reader a peek, but it’s every bit of a story.  How much are you going to let them see of the back story?.

Story doesn’t have to start when the character begins, it starts where the conflict starts.

How much does the author need to know vs how much the reader needs to know.  Some authors like to know everything, family trees, index cards, details  Myer Briggs

(Aside: Diana is INTJ/F (50 each end) on Myers Briggs)

What situation is your character in.  Remembering back to when she wrote Disney comics… In comic books, first page set up, big square shows main character and conflict.  4 small squares provide details, bottom of the page off on adventure.  Very straight-forward structure.  In novels, first page we need to know char/conflict.  Need to refer to your back story that explains how he does what he does, pick and choose where things are, when they go off on the story adventure.

Motivation: Entire arcs depends on the motivation, get out, get in deeper.  Want to give the story shape.  Back story explains motivation.  It helps to understand the psychology of the character

Diana starts writing and discovers it as she goes along.  The story evolved as the characters did over the years.  Logistically, something happened, use something else if you’ve mentioned previously.  You don’t need to know everything.  You just need to know them by the end! J It’s for you as an author to burnish and polish them to know.  Motherlode of info to mine out as you need it.  Characters detailed resume and psych profile, actual personality and speech is what lets them do the job.

Show vs tell.  Character needs to speak for himself without telling everything.

What does the reader need to know, don’t tell anything until they need to know it.  Gloat over your secret.  (Know the 5W+H)

Who’s central?  Where and what is he doing?  When may/not be important (Once upon a time there was a woodcutter who lived in a forest.  One day…)

Backstory IS the story in a mystery- historical novels, Josephine Hay Daughter of Time Richard 3,  thrillers and murder mysteries, what led to the moment of violence?  The identity novel- adopted.

19th c they spread out the story longer picturesque novel- it’s out of date- no patience these days, you have start with the excitement.  Unless you’re writing in a deliberately antiquated voice.  Follow the action in both front and back story.

Modern version modified authorial intrusion.  Old fashioned, Narrator unobtrusively adds.

(she tells the marijuana with grandma in the hospital story…lol)

When Lord John talks it’s normal, but the modern reader needs a little more info to understand how it was then.  (“of course there would be no rule of order” Author must  sneak up behind the character and whisper over his shoulder)

Reminding people of the Jacquard effect : Same colour, so it’s very subtle, rich look.  In text , weave back into the front.

e.g.Percy blurp from MOBY daily line last week. (Can’t find a reference to Percy Oct 2012 daily lines. Perhaps this from ECHO?) https://www.dianagabaldon.com/books/outlander-series/an-echo-in-the-bone/excerpt-5-an-echo-in-the-bone-sometimes-theyre-really-dead-lord-john-grey/

or tell it to another character, because the character needs the info.  You have to have a reason for telling that char what happened in the past.

Rachel and Ian walking to Valley Forge (Diana doing Scottish accent. HA!)   Ian having been married before/ not asking Rachel to marry him when he thought  Wolf eyes over her knee, Rollo making his allegiance clear…  Sneaking insertion of back story of Ian joining the Mohawk and marrying Emily  “Oh Ian, I do love thee”  (See end of notes for section*)

You have high tension dialogue going on, keep sense of the relationship, following the importance of the book.  The front story is clearly more important than the backstory, but response reveals current info.

.

Question time at end of workshop:

Is your throat okay? I just naturally sound hoarse, but it’s better when I have some water

Should we have prologues? Prologue some people skip the prologue, but those are probably the same people who skip to the back of the book, and we don’t talk about those people.

Sometimes the Prologue can be used as hook if first chapter is slow.

For Diana, the prologue is the thematic statement. It reveals the “Voice of the book”.

Do you plan the arc of the conversation?  No

I ask, 😊 “Were the short stories and the Lord John books back story before they became stories on their own?”

Not really, Lord Johns fill in gaps, but I didn’t know there was gap.  I wrote Scottish Prisoner little gap  time. Check the timetable of history, oh. Battle of Quebec, I’ll send him there.

WW2 buff told her a Spitfire couldn’t have travelled over the channel, so she says “I bet I can work out a way that this is true…” and so Wind of All Hallows.  Didn’t know Roger’s parents’ story, but knew they had an interesting story.

How did a story as long as Outlander get accepted?! Outlander 304,000 words shortest of the series.  It was far too long to be accepted at the time, but she was sneaky and hid the length.  One way she got away with it

Deception: Husband was a programmer, back then publishers didn’t use computers. Outlander ms was all in written Courier 10, normal set ms Times Roman 12, looks 25% shorter than it was, played with margins .9”  When finalized with traditional sizes the typesetter nearly had heart attack, but it was too late. 😊

How to research- university libraries, research closest to hand and follow the thread (who said what info about what interesting thing, what resources did he use).  Sometimes you just can’t find, and that’s lucky because then you can just make it up. 😊

How do you start? She starts writing each day with a kernel, something concrete- euphonious, where is the light, what’s happening?  She thinks back and forth around the kernel,  things are floating around in your head, bits start sticking together, after a couple years it makes sense

Someone asks about the duality of having a science PhD and writing: Art and science are both the same thing, the ability to find patterns.  Devise hypothesis- is the pattern real- artist embodies in other way of showing, Scientist test purpose observation.  For a writer the hypothesis is the novel and research is peoples’ response.  Predict what happened in the gap.  Historical serendipity- imagine something that later turns out to be true- if you really embody it well.

How long did it take to write? It took 18 mos to write Outlander.  Scene polished as you go, so later revision basically unnecessary- just tweeks.

*Here is part of the daily line chunk that was read as example earlier to show how background information is given, but it weaves in with current story:

“Perhaps,” Rachel said, and swallowed, pushing him away with one hand flat on his chest, “perhaps thee should finish telling me about not being married, before we go further? Who was thy—thy wife—and what happened to her?”

He let go of her reluctantly, but would not surrender her hand. It felt like a small live thing, warm in his.

“Her name is Wakyo’teyehsnohnsa,” he said, and felt the accustomed inner shift at the speaking of it, as though the line between his Mohawk self and his white self had momentarily disappeared, leaving him awkwardly suspended somewhere in between. “It means Works with her Hands.” He cleared his throat. “I called her Emily. Most of the time.”

Rachel’s small, smooth hand jerked in his.

“Is?” she said, blinking. “Thee said _is_? Thy wife is _alive_?”

“She was a year ago,” he said, and with an effort, didn’t cling to her hand, but let her take it back. She folded her hands in her lap, fixed her eyes on him and swallowed; he saw her throat move.

“All right,” she said, with no more than a faint tremor in her voice. “Tell me about her.”

He took another deep breath, trying to think how to do that, but then abandoned the effort and spoke simply.

“D’ye truly want to know that, Rachel? Or do ye only want to ken whether I loved her—or whether I love her now?”

“Start there,” she said, lifting one brow. “_Does_ thee love her?”

(selection (c) Diana Gabaldon Written in My Own Heart’s Blood)

 

writing- the research behind Finding inspiration and voice July 4, 2018

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:48 am
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I am presenting a few workshops this summer, as part of the Murdering Mr. Edwards book tour, and as such I have been researching.  In the Finding Inspiration and Voice: a workshop for novelists and poets workshop, participants explore character and plot development through a variety of prompts.

I am using the prompts to shake loose new ideas and bring out things ‘your brain knows, but isn’t tell you.’  This is a very unscientific way to explain creativity and its link to the subconscious, but there is science behind the concept, and here are some articles that may be of interest:

Andreasen, Nancy C. (MD PhD) A Journey into Chaos: Creativity and the Unconscious.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3115302/

“How to Stimulate Creative Breakthroughs: The Unconscious and Creativity.” The Academy of Ideas. https://academyofideas.com/2016/06/stimulating-creativity-unconscious

Seager, Charlotte. “How the subconscious mind shapes creative writing.” The Guardian. 2015 https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2015/apr/07/subconscious-mind-creative-writing-mark-haddon-michelle-paver

https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2015/05/researchers-tie-unexpected-brain-structures-to-creativity.html

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317814542_A_Deeper_Understanding_of_Consciousness_Through_the_Study_of_Creativity

 

 

 

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