This was the room I taught in last week while I was the Writer-in-Residence at the Chautauqua Institute in Chautauqua, New York. Pretty amazing, huh? Aside from great karma, the room had unbelievably comfortable chairs and wonderful windows that let in the natural light. My students had a range of experience and interests. We saw some time travel. A little boy who was in love with hummingbirds. And a school play about President McKinley. For two hours each day we talked about writing, experimented with brainstorming and looked at texts. I can't think of a better way to spend the week. And I can't think of a better place to spend it. Symphony every night, runs along the water's edge, lectures all over the grounds. Wonderful!
This summer I will be the writer-in-residence for a week (July 14-18) at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York. I will be teaching/leading a fiction writing workshop for adults who want to write for children/teens. I am thrilled to be hosting a week-long workshop. Last summer I was at the Cape Cod Writer's Center Conference and couldn't believe the quality of the work produced by my students in only one week. I'm also looking forward to the amazing classes and lectures that are offered. This is from the website: "Chautauqua Institution is a community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state that comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. Over the course of nine weeks, more than 100,000 visitors will stay at Chautauqua and participate in programs, classes and community events for all ages—all within the beautiful setting of a historic lakeside village."
Chautauqua has a peculiar place in my memory. When my grandparents visited there for a weekend, my grandfather saw his first ballet performance. He was so shocked by the apparel worn by the male dancers that he burst out laughing. People were not amused, mostly my grandmother. What would they think about me, sixty years later, returning to teach?
Learn more on their website.
Last night I had the good fortune to hear three children book writers, Erin Dionne (NOTES FROM AN ACCIDENTAL BAND GEEK and the forthcoming MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE BREAKING), Gina Rosati (AURACLE) and Jo Knowles (SEE YOU AT HARRY’S) at our local library. Each read from her book, then answered questions from the audience.
As always at these events, I was most interested in hearing about process. How do these authors go about the messy business of writing? What tips might they give us that I haven’t thought about before?
I especially liked Jo’s advice about her story board, something she does after every first draft. This is a one-page visual with boxes representing chapters and one or two words describing the primary emotion in that chapter. It’s a visual way for her to see what she’s doing and what she might need to change. In a sprawling manuscript, that could be more than 200 pages, this is a terrific way to see it on one page.
When talking about how they come up with characters, Gina said she’s forever trying to revise who she was as a teen (I know the feeling!). And Erin said that she is often drawn to a story by wanting to write about something that interests her. Marching bands and the Gardner Museum art heist are two recent subjects that started her mind percolating. The characters who inhabit the books come next.
This really started me thinking about my own interests and what draws me to writing. Several weekends ago I talked about this at a NESCBWI workshop I led. A character and an internal problem come first to me, while driving, cooking dinner, running. After that, I’m forever searching for a plot. This is my process. And I encouraged my workshop attendees to know what they are interested in and to follow their strengths and interests.
But now I wonder, what would happen if I reversed my process? If I came up with my own marching band idea first, then characters later? Would it be a mess? Could I even do it? Or would it open me up in a new and unique way?
I will be hosting a writing workshop for adults who are interested in writing novels for kids. This will be a small group, meeting once a week for 1 1/2 hours, for four straight Thursdays beginning May 30. We'll meet at the Waban Library Center, Waban MA (a village in Newton). The library is only one block from the Green Line Waban T Stop. Over the last couple of years I've been teaching/leading a lot of workshops for adults. I like to include a bit of instruction, lots of examples and ample time to brainstorm, write and share. It will be a safe and energized place to explore your voice!
For more information, please contact me at: klday1 (at) verizon (dot) net
I met Mitali Perkins back in 2000 when I first moved to Newton with my family. She had recently moved here, too, and was looking for a critique group. I was looking to start a critique group. We were a match! Once a month for the next 13 years we met, with others in our group, to read our work and try to become better writers. During those years we had people drop out and join. Babies were born. Jobs were gained and lost. Our wonderful friend Mordena died. Feelings were sometimes hurt. Most of us wondered if we were any good. Publishing successes were celebrated. Through it all, Mitali was a steady member -- softening hard feelings, offering insightful critiques, sharing her wonderful stories of hope, love, redemption and India. Now Mitali is off to California to start the next phase of her life. We will miss her terribly! Please join us, if you know Mitali, for a proper send off at my house on Saturday, May 11, from 3-5pm. Email me and I will give you more details.
We love you, Mitali!