I was treated with a most excellent workshop this past Saturday. ‘Finding Your (Sense of) Place As A Writer’, presented by Author Janni Lee Simner left me anxious to return home to pound away on the keyboard of my laptop. It was like waking up to a bright new world after being asleep, rearing for fun and adventure, the sun sending thrills down my arms as I let her words saturate my parched muse. I was enthralled with her use of language, setting her scenes full of description and emotion.
Janni described a young girl skipping under the towering arch in St. Louis, savoring her ice cream cone as she dipped her feet in the cool water of the Mississippi. Then Janie moved on to a young teen, barely able to breath in her steamy city apartment, the humidity so thick she could cut it with a knife, the searing breeze blowing the stench of garbage and smelly sneakers from the alley below.
The same girl, the same town…two totally different emotions. It was thrilling to see, hear, smell and feel Janni’s emotional descriptions.
“Emotion and description are closely linked because what we feel affects what we see and because the same place holds different meanings for different people” said Janni. (Even if it is the same person, but at different times of their life.)
Janni gave us a few tips.
- Look for words and descriptive details that reflect the emotions of your characters and the tone you’re trying to set for their scenes.
- Choose words and comparisons that arise naturally out of your characters’ worlds and lives. A tenth-century kid can’t feel and electric shock; a twenty-second century kid might not know what it means to dial a phone.
- One or two carefully chosen, specifi details have more power than a dozen more generic ones. Give those specific details the space they need.
Janni also gave us some great examples to experience what she was talking about. Each of the passages talk about storms, but it is amazing how different you feel about each one.
It was a dark and story night.
In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraithlike shadows that raced along the ground.
The house shook.
Wrapped in her quilt, Meg shook.
- from A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
Trees are the keepers of stories. If you could understand the languages of oak and elm and tallow, they might tell you about another storm, an earlier one, twenty-five years ago to be exact, a storm that barreled across the sky, filling up the streams and bayous, how it dipped and charged, rushing through the boughs. Its black clouds were enormous, thick and heavy with water it had scooped up from the Gulf of Mexico due south of here, swirling its way north, where it sucked up more moisture from the Sabine river to the east, the river that divides Texas and Louisiana.
This tree, a thousand years old, huge and wide, straight and true, would say how it lifted its branches and welcomed the heavy rain, how it shivered as the cool water ran down its trunk and washed the dust from its long needles. How it sighed in that coolness.
- from The Underneath, by Kathi Appelt
We slept in the hay all night, waking when the wind was wild, sleeping again when it was quiet. And at dawn there was the sudden sound of hail, like stones tossed against the barn. We stared out the window, watching the ice marbles bounce on the ground. And when it was over we opened the barn door and walked out into the early-morning light. The hail crunched and melted beneath our feet. It was white and gleaming as far as we looked, like sun on glass. Like the sea.
- from Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan
A thundercloud big as a mountain swept up the river just before sunset. Lightning danced at its edges like horses at a mad gallop, then the sky turned ink black and the storm crashed over us.
- from Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Now, I’m sorry, but I have to go…my fingers are dancing along with my muse and yearning to practice this piece of craft on my own writing. Happy writing to one and all. May all your descriptions create the emotions of your heart!
Today, help me welcome to my blog, author J.Q. Rose. Thank you for joining us today. Please tell everyone a bit about your book?
Hi C.K. Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog. Sunshine Boulevard, a mystery/horror novella, is a fun, entertaining story packed with mystery, suspense, light horror with a few chuckles thrown in. It takes place in a Florida retirement community. The senior residents on Sunshine Boulevard are dying from unknown causes surrounded by mysterious symptoms. Usually enjoying fun and games in Florida’s warm winter season, Michigan snowbirds, Jim and Gloria Hart, become involved in the death investigations in the Florida Citrus Ridge Senior Golf Community. Even in the midst of the deaths on Sunshine Boulevard, the Harts try to carry on the usual winter activities of golfing, parties and games with friends. The neighbors are in a dither over the deaths, but perhaps more intrigued by the gossip. And then there’s this lady who is found lying in the geranium bed….. This novella is a snapshot into the world of active seniors who trade the wintry North Country for the playgrounds of sunny Florida.
Are there any authors that have influenced your own writing?
I like writers with a sense of humor and great story telling so I appreciate Mark Twain, Jan Karon, and Janet Evanovich.
If you were stranded on a tropical island, what three things would you need with you—excluding spouse, friends and family cause they are a given.
I would have to have books to read, pencil and paper for writing, and our favorite game, Pegs and Jokers, so I could teach the natives to play it with me.
What normally occupies your desk while writing? Silly question but mine is always littered with photos and sticky notes.
Definitely my glasses. I cannot write at my laptop with my glasses on. So I take them off and shove them around the desk instead of putting them on a shelf. However, if I don’t keep them on the desk, I won’t be able to see to find them in a different location.
Do you have any new projects that you are working on? If so, what are they?
My projects are diverse. I write non-fiction articles for newspapers and magazines. I am working on a mystery/romance with a strong woman as the main character, and I am beginning to research a real woman to present her biography for middle school age children. I am looking for a publisher for an inspirational, non-fiction book for girls.
What have you learned in this process of publishing?
Rejections are a good thing. I know that is a jaw-dropping statement, but with each rejection, I re-worked and re-evaluated my manuscript making it a much better book for the reader.
What tip would you offer to a new writer who is just beginning their submission journey?
Study the publishers. Be sure you submit to a company who is looking for your kind of story. Don’t submit a children’s picture book to a sci-fi, paranormal publisher.
Please tell our readers where they can find your book and more information about you.
The e-book is available at Muse It Up Publishing Bookstore http://tinyurl.com/2c53noz and
Amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/4czwr6has well as at many online booksellers.
J Q Rose Website http://www.jqrose.webs.com J Q Rose Blog http://www.jqroseauthor.blogspot.com You Tube Book Trailer
http://tinyurl.com/64htcx8If you want to add anything please feel free to do so.
I am so excited to have this novella, Sunshine Boulevard, now available as an e-book. We are pioneering this new e-reading technology and I am thrilled to be a part of it. I am educating many people on e-books and e-readers and getting those people who love to read interested in trying out an e-book.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my story and information with your readers.
J Q Rose
A wedding always conjures up wonderful scenes of love and happiness. The glowing bride, the dapper groom. The smiles, tears, joy and excitement. It is a fairy tale story of love. A new beginning.
On March 5, 2011, the Volnek family welcomed a new daughter to the family. I am so proud. It warmed my heart to watch my son break into the biggest smile as his beautiful bride walked down the aisle. He’d laughed at me earlier as he walked me to my seat. I’d had a 'mom moment', tears filling my eyes, just as the photographer popped into the aisle for a picture. Yeah, my son teased me about that. But I couldn’t help it. Images of a much younger boy kept springing to mind. Where did the years go?
This was my middle son. The one I always (and still do) call Huggy Bear. Being the middle child he was my clown. Ready to do anything for a laugh. While my oldest was more serious to a fault, my middle son didn’t want to take anything serious growing up. He wasn’t very good at sports. In t-ball he got yelled at by the coach for not going after a fly ball that landed five feet from him in center field. So the next inning, though he was now playing pitcher, he went running back out to center field and wrestled with the outfielder to retrieve the coveted ball. Two innings later, he was on first base. The ball was hit, and not wanting to get yelled at by the coach again, he remained on base, jumping and yelling for them to get the ball to him to get the runner out. When he realized the ball was not going to make it, he threw himself on the base, covering it so the runner couldn’t touch it. Needless to say the stands were a buzz of laughter.
Yeah, my middle son would never be the next Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle. But he had a heart made for love. Quick with a mischievous grin and a joke, he always brings a smile to my face. He’s grown into a wonderful young man, beginning a fruitful career and now a husband. I’m fortunate he chose to buy a house about three blocks away from ‘Mommy’, quick to remind me that it’s a short distance for his future children to go see Grandma. Family is such an exquisite gift. It’s the story of life. New chapters every time we turn around. And as I age, I still love watching my children grow and have their dreams unfold before their very eyes. My dreams unfold along with them. After all… I’m just 18 with 42 years experience.
Here’s cheers to all families! There’s no two alike and nothing can replace them!