What is True? What is Creative?


A writer honors the creative nonfiction contract by not presenting anything as fact that he or she doesn’t know to be fact. To comply with the contract, and earn readers’ trust, the writer signals when a bit of info is, in fact, not factual. 

As you read “Good Things” identify the words and phrases I used to signal what I was imagining and interpreting as opposed to what information is factual.

Good Things

cnf-mrs-clair-k-decker-cookbook-cover

“Mrs. Clair K. Decker.”

“Mrs. Clair K. Decker.”

Grandma had fountain-penned her new name in graceful letters on the canvas covers of a recipe booklet. The cover shows a nifty illustration of a youthful woman and tendrils of art nouveau steam wafting out of bowls.

Every four years or so, I pull “Good Things to Eat and How to Prepare Them” off my cupboard shelf and contemplate selling it. Or even donating it. Copyrighted in 1906, the 80-page collection of “more than 250 choice recipes” had cost 15 cents in the early 1900s.

Enjoying the feel of the soft, yellowed pages, I learn that “whether dinner is served at noon or at night it is the hearty meal of the day,” and try to imagine Grandma – whom I was told married Clair when she was 12 – preparing Stuffed Potatoes and Banana Salad.

My imagination fails. Those weren’t dished up at her extra-long oak dining table. Pancakes, I remember, and turkey with bread stuffing. But they’re not in this slim volume.

I leaf though the booklet again, this time with a purpose. I’m looking for the most splattered pages as a clue to what recipes she might have favored as a new housewife.

Desserts. Brown stains freckle the dessert pages. The chapter subtitle is, “ ‘Pretty Little Tiny Kickshaws.’ Shakespeare.” Kickshaws? Might Strawberry Sago be a kickshaw? Or Orange Pudding? Custard Pie?

Custard Pie! I do remember that kickshaw.

I also remember that Grandma hunted deer and went trout fishing with Grandpap. Together they raised potatoes, gladioli and three children.

One page in “Good Things to Eat” depicts the components of an eight-piece place setting arranged just so. The accompanying instructions are stiff with exacting adverbs: carefully, perfectly, squarely.

For the good of the marriage, Katie Kendall must have learned to compromise early on. You only had to notice Clair’s Camels, stinking cigarette lighter and rattlesnake tail buttons on the kitchen windowsill to know that. And what grandchild could forget that gawd-awful sound of his phlegm projectiles?

Once, when she didn’t know I was within earshot, Grandma described someone as being “full of piss and vinegar!” in a voice that sounded, to my young ears, admiring, envious perhaps. I’d hoped I would become a grownup full of those key ingredients.

I tucked the booklet back onto the shelf.

Did I comply with the creative nonfiction contract?

By Beth Fowler, author of “Ken’s War.” Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

 

Did You Get Your Feedback Yet?

ken's war cyms 1

Before Ken’s War was accepted by Melange Books, I asked readers for feedback on sections of it and, if I thought they had time and interest, I asked some people to read the entire manuscript.

This is a delicate, yet oh-so-important step in the writer’s editing process.

First, I had to surrender my ego to sincerely solicit comments.

Then, I had to find people who know how to express constructive criticism. The writers’ circle I attended provided a pool of readers.

I also wanted to choose readers with knowledge about aspects of the story. Because the protagonist in Ken’s War is male, I asked males to be among my beta readers. The story takes place in a military setting during the Vietnam War, so when mistakes were pointed out by a Vietnam veteran, I verified that the suggested corrections were accurate and used them.

Fanstory (http://www.fanstory.com) members pointed out areas in characterization that needed shoring up.

Thank your readers for their critiques. Do not argue with them about their comments. If you have to explain or justify your writing, it’s lacking something…you won’t be able to explain or justify your story to agents or publishers.

You’re the author. You have the final word. In the meantime, get feedback. It’s one way to make your manuscript even better than it already is.

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Ken’s WarWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide.  https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

Author reveals insights ken's war cover

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award-winning author of YA books.

Tell Me a Story – Free online class

From Demi Smith about free online picture book class for authors. (sign up http://yotbpress.com/kidspired/)

“Tell me a story…”

That beautiful child looks up into your eyes and snuggles close, ready for a journey only you can lead. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could pull out your own picture book from the shelf… point to its glossy cover, read the title, and say, “This is the book I wrote for you.
For the last three years I’ve had the joy and privilege to work with hundreds of authors in my live Year of the Book classes. Now I’m thrilled to announce I’ve taken the best of the best of the best of what we’ve learned and turned it into a course you can access online, regardless where you live.

I’d love to help you get started right away with a free class that will help you write and publish your children’s picture book. We’ll go through all the steps you need to get from conception to labor and delivery of your bouncing baby book.

Can you imagine how thrilling it will be to share your professionally printed and bound story with your loved ones?

I’ve seen the joy—over and over through my students’ and clients’ eyes—and experienced it personally through the birth of my own two children’s picture books: Write Away! and Roger, Roger. It’s like disbelief combined with intense personal satisfaction. And it’s waiting for you just a short way up the path.

Or maybe your dream is bigger. Perhaps you’d like to see your work available for sale in stores and online. It’s all within your reach and I can show you how. I help people achieve this dream every day and I’d love for you to be next.

Online seating is limited to just 50 attendees, so reserve your space today. (sign up http://yotbpress.com/kidspired/)

Visit Demi at https://www.facebook.com/demistevensbooks?fref=ts

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Article shared by the author of Ken’s WarWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war cover

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

THAT INSTANT CONNECTION

     CREATE THAT INSTANT CONNECTION BETWEEN READERS AND CHARACTERS

     By Guest Blogger Tara Fox Hall

 

Making a reader care about a character is the most important job of a writer. If a reader cares about a character and sees him or her as a believable personality, then the reader begins to identify with that character, and lose himself or herself in the story. As writers, that instant connection is essential to establish early on, so you hook readers and get them to stay for the whole story. They need to want to know what is going to happen. You need to set the hook deep on your first try, and not lose them in the second chapter, or worse, the second paragraph.

How do you do that? Presumably, you are telling a story either because you just plain love that story, or because the plot and/or the characters in it are important to you personally in some way. Your characters need to be as vibrant to your readers as they are to you, and someone your readers can identify with. That doesn’t imply that readers have to be just like your characters, or have the same background. But there does have to be something either in the makeup of the character or the plot of the book to make the reader care about the character.

Yes, I acknowledge that if you write series, it’s a bit easier to hold a reader’s attention once it’s gained. In my short story “Partners” from the Promise Me Anthology, I wanted to tell the story of how Danial and Theo, the two main characters from my novel Promise Me, met and eventually became friends. Anyone who has read that book would naturally be interested in this story, but what about new readers who hadn’t yet sampled my vampire series? How to make them connect with my characters, so that they not only enjoyed the story, but also wanted more?

My tale begins with the vampire detective Danial on one of his jobs, trying to find a thief at a construction site. Instead he discovers the werecougar Theo, scavenging off garbage. Right after, the real thieves show up in force. While Theo does help Danial capture the real culprits, he then melts away in the night, leaving Danial to face the police.

Hopefully, this first scene intrigues the reader. Why is Theo scavenging for scraps when he’s a powerful supernatural being? Why does Theo help Danial, when he could easily run instead? And why does Danial let him help, when he obviously chooses to work alone? Last but not least, why is Danial the vampire solving crimes and not out seducing young women in nightclubs, like so many of his paperback fellows are wont to?

Promise Me connects readers with its characters.

Promise Me connects readers with its characters.

Another story in my Promise Me Anthology is a vampire romantic suspense called “Night Music”, newly published its own novella. The young heroine Krys has come to a park she knew in her youth, fresh from the double whammy of her brother’s death from cancer and her new divorce. She hears music that night that brings her to tears with its aching melody, yet her handsome neighbor David denies he created it.

Again, hopefully the reader wonders who David is, and why he is making the music, even if they suspect he’s a vampire. How will Krys discover his vampiric nature? Will he bite her or will they have sex, or both? After that happens (‘cause one of the two ALWAYS HAPPENS in vampire romance, if not both), what will be the consequence?

Make readers want to know what happens next, and your reader base will grow, guaranteed!

Book Title: Tempest of Vengeance (Promise Me Series #11) – paranormal dramatic romance

Date released: April 2015

Melange Link: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/tarafoxhall/tempest.html

Blurb: A chain of tragic events culminating in the shattering of the magical “dream bond” between Theo and Sar turns the lovers against one another, as Ulysses attacks from all fronts, hoping to destroy Devlin for good. The return of Lash reignites the fire between he and Sar, even as he saves her daughter Elle from certain death. Finally joined under Oath, Lash, Devlin, and Sar face the storm of Ulysses’s wrath, knowing it will take their combined strength and courage to save all they love from his tempest of vengeance.

Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, erotica, horror, suspense, action-adventure, children’s stories, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal fantasy Lash series and the paranormal romantic drama Promise Me series. Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice. All of her published children’s stories to date are free reads on www.childrens-stories.net.

 

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Beth Fowler is the author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

“It’s Good” Isn’t Good Enough

Good critiques help writers improve

Good critiques help writers improve

Have you ever written something that you worked on for a while, then asked for feedback? And the reader said, “It’s good.” Period. That feedback, while pleasant, isn’t especially helpful to a writer who is hungry to make his or her writing shine.

Here is a Critique Form that will help generate useful critiques that lead to better writing.

Writers’ Critique Sheet

You don’t have to comment on every item, however the more feedback you provide, the more valuable your critique will be to your fellow writer and the more you’ll learn about good writing.

Be respectful. Be specific. Be helpful.

Author’s name: _______________________ Title of work: __________________

  • What (if anything) “hooked” you at the beginning?

 

  • How long did it take for you to figure out the setting?

 

  • Is progress/movement/change conveyed? Progress might have been a person literally moving from point A to B or an emotional shift or a new insight.

 

  • How smoothly are transitions between paragraphs handled?

 

  • Which senses does the piece stimulate? (sight, sound, smell, tactile, taste)

 

  • How is the pacing? Slow, varied, fast.

 

  • Were strong verbs used instead of weak verbs? (i.e. strutted, sidled, eased, tiptoed versus walked.)

 

  • How is the balance between showing and telling? (Showing: “Jay slammed his fist into the wall.” Telling: Jay was angry.)

 

  • Do facts and data support and elucidate or bog the piece down?

 

  • How satisfying is the end?

 

  • How does the piece make you feel?

 

  • What did you learn?

 

  • Where does it leave you wanting more? What are you curious about that is unexplained?

 

  • In hindsight, is the title appropriate?

 

  • Other comments:

 

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

Beth Fowler headshot

 

 

Turn Life into Income with Creative Nonfiction: Part 2

Beth Fowler headshotPublishers of memoirs, autobiographies, personal essays, travelogues and themed anthologies buy creative nonfiction. So do newspaper and magazine editors. Browse bookstores, including quirky independent stores and university bookstores, to find markets that publish creative nonfiction.

Periodical editors suggest (plead) with authors to “be familiar with our publication before submitting your work.” One creative nonfiction author subscribes to a different literary magazine each year to get a feel for what magazines publish. The flavor of stories in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series is different from stories in “Rosebud.”

Editors who consider creative nonfiction manuscripts want a strong theme or narrative that serves as a unifying thread through the story. Writers must be disciplined and ruthlessly trim passages that don’t support the theme.

If you think you have a memoir in you, read others’. Larry Brown’s On Fire, J.R. Moehringer’s Tender Bar, and Louis Erdrich’s The Blue Jay’s Dance are examples of the genre.

Carol Crawford, coordinator for the Blue Mountain (North Carolina) Writers’ Conference says, “Write small.” Narrow down the focus of the story to draw readers in. The biggest mistake most beginning nonfiction writers make is giving too much information. To help writers zero in on a theme, Crawford asks writers to sum up their stories in six words.

Crawford offers more advice for creative nonfiction writers. “Journal for catharsis. Craft for story.” Write naked with your back to the world. Forget about readers and editors and publishers on your first draft. Let ‘er rip. Open the gates of emotions. Stick your feet into the sneakers you wore as an 11-year old and let that character’s voice guide your pencil.

Use prompts to get you going. You’ll be amazed at where your creative mind will run once you unleash it. Here are prompts we used in a Creative Nonfiction workshop at John C. Campbell Folk School. (www.folkschool.org) “If only someone had told me about…,” and “Write about being nice to someone you detest,” and “Write about the time the ___________ caught on fire.”

After writing hot and heavy, go back and make design decisions. Erdrich’s design decision in The Blue Jay’s Dance was combining three babies into one character. She states this up front in a contract, so to speak, with the reader.

Creative nonfiction reveals the author and another person or other people clearly, as well as establishing a time and place readers can visualize. Most publishers don’t want lyrical description for the sake of lyrical description. Nor do they want pieces that are emotion only. Something’s gotta happen. Someone’s gotta change. Creative nonfiction, like other well-crafted manuscripts, has a beginning, middle and end. In Your Life as Story, Tristine Rainer suggests writing about a problem, your struggle to resolve it, and the resultant transformation or realization. The main character’s change can be inner as well as outer.

In Cold Blood first appeared in “The New Yorker” in four parts. Papers sold out. Then the nonfiction novel became one of the most talked about books of its time. Dubbed an instant classic, In Cold Blood earned its author millions of dollars and celebrity status.

“Sometimes when I think how good my book can be,” Capote said, “I can hardly breathe.”

Breathe. Write. Edit. Shape your experiences into salable manuscripts.

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Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

A Great Resource for Parents – Needs Professional Editing

Rhonda Cratty’s self-published Learning at home, (the author opted not to capitalize all words in titles), is chock-full of educational ideas and activities for parents, (and other adults) to do with their children.

In the acknowledgement, we gather that Cratty is or was an educator, though she didn’t include her credentials or experience. Even so, it’s apparent this book was written by a person with a formal education in and practical experience with childhood learning.

The 93-page eBook (126-page paperback) is organized into four chapters for each month. Chapter titles, while descriptive, aren’t particularly imaginative or inviting, as in “Encouraging Critical Thinking with reading and conversations” and “Home Activities to encourage a positive attitude toward mathematics.” Topics often tie into events and holidays, such as Poetry Month (April), Hobby Month (January), Columbus Day and so on. Had I been exposed to the concept of circumference when shopping for pumpkins, I would have a sunnier view of math today, I bet.

The author cautions against using “drill and kill” methods most of us experienced at some point in our educations. “If something is fun, children will turn to it even if it is difficult at first. Think of it like riding a bike.” Cratty’s book helps parents turn that statement from being yet another bromide into reality. With the book as a coach, parents can make adding and subtracting, and following directions (to cite two examples) fun for their children.

The author’s authentic care comes through…“Perfectionism gets in the way,” “Honor your child’s writing,” “Avoid yelling directions from another room.” In fact, being authentic is something Cratty mentions more than once.

This great resource for parents is in dire need of professional editing. (If you’re thinking of self publishing, hire an editor with a track record!) Readers who aren’t distracted by incorrect antecedent/pronoun pairings and fragments posing as sentences will be rewarded with a treasure trove of wise advice, practical tips, useful lists, engaging educational activities, pedagogic facts and even a few recipes.

One wonders why the author didn’t insert illustrations in spaces left unused due to the way the lists are formatted – and there are many lists.

Learning at home is a book that can be used by caring parents more than four times a month. Homeschoolers, teachers, grandparents and other adults of all socio-economic levels, who know that education is a priceless key to future contentment, will want to investigate the book’s offerings.

This resource will likely be passed from generation to generation by parents who cherish memories of their parents taking time to love them, take an interest in them, engage with them and encourage them while Learning at home.

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Ken’s War by B.K. Fowler: Army brat Ken finds himself in Japan when his hot-headed dad is deployed to a remote post there. Culture clash is one of the many sucker punches that knocks Ken’s world upside down in this coming-of-age novel for teens and young adults.

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

Print and e-books at http://www.fireandiceya.com/authors/bkfowler/kenswar.html and other book sellers. Ken’s War is published by Melange Books. ISBN 1612358993

Contact Fowler at https://www.facebook.com/kenswar for review copies, writers’ workshops, presentations to your group and more.

School librarian and mother of boys recommends Ken's War for teen boys.

School librarian and mother of boys recommends Ken’s War for teen boys.