Wednesday, September 23, 2009

read it out loud!

On Monday night I went to a seminar sponsored by SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) where I listened to children's book author, Marsha Diane Arnold , give a lecture on The 7 Magical Ways to Bring out the Storyteller in You. But before she started, she had everyone in the room go around and introduce themselves. Normally I hate doing that kind of thing, writers are usually shy people and don't like the spotlight on them, but in this case I didn't mind, because it was really nice to hear what other like-minded people were working on. Most folks there were beginning writers, and almost everybody was interested in writing picture books which is what the seminar was geared towards. Then Marsha, whose written several successful picture books including, Roar of A Snore, and The Pumpkin Runner, went on to list the seven things she believes can bring out the storyteller in you.

I won't go through all of them here, but the two that really hit a note with me were: Cause Trouble, and Listen - meaning read your words out loud!

It's important to Cause Trouble in a book, she said, either with yourself, nature or society.

Listen! Shout your words out loud. Make the language sing!

My hat is off to these two seemingly simple tasks. They should be easy, right? But causing trouble is harder than you think. Nobody likes watching people or the environment get abused, but that's what made us cry when George shoots Lennie in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, or when Professor Dumbledore dies in Rowling's Harry Potter - putting a character that you care for in a bad situation can be hard, but the lesson is, it forces you to push yourself and the story.

And this last one, reading your own words out loud, can be cringe worthy. I have to force myself to do this, I don't know why it's so hard for me - maybe it brings the book's flaws to light, or perhaps it's just too time consuming - but in order to make sure it flows correctly, it's absolutely necessary to hear your book read out loud. I mean, can you imagine reading an adventure scene that is too wordy to a group of kids, you'll lose them and you'll lose them fast. So read and rewrite, read and rewrite! I'm saying this more to myself than to you dear reader, because having just finished writing my third novel, Trevelyn's Shimmer, the other day, I'm now forcing myself to read it out loud, and I mean really loud!

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