Category Archives: Reading

I’m sorry, Mr. Hemmingway

**FILE**  Ernest Hemingway stands on the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy, in this 1950 file photo taken by his friend Aaron Edward Hotchner and released by the Library of Congress. Singing a takeoff of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" helped a Texas commercial property developer win an Hemingway look-alike contest during a festival honoring the author that ended Sunday, July 23, 2006 in Key West, Fla.  Sporting a khaki hunting outfit, white beard and bushy eyebrows, Chris Storm, 55, hit Cash-like low notes as he sang a plea for contest judges' votes during the highlight of the six-day Hemingway Days festival. The competition drew 130 other bearded entrants who paraded across the stage at Sloppy Joe's Bar, the author's favorite watering hole    (AP Photo/Library of Congress, A.E. Hotchner, FILE)

**FILE** Ernest Hemingway stands on the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy, in this 1950 file photo taken by his friend Aaron Edward Hotchner and released by the Library of Congress. Singing a takeoff of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” helped a Texas commercial property developer win an Hemingway look-alike contest during a festival honoring the author that ended Sunday, July 23, 2006 in Key West, Fla. Sporting a khaki hunting outfit, white beard and bushy eyebrows, Chris Storm, 55, hit Cash-like low notes as he sang a plea for contest judges’ votes during the highlight of the six-day Hemingway Days festival. The competition drew 130 other bearded entrants who paraded across the stage at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, the author’s favorite watering hole (AP Photo/Library of Congress, A.E. Hotchner, FILE)

Hello, my dear readers out there, whoever you may be!

I’m going to deviate from the normal flow of the blog to address an issue that inspired me while writing an e-book for one of my clients.

In the process of writing the book, I came to three critical realizations:

  1. Writers need not apologize for their tone or subject matter; each writer has a unique voice and should be allowed to address the world in said tone.
  2. Speaking plain English (or whatever language in which your work is written) is more accessible and often more powerful than flowery prose.
  3. Ernest Hemmingway is a better writer than I once believed.

The realizations came to me in more or less that order. I remember reading A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea several years ago. I enjoyed the stories themselves, but at the time, I couldn’t for the life of me understand what was so great about the way Ernest Hemmingway wrote. The language didn’t appear to be anything special. He was a blunt, raw curmudgeon of an author whose macho posturing and at-times abrasive attitude rubbed me the wrong way.

It was only recently I came to realize that it was exactly the way Ernest Hemmingway was that made him such an enduring, classic writer. His words were visceral, real, something with which most every reader could relate. In writing in plain speech, he essentially grabbed the readers by the lapels of their figurative jacket, forced them to read the words he’d written and said “Look, here’s what happened, here’s the way I’m telling it. I’m not sorry. Deal with it.”

Sure, sometimes he was offensive, sometimes he was brash (which upon further research doesn’t appear to be much fault of his own due to some serious mental issues), but his lean, unsubtle, unapologetic way of speaking had a major influence on writers after his last words were written, and the influence continues today.

With that said, Mr. Hemmingway, I’m sorry I scoffed at your work. I was young, I wasn’t as in-tune to what your style really meant to the literary world until now. While you’re not my favourite author, I can see now why you were held in such high regard, and rightly so.

What do you think of Ernest Hemmingway’s work? Discuss in the comments below!

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here

My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see, and I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam

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The Fluff Balance

Credit/John Short

Credit/John Short

Hello, my dear readers! I hope your week is going well.

I’m currently working on a book for a client about excellence in writing. In my research, I’ve had something of an epiphany.

For years, I’ve been a concise writer. That might be fine for journalism, but for other types of writing, maybe I’ve been looking at it all the wrong way.

There’s a popular adage that tells us when it comes time to edit an article, a full-on novel or even a script, it’s a good idea to cut down on words wherever you can. For example, trade out adverbs for stronger verbs so you won’t need them, maybe get rid of the more boring parts of the book or at least cut them down to a level that makes the story flow easier.

I try to keep my stories and other such writings as concise as possible, but doing research for my latest endeavour leads me to the conclusion that there really isn’t anything wrong with a little fluff.

I guess it’s not really fair to call it “fluff” so much as adding a dimension to your characters to make them more realistic; it’s just shorter to say “fluff.” Let’s take a script I was recently working on as an example. It’s a sci-fi story in which the protagonist is haunted by dreams of his untimely demise to the point where it’s affecting his sense of reality.

When he’s not wrestling with the big questions of life, what does he do? When a detective needs a moment to get away from his case, what does he do?

As a writer, you shouldn’t be afraid of the mundane. My protagonist liked to bake. He appreciated the routines in life because they felt normal, comfortable and feeling useful was all he ever wanted (well, that, and to rid himself of the hellish nightmares that plagued his every sleeping hour).

By adding the fact that your heroes or villains go through the humdrum of everyday life and delving into their routines, likes and dislikes, it humanizes the character and makes them feel more alive.

That’s not to say you need to go into great detail into every aspect of every day, even when nothing in particular happens. No, peppering the details particularly toward the beginning of the book before the plot really starts to ramp up would be the better way to go. You have to walk the line; strike a balance between routine and plot points.

In journalism, where I worked for several years, fluff has its proper place and time, namely in human interest stories. In writing fiction, blogs and works outside of journalism, the rules are the same. So don’t be afraid of the mundane; there’s a place for the everyday in your writing.

How do you handle the more mundane points in your stories? Discuss in the comments below! 

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here

My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see, and I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam

The Best of WritingPrompts

Hello, my dear readers! Hope this week finds you well.

I’m a latecomer to Reddit, and I find myself fascinated by the site for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the subreddit WritingPrompts.

I thought I’d try something a little more fun this week and give you links to some of the best writing prompts I noticed this week. Enjoy and if you find the time, give some a try!

[WP] A sentient virus destroys most of humanity. Many scientists tried and failed to communicate with it. You are the one scientist who succeeds.

[WP]: “I’m not SAYING that Robert’s nipples destroyed the Earth. I’m just saying, if he hadn’t worn that shirt, we would still have a planet to call home.”

submarine space writing prompt

[WP] Original Earth inhabitants, now space traveling beings, are returning home only to find humanity, their once lab rats, running the place.

[WP] As an Angel, your job is to keep people that hate each other from meeting in Heaven.

tumblr_mcqg42itxN1qee12to2_1280

[WP] you live in a universe where people’s physical appearance directly relates to their personality.

[WP] An infamous con-artist goes to hell and attempts to scam the devil for his soul back.

What’s your favourite writing prompts? Have any ideas? Discuss in the comments below!

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here

My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see, and I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam

Butterflies in the Sky…brary! A Reading Rainbow update

Reading rainbow logo I can go anywhere I can be anything butterflies in the sky yeah!

Credit/Reading Rainbow

Hello, my dear readers!

As those of you who have checked out my blog in the past may know, I’m a fan of the old show Reading Rainbow and promoted their Kickstarter last year.

Here’s a brief recap before the latest development. The campaign’s initial goal was to bring the series back online and deliver it for free to schools across the US.

The initial financial goal for the project was to raise $1 million. One year and 100,000-plus backers and more than $5 million raised later, Reading Rainbow introduces the Skybrary!

The Skybrary features hundreds of digital books for children ages 2 to 9 along with more than 150 video field trips to inspire children to go anywhere and be anything!

LeVar Burton, the show’s host, narrates each book. When a child opens one of the books, they have the option to listen to the story, to read along or to read by themselves, depending on their skill levels. Each book features interactive animations, hearkening back to the days of the CD-ROM books of the ’90s.

The site, much to my delight, offers old episodes of the show’s initial run as well.

Users of the Skybrary can sign up for an initial 14-day trial, and there are three subscription packages starting at $9.99 per month.

By the way, The $9.99 package is called the Voyager. I see what you did there, Mr. Burton.

Anyway, it’s so cool to see this site up and online. To me, it grows more and more important each day to keep kids engaged in reading. Reading opens whole new worlds to children, broadens their horizons and exercises their minds.

An expanded imagination and a hunger to learn are invaluable resources to a child, and there’s no telling what could come just by giving them the chance to read.

If you’re a parent yourself, based on what the show’s done for me and who knows how many others, I’d really recommend giving it a go. Give your kids a passport to the world of the Reading Rainbow!

“I was overwhelmed; I did not expect that sort of outpouring. In retrospect, people have said, ‘Are you kidding? There are so many adults who grew up with the show.’ But I never tried to quantify the size or the generosity of that generation. I underestimated the power, the strength of the brand. My takeaway has been, I’m grateful, absolutely, beyond measure, and really proud.”

– LeVar Burton, Host of Reading Rainbow for 25 years.

What educational shows did you watch as a kid? Discuss in the comments below! 

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here

My freelancing e-book, Dip Into the Ink Pot, is now available on Amazon by clicking here!
Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog if you like what you see, and I’ll talk to you next week!

– Adam

 

They say the darndest things: 7 things I’ve learned about children’s authors

Hi, everyone!

I hope this post finds you well and that you’re busy on a project or two!

Freelancing has afforded me opportunities I may not have found otherwise. One of my longest-standing clients, 7 Magic Islands, allowed me to reach out to children’s authors through the Wizards of Words section on the site’s blog.

Wizards of Words is a series of interviews discussing the work and process of children’s authors from all walks of life. It’s been a wonderful experience so far, and I thought I’d share with you some of the highlights of what I’ve learned from these fine wordsmiths.

1. Childish adults inspire great characters.

Kimberly Morris: For me, it’s grownups that inspire the best kid characters. It’s amazing how childish many adults are. If children had any idea at all how clueless most grownups are, they would NEVER listen to us. And they’d be justifiably terrified by what we might do next. (So let’s not tell them.) Most of the time, I just “miniaturize” a childish adult and voila! – I have a great kid character that’s funny and interesting. They have the emotions and aspirations of a child, and the planning and execution abilities of an adult. This can make them wonderfully lovable, fiendish, and fallible.

2. The authors keep up with their cartoons.

Sheila Sweeny Higginson: It’s so much fun writing as Adventure Time characters; I get to be wild and magical which is all I ever really wanted to be. The language of those characters, especially Finn and Jake, is just so…algebraic! I’m also a fan of Mordecai and Rigby from Regular Show (my ringtone is from Regular Show) and was able to incorporate the characters into a couple of graphic novels I did for Cartoon Network. And keeping with the CN theme, I had a lot of fun flipping the Ben10 scripts and writing the stories from Gwen’s point of view. If I could go back and relive my teen years (with magical powers) I’d want to be Gwen from Ben10 Alien Force.

3. Some got an early (and eccentric) start in the entertainment business. 

Bill Scollon:  By the time I came along, [my mother] was already an accomplished puppeteer, and she got me involved right away. As soon as I could sit up, she painted me green and sat me on a puppet stage. I played a giant as Lilliputian marionettes danced around me! No word on how many villagers I tried to eat.

4. In the author’s eyes, a book might never “perfect,” but “perfect enough.”

Lara Bergen: I prefer writing fiction, but mostly because I’ve written so much more of it. I do love researching and figuring out engaging ways to present nonfictional information, but I feel a lot of pressure to make sure it’s 100% accurate, and sometimes it’s hard to decide when enough research has been done. Once that’s the decided, though, my writing process is about the same. I like to start with a fairly detailed outline, even when I’m writing fiction. And honestly, even in writing fiction, it’s hard to decide when to stop revising and rewriting and say “This story is done!”

5. The authors don’t talk down to their audience.

Sheila Sweeny Higginson: [On her “You’re Getting A Baby Brother/Sister” books] It’s funny, the reviews on Amazon for those books are generally very positive, but there are a couple of very negative ones, too. I understand it, because parents want their kids to embrace the experience. I wanted the books to be an honest conversation with kids, not a “you’re going to be so happy and love your new sibling!” Kids may be small, but they’re not fooled easily. There’s a lot an older sibling has to give up when a new sibling is born.

6. Everyone has what it takes to write, and it can be fun!

Kimberly Morris: Everybody – kids and grownups – knows a whole lot more about story and structure than they realize. This means they already have what it takes to become good writers and readers. They need to relax, have fun, and quit thinking that it’s rocket science or some mystical process or a cage match with grim death. My workshops demystify the process and help people tap into what they already know. Reading and writing are supposed to be fun – at least when you start. So I make it fun, and in the process, I manage to teach people a heck of a lot in 45 minutes.

7. We can all help kids dive into the wonderful world of reading!

Bill Scollon: The best way [to encourage kids to read]  is creating opportunities for them to discover the special magic of books for themselves, such as library events, author visits and most of all, positive role models. When kids see other kids and adults enjoying and talking about books, their natural curiosity leads them to check it out.

Sheila Sweeny Higginson: I worry that in this day of standardized testing, we’ve been moving kids away from reading for the love it and more toward reading for the need of it. There’s something magical that happens when a reader finds THAT book, the book that makes a reader totally want to get lost in it. I am sure that the key to encouraging kids to read is getting THAT book into their hands.

Lara Bergen: Parents, read to your children! Even if it’s just one book, over and over! And children, read to your pets, your toys, your parents, and yourself, of course! I’m glad that schools encourage kids to read at home as homework, but I do hate for kids to think of reading as “work.” No one should stop looking at the library or bookstore until they find a book that’s fun! The #1 key to reading these days for my family (including me): Turn off the computer and TV!

7 magic islands

You can check out the full interviews of these authors and so much more at www.7magicislands.com. 

See you next week!

– Adam

 Special thanks to Anna Valbro and Lena Hinnelund for their support. Images and content used with permission from 7 Magic Islands.

 

Take a look, it’s in a book!

I won’t write a second post in a single week very often, but I think something like this warrants it.

There’s a Kickstarter campaign that’s really taken off, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. LeVar Burton has launched a campaign to bring back “Reading Rainbow” as an online series.

levar burton reading rainbow

For those of you not familiar, “Reading Rainbow” was a TV series on American public television series that ran from 1983 to 2006, picking up multiple Emmys and a Peabody award. It was a show for kids exploring the wonderful world of reading. I really enjoyed the show as a kid, and maybe it’s because I’m looking through nostalgia goggles that are strapped on a bit too tight, but I couldn’t be more excited for this undertaking.

According to the campaign, 1 in 4 kids will grow up illiterate in the States, which contributes to a high high-school dropout rate, and that really limits opportunities for the generation to come. I won’t pretend I know the long-term consequences beyond that, but needless to say, it could be quite problematic.

The good news is, despite being off the air, “Reading Rainbow” still seems to be doing great work for kids. The campaign says the iPad app has seen nearly 15 million books read and videos watched. The crew behind the show and the app, though, aren’t ready to stop there.

ipad app reading rainbow

What the campaign is trying to do is bring the series online and deliver it for free to the classrooms of 1,500 schools in need across the nation. As of this writing, the Kickstarter has 37,883 backers and has far exceeded its $1 million goal with $1.7 million in support. And I think that’s absolutely fantastic.

every child everywhere reading rainbow every classroom home

I taught myself to read as a kid, and I loved to learn. I still do, and I think “Reading Rainbow” deserves some credit for that. It helped me and countless other kids to see what reading could do. It made books come to life and spurred us all on to explore the worlds and possibilities the written word could open up.

There’s little that makes me happier than seeing kids get into books. It creates in them a thirst for knowledge and a zeal to educate themselves, see it as something that’s fun to do. They’ll find a subject or series of books that really sparks their interest., and when that takes off, who knows what could come of it? Maybe that child picking up a book at their library is the next great inventor. Maybe they’ll grow up to save lives, write history, make history. There’s no limit to what literacy can do for children; it gives them the keys to the world and all the knowledge within.

You can follow the campaign here, and if you’re feeling led to, I’d really encourage you to become a backer.

Thanks for reading, folks, and I’ll talk to you next week.

– Adam

Photo credits: Kickstarter