"God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..." William Cowper

Monday, August 27, 2012

Private Spaces in Crowded Places

“I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” 
Jordan, The Great Gatsby

I was at the beach a lot this summer. It was definitely my peace. My solitude. But how can a crowded beach give me that quiet, intimate peace I often desire? My mom and I talked about this while taking some of our weekly trips with the boys. She referred to the above quote from The Great Gatsby. We decided that Jordan’s truth above applies to beaches as well.

~Even though there are hundreds of people on the beach, I have my own space. My umbrella, my beach blanket, cooler. For five or six hours, these possessions claim this spot of sand as mine. The constant white noise of the waves crashing and falling against the sand drowns out all those distant conversations. I love it. I can really hear myself think, pray, create new ideas.

~Forty minutes away from my own home is Rhode Island’s shoreline. Sitting on one of Newport’s beaches is wonderful inspiration for me, particularly as I write a scene set in this very town more than two hundred years ago. An old church towers on the horizon. The place is full of history, and I can’t help but drink it in.

~The beach is a great place to people watch. To observe people reacting to each other, and to nature. I love eating a thick slab of cream cheese- drenched zucchini bread under my shady umbrella, all while observing the human race before me. No one knows (or seems to know!) I’m watching. Taking notes. Filing them away for a story.

~The beach is so vast, a place of such beauty, that I can’t help but feel God’s larger presence. Every day the constant, uncontrollable ocean wipes away the mess we've left behind, leaving a smooth, placid, shoreline in its wake. It reminds me of what God has done for us. Wiped away our messes and given us something beautiful--His grace, His love. He is so much bigger than me, bigger than all the people occupying the stretch of shoreline. I sense His greatness, I feel His love. I bask in the intimacy He shares with me.

~What are some of your favorite private spaces in crowded places?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: Veil of Pearls


It is 1811, and the prosperous port city of Charleston is bustling with plantation owners, slaves, and immigrants. Immigrants such as the raven-haired Adalia Winston. But Adalia has a secret: her light skin belies that she is part black and a runaway slave from Barbados. Skilled in herbal remedies, Adalia finds employment with a local doctor and settles into a quiet life, thankful for her freedom but still fearful that her owner will find her.

Born into one of Charleston's prominent families, Morgan Rutledge is handsome, bored--and enamored of the beautiful Adalia, who spurns his advances. Morgan's persistence, however, finally wins, and Adalia is swept into the glamorous world of Charleston high society.

But Adalia's new life comes at a high price--that of denying her heritage and her zeal for God. How far is she willing to go to win the heart of the man she loves? And when her secret is revealed, will that love be enough, or will the truth ruin Morgan and send Adalia back into slavery?

My Review:

I first picked up this book because it seemed to share similarities with my current work-in-progress. I'd never read one of MaryLu Tyndall's novels, but after this novel, I can say I'm an avid fan of her writing.

Tyndall's knowledge of the culture and time of Charleston in the early nineteenth century was evident throughout the pages, and yet I never felt bogged down by the rich details. Her skill in balancing the story and the setting drew me in right away.

I also appreciated the fact that this is no sweet, light love story. It felt real and complicated, just as our own relationships often do. I admired Adalia and her determination to live a life of freedom despite her fears. The reader truly understands the depth of Adalia's problem with her Negro culture, and the fact that she can't run from it. Although at the beginning of the story I felt her actions sometimes did not ring true to a person who had been enslaved for most of her teenage years, I was able to quickly overlook this because of the strong pull of the story.

Tyndall is a master at sending Adalia and Morgan into deeper and deeper trouble. There are no quick fixes for them. They battle through their fears and oppositions in a completely believable manner and I was totally cheering them along (and glued to the page) as they grew and wrestled with God, and themselves.

I will be searching out more of Tyndall's books in the future, and looking forward to her new releases. I highly recommend Veil of Pearls!

To view the book trailer for this book, visit www.marylutyndall.com

Monday, August 13, 2012

Summer Session #8: Revision

Dear Mom and Dad and Tootles,

Last week of camp! Wow, I feel like I’ve learned so much this summer, and yet I know there is still tons more ahead of me.

Coach Sol spoke to us about editing this week. He said there are many ways to revise, but what he likes to do is take one step at a time. Read the manuscript through. Ask yourself these questions:

~Do my characters come alive? Are they likeable? Can I sympathize with them? How well do I understand my main characters?

~What is my weakest scene? Cut it. My next weakest scene? Consider cutting it too.

~What are the three most important actions in my novel? Is each action motivated in a believable way?

~Read your first page. Is there a compelling reason to go to page two?

~Coach Sol said to then go through the manuscript, weeding out useless paragraphs and cutting words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, pages, or whole scenes that seem unnecessary. He said to make sure my characters are under stress that increases and make sure there’s something visual on every page.

Wow. Coach said that’s enough to get me started, but above all, to KEEP WRITING! It’s the best and only way to learn the craft.

Something else Coach told us? We are writers. That means me. Even if I don’t have books on the bookshelves yet, even if I’m still young (or even if I were very old), I am one who writes. That makes me a writer. Very neat.

Thanks for sending me to camp this summer. I can hardly wait to finish up my manuscript and start editing. Can't wait to be home with you all! See you Friday!

Love, Your Writer

Do you have a particular method of editing that works for you? Was it ever a struggle to think of yourself as a writer?

photo credit: wikipedia

Friday, August 10, 2012

Short and Sweet Friday: Olympic Stories

So I think I've mentioned how much I'm enjoying the Olympics. But there's something NBC does that makes me enjoy them all the more. And it involves one of my favorite things: a story.

A runner may be loosening up at the starting block, or a diver mentally preparing atop the ten meter board, and then it comes. A mini-profile of the Olympian's life, or their fight to get to London. And all of a sudden, I really want the athlete to succeed. The stakes have been raised. They are fighting for a better life for their family in Kenya. They are overcoming a severe diving accident. I see the story, and I am invested in them. I care.

Yes, NBC knows what they're doing. Maybe it's a button on the remote instead of the turn of a page, but either way, I'm there. I'm captured. And all because of the power of a story.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Summer Session #7: Just Show It!

Dear Mom and Dad and Tootles,

Thanks for such a great time last week—now I’m back at camp, refreshed and ready to write!

This week Coach Sol taught us about showing, as opposed to telling. I’d heard this advice before but never really understood it…until now.

I can’t help but think of the Olympics. I especially love watching the gymnasts. I’m in awe of their flips and twirls, but I also love to study their faces before they begin a performance. Some look nervous, some confident. And how do I know all this? I see it on the television. It is shown to me. Furrowed brow, that’s concentration. The way one girl wipes her calloused fingers with chalk a little longer than necessary, that’s nerves. Straight posture, set mouth, focused eyes, that’s confidence and determination.

As readers we want to see things in our mind the way we see them on a television. As writers we want to paint words that show.

Coach Sol said there are three areas in which the writer is especially vulnerable to telling rather than showing: when he tells backstory, when he tells of a character’s physical appearance, and when he tells what a character senses or feels, better shown by action (i.e. the gymnast wiping their hands with chalk longer than necessary shows nervousness).

Here’s an example Coach gave us:
She boiled water tells.
She put the kettle on the stove begins to show.
She filled the kettle from the faucet and hummed till the kettle’s whistle cut her humming short shows.
She boiled water in a lidless pot so she could watch the bubbles perk and dance shows even better.

As writers, it’s our job to allow the reader to see what’s happening on our pages. A big responsibility, but an important one.

Now, off to watch more of the Olympics!

Love Your Little Show-Off

I remember when I first started writing, I heard the advice to show all the time but was so frustrated because I didn’t understand it. It took some time, but now showing comes more naturally in my storytelling. Did you have a similar experience? How do you remind yourself to show instead of tell?