It's almost time for the 2014 "30 Days, 30 Stories" Project!

Look for details for this year's project soon!

Last year's project was great! We had a fabulous selection of work. To read (or reread), click HERE for the first story.

And remember to leave a comment! We *LOVE* comments!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Breaking the Excuse Habit through Writers Prompts

So what's keeping you from writing these days? A good excuse? Or a lame one? An outright ridiculous excuse? Or do you suffer from writer's block?

One way to overcome all these excuses is through using writing prompts. Writing prompts are a great way to get your hands to the paper (or keyboard).

Writing prompts can be a question, situation, or first sentence for you to answer/finish. For example:

-- Where do you see yourself in 40 years?
--"The night started out like any other. That is, until the screaming started. Only then did I _____"
--You are in a room with the President of the United States. What do you want to say to him?

There are many books, websites, blogs, and email groups that share. Do you have a favorite place you go for writing prompts and inspiration? What is it? Share your insights in the comment section below.

Also, do you have another favorite way to overcome writer's block? What is it? Share it below!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What are you reading?

This group LOVES to read kids' books. So tell us-- what's on your nightstand? What have you been reading?

I just finished the 3rd book for the "Pure Dead" series by Debi Gliori. Today I started "Gregor the Overlander" by Suzanne Collins. And I won't even start to list the books I have a hold on at the library.

What about you? Post a comment below! Here's your chance to tell us all what you're reading and what you recommend we read too!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Story Bag - Writing Fun for all Ages

By Anji Sandage

I went to a writing workshop a long time ago when I was teaching High School English. I don’t remember who it was that presented now (it was over ten years ago!) but there is one fun activity that I have used over and over again, with myself, my kids, the writing club that I was the adviser for, my writing group . . . it turns out to be a very useful tool to get over writers block, and for brainstorming new story ideas. I have modified the activity a little over the years, but the idea is still the same. All you really need is a small notepad and a pen, or a computer, if you prefer. But you can make it even more fun with a little bag and a small object to represent each story. Here is how you do it — Get out your steno pad and your favorite number two pencil and make ten lists:

  1. Make a list of all the teachers you have ever had.
  2. Make a list of all of the teachers you have ever had who were not at school or who did not carry the official title of “teacher.”
  3. Make a list of all the teachers you have ever had that are animals.
  4. Make a list of all the teachers you have ever had that are objects or things.
  5. Make a list of all of the strange or unusual people that you have known.
  6. Make a list of any strange or interesting creatures that you have met or seen.
  7. Make a list of all of the places where you learned something important.
  8. Make a list of all of the interesting or unusual places you have been.
  9. Make a list of any interesting problems you have faced, or any weird or uncomfortable situations you have ever found yourself in.
  10. Make a list of any interesting, quirky, accidental, brilliant, or just plain stupid ways that you or other people you know have solved problems.

Now publish list 9 to the internet with your name, address, and a photo of yourself. (Ha ha, just kidding)

If you like, you can add illustrations in the margins (this is a great excuse to doodle) Obviously some lists will be much longer than others, and some of these lists may be quite short, but each item on these lists is a story all by itself. It can get really interesting though if you choose a few from different lists, for example choose a setting from list 7; characters from lists 1, 5, and 6; a problem from list 9, and so forth.

Now, here is the next step, which is optional: get a small drawstring bag and choose a small object — a unique stone, a really small toy, a coin, a marble, slips of paper color coded for character, plot, and setting, etc. — to represent each item from these lists. Put all of these in the bag and then when you are having writers block, or just want to give yourself a fun writing experience, pull one out and write the story that goes with it. Or you can randomly pull out a few and mix it up a bit.

For more fun ideas and random musings, visit my blog at www.meanroostersoup.com

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rejecta-mundo!

"May 18, 2009

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for submitting your manuscript to >>> for consideration for publishing. We appreciate you giving us the opportunity to review your work.

We receive a great many submissions and we review each one. We take into consideration where our particular segment of the market is going and what our customers are looking for when we review items for publishing. After careful consideration, our new products committee has decided to decline the opportunity to publish your work."

Ah, this is all part of the life of the author. REJECTION.

That's not to say that it doesn't hurt or frustrate or annoy or puzzle. It's just part of life when you pour your heart onto paper, edit it as best you can, and then send it out to the world to be judged. This letter wasn't totally unexpected though I will admit that after talking to one of the editors at this particular publishing company last week, I had some small amount of hope. The two reviewers had comments like "excellently written" and "cute story" and "great."

But there were also comments like "too 'Pie in the Sky'" and "average." And once again this manuscript, my first novel, is finding its way back to me. It has been rejected no less than 6 times in the past 5 plus years. Unfortunately, it's a niche book for a niche market and my list of potential publishers is dwindling quickly. I prioritized the publishers list from "Great" to "Avoid at all costs!!" and I'm through the "Great" column, moving through the "Average" column, and am now left with the "Avoid at all costs!!"

So what now? Do I send it out to one of these lesser publishers (the ones that my current publisher warned me against) so it can be published? Oh and deal with their nasty contracts later? Or do I shelve it and work on something else?

Honestly, at this point, I think it's time for me to shelve this particular manuscript for now-- to put it away as my own "Bad Beginning." I had hoped to have my first novel published before I started writing and sending out everything else, but.....

Life rarely goes as planned. Especially when you are a writer! The best planned and written manuscript is still at the mercy of some nameless, faceless publisher who may or may not like it. And, in this business, we need those publishers to get our work to see the lights of a bookstore. So, like it or not, the above letter is part of the business (and art) of being an author.

This rejection letter will go into the file with the other rejection letters I've gotten. And I'll plug along until the next one comes. Luckily, there's a local gelatto store that offers multiple yummy flavors to help soothe my wounded heart! ;oD

Written-- and rejected-- by Sarah Southerland, 2009.

P.S. Feel free to share your own rejection stories in the comment section below. AND how you deal with the pain!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Money or Merit- Part II

by Carol McNairy Wight

The yearning to see our books in print is a great one. Is there any sound reason why we should not publish our own book? Monetarily, yes. But. if we can spare a few hundred dollars, is it wrong to make a book a reality? Some would say so. I was told by an editor that all self published books are no good. I can only assume she was thinking that a self published book had been first rejected by publishers, and therefore not fit to print.

This assumption, though possibly right, has too many loop holes to be true all the time. Generalizations are usually not true anyway. First off, if the book was rejected many times, that still does not mean that it was not a good work. It simply means it was not material that the publisher wanted. Secondly, perhaps the book was never submitted to a publisher and the author just took a different route to seeing his work in print.

The biggest problem that I can see in self publishing is marketing. If an author does not have the expertise to market his own material, he may find it extremely tedious. At the same time, I have been told by authors that even house published works have to be marketed by the author. Publishers do not do enough, they say. One advantage a house published book has is that it can be sold by chain book stores. Self published books have a hard time getting into these. Mom and Pop book stores, while more willing to deal with self published authors, are few and far between these days.

I would like to point out that more and more authors are turning to self publishing. I have published a chapter book and sold over 100 copies, before I got tired of marketing it. These sales paid for the cost of publishing, so I was not out any money, and I got to see my book in print. I had the pleasure of sharing my work with enthusiastic readers. I may do it again. I have heard that hiring a distributor is the way to go. I am looking into this.

As far as the mechanics of self publishing, my experience has been that local publishers are the best route, because they can deal with you on a one to one basis. They do not offer the bells and whistles that you may find extravagant and unnecessary. They are affordable.There are two reputable publishers in Utah Valley. If you want to know who they are email me and I will give you their addresses.

In conclusion, whatever route you take to become published, always bear in mind that your work is worthwhile and deserves recognition.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Provo Children's Book Festival

by Kiirsi Hellewell

My family and I attended the Provo Children's Book Festival on Saturday at the Provo library. It was absolutely BRILLIANT!! I took pages and pages of notes and I realize I can't write everything here, so if you'd like to read more, check out my personal blog throughout the week. I will get the posts up as soon as I can; also some pictures. (Trust me, you don't want to miss the *pictures of Shannon and Dean Hale's interpretive dance...I wouldn't have missed that for anything!)

The first event we attended was the keynote speaker: Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Laura is an award-winning picture book author/illustrator. Her presentation was amazing! Even my three kids were spellbound. Some highlights from her talk:

* My books give the reader the opportunity to look at things in a different way than they've done before.

* I start a story around a cool concept and build the rest of the book around it.

* A lot of times my stories begin in the "middle" of the story. I don't tell you why Dog is running away, or why Bear is stuck up high at the beginning of the book.

* Some of my favorite experiences with readers are when older children and adults pick up my books and say "Oh, COOL!" I believe picture books are not just for kids. They're for everyone. They're just books with pictures.

The best part of her presentation was her fascinating pictures/animated videos that showed how her books start out as ideas in her journal pages and progress through concepts shown to the editor all the way to the finished book. Her books are amazing. I loved hearing my kids whisper in my ears, "I read that book! Oh cool, I love that book! I read that one, too!"

The next event I went to was the Fantasy Panel: "Weapons, Magic, and Trolls, (Oh My)!" This panel was made up of 6 awesome authors: Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, James Dashner, Brandon Mull, J. Scott Savage, and Brandon Sanderson, who served as the moderator. Unfortunately someone set off the (very loud) fire alarm halfway through, but the authors still got to answer some good questions. Highlights:

Question 1: Why do you choose to write fantasy?

James Dashner: Because the chicks dig it. Seriously, fantasy is crazy, whacky stuff that we can't do in the real world.

Brandon Sanderson: Fantasy books can do anything from any other genre PLUS magic. Why not write fantasy??

Jessica Day George: It's what I like to read, so I like to write it, too. I like the escape, being able to go somewhere completely different.

Question 2: What's the most important element to you in your fantasy writing?

Brandon Mull: To me, it's figuring out how I'm going to break the rules of reality--to make my new rules seem real and keep the novel held together.

J. Scott Savage: I love the fact that, in fantasy, heroes--and even bad guys and minor characters--can be so much bigger than in other genres.

Question 3: Where do you think fantasy is going and/or what exciting things are happening in the genre now?

James Dashner: It's really exciting how the teen market has exploded lately. It's selling really well and people want more.

Brandon Sanderson: I like to watch the genres and see what they're doing. I'm seeing fantasy moving toward Harry Potter for adults--lots and lots of epic fantasy novels. I also see fantasy with mainstream crossovers like urban fantasy and historical fantasy. Some people think YA will go more and more to Sci-Fi, as with the case of Scott Westerfeld's hugely popular Uglies series.

Brandon Mull: There's a great space/need for YA and middle grade books. Lots of room to grow.

J. Scott Savage: I love that all ages are reading fantasy now, not just kids. I get as many e-mails from grandparents who love my books as I do kids.

Shannon Hale: Paranormal romance is really big right now.

Question 4: Why specifically do you choose to write children's fantasy?

James Dashner: You can get away with more. You can be as crazy, weird, psycho as you want and no one cares.

Shannon Hale: When you read realistic fiction, it's about the issues. Fantasy possibilities are wide open and the reader can take away whatever they want from the story--it's not my job to decide what it's about.

Jessica Day George: Fantasy is timeless. Fashions never go out of style. It's full of classic themes that everyone cares about. It's never dated.

J. Scott Savage: As kids, we use our imaginations all the time; but when we get older, we're told "You can't do that anymore. You have to be in the real world." Fantasy lets your imagination run wild.

Brandon Mull: I write books that I would like, and make them accessible to kids. Adults are drawn to kids' fantasy because they want something light and fun, not big and imposing. Some premises won't work for adult books but they work wonderfully for children and adults will like them, too.

A really fun part of the festival (besides the awesome author signings) was Shannon and Dean Hale's reading/presentation. They read from and discussed Rapunzel's Revenge, their graphic novel. They began by saying "We're going to show you how our collaboration works by doing an interpretive dance." Words can't describe how hilarious it was as they performed ridiculous--ahh, I meant lovely and inspiring [wouldn't want them to hunt me down with a lasso]--slow dance poses to Enigma's song Return to Innocence. They tried to get their illustrator, Nate Hale, to join them at the end, but he fled the room in panic.

Questions for Shannon and Dean:

Q: Why did you choose The Goose Girl as your first fairy tale novel?
A: My favorite fairy tales are not really my favorites...the ones I like the most are those that bother me the most--the ones with the most questions. [Dean interjected: That's the same reason she married me. I wasn't her favorite, but I bothered her the most.]

Q: Was River Secrets hard to write from the perspective of a male protagonist?
A: I swore as a kid that I would never write from a boy's point of view, but by the time I was writing River Secrets I knew the character so well that it just came naturally.

Q: How much do you write every day/week? How do you balance it?
A: Dean: I allocate time as possible. I still have a full-time job, so it's whenever I can.
Shannon: My daily goal right now is 1,000 words per day Monday-Friday. I used to write during my first baby's nap, but with two kids that isn't possible now. I do have a sitter a few hours a week and I also write in the evenings sometimes if I haven't reached my goal.

Q: Do you ever get burned out/run out of ideas to write?
A: I never run out of ideas, but to keep from getting burned out on writing, I make sure I have time to keep reading for fun.

Q: Dean, what can you tell us about your upcoming picture book?
A: It was originally called Scapegoat. I thought the title was perfect--a little boy blames everything he does on the family goat. One night Shannon was writing so I thought "I'll write, too," and I wrote down the text of this picture book. I showed it to Shannon's agent while Shannon was in a meeting one day in New York at her publisher, and they liked it!

Well, there was more, but I've already used up a lot of space. I will get the rest of the festival goodness up on my blog this week: http://crosscountryadventures.wordpress.com/

I think the Provo Children's Book Festival--now in its second year--is now an annual event. I will definitely go every year! It was truly wonderful. My kids had a blast choosing a free book, coloring, making bookmarks, and meeting the 30+ authors. I think the highest compliment came from my husband, who is not a "book person" and doesn't enjoy reading very much. On Laura Seeger's presentation, he said "That was really cool, seeing how she made those books" and he enjoyed Shannon and Dean's presentation so much that he went down to the bookshop, bought a copy of Rapunzel's Revenge (not something I would've ever thought he'd do), and was thrilled to have them sign it to him personally. :) Good times!

*I would post some pictures today but I can't figure out how to get them out of my cell phone. :) My computer-genius husband will get them out tonight.

About me: I'm a mother of 3 and live in the Salt Lake valley. Besides writing and reading, I love music and fiber arts. I will be posting here on the first and third Mondays of each month.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Judging Ourselves-Money or Merit?

by Carol McNairy Wight

"I'm a published author!" How we yearn to be able to say that! When I say I am a writer the next question is , "Are you published?" We feel highly inadequate if we can't say "yes."

And yet, why should this be? We know editors look for material that will make money. We know that what is bought for publication is based on a capricious need by the publisher. If we are not published does it mean we are not good writers? We all know this is not true. Being published is more a matter of being at the right place at the right time.

We know if our work is good. We know when we have hit our stride and have written a fine and publishable work. We write because we love it and because it is , to put it plainly, good stuff!

We should not judge ourselves by the recognition given or not given by the business world. After all, our craft is an artistic one. It is sad that we have to depend on the world of commerce to validate our efforts. Ok, so we may need them to help us put bread on the table. We may crave the recognition given by a published work. But, we need to validate ourselves! We need to validate eachother! When we see something of merit we need to say so. We need to applaud eachother for our good work, not wait for the publishers of the world to take note.

Let us take pride in what we do!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Writing a Good Villain

by Scott Rhoades

One of the most common bits of advice writers receive is that we have to give the villain positive traits if we want the villain to be realistic. Likewise, our protagonists should have flaws. One of the reasons why we're told this so often is that it always stops there. Seems like nobody ever explains how that advice works or what it really means.

This is my attempt to fill the gap. And I'll do it by stepping into forbidden territory.

Politics.

Don't run away. I think it's a way to give an example that just about everybody gets, and I'm going to be as non-partisan as possible.

There's a certain Utah politician who, to me, is the epitome of evil. My guess is that many of you have a politician you look at that way, maybe even one I support. That's why the example works.

This particular politician expresses, very clearly, views that are opposed to my own. His mouth is always getting him into trouble, and for good reason. If I were the protagonist in a political novel told from my point of view, he would be the antagonist, and would be portrayed as the horrid person I believe he is. My character would fight against him, with the objective to not only stop his reelection, but probably to discredit him in the process. To me, he's evil.

If you've drawn a realistic villain and a realistic hero, then chances are that the line between good and bad are completely a matter of point of view. And that's where it gets fun.

This particular politician is not a comic book villain who is evil for the sake of being evil. By all accounts, he is adored by his family. His neighbors like and respect him. His dog probably gets excited when he comes home from work, or even from a ten minute jaunt to the store. For all I know, he might be one of those rare people who is loved unconditionally by a cat. His supporters vote for him because they think he's right with a capital R. He is motivated by his sense of right and wrong--taking a stance that he sees as defending right. He probably got into politics as a means to exercise his ideals and protect those of his community.

Sounds more like a hero, right? In fact, although I'm the protagonist in my own story, if it were told from his point of view, I'd be the villain. I criticize him, oppose his ideals, want to thwart his goals, and I would love to see him lose in a big way. But I'm adored by my family, I think. I'm motivated by my own ideals, my own sense of right and wrong. Heck, I'm even loved, somehow, by a cat who annoys me.

So the good guy and the bad guy depend totally on the point of view from which the story is told. Flip the point of view (or, as super-editor Sol Stein suggests, give each character his own script), and the protagonist and antagonist are also flipped. Each character is, from his own point of view, good, and is opposed by the other.

Here's another example, one that could be used in a story for young children who might not quite understand the previous example.

Little Molly has a new puppy. This puppy is so naughty. It always tries to get outside. It's uncontrollable when she takes it for walks, pulling at the leash and trying to go its own way. It doesn't follow any of Molly's perfectly reasonable rules. When the puppy runs away and is missing for a whole day, Molly is devastated. How could her puppy be so wicked?

But what is the puppy doing, really? It's being true to its own puppiness. It doesn't understand Molly's unnatural rules. All she does is try to to restrain it and she scolds it for simply being what it is. Maybe at the end of the story, the puppy learns to submit after getting itself into a dangerous situation. It learns that Molly was right.

Or, better, Molly starts school. She is restrained, forced to follow rules, when all she wants to do is go outside and play, like a typical kid. She learns to understand the puppy's point of view, and realizes that puppy is not really naughty. It's just like her. Because of this puppy, she understands herself and her world just a little better. She learns something about her own puppiness.

So how do you show this in your own stories?

The key is to look at the story from your villain's point of view, not just the hero's. Why does the villain do what he does? How is the "good guy" an obstacle to the bad guy? Give the villain good intentions that are thwarted by the protagonist. Show your villain being loved by family, a pet, a crippled neighbor child. Show him rescuing a scraggly animal from the shelter, one that would almost certainly not be adopted and so faces a terrible fate.

Create at least one scene where the protagonist lights into the antagonist in a way that makes the protagonist less sympathetic than the antagonist, a scene where the roles of good guy and bad guy are flipped, even though it's still told from the protagonist's point of view. I bet it will end up being one of your favorite scenes. Now take the energy from that scene and scatter it strategically throughout the story.

If the reader can sympathize with your villain, which might sometimes mean that the hero appears to be wrong, then she'll care about both of these characters and be sucked into the story. Maybe she'll want the hero to win, but she won't really want the villain to lose. This creates stress and conflict, not just in the story but in the reader herself.

And that makes for a good story that won't soon be forgotten after the last page is turned.

Scott Rhoades is an Orem-based writer who is scheduled to contribute to this blog on the first and third Friday of each month. For contact information, including his Twitter and Facebook details, see http://www.scottrhoades.com/contact/contact.html.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

NaNoWriMo Program

By Tiffany Dominguez

Some of you may be familiar with the NaNoWriMo website:
http://www.nanowrimo.org/. Every year, they host a National Novel Writing Month, where they encourage authors to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Their stated purpose: "Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved."


A friend of mine and a fellow blogger, Yamile Mendez, took this challenge last year and wrote her first novel. Along the way, she received the following email from Phillip Pulman encouraging the NaNoWriMo participants. This is, hands down, some of the best advice I've read on getting through the difficult parts of the writing process. Enjoy!


"Dear NaNoWriMo author,

You've started a long journey. Congratulations on your resolution and ambition! And the first thing you need to remember is that a long journey can't be treated like a sprint. Take your time.

The second thing you need to remember is that if you want to finish this journey you've begun, you have to keep going. One of the hardest things to do with a novel is to stop writing it for a while, do something else, fulfill this engagement or that commitment or whatever, and pick it up exactly where you left it and carry on as if nothing had happened. You will have changed; the story will have drifted off course, like a sh ip when the engines stop and there's no anchor to keep it in place; when you get back on board, you have to warm the engines up, start the great bulk of the ship moving through the water again, work out your position, check the compass bearing, steer carefully to bring it back on track ... all that energy wasted on doing something that wouldn't have been necessary at all if you'd just kept going!

But once you've established a daily rhythm of work, you'll find it energising and sustaining in itself. Even when it's not going well. This is a strange thing, but I've noticed it many times: a bad day's work is a lot better than no day's work at all. At least if you've written 500 words, or 1000 words, or whatever you discover is your most comfortable daily rate of production, the words are there to work on later. And when you do visit them in a month's time, or whenever it i s, you often find that they're not so bad after all.

The question authors get asked more than any other is "Where do you get your ideas from?" And we all find a way of answering which we hope isn't arrogant or discouraging. What I usually say is "I don't know where they come from, but I know where they come to: they come to my desk, and if I'm not there, they go away again." That's just another way of emphasising the importance of regular work.

You know which page of a novel is the most difficult to write? It's page 70. The first page is easy: it's exciting, it's new, a whole world lies in front of you. The last page is easy: you've got there at last, you know what's going to happen, all you have to do is find a resonant closing sentence. But page 70 is where the misery strikes. All the initial excitement has drained away; you've begun to see all the hideous problems you've set yourself; you are horribly aware of the minute size of your own talent compared to the colossal proportions of the task you've undertaken. That's when you'll want to give up. When I hit page 70 with my very first novel, I thought: I'm never going to finish this. I'll never make it. But then stubbornness set in, and I thought: well, if I reach page 100, that'll be something. If I get there, I reckon I can make it to the end, wherever that is. And 100 is only 30 pages away, and if I write 3 pages every day, I can get there in ten days ... why don't I just try to do that? So I did. It was a terrible novel, but I finished it.

The last thing I'd say to anyo ne who wants to write a novel is not actually a piece of advice, but a question. It's this: are you a reader? Every novelist I know
every novelist I've ever heard ofis, or was, a passionate reader. I don't doubt that someone with determination and energy, but who didn't read for pleasure, who only read for information, could actually write a whole novel if they set their mind to
it and followed a few rules and guidelines; but would it be worth reading? Would it give any pleasure beyond a mechanically c alculated sort? I doubt it. Novels that last and please readers are written because the novelist is intoxicated by the delight and the endlessly renewable joy that comes from engaging with imaginary characterswith story; and that engagement always begins with reading; and if it catches you, it never lets go. Write a novel if you want to win a competition, or impress your friends, or possibly make some moneydo so by all means. But if you're not a lover of stories, a passionate and devoted reader, don't expect your novel to please many readers.

On the other hand, if you do love reading, if you cannot imagine going on a journey without a book in your pocket or your bag, if you fret and fidget and become uncomfortable if you're kept away from your reading for too long, if your worst nightmare is to be marooned on a desert island without a bookthen take heart: there are plenty of us like you. And if you tell a story that really engages you, we are all potential readers.

Good luck!

Philip Pullman


Philip Pullman is the award-winning author of the His Dark Materials trilogy. You can learn more about him and his work at http://www.philip-pullman.com/
."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Art of Storytelling

by Sarah Southerland

While searching to find a certain book in the writing section at my local library, I came across an intriguing title-- "The Beggar King and the Search for Happiness." I pulled it off the shelf and thumbed through it quickly. It seemed appealing so I tossed it in my library bag and kept on searching the shelves. The book ended up on my library shelf with many others. By the time I finally got around to reading "The Beggar King and the Search for Happiness" it had been sitting in my house for 6 1/2 weeks. I grabbed it quickly one day, thinking I could start reading it while I waited for my kids to get into (and out of school). Once I started reading, I couldn't stop.

"The Beggar King" describes the life of storyteller Joel ben Izzy, his start in storytelling, and the struggle of losing his voice after having thyroid cancer removed. Interspersed with his memoir are favorite stories he's collected from around the world. The book in itself is a power (and relatively short) read, but what has had the most impact on me is the idea of storytelling being an art that can be improved upon.

Few stories these days begin with the traditional "once upon a time," but who hasn't been entertained, lulled to sleep, set to tears, or enlightened by some magical experience that happened "once?" Has storytelling become a lost art, relegated only to local storytelling festivals and professionals? Or has it grown into something greater-- something with far broader definitions than used for the Brothers Grimm? As writers, we tell stories through our words, but can we consider ourselves to be modern-day storytellers? Or is there some level of notoriety we must obtain first? And why do we write stories? To enlighten, entertain, educate, inspire, amuse, pacify? To earn a living? Because, as Joel ben Izzy says of himself, you have a gift and feel the need to share it? Is a writer a storyteller by default or by the very definition of the job?

We study other writers as a way of perfecting our own craft, using their experiences as a way of creating (or preventing) our own successes and failures. I believe now, after reading "the Beggar King," that there is much to be gained by an author who studies the art of storytelling-- even if only briefly! And I challenge you to take the time to do it. Read a few books, listen to a podcast, attend a storytelling festival (Mt Timpanogas festival is coming up!), or research it online. See how oral storytellers spin their craft and figure out how to apply those same concepts to your own work. Let me know if you do and what, if anything, changes for you.

Best of luck!


Another book to consider: "The Way of the Storyteller" by Ruth Sawyer. It was written in the early 1900's and is a timeless resource on how to tell a story to anyone, at any time. Feel free to post other books or resources that have helped you in the comment section below!

Monday, May 4, 2009

30 Days: "Why I don't ride horses"

Why I Don't Ride Horses
by Cathy Witbeck

It seems young girls love horses,
They long to be near the breed.
They want to stroke and love them,
And fulfill their every need.

I grew up on a Ranch myself,
But I thought those girls were dense.
Still thinking I'd like to please my dad,
I climbed up on that fence.

It wouldn't have been a problem,
If that horse hadn't learned a trick
Of scraping riders off her back
When she saw a tree branch to flick.

Perhaps if I'd had more muscles,
Like Arnold Schwarrzenagger,
I could have stayed up on that horse,
And been the one to tame her.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be,
The ground rushed up to meet me.
The horse ran off and I swear she laughed
At the trich she'd used to unseat me.

Never a quiter, I tried again,
She walked under the double barn door.
The auger was next, as if it was hexed,
And again I was down on the floor.

Perhaps a ride on the prairie,
With nothing in our way,
But she knew the loosened saddle trick
And dumped me in the hay.

Maybe we'll part as friends, I thought.
It's better off this way,
Till I found a few critters she'd left in my hair
Who were thinkin' they'd like to stay.

So I'm done with horses, can't say that I'm sad,
The relationship wasn't the best.
Now girls are saying that guys are cute,
I think I'll give it a rest.

Copyright 2009 by Cathy Witbeck. Author retains all rights to the story.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Many Thanks....

Many thanks to all the writers in our 30 Days, 30 Stories project. It was a great success! We all had a lot of fun reading all the posts (even if we didn't take the time to comment!).

We'll be doing the project again later this year so if you'd like to be included in it, please leave a comment below.

Again, thanks to all who overcame their fears and worries and wrote/shared something for the world to see.

Friday, May 1, 2009

30 Days: "Why I don't ride horses"

Why I Don't Ride Horses
by Cathy Witbeck

It seems young girls love horses,
They long to be near the breed.
They want to stroke and love them,
And fulfill their every need.

I grew up on a Ranch myself,
But I thought those girls were dense.
Still thinking I'd like to please my dad,
I climbed up on that fence.

It wouldn't have been a problem,
If that horse hadn't learned a trick
Of scraping riders off her back
When she saw a tree branch to flick.

Perhaps if I'd had more muscles,
Like Arnold Schwarrzenagger,
I could have stayed up on that horse,
And been the one to tame her.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be,
The ground rushed up to meet me.
The horse ran off and I swear she laughed
At the trich she'd used to unseat me.

Never a quiter, I tried again,
She walked under the double barn door.
The auger was next, as if it was hexed,
And again I was down on the floor.

Perhaps a ride on the prairie,
With nothing in our way,
But she knew the loosened saddle trick
And dumped me in the hay.

Maybe we'll part as friends, I thought.
It's better off this way,
Till I found a few critters she'd left in my hair
Who were thinkin' they'd like to stay.

So I'm done with horses, can't say that I'm sad,
The relationship wasn't the best.
Now girls are saying that guys are cute,
I think I'll give it a rest.

Copyright 2009 by Cathy Witbeck; author retains all rights to story.