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Farewell to the TPL Teens e-Writer in Residence 2015 and a Final Contest!

December 9, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (12)

I can't believe that my time as e-Writer in Residence has come to an end. It feels like it passed in a blink. There were so many amazing moments, and I feel privileged to have been a part of this program. Thank you, Toronto Public Library for giving me this opportunity to connect and work with young authors.

 

First up was the launch event for the Young Voices Magazine, an eye-opening opportunity to hear young authors share their poetry and prose and to view incredible artwork created by young artists. I've read the magazine cover-to-cover more than once and I am in awe of the talent presented on the pages.

 

Next up was the Young Voices Writers Conference where I led a workshop on worldbuilding. The creativity and enthusiasm among conference attendees was energizing and fun. 

 

I had the opportunity to visit the Teen Writers' Group at the North York Central Library where some extremely talented young writers worked with me on writing exercises on worldbuilding and setting and then read their wonderful words aloud. Next up was the Teen Writers' Group at Brentwood Library where I was given a warm welcome. Enthusiasm and imagination soared as we focused on story beginnings and endings. Again, the attendees were generous in sharing their writing, and I had a wonderful time.

 

I'm thrilled to say that I received dozens of engaging email submissions from many teen authors—poetry, short stories, essays, novels—and I enjoyed the opportunity to read their pages and offer critique. Here's what Zoie from Zoie's Bookshelf had to say about working with me as e-Writer in Residence: 

I had always known that the TPL Teens blog had an e-writer in residence, but it was only until this season that I had truly taken advantage of that fact. I decided that this time around I would send my writing for Eve Silver to critique, as I was working on a story that I would really like some pointers on to see what worked and what didn’t. Also, it would be pretty cool to have a published author comment on something that had written. 

As expected, I was a bit nervous to send it in. This was a story I had been working on for a while, and it was very close to my heart. Not to mention that I hadn’t shared so many chapters of it to anyone before, and it was scary to just have it out there for someone else’s eyes. 

Luckily, my experience with Eve was nothing short of motivating. Her kind words and helpful advice really got me to believe that my work was actually worth something, and after reading through her overall impression of the chapters I had sent in, as well as the footnotes she so graciously tagged on, it got me thinking about all the different ways I could improve and shape my writing.

It was uplifting to see that she liked my writing and my characters, and that she believed it had potential. Sending in my work to the e-writer in residence was the push I needed to make the changes that were necessary to construct this story to the best it could be. For me it was definitely the write choice. (Pun intended!)

 

 I wrote/coordinated numerous blog posts and contests during my time as e-Writer in Residence. Thank you to HarperCollins Canada, Katherine Tegen Books, and authors Morgan Rhodes and Kelley Armstrong for donating the awesome giveaway prizes.

 

Here's a quick reference for some of the blog posts:

 

Publishing and Industry Posts:

 

Reflections:

 

Writing Prompts and Inspiration Posts:

 

Mechanics of Writing: 

 

Miscellaneous:

 

And as a final farewell, I'm running my last contest! Have a question you meant to ask and didn't get a chance? Have a comment you want to share? Did you have a favourite blog post? Did you send in your work for critique and want to leave a comment about the experience? Now's your chance!

One lucky commenter will receive the entire The Game series: Rush, Push and Crash!

 

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Rules:

1. To enter, just leave your comment below. 

2. You must live in Toronto to win this contest. 

3. You must provide a valid e-mail address so you can be contacted if you win a prize, and you must be able to come to a TPL branch to pick up your prize (see privacy statement below for more information).

4. One entry per person per Contest - you can leave more than one comment, but only your first comment will count as a contest entry. 

5. Contest ends Thursday December 17, 2015 at 11:59 pm. 

6. Winner will be contacted on the following Friday.

Personal information on this form is collected under the authority of the Public Libraries Act, s.20 (a) and (d) and will be used to administer the Library's TPL Teens contest. Questions about the collection or management of personal information should be directed to library manager Jayne Delbeek-Eksteins- 416-396-8858.

 

 

 

What Type of Publishing is Right for You?

December 4, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (0)

UnnamedSelf-published young author Dylan Doose offers a breakdown of the different types of publishing and some answers to questions about self-publishing.

 

Dylan's bio: Writer. Sculptor. Bad fitness advice. In between writing books I fill my not-so-busy schedule with the practising of martial arts, mountain biking, paddle surfing, weight lifting, and of course HBO, PS4 and increasing the size of my beloved personal library.

Dylan is the author of Fire and Sword, Catacombs of Time and a soon to be released third novel in the Sword and Sorcery series.

 

FIRE&SWORD_COVER_Final

Q: What are the different types of publishing?

A: Commercial publishing is the traditional approach where the publisher purchases rights to a manuscript. The author receives an advance against royalties. This is like a loan, where the author is given money up front and the royalties they receive for the sale of each book are applied against that amount until it is paid off. Once that happens, the author will receive royalties on the sale of each book. The publisher pays for the editing, production, cover design, shipping, etc. of the book.

Self-publishing is where the author doesn't just write the book, but also acts as the publisher. The author pays for the editing, copy editing, cover design, etc for the project. The author is also responsible for distribution of the book and getting it into readers' hands.

 

Q: Where can an author publish a book?

A:  With the rise of ebooks and e-readers, authors have a number of self-publishing options. Amazon Kindle, iBooks, and Kobo all offer platforms for authors to self-publish. There are also sites like Draft2Digital and Smashwords that will take care of loading an author's books on a number of platforms for a small fee. The benefit of this is that the author only has to load up their book once and these sites take care of the rest. Also, right now Canadian authors can't load directly to Nook, so a site like D2D or Smashwords can get a Canadian author's book on Nook.

 

Q: Can authors also publish physical copies (paperbacks)?

A: Yes. Most of my self-published sales come from ebooks, but I do sell a few physical copies. There are sites like Createspace, IngramSpark and Lulu that can help with this.

   

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Q: What's the difference between self-publishing and vanity press?

A: With a vanity press, the author pays the publisher to have the books printed and bound and/or loaded on an ebook retailer. At first glance, this doesn't look any different than self-publishing or places like D2D. But there is a difference: with self-publishing, the author pays a small percentage  and keeps the majority of the profits. Also, the payment to Kindle or Kobo or iBooks doesn't happen until the author actually sells a book. Then the e-retailer takes a share and sends the rest to the author. With vanity publishing, the author has to pay a large amount up front. The vanity publisher makes a profit even if the author never sells a single book.

There's a great post on this at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

 

Q: Do self-published authors actually make any money?

A: Whether traditionally published or self-published, some books do well and some don't. Some great books just never get discovered. But there have been a number of success stories from self-published authors. The Martian by Andrew Weir was originally published chapter-by-chapter for free on his website before he put the book for sale on Amazon. Then he sold the book to a traditional publisher and he sold the movie rights. Other success stories are Wool by Hugh Howey, Amanda Hocking, and David Dalglish. These authors were originally self-published and went on to work with commercial publishers.

 

Q: Tell us about your writing.

A: I started reading late. I was eight and I had a hard time with anything and everything reading related. That continued right up until the age of sixteen. I had never read a book cover to cover because it took me too long and I would rather have been doing other things i.e. getting into trouble. This was until I—for a reason I can’t remember— selected the book The Magus by John Fowles for my grade twelve book report. This is not a light read, not even close, but after the first chapter, for the first time in my life I was driven to read every damn word of a book. When I was done, I was changed. The book simultaneously made me feel insignificant and fragile, whilst filling my head with the ambition of one day possessing great knowledge, enough knowledge to create worlds that breathe and bleed. I could go on to name over a hundred influential books since my first true read, but that is the one that matters. It signifies an end and a beginning. It planted the seeds of my dreams.

I wrote my first manuscript then. I kept writing manuscripts until I created one I was ready to share: FIRE AND SWORD. I had it edited by a developmental editor. I had it copy-edited. I had a professional cover designed. I worked out a marketing plan. And I kept writing.

 

Q: Thanks for all the information. Before you go, share a last word of advice.

A: “Once you’ve got a task to do, it’s better to do it than live with the fear of it.” —Joe Abercrombie.
This is a quote from the legendary barbarian Logen Ninefingers; this character has given me a great deal of life advice.

 

What Libraries Mean To Me

December 2, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (0)

1950-north-york-memorial-hall-1956As a kid, I hung out at Toronto Public Library’s Centennial Branch and North York Central Branch searching out sequential volumes of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books and Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. Libraries were my refuge, my haven, the most wonderful place in the world. Books, books, and more books...perfect.

 

As a teen I devoured V. C. AndrewsEdgar Allan PoeDaphne du MaurierAnne Rice and any romance novel I could get my hands on. The library was the place I could find any world I wanted to enter. But they were more than that. I went to high school and university in a time before the internet. Libraries were the place to go for answers to questions both simple and obscure. Books held the secrets of the world, the universe, and librarians held the key.

 

The library helped get me started along my path to publication. My husband spotted a notice for a writing workshop in our local paper and encouraged me to go. Guess where that workshop was held...the library. In the early stages of my writing career, long before I was published, the library was the place I could go for a few quiet moments to work on my book. It was the place that the Toronto Romance Writers—a writing group I had joined—held their monthly meeting (they still do!). The library had reference books on everything writing related. Librarians helped me find the books that would answer my questions about medicine in the 1800's or fashion in that time period or how much servants were paid or how long it took to get from London to Cornwall by carriage. Libraries and librarians had all the answers.

 

Once my books were published, they found a home on library shelves. Librarians invited me to speak or be part of seasonal events. Librarians recommended my stories to readers who might enjoy them. Readers who wanted my stories but couldn't afford to buy the books could find them in the library.

 

Libraries run programs for teen writers, like this e-Writer in Residence that I have been privileged to be part of. They host teen writers groups like those at the North York Central Library and the Brentwood branch. There's the Young Voices Magazine for the publication of teen work and the Young Voices Writers Conference to educate, support and encourage young writers. These initiatives mean a great deal to me because the next generation of talent is fostered here, and I can attest to the impressive skill of these young writers.

 

So tell me, what do libraries mean to you?

 

 

 

  

Haiku to Win!

November 27, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (25)

Haiku is a traditional Japanese form of poetry.

  • A Haiku is three lines long.
  • It has seventeen syllables.
  • The syllable count is 5/7/5.
  • Haiku often depicts nature and stresses simplicity, elegance, and clarity.
  • It is traditionally written in the present tense.
  • Modern Haiku often breaks the 5/7/5 rule and moves to topics outside nature.
  • Whether you approach the Haiku from a traditional or modern perspective, the goal is brevity and evocative imagery (which my example below lacks).

 

Like this:

Haiku three lines long

with seventeen syllables

five/seven/five count 

 

20662728Want to win a copy of Clariel by Garth Nix?

Just leave your Haiku in the comments below! One lucky commenter will win!

Need a Haiku topic idea? How about brushing your teeth, walking in a crowd, walking alone at night, being at a party but not feeling like part of the crowd, being at a party and having an awesome time, standing on a cliff overlooking a calm lake, kayaking in white water, or anything else that catches your writer's eye.

 

 

Rules:

1. To enter, just leave your Haiku in the comments. 

2. You must live in Toronto to win this contest. 

3. You must provide a valid e-mail address so you can be contacted if you win a prize, and you must be able to come to a TPL branch to pick up your prize (see privacy statement below for more information).

4. One entry per person per Contest - you can leave more than one comment, but only your first comment will count as a contest entry. 

5. Contest ends Thursday December 3, 2015 at 11:59 pm. 

6. Winner will be contacted on the following Friday.

Personal information on this form is collected under the authority of the Public Libraries Act, s.20 (a) and (d) and will be used to administer the Library's TPL Teens contest. Questions about the collection or management of personal information should be directed to library manager Jayne Delbeek-Eksteins- 416-396-8858.

 

Thinking of submitting your work to me for feedback? Contact info and details here.

 

 

Writing Prompt #3

November 25, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (0)

Missed the Flash Fiction post, Writing Prompt #1 and Writing Prompt #2? Check them out now!

 

Today I'm offering a few writing prompts to get your creative juices flowing.

 

  • Is the person you present online different than the person you are in real life? In what ways does the real you differ from the online you? Why are they different?

 

  • What's the greatest responsibility you've ever undertaken? Was the responsibility something you volunteered for or something that was placed on you externally (e.g. did your parents or a teacher or friend place that responsibility on your shoulders?) How did you feel about it?

 

  • How do you feel about group projects and tasks that must be accomplished in teams? Are you a team player or a lone wolf? Do you resent group projects or love them? Why? If you could choose a sport, would it be one that you play as a sole sports enthusiast (e.g. tennis) or one that requires a group (e.g. football)?

 

  • Do you believe friendship is forever, or do you believe that people can outgrow/drift away from friends? Are you still friends with the people you grew up with? Have you established a new group of friends in recent months/years? Why?

 

I'd love to read what these prompts encourage you to write. Post in the comments or send me your words (either those spurred by these prompts or those you've already created. Contact info and submission requirements here.)

 

 

The Industry—Part 2: What's a query letter?

November 20, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (0)

Missed The Industry—Part 1: How do I find an Agent? Check it out here. 

 

A query letter is an introduction: you're introducing both yourself and your manuscript to an agent or editor. The letter needs to grab the reader's attention, make her sit up and take notice. So what do you include in a query letter? 

 

Before you even start your query letter, there's one essential step to complete: Finish the project! Finish the book before you start sending out query letters.

 

Essential Components of a Query Letter

 

1. Target a specific agent.

Many writers target more than one agent at once, sending their query letter to a slew of different agencies at the same time. There's nothing wrong with approaching a number of agents, but there is something wrong with addressing the letter to the wrong person. Check and double check the name. Make sure that you aren't addressing your letter "Dear Mr. Smith" when the agent you're sending this version of the letter to is Miss Jones.

 

2. The opening lines.

The agent/editor you are approaching with your query gets a ton of them every day. So you need to make yours stand out from the crowd. If you've met the agent at a conference, say so right up front. If you haven't met the agent, mention a reason you are contacting him/her.

If you don't want to lead with an introduction, another option is to lead with a hook. 

In this paragraph you might say something along the lines: In my 90,000 word young adult science fiction manuscript, Rush, a girl who just wants to be normal finds out she's anything but when her alien DNA sees her dragged into a video game where she must hunt aliens or be hunted by them.

That sentence tells the agent how long the manuscript is, what genre it fits into in the marketplace, and what the book is about.

 

3. The body of the letter.

This is the point that you tell the agent what your book is about. It should be one paragraph (two at most). This is a teaser for the story. Tell the agent who your character is, what obstacles they face, what the stakes are. Entice the reader to want to know more. This isn't the place to give a step by step description of your story from beginning to end.

 

4. A little about you.

This isn't the place to tell the agent about your pet turtle. But it is the place to claim your bragging rights. Have you been published in the Young Voices magazine? This is where you include that info. Have you been published anywhere else? Brag about it here. Have you won any prizes for your writing? Again, take this opportunity to toot your own horn. This is the place to mention anything writing/publishing related. 

 

5. Sign off.

Here's where you let the agent know that you have a complete manuscript ready for submission, and be sure to thank them for their time.

 

Want to know more about query letters?

 

Check out this blog post on query letters by author Jeannie Reusch.

Agentquery.com is a free database of literary agents. Check out the post there on How To Write A Query Letter.

Agent Kristin Nelson has a ton of great info about query letters and samples of successful queries on her blog, Pub Rants.

 

Want to WIN a copy of Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider or 99 Days by Katie Cotugno. Head over to the post on What Does Writing Mean to You? and enter to win!

 

Got questions about query letters? Leave them in the comments and I'll either answer there or include my replies in the next industry post.

 

 

 

What Does Writing Mean To You?

November 18, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (12)

Today's post has three parts: an answer to the question "What does writing mean to you?", a link to a writing contest and a book giveaway!

 

What does writing mean to you?

 

I asked the question—"What does writing mean to you?"— and Terese Mason Pierre answered. Terese is a writer, poet, student, musician, and member of the Editorial Youth Advisory Board for the Toronto Public Library's Young Voices magazine.

 

To a humble university student in a sea of rough lawns and Neo-Gothic labyrinths, writing is an escape. For a few hours, I can empty my mind of essays, research and lectures, and instead fill it with the idiosyncrasies of my characters, the vivid canvas of my setting, and the ever-forking track of my plot, however unfinished these elements may be. In writing, I find a purpose that surmounts external loci, the fly-by-night job market and resume padding. In writing, I find an opportunity to be a creator, a controller, an explorer—to invent universes of my fiat via channels in my brain I am not yet educated enough to comprehend.

Furthermore, in writing, I find a mirror—through my works, I see revealed aspects of my own comprehensive moral doctrine, my own anima, that other spheres in my life had either left clouded, limited or discarded. Thus, in writing, I find a medium through which I express myself and my goals. Unlike beauty, I can unabashedly and unquestioningly call myself a writer, and I feel comfortable in my conscious competence. Through my writing, I aim to educate and evoke others around me, and I will continue to seek opportunities to better my craft. Indeed, writing is so much more than putting pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard. To me, writing means a particular way of life—if I am not writing, I am not living.

—Terese Mason Pierre

 

 

The Ontario Writers' Conference Story Starters Contest

 

There's still time for you to enter the Ontario Writers' Conference November Story Starter Contest. Just head over to the entry page, use the posted image as inspiration to start your story, enter 100 words and you're in! Your entry can be prose, poetry, haiku...whatever grabs you. No entry fee. Details and entry here.

 

 

Book Giveaway!

 

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Today, I'm giving away TWO books!

 

The first is Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider.

 

 

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The second is 99 Days by Katie Cotugno.

 

 

 

To enter to win one of the books, just post a comment discussing Terese's thoughts on what writing means to her and/or your thoughts on what writing means to you. There will be two (2) random commenters chosen to win!

 

Rules:

1. To enter, just leave a comment with your thoughts on what writing means to you. 

2. You must live in Toronto to win this contest. 

3. You must provide a valid e-mail address so you can be contacted if you win a prize, and you must be able to come to a TPL branch to pick up your prize (see privacy statement below for more information).

4. One entry per person per Contest - you can leave more than one comment, but only your first comment will count as a contest entry. 

5. Contest ends Thursday November 26, 2015 at 11:59 pm. 

6. Winner will be contacted on the following Friday.

Personal information on this form is collected under the authority of the Public Libraries Act, s.20 (a) and (d) and will be used to administer the Library's TPL Teens contest. Questions about the collection or management of personal information should be directed to library manager Jayne Delbeek-Eksteins- 416-396-8858.

 

Thinking of submitting your work to me for feedback? Contact info and details here.

 

The Industry—Part 1: How do I find an agent?

November 13, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (0)

Some questions I hear often are: Do I look for an agent or an editor? How do I find an agent? How do I approach an agent?

 

First off, check out the interview with awesome agent Beth Miller of Writers House and amazing author Kelsey Sutton who started working with Beth when she was in her teens.

 

Next, some answers.

 

Finish the book.

 

One of the most important things an author can learn is BICHOK—Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard. Writers write. So get your fingers flying, or your pen scratching on paper, or record your story as you tell it to yourself and then transcribe it as you play it back. Whatever style works for you, use it to finish the project. You can't sell the book unless you finish the book. So BICHOK and get it done.

 

Agent or editor?

 

Should you approach an agent first or contact editors at publishing houses? Most publishing houses do not accept unagented submissions. This isn't a hard and fast rule. There are exceptions. For example, if you've met an editor at a conference and they invite you to submit directly to them, then you can send in your project without an agent. But generally, you find an agent first and they send your book out on submission to editors.

But there's another type of editor, one who looks at your project and makes suggestions to help you strengthen it before you even send it to an agent. Do you need to hire a freelance editor to look at your work before you submit? Not always. But if you know your grammar is weak, or if you feel your story is good but isn't quite where you want it to be, then hiring a freelance editor to help you whip it into shape might be an option you want to pursue.

 

How do I find an agent?

 

There are many literary agents out there, some good, some great, some not so good, and some are not even agents but are scam artists out to get your money. So how do you know if you're approaching the real deal? 

There's a fantastic site called Preditors and Editors that has detailed information about how agents work and also posts information about agents and agencies, indicating if the agency has verified sales and noting if an agency is not recommended.

Okay...but how do I find an agent?

Go into a bookstore or library. Find a dozen books (or more) that are in the genre/subgenre that you write. Check the acknowledgment page. Many authors thank their agents on that page. You now have a starting point. Google the agent. Check the website for submission instructions and follow those instructions to a T. If the agent wants only a query letter, send only that. If the agent wants a query letter and the first ten pages of the manuscript in the body of an email, send only that.

Check the hashtag #MSWL on Twitter. MSWL stands for manuscript wish list; agents and editors tweet about what they're looking for. That can give you an idea of an agent you might want to approach. Do not pitch them on Twitter. Google the agent. Follow the submission instructions on the website.

There's also a Manuscript Wish List website where the wish lists are compiled in one easy-to-use place.

Another source of agent info is the Absolute Write Water Cooler, a forum where you can find all things writing related. Established authors, new authors, agents, and editors roam the discussions at Absolute Write and you can glean a ton of info.

 

How do I approach an agent?

 

Google the agent. Visit the agent's website. Follow the submission/inquiry instructions posted on the site. Sit back and wait...and wait...and wait. Agents receive a ton of inquiries. Some never respond. Some send a generic email/letter saying "no thanks." Some (if your inquiry really stands out from the crowd) might send a personalized rejection letter, or ask for some updates to your work and invite you to resubmit (which is a huge step!). Or an agent might ask to see more of your project if they are intrigued and they feel your work is a good fit.

 

Remember this: rejections aren't personal. It isn't a judgment of your work or your talent or you. Agents reject a project for a variety of reasons. Maybe they already have a similar project on their list. Maybe they don't represent what you write (which is all the more reason to do your homework and try to find an agent who does represent what you write.) 

 

Got questions? Leave them in the comments and I'll either answer there or incorporate my replies in my next industry post.

 

**Note: yes, I know that my use of the singular they-their-them in this post is grammatically incorrect. 

 

 

Writing Prompt #2

November 11, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (2)

We all have those wonderful writing days. The ones where the words flow like crystal waters pouring over smooth rocks, reflecting the rays of the summer sun. 

We all have those other writing days. The ones where it takes three hours to scratch out a single sentence and self-doubt snarls in our ears like a bitter north wind.

Some days, we need a little push to get us moving, a little nudge to help the words flow. Those are the days that a writing prompt can really help. So here are a few to get your creative juices flowing.

 

Pacing exercise:

Write two paragraphs.

In the first, you're running for the bus that's just pulled up to the stop. You need to make that bus. You need to be somewhere on time (a job interview, a birthday party, a date). Write the paragraph in a way that allows the reader to feel your emotions, to sweat right along with you. Make the pace fast and heartpounding.

In the second paragraph, you caught the bus and you fall into a seat and catch your breath. Write the paragraph in a way that allows the reader to calm down right along with you. Make the sentences longer. Use more description. Slow down the pace. 

 

An exercise for the senses:

Your character is in bed. He doesn't look at a clock or hear an alarm, but he knows exactly what time it is. What does he hear? What does he smell? What sensations alert him to the time? Write a paragraph that allows the reader to experience exactly what your character experiences, and tell the reader exactly what time it is without ever writing the actual time.

 

Poetry prompt:

Writer a poem where the first letter of each line add together to spell an emotion, e.g. for sadness, the first line would begin with "S", the next with "A", the next with "D", etc.

 

If you feel like sharing in the comments, I'd love to read what these prompts encourage you to write.

 

Missed writing prompt #1? Check it out here.

Two More Grammar and Punctuation Mistakes I See in Submissions

November 6, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (7)

Missed my first post on grammar and punctuation? Check it out here.

 

Next up…two more grammar and punctuation mistakes I see in submissions:

 

We just can't agree.

 

Subjects/verbs and nouns/pronouns should agree in number. Pronouns should agree with each other.

Incorrect: My stories reveals character growth.

Incorrect: A writer is free to explore their imagination. 

Incorrect: Once one has started a story, you should finish it.

Correct: My stories reveal character growth. OR My story reveals character growth.

Correct: A writer is free to explore his or her imagination. OR Writers are free to explore their imaginations.

Correct: Once you have started a story, you should finish it. 

 

To splice or not to splice.

 

A comma splice joins two independent clauses with only a comma. (Independent clauses are actually complete sentences that can stand on their own.) Instead, use a period or semicolon to separate the two independent clauses or join them with a subordinating conjunction. You can also use a semicolon and a conjunctive adverb to join two independent clauses.

 

Incorrect: I started writing a new story, I'm finding it hard to connect with the main character.

Incorrect: I started writing a new story, however, I'm finding it hard to connect with the main character.

Correct:  I started writing a new story; I'm finding it hard to connect with the main character.

Correct: I started writing a new story. I'm finding it hard to connect with the main character.

Correct: I started writing a new story, although I'm finding it hard to connect with the main character.

Correct: I started writing a new story; however, I'm finding it hard to connect with the main character.

 

Some common conjunctive adverbs: however, therefore, then, thus, nevertheless, accordingly, as a result, moreover, even so, rather, indeed, also, hence, yet, thus

Some common subordinating conjunctions: after, although, as, as soon as, because, before, by the time, even if, even though, every time, if, in case, in the event that, just in case, now that, once, only if, since, since the first time, though, unless, until, when, whenever, whereas, whether or not, while

 

And because it's Friday, we're having a contest!

Masked-TruthWant to win a signed copy of Kelley Armstrong's The Masked Truth? To enter, just leave a comment with a common grammar or punctuation mistake that haunts you. 

 

Rules:

1. To enter, just leave your thoughts about a grammar or punctuation mistake that haunts you. 

2. You must live in Toronto to win this contest. 

3. You must provide a valid e-mail address so you can be contacted if you win a prize, and you must be able to come to a TPL branch to pick up your prize (see privacy statement below for more information).

4. One entry per person per Contest - you can leave more than one comment, but only your first comment will count as a contest entry. 

5. Contest ends Thursday November 12, 2015 at 11:59 pm. 

6. Winner will be announced on the following Friday.

Personal information on this form is collected under the authority of the Public Libraries Act, s.20 (a) and (d) and will be used to administer the Library's TPL Teens contest. Questions about the collection or management of personal information should be directed to library manager Jayne Delbeek-Eksteins- 416-396-8858.

Thinking of submitting your work to me for feedback? Contact info and details here.

 

Wondering who won all the previous contests?

Mark won the Morgan Rhodes prize pack

Caitlin S. won The Heir + Four prize pack

Thusaany won Red Queen

Harit K. won Dumplin'

Naailah Patel won Dorothy Must Die

 

Ten Tips for Editing Your Own Work

November 4, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (1)

Self editing is tough. How can a writer tear apart the paragraphs and scenes they slaved over? How can they know what to cut and what to keep? Here are ten tips to help you polish your project.

 

1. Tuck your baby in for a nap.

Let your manuscript/story rest. You need to put some distance between yourself and the words you've written. A few days is good; a few week, even better. You want to come at the project with fresh eyes and a hazy memory. You want to forget some of what you've written so that when you read it at the edit stage, you have a fresh perspective of the project.

 

2. Change the font and format.

Anything that helps you look at your work in a different way is a good thing. Change the font. Change the format. Instead of reading a single column on a page, set it up as double columns. If you write exclusively on a screen, try printing the manuscript and editing it in paper form.

 

3. Read it out loud.

When we read silently, our eyes sometimes skim words and read what we expect to see rather than what we see. Try reading the story out loud. You'll be surprised what you find.

 

4. Edit for structure and content

As you're reading through, do you hit a scene or paragraph that feels repetitious, slow, maybe even boring? That's a scene or paragraph that might not need to be there. Sometimes you have to cut a chunk of your story to make it stronger. It hurts, but you'll be happier for the end product. 

As you read through, do you notice questions that don't have answers? Add sentences and paragraphs to tie up loose ends and fill in plot holes.

 

5. Get rid of your crutches.

Every writer has words they overuse, words that pop up many times on each page, words they rely on without even realizing it. What are yours? Read a single page from your story backwards, starting at the last word and working your way to the first. Is there a word that jumps out at you? Find your crutch word and use the "find" function to locate it in your manuscript, then replace it with something better/stronger/different.

 

6. Homonyms

Some words sound alike but are spelled differently, and spelling matters. Some common examples are: its/it's, to/too/two, there/they're/their, prey/pray, dual/duel, pore/pour, pique/peek/peak, naval/navel to name just a few. Make sure you're using the right spelling for the meaning you want to convey.

 

7. Spell check

Spell check is a great tool. Use it. But don't just automatically replace the words it flags. Make certain that the replacement is actually the word you want.

 

8. Structure

Are your sentences all short and choppy? long and descriptive? Active? Passive? Do all your sentences have the same layout? What about your paragraphs? Are they all long and flowing? Short? Do you have endless chunks of narrative or minimal bit of dialogue? Take a look at the way you've structured sentences, paragraphs, scenes and chapters. Does the structure you have chosen help convey the story you want to tell?

 

9. Italics, CAPS, Bold font, exclamation marks, Oh my!

Are you overusing italics? Are you including parentheses or em dashes in every sentence? Have you written chunks of your story all in upper case or in bold? Do you follow your sentences with a trail of exclamation marks? Your prose should convey the excitement and intensity. Chunks of work in upper case or bold should be avoided. Italics can be used for emphasis but should be used sparingly. Exclamation marks should be used as sparingly as possible.

 

10. Let the birdie fly from the nest.

Most writers could keep playing with a project day after day, polishing and cleaning, adding words, deleting sentences. At some point, you need to accept that you are happy with where the project is in that moment, that it is a piece you are proud of, and you need to let it fly free.

 

I hope you found these editing tips helpful. Please feel free to add your suggestions for self-editing in the comments.

Great Beginnings

October 30, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (11)

Three tips for opening your story with a bang:

 

Hook your reader

  • Capture the reader's attention right away
    • Make the reader wonder about something
    • raise a question in the reader's mind
    • provoke curiosity

 

Start with a problem or conflict

  • it could be a small problem, For example, your character is about to miss her bus home. Make the reader wonder why it's so important for her to make that bus. Make the reader wonder why the bus driver looks right at her and pulls away anyway. Make the reader wonder why she was late...
  • give your main character something to do and create some activity and momentum right away

 

Start at an exciting point in the story

  • start your story right in the middle of the action, but provide enough clues to orient your readers and make sure they can follow what's happening

 

What do you think of the following openings? Leave your thoughts in the comments and you'll be entered to WIN a copy of Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige.

 

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."—Neuromancer, William Gibson 

 

"She'd never killed before tonight." —Falling Kingdoms, Morgan Rhodes

 

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking 13.”

—1984, George Orwell

 

“When I wake up the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course she did. This is the day of the reaping.”—The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

 

"When I was eight, my mother lost me to zombies in a one card draw."—The Iron Hunt, Marjorie M. Liu

 

Rules:

1. To enter, just leave your thoughts about any or all of the story openings in the comments. 

2. You must live in Toronto to win this contest. 

3. You must provide a valid e-mail address so you can be contacted if you win a prize, and you must be able to come to a TPL branch to pick up your prize (see privacy statement below for more information).

4. One entry per person per Contest - you can leave more than one comment, but only your first comment will count as a contest entry. 

5. Contest ends Thursday November 5, 2015 at 11:59 pm. 

6. Winner will be announced on the following Friday.

Personal information on this form is collected under the authority of the Public Libraries Act, s.20 (a) and (d) and will be used to administer the Library's TPL Teens contest. Questions about the collection or management of personal information should be directed to library manager Jayne Delbeek-Eksteins- 416-396-8858.

Thinking of submitting your work to me for feedback? Contact info and details here.

 

And just because it's almost Halloween...pumpkin pics!!!!

 

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created by Spawning Pool Studios

 

 

 

jack o lantern 1
created by Spawning Pool Studios

 

 

Reflection on the Writing Life

October 28, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (2)

I have a writing pal who says, "I hate writing, but I like having written." Sounds like a funny thing for a multi-published, award winning, USA Today bestselling author to say, but it really isn't.

Securedownload-4The thing is, my friend is right. Popular life theory right now espouses enjoying the journey. I get that. I'm even on board with it. Enjoying the journey is important—that whole slow down and smell the roses thing. But just because you aspire to be mindful, to enjoy aspects of this moment and not focus on past or future, doesn't change the fact that writing is hard and, at times, less than enjoyable (as you delete a scene for the twentieth time and start over again trying to get it right).

Here are three things I believed about the writing life before I became a full time author earning a living through my writing (I was first published in 2005, but I worked other jobs for several more years before I could focus solely on writing):

 

Thing 1: I will get to lounge around writing in my pyjamas all day munching on my fave snacks. Sounds awesome, right? It was, for about two months. Then I realized that all the munching was not so good for my advancing girth. The problem was, I had brutal deadlines: four books due within 11 months. I was running on 16 hour days, little sleep, the stress of the looming deadlines, and I just kept munching. Denial is a beautiful thing, but at some point I had to admit the weight was out of control. I've been working hard on that for about 6 months and it's coming off. No more munching for me.

 

Thing 2: Everyone will understand that I am working and leave me to it. Not so much. It often seems that the second I open a doc, everyone who hasn't phoned me in months decides that that is the moment to call. And if I don't answer and just keep writing...? They call again, and again, and finally leave angry/hurt messages that break my heart. Writing needs focus, attention, it needs to be nurtured, your creativity fed, your well refilled. And when you're deep in a scene and writing away, taking a call, answering the door, ducking out for a quick coffee can make the thread float away until it's beyond your grasp. Lost. Gone.

Double edged sword, though. If you don't care for, nurture, and feed relationships, they can float away until they are beyond your grasp. Lost. Gone. Balance is important. I learned that the hard way.

 

Thing 3: Writing is easy! When I started my first novel (the one that is now buried in the back yard where it belongs), I used to rush home from work, spend time with my kids, and after they were in bed I'd steal a few moment to write. Sometimes it was a paragraph. Sometimes just a sentence. But I loved those moments. They brought me joy. They were wonderful, soul replenishing moments that not only expressed my craft, they fed it. Then I got my first contract and the joy, the ease of creating a story remained. Then I got my second contract and my third and suddenly I was writing three genres for three publishers with crazy deadlines and two day jobs and the words wouldn't come and the stories wouldn't gel and writing wasn't easy any more. It was hard. Or was it? Was it just that I'd taken on too much and needed to figure out how to make it work?

No. No. Writing really is hard. Because here's what happened. I wanted more from myself, more from my writing. I wanted each book to be better, stronger, deeper than the last. I wanted to explore new genres and themes. I wanted my work to be...more. And so writing is hard because like anything in life—running a marathon, playing tennis, learning a new language—improvement takes work. And i always want to improve my craft, to learn, to grow.

 

What about you? Do you find writing easy or hard? What did you believe about writing before you wrote your first story? 

 

(Oh, yeah...about the dog picture. It really doesn't have much to do with today's post other than the fact that they're my dogs and I love them. And they're cute.)

Flash it to win!

October 23, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (20)

How short can a piece of short fiction be? 250 words? 100 words? What about six words?

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

This story is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, though the link between them has never been conclusively proven. The words are powerful and poignant and tell a complete story. The reader can feel the pain, the sadness, the loss. We can visualize that pair of brand new shoes, never worn by the baby they were intended for, never to be worn by that child.

 

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Asked to sum up their life stories in six words, teens from around the globe contributed to a very cool book of six-word memoirs.

I can't keep my own secrets : six-word memoirs by teens famous & obscure edited by Smith Magazine

 

 

Want to read more? There's a Twitter account for six-word memoirs: @sixwords, and hashtags #6words, #sixwords, #sixwordstory 

 

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Now I'm asking you to share your flash fiction stories and six word memoirs. And there's a prize! Yay! So put your six word story in the comments and you'll be entered to win a copy of Dumplin' by Julie Murphy!

 

 

Rules:

1. To enter, just leave your flash fiction/six-word story in the comments. 

2. You must live in Toronto to win this contest. 

3. You must provide a valid e-mail address so you can be contacted if you win a prize, and you must be able to come to a TPL branch to pick up your prize (see privacy statement below for more information).

4. One entry per person per Contest - you can leave more than one comment, but only your first comment will count as a contest entry. 

5. Contest ends Thursday October 29, 2015 at 11:59 pm. 

6. Winner will be announced on the following Friday.

Personal information on this form is collected under the authority of the Public Libraries Act, s.20 (a) and (d) and will be used to administer the Library's TPL Teens contest. Questions about the collection or management of personal information should be directed to library manager Jayne Delbeek-Eksteins- 416-396-8858.

Thinking of submitting your work to me for feedback? Contact info and details here.

Video Advice, Inspiration, Thoughts On Writing, and Writing Resources

October 21, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (0)

Rick Riordan offers three tips for young writers:

  

 Original Source

 

Neil Gaiman shares advice for aspiring writers:

 

  Original Source

 

Stephen King talks about his writing process:

  

 

Original Source

 

One of my favourite books about the writing process is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. It's an easy, conversational read and while it does include tidbits about the mechanics of writing and style, the beauty of this book is in the encouragement, the inspiration and the gems gained through many years of writing experience.

Some other books on writing to check out:

Writing 21st century fiction : high-impact techniques for exceptional storytelling by Donald Maass

Bird by bird : some instructions on writing and life by Anne Lamott

Memo from the story department : secrets of structure and character by Christopher Vogler

Writing down the bones : freeing the writer within : expanded with a new preface and interview with the author by Natalie Goldberg

What about you? Do you have a favourite book on writing? Or a video interview with writing advice from a favourite author? 

Your Bookmark Here: Aliens Attack!

October 20, 2015 | Alice | Comments (0)

I was kind of excited to see Eve Silver chosen as our e-Writer in Residence around here, because I'm kind of loving some alien invasion stories lately. They have a bunch of stuff I love - action, suspense, some light political commentary about the "other" and of course, explosions.

PushHer trilogy Rush, Push, and Crash delivers all of that good stuff, and if you loved it (or just love action but haven't hit the alien theme just yet), I have some other suggestions for you.

Ever since HG Wells' famous War of the Worlds captured public imaginations (and terrorized people who thought the radio play version was an actual news broadcast - d'oh!), aliens have been a recurring theme in action movies and speculative fiction books. Obvious enemy invaders who are clearly not us! Who knows what they want from us, but taking over our planet seems like a pretty clear threat! It's fried gold. Heck, they still make movies of this stuff, and a whole new crop of books lately has done a great job with it.

Going back to War of the Worlds, this is a classic, and still a good one. It had a movie made back in the day, and another more recently that was about the ensuing panic. Good stuff, and you can see one of the original masters of science fiction at work here. A totally worthwhile read. 



More recently, I’ve been really enjoying the Pittacus Lore “Lorien Legacies” series that started with I Am Number Four. They’re a lot of action, very plot- Scandriven, full of twists and turns and cliffhangers that leave you eager for the next installment. Frustrating in the very best way! The difference here is that these are two alien races who are battling it out on earth, not merely a straight-up invasion.

Scan and its sequel Burn tread that same territory – but in this case, the books start with a centuries-old rivalry between aliens who have been mating in with humans to slowly infiltrate and take over Earth and a dedicated group of humans who want to stop them. Things take a wild turn when a third people appear in the second book, another alien group that is such a substantial threat that the humans and the H2 may just may just have to get past their long-standing mistrust if they want Earth to survive.

UndertowUndertow is something a little different and a throwback, all at once. It’s an invasion of Earth as we know it, but not from the skies. Instead, an underwater race rises up from the endangered oceans and makes camp on Coney Island. Many of the tropes of alien stories are there – superior technology and power, fear among humans and strong military response, and a segregation of the “other.” This is an especially good read in that it adds a greater depth to that commentary and how it compares to our response to “others” in society today, so if you’re looking for something with a little extra meat to it, this is a good pick, though it doesn’t let that slow down its pace much!

But what if you’re a fan of comedy? If Douglas Adams’ style of sci fi is more your thing, you should make a point of picking up The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Excursion, which makes definite nods towards that earlier classic bit of hilarious space travel fiction. It’s ridiculous, nonsensical in parts, and a whole lot of fun.

With all this great stuff out there, whether you like funny, action, or depth, there is an alien tale to try out. Get reading!

Five Fab Snippets of Writing Advice from Awesome Authors

October 16, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (0)

From Kelley Armstrong, #1 New York Times bestselling author, The Masked Truth:

"Keep writing. It’s boring advice, but it really is the most important thing. You need to love writing and to keep at it, even if you don’t get published quickly (most authors don’t!) Do it for the love of story-telling, and likelihood of publication will rise exponentially as you perfect your craft."

 

From Kristi Cook, Award Winning author, Magnolia:

"Think of writing like playing a violin. You wouldn't pick up a violin one day and expect to play a beautiful concerto on your first try, would you?  Writing is no different--the more you practice, the better you'll become. So practice! And then practice some more." 

 

From Dylan Doose, Fire and Sword:

"Build a thick skin. Rejection is part of the business. Bad reviews are part of the business. Rewriting entire segments of your book is part of the business. If you can learn to accept critique and develop from it then you can take negative feedback and turn it into positive."

 

From Kate Blair, Transferral:

"Keep writing, keep learning, keep reading and keep getting better. Don't give up and you'll get there." You can read a post by Kate Blair on novel writing here.

 

From Kathryn Purdie, Burning Glass (coming March 2016):

"Become a student of story and character in every movie or TV show you watch or book you read. When you are moved with emotion, analyze why. When you feel let down, analyze why. Try to predict what will happen next. Watch how a character grows and examine how your feelings about him/her change and when and why. Have fun learning!"

And from Kathryn's editor at Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins:

"...she labored over two other novels before writing BURNING GLASS and that experience made this manuscript flow. She was inspired to write it while recovering from an operation to donate a kidney to her brother. The main character is an empath and the heightened emotions she was feelings fed into the manuscript."

 

Have you received any writing advice that really resonated? Something that inspired, intrigued, excited you? Feel free to share in the comments!

 

Want more writing advice? Check out this post where I interview Kelsey Sutton and her agent Beth Miller and this post on setting/worldbuilding.

 

Thinking of submitting your work to me for feedback? Contact information and details are here.

 

And finally, I want to announce the winner of the giveaway for The Heir by Kiera Cass PLUS a copy of Four by Veronica Roth: Congrats Caitlin S.! 

 

Red Maple and White Pine 2016 Award Nominees Announced!

October 15, 2015 | Amy | Comments (4)

 

Check out our new post for the 2017 Red Maple and White Pine Award Nominees!

________________________________________________

 

RushThe OLA (Ontario Library Association) has announced the nominees for the 2016 Red Maple and White Pine awards!  In case you haven’t heard of them before, these two awards are part of the Forest of Reading Awards for Canadian books in various categories. In particular, Red Maple is for fiction aimed at grades 7-8 and White Pine is for fiction aimed at grades 9-12. Every year, over 250,000 readers take part in voting for the winning books.


Many, many excellent books make the list. In fact, the current e-Writer in Residence, Eve Silver, won the 2015 White Pine award for Rush!

(Back when I was voting for the Red Maple winner, my favourite book was Dahling, if you Luv Me, Won’t You Please, Please Smile? by Rukhsana Khan. Bonus points to anyone who figures out which year that was nominated!)

 

If you want to participate and cast your vote, you need to get reading! So here are the nominated lists for this year:

Red Maple

 White Pine


All the rageSo far I've read The Dogs, All the Rage, and Fragile Bones. I would highly recommend all three. Next on the list, I think I’ll be reading The Troops. Nothing like a good horror book for Halloweentober! If you're unsure for where to start, try reading one of the reviews above! You can also find more teen reviews and staff reviews on our blog. Want to submit your own reviews for these books? You can do that too!

Does your school take part in the Forest of Reading voting? Which books from this year's list have you read? Which ones are you excited to read? Tell us in the comments!

 

This post was updated November, 2016.

The Red Maple Awards were announced and Alan Stratton won for The Dogs. Awesome! Read a list of all of the Red Maple nominees and winners over the years.

For the White Pine, the 2016 winner was The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts. Amazing! Here's a list of all of the White Pine nominees and winners to date.

Top Five Grammar and Punctuation Mistakes I See in Submissions

October 14, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (5)

Grammar is something writers mess up. There's no shame in it. Even the most experienced writers can throw in a mistake or two when the story takes over and their typing fingers can't keep up with their thoughts. So here are the top five mistakes I see in submissions. Spot any that you make?

Your v.s. You're

I love your story. In this case, your is the possessive. The story belongs to you.

You're telling a story. In this case, you're is the contraction of you are

See the difference? Try reading your sentence out loud. If you can read the sentence substituting you are, then you need to use the contraction form. If it makes no sense when you substitute you are, then try the possessive form.

Then v.s. Than

Than is a conjunction used to make comparisons. I like chocolate chip cookies better than brownies.

Then is mainly used as an adverb to create a time reference for an action. I baked the cookies, and then we ate them.

Then can also act as an adjective if placed in front of a noun e.g. “she received the gift from her then boyfriend.”

Punctuating Dialogue

Cormac McCarthy (The Road, No Country for Old Men) is known for NOT using dialogue tags or quotation marks. It's a stylistic choice and it works for him. But most authors do use quotation marks. I often see incorrect usage in submissions.

Incorrect: "I'm going to the store." He said.

Incorrect: "I'm going to the store", he said.

Correct: "I'm going to the store," he said.

Incorrect: "I'm sorry you're feeling sad," she put her hand on my shoulder.

Correct: "I'm sorry you're feeling sad." She put her hand on my shoulder.

A few things to remember:

Keep punctuation inside the quotation marks.

Start a new paragraph for each new speaker to help the reader differentiate (this is not a hard and fast rule and can be broken in some circumstances). 

If you have more than one consecutive paragraph of dialogue from the same speaker, open the quotation for the first paragraph, do NOT close the quotation at the end of the paragraph, open quotation for the second paragraph, then close the quotation, like this:

   "So I was telling you that story about the kid in my class, the one who played rugby...remember? He's a beast, totally brutal. An animal. Works out every day. Maybe twice a day. He's huge. I think he benches like...350?

    "Well, anyway, last week I saw him at the food bank. Working there, yeah? He was sorting tins and boxes and stuff, putting everything on shelves. Never expected someone like him to volunteer." 

Its v.s. It's

The dog wagged its tail. In this case, its is the possessive. The tail belongs to it (the dog).  

It's a long way to the store. In this case, it's is a contraction of it is

Again, you can try the trick of reading your sentence out loud and seeing if the sentence still makes sense when you substitute it is.

They're, There, Their

They're is a contraction for they are.

There refers to a place.

Their is the possessive (refers to something that belongs to a group).

They're (they are) going over there (a place) to retrieve their backpacks (the backpacks belong to the group).

 

Places to find more info:

Check out this great post on Passive Voice by Grammar Girl.

The Chicago Manual of Style is a commonly used style guide that can help answer your grammar and punctuation questions. The Associated Press Stylebook is another great option, as is Strunk and White's The Elements of Style.

What about you? Do you have any grammar/punctuation mistakes that haunt you?

Friday Writing Prompt #1

October 9, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (17)

Today I'm posting two images to get your creative mind working and your fingers typing.

But before we get to the images, I want to announce the winner of the Morgan Rhodes prize pack from my post a couple of weeks back. Congrats, Mark! Your prize will soon be heading to your local TPL branch. (Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.) 

Now for the images. I chose two from Gratisography, a site free of copyright restrictions. I hope the images inspire you as they did me. Think, write, dream, and if you feel inclined, share.

I'd love to see what the images lead you to come up with. Feel free to post in the comments! 

Two umbrellas...two people? A family? Did they come here together, or did two strangers carrying umbrellas meet here by accident and when the sun came out leave their umbrellas here and wander off? Umbrellas in the sun...maybe they were never meant for rain. Maybe they were meant to protect the carriers from the burning rays of the noonday sun. What do you think? Tell me a story.

 

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Advice, good or bad or indifferent. Who is this man? What led him to this moment? Will his "good advice" be good? What life choices, events in which he had no choice, joys and tragedies led him to this moment? What words will he impart for 50 cents? For two dollars? What do you think? Tell me a story. 

231H

And since it's Friday, I'm always looking for comments about your Friday read...what's on your night table, on your e-reader, on your phone right now? What are you reading?

Leave a comment for your chance to WIN a copy of

Victoria Aveyard's Red Queen!

Rules:

1. To enter, just leave a question or the title of your Friday Read or a sample paragraph of your writing inspired by the prompts or a general comment in the Comments section. 

2. You must live in Toronto to win this contest. 

3. You must provide a valid e-mail address so you can be contacted if you win a prize, and you must be able to come to a TPL branch to pick up your prize (see privacy statement below for more information).

4. One entry per person per Contest - you can leave more than one comment, but only your first comment will count as a contest entry. 

5. Contest ends Thursday October 15, 2015 at 11:59 pm. 

6. Winner will be announced on the following Friday.

Personal information on this form is collected under the authority of the Public Libraries Act, s.20 (a) and (d) and will be used to administer the Library's TPL Teens contest. Questions about the collection or management of personal information should be directed to library manager Jayne Delbeek-Eksteins- 416-396-8858.

Thinking of submitting your work to me for feedback? Contact info and details here.

Link Roundup: Resources for Teen Writers

October 7, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (1)

Today's post is all about resources for teen writers.

Blogs and Boards for Teen Writers

Go Teen Writers "exists to provide encouragement, instruction, and community for teen writers." There are posts on craft and getting published and more.

Teens Can Write, Too supports and encourages teen writers and though the blog officially closed in August 2015 there are many archived posts that are great resources.

Scholastic's Write It Community is a message board where young writers can connect with other teen writers, post works in progress for peer review, offer your opinion on the work of other teen writers, and try step-by-step writing workshops.

Teen Ink Writers Workshop Forums offer teen writers a chance to comment and connect and submit work for peer review. Teen Ink also offers a variety of contests for teens.

Submission Opportunities for Teen Writers

Author Karen Krossing has amazing info and links for teen writers, including Tips for Young Writers and Where Young Authors Can Submit

Contests for Teen Writers

NaNoWriMo's Young Writers Program is an event that happens every November 1st to 30th (NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month) and offers young writers (17 and under) a chance to challenge themselves and set writing goals. The NaNoWriMo adult program challenges those over 17 to write 50,000 words in a month!

The Aboriginal Arts and Stories Competition is open to Canadians of Aboriginal ancestry (Status, Non-Status, Inuit and Métis) between the ages of 14-29. The contest welcomes short stories, plays, poetry, and screenplays. Submission deadline is March 31, 2016.

The Jessamy Stursberg Poetry Contest for Canadian Youth invites submissions in two age categories. Deadline is January 15, 2016.

The Writers' Trust of Canada invites high school students to submit their work. The details of the 2016 writing contest will be announced in early 2016.   

Write for a Better World is a writing contest run by World Literacy Canada for Canadian students in grades 5 through 8 challenging students to create a story of 400 words or less. Submissions are closed for 2015, but bookmark the page and watch for the 2016 contest!

The Junior Authors Short Story Writing Contest invites young authors ages 11 through 21 to submit their short stories (under 1,000 words) in various age categories. Entry is free. The 2015 contest is closed, but check the site on April 1, 2016 to enter next year!

This post isn't comprehensive. I could probably list dozens of places where teens can find support, contests, writing advice and more, but this post would get awfully long. Do you have a favourite site you want to add?

Young Voices Writers Conference tickets going, going...

October 6, 2015 | Ken Sparling | Comments (0)

Register now to be part of the 2015 Young Voices Writers Conference! Tickets are going fast!

FREE for Toronto teens.

You don't want to miss this full day of workshops, networking with other writers, an open mic, and the chance to get published in an instant anthology!

Young Voices ConferenceMeet teen writers from across the city. Learn from the pros at eight awesome workshops, including: a crash course in making comics; a chance to work on your script with a professional actor and playwright; an opportunity to learn about the power of spoken word; help confronting bias in journalism; and more.

Young Voices Writers Conference

Saturday, Oct. 10, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

North York Central Library

Zoie from ZOIE'S BOOKSHELF reports on Sarah Henstra's Writing Workshop

October 2, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (11)

Fridays on the TPL Teens blog are all about writing tips, current reads and a chance to win cool books. First up, the writing tips. Scroll down for the contest. 

I was thrilled when Zoie from Zoie's Bookshelf offered awesome writing tips that she picked up at Sarah Henstra's Writing Workshop. Take it away, Zoie!

 

Unnamed-1I recently attended the Flesh & Blood Characters writing workshop at the Toronto Reference Library, which was held on August 13th. I was really looking forward to it, especially because it was being conducted by Sarah Henstra, author of Mad Miss Mimic. I had read her debut novel earlier this summer and was amazed by the beautiful writing, and even more impressed with the believable characters she had managed to create. I was excited to learn about all her tricks, and all the ways to improve my own writing and characters.

When I entered the auditorium, I was eager to see that half of the room was already filled, full of aspiring writers just like myself, people who were curious to learn and create. It was a pretty special thing to come upon, because who knew how many fellow writers were also in the city? By the time the official program actually started, the auditorium was packed, brewing with energy.

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Sarah Henstra decided to start the workshop by having us warm up our writing skills, and we performed a few exercises. One that particularly stuck with me was the first one we did. It was to write down as many words that begun with the letter d in three minutes. Sounds easy right? I was surprised to say that it was not, in fact. About halfway through I was running out of ideas; I began to use the same words over, just changing the suffixes to alter them slightly. I felt like a cheater, because surely that wasn’t how it worked! The purpose of the writing exercise was to show us that even throughout our uncertainty it was possible to overcome them. It taught me that you need to keep your chin high while writing, and not let self-doubt interfere with your creative mind, which is extremely important to know.

Once the exercises were over, we listened to the author as she explained how she made her characters so believable. Here are some points I felt were very helpful:

  • Your characters must feel real! Let your readers be able to see and feel the way your characters does.

  • Characters have a job to do, and that is to move the story forward. Readers will put your work down if there is no rising tension. Your protagonist should have a problem, because a problem is the root of conflict. The story revolves around the problem- it is the most important aspect of your character. Without one, there would be no forward thrust, and it would be boring to read. The earning and desire of your character moves the story along. Ask yourself the question: What does your character want most in the world?

  • Characters should develop over the course of the story, and they must change in a realistic way. Throughout your writing your character should keep consistent opinions, until the point where they have changed. Make sure to gradually develop your characters in a way that makes sense.

  • Show us your character in the world- don’t tell. Every gesture and action shows the true personality of your characters. Dialogue is also huge for revealing character, but still think about what their bodies are doing while their mouths are moving.

  • Try and create each character as an individual. Make them all different- remember, characterization is key!

Sarah Henstra also suggested setting a timer for your writing. The goal is to continuously write for the allotted time. Reward yourself when you succeed, and then do it again, prompting new ideas. Experiment while you’re under pressure. If you don’t think too hardly about what you are writing, but let yourself write freely, it’s amazing to see what you can create!

 

Thanks for a wonderful summary, Zoie! Anyone else attend the workshop? Do you have any tips to share?

Now for the contest! This week's prize is a copy of The Heir by Kiera Cass PLUS a copy of Four by Veronica Roth.

Rules:

1. To enter, just leave a question or the title of your Friday Read or writing tip or a general comment in the Comments section. 

2. You must live in Toronto to win this contest. 

3. You must provide a valid e-mail address so you can be contacted if you win a prize, and you must be able to come to a TPL branch to pick up your prize (see privacy statement below for more information).

4. One entry per person per Contest - you can leave more than one comment, but only your first comment will count as a contest entry. 

5. Contest ends Thursday October 8, 2015 at 11:59 pm. 

6. Winner will be announced on the following Friday.

Personal information on this form is collected under the authority of the Public Libraries Act, s.20 (a) and (d) and will be used to administer the Library's TPL Teens contest. Questions about the collection or management of personal information should be directed to library manager Jayne Delbeek-Eksteins- 416-396-8858.

 And a reminder to all Toronto teen writers: Send me your writing for feedback! 

esilver@torontopubliclibrary.ca

Not sure what and how to submit? Check out the post on submissions to the E-Writers in Residence 2015 (that's me!). 

Teen writers who sold their books ... maybe the next one will be you

September 30, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (4)

One thing I hear from teen writers is that they're scared to send their work out, that they think an agent won't want it, that they worry an editor won't be interested. Not all teen writers feel that way, but for the ones who do, I thought I'd share some success stories and an awesome interview with author Kelsey Sutton and agent extraordinaire Beth Miller of Writers House.

Veronica Roth was 21 years old when she wrote DIVERGENT.

20-year-old Whitney Taylor just sold her young adult novel DEFINITIONS OF INDEFINABLE THINGS.

Maya Van Wagenen sold POPULAR when she was fifteen.

Kody Keplinger wrote THE DUFF at seventeen.

Abigail Gibbs was seventeen when she sold THE DARK HEROINE: DINNER WITH A VAMPIRE.

Kelsey Sutton wrote her first novel when she was sixteen, and sold a book when she was twenty.

Some Quiet Place Final Cover

Kelsey Sutton (website, Twitter) and Beth Miller have agreed to talk with us about their experience working together.

Continue reading "Teen writers who sold their books ... maybe the next one will be you" »

Friday Writing Info, Friday Reads, and a Friday Contest

September 25, 2015 | E Writer in Residence 2015 — Eve Silver | Comments (11)

Every Friday during my residency I'll be posting writing info and prompts, asking you for your Friday reads, and offering up a cool contest.

Today's topic is setting, and for the math fans among you, I'll offer up an equation. Hey, even if you aren't a fan of math, the equation is an easy way to get a handle on presenting your setting in a way that draws the reader in and helps them experience the environment right along with your character.

 Setting = time + place + context

Let’s say the time is the future.

The place is Canada and the Arctic.

Time and place remain the same in the following scenarios, but context makes all the difference.

Option A: future Canada & the Arctic after an apocalypse where the continents have shifted and Canada, the Arctic, Greenland and Northern Russia are all one huge, frozen, flat land mass. Giant trucks that run off hydrogen are the main mode of transportation. Ruined cities dot the landscape at distant intervals.

Option B: future Canada & the Arctic after an apocalypse. Global warming has led to the northern march of forests and plants not native to the area. The ice shelf has eroded. The ocean has receded. Animals are the main mode of transportation.

Even though time and place are exactly the same in these two scenarios, the settings are completely different. See what I mean about context?

When describing your setting remember a few helpful points. 

1. Readers want concrete details, not abstraction. Be specific!

• Don’t write: “You sure these’ll work?” Ben asks as I shake two pills into his hand. We’re in the clinic that was mostly destroyed when the Reavers attacked.

• Do write: “You sure these’ll work?” Ben asks as I shake two pills into his hand. We’re in a surgical room in the clinic—the one with the light still intact and the least amount of damage. That isn’t saying much given that only half the examining table still stands and the south wall is a crumbling ruin of concrete blocks and mortar.

• Don’t write: The houses were clumped at the bottom of the mountain. Tall trees rose behind them.

• Do write: Brand new houses huddled at the base of the mountain, their front yards muddy and dark, waiting for the builder to lay the contractually specified sod. The triangular tips of massive evergreens rose behind them.

2. Readers don’t want to get bogged down by the details of the setting but they do need to orient themselves.

• What are the limits of the POV (point-of-view) character’s location? A room? A building? A road? A town? What can the POV character see, smell, touch in the immediate vicinity? Focus on what the POV character can realistically experience at any given moment.

• Small details can reveal a great deal: for example, the murmur of dozens of voices, the dull thud of full glasses hitting a hard surface, too loud laughter, A sharp crack followed by the grinding roll of a ball on felt, followed by a thud and a man’s voice saying, “Pay up.”

Are you oriented? Do you have an idea of where we are?

3. Sense perceptions vary greatly depending on male vs female, cultural experiences, geography, age of POV character, supernatural/paranormal attributes of character, etc.

For example: one person may notice that another person is wearing a floral scent; she may even note what the exact floral scent is. Another person might just note that the woman smells good and he wouldn’t mind burying his nose in her neck and taking a sniff

Another example: a human might note a faint off smell while a werewolf would be appalled by the garbage stink.

4. Use all the senses to make the setting as vivid as possible.

5. Focus on setting elements that are critical to the plot. 

***Exercise: The protagonist of your novel is having their first encounter with the antagonist. Describe the setting. Does it matter where they meet? Does the setting play a role in how the scene plays out? If it doesn’t, is this scene set in the right place? 

6. Reveal setting in layers.

What would the POV character notice first? Is it the mountain range in the distance? Or is it the clumps of berries growing by the side of the road. If the POV character is starving, it would probably be the berries. If the character must make it to the castle at the top of the mountain before nightfall, she'd probably notice the mountains first.

7. Reveal setting according to POV character’s level of experience, backstory and age.

• A six year old boy in a fancy dining room probably wouldn’t notice Persian carpets and Royal Doulton China, but he might notice that the carpet looked soft enough to lie down and sleep on and the plates were so delicate he was scared to touch them.

• A windswept coastline would look different to a mermaid than it does to a fisherman.

8. Reveal setting according to the characters mood.

• A heroine who is shifting into a wolf for the first time, all alone in the dark woods at midnight, frightened and lost would see those woods very differently than a heroine who has shifted many times before and is in the woods at midnight for a thrilling run with her pack.

 

Thinking of submitting your work to me for review? Contact information and details are here.

 

And now for the contest!

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One lucky winner will receive this awesome prize pack from New York Times Bestseller Morgan Rhodes! Prize pack includes a signed copy of A Book of Spirits and Thieves, a mini poster, a Falling Kingdoms pen, and two cool buttons. Morgan Rhodes writes fantasy stories that have been described as Game of Thrones for teens.

Rules:

1. To enter, just leave a question or the title of your Friday Read or a sample paragraph of your setting or a general comment in the Comments section. 

2. You must live in Toronto to win this contest. 

3. You must provide a valid e-mail address so you can be contacted if you win a prize, and you must be able to come to a TPL branch to pick up your prize (see privacy statement below for more information).

4. One entry per person per Contest - you can leave more than one comment, but only your first comment will count as a contest entry. 

5. Contest ends Thursday October 1, 2015 at 11:59 pm. 

6. Winner will be announced on the following Friday.

Personal information on this form is collected under the authority of the Public Libraries Act, s.20 (a) and (d) and will be used to administer the Library's TPL Teens contest. Questions about the collection or management of personal information should be directed to library manager Jayne Delbeek-Eksteins- 416-396-8858.

 

Youth Survey. My Curved Border

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