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Now the Real Work Begins

Photo: Twitter @Jarredamato

These books are my inspiration. 

Now, I have to admit that I haven't read all of them. In fact, I've only read two of them and yet, I have all of them in my collection. Sitting on top of my bookshelf staring at me, patiently waiting to be cracked open and read. The reason I haven't read these books is well, totally work related. Yea, I blame it all on my job. It sounds really lame, but it is true. I want nothing more than to read and occasionally binge watch This is Us. But well, the way my life and responsibilities are set up... that is just not in the cards. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Like I said, these books are my inspiration. Last week we had the pleasure to video chat with Barbara Ganley @bgblogging. Alan was there too, but Barbara's feedback and input was amazing.  I couldn't write down my notes fast enough. She said so many "quotable" things that I just couldn't keep up.

Barbara said this is her favorite quote about writing, 

"There are three rules to writing the novel, unfortunately, no one knows what they are." 

I kept reading this over and over again. The rules of writing, what I think or know them to be really don't matter. The writing is what matters. The words that you put on a blank screen matter. It doesn't even matter if everything that you write is crap as long as you're writing. Every single thing Barbara said resonated with me. I felt like she was speaking only to me. Everything she was saying I needed to hear. Even though I didn't want her to stop talking, there was a part of me that wanted to end the call and jump right into writing. I didn't of course. Not that day but next day I did steal some moment to write. The conversation was just as good. 

I walked away from the conversation realizing that I had some reading to do. Reading not only for pleasure but for research too. Which brings me back to those books. They are truly are inspiration. Those books are written by some of the best authors in the game right now. I use their books to teach my students about good writing and good storytelling.

But this time when I'm reading, I have to look at them from a different perspective. More than just being good books. I need to go back with a pen and mark up the text looking for moments when the author is showing and not telling. 

How does the author create imagery to bring the reader into the story? 

I need to pay attention to these writing nuances to help me in my own writing while simultaneously thinking about my thesis project.

Yes, part of my thesis work will be my own completed novel. But the other aspect will be where I explore these questions: 

Why Fiction?

Why do humans need stories? 

Why Misunderstood?

How does my work fit amoung the books that inspire me? Should it? 

Before I read a single page from any of those books, This week, I chose to start my research by watching a book. I watched this TedTalk by Grace Lin a while back and I thought it was a good place to start my research. This time I watched it with this question in mind, why fiction? Why fiction with characters that represent myself and the children that I teach? 


  1. I'm so excited to read this! Please do not hesitate to ask Barbara questions by email, she is totally approachable.

    As a teacher, you probably do this too, but when you look at those books on your shelf, or stories that inspire you, try to consider/analyze the narrative structure too. What is the stories "shape" (a la Kurt Vonnegut video on the shape of stories). In reading the first chapter, you have set up the Hero's Journey part of establishing Mya's every day life, and the unexpected event that will send her off on that journey. What are the things she experiences as challenges (there is another Vonnegut quote about being "brutal" to your characters, putting them in situations that test their strength), and what is the lesson she learns when she returns to her every day world, forever changed?

    You have a great set of research questions here- Also, look at this talk by Paul Zak (and maybe his research elsewhere) on the brain chemistry of stories

    Laura in ou seminar is also raving about "This is Us" as the time crossing family stories fir her project well. I guess I need to watch.

    1. You must watch This is Us. That is an order. And yes you make some very good points about the shape of a story. Those are things that I teach and now I have to look at them as I write.

      I will watch that link and you reminded me of some books that I have about storytelling and writing stories. Most of which talk about Vonnegut. Thanks!


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