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DRIVE: A Book Review by Kathryn Dover (and a Giveaway!)

When I first heard about the Baker Mountain series by Joyce Moyer Hostetter, Drive, the fourth book in the series, sounded the most interesting. Drive occurs several years after the previous novel, Comfort, and follows the story of Ida and Ellie Honeycutt, Ann Fay’s younger twin sisters.

 REVIEW

The cover of Drive is stunning; the image with both twins, a boy, and two old race cars instantly intrigued me. The story picks up almost where Comfort left off. Ann Fay’s father is still suffering from his war wounds, and Junior is still in love with Ann Fay. The plot pace is a little slow, but the story keeps moving. The style is also different from that of the previous three novels because it alternates between two perspectives instead of using only one, going back and forth between the different perspectives of Ida and Ellie.

Both twins are transitioning to high school, and Ida feels that Ellie is trying to put distance between them. At a glance, both twins seem complete opposites: Ida is shy, while Ellie is outgoing. Ida’s shyness originates in a scene from Comfort where her father mistakenly slams her against the wall. After that, Ida ceases to be outgoing and becomes very meek and shy. Ellie instantly takes her place. Life becomes a competition, and the twins are constantly in conflict with each other. However, the novel’s greatest conflict arises when the twins fight over the same boy.

The story is historically accurate: the Korean war and continuing polio epidemic are important to the story. In addition, the story takes place during the first year of NASCAR racing at the Hickory Speedway, near Bakers Mountain. Ellie loves the fast-paced, dangerous racing, while Ida is frightened by the danger and loud noises. The NASCAR races become important to the story’s theme, thus leading to the novel’s title, Drive.

The word “drive” serves a dual meaning, much like “blue” does in the series’ second novel, Blue. The first meaning is figurative: a motivation to succeed. Ida feels that Ellie has “the drive” to succeed while Ida does not. “Drive” also serves as a metaphor for Ida and Ellie’s stormy relationship, which Ida states as, “Remember. . . When Daddy slammed me up against the wall? It scared me so bad I couldn’t breathe. I guess I was like one of those race cars that gets smashed and then it just limps around the track. But you stepped on the gas and kept going. Enjoying all the attention you could. You got ahead of me, Ellie. You liked being first. And you sure do hate losing. But it’s not a race. It’s just both of us driving the best way we know how” (236).

By the end of the novel, the twins have matured greatly. Ellie matures by being more considerate, selfless, and respectful towards others. Ida learns she is capable of more than she ever dreamed, she is just as strong and as smart as Ellie. The ending is perfect. Ellie gets what she has been wanting the entire novel, and both twins have learned a valuable lesson in selfishness. Drive is very emotion-provoking; the bond between Ellie and Ida is stronger than they realize. I have enjoyed the entire Baker Mountain series and recommend them to teenagers and young adults. I think Blue is my favorite, though I eagerly await the next novel, Equal, coming in Spring 2021. I expect it to be equally enjoyable.

 

Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including three cats (and counting!), a dog, two fish, and many house plants. She attends Presbyterian College and is studying Math and Creative Writing. She enjoys playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.

 

 

 

 

 

GIVEAWAY

Boyds Mills & Kane donated a hardback copy of Drive for one of you to win! Leave a comment by Thursday, September 17th and we will enter your name.

FICTION MASTER CLASS

Joyce is leading our first Master Class on September 19. For more information, please click here. One attendee will receive all four books that have been published in the Bakers Mountain series. The fifth book, Equal, comes out in April 2021.

 

Registration ends TODAY!

 

writing resources

Writing Resources: Before and After the Book Deal

“Remember that ‘author’ is always a temporary job description . . . Your permanent job description is ‘writer’ and that’s what you are even when no one else is looking.” —Author Kristoper Jansma (quoted in Before and After the Book Deal, pp. 333)

Today’s publishing world offers a plethora of writing resources. A simple search for ‘writing’ on Amazon alone yields over 300,000 results, and that number doesn’t even begin to cover the host of blogs and magazines addressing the subject. However, even with the abundance of information that exists to help you land that first book deal, the question remains, what do you do when you get there? What is it really like publishing your first book? Courtney Maum’s Before and After the Book Deal gives writers an idea of what to expect during their first dive into the publishing world.

About the Book:

Before and After the Book Deal covers the publishing track almost step-by-step. As implied by the title, Courtney Maum walks her readers through concerns for prepublication all the way to life after their debuts. She gives a wide-range of both technical and personal advice.

For example, in the first section, you’ll find tips on the usual categories: developing voice, revision, and submissions. But you’ll also come across less-familiar topics. Tips for financial planning and questions about advances make an appearance, as well as a discussion of when it’s okay to call yourself a writer. Maum blends the nitty-gritty details about publishing with colorful advice from personal experience. She acknowledges the insecurities, jealousies, and bouts of ego that many authors face and gives tips to weather them.

Aside from Maum’s broad range of topics, her unique style makes the book special. Courtney Maum incorporates throughout interviews with editors, publishers, agents, and fellow authors. The balance of advice from experts in the field makes this book a treasure trove of helpful insight.

Unique in scope and style, Before and After the Book Deal is a gem in the world of writing resources.

My Three Main Take-Aways:

While this book provides a multitude of valuable insights, these are three general take-aways I found.

1: You’re not alone.

Writing, let alone publishing, can be isolating. It involves a lot of work, fears, and discouragement. There are days we feel insecure and fall victim to the comparison game. And sometimes, those struggles can make us doubt whether we’re cut out for this calling. But reading Maum’s book reminded me that many writers go through the same excitement and disappointments I face, and that’s encouraging. It’s encouraging to know that other people understand the doubts and stress that comes with writing, as well as the joys. As writers, we’re part of a community, even if we don’t always feel like it.

2: There’s a lot more to publishing than meets the eye.

Even though I’ve attended writing conferences, read books about publishing, and even helped produce a literary journal during college, this book was incredibly eye-opening for me. Maum talks about so many things I’ve never considered. How do audio-book rights work? How many copies do you have to sell for a publisher to consider it a success? What exactly is the criteria of a bestseller? Etc. Etc. I finished Before and After the Book Deal with a much greater appreciation for how much goes into publishing–and selling–a book.

3: At the end of the day, it’s the writing that matters.

Publishing involves so much non-writing activity. Interviews, social media platforms, book reviews, events–in all those extras, your identity as an author is incredibly public. But at the end of the day, that public face couldn’t exist without the quiet background writer. And that creative identity, that work that few people see, that place where we let our voice speak loudest, matters most. While others may have a million expectations for us as authors, we need to put our work as writers first. Before we ever consider publishing, we have to put the words on the page. And those words, the stories we have to tell, are where our core message resides.

 

Before the Book Deal by Courtney Maum is now one of my favorite writing resources. It’s informative, it’s relatable, and most of all, it helps me feel prepared to keep moving forward.

What are some of your favorite writing resources currently?

 

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Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both. (You can connect with her on Instagram @karleyconklin )

 

 

 

COMFORT: A Book Review by Kathryn Dover (and a Giveaway!)

Comfort, the third book in Joyce Moyer Hostetter’s Bakers Mountain series, picks up almost exactly where the previous novel, Blue, left off. Ann Fay Honeycutt narrates this novel as well. The polio epidemic and World War II have left her family shattered, and Ann Fay must pick up the pieces.

The beginning is intriguing, but the plot pace is slower than that of the previous two novels. Even so, the story’s many conflicts kept me interested. One conflict involves Ann Fay’s colored friend, Imogene. The author vividly portrays the racial tensions of the time period. Ann Fay states, “Colored and whites being separated was as normal to me as walking. But . . . hearing how things looked from [Imogene’s] side of town made me see things in a new light” (121). During hard times, the people of Hickory bonded together and overcame prejudice. Ann Fay’s experiences give her a fresh, more biblical perspective. However, the central conflict of the novel is Ann Fay’s father’s changed personality due to his war experiences. His war wounds run deeper than his injured arm, and Ann Fay struggles to hold the family together.

While the novel is mostly about Ann Fay, I enjoyed reading how her friend and neighbor, the protagonist of the first novel, Aim, Junior Bledsoe, matures. He continues to look after Ann Fay and her family. Junior also gives Ann Fay sage advice. For instance, he tells Ann Fay: “If you want something bad enough, you can get it” (19). Junior has developed greatly from Aim; several events show his maturity. In Aim, Junior is jealous of Ann Fay and her father’s close relationship, yet in Comfort he watches that relationship fall apart and tries to pull it back together. Additionally, in Comfort, readers learn that Junior’s feeling for Ann Fay go beyond friendship. Ann Fay does not realize Junior’s feelings, and I enjoyed their interactions.

The Honeycutts are in desperate need of comfort: the desire for comfort is so strong it is mentioned several times throughout the novel, making the title very fitting. The family is still healing from the wounds they received in Blue, and the end of these trials does not seem to be in sight. As Ann Fay struggles to find comfort, her father whittles her a tiny doll in the likeness of herself. She names the doll Comfort, and it comforts her by reminding her of her father. Ann Fay also receives encouraging advice from a friend, Mr. Botts. He tells her, “Everyone in life has a handicap, Ann Fay. But the struggle to overcome it is worthwhile” (169).

Altogether, I enjoyed seeing how all the characters developed, especially Ann Fay, her father, and Junior. The ending is happy and would probably be satisfying to most, but it left me wanting to know what happens with Junior and Ann Fay’s relationship. Comfort is almost as emotion-provoking as Blue, and anyone who enjoyed Blue will not want to miss this thrilling sequel. I recommend Comfort to teens and young adults, and I look forward to reading Drive, the next novel in the series, soon.

 

Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including three cats (and counting!), a dog, two fish, and many house plants. She will be attending Presbyterian College in the fall and wants to study Math and Creative Writing. She enjoys playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.

 

 

GIVEAWAY

We have a copy of Comfort to give away to one of our readers! Please leave a comment by August 20 and we’ll enter your name.

MASTER FICTION WRITING CLASS

Joyce is leading our first Master Class on September 19. For more information, please click here. One attendee will receive all four books that have been published in the Bakers Mountain series. The fifth book, Equal, comes out in April 2021.

self-editing for fiction writers

3 Tips from “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers”

“The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer.”–Zadie Smith

Write2Ignite’s  2020 Master class with  Joyce Moyer Hostetter is only a month away. The Write2Ignite team has suggested checking out several chapters of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King as a way to prepare for the workshop. With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some of the great insights this book has to offer.

So Here are 3 Helpful Tips from Self-Editing for Fiction Writers:

1: Characterization and Exposition

As writers, we can be tempted to tell our readers everything we want them to know upfront. We want to make sure they have the information they need to enjoy our stories.  However, if we try to stuff all those details into long paragraphs of narration, our readers disconnect. It’s better to let them learn about our characters and settings bit by bit. Giving information gradually draws readers in and allows them to make their own conclusions.

Browne and King suggest ways to reveal our characters naturally through dialogue and actions. When they come to discussing settings and world-building, they write:

“Bear in mind that this kind of background is really characterization, only what’s being characterized is a culture rather than a person. And as was the case with characterization, readers can best learn about your locations and backgrounds not through lengthy exposition but by seeing them in real life,” (pp. 35).

Just as we want our readers to meet our characters, we want our audience to experience our worlds. Rather than simply explaining, we can reveal the setting and culture naturally through the eyes of our characters.

2: Proportion

Sometimes it’s hard to decide how much time we should spend on certain events, descriptions, and characters in our writing. Spending too much time on unimportant details can mislead, bore, or even annoy our audience. Spending too little time can confuse or disappoint readers. The space spent on scenes needs to be balanced.

Letting our characters guide our decisions on what to focus on helps tremendously. Browne and King suggest, “You can avoid smaller-scale proportion problems . . . by paying attention to your characters. When you’re writing from an intimate point of view, your character’s interest at the moment should control the degree of detail you put into your description,” (pp.77).

3: See How It Sounds

One of the best reminders Browne and King offer is the value of reading your work aloud. Hearing a scene rather than just seeing the words makes problem areas infinitely more clear. Our eyes auto-correct in a way our ears simply refuse to. As Browne and King write, “The eyes can be fooled, but the ear knows,” (pp. 107). This is especially true for dialogue, considering that we’re used to hearing people speak. We know what people sound like, and so we can pick up unnatural rhythms when we hear them.

Browne and King go on to add that, “Reading dialogue aloud can help you develop your characters’ unique voices,” (pp. 107). They suggest reading all of the dialogue from one particular character and taking note of the patterns.  Reading their words aloud can help us consider how they would say something; to get into that characters’ mindset. Much like an actor trying to determine how to play a role, we need to shape our dialogue to match the characters speaking.

 

Final Review:

Whether you’re planning to attend the Write2Ignite workshop or not, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is an excellent resource to have on your shelf. Browne and King balance their practical advice with engaging examples from books that handle writing techniques well (and some that handle them poorly). Each chapter includes a checklist of what to watch out for in your own writing, as well as exercises to help practice what you learn. The book is clear and easy to read, making it a perfect guide for new writers as well as a great refresher for experienced authors.

 

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Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both.

 

 

 

bird by bird

Bird By Bird: A Timeless Writing Resource

“‘So why does our writing matter again?’ they ask. Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.” –Anne Lamott, pp. 237

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott should be on every writer’s shelf. Her advice offers encouragement through an honest discussion of what writing is like. Lamott sits her reader down and shares her experience as though she were chatting over a cup of coffee. As she shares, she addresses the feelings of anxiety, discouragement, and even jealousy that almost all writers face at some point. In doing so, she reminds us that we’re not alone in our struggles. We all hit the wall on occasion, and it’s possible to keep going despite those setbacks.

Throughout the book, Lamott gives insight on ways to improve our writing. She offers advice on how to write better dialogue, how to stay motivated, and how to find a writing group. But mostly what she provides is inspiration to persevere. Every piece of insight resounds with encouragement (even while Lamott acknowledges the hardships of being a writer). And that prompting to persist, paired with her pithy advice, makes the book well-worth reading.

So here I want to share three of my favorite tid-bits of advice from the book:

1. “Dialogue is the way to nail character” (pp. 67).

In both her chapter on characters and her chapter on dialogue, Anne Lamott emphasizes the connection between the two. She argues that creating one line of strong dialogue that rings true captures your character better than a whole page of description (47). What a character says, or doesn’t say, or how he says it tells the reader how he thinks and what he cares about. Dialogue gives us insight into the personality of the people we read about and brings them to life. And therefore getting to know our characters is vital to creating good dialogue.

(*If you’d like to learn more about how to create strong characters and great dialogue, you should consider checking out Write2Ignite’s Master Class in September!)

2. “The word block suggests that you are constipated or stuck, when the truth is that you’re empty” (pp. 178).

Lamott’s chapter on writer’s block focuses on the truth that all writers experience dry periods. Sometimes we get burnt out and our creativity stops flowing the way it usually does. Lamott says that the best thing to do when we reach these moments is to accept the block, the empty reality, so we can fill up again (pp.178). Her advice is practical: “Do your three hundred words, and then go for a walk” (182). Write a little each day to keep up the habit but then focus on activities that nourish you. Replenish your creativity rather than trying to eke out ink from a dry pen.

3. “You are going to have to give and give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be a writing” (pp. 202-203).

Bird by Bird includes an entire chapter dedicated to writing as giving. Our works-in-progress, she says, “teach you to get out of yourself and become a person for someone else” (203-204). In order to write well, we have to pour everything we have into our writing. And in doing so, we have a chance to act as hosts for our readers, to welcome them in and offer them a feeling of connection (204).

This is especially important for us as Christians. If writing is our calling, then we should be willing to give it all we’ve got. Our words should be for God and for others, not simply for ourselves.

Final Review:

I could go on a while longer, pulling out clever quotes from Lamott’s book. But instead, I’ll simply recommend you pick up a copy for yourself.

Bird by Bird isn’t an earth-shattering text holding the key to the inner sanctum of writing. Instead, this book offers solid advice to steadily improve. It offers relatable accounts of the difficulties of writing and an honest assessment of what it’s like to be published. Lamott encourages us that while writing probably won’t bring us fame or fortune, it does carry with it its own rewards. Her whole book, start to finish, reverberates with the cry, “Just keep going.”

I give her book 4 1/2 out of 5 stars, if you’re looking for a rating.

What books have been encouraging you lately?

 

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Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both.

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