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Book Nook: By Way of Introduction

If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you. Maybe it’s not quite that easy, but if you want to learn something, go to the source. —Natalie Goldberg

Hello everyone,

My name is Karley Conklin, and I’m a new blogger for Write2Ignite.

I’ve been able to attend Write2Ignite on four different occasions, and I must say, it’s been one of the best parts of my writing journey. The first time I participated in the conference, I was a timid high school senior, with no experience and no idea what to expect. Despite my fears, the conference planted in me a grain of confidence. As I introduced myself to editors and agents, I began to see myself as more than just a dreamer. Professionals in the publishing world were offering me consistent encouragement and affirmation, and I left the event feeling certain I was called to write.

Since then, I’ve graduated college with an Interdisciplinary Literature and Christian Studies degree—which is to say that my writing has sadly fallen to the back-burner. Though I’ve yet to publish the middle-grade novel I wrote four years ago, I’ve still managed to keep my creativity simmering, through editing, through smaller writing projects, and most of all, through reading.

It shouldn’t surprise you that a lit major (and now part-time librarian) would be an advocate for reading as much you can. Even though I’m biased, I firmly believe that reading is one of the best ways to learn to write well. In every book, we find examples of what works and what doesn’t. We find lessons in the flow of language, the nature of plot and setting, and the magic of character development. Reading allows us to observe the art we hope to master, and observation is a powerful tool.

My blog posts in the upcoming months will focus on sharing with you the best books on writing I can find. Mixed in with these textbooks of the trade, I’ll add reviews of children’s literature to encourage you to keep honing your observational skills.

I look forward to learning and growing with you all and hope that you’ll share your thoughts with our Write2Ignite community.

Since you now know all about me, I’d love to hear a little about you. What’s one of your favorite books, one that has inspired you or challenged your thinking?

(Mine would be Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, but more on her later.)

 

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Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time editor, and full-time bookworm. Her fondness for books borderlines obsession, as she engages in not only writing and editing, but also in book-binding. 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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3 Ways to Celebrate Short Story Month

Woman reading an open book on a stone wall by water

“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.”
―Neil Gaiman

May is here, and that means it’s National Short Story Month! Short stories may be—well—short, but if done right, they’re certainly not shallow. With the power to convey deep emotion and pull readers in with compelling characters and settings, they pack all the explosive punch of a firecracker. Who can forget the unforgiving wilderness of “To Build a Fire,” the tragic beauty of “The Happy Prince,” or the hilarity of “The Ransom of Red Chief”?

How can you best celebrate Short Story Month? Make the most of May by trying these tips.

Read Short Stories

What better way to commemorate Short Story Month than by reading great short stories? Visit your local bookstore to find anthologies, or browse online for collected works. And don’t forget to branch out: If you usually read mysteries, try a humorous story. If you’ve never ventured beyond historical fiction, experiment with science fiction. The sites below, which contain links to classic short stories, might help you get started.

The Poe Museum: Poe’s Works

American Literature: O. Henry

Jack London’s Writings

Share Short Stories

Help others discover the beauty of the short story. Some people avoid reading because they’re daunted by the thought of reading a long work. If you know reluctant readers, help grow their interest in reading by introducing them to your favorite short stories. Or suggest short stories in a genre they enjoy.

And don’t forget the smallest readers! Short stories for children abound. Take your children to the library to borrow Aesop’s Fables, or read your grandchildren the story of the Ugly Duckling. Older children might enjoy Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories or some stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Write Short Stories

Try writing your own short stories! There’s no set limit for the word count of a short story, but keep this gradation in mind: short story, novella, novel. You can find excellent advice for short-story writers at Jerry Jenkins’s website.

Who knows? Perhaps writing a short story will give you unexpected ideas. Maybe writing a somber story will inspire you to write a poem about bravery in the midst of loss. Maybe you’ll realize that your story’s protagonist would be the perfect character to star in a mystery novel.

Whatever you do, don’t pass up the chance to celebrate Short Story Month! Whether you choose to revisit classic stories or write your own tales, you’re sure to strengthen your writing abilities and widen your perspective.

What are your favorite short stories? Tell us about them in the comments!

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Read What You Write

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ~ Stephen King

I don’t like the horror genre (it gives me nightmares), so I’m not a fan of Stephen King. But when he’s right, he’s right.

Romance writers read romance. Science fiction writers read sci-fi. Historical novelists read historical fiction. And children’s writers read children’s books.

You may have heard the illustration describing how Treasury agents are trained to detect counterfeit money. The illustration explains that Treasury agents study genuine money until they are familiar with the smallest details. They are taught to recognize characteristics such as the feel of the paper, color, background patterns, and watermarks. After in-depth study of the real thing, counterfeit money will be obvious.

What does counterfeit money have to do with writing for children?

Many writers who wouldn’t attempt to write for adults think writing for children is easy. After all, they reason, how difficult could it be for a college-educated adult to write a thirty-two-page book for a six-year-old?

Truth is, it’s extremely difficult. Even more so than writing for adults. Children’s writers must communicate their subject using age-appropriate vocabulary. They must write in a way that will hold the child’s interest, because children have short attention spans and fickle interests.

Writing in rhyme requires more than the ability to match similar-sounding vowels. It requires the ability to rhyme words without sacrificing the essence of what we wish to communicate and without forcing the rhyme.

The children’s author also needs to understand meter. Writing in rhythm is not just about counting syllables. We need to recognize the difference between various meter patterns, too.

Creating excellent children’s writing means refusing to take shortcuts. Children’s writers must hone their craft as much as those who write for adults. We start by reading the genre we wish to write, whether it’s board books, picture books, beginning reader books, or chapter books.

Writing for children may be difficult, but it has its rewards, too. You and I have the opportunity to change the way a child thinks and behaves. We can entertain and instruct. We can communicate joy and wonder. We can write a book that a child will someday read to his children. Through the power of the written word, we can create memories that will last a lifetime.

Read what you want to write. Then go write it.

What children’s books have influenced your writing? Tell us about them in the comments!

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© 2010 Martin Alan Grivjack Photography
Martin Alan Grivjack Photography

Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible teacher, and speaker. Her most recent book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Precepts founder Kay Arthur. Additionally, Ava is co-author of Faith Basics for Kids. The first two books in the series are Do You Love Me More? and Will I See You Today? She has also written numerous articles for magazines such as Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, Today’s Christian Woman, Power for Living, and Called.

In addition to her writing, Ava also teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class. She is a passionate speaker and teacher and delights in challenging audiences with the truth of God’s word in relevant, enjoyable presentations. For more information, visit her at AvaWrites.com.