From my very first post I wanted to pay homage to the speech which inspired the title of my blog, Ain't I a Woman? by Sojourner Truth. Such a beautiful speech, such a beautiful name, such a beautiful woman. It is one of my favorite pieces. I strive to emulate this style in my own work. Poetic and powerful. Honest and unafraid. Memorable. And I like brevity. It too is beautiful. This is the standard I wish to be held to as I explore the question with you ~ ain't I a writer?
"Obliged to you for hearing me, and I do have a few things more to say..."

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Making Fall Plans

       I don't want to miss this!


http://www.bostonbookfest.org/



http://www.boston.com/entertainment/books/2015/07/20/margaret-atwood-louis-sachar-and-more-are-coming-the-boston-book-festival/43n4klABZDXxNWC4cQlFKL/story.html






Thursday, July 9, 2015

Tightening Just a Bit

      A couple of times readers of my manuscript have suggested that I tighten up the language, and I was never sure what that really meant.
     Recently an AROHO sister, Kristen Ringman, posted an interesting piece about the overuse of the word JUST which caught my attention. I know I use that word a lot. The writer explained how the word is often used by women writers to soften their expression or to seek permission to even have something to express.





      I decided to search my work-in-progress for the word just and found that I had used it 277 times out of 123,000 words. I checked each instance carefully. While some were justified I eliminated more than 100 of them that served simply no purpose.
      I believe that must be a good example of tightening. Like kegal exercises for the female writer. Do I dare now do a search for VERY...


just
j…ôst/
adjective
  1. 1.
    based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.
    "a just and democratic society"


adverb
  1. 1.
    exactly.
    "that's just what I need"
    synonyms:exactlypreciselyabsolutelycompletelytotallyentirelyperfectly,utterlywhollythoroughly, in all respects; More
  2. 2.
    very recently; in the immediate past.
    "I've just seen the local paper"
    synonyms:a moment ago, a second ago, a short time ago, very recently, not long ago
    "I just saw him"

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Still Mile High #HNS2015

       Just waking up from my first night at home after attending the 2015 conference of the National Historical Society in Denver. The travel was tough, and it was not an inexpensive trip, but I think it was worth it. I met many wonderful people (history geeks are such fun!) and heard several great speakers.

View from my room.

       My Blue Pencil writing mentor, author Wendy Perriman, gave me some seriously helpful feedback on the beginning of my novel, as did the two agents who heard the first two pages read aloud in another session. That combined with the material Larry Brooks covered in his workshop on The Architecture of the Historical Novel, really had me thinking and working during the conference.
      The end result (so far) is that the novel I brought home is changed, and for the better. I'm really excited about the changes as I did not see them coming. The changes include a new title that came to me in Denver. Now I'm on to final revisions with feedback from my beta readers, and then I'll be sending it off to agents.
      My primary objective in attending the conference was to see if I could get one agent interested in my book, and two asked for more! All in all, that is so encouraging in what can be so daunting a process.
Diana Gabaldon talking sexy.

      It was also wonderful to meet and get books signed by Diana Gabaldon and Karen Cushman, and to get my pic taken with the very dapper General George Washington, as portrayed by Vern Frykholm.
 General Washington arrives.

Now --- back to work.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Most Unusual Feedback

     Reports from my beta readers are still rolling in and I am pleased to report that the feedback is by far mostly positive and encouraging. I gave a talk about the book this week and three people stepped forward to volunteer to be beta readers without being asked. They are just that interested in the story!
     Below is beta reader feedback that I think is most unusual. A poem! It was written by the current Poet Laureate of Portsmouth, New Hampshire (where much of my novel takes place), Katherine Leigh. She has left it untitled and says it is dedicated to me, and to George Washington.



We have made colossal mistakes in structuring
The world, with no respect for the obvious,
That all is here to be shared, not taken by force.
No brilliant idea for commerce is greater than kindness.
No amount of money makes up for lost integrity.
How do we forgive ourselves the crime of slavery?
Transform our emotions to a prism of empathy
Released from a prison of cultivated ignorance?

How did Washington, born to a culture depending on slavery,
See the totality of its harm, while others thought necessity?
What helps our brains notice greater truths over daily
Habitual falsities reflected by common greedy ways?
Why do the masses of abused not trample their abusers?
Is it the shock of witnessed cruelty that prevents them?
Those that flee are condemned, hunted, their families tortured.
Like stressed animals who know not which road to take,
Though glutted on their slave-supported lifestyles,
The public was lead by the General, by their President,
To perceive by degrees what is fair and constitutional,
To re-examine a set of beliefs hollow and convenient
For justifying an otherwise obvious crime against humanity.
To accept the equality of people whose skin colors alone
Made up their diversity. Washington was popular,
He was careful. He was most advanced in his thinking.
He was elected?, appointed, pleaded with to accept leadership.
He knew the burden of far-sightedness and took responsibility.

Even now, have we learned to honor mental diversity,
In ourselves and in others, that which makes us
Different can make us whole? Can we identify and be the full
Extent of our inborn uniqueness, admire skin color,
Emulate race and culture, acquire exposure to ideas that differ
From our own, find ways to blend? It’s a good solid mandate,

And, apparently one requiring championship that has no end.

Kate Leigh, all rights reserved.

 PPL

Monday, June 22, 2015

Check out this vimeo poem!

      I was honored to receive the Esther Buffler Poetry-In-Schools Fellowship from the Portsmouth (NH) Poet Laureate Program for 2015. I worked with four classes at the high school working with English teacher Ms. Laura LaVallee.
      At my first visit I introduced the students to Esther's work, and some of my own. I then shared a selection of digital poems. Again the work of others and one of my own. We did a brief writing exercise and talked about how the poems we were reading together could be digitized to spark their creative thinking. I left them with the challenge of creating an original digital poem using a poem of their own or another that they identified with. They were given complete creative freedom to craft digital poems using any applications and resources they liked working with cell phones and /or computers. They were told they could work individually or collaborate. I wanted the experience to be as open-ended as possible so as not to limit the possibilities.
     A couple of weeks later I returned, and just as the school year was drawing to a close, we held an "open mic" event where the students shared their creations. As I had anticipated there was a wide variety of work. As I had hoped the students were pushed a bit out of their comfort zones, and in many cases, had tried something new. All had to take a good hard look at a poem and think about the many ways it could be interpreted and what it meant to them. The most popular poem selected was Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken. Some of the digital poems were funny and some were serious. Some were personal and some were not. Success was achievable for every student, and some took an opportunity to soar. A few of the students said the assignment was frustrating, but many said they enjoyed trying it. Ms. LaVallee and I have already begun discussion of what we could do to improve the learning experience if we were to do it again.

 Two students prepare to share their digital                                                                                     poem called Kevin Love / Kevin Hate.

    I would like to thank the PPLP, Ms. LaVallee, and all of her students for the opportunity and for their poems, and I share below the work created by one of the students with her permission. It is titled South and Sagamore, Gravestones.
  
      Poetry and production by Julia Taylor, age 16.
      Cinematography by Alden Taylor, age 12.


      https://vimeo.com/131168223


Saturday, June 13, 2015


Instagram

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Reports are Rolling In

      Summer is such a crazy time of year for me as my museum hours surge, but my writing work can not take a back seat.

     My novel is out in the hands of several serious beta readers. Its a scary feeling much like when your child is off to a formal. You know they looked beautiful when you let them go out the door, but still feel a vulnerable mix of confidence and terror at what might happen to them on the dance floor. You pace as the minutes tick by, waiting and wondering if there is something else you should have done...

     The first report has come in. This one from my writing mentor, Pat Parnell. At 91 years of age she is still sharp and sure. I am thrilled to share that almost all of her feedback was positive and encouraging. A few suggestions for changes will be easy fixes, and she kindly gave me much in the way of line editing because she has so much experience as an editor.

The divine Queen P. sharing her poetry last week.

     Here is one paragraph from her report to me;

      "You may originally have intended to tell the story of the life of Ona Judge Staines, but the book metamorphed into something much more significant and powerful. What you have done was take two major social issues from the late colonial period and the early years of the new nation - slavery and racism - and explore them as they impacted the lives of two very different but interconnected individuals - George Washington, the most esteemed American of his day, and Ona Judge Staines, the escaped Mount Vernon slave who lived all her life in the shadows."

       She also made a suggestion that I had never given any thought, and now of course, I am. Pat urged me to consider marketing it as a YA novel as she thinks "it wold be very appropriate on a recommended list of books for high school juniors who are studying American history." While I wrote the novel for adult readers, I am intrigued with this idea. What do you think?