Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB
Now that I’ve had a few days at home after attending the WIFYR (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers) week‑long workshop, I can begin to reflect on all I heard and learned. As tired as I was, my last session gave me life again. That’s what happens when you get to hang with an outstanding Writer/Reader/Book Person like A.E. Cannon. Ann writes books, writes a regular column for the Salt Lake Tribune, often writes book‑oriented articles or interviews outside her own column, and also works at my favorite local bookstore: The King’s English.
In that last WIFYR session, Ann tackled the subject “Learn to Hone Your Skills While Reading Works by Other Authors.” While doing so, she mentioned a few writers worth paying attention to — some of them from Utah or with ties to us: Carol Lynch Williams’ The Chosen One — where she showed us how to set the stage in only 4 sentences, complete with a sense of place. She also recommended authors like Beverley Cleary and Judy Blume (ironically I won a book by Judy Blume during the closing ceremonies an hour later!). She suggested reading (or re‑reading) books like Where the Wild Things Are, Frog & Toad, Strange Case of Origami Yoda, and afterwards trying to write in the style we’ve just read. A great idea.
Early on in her presentation, Ann mentioned a book I’d not seen before: Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose. I hadn’t seen the title before (though now I’ve sent for it – still available from Amazon), but I really knew the name: wa‑a‑a‑a‑ay back, I took a writing class at the U of U from Francine Prose, a visiting professor. I had fun digging out my old handbook, printed by Kinko’s under the category “Professor Publishing.” It’s really just a thick, spiral‑bound, 159 page tome containing stories by many of the greats: Frank Kafka, Gustave Flaubert, Anton Chekhov, Ernest Hemingway, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Alice Munro, Flannery O’Connor, etc.
Just a few of Ann’s lessons to be learned by a reading like a Writer might include:
What things to watch for as you read
Word choices that jump out at you
Sentence structure (long, short, varied, a good mix); why some work of them and others don’t
Sense of place, a stage set for action
Ask why and how something works . . . or doesn’t
If you gave up on a book, why could you not finish it?
Do you make the same mistakes?
Listening to audio books can also help you “hear” how to set your story up
(my thought on this last: listening also helps develop your sense of rhythmic words)
In this rapidly changing publishing world, we writers need to pay attention and keep up with the changes. It also behooves us to look to the greats of the past, see what their methods were, and which ones will still work.
See you next on Thinkin’ on Thursday!