Neil Gaiman on the Importance of Reading and Writing

I saw this article from a talk by Neil Gaiman today and had to share. To read more, click on the link below.
“We writers – and especially writers for children, but all writers – have an obligation to our readers: it’s the obligation to write true things, especially important when we are creating tales of people who do not exist in places that never were – to understand that truth is not in what happens but what it tells us about who we are. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all. We have an obligation not to bore our readers, but to make them need to turn the pages. One of the best cures for a reluctant reader, after all, is a tale they cannot stop themselves from reading. And while we must tell our readers true things and give them weapons and give them armour and pass on whatever wisdom we have gleaned from our short stay on this green world, we have an obligation not to preach, not to lecture, not to force predigested morals and messages down our readers’ throats like adult birds feeding their babies pre-masticated maggots; and we have an obligation never, ever, under any circumstances, to write anything for children that we would not want to read ourselves.

“We have an obligation to understand and to acknowledge that as writers for children we are doing important work, because if we mess it up and write dull books that turn children away from reading and from books, we ‘ve lessened our own future and diminished theirs.

“We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.

“Look around you: I mean it. Pause, for a moment and look around the room that you are in. I’m going to point out something so obvious that it tends to be forgotten. It’s this: that everything you can see, including the walls, was, at some point, imagined. Someone decided it was easier to sit on a chair than on the ground and imagined the chair. Someone had to imagine a way that I could talk to you in London right now without us all getting rained on.This room and the things in it, and all the other things in this building, this city, exist because, over and over and over, people imagined things.

“We have an obligation to make things beautiful. Not to leave the world uglier than we found it, not to empty the oceans, not to leave our problems for the next generation. We have an obligation to clean up after ourselves, and not leave our children with a world we’ve shortsightedly messed up, shortchanged, and crippled.

“We have an obligation to tell our politicians what we want, to vote against politicians of whatever party who do not understand the value of reading in creating worthwhile citizens, who do not want to act to preserve and protect knowledge and encourage literacy. This is not a matter of party politics. This is a matter of common humanity.

“Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand.

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New Start

I had an epiphany this morning–a way to restart my YA fantasy novel. Talked to my writing partner for this project then spent a good chunk of the day writing a new first chapter with the idea. I sent it to Jane right before dinner. So fun to be working on this project again!

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Putting off writing

A few weeks ago, I bottled salsa and then more recently I bottled peaches. Two days last week and Monday, I bottled applesauce and made apple jelly. Today, I cleaned out the fridge and threw away the last of the overripe (read: rotting) garden cucumbers that we didn’t get around to eating and I stewed up the last of the garden tomatoes and put them in a casserole.

I’m feeling so domestic!
But, in the back of my mind I know I’m also just putting off writing my memoir.

Here are my current excuses:

It is fall.
It’s cold and rainy today.
I had to read a memoir I got from the library.
I helped my mom with a photo project and took her some dinner.

I seriously need a deadline or something to motivate me to write.

Any ideas?

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Writing is Important–Keep Going

I heard literary agent, Stephen Fraser, say that every book has a home. Not that every book will find a home, but that each manuscript has a home. Now. His meaning was that what writers write is worthwhile because it will be important to someone, a reader, somewhere.

Hearing that was very hopeful, very encouraging to me.

I finished my 30 day mentor writing group with Carol Williams. I sent her my last assignment a couple of hours before the final deadline then I waited to hear back from her. For the next few days I hardly touched my computer, though I glanced at it often in passing, until I saw she’d sent a reply. I was actually too afraid to open the email.

What would she think of my writing? Of what I’d revealed about myself in my memoir?

After several minutes, I took a deep breath and opened the email. I won’t share with you what she wrote–the words are too precious, too tender yet, but I will say that Carol’s words were all encouragement. I will print them off in a giant type style and put them where I can read them as I write. The gist was that I should keep going, that my words are of worth.

I read a blog today that describes reaching one reader at a time. The blogger says at the end, “Your audience is out there, waiting for you. Don’t let them down.” So if you need a little writing encouragement, check out the full text below and then get back to your keyboard and go to work because writing is important.

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Welcome to my blog!

Thanks to Sandra Warren,, my critique group friend for having me join. I’ll get right to the questions.

1. and 2. What am I working on right now? How does it differ from what I’ve written before?

My current projects are to finish my WIP, a MG humor book, and to write a Memoir about my experience with cancer. Very different from each other, but I like to have more than one thing going at a time.

3. Why do you write what you do?

When people ask why I write, I tell them the truth. I’ve tried to quit. But, not writing makes me miserable. So I continue to work at it. I read a lot, I attend writing conferences—Writing & Illustrating For Young Readers is my favorite,, and I continue to learn the craft.

At the moment, I’m focused on learning how to write Memoir.

4. How does your writing process work?

The first step in learning to write is to Read. Read. Read.

The next step is to write, write, write, and write more.

For this new-to-me-genre of Memoir, I had to learn what I was getting into. A memoir is different from a biography or autobiography because a memoir describes a slice of life or a theme from a person’s life as opposed to a personal history.

In my reading of memoirs, the authors have told everything about the section of their lives they addressed. The books are deeply personal yet have universal themes, ideas or experiences. The books described the good, happy, and inspirational; the bad, difficult, and sad; and the ugly, illegal, and sordid things the authors did themselves or experienced at the hand of others.

Author Cheryl Strayed teaches Memoir. In a recent radiocast she said she “didn’t wait” to write the book Wild, though it was published 17 years after the events she described. She explains, “Memoir is not the form of what happened, it’s the form of what what happened meant . So until a writer has something to say about an experience, there is nothing to say. It took me that long to really have an idea of what this story was truly about and what I wanted to write about.“ If you’d like to listen to the entire interview go to:

Some of the memoirs I read revealed detailed private information (for instance mental health issues or illegal activities or personal relationships) of the author, his or her parents, family members, and/or friends that influenced the author’s life. Many of the authors told the story of their own coming of age. Most included their religious beliefs or their lack of or loss of religious beliefs. The authors told their stories without apology, guilt, regret or self pity. My favorite memoirs were the ones that gave hope for a better future rather than just remembering scenes from the author’s life.

I’ve learned that to write a good memoir one must do what Madeleine L’Engle wrote, regarding communicating with each other, “It means really speaking to each other, destroying platitudes and jargon and all the safe cushions of small talk with which we insulate ourselves; not being afraid to talk about the things we don’t talk about, the ultimate things that really matter.”

I’ve learned that writing Memoir is not any easier than any other kind of writing, but it is a fun challenge!

Look for these authors next week…

CAROL LYNCH WILLIAMS, author of over two dozen published books, including the widely acclaimed YA novel, The Chosen One,

AMY WHITE, author of Dressing the Naked Hand: The World’s Greatest Guide to Puppetry and Puppeteering (May, 2014),

and YA Fantasy and Science Fiction Writer, BRADLEY JOHNSON,

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Truth is Stranger than Fiction

I wrote this blog a few weeks ago. This is an updated version, the original is posted on

A friend of mine slipped at a Cub Scout camp in August and broke both of his elbows. On a recent Sunday morning, my house smoke alarms went off at 3:30 a.m., 4:00 a.m., and 4:15 a.m. My son found a live bat hanging on the wall of his coworker’s cubicle. An Amber Alert was sent out and then cancelled because four children, who were missing for 11 hours, were found safe at their grandmother’s house.

Would these true events seem real if you read them in a book?

The first full length novel I wrote was historical fiction based on a family story. I wrote the book in conjunction with a class I was taking. I plotted and planned the book and followed the true life events. When I finished the first draft, I hated it. The story didn’t feel real.

Have you ever had that problem?

Ever tried to write dialogue the way people speak?

I was a legal secretary for seven years and on occasion I transcribed recorded conversations. People don’t speak in full sentences. They interrupt each other. They ramble. They use slang. They use poor grammar. They speak at the same time. It is hard to understand conversations.

Writing exactly as people speak doesn’t work in fiction.

That doesn’t mean that you must write dialogue with perfect grammar or complete sentences. That wouldn’t work either. You can have a character ask a question that no one answers. You can use poor grammar to set a character apart from others. You can use incomplete sentences. In fact, you could probably break every rule of good grammar and good conversation—IF there is a reason and IF you do it in a way that is readable.

The best rule I know for writing dialogue, is to make your characters sound real while keeping the language so readers can follow who is speaking and understand what is happening.

So what rules for writing dialogue do you use?

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Cinda Chima

My friend Cinda Chima is in Utah today and tomorrow on a book tour for her latest in the Heir Series. She’ll be at the King’s English Bookstore tonight at 7 p.m. and tomorrow night at Provo Library at 7 p.m.

If you like fantasy, you will like her books. The Story Siren has a book trailer for The Enchanter Heir. Check it out:

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More on Memoir

I promised more on Memoir today. I also said I was joining a Blog Tour, but actually my post for the Tour is NEXT Monday. Here is the link to my friend Sandra Warren’s blog for today:

As I said before, the first thing to do in writing a memoir is to read and discover how other authors tell their stories. Hole in My Life, by Jack Gantos was one of my favoirtes. Gantos has a great quote by Oscar Wilde in the front pages of his book that reads: “I have learned this: It is not what one does that is wrong, it is what one becomes as a consequence of it.”

I loved that Gantos told the truth in such a friendly conversational style. For example, at the end of the first chapter and the beginning of chapter 2, Gantos writes: “Someone once said anyone can be great under rosy circumstances, but the true test of character is measured by how well a person makes decisions during difficult times. I certainly believe this to be true. I made a lot of mistakes, and went to jail, but I wasn’t on the road to ruin like everybody said. While I was locked up, I pulled myself together and made some good choices.

“Like any book about mistakes and redemption (Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis is my favorite), the mistakes are the most interesting to read about (and write about)—so I’ll start with where I think I went around the bend.”

“Chapter 2 – I was nineteen, still stuck in high school, and not living at home.”

Isn’t that a great hook?

Then in the last chapter of the book, Gantos concludes: “In my writing classes, I first wrote brutal stories about prison, about New York street life, about the men I knew who had hard lives and hard hearts. And then one day I got tired of all the blood and guts and hard lives and hard hearts and began to write more stories about my childhood, like the ones I had started writing down in prison—stories which at one time I did not think were important, but suddenly had become to me the most important stories of all. They contained the hidden days of my innocence and happiness. And once I began retrieving the lost pleasures of my childhood, I began to write stories for children. And I laughed about that, too. Prison certainly wasn’t funny, but with each new day it was receding into my past. The mistakes I made, the pain I endured, the time I wasted were now the smallest part of me. . . .

“What remains of the rotted hash is hidden in the hole I dug for it. And I’m out in the open doing what I have always wanted to do. Write.”

Maybe one of the reasons I liked Gantos’ book so much is because he always wanted to write books and in the end he did. He has written books for adults, as well as for children, including the Newbery Medal and Scott O’Dell Award winning Dead End in Norvelt. Check out his website at

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Salsa and Writing – oops posted out of order

I thought I posted this already, but found it in the drafts so it’s out of order. I’ll write more about Memoir on Monday when I join a BLOG TOUR.

Making salsa takes time. First, you need tomatoes. Earlier this year, my hubby and I went to a couple of places to find the best tomato plants and then Cal planted four of them in our garden. The tomatoes needed good soil, fertilizer, water, sunshine, bees to pollinate the tiny flowers, wire cages to support the vines, and plenty of time in order to grow and become ripe.

Writing a book is a lot like making salsa. First, you need an idea. Maybe you have a great first line, or an amazing main character, or a wonderful setting/location, or a terrific climatic moment, or a fantastic finish. Maybe a reporter says something on the news or you read about a subject online or your kid/neighbor/random stranger does something funny or mean or kind and it sparks an idea for a plot. Next, you let the idea germinate and soon enough you’re ready to start typing.

For salsa, I washed, blanched, peeled, and chunked the tomatoes. Next, I added a little sugar, salt, and spices. I chopped onions and two kinds of peppers in my blender, and added those to the pot. I stirred everything together and let the mixture heat. I tasted it and I had Cal taste it.

For a novel, you write a scene or two, you add characters and show their feelings. You add in scene details and dialogue to spice up the plot. You keep typing, chapters appear. Pretty soon you have a first draft, but that is only the beginning. You read the book aloud and have someone else read it. Maybe several beta readers or your critique group.

Oops, the salsa was too spicy. Now what? I poured half of the salsa into a different pot then repeated the process for making another batch— except with fewer peppers—then poured half of the second batch into each pot and stirred. Again, I tasted it and I had Cal taste it… better. After an hour or so of cooking, the salsa had boiled down to a thicker consistency. Perfect!

You discover there are parts of your book that you like and a few things that need revising. Maybe you need to spice up a scene or slow down a section. Or maybe you need to keep half of the book and put the other half on the shelf to simmer for another time. You keep typing. You keep adding and deleting and revising until… Perfect!

I poured the salsa into clean hot jars with clean hot lids and rings and put the jars in a hot water bath. I waited for the water to come to a gentle boil. It seemed to take forever. Finally when the water boiled, I set the timer and went to do other things. After the allotted time, I removed the jars and put them on a towel to cool. No doubt, some people will think my salsa is too sweet or not spicy enough or too chunky or not thick enough. For me, it is just right and I am pleased with my efforts.

You send your book to your agent or editor, or to someone you would like to be your agent or editor. You wait. It seems like it takes forever. You start on another book. After the allotted time you hear back from the pros. No doubt some will think your book needs more revisions and you will decide what changes, if any, you need to make. Whether or not it is ever published, at some point your book will be just right for you and you can be pleased with your efforts.

Anyone for chips and salsa and a good book to read?

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Writing Memoir

After writing a couple of blogs for my friend and mentor, Carol Lynch Williams, said she thought I should write a memoir.

I thought she was kidding.

She wasn’t.

I told her I didn’t even know the difference between a memoir and a biography/autobiography. So she told me a memoir is a slice of life or themes from a person’s life, not the entire personal history. She asked if I’d like to join her 30 day mentoring group to learn to write memoir. I jumped at the chance.

I thought, at first, it was a group all writing memoir. It wasn’t. Each participant is writing in the genre of their latest WIP. One of our first assignments was to write a haiku to describe the plot of our book. Here’s mine. (I was quite pleased with it, since I had to look up the rules for haikus).

A tale of cancer,
Survived through faith and miracles—
Hope for life’s winter.

One of the next assignments was to read books in our genre.

Here is a list, in no particular order, if you’re interested in reading memoirs:
Limbo, A. Mannette Ansay
A Girl Named Zippy, Haven Kimmel
Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichel
This Boy’s Life, Tobias Wolff
Falling Through the Earth, Danielle Trussoni
More Than Meets the Eye, Joan Brock and Derek L. Gill
A Circle of Quiet, and The Summer of the Great Grandmother, Madeleine L’Engle
Wild, From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed
A Hole in My Life, Jack Gantos
The Longest Trip Home, John Grogan

I’ll tell you what I learned from these books in my next post.

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