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October 15, 2009

We’re coming up on November, which is of course National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to take the plunge and try it.

I’m particularly interested in the Young Writers Program sponsored by NaNoWriMo that encourages writers under the age of 17 to pen their novels without having to complete the adult-required 50,000 words. Young writers can set their own word count goals, yet they’ll still have some outside accountability by being a part of the program.

Last year, 119,000 adults participated in NaNoWriMo and 22,000 young writers. That just makes my writerly heart leap for joy! That’s over 140,000 people trying to connect their ideas and heart with the printed word. I love it. If people are busy writing novels, then they’re probably too busy to watch TV. They’re also too busy to go shopping spending money they don’t have. Just think what cheap entertainment this is — it’s free!

I read recently that fiction is one aspect of the publishing world that is doing well despite the recession. Readers still want to escape; in fact, with our economic woes, we have even more to escape from.

I’m thinking about participating this year, mainly to try to crank out something new. I have a hard time turning off that editor’s voice in my head that tells me what I’m writing isn’t good enough. But writing is the only way story plots and characters can come to life.

I love what author Ann Brashares wrote on the day one of her young adult novels was released. She shares in her blog:

I always worry on such a day … But this day also brings a certain joy. I am launching these made-up people into the world and giving them a kind of life. I am turning a private, meditative writing experience into a reading experience I hope to share. I am trying to connect my inner life and my stories to the inner lives of others. As E.M. Forster famously wrote in Howards End, “Only connect.”

It’s always nervewracking to put yourself out there. But it’s the root of joy.

I love that. Connecting writer to reader is the root of joy. What if C.S. Lewis had never gotten his made-up kingdom of Narnia out of his head onto the page? What if Anne of Green Gables died when her author died? What if Louisa May Alcott loved her alter-ego Jo too much to ever let her step out onto the page and make some mistakes that connected her to her readers?

I heard Ann Brashares speak in person at SCBWI 2007 in New York. It was one of the most inspiring speeches I’ve ever heard. She was humble. She wore blue jeans. She told us once we figured out how to write a scene, we had it made. She worked very very hard as an unknown editorial assistant before publishing her breakout debut novel, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Yesterday, I rode on the bus with a bunch of first graders and parents and chatted with my friend who has published extensively in the adult nonfiction market, yet dreams of writing novels. She has all these great ideas … in her head! Like me. Like you.

When are we going to stop talking about writing and start writing? Will you take the challenge? Let’s give it a try this year, OK?

Heather

By: Heather Ivester in: Writing | Permalink | Comments Off on National Novel Writing Month



October 5, 2009

I woke up to an email this morning from my Japanese friend who lives near Tokyo. She and her family came to visit us last Christmas, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. She told me to be on the lookout for a box of “Japanese snacks” which she and her children picked out for us. How exciting!

It seems like only yesterday they were all camped out in our den, helping us sort the piles of rice cakes and Japanese candy they brought to share with us. As I’ve been doing some fall cleaning in the past month, I keep finding dozens of origami animals, flowers, and other shapes. They’re everywhere.

When I lived in Japan, “Ohisashi buri desu ne” was a greeting people would say to me if they hadn’t seen me in a while. I guess it’s similar to our English expression of “Long time, no see.” It pretty much sums up how I feel about Japan.

I read recently that author Kate DiCamillo wrote Because of Winn Dixie while she was living in Minnesota and longing for her native Florida. On her website, she says:

I wrote Because of Winn-Dixie during the worst winter on record in Minnesota. I was cold and lonely and homesick for Florida (where I grew up). I couldn’t afford to go home, but I could write a book that took me there.

I think that’s what I’ve been doing lately. I can’t afford to fly to Japan, but I can read about it and write about it. My desire to write fiction has become so strong lately, mostly due to this nagging sense of feeling “homesick” for Japan. I’m trying-trying-trying to carve out some space and time to write these stories that are on my heart. I just wonder if there is a child out there somewhere I’m supposed to reach. I guess I’ll never know unless I try.

It’s so much easier to write in my journal and tell myself I’m too busy to write fiction and send stuff out to agents and editors. That’s scary! And time-consuming! And how can I even know this is what God wants me to do with my time?

Then I read a quote like this, from author Jonathan Rogers, and I shuffle onward:

For me, that’s what writing is like. All these broken pieces of truth and beauty lying about: how do you begin to put them together into something that is a little truer, a little more beautiful than what we see every day? Stories, when they are told the right way, give us something that is TRUER than everyday life…

That’s why stories are so important in a child’s life, and in anyone else’s. Teaching a child what’s true and right requires the telling of stories—Bible stories, histories, family stories, fiction. It’s fine to tell our children that virtue is good. It’s better to tell them a story that shows them that virtue is beautiful and desirable. It’s better still to tell them a story that lets them enter into a life of virtue—that lets them try on virtue for size.

I hope you enjoy a refreshing month of October!

–Heather

By: Heather Ivester in: Children's Books,Japan,Writing | Permalink | Comments Off on Ohisashi buri desu ne