Monthly Archives: June 2013

Overjoyed To Revise

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1357938918_4471_EqualityWhen I created the character of Gilly Tomlinson, the political climate in the United States was very different. We were in the last two years of the Bush administration and the dialogue about marriage equality was minimal and the loudest voices were of those who cloaked their ignorance in the name of “family values.”  Gilly was to be a character whose greatest struggle was being an openly gay man. Northeastern Pennsylvania isn’t  the easiest place to be different, from sexuality to race to socio-economic level. I always knew he was out to his close friends and had a boyfriend in far-away Washington, DC,  but as far as work and family went, he was just a bachelor trying to get ahead at his law firm. These social constraints were key to his character and the choices he’d make.

Now, the loudest voices are from people outwardly defending marriage equality and civl rights.  Even some of my 8th graders created persuasive presentations on why gay marriage should be legal and wear pins that say “That’s So Gay Is Not OK.” After the Supreme Court’s decisions in favor if civil rights for ALL Americans,  I am overjoyed to know I can revise what I had planned for him in the sequel.  Will he struggle?  Of course; however,  his world, our world, is different from when we went to bed last night. I cannot wait for his part of the story to reflect this.

Today’s rulings don’t mean smooth sailing, just as the Civil Rights Act doesn’t mean we all overcame. I’m just excited that today opens so many options for all of us.

I’ve never been happier to revise.

Michonne, A Zombie Apocalypse Writing Inspiration

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Danai Gurira as Michonne

Last week,  I took the long way around my school to avoid a Matchbox car-sized roach that made its home on the wall in a stairwell, so I am giving you fair warning: do not recruit me for your team in the zombie apocalypse.  Perhaps that’s why Michonne is my favorite character in the Walking Dead books and tv show – her fierceness in the face of true calamity is inspiring.  Michonne’s adventures can go beyond the page or flat screen tv,  so here are six things writers can learn from this badass character:

6. Talk To Yourself: Yeah, Michonne’s conversations might be a little one-sided, but it helps her cope with what’s going on. Afterall, there are no group therapy PTSD sessions during the zombie apocalypse and in the graphic novels, she was brutalized. These imaginary conversations calm her down and give her direction.  Do the same for yourself, preferably in your head or in a notebook instead of babbling out loud.

The nerdy t-shirt that inspired this post.

Me in the nerdy t-shirt that inspired this post.

Play the “What If Game” and see what happens. Give yourself pep talks, leave mantras written on Post-Its or find a motivational quote for the your laptop desktop.  Writing is lonely and there is no coach to slap you on the butt. So, slap yourself on the butt and get writing.

5.  Listen More Than You Talk: Michonne tends to keep her mouth shut and her ears and eyes open. Hence, (spoiler alert) the reason she’s still alive.  Do the same.  When you’re with other writers or non-writers for that matter, try not to impress them with your knowledge of early ninteteenth century male poets from Asia Minor or your best smart-aleck comments sentence after sentence.  Converse. For real. I speak from experience because I had (hopefully it’s in the past) the habit of talking too much because I was nervous. It was lose/lose for me and the people I was talking to. Ugh.

4. Know What Works For You And Use It: Michonne uses a katana.  And only the katana.  It suits her, it keeps the walkers at more than arm’s length and it is a quiet weapon of mass destruction. I pity the fool who takes it away from her (I’m taking to you, Governor, you head-hoarding jackhole).

Same with writing: find your routine. I write at a table in front of the window.  It’s  my laptop, something to drink, a few reference books and, most days, a  sleepy cat.  The characters tell me what to listen to on Pandora or Spotify, if I want music.  Each session is 500 words and there is no pressure to create for hours upon hours. Once I hit 500, I’ll stop or continue, but no hard feelings if I stop at 500. I prefer the mornings for writing; evenings for blogging/marketing.

However you do it, find what works for you and stick to it.  Your muse will reward you with productive writing sessions.

3.  Stay Active: Michonne is ripped. I dream of having her muscular arms.  She volunteers to scout, to get supplies – she’s always moving. I’m not saying we should all start training for a marathon or live at the gym, but physical activity is important in the creative process.  In fact, I got the idea for this entry while I was talking an early-evening walk.  It takes your mind off your troubles and let your subconscious take over while you’re swimming laps or hiking a trail.

2. Find Your Allies: Michonne takes her time getting to know people.  I think the writers of the TV show took this too far with episode after episode of the stereotypical trope of the “angry black woman,” but the graphic novels get it just right.  She’s circumspect. Her quiet anger is very purposeful and strategic. When she finds people she can trust, she is loyal.

Do the same. Find people who write what you write.  And – seriously listen to me on this one – forget anyone who thinks that if you write “genre” you can’t be taken seriously. Proud “chick-lit” author Michele Gorman takes these people to task in this well-written essay. Write what you love and find people who write the same things. You will find your audience and your audience will find you.

1. You Can’t Go It Alone: not in the zombie  apocalypse and certainly not in the writing business.  When Michonne’s boyfriend and his best friend turned into zombies, she hacked off their jaws and put chains around their necks in order to turn them into walker repellent.  Then she met Andrea, and they joined up. And then they connected with Rick and the group. Awesomeness ensued.

Writers need each other, folks.  Sign up for Twitter and connect with writers from all over the world.  Join a local writing group. Take a few classes.  Find a writing partner.  Find authors who are different than you, writers who push you in different directions, who make you think differently. We need a tribe. I can do without the Rictatorship, though.

What are your writing tips from The Walking Dead? Leave them below.

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How I Found My Swag: Part 1

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Lehigh Valley Writing Project Poetry Advanced Institute, Summer 2012

Before becoming a Penn State Lehigh Valley Writing Project Fellow, I was a “secret writer.” I wrote only for me and only in notebooks or journals no one would ever read.  As an English and education major, I could analyze a poem or create a lesson plan like nobody’s business, but putting a poem or a story into the world was terrifying. Thankfully, the Penn State Lehigh Valley Writing Project (LVWP) pulled me out of my writing closet.  LVWP is a local network of teachers teaching teachers and is part of the National Writing Project, a national network of teachers teaching teachers.

Writing Project is the best professional development I could ask for as a teacher and has helped me find my swag as a writer.  I’m proud to be included in the Writing Wisdom from the World section on their website.

Find your National Writing Project site here and be inspired and challenged.