Amy G Coombs

author, reader, teacher

Archive for Writing Journal

New Summer’s Resolution

It’s happened again. Another Maine-ly Writer’s workshop, this one more amazing than usual, and I leave inspired, fired up, and with the firm resolution to attend to my blog. A weekly entry — is that asking too much?

Apparently, given past years’ examples, yes.

For me, blogging is a double-edged sword. I’m aware that it’s good for professional reasons, yet it takes me away from the writing I really want to be engaged in. It doesn’t help that deep inside I’m fairly convinced no one reads my blog. Why would they? What do I have to offer that a million other bloggers don’t?

But that’s a trap writers fall into, isn’t it? What do we have to write that a million others don’t? Why would  my love story, my coming of age story, my coming out story rise above the rest?

I’ve struggled with this for years. Decades, even. There’s a good answer: write for yourself; write because you want to, write because you have to.

 
But for me that’s not enough. A dear friend gave me a heart-shaped broach from Passion Works Studio* with the inscription:

“To who I am writing there is a strength between our heart” [sic]

So yes, maybe I do need to blog for marketing reasons. Get my voice out there. Be active in the on-line writing community. Have something to show an editor or agent when they Google me.

But maybe — if I approach blogging the way I approach writing fiction — from my heart to yours — if I have faith someone will want to read my blog the way I believe someone will want to read my stories — then maybe this year I’ll stick to my new summer’s resolution.

*Passionworks in Athens, Ohio, supports collaborations between artists with and without developmental disabilities Read more at http://www.pasionworks.org

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The More I Write, the Less I Blog

Wow, blogging, for an old dog (cat?) like me, is an uphill climb. Every six months or so, I am newly determined to blog once a week. It shouldn’t be that hard. I love talking and journaling about books. I could easily veer off into politics and social justice issues. Not to mention the politics of art, as in the recent case of a teen leading the charge to get the film BULLY a PG-13 rating so the kids to whom the film was created for can actually view it.

That said, it seems the more I write creatively, the less I blog. Or even think about blogging. I know, I know, any editor or agent out there reading this will now write me off their list. But I am so excited about my three (count ’em — three!) current projects — a YA novel, an MG novel, and a series of LGBT-themed YA short stories — who has time to blog? Or to make phone calls? Or to cook dinner?

Sorry, readers. But I’ll be sure to let you know when my next short story is published.

Writing Fun with Young People

I just finished a lovely 3-day writing workshop with fourth, fifth and sixth graders at the Athens Public Library. Three days in a row, rather than a stand-alone workshop or a weekly workshop, was a new format for me, and it’s fast become my favorite. Eight kids arrived every morning eager to begin, and we jumped right in without having to refresh or review.

We started by playing games to get the creative juices flowing. Magic Bag, which David Almond introduced to me (and several hundred others) during one of the SCBWI New York mid-year conferences is always popular. (My teen writers love it.) Some of the kids used what they’d written for the games to start a short story, some used fan fiction and began novels, others came up with their own short story ideas. On the last day, they found cozy spots throughout the library to keep writing. During check-ins, I offered challenges — specific spots and ways they could improve the story. Moments of peak action or emotion that could be enhanced with dialogue or description, slowed down and gone into more deeply. I kept it simple; they got it. Some, so much so, we wished we had a fourth day.

Risks of Writing

The other night two friends were discussing ABEL’S ISLAND by William Steig (no, I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to now). One was quite disdainful of and disappointed in the ending. She thought the main character reverted to his old callous and selfish personality. The other found Steig’s conclusion romantic and moving. Hmmm….

Isn’t it scary how writers put their heart on the page only to have readers react with a wide range of interpretations and feelings? No matter how talented we may be, or what emphatic choices we make, or how well-rounded our characters, we always run that risk.

I’m beginning work on two series of short stories which will particularly open me up to this danger. One, following a privileged white girl from the 1963 March on Washington to President Obama’s inauguration and her relation to the African-American woman who raised her, and race relations in general. The other, a series of stories about Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual teens (there may be a Transgender story inside me as well). My mentor says if I stay honest, I will pull it off. We’ll see.

Maine-ly Writers

Every June a group of my friends gather in a cottage on Penobscott Bay in Maine along with a teacher (this year, our mentor Louise Hawes, BLACK PEARLS, THE VANISHING POINT, ROSIE IN THE PRESENT TENSE) for a week of writing workshops. Our core group met at a workshop in North Carolina, where Shana Burg (A THOUSAND NEVER EVERS) said, “Let’s do this again.” And so we made our own arrangements. Over the last five years, as we figure out how to cobble together the finances, or discuss if we have enough food in the fridge for one last meal, the main focus of intense writing, learning, sharing and companionship has never faltered.

So, as I sit on our last day at the expansive wooden kitchen table with my morning coffee, looking out at the grey-blue waters, listening to two colleagues discuss the timing of next year’s workshop….I can’t help but know how lucky I am.