I am a writer. This takes courage to say, and dedication to make it true. I have been working on a middle grade novel for a while. I started it in Teachers Write in 2012. If you are a teacher who writes, put this on your list of summer activities. Led by Kate Messner and featuring many wonderful authors, it’s the best writing camp ever.
So now that I am writing, my reading is pretty much confined to middle grade novels. This week I read Augusta Scattergood’s newest novel, The Way to Stay in Destiny. I had the pleasure of meeting Augusta at NCTE in the fall. We were fast friends. We made an easy connection since we both grew up in Mississippi, and we have people in common. The south is all about who’s your momma, who’s your daddy. Nevertheless, her books are as friendly as she is.
I had a favorite great aunt who we all called Sister, so I was particularly drawn to the character of Miss Sister. Miss Sister runs the Rest Easy (and a dance studio) where Theo is staying with his uncle, a Vietnam veteran. Miss Sister finds talent in Theo and encourages his piano playing. Theo’s uncle is full of anger that Theo’s piano playing exacerbates. Eventually, the uncle works through his anger, thank goodness, and comes to love Theo.
You can find an interview with Augusta Scattergood at Caroline Starr Rose’s blog here.
As a writer, I noticed some things about Augusta’s writing. In each chapter she includes inner thinking by the main character. This inner thinking keeps the reader on track by giving you a semi-synopsis from Theo’s head.
After school the next day, I sit on the Rest Easy’s front porch glider waiting for Anabel. Pushing away what my uncle said about moving, about my name, and about my parents, I stare at the heat rippling off the street. It’s hard not to turn into a sweat ball in Florida. (Ch. 13, p. 82)
After noticing this again and again, I went to my work in progress (WIP) to find a place that I could put in inner thinking/summarizing. Revision can be tedious, but when you are working with a book you like and using a technique you feel confident in, it becomes more like playing. How could I review the previous chapter in a natural way? Here’s my teaser from Sunshine.
Before we leave for Mae Mae’s house, I call Momma to do my daily check in. I tell her all about Sunshine’s new adopted egg, how Ms. Fullilove brought over a fertilized one from Mr. Jim, even about how Harmony will help tend to Sunshine, but I leave out the details about Harmony’s homelessness. I’m not sure yet what she might say. I think it best to tell her face-to-face.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
― Stephen King
I am taking time to read more carefully, to be aware of what authors do to draw me in. I am reading like a writer.