Monthly Archives: March 2011

What I’ve Learned from Cornelia Funke – Writing Methods from “Inkheart”

For several years, I was completely opposed to buying books. Why spend money to read a book when you can just borrow one from a library or friend? I remained in this mindset until a friend of mine suggested that I read Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke. It was the first book I ever willingly spent money on (about $20) and its contents immediately inspired within me a passion for book collecting.

There are many reasons to invest in books you can keep at home. One good reason is to support deserving authors out there (I certainly would appreciate people spending money on my books to come–wink, wink; nudge, nudge), but my primary reason for collecting is to have models of good writing technique available for reference.

Inkheart is anything but lacking in this area. I find myself often turning back through the book to remember how Funke handled her writing in different circumstances. The one technique that stood out most during my reading was her ability to develop significant dramatic conflict between her characters by contrasting their traits with the others. (Warning: The following paragraphs may contain spoilers.)

Take for example, the backgrounds and abilities of these characters. Meggie grows up in a home in which books are loved and cared for. Her father, Mortimer, can make characters in books come alive. This power lies in his voice when he reads aloud. On the other hand, his wife, we find, is mute and can communicate only through writing. In contrast, Dustfinger cannot read. He is a character who fears and loathes the book of which he is a part, created by the author Fenoglio. Eleanor, Mortimer’s aunt, is an avid book collector, whereas many of the villains in Inkheart are out to destroy valuable books.

So you see, differences in characters such as these can complement traits of other characters, and also emphasize important subjects and themes in writing. The only thing I didn’t like about Inkheart was that it was at times rather slow moving, but the methods I learned from reading this story far outnumber the drawbacks of the book. If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to do so. It’s a beautiful edition to have on your shelf and will continue to benefit you long after the first read.

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“Shall the poor transport of an hour…

Repay long years of sore distress–

The fragrance of a lonely flower

Make glad the wilderness?”

From Lewis Carroll’s “Solitude.” Inspiration doesn’t always come happily, like springtime flowers or light bulbs. Sometimes it rears up without warning and knocks you out cold. I experienced this firsthand today.

My dearest friend and I were walking as we like to do, and came across a small park. I had forgotten that we were on the premises of the school where he’d spent most of his childhood years. The minute we set foot on the playground, I could see the heaps of nostalgia flushing through him and instantly, he began to lead me from the swings to the monkey bars, and from there to the balancing beams and rows of large embedded  tires, all while spilling out stories of games he used to play, the classmates he would interact with, and all the trouble he’d gotten into during those early years.

To see him relate all these memories to me with such enthusiasm moved me. I couldn’t help but reflect upon my own childhood. But I didn’t find anything of the sort he was describing. Instead, every cold feeling from my younger days swept through me at once; faint howls welled up inside me without warning and I found myself overcome by emotion.

These feelings haunted me for the rest of the day. I find it difficult to speak when I’m upset, so I was quiet until I got back home. I jotted down whatever words that came to mind in my pocket notebook, and even began a “prose-poem-essay,” as Ray Bradbury likes to call them. I’m still practicing this method of naked writing; as uncomfortable as it is to get started, it is incredibly rewarding. I estimate at least three poems and a short-short story coming out of this one. No doubt you’ll know them when you see them.

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Free Download – Read “A Death Well Died”

Sophie Playle at Inkspill Magazine has decided to start posting issues in PDF format for free download. You can read my poem “A Death Well Died” by ordering a discounted print issue here or by clicking the cover image below for the PDF.

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Goals for 2011

Since I’ve gotten serious about writing, I’ve done a lot of work building up a portfolio of poems and stories as well as marketing my writing, but much of this has been done under another name. This year, there are a few things I want to accomplish as a writer, such as:

  • triple my publications. (So far, I have eight publications under my own name, so by the end of 2011, I expect to have twenty-four publications in my bibliography online and in print.)
  • publish a chapbook. (I am currently endeavoring to beef up my poetry portfolio with a focus in sonnets. More about that later.)
  • publish at least one work of fiction. (Pretty self-explanatory.)
  • explore other fields of writing. (Examples? Blogging, of course, book reviews, articles, etc.)

Things that would be nice to accomplish:

  • Write a complete children’s book.
  • Edit NaNoWriMo 2010 novel.
  • Start a literary magazine.

Stay tuned to keep track of these objectives as they are achieved. 🙂

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“Mumford Street” – Publish an Ancient Poem?

I had an opportunity to see some friends from New York today; they usually come down to Florida once or twice a year, and this time, my family and theirs got to have a one-day reunion in St. Augustine. My mother always insists that I bring my poetry notebooks and most recent publications for her friend, Diane, to see.

Diane has always liked my writing and remains an encouraging reader. She confesses that she knows little to nothing of poetry and literature, but somehow she always understands where I’m coming from, and what I’m trying to convey. One of her favourite poems of mine is “Mumford Street,” a four-stanza rhyming poem I’m ashamed to say I wrote at the age of 12. (Maybe if I wrote it at age 6, I’d be more proud of it. )

Anyhow, Diane spoke with me for hours about what inspired me to write such a thing, why I loved Schenectady so much when everyone who lived there loathed the place, and whether or not I was saddened by the shortage of friends I suffered from living in such a dangerous place.

These are all questions I hadn’t thought about in a while…growing up in a crime-ridden neighborhood had taught me a lot, I suppose. I spent thousands of hours alone, and was saddened at times by my lack of genuine friends, but in those hours, I could think about life, and what it meant to me, and what I wanted to do with mine. I had time to write, and learn from the writing of other writers before me; (the library was my haven from the domicile). I loved Schenectady for these reasons, even the dangerous parts of it; I used to climb the tallest tree in my yard and just stare for hours at all the lights of the city and cars and people walking by. The atmosphere inspired a great deal of my writing.

Diane begged me to publish the poem. “The people here need to see their community through the eyes of a child,” she told me, referring to my home in New York. And then she told me to send it to the Times Union.

A promise is a promise. I told her I’d do it, so I did. I sent an e-mail explaining the purpose in publishing the poem and asked whether they would be more likely to publish it on the Schenectady blog or in the actual paper. (Or neither, hm…)

I will certainly update you if they respond. If not, well–maybe I’ll publish it here on the blog. *shivers*

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