Reader Response

Some authors are unhappy when readers see something in their story, novel, or poem that was not intended.

I subscribe to the theory of reader response. Our work is going to touch different people in different ways; readers are going to get out of it something related to what they bring to it, so if they don’t see what we originally intended, they are not wrong, nor did they read it wrong, they are merely giving the writer an insight.front-cover-small

I, personally, am thrilled when readers see something I hadn’t intended. For my novella, West End, one reader said the melancholy of the main character haunted her. Other readers believed some of the characters might have actually been spirits or ghosts. One of the characters, I left open. His questionable appearances deepened the story and the effects on the main character who is dealing with depression.

However, when another reader felt that the son might have been a ghost – it made me go back and reread my own work!

Once the story, novel, or poem is out there, readers are going to take away or put into it whatever is in their own toolbox and we can not control it. We may not like it – I had one person mistake me for one of my characters – but we do have to accept it. I usually thank the reader for their insights, regardless of what I feel about the response.

All readings are good readings!

If you’re interested in reading West End – it’ll be on sale Saturday and Sunday. And – then let me know what you think!

Friday Feature: Guest Author Margie Harding.

I wanted to start something new and feature other opinions, ideas, and authors on Fridays. Today, I’d like to introduce you to Margie Harding, author of The Paxton Series.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Writing is a passion I’ve been developing for many years.  While I blog, have written devotionals for teen girls, a novel about my experience of attending college as a non-traditional student thirty years after high school graduation (receiving an AA degree in Elementary Education), and more; I have been provided yet another challenge that warms my heart.

For years I have said, “It takes a special person to be a special education teacher and it isn’t me!”  I have five children and sixteen grandchildren and still a special education interest alluded me!  It was never my heart’s desire.  God has a sense of humor, I think.  After all these years of avoiding special needs and disabilities, I have begun a new children’s book series on this particular subject!

We call the series, “The Paxton Series” with our setting in the Black Hills of South Dakota, paxtonusing the wild animals of the area as our characters.  (Paxton the Prairie Dog shows up in every book, if nothing more than in a cameo appearance!)  The books are written for the child with the disability or special need….and for the child that asks, “What is wrong with my friend?” —and there are amazing illustrations, thankfully from someone who is able to acclimate the disability to the particular animal!

When the series started, I had no intention of a “disability series,” yet it morphed into this before I’d realized the need for this kind of material or impact it could make.  I attended a church organized disability conference two years ago and for the first time heard the term “disability people group” and learned much about these special people for whom I was writing!  The statistics astounded me!  I knew this was to be my life’s mission.

I am delighted to say this series is being well received –and will continue indefinitely! (The list is up to 60+).  Doors have opened I never imagined as schools, colleges (using them to teach students to be special needs educators) and other groups have found the merit of sharing these books with children, parents, educators, medical staff and others!

Invitations to share about the books from a “special needs” perspective, have also arisen and I am delighted to be an advocate for these children (and adults) who are often neglected in a variety of areas, (even if unintentionally) including written stories they can relate to.

There is very little actual reading material for children who have special needs; and paxton2certainly not for those young ones introduced to special needs children, as integration into mainstream classrooms continue.  Their peers are often confused by what they see as “different” and perhaps even “wrong” when it can’t be defined by the “normal classroom rules.”  My books attempt to bridge that gap, and are a great starting place for teachers.  They are written to aid in understanding, inclusion, and acceptance of those behaviors that are different from the traditional “norm.”

There are ten books in the series currently.

Paxton’s World on Fire                                                          Introduction

An Early Arrival                                                                     Preemie

The Great Race                                                                       Asthma

Ears Like Gramps                                                                   Hearing

Lillianna Moves to the Country                                              Down’s Syndrome

Micah Mink Goes to the Concert                                           Autism

Mixed Up Words                                                                    Dyslexia

Special Goalie                                                                        MD

Opal’s New Dream                                                                 Arthritis

The Camping Trip                                                                 ADHD

 

Coming soon:

The Spelling Bee                                                                    Diabetes   (September)

Madison’s Sad Christmas                                                       Depression (November)

Bristol Goes To School                                                          Cancer      (2019)

Harbinger Village                                                                   Cerebral Palsy     (2019)

Fabian’s Smile                                                                        Cleft Palate            (2019)

Our children face an amazing list of challenges.  God has placed me in a position to be able to do something fundamentally good.  I am humbled to be able to place words on paper that can help children understand what is going on in their bodies, as well as, a resource parents and teachers can use to help other children understand what is happening with their friends who seem different than themselves. If you are interested in any of these books or those to be released in the coming months and years, contact me, authormargieharding@gmail.com or visit http://www.paxtonseries.com or amazon.com.

**An added note — All 10 books are both in softcover and hardback….and we are just beginning to add a toddler version of the current K-3rd grade books (although the books are used for older students in special education classes, as well), and I am working on a chapter book!  The first toddler book, The Big Fire, should be available in just a couple weeks.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Margie – thank you for guesting. I’m grateful I could host your blog and further the word about these important books.  NL

 

Writer Wednesday: Writer and Writing is a Relationship

heartI know people say writing is a commitment, but it’s more than that. Writing isn’t “like” a relationship, it IS a relationship. A writer must be involved with the whole process of writing, must love it, need it, want to continue to work to make it better. It takes commitment, time, dedication, and the desire to move forward in life with writing.

A few years ago, I was at a conference where the main speaker (don’t remember his relat 1name) said, “You have to be selfish. You must take the time for yourself, for your writing.” He went on to say he spent every Friday at a hotel with his writing. (are you picturing him checking into a seedy, no-tell motel with an old typewriter?;-)

My friend joked, “Noreen does this thing where she actually spends time writing.” My regular action became fodder for humor because he is a writer, but he falls under the category of non-writing writers like many others.

Life happens. We have families, pets, jobs, homes, tons of responsibilities. But notice that list – I put family first. People we love comes first. This is why a writer might consider writing as a relationship – so they give it priority.

I schedule things around my writing whenever possible. I will make doctor appointments, meetings, and everything I have power to plan secondary to my writing by scheduling them before or after my planned writing time.

Once a person considers themselves in a relationship with their writing, they may relat 3naturally form relationship goals! If writing were a romantic relationship, how would you handle it differently? Would you want to go to sleep with it or wake up with it or both? What would you want to give it? Would you spend more time with it, going over the details, working it out so it was just perfect, going over it and over it again to work it out nice and smooth? What do you do for your significant other? Take it out to dinner? On vacation?

Writing, like a lover, needs constant attention and nourishment. Placing it on the back burner means we may never get to it. It’ll be there, but not as warm and flush as we’d like. Being in a relationship with writing means the needs of both are fulfilled. Writing is fresh and flowing and continually improved and the writer is happier, more productive.

We do this because we love it, we are driven to do it. Treat writing like it’s important to you.

Think of writing before you fall asleep, when you wake up in the middle of the night just to say one more thing.

relat 2

The Evolution of Writing Style

A prompt in a writing group to think about style inspired me to consider the evolution of my own writing style.

Writing evolves, grows, hopefully gets better, with all we learn and experience in life.  But style is something a little different. Style, sometimes, doesn’t change. Or, I should argue, doesn’t change that much. Maybe, it’s the small changes that only a critical reader might notice.

Last year, when I published Here in the Silence, I felt the stories earned that title. All the protagonists were struggling with finding their own voice. They felt silent or silenced, either from their own lack or from those around them.

This year, with Namas-Cray, my characters are different. Some are still struggling with being heard, (Of Strays and Exes), while some believe they are completely aware of who they are and what they want (A Perfect Day). There’s darkness, but there’s a dark ironic humor that embeds itself in their thoughts and actions: “Of Strays” begins with “When I killed my neighbors dog….” and in “A Perfect Day” a woman’s suicide is interrupted by an armed burglary.

What’s different between these two years of writing is the ironic humor. And, I’ve noticed that’s worked it’s way into most of my writing, including my poetry, “The Fly” features a fly who has “24 rose colored hours” of life, both celebrating and loathing those hours.

I’ve always handled my own life’s struggles with humor. When my daughter was a teenager, she looked at me and said, “Is everything funny to you?” Anyone who has a teenager knows – it’s got to be funny or you’ll lose your freaking mind. Therefore, to answer her question, I gave her a long, slow nod (gritting my teeth).

Does that mean my writing style will make you laugh at the dead dog or at the woman’s suicide attempt?  Absolutely not!  That’s where the irony comes in. It’s subtle and sardonic. The protagonist in “Of Strays,” offers to pay for the dog.  She doesn’t quite get the loss. But the protagonist grows to understand. And, in “A Perfect Day,” suicide is never a humorous topic, but our very serious plans being interrupted by life is something everyone can relate to. Her day is no longer so perfect when an armed robber says, “your money or your life.” And his plan, certainly, is not going as well either. Irony!

One of my students believes that “humor” should never be used in conjunction with a serious topic. In many cases, this is true. But we have to look at the irony surrounding the fiction that is how we learn and grow; introducing a topic with subtly allows the readers a way in to understand the situation, relate, empathize. The same is true of our lives. If you slam someone with truth, they are likely to back off and not engage. We introduce ourselves first, our struggles, along with the irony of moving on in our lives.

Let’s take a look at my life – what has happened in my life that might have made me feel more sardonic.  I teach a report writing class, which I run like a lesson in professionalism. How you present yourself as well as your writing says a lot about the person you are.  And then comes this Presidential campaign. How do I tell my 18-22 year old students to act like a professional when #45 acts like a spoiled child who’s had too much sugar?

Irony much?  This year, I was offered an African American Literature course. How do I stand in front of 36 students of diverse backgrounds as a white woman lecturing them on African American Lit?  Humor. Confront the irony. I asked them on the first day of class, “Does anyone want to know why a white girl is teaching an African American Lit Course?”

(According to the students, btw, I did a great job. Let me say, that I absolutely loved it! We built some iron bridges of communication in that class that I hope the students take out into the world with them. I took the course for a number of reasons, one of them was the above #45. But that’s a whole other story – We’re focusing on irony, life, writing style).

I do believe life affects writing style. Everything we learn, do, experience, and want should affect our writing style. We should grow and evolve as humans and as writers.

I was stuck once on a story. I’d been working with it, not quite able to get it to that sweet spot, when I decided on a vacay to New Orleans. I’m not much of a drinker, so it’s not the absinthe smoothies on Bourbon Street that inspired the trip, so much as the fanfare, the history, and the culture. I might have thought about the story while I was there; I don’t really remember. But, upon my return, the answer materialized. The story became what it needed to be. (It’s under consideration for an award as I write this).

That trip has stayed with me, as well as my other travels, other experiences: the homeless man at Starbucks focusing with intensity on a spiral bound notebook as if he was finishing his own novel – “$1.00 Stories” – the psychic who told me my illusion bubbles had burst “How to Throw a Psychic a Surprise Party” and so on. We must let life affect us, work its way into us, our style must evolve, or we stay stuck in life and in art.

writing life.jpg

I’m interested in hearing thoughts on this.  Do agree? Disagree? Has your style changed? How or why?

Enter to win

Ladies and gentlemen,

To celebrate my summer release of as-of-yet-unnamed book of short stories, I’m giving away books for the next few months. Enter to win a copy of West End on GoodReads!

westendposter

Random facts stalkers don’t know…

12342690_1164373420258649_3435683081103125993_n

I grew up in a tough neighborhood. (don’t stereotype me)

I was in a band. (for about 5 minutes)

I was in a few movies. (another 5 minutes)

I wrote my first “novel”at the age of 11. (an angst ridden piece about a girl who is kidnapped because she witnessed a crime)

I was actually kidnapped. (not at 11/that story is waiting for publication)

I always have wanted to own a Munster-like house.

I’ve gotten lost in every major city I’ve ever been (including abroad. Trust me when I say every country/every city has neighborhoods you don’t want to be lost in at dusk)

I keep a lot of random facts as well as insignificant details in my brain. (jokes don’t stick tho)

now the stalkers know – don’t be a stalker….

When your back’s against the wall…

17358809_1593683070661013_1056498107982738675_o