Archive for the ‘Nadine Donovan’ Category


Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

SNOW, a picture book by Uri Shulevitz, is so good you can enjoy it year ’round. It’s a Caldecott Honor Book and my guess is this choice was a no-brainer decision by the Caldecott committee if there ever was one. The illustrations are gorgeous, a whimsical take on the days of Charles Dickens, you think-until radio and tv playfully twist with the visual feast.

The story is simple-the best always are, seems like. A boy and his dog see the first signs of snow with promise and optimism but everyone they encounter poo-poo it away. The joke’s on them and the story shows us all, be us 3 or 103, the power of positive thinking.


Prompt: Firsts

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012


Claude Convers*, French teacher extraordinaire, recently asked her students (of which I am one) to share memories of their first day on the job.

As each story unfolded I was struck by how intense that day is for us all and by how we remembered the smallest, yet telling, details such as subtle changes in applause by college students or the snarky facial expression of one grade schooler, foreshadowing the havoc she would wreak the entire year.

This inspired last Friday’s prompt: riff off the idea of ‘firsts’. First anythings can be rife with emotion; first date, first day married, first day living without the loved one who died,…the possibilities are endless. They can be as simple as the first time a character ties his shoe or complex like the first time you or your character realized a treasured friendship comes with a price.

There was a secondary prompt: find this week’s horoscope in the newspaper and see if any telling tidbits get the creative juices going. We used Robert Brezny’s* from the Santa Fe reporter. Check him out online…talk about creative!

* (Claude teaches long-distance as well as locally)

* (like popping a soul vitamin)



Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Pam Houston did a book signing recently at the fabulous independent Santa Fe bookseller, Collected Works, for her new title, ‘Contents May Have Shifted’. She had lots of interesting tidbits to share, not least of which being recognized in hot tub-full monty at Ten Thousand Waves, a local’s favorite spa in the mountains-definitely the downside of fame!

Her writing advice was less splashy but still evocative to the aspiring scribe: reflect on life glimpses you get from time to time (no pun intended), the moments when you go, huh, or huh? or wow, or whatever makes you pause. It could be a crazy stranger, a strange comment or a strung-out friend. A cloud formation. Anything.

For our most recent class prompt, I borrowed from Pam, suggesting we write about one glimpse or make a list to write about later, whichever inspired us. If anything, this exercise helps us take note of the little moments that we may otherwise overlook on a busy day, moments rich with possibility to make our stories ring true with authentic detail.




Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

We all know the advice about writing every day, that consistency is the best way to keep the momentum going. Oliver Stone said it best when asked what it took to write a script. Answer: “Ass meets chair.”

But what if you sit down one day and you just can’t do it? You are mired in your middle or you can’t get to the next plot point without sounding inauthentic. Or you simply don’t have time. These are the situations when our momentum is in danger of breaking.

Here’s a solution someone in my mom’s creative writing group shared: If you can’t/won’t write, sit anyway. Sit and do nothing. Chances are the rest will do you good. It might relax the knot in your scene. Or it might get you antsy to start scribbling.

And if you don’t have time? Take one minute. Everyone has one minute. Sit and do nothing. Nothing is space and creativity grows best where it has room. If someone asks what you are doing there looking idle, you can say, I’m working on my writing!

Calling a little corner of your day your writing time, whether you actually pick up a pen or not, means the structure is always in place for your writing to happen. Oliver Stone was right!



Groundhog Day

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012


Since that hilarious movie of the same name came out, Groundhog Day means more to many of us than the question, “will winter’s remainder be mild or severe?” We now think of Groundhog Day as a time when the same thing happens over and over, with no stop in sight.

When I get a rejection in the mail, or more often now, in my in-box, I can’t help but think, it’s Groundhog Day! The letters are almost always the same, “Sorry but your project is not right for our list,” or, “After careful consideration….”

George Clooney has some great advice for actors. He told students at the Actor’s Studio, (I paraphrase), “You actors are the house–meaning the casino. You get nervous and down on yourself and worried you’ll blow it, but what are you really risking? You don’t have the job when you walk in, and chances are you won’t have the part when you leave. You’ve lost nothing.” When he realized this, auditions got a heck of a lot easier for him. And now that he is often the one doing the casting, he sees how nervous the folks are on his side of the table, worried they won’t find the right actor for the part, panicked money is hurtling out the window.

We writers are gamblers, too. We can waltz into the publishing casino and throw those dice without a second thought. And one of these days, our long winter of rejections will surely come to an end.