Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dear Editor-on-call:

I always have trouble with lay and lie. I've heard that people lie and objects lay but it always sounds odd to me to say,"I'm lying here" instead of "I'm laying here." What is the correct usage?

Yours truly,
Don't want to lie
(aka Sherrie of Write About Now)

Dear No lie,

The mnemonic (memory-helper) you mentioned is correct. Only a chicken, dinosaur or other oviparous creature should ever say "I'm laying here."

Except in the sense of producing eggs, lay is always a transitive verb. That means it is the sort of action that always happens TO something (its object). It behaves more like other "regular" verbs, taking an -ed sounding ending (though spelled differently).

The basic pattern: lay, laid, had/have laid

Here are some examples, with the verb in italics and the object highlighted:

Present: Lay that here!
He lays down the law.
Present participle: We are laying all rejects on this pile.
Past: Jo laid her dry cleaning on the counter.
Past participle: The Duke had laid all choices before him.
Future: Xan will lay your order out in the morning
Gerund: Laying carpet is hard work.


Lie, on the other hand, is intransitive. It's a simple action the subject does. Period. But it's not so simple tense-wise. It's annoyingly irregular with a past tense that trips us up: lay! Argh.

Basic pattern: lie, lay, had/have lain

Present: Lie still!
Lulu lies on the hammock.
Present participle: I am lying in bed, reading.
Past: Hector lay there, dreaming of victory.
Past participle: The tiger had lain in wait.
Future: Dad will lie down when his shift ends.
Gerund: Lying around is relaxing.


I think another reason for your discomfort is that fact that this perfectly good verb has a homonym (sound alike) that means "to tell a falsehood." And who wants that taint to one's honest rest? Well, anyone who isn't a chicken.

We usually overcome that confusion by adding place markers like "lie down" or "lying on the couch" to distinguish reclining from speaking falsehood.

To summarize:
Use lay when moving objects. Its tenses are regular, if strangely spelled.
Use lie when the actor is moving him/herself. Its tenses are irregular.

How do you keep lay and lie straight in your mind? Any tips to add?
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 Laurel Garver
Dear Editor-on-call:

I always have trouble with lay and lie. I've heard that people lie and objects lay but it always sounds odd to me to say,"I'm lying here" instead of "I'm laying here." What is the correct usage?

Yours truly,
Don't want to lie
(aka Sherrie of Write About Now)

Dear No lie,

The mnemonic (memory-helper) you mentioned is correct. Only a chicken, dinosaur or other oviparous creature should ever say "I'm laying here."

Except in the sense of producing eggs, lay is always a transitive verb. That means it is the sort of action that always happens TO something (its object). It behaves more like other "regular" verbs, taking an -ed sounding ending (though spelled differently).

The basic pattern: lay, laid, had/have laid

Here are some examples, with the verb in italics and the object highlighted:

Present: Lay that here!
He lays down the law.
Present participle: We are laying all rejects on this pile.
Past: Jo laid her dry cleaning on the counter.
Past participle: The Duke had laid all choices before him.
Future: Xan will lay your order out in the morning
Gerund: Laying carpet is hard work.


Lie, on the other hand, is intransitive. It's a simple action the subject does. Period. But it's not so simple tense-wise. It's annoyingly irregular with a past tense that trips us up: lay! Argh.

Basic pattern: lie, lay, had/have lain

Present: Lie still!
Lulu lies on the hammock.
Present participle: I am lying in bed, reading.
Past: Hector lay there, dreaming of victory.
Past participle: The tiger had lain in wait.
Future: Dad will lie down when his shift ends.
Gerund: Lying around is relaxing.


I think another reason for your discomfort is that fact that this perfectly good verb has a homonym (sound alike) that means "to tell a falsehood." And who wants that taint to one's honest rest? Well, anyone who isn't a chicken.

We usually overcome that confusion by adding place markers like "lie down" or "lying on the couch" to distinguish reclining from speaking falsehood.

To summarize:
Use lay when moving objects. Its tenses are regular, if strangely spelled.
Use lie when the actor is moving him/herself. Its tenses are irregular.

How do you keep lay and lie straight in your mind? Any tips to add?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

blog gushy nonsense if I want to! Because I'm another year older today and feeling thankful for so many things:

~I get to send acceptance letters at work, spreading happiness to smart, underappreciated English profs and grad students of the world.

~My kidlit critique group gave me amazing encouragement on my novel last night, and great ideas for a final polish.

~A character lookalike was on the train this AM. Quality watching done. Check.

~I'm getting a new bike from my hubby! Makes me feel like a giddy kid. :-)

~Greetings on facebook reminded me what amazing friends and family I have.

~I got big hugs from my daughter this morning. A few years ago, she was the anti-snuggle kid who would hit you if you tried to comfort her when she was hurt. This feels HUGE! :-)

~Prepping to teach a co-ed bunch of high schoolers at youth group has me SO excited. The group this year is incredibly engaged, full of questions and eager to learn.

~People actually read and comment on this blog. I'm still amazed that you all keep visiting.

What gives you an attitude of gratitude?
Tuesday, September 28, 2010 Laurel Garver
blog gushy nonsense if I want to! Because I'm another year older today and feeling thankful for so many things:

~I get to send acceptance letters at work, spreading happiness to smart, underappreciated English profs and grad students of the world.

~My kidlit critique group gave me amazing encouragement on my novel last night, and great ideas for a final polish.

~A character lookalike was on the train this AM. Quality watching done. Check.

~I'm getting a new bike from my hubby! Makes me feel like a giddy kid. :-)

~Greetings on facebook reminded me what amazing friends and family I have.

~I got big hugs from my daughter this morning. A few years ago, she was the anti-snuggle kid who would hit you if you tried to comfort her when she was hurt. This feels HUGE! :-)

~Prepping to teach a co-ed bunch of high schoolers at youth group has me SO excited. The group this year is incredibly engaged, full of questions and eager to learn.

~People actually read and comment on this blog. I'm still amazed that you all keep visiting.

What gives you an attitude of gratitude?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Today I'm participating in Elena's blog hop, in which a bunch of us share our take on a particular topic. I think the biggest challenge of today's topic was, for me, not trying to cover too much. If you click on my topic label "characterization" over on the right, you'll see this aspect of writing is one I blog about frequently--nearly 30 posts to date! But I'll do my best to be a little big-picture, a little detailed.

= = = =

The most compelling characters seem to have a life outside the confines of your story. They're not like those animatronic beings on Disney World rides that are switched on and come to life only when there's an audience to observe them.

Giving a character that life might entail developing backstory. But more importantly, it involves giving every character things to do, places to be, relationships, worries, plans and goals that engage them during the "here and now" of your story. Much of that present life may take place offstage (or "off page"). But it should leave traces--evidence apparent in the details you sprinkle in.

Those details might support what we already know about a character. A nice guy might show up late for a formal date with wheel grease on his knees. And we know he's the type to stop and change someone's tire, even if it's inconvenient.

The details might play against type. She's a tough girl from the 'hood, but that strange indentation under her chin...well, it looks like the mark of hours of practicing violin.

When details play enough against type, you can end up making a powerful social commentary. Think of Rowling's Dolores Umbridge, the sadistic bureaucrat who takes over Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Her office is decorated with pink and lace and collector's plates depicting frolicking kittens. It's absolutely chilling, because Rowling has deftly shown you the heart of evil--one that perpetuates wrong in the quest for building a comfy utopia.

How you work in those details could take a volume to explore. But I'll give some broad-strokes ideas, followed by examples.

Physical traits
~Peculiar calluses on his hands from rowing crew
~Terrible haircut from her kid sister who's attending beauty school
~Incongruous tattoos
~Signs of past injury like limping and scars

Actions
~Hand placed always on his beeper, as if expecting an emergency at the hospital
~Fiddling with a charm bracelet that seems to tell a story
~Humming music from a peculiar venue -- hymns, show tunes, Wiggles songs

Objects
~Powdered sugar traces on the dieter's sweater
~Moth-eaten woman's coat still hanging in the bachelor's closet
~McDonald's uniform stuffed in the bottom of her locker
~Collection of knickknacks from around the world

The best sort of details to include are ones that hint at a character's values, passions, commitments and priorities. That, to me, makes a fictional being more than a cardboard cutout taking up space--it makes him have a life that means something.

What are some of your favorite characters who seem to have a life outside the novel? What resonates with you about these concepts of "life outside" and "life that means something"?
Friday, September 24, 2010 Laurel Garver
Today I'm participating in Elena's blog hop, in which a bunch of us share our take on a particular topic. I think the biggest challenge of today's topic was, for me, not trying to cover too much. If you click on my topic label "characterization" over on the right, you'll see this aspect of writing is one I blog about frequently--nearly 30 posts to date! But I'll do my best to be a little big-picture, a little detailed.

= = = =

The most compelling characters seem to have a life outside the confines of your story. They're not like those animatronic beings on Disney World rides that are switched on and come to life only when there's an audience to observe them.

Giving a character that life might entail developing backstory. But more importantly, it involves giving every character things to do, places to be, relationships, worries, plans and goals that engage them during the "here and now" of your story. Much of that present life may take place offstage (or "off page"). But it should leave traces--evidence apparent in the details you sprinkle in.

Those details might support what we already know about a character. A nice guy might show up late for a formal date with wheel grease on his knees. And we know he's the type to stop and change someone's tire, even if it's inconvenient.

The details might play against type. She's a tough girl from the 'hood, but that strange indentation under her chin...well, it looks like the mark of hours of practicing violin.

When details play enough against type, you can end up making a powerful social commentary. Think of Rowling's Dolores Umbridge, the sadistic bureaucrat who takes over Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Her office is decorated with pink and lace and collector's plates depicting frolicking kittens. It's absolutely chilling, because Rowling has deftly shown you the heart of evil--one that perpetuates wrong in the quest for building a comfy utopia.

How you work in those details could take a volume to explore. But I'll give some broad-strokes ideas, followed by examples.

Physical traits
~Peculiar calluses on his hands from rowing crew
~Terrible haircut from her kid sister who's attending beauty school
~Incongruous tattoos
~Signs of past injury like limping and scars

Actions
~Hand placed always on his beeper, as if expecting an emergency at the hospital
~Fiddling with a charm bracelet that seems to tell a story
~Humming music from a peculiar venue -- hymns, show tunes, Wiggles songs

Objects
~Powdered sugar traces on the dieter's sweater
~Moth-eaten woman's coat still hanging in the bachelor's closet
~McDonald's uniform stuffed in the bottom of her locker
~Collection of knickknacks from around the world

The best sort of details to include are ones that hint at a character's values, passions, commitments and priorities. That, to me, makes a fictional being more than a cardboard cutout taking up space--it makes him have a life that means something.

What are some of your favorite characters who seem to have a life outside the novel? What resonates with you about these concepts of "life outside" and "life that means something"?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thanks to everyone who entered my Too, oh too cool contest in honor of reaching a blogging milestone of 202 followers. You all posed fantastic "ask-the-editor" questions as part of your entries that I'll continue tackling over the coming weeks.

Now, onto what your really came here for: the winners announcement.

Prize A,
the Staples gift card, goes to

Shannon O'Donnell

Prize B,
the Harry-Potter inspired "expecto patronem" tote, goes to

Lola Sharp

Prize C,
the grab-bag of writerly goodies goes to

Kelly Lyman

Ladies, please send your postal addresses to me at laurels (dot) leaves (at) gmail (dot) com.

Congratulations to the winners, and thanks again, followers, for giving me a reason to celebrate.

What good thing, big or small, makes you want to celebrate this week?
Thursday, September 23, 2010 Laurel Garver
Thanks to everyone who entered my Too, oh too cool contest in honor of reaching a blogging milestone of 202 followers. You all posed fantastic "ask-the-editor" questions as part of your entries that I'll continue tackling over the coming weeks.

Now, onto what your really came here for: the winners announcement.

Prize A,
the Staples gift card, goes to

Shannon O'Donnell

Prize B,
the Harry-Potter inspired "expecto patronem" tote, goes to

Lola Sharp

Prize C,
the grab-bag of writerly goodies goes to

Kelly Lyman

Ladies, please send your postal addresses to me at laurels (dot) leaves (at) gmail (dot) com.

Congratulations to the winners, and thanks again, followers, for giving me a reason to celebrate.

What good thing, big or small, makes you want to celebrate this week?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Just because you've got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn't mean we all have," said Hermione nastily, picking up her quill again.
--J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (chap 21)

That line almost always makes me laugh out loud. But recently it also kicked me in the teeth.

I've been trying to figure out what isn't quite working in my story opening, and this idea of "emotional range" was a wallop to the incisors.

I realized that by my second scene, my protagonist was already deeply entrenched in her dislike of another character. And yet, by story's end these two will reconcile. But how would my reader even want that to happen? I've given no space for the possibility that my protagonist desires reconciliation. By starting at the wrong place emotionally, I'd left no room to grow beyond simply intensifying that one emotion. In other words, I'd given her the emotional range of a teaspoon.

For conflict to work well in a story, it needs space to escalate over chapters. This might mean rethinking the emotional starting place for your protagonist. In my case, my protagonist needs to start out motivated to have a good relationship, only to have her desire thwarted. Now I have the emotional pulse needed to carry the story forward, and more potential for escalation. I've added range for her emotions to follow a larger arc:

desire for closeness > confusion and worry > hurt > frustration > anger > rage > explosion > despair > surrender > renewal.

See how starting at anger would cut my emotional arc in half?

Anyone else ever tackle this problem in a manuscript? What worked for you to widen the emotional range and stretch out the arc?

= = = =

Time is running out to enter my Too, oh too cool prize drawing!
Click HERE to enter today!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 Laurel Garver
"Just because you've got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn't mean we all have," said Hermione nastily, picking up her quill again.
--J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (chap 21)

That line almost always makes me laugh out loud. But recently it also kicked me in the teeth.

I've been trying to figure out what isn't quite working in my story opening, and this idea of "emotional range" was a wallop to the incisors.

I realized that by my second scene, my protagonist was already deeply entrenched in her dislike of another character. And yet, by story's end these two will reconcile. But how would my reader even want that to happen? I've given no space for the possibility that my protagonist desires reconciliation. By starting at the wrong place emotionally, I'd left no room to grow beyond simply intensifying that one emotion. In other words, I'd given her the emotional range of a teaspoon.

For conflict to work well in a story, it needs space to escalate over chapters. This might mean rethinking the emotional starting place for your protagonist. In my case, my protagonist needs to start out motivated to have a good relationship, only to have her desire thwarted. Now I have the emotional pulse needed to carry the story forward, and more potential for escalation. I've added range for her emotions to follow a larger arc:

desire for closeness > confusion and worry > hurt > frustration > anger > rage > explosion > despair > surrender > renewal.

See how starting at anger would cut my emotional arc in half?

Anyone else ever tackle this problem in a manuscript? What worked for you to widen the emotional range and stretch out the arc?

= = = =

Time is running out to enter my Too, oh too cool prize drawing!
Click HERE to enter today!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My too, oh too cool prize drawing, in celebration of reaching a 202 follower milestone, is still open for entries. I'm offering three separate prizes to three lucky winners.

All you have to do is comment on THIS post. Simple!
(If you choose to earn bonus entries by tweeting, etc., that's up to you, but not required)

I've extended the deadline to Wednesday, September 22.

Don't miss out! Enter today!

And thank you, loyal followers, for making blogging a fun, encouraging experience. You guys rock!
Saturday, September 18, 2010 Laurel Garver
My too, oh too cool prize drawing, in celebration of reaching a 202 follower milestone, is still open for entries. I'm offering three separate prizes to three lucky winners.

All you have to do is comment on THIS post. Simple!
(If you choose to earn bonus entries by tweeting, etc., that's up to you, but not required)

I've extended the deadline to Wednesday, September 22.

Don't miss out! Enter today!

And thank you, loyal followers, for making blogging a fun, encouraging experience. You guys rock!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dear Editor-on-call:

What should I look for when choosing a title for a work?

Sincerely,
Untitled

(aka Lana at Lana Phillips's blog)


= = = =

Dear Untitled:

In a word? Flavor. Your working title (always think of it as such, because publishers frequently retitle works) should hint at the reading experience your book will provide.

So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow, er, your genre and approach. Look at titles in the section where you believe your book would be shelved, especially ones that take an approach similar to yours (in terms of tone and pace and level of seriousness). What naming conventions do you notice? One evocative noun? Verb phrases? Soft, shivery alliteration? Obscure literary references? Zany mash-ups? Treat that convention like a poetic form and challenge yourself to brainstorm a dozen possibilities that reflect your content but fit the form.

Once you've done that, run your favorites past LOTS of people--those who've seen your manuscript and those who haven't. Especially get the opinion of folks in your target audience. Tell them your logline, or your one paragraph summary, and ask which potential title sounds like it matches best.

Some opinions will be more useful than others. If votes seem split, go with your gut.


What do you think, readers? How did you go about choosing a working title? What are some of your favorite book titles that express flavor well?

Ask me an editing question and you could win a too, oh too cool prize! Click HERE for details.
Thursday, September 16, 2010 Laurel Garver
Dear Editor-on-call:

What should I look for when choosing a title for a work?

Sincerely,
Untitled

(aka Lana at Lana Phillips's blog)


= = = =

Dear Untitled:

In a word? Flavor. Your working title (always think of it as such, because publishers frequently retitle works) should hint at the reading experience your book will provide.

So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow, er, your genre and approach. Look at titles in the section where you believe your book would be shelved, especially ones that take an approach similar to yours (in terms of tone and pace and level of seriousness). What naming conventions do you notice? One evocative noun? Verb phrases? Soft, shivery alliteration? Obscure literary references? Zany mash-ups? Treat that convention like a poetic form and challenge yourself to brainstorm a dozen possibilities that reflect your content but fit the form.

Once you've done that, run your favorites past LOTS of people--those who've seen your manuscript and those who haven't. Especially get the opinion of folks in your target audience. Tell them your logline, or your one paragraph summary, and ask which potential title sounds like it matches best.

Some opinions will be more useful than others. If votes seem split, go with your gut.


What do you think, readers? How did you go about choosing a working title? What are some of your favorite book titles that express flavor well?

Ask me an editing question and you could win a too, oh too cool prize! Click HERE for details.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dear Editor-on-Call:

We were talking about "what if's" in my writing class last night and everyone would say things like "What if Narnia was real?" Based on my Spanish training, I think that "was" should be a "were," but I'm not as familiar with subjunctive use in English. Am I crazy, or are they wrong?

Sincerely,
Wish it were clear

(aka JEM of Can I Get a Side of Reality With That?)

= = =

Dear Wish:

You are absolutely correct that "what if" expressions should use the subjunctive mood in English. Your classmates are, however, demonstrating its diminishing popularity. W. Somerset Maugham said that “The subjunctive mood is in its death throes, and the best thing to do is to put it out of its misery as soon as possible.” However, the Random House College Dictionary says, "Although the subjunctive seems to be disappearing from the speech of many, its use is still the mark of the educated speaker." So sorry Maugham-y, baby. Many still use (and defend) the subjunctive mood.

Hypothetical situations
This mood is often used to express a wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred. Whether wished for, feared or suggested, it's NOT the current state of affairs.

Here are a few examples:

Present tense (all subjects take "be", not "am", "is" or "are"; no "s" endings either)
I wish to be proven right.
It's high time she buy a new car.

Past tense (all subjects take "were")
She wished she were invisible.
"If I were rich, I'd have the time that I lack / To sit in the synagogue and pray." (From the Fiddler on the Roof song, of course)

Future tense (all subjects take "were to" instead of "will/shall")
If he were to win the lottery, he would move to Rio.
We wish we were to host the party next year.

The "English subjunctive" wiki has a handy chart to help you select the correct verb form, and tons of examples and explanations.

BEWARE that not every "if" clause is discussing a hypothetical situation. In cases where you could swap in the word "whether," the sentence does NOT use subjunctive mood.

Examples
He asked me if [whether] I was scared.
She wants to know if [whether] I am going to the prom.

Commands and requests
Subjunctive mood also appears in subordinate clauses, almost always a "that" clause, after verbs of commanding or requesting (jussive subjunctive).

Examples:
Dad demands that you be here at eight.
We move that the bill be put to a vote.
I suggest that he move to another room.

Stock phrases
There are a number of stock phrases expressing hypotheticals or commands/requests that also use subjunctive mood:

~if need be
~as it were
~if I were you; were I you
~be that as it may
~(God) bless you!
~come what may
~far be it from me
~Heaven forbid
~so be it
~suffice it to say
~peace be with you
~the powers that be
~truth be told
~would that it were

Hope that helped clarify things for you. The Wiki I mentioned above goes into more depth, so swing by there for more information.

What's your opinion of the subjunctive mood? Do you side with Maugham, in wishing it die? Or do you agree with Random House's editors that it's a sign of being educated?

Ask a me an editing question and you could win a too, oh too cool prize! Click HERE for details!
Wednesday, September 15, 2010 Laurel Garver
Dear Editor-on-Call:

We were talking about "what if's" in my writing class last night and everyone would say things like "What if Narnia was real?" Based on my Spanish training, I think that "was" should be a "were," but I'm not as familiar with subjunctive use in English. Am I crazy, or are they wrong?

Sincerely,
Wish it were clear

(aka JEM of Can I Get a Side of Reality With That?)

= = =

Dear Wish:

You are absolutely correct that "what if" expressions should use the subjunctive mood in English. Your classmates are, however, demonstrating its diminishing popularity. W. Somerset Maugham said that “The subjunctive mood is in its death throes, and the best thing to do is to put it out of its misery as soon as possible.” However, the Random House College Dictionary says, "Although the subjunctive seems to be disappearing from the speech of many, its use is still the mark of the educated speaker." So sorry Maugham-y, baby. Many still use (and defend) the subjunctive mood.

Hypothetical situations
This mood is often used to express a wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred. Whether wished for, feared or suggested, it's NOT the current state of affairs.

Here are a few examples:

Present tense (all subjects take "be", not "am", "is" or "are"; no "s" endings either)
I wish to be proven right.
It's high time she buy a new car.

Past tense (all subjects take "were")
She wished she were invisible.
"If I were rich, I'd have the time that I lack / To sit in the synagogue and pray." (From the Fiddler on the Roof song, of course)

Future tense (all subjects take "were to" instead of "will/shall")
If he were to win the lottery, he would move to Rio.
We wish we were to host the party next year.

The "English subjunctive" wiki has a handy chart to help you select the correct verb form, and tons of examples and explanations.

BEWARE that not every "if" clause is discussing a hypothetical situation. In cases where you could swap in the word "whether," the sentence does NOT use subjunctive mood.

Examples
He asked me if [whether] I was scared.
She wants to know if [whether] I am going to the prom.

Commands and requests
Subjunctive mood also appears in subordinate clauses, almost always a "that" clause, after verbs of commanding or requesting (jussive subjunctive).

Examples:
Dad demands that you be here at eight.
We move that the bill be put to a vote.
I suggest that he move to another room.

Stock phrases
There are a number of stock phrases expressing hypotheticals or commands/requests that also use subjunctive mood:

~if need be
~as it were
~if I were you; were I you
~be that as it may
~(God) bless you!
~come what may
~far be it from me
~Heaven forbid
~so be it
~suffice it to say
~peace be with you
~the powers that be
~truth be told
~would that it were

Hope that helped clarify things for you. The Wiki I mentioned above goes into more depth, so swing by there for more information.

What's your opinion of the subjunctive mood? Do you side with Maugham, in wishing it die? Or do you agree with Random House's editors that it's a sign of being educated?

Ask a me an editing question and you could win a too, oh too cool prize! Click HERE for details!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The happy day has arrived! In celebration of reaching 202 followers, I'm hosting a "Too, oh too cool" prize drawing that you, dear readers, helped design.

I'll be giving away three separate prizes--unisex cool stuff (so please enter, gentlemen!). This is open to international entrants, though only US residents are eligible for the gift card.

Drawing prizes

1) Gift card: $15 Staples card for stocking up on printer paper, note cards and other necessities.

2) Totebag: Harry Potter inspired "expecto patronem" tote for keeping the dementors out of your latest haul from the library.

3) Goodies to inspire you
Mousepad (or use as XXL coaster for your drinks): "The alchemy of writing consists of imagination, drive and discipline. Have these and the rest is a forgone conclusion." (See image HERE.)

Keychain: "Writers Write" with vintage typewriter (See image HERE.)

Magnet: "Read, seek, imagine..." (image at left)





To enter, you must leave a comment to this post.

Bonus entries will be given as follows:
+5 Existing follower
+3 New follower as of 9/7
+2 Tweet contest
+5 Link contest on your blog sidebar
+10 Pose an "Ask-the-editor" question on grammar, punctuation, critiquing
+1 Indicate whether you are US or international
+1 Calculate your total number of entries

Contest is now CLOSED

Winners will be announced Thursday, September 23.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010 Laurel Garver
The happy day has arrived! In celebration of reaching 202 followers, I'm hosting a "Too, oh too cool" prize drawing that you, dear readers, helped design.

I'll be giving away three separate prizes--unisex cool stuff (so please enter, gentlemen!). This is open to international entrants, though only US residents are eligible for the gift card.

Drawing prizes

1) Gift card: $15 Staples card for stocking up on printer paper, note cards and other necessities.

2) Totebag: Harry Potter inspired "expecto patronem" tote for keeping the dementors out of your latest haul from the library.

3) Goodies to inspire you
Mousepad (or use as XXL coaster for your drinks): "The alchemy of writing consists of imagination, drive and discipline. Have these and the rest is a forgone conclusion." (See image HERE.)

Keychain: "Writers Write" with vintage typewriter (See image HERE.)

Magnet: "Read, seek, imagine..." (image at left)





To enter, you must leave a comment to this post.

Bonus entries will be given as follows:
+5 Existing follower
+3 New follower as of 9/7
+2 Tweet contest
+5 Link contest on your blog sidebar
+10 Pose an "Ask-the-editor" question on grammar, punctuation, critiquing
+1 Indicate whether you are US or international
+1 Calculate your total number of entries

Contest is now CLOSED

Winners will be announced Thursday, September 23.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the dementors feed upon--hope, happiness, the desire to survive...."
"How do you conjure it?" said Harry curiously.
"With an incantation that will only work if you are concentrating on a single, very happy memory."
--J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (New York: Scholastic, 1999) p. 237.

I've been reading Azkaban to my daughter and came across this passage last night. It got me thinking about the power of memory in our lives and the lives of our characters.

Like Harry, I think I'd have to cast about for a while before I landed on a memory that was powerful enough to protect me from hope-sucking malevolence. Those kinds of memories are the ones tied to our identities, I think. Usually they're of some happy event that turned our life course in some way, like Harry learning he was a wizard.

How about your characters? What memories protect them when hopelessness threatens? How might you use a happy memory to bring hope to a character in a tight corner?

You could win an "expecto patronem" totebag, a gift card or other writerly goodies if you enter my prize drawing HERE.
Monday, September 13, 2010 Laurel Garver
"The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the dementors feed upon--hope, happiness, the desire to survive...."
"How do you conjure it?" said Harry curiously.
"With an incantation that will only work if you are concentrating on a single, very happy memory."
--J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (New York: Scholastic, 1999) p. 237.

I've been reading Azkaban to my daughter and came across this passage last night. It got me thinking about the power of memory in our lives and the lives of our characters.

Like Harry, I think I'd have to cast about for a while before I landed on a memory that was powerful enough to protect me from hope-sucking malevolence. Those kinds of memories are the ones tied to our identities, I think. Usually they're of some happy event that turned our life course in some way, like Harry learning he was a wizard.

How about your characters? What memories protect them when hopelessness threatens? How might you use a happy memory to bring hope to a character in a tight corner?

You could win an "expecto patronem" totebag, a gift card or other writerly goodies if you enter my prize drawing HERE.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Jane opens Brenna’s fridge and sees neat rows of French mineral water, bins stuffed with fresh veggies, and hiding behind a row of organic condiments, a half-eaten shoo-fly pie.

Who is Brenna?
A) A Southern grandma who runs Jane's quilting circle.
B) An upwardly-mobile, urban gym-addict who's ashamed of her rural roots.
C) A disorganized, free-spirited artist who rarely remembers to eat.

If you guessed B, then you know that what’s in a character’s fridge tells you a lot about her. Specifically, it can tell you about the following:

relationship to food
Does she love to cook and have lots of interesting ingredients on hand? Does she eat only out of necessity and give little thought to food?

level of tidiness and ability to plan
Is her fridge dirty or sparkling? Is it bare or full enough to feed an army at a moment's notice? Are foods in logical places? Do oddball items find their way inside?

health-consciousness
Is she a raw-foods vegan? A junk-food junkie? All organic? Cares only if the food is quick and tasty?

level of sophistication
Does she eat only plain, all-American foods or does she try cuisines from all over the world?

socioeconomic status (or strivings)
Is her food pricey foreign imports, middle-America name brands or cheap generics?

willingness to indulge herself
Does she allow herself a tiny pint of Ben & Jerry’s or a freezer full of it? Does she have a freezer-burned 5-gallon vat of generic vanilla ice cream because it’s a “good value”?

spending priorities
Does she skimp on one food category to spend more on another? Is eating organic more important than, say, having cable TV? Does she stick to only WIC-covered items?

ethnic or socioeconomic background
Does she keep specialized ingredients on hand from a particular culture? What are her childhood comfort foods she hides?

place on the traditional to trendy spectrum
Does she have Tupperware containers of leftover tuna-noodle casserole or cartons of takeout from the hip Vietnamese place? Ranch dip or hummus? String beans or edamame?

What's in your character's fridge? How can you use this exercise to know your character better, even if a fridge peek would never fit your story?
Friday, September 10, 2010 Laurel Garver
Jane opens Brenna’s fridge and sees neat rows of French mineral water, bins stuffed with fresh veggies, and hiding behind a row of organic condiments, a half-eaten shoo-fly pie.

Who is Brenna?
A) A Southern grandma who runs Jane's quilting circle.
B) An upwardly-mobile, urban gym-addict who's ashamed of her rural roots.
C) A disorganized, free-spirited artist who rarely remembers to eat.

If you guessed B, then you know that what’s in a character’s fridge tells you a lot about her. Specifically, it can tell you about the following:

relationship to food
Does she love to cook and have lots of interesting ingredients on hand? Does she eat only out of necessity and give little thought to food?

level of tidiness and ability to plan
Is her fridge dirty or sparkling? Is it bare or full enough to feed an army at a moment's notice? Are foods in logical places? Do oddball items find their way inside?

health-consciousness
Is she a raw-foods vegan? A junk-food junkie? All organic? Cares only if the food is quick and tasty?

level of sophistication
Does she eat only plain, all-American foods or does she try cuisines from all over the world?

socioeconomic status (or strivings)
Is her food pricey foreign imports, middle-America name brands or cheap generics?

willingness to indulge herself
Does she allow herself a tiny pint of Ben & Jerry’s or a freezer full of it? Does she have a freezer-burned 5-gallon vat of generic vanilla ice cream because it’s a “good value”?

spending priorities
Does she skimp on one food category to spend more on another? Is eating organic more important than, say, having cable TV? Does she stick to only WIC-covered items?

ethnic or socioeconomic background
Does she keep specialized ingredients on hand from a particular culture? What are her childhood comfort foods she hides?

place on the traditional to trendy spectrum
Does she have Tupperware containers of leftover tuna-noodle casserole or cartons of takeout from the hip Vietnamese place? Ranch dip or hummus? String beans or edamame?

What's in your character's fridge? How can you use this exercise to know your character better, even if a fridge peek would never fit your story?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Attention greater Philly-area writer bloggers--a local get together will be happening soon. My CP Simon Larter and the lovely Frankie Diane Mallis of First Novels Club have been trying to plan this event for months now. If you'd like more details, see Frankie's post HERE. I look forward to meeting some of you fine folks in real life!

Don't forget to enter my contest!

I spent yesterday on the couch rewatching the entire A&E Pride and Prejudice miniseries and guzzling tea between bouts of seal-bark coughing. (Is it possible for adults to get croup?)

What comfort films do you pull out when you're sick?
Thursday, September 09, 2010 Laurel Garver
Attention greater Philly-area writer bloggers--a local get together will be happening soon. My CP Simon Larter and the lovely Frankie Diane Mallis of First Novels Club have been trying to plan this event for months now. If you'd like more details, see Frankie's post HERE. I look forward to meeting some of you fine folks in real life!

Don't forget to enter my contest!

I spent yesterday on the couch rewatching the entire A&E Pride and Prejudice miniseries and guzzling tea between bouts of seal-bark coughing. (Is it possible for adults to get croup?)

What comfort films do you pull out when you're sick?

Monday, September 06, 2010

...the new look. A bit more energetic and less...um, blue. Not that I've lost the love for cool tones. I just fell kind of hard for this leaf image and customized the template that came with it.

Anyway, I'll likely be tweaking this a bit more over the next few days. I still have a kink to work out with the background image. Pardon the fuzziness for now. I have a graphic designer friend helping me correct that.

How was you Labor Day weekend, friends? Do anything special?
Monday, September 06, 2010 Laurel Garver
...the new look. A bit more energetic and less...um, blue. Not that I've lost the love for cool tones. I just fell kind of hard for this leaf image and customized the template that came with it.

Anyway, I'll likely be tweaking this a bit more over the next few days. I still have a kink to work out with the background image. Pardon the fuzziness for now. I have a graphic designer friend helping me correct that.

How was you Labor Day weekend, friends? Do anything special?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

When I started up this blog over a year ago, I was going for a streamlined urban/nature look and customized one of Blogger's simpler templates. Today it just isn't doing it for me anymore. I've hunted down a new template and hope to get the thing up and functional in the next new days. Anyway, brace yourself for an all-new Laurel's Leaves by Labor Day.

How frequently do you redesign your blog? Feel free to share any good tips for bug-free redesigning.
Thursday, September 02, 2010 Laurel Garver
When I started up this blog over a year ago, I was going for a streamlined urban/nature look and customized one of Blogger's simpler templates. Today it just isn't doing it for me anymore. I've hunted down a new template and hope to get the thing up and functional in the next new days. Anyway, brace yourself for an all-new Laurel's Leaves by Labor Day.

How frequently do you redesign your blog? Feel free to share any good tips for bug-free redesigning.