Friday, September 28, 2012

Is College Necessary? What is the Purpose, exactly?

There's more than one road to becoming a writer.
And Other Things.
      You don't need a college degree in writing to write well or get published. Certain jobs--like teaching, or the medical field--DO require school. Writing does not. However, later on I will explain the three things I think college attempts to teach students of all studies.
     Everybody learns differently, and you can't let people tell you "this is the only way." College is nice...but it's not necessary. I'm not complaining--I love college. I'm getting a Bachelor's in English and Creative Writing. But it's not absolutely necessary to spend thousands and thousands on a degree in Creative Writing, or a Master of Fine Arts, or whatever. If you can make yourself into what you want to be without college, go for it! Some of us (like me) need the structure of a professor presiding over a class. Others don't. Maggie Stiefvater wrote a great post on this topic last year. She has a degree in history, but she writes incredibly popular YA fiction of different genres. She does not have a degree in Creative Writing. She taught herself how to write.
     So, in case you haven't gone to college, I'm giving you some secrets-from-an-insider. Later on, I'll give you some tips about how to DIY. This is my opinion about what three things college charges a lot to teach students.
     A HUGE part of college is learning how to ask the right questions. Our teachers come up with questions in order to make us think. We read, they ask, and we answer or get penalized. How do they find these magical questions? Sometimes they think them up, but many times, they pull questions straight from textbooks. And did you know that gazillions of websites hand out great study questions on whatever work you happen to be reading? Just google the work. You'll see. They'll show you how to ask the right questions.
            -A mini-tip: Reread everything you intend to study. The first time through, you're struggling to get the general gist of the material. You really start understanding the author's point the second time through. (Sometimes overviewing things like SparkNotes will help you get beyond this first stage more quickly. No, SparkNotes is not just for cheaters. That's just what teachers want you to think in high school). Take notes, if you're into that. Look up how to take good notes, while you're at it. This will help you ask the right questions.
     The Second thing college teaches is how to find resources. The library is a great start, of course, but don't roll you eyes at me because "I knew she would say that!!!!!" The library is free, so it's cool. There are TONS of writing books in the library system. And the internet helps, too. Until I hit Regent University, I literally did not know that Christians wrote great academic works. I didn't know where to find the right books. (Althought, all I would have had to do was ask people around me, in order to find out. This is why I need school!) If you need help with this, I recommend asking someone who
  • A. has been to college, because people who've been to college love to talk about what they've learned,
  • B. is a teacher, yes, even your child's grade school teacher may be able to help, or
  • C. is a librarian. They know everything.
And of course, there's always Google. Someone taught me once that Wikipedia provides great lists of resources at the bottom of each page. Check them out--they'll have websites upon websites upon great books to root through.
     The last third of college is just doing it. College gives you teachers and deadlines and student-friends to motivate you. If you can be self-motivated, though, you don't need all that. At least, you don't need to pay for it. You can find it youself and keep on track. This is the key step. It's not super hard to find resources, here in our wonderful country, but getting over apathy (or guilt monkeys, as the NaNoWriMoers might say) can be tough. So, after you've come home from your 8-hour work day, and you need to make dinner for you kids, and your spouse wants to watch tv with you for a few hours, do all that...but don't forget to take some time out to study. A focused hour, maybe two a night will do it. Or an unfocused several hours, if you're home during the day.
           -One more mini-tip: let me suggest finding a study buddy. They can help you on so many levels, particularly on staying motivated, remembering your true purpose (having fun and really LEARNING), and keeping you accountable. Any sort of community can be helpful--blogs, forums, etc.
     Remember: you don't need a college degree to be validated at what you do, especially if you're a writer. You can learn through tons of free programs. There are ways to win advice, less expensive ways to buy it, and free ways to scavenge it. Here's a great site with free writing class info.
     One cool thing about studying on your own is that your education arises more naturally. It's organic. You can be proud of it, because you didn't follow any rules. You figured it out, and accomplished it. I know people like this, people who decide they want to learn how to do something, and they do it. Without a class. Like I said earlier, everyone has their own way to learn. You have to experiment to find yours.
     Sometimes, school isn't right for a person. They end up just rushing through everything to meet the deadlines, and find at the end that they didn't actually learn very much. So try your own thing and really enjoy learning.
     I'm not saying DIYing it is easy. I actually think it's much harder. I had to REALLY WANT the very few things I've learned well on my own. You don't need to get an education through college, but you DO need to learn how to learn, then learn all you can, then do something hard with it all, something not everyone else can do.

More on this subject by my favorite bloggers: "Should You Get and MFA?" & "Am I Wrong to Pursure a Writing Career?" by Mary Kole, and a discussion on "How Do You Feel About Creative Writing Schools" by the distinguished crowd attracted by Nathan Bransford's blog.

Also, this awesome vid on the subject by Maggie Stiefvater (the author of one of my favorite books, The Scorpio Races).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Your Library, Ebook, and YA Novel Newscast 9/21/12

Hey everyone!
Next week I'll have a nice, long, detailed post for you (which I know because I've written the first draft already), but this week we have a load of news.
Some library news! One library worker will be teaching a class on how to use the new ebooks. Even though I don't have an ereader, I think I may go anyway :) You can also get the ebooks on smartphones. That class will be on Wednesday, October 3rd, at 6PM.
The library will also be hosting a free demonstration on Jams and Jellies on Wednesday, September 26th at 6PM.
I read several blogs to keep up on book news, and I just found another great review of my FAVORITE Young Adult book of the year: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. If you'd like to read said review, here 'tis.
And some cool YA book news: the Teens' Top Ten voting has officially ended. The results will be in by October 14th! I can't wait!!! As usual, the announcement coincides with Teen Read Week, another YALSA (Young Adult Library Services) initiative. Tell the young adults in your life! The ten winners are not only the most popular YA books in the USA, they are often the most intelligent, original, or literary, as well. It's a great program.
Do you want to make your mark on YA book history? You can be involved in the process of nominating a book for the Printz Award. Isn't that neat? You don't even have to be a YALSA member. Everybody's doing it. Just kidding. But seriously.
Have a great week, Book Bandits and Scribblers!

Original (unedited) Photo Credit: Corso, Stefano. International newspaper, Rome May 2005.jpg. Wikimedia Commons. 15 May 2005. 21 Sept. 2012.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Your Writer's Notebook

You may choose abstract or specific pictures for an Inspiration Section
in your Writer's Notebook. It's all up to you!
Hey Scribblers and Book Bandits!
     Just FYI, the free writer's contest I mentioned a few weeks ago is still going on. If you'd like to enter your 250 word-or-under flash fiction for a chance to win, you can check it out here. It's easy-peasy, and the prize is $250!
     On to our topic: If you are a writer, chances are that you have some notebook or legal pad filled with lists, wit, wisdom, observations, or story ideas. Recently, I created a sort of "writer's notebook," and it has worked out super well for me!
     A writer's notebook has several purposes. I read this in a blog post on Writer Unboxed: "Writing on paper feels less like work and, in my experience, the result is often much more imaginative, playful, and interesting than whatever I most recently typed into a Word doc" (Lewis). It's true! Writing on paper helps us get unstuck, sometimes. Aside from getting us unstuck, notebooks help us organize our thoughts, so we can more easily find things written in the past.
Here's some tips directly from my experience, if you'd like to make one for yourself.
  • Buy a plain notebook, not super fancy-dancy expensive one. Fancy-dancy notebooks don't last long, if you actually use them. If you want to use a fancy-dancy, make it for something that will last a long time, like a record of favorite quotes. Writer's Notebooks, Journals, and grocery lists get used up quickly! You can decorate your own notebook. I use to doodle and write word collages on the covers of mine.
  • Get one with several partitioned sections. I got a red, five-subject notebook for like $2 at Kmart.
  • Decide what each "subject" will be. For example, here are my subjects: 1.) Plot work and Brainstorming. This is a busy section. I restrict it to my novel ideas. 2.) Research. This is where I record all the interesting ideas I read in books, watch on dvds, find out from peeps, etc. For some tips on research, check out this blog post. 3.) Character Development. When I'm stuck in my writing, a lot of time, character-development exercises help me. Writing freeform in their voices, brainstorm about their personalities, writing scenes from their past, etc. This makes them more real. 4.) Other Brainstorming. This is a space for brainstorming other projects, like blog posts, short stories, poetry, etc. It also serves as an overflow space for the first section. 5.) My last section is Random Stuff--prayers, scenes that pop into my head, dreams, lists, free writes, school assignments, whatever. It's a free space. I don't have to think too hard, there. Sometimes, I use what I write there in other sections of my notebook, later.
  • You can write your own subjects. If you are a visual writer, you may want an "Inspiration" section filled with photos.
     A Writer's Notebook is useful in the 5 Stages of Writing, as well! For example, work from the first stage of writing, Observation, often goes into my number 5 category of "Random Stuff." During Stage 3, First-Drafting, you may use the Plot Work and Brainstorming section ALL the time, you'll need to get all your ideas out in the open.
     To find out about the 5 Stages, you can check out this post.
Good luck, Scribblers!

Works Cited
Lewis, Kristyn Kusek. "The Writer's Block Myth." Writer Unboxed: about the craft and business of fiction. Sept. 9th, 2012. Sept 12, 2012.>.

Photo Credit:
Oktavio. "Acople visual generado con una camara de PC y la pantalla." Wikimedia Commons. 24 October 2009. 14 September 2012. <>

Friday, September 7, 2012

eBooks and Pizza Dough at the Library?!

     We've got a quick post today, folks--school calls my name. Loudly. Tapping its foot and threatening bad marks. However, you'll want to hear this news!
     Yesterday, September 6, 2012, the Lake County Library welcomed over 1,000 to the friendly catalogue...Yay! For! Us! Through Overdrive, the same program that provides audio books, we patrons can now choose from over 1,000 eBooks. They are compatible with Kindles, Nooks, I-pads and other electronic readers. You can check it out here, at the Lake County Library page. If you want to read more about it online through the Record Bee, you can do that here.
     MEN and WOMEN: do you want to know how to make pizza dough (regular and gluten free), hamburger and hot dog buns? You can learn in a free class on Saturday, Sept 8th (tomorrow) from 2-4PM at the Lakeport Library. This class is especially aimed towards men, because several specifically requested it. So, men, don't be shy! (However, women, I'm still going, so you can come too! :)
     Hope to see you there, friends!

Photo Information: Martouf. "Light and shadow on an Irex iLiad ebook reader. Electronic paper. Electrophoretic display." Wikimmedia Commons. Accessed 7 September 2012.