Monday, June 30, 2008

Starbucks Notes

The World Famous Freelance Writing Camp moved to Starbucks today, in order to soak up a Grande Java Chip Light (with whipped cream) frappucino and do some serious novelling. The brilliant freelancer has taken notes on Starbucks vs. Other Locales.

Atmosphere, atmosphere. You can't beat the incredible Starbucks feel. It's so easy to imagine yourself in Paris or London, smoking (nicotine-free) cigars and wearing berets and writing masterpieces on a dime.

Music, my love. The music here is much, much better than the other cafe I visit. It's loud, it's diverse and still classy (Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and excellent jazz) and perfect for writing.

Expenses, my foot. It's much more expensive here, obviously. I came because I had a gift card, but no way I could afford to visit Starbucks every day. If one has a small amount of cash, you could subsist on the $1.89 scones instead of $4 frappes.

Dahling, the Location. It's harder to get to, and ultimately this is the victory for Other Cafes. I am still license-free and use feet to transport myself. Starbucks is not foot friendly.

People Listening. The conversations are priceless. There was a banker and a bankee behind me discussing high finance, a guy talking about hypochondriac girls to his female friend, excellently dressed young women and tired, tan older women... if you ever need inspiration, Starbucks is the place to be.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

WORD: Writing Around Vacation

by Gabrielle Linnell

I've written a lot these past weeks about writing at home during the summer: taking your laptop to cafes and libraries, or hiding up in your room. What happens if you visit your grandparents for three weeks? What if Cancun has no WiFi? Below are three tips on saving your writing career, one vacation at a time.

Change it up. If you write in the morning at home, write during siesta while you're gone. Never martyr yourself to write. Or, in other words, never feel self-piteous while writing. Writing isn't an obligation, it's a joy and any thoughts to the contrary is hogwash. So make sure it feels like a writing vacation... just not a vacation from writing.

Be inspired by your surroundings. Like every experience, learn from what's happening around you. Look for historical events and buildings, rarities, oddities, or the perfect meal for under $5.00. Keep a notebook, as these kinds of first-hand notes are great for travel writing articles and descriptive scenes.

Essay on. If you've never attacked an essay with gusto, do it now. Vacations are great for reflecting on your childhood experiences, your family, your future, turning points. If you're unsure how to structure an essay, use the basic five paragraph formula: introduction paragraph, points 1-3 (one paragraph each) and then conclusion.

Stop writing if you seriously can't do it... but define "can't."

Gabrielle Linnell likes cooking, ballroom dancing and getting published.

Bookshelf: What Does Amazon Say?

Book lovers can find books all sorts of ways. They can seek classics by reputation (Under the Tuscan Sun, Atonement) or incredible books by word of mouth (The Secret Life of Bees, Twilight) or read book reviews and blogs (like here!) or pick up a pretty cover and think it worthwhile. As e-books or at least e-shopping is on the rise, book lovers also turn to Amazon.

Out of curiosity, I clicked on the "Summer Reading for Kids & Teens" link, and here are three books Amazon recommended. The list changes every time you re-click, by the way.

A La Carte by Tanita S. Davis

Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot

Burger Wuss by M.T. Anderson

The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney

Suck It Up by Brian Meehl

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Monster is a contemporary classic that every teen should read, but otherwise I haven't read any of their recommendations. Even if the book world shifts more to digital than print, even if the average American... doesn't read..., book lovers will always find books. (Kristen Nelson has interesting informal survey results over at How do you find yours?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Quick Shout-out to Writing Teenagers

Check your copy of The Writing Kid today, and you'll find an article by yours truly! "Writing the Summer Wave" gives excellent advice on scheduling your summer around your writing life. There's also some spectacular internships and markets featured in this issue.

Also! One of my favorite teen bloggers, Noel or Miss Couturable, is blogging about her Seventeen magazine internship this summer. For anybody interested in fashion writing and the teens who are doing it, please visit Noel is both entertaining and informational, and well worth your time.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bring a Celebrity to Camp Day

Celebrities affect writers. Whether it's Jane Austen, J.D. Salinger or Gwyneth Paltrow, we naturally look up to people and are inspired by them... for better or worse. But to make Freelance Writing Camp more fun than it already is, who would you bring? A hottie to keep you drooling? A literati to give you advice?

Here are some of my ideas... Sarah Michelle Gellar, star of Suburban Girl as an associate editor trying to make her way to the top. Cute and apparently a stellar editor! What a bargain.

Truman Capote. Alcoholic, narcissistic and usually offensive... but he'll make your blood run cold with his stories.
Anne Hathaway. Classic bone structure and a terrible British accent. Her performance in Becoming Jane will make you throw up and grab your Austen like a lifeboat. Cary Grant-- now we're talking. He's played a writer in his time, but his performance in Indiscreet should give every rom-com writer inspiration. He practically invented the pleasant playboy archetype.
David McCullough. Bit on the older side... and happily married... but John Adams just inspires awe, wonder, laud, honor, praise, glory and a bunch of historical pluses.
Jane. What can I say? You are the definition of hermit celebrity. May you rule forever. Mischa Barton. Um... ?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

For the Love of Grace Kelly

(If You Want to Write...)
Watch some good movies, for crying out loud! Great movies almost always feature some spectacular writing. Who knows? Maybe your penchant for dialogue will turn screenwriting on you. Here are some of my faves.

Charlie Bartlett (R)
The Philadelphia Story (NR, MUST SEE)
The Women (Sexist, or nonsexist? NR)
Under the Tuscan Sun (PG13, more for the scenery & emphasis on travel writing)
To Catch a Thief (NR; love, love, love Grace Kelly)
All About Eve (NR; Steve Kugler quotes this one a million times in his book and I had to see what he was talking about... omygosh, so good.)
The Holiday (PG13; best rom-com on earth)
What Women Want (PG13; 2nd best rom-com on earth)
Ladies in Lavender (PG13; is it the writing, or lack thereof?)

ALSO! Kevin Alexander was just blogging over at about how Mad Men is the best TV show on for writers. I've never seen and am anxiously waiting for the DVD to come out next Tuesday.

AND! Freelance Writing Camp is on hold while I take a day off. Taking a day off of summer, I know, I appreciate the irony. But nevertheless.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Time and Success

Time is what we want most, and use worst.

-William Penn
Thanks to Gmail for the Quote of the Day. As I mentioned in the silly script earlier, I am reading Jack Canfield's Success Principles for Teens. The principles mentioned are pretty straight-forward (visualization, goal-setting, etc.) but the real life stories and statistics are inspiring. I'm looking forward to putting these into practice.
If you're looking to achieve something specific and having a hard time starting, I recommend the book as well as Kelly L. Stone's Time to Write. Both are helpful, practical and inspiring. Don't mean to sound like a blurb-giving author, but they are.

It's an interesting balance: success and fulfillment. I feel pretty strongly about the undercurrent of perfectionism that drives many of our best students, the pressure to get into Harvard/Yale/Princeton, achieve perfect grades, get the perfect job. Perfectionism makes few people happy, and it can burn out brilliant students. I've seen it happen, and it's sad.
On the other hand, I'm ambitious. I believe in dreams and working for them. I admire people who have worked against odds to get what they want. I want to push myself beyond my comfort zone, write better, work better.
To be a successful writer, as Ariel Gore says in her excellent book How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead, you have to be both an artist and an entrepreneur. You have to be creative and meditative to make great art. You need to be market savvy and calculating to get it sold. To be a successful writer, you have to balance both success and fulfillment and the desires for both.
Time management, as Mr. Penn suggests, is a good place to start.

Creative Problem-Solving


JOHN LITHGOW: Gabrielle faces a morning without writing. She has an obligation at church until 12pm, but she also has an obligation to herself to write for all these cool new markets she discovered over the weekend (more on that later.) So, what does Gabrielle do?

GABRIELLE: I will wake up at 6am (even though I HATE getting up that early) and write! Because I am a WriTeen!

[Fake Cheery Face]

JOHN LITHGOW: Uh huh, sweetie. So Gabrielle sets her alarm and goes to sleep. Next morning, at 6am...

GABRIELLE: No friggin' way I am getting up. I can't think. What day is it? What's my name? Why am I up at this ungodly hour?

JOHN LITHGOW: But then Gabrielle remembers the quote she pulled from Success Principles for Teens (more on THAT later), about how Olympians train for 4 hours per day, 310 days per year, for 6 years before succeeding. She remembers the Thomas Edison quote about "Doing all we are capable..."

GABRIELLE: I am SO capable of doing this... and compared to my gymnastic friends, what I have to do is not... that bad. Maybe if I just open my computer...

JOHN LITHGOW: (in a BEAMING voice) And so Gabrielle gets an hour of writing done, before breakfast, without food and at an ungodly hour of the morning. She will have to get more done this afternoon, but still: what a victory! What a writer!

GABRIELLE: Get me food. Now.

[Exit Stage]

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bookshelf: The Bookshelf Interviews

The Bookshelf Interviews are one of my favorite parts about blogging Innovative. These authors have all been gracious with their time and they never cease to blow me away with their stories of perseverance, creativity and quirky childhoods. All of them have given excellent advice for teen writers, as part of the trademark question.

I present the twelve author interviews we've had since our inception in July 2007. As a note, I know Robin Wasserman has Skinned coming out soon, as well as Laura Preble (Prom Queen Geeks) and Melissa Walker (Violet in Private.)

Mark Peter Hughes (author of Lemonade Mouth and I am the Wallpaper)

Robin Wasserman (author of numerous series and Hacking Harvard)

Laura Preble (author of the Queen Geek series)

Melissa Walker (author of Violet on the Runway and Violet by Design)

Judy Gregerson (author of Bad Girls Club)
Jessica Day George (author of Dragon Slippers and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow)

Kelly L. Stone (author of Time to Write and Grave Secret)

E. Lockhart (author of The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, Fly on the Wall, Dramarama, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and most recently, co-author of How to Be Bad)

Thomas Wade Bounds (author of Choices: My Secrets)

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein (author of The Truth (I'm a girl, I'm smart and I know everything)

Marissa Doyle (author of Bewitching Season)

Steve Kluger (author of My Most Excellent Year)

WORD: Explaining the Innovation Thing

by Gabrielle Linnell

When you think of writing and publishing (literary, books, inklings, whiteboards) you don't think of "innovation." Innovation is a term used by those science nerds at MIT creating thumb-sized cell phones. So why on earth would I name this shindig Innovative? It's a weird word, people pronounce different ways, and if you click on you'll be surprised at what you find.

Today's teen generation will be the "ruling generation" in what, thirty years? That's a long time. But today's teen writers are entering the publishing world right now, and adding their voices to the mix. They do not add wisdom, or nostalgia, or perfect technique. They're often still developing personal style, and unsure of how they fit in the literary world. But something they do bring is innovation. They bring new ideas, new perspectives and new ways of doing things. Innovation.

The rest of the title is A Word for the WriTeen. Well, "Innovative" is the (key) "Word" for the "Wri" (writing, literary, etc.) "Teen." See? It all makes sense now.

What makes us different is what makes us published. I'm working on a book right now that is, in some ways, the easiest one I've ever written. It's personal, controversial, and full of all those writer adjectives meaning "lots of fun." But almost without exception, I get stuck whenever it starts to become somebody else's book, a story like other people's stories. Innovation - the way I write - is what gets me writing well again.

Gabrielle Linnell has been published almost thirty times. She likes Arthur, sleeping in and eating at Cracker Barrel late at night.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Publisher's Lunch Confusion

"As usual, we posted over 30 new deals, among them: Non-fiction inspirational titles by NYT bestseller Debbie Macomber; A narrative investigation of Roger Clemens; A View co-host memoir of "granting permission slips" in life; A vampire novel featuring Jane Austen as its undead heroine; historical fantasy set in the Lower East Side; Debut fiction from an Indian; lots of film rights, and much more."

I'm a cheapie who doesn't read Publisher's Marketplace, but I don't quite get one of the sentences here. Debut fiction from an Indian? Huh? Is the author a resurrected Native American? Because otherwise, I don't see anything super spectacular about an Indian (as in: native of India) or Native American author publishing fiction. Last I checked, people of all races were equally adept at writing novels.

This is probably just a typo, but it proves that you must watch your typos! Or Gabrielle will come after you.

Observations from Week One

It's Friday morning and my first day off from Freelance Writing Camp in order to spend time with the family (and get free food.) For those who don't know, I've been writing every morning this week in camp-style: at another location, with good food and drink and lots of productivity. My insightful insights and observant observations are below.

The luxury of time. It's amazing to sit down in a cafe and have three hours to write. Normally I have to write an hour before school starts, so I'm stressed and tired. But now I'm relaxed and I get a lot more done.

Need for assignments. I had trouble yesterday because I didn't have enough work, and the book was stalling like a 1983 Volvo. I'm planning on researching some different markets this weekend, so I have enough work for next week.

Best food & drink: Luna bars and Arnold Palmers. The best writing food is usually something like popcorn or trail mix, which can be eaten continously. As far as Best Writing (Non-Alchoholic) Drink, I need something large and low-cal and not totally sweet. Arnolds are working nicely.

To bring music or not. I brought my own music because I had differences of taste and volume with the store's stereo. However, I brought one of my favorite CDs (Relient K's Five Score and Seven Years Ago) and spent too much time listening when I should have been writing. I think I'll go with Disney next time.

Mixing it up. I work on my novel as well as freelance assignments (essays & articles.) Depending on my state of mind, or how early it is, I work on logical pieces (articles, how-tos, advice) and then meandering pieces (essays) and then creative ones (the book.)

Good rhythm. Can I say that I love this schedule? A regular writing time is not a chore (when you get enough sleep), it's a gift. The cafe workers probably think I'm nuts, as I sit down every morning with a huge strawberry tote and look meditative for three hours.
This weekend, look for our regular issue and a round-up of our past Bookshelf interviews. Next week, it's Freelance Writing Camp Gone Crazy with celebrities, pets and weirdest market ever.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Check it Out! Check it Out!

Susan Johnston has a GREAT interview with Catherine Banner, a 19-year-old British author who has just published her debut novel to great success. Go read!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Debatable Usage of Writing Classes

(If You Want to Write...)

My first writing class was divine. Julie Bogart ( highly recommended) was my first teacher in an online class where we read Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories and then wrote our own story, just so. Mine was How the Cat Got its Paws. We ran through several different printings because I kept changing my pseudonym from Dr. Danielle Lupin (combination of Ever After and Harry Potter) to Danielle Lynel and finally Gabrielle Linnell (real name. Just FYI.) This class, and this teacher, made me write.

My second writing class was not so hot. I was subjected to a writing curriculum called IEL or some form of EVIL, which consisted of repeating other people's words in barf-worthy ways. This did not last long. My third writing class was with other normal human beings. I was in the fourth grade and already I had formed ideas about style and adjectives. I stayed the year, next time I didn't even bother signing up.

There was also the infamous Writing Camp*. I attended it with my cousin (the only redeeming factor) and... well... the teacher told us to use big words (NO! NO!), the teacher did not recognize my genius (BAD! BAD!) and the teacher just loved that annoying Gina who wrote a short Harriet Potter story (PLAGIARISM, ANYBODY?) I mean, how can you call that original? Granted, I was in my poet stage and anything produced by my chubby hand was worth little. But still.

Excepting years of Julie's classes, I haven't taken writing classes since. I love English classes, because it's academic writing and literature discussion. But when it comes to creative writing, I prefer to self-teach. I know my experience is not everyone's. There are many wonderful writing teachers out there, who have shaped artists and given wind to literary wings. I just haven't met too many of them.

What's your opinion? Have you had good luck with writing classes? Are they worth the expense/taxpayer's money?

* This is not to be confused with the utterly fabulous, incredibly useful Freelance Writing Camp which Gabrielle conducts on a one-by-one basis with herself this week. This is the Dreaded Writing Camp with Evil Gina and Big Words. Very different.

Freelance Writing Camp: Day 2 Tips

What I've learned so far...

BYOM (Bring your own music.) I'm having trouble hearing the music played in the cafe loud enough. I need BLASTING-LEVEL music.

Be surprised. I'm staying longer each day, so far, and not getting bored at all. I just have more and more work. This is fantastic!

Tally up your earnings. At the end of the summer, go back and see how much money you've made and compare that to the cost of a writing camp... except this time, the cash is in YOUR pocket!

Schedule computer time. Because I'm non Wi-Fi, I need to schedule time to research projects and upload files onto an internet-friendly computer.

Go healthy. I've been pigging out on donuts and other deviltries, but I'm going to try one of these today....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Freelance Writing Camp: Day 1

So... remember when I talked about making your own freelance writing camp? I wasn't joking.

I started yesterday morning with about two hours at a local hangout. Not only was I incredibly productive (wrote five pages of novel, finished two articles, some other projects I can't remember) I had a fabulous time. I loved the cheesy music they played, loved the view from the window, loved the frappucino and the cream-filled heart-attack-inducing donut.
The best part about my writing camp is that there are no distractions. I have no Wi-Fi, so there's no internet to seduce me. There are a few magazines but no books, and I would have to spend money to buy them (broke = no magazines.) So I literally have nothing else to do but write.

Dang. This is fun.
Tune in the next couple of days for tips on starting & keeping your own freelance writing camp. (Hint: feed all campers well and no, Hilary Swank, you're not a brilliant actress and P.S. I Love You is not a good writing recovery movie. Unless, of course, one is napping.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bookshelf: Interview with Steve Kluger

Steve Kluger shook hands with Lucille Ball when he was 12. He's since lived a few more decades, but nothing much registered after that. Kluger is a novelist and playwright with only two heroes: Tom Seaver and Ethel Merman. Few were able to grasp the concept. A veteran of Casablanca and a graduate of The Graduate, he has written extensively on subjects as far-ranging as World War II, rock and roll, and the Titanic. He lives in Santa Monica, and his latest book is My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins and Fenway Park.

INN: Broadway and baseball mix well in My Most Excellent Year. What made you integrate these two very different worlds into the story?

SK: They represent two of my many passions. Since they co-exist naturally inside of my head, it’s easy to transfer that mix onto the page. I never know ahead of time which character is going to inhabit which of my own interests; they sort of evolve on their own that way. However, all of their infatuations are mine as well.

INN: Do you have a favorite place you like to write?

SK: Sprawled out on the couch with a spiral UCLA notebook. The left-hand page is for trying out ideas and developing the sequence I’m working on; the right-hand page is for the actual narrative. I do my revising-editing-cleanup at the end of the day while I’m typing the text onto my PC.

INN: Ale’s list of celebrity acquaintances is impressive (and fun!), as is your own. I saw on your site that you met Lucille Ball and received a letter from Madeleine L’Engle. How did these experiences affect you?
SK: Madeleine was a case all to herself, because I sent her a fan letter when I was 11 (after I’d read A Wrinkle in Time), and her reply clearly stated that, “judging from the way you write, I wouldn’t be surprised if you grew up to be an author yourself one day.” She was the very first person to spot my potential in that area, and I kept up a correspondence with her until not too long before she passed away. (In fact, when my first novel came out, I sent her the very first copy off the presses.)

I also spent all of my high school weekends hanging out on Broadway, seeing musicals, and going backstage afterwards to meet the stars. This was pretty easy to maneuver: I had a form letter that I adapted for each musical/star. “Dear _______: I am a ___-year-old boy, and I have been waiting for months to see “[name of show].” Then I’d go on to add either that I was planning on going into the theatre when I grew up (which was true) or that I was a reporter for the school paper (which wasn’t), and that I’d love to come backstage after the show for (a) some advice; or (b) an interview. Excepting only Ethel Merman, Pearl Bailey, and Lauren Bacall (who sent me an autographed photo as a consolation prize), it never failed.

I must have met every musical comedy star who played Broadway between 1966 and 1970. The only obstacle I ever encountered was the time that I tried to buy a ticket for the Tony Awards at the Shubert Theatre--fifteen minutes before the show started and oblivious to the fact that this particular event had been sold out for months. So I opened the gold-painted stage door, told the doorman I was Carol Channing’s son and that my mother forgot to leave my ticket at the box office, and asked if he could go get her.

Counting on the fact that he couldn’t leave his post, I wasn’t surprised when he waved me in and told me where to find her. (This is the only moment in My Most Excellent Year that some people find farfetched. It’s also the only real-life experience I ever had that I reproduced exactly as it happened without any artistic license whatsoever. Sometimes the truth is harder to believe than what usually happens in real life--like Carlton Fisk’s World Series home run in 1975.)

What I got out of meeting all of these people was an absolute determination to be a part of that world--and to this day, few things are as exciting to me as finding myself at a professional function involved in a conversation with someone whose autograph I got in his/her dressing room when I was 16. Wow.

INN: Who are your favorite YA authors?

SK: There’s so little distinction between adult and YA these days, I can’t think of any contemporary authors who are slotted specifically into the YA category. (For instance, one of my earlier novels, Last Days of Summer, was written and released as an adult title; in the ensuing ten years, it’s made it onto high school curricula across the country and has morphed into a YA book. On the other hand, C.D. Payne’s Youth in Revolt was always intended to be a YA novel, but I can’t imagine teens appreciating the adventures of Nick Twisp half as much as adults do.)

So I can only go back to the perennials that were on the shelf when I was in school--and the only YA authors I read with any consistency at that time (not counting the fictitious Franklin W. Dixon of Hardy Boys fame) were Madeleine L’Engle and John R. Tunis, the latter having written possibly my all-time favorite novel, Iron Duke.

INN: Any advice for teen writers?

SK: Develop your passions by reading everything you can get your hands on that deals with subjects that interest you. If you have an idea for a story, begin with the characters and let them sit in your head for awhile until they begin to develop quirks, personalities and interests. When it’s time to begin writing--and this is critical--first figure out where your story ends. After that it’s just a matter of tracking it backward and deciding where you want it to start. The ending is what anchors you and focuses your story on where it’s going to wind up. I’d guess that 75% of unfinished novels fizzle out because the authors never knew for sure how they were going to wrap it up, and--as a result--the plotlines tend to spiral out of control, like a kite with a broken string. Finally, once you begin writing, don’t stop.

If you’re not satisfied with the way a particular piece is turning out, put it away and start something new--but never throw anything out. I can’t count how many times I’ve rescued entire sections of “trunk material”--years after putting them away--when I found myself working on a book into which they fit like a glove. In fact, Hucky Harper--the key character in My Most Excellent Year--was first invented 26 years ago. I had him in four potential novels or scripts that wound up going nowhere, and it took this long to find him a home.
So remember that everything you write has value--even if you don’t recognize it at the time.

Thanks, Steve!

You can buy My Most Excellent Year below and visit Steve's website at . (Definitely read this: I'm on my third time around.)

WORD: Writing Other Places

by Gabrielle Linnell

So, sometimes my room gets boring. It's a very interesting room, usually cluttered by clothing and papers and who-knows-what, but boring it gets. That's when I take the laptop and hit the road. Below are some things to consider when choosing the Inspirational Writing Getaway.

Wi-Fi or No Wi-Fi. If there's Wi-Fi, you'll be able to access email and internet listings and do some actual e-submission. However, the internet is also a tad distracting. I prefer no Wi-Fi, so that I can just type without re-checking my Google Reader.

Definitely eat. Go someplace with food. If you've got a nice summer allowance, the Starbucks atmosphere is way cool and worth the cash. For those of us saving our pennies, grocery stores and internet cafes and pretty much anywhere with a table is a good idea. You can always buy a $1 biscotti to pay for your seat.

Musically interesting. If you hate modern rock, don't go to any store that places modern rock regularly. Music has a lot to do with atmosphere. Do you like quiet places to work? Try the local library. Huge fan of Kelly Clarkson (....)? McDonald's is your ticket.

Personally, I recommend Paris and Barcelona as ideal writing destinations... but one must write a few more articles before that happens.

Gabrielle Linnell has been published in lots of magazines you might have heard of. She is on a one-movie-a-day diet and reading David Copperfield for the first time.

Friday, June 13, 2008

How to Use Writing in Real Life

So when does all this essay and freelance stuff come in handy? When you have an educational or moral quibble with your teachers and need to straighten it out. As part of my summer U.S. history class, we were studying the Puritans and I didn't agree with how my teacher presented the topic.

Thus, the email.

I have a quibble with you over the Puritan section in [module.] I realize the Puritans were not pluralistic, and by no means perfect. Yet I feel like the slides neglected to mention a lot of the good that the Puritan culture did for our country. They helped foster both financial and intellectual independence, which laid a foundation for future generations. Without hte Puritan work ethic or their defined, separate identity from England, colonial America would not have been successful in leaving the British empire. Boston dominates many of the slides in [later module on American Revolution] as a center for the rebel colonists, but these Patriots were sons and grandsons of the original Puritans and their Boston was one derived from Puritan values and beliefs.

The slides also glossed over the fact htat the Puritans left the Netherlands and England because of heavy persecution from the English government (from which many of the Virginia cavaliers came.) I don't mean to trivialize the Salem Witch Trials, because the trials were a horrible event in our history. However, it is one of the few blemishes on the Puritan name and to treat the entire Puritan heritage based on this extreme example is similar to condemning the Islamic world based on the extreme tragedy of September 11th.

David Brooks, a columnist in the New York Times and commentator on the Lehrer news hour, recently wrote an op-ed about the Puritan work ethic and how it helped stabilize the early American culture, and how a loss of respect for that work ethic has led to recent cultural excess. You can read it here at .
Proof that writing, whether from practice or publication, is useful in real life.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

If You Want to Write...

Find Other Creatives

Creative people need each other. Your weird way of processing the world can make more sense when you hang out with a teen who paints murals or sings ballads. So find these people! Make friends with your school's drama nerds. Take art classes and draw stick figures so you can appreciate a different medium, and those who are really gifted at it. Artists are symbiotic, we learn from each other.

So nourish your inner artist and be nice to people in smocks.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bookshelf Interview on Saturday

Steve Kluger will be joining us on Saturday for a bookshelf interview about his latest book, My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins and Fenway Park. I picked this book up and read it twice in three days (I'm on my third time as we speak.) You will NOT want to miss Saturday's interview where Steve talks about his love of Broadway, how he broke into the Tony Awards and gives great advice for teen writers.


Melissa Walker (author of Violet on the Runway, Violet by Design and soon Violet in Private), just shared the scoop on an AWESOME literati e-party hosted by Teri Brown, debut author of Read My Lips. Teri's hosting giveaways and guest posts by the hottest YA authors (including Robin Wasserman, another bookshelf author.)

Melissa's also giving away advance copies of Violet in Private, so if you're hooked on the Violet fashion scene, definitely drop by her blog.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

O, Natalie Babbitt

I hated Tuck Everlasting. I didn't like Winnie, hated the fact that Jesse + Winnie never materialized (which was a bit weird anyway, since he was like six years older) and HATED the ending. (In retrospect, it's a moral about the importance of life, but try telling that to an eight-year-old non-melancholic romantic.)
It was in this state of mind that my younger self picked up The Search for Delicious and was astonished. This same Natalie Babbitt wrote this book? With the awesome words and spooky mermaids? The incredible quest? Somehow this books reminds me of Kate Dicamillo's The Tale of Despereaux (hello? both amazing books.)
Our favorite childhood authors can be so tricky.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

WORD: What Does Summer Mean to a Writer?

by Gabrielle Linnell

When I Google-image "Summer," this image appears.
Somehow, to the Higher Power of Google, this means summer. This is either because of the American love of camping or this particular resort's advertising budget. Still: summer it is. So what does summer mean to a WriTeen, who is generally free during the summer?

Lots of free time. School is out. Will this summer mean getting ready for the NFL or getting published? One can do both, and without devouting your waking hours to the solace of a computer.

Library stalking. Ask an author for writing advice, they will always tell you to read. So read! While our gas prices go up and our book budgets decrease from nil to zilch, use the one of the best-run government institutions known to America (and other countries): our public library system. Ask to volunteer, and always have a full library card.

Consider joining our freelance writing camp. Whether alone or with millions, I will be setting aside several hours a day (okay, maybe 1.5) to work on freelance projects. As previously advertised, this means procrastination, theme songs and lots of YouTube videos involving musicals.

Talk to colleges about English programs. If you are nearing the collegebound age and are traveling to visit different universities, make a point to talk to English professors and admissions counselors about your love for writing. Will the professors at XYZ College help you get published? What kind of guest speakers do they get? What about their literary magazines?

I always start out with summer resolutions and end up with memories of seeing every Monk episode ever taped. However, out of three past summers I've ended up with two manuscripts and several clips: it IS possible. Summer starts in just a few weeks: be ready with your laptop in hand.

Gabrielle Linnell has a history of insane summers along with a resume of 25 or so published clips. She enjoys Psych more than Monk now.

Spotlight! Chicken Soup

Christina Katz ( mentioned this a while back, and so I checked up on the link. The best-selling Chicken Soup for the _____ Soul series is once again accepting submissions. There are several categories ("High School," "Getting into College," "Middle School") that are especially pertinent, along with dogs and cats and stay-at-home moms (homeschoolers, pay attention.) Chicken Soup pays $200 per story, along with the wonderful line, "Oh yeah, I got published in Chicken Soup."

Bookshelf: The Giving Tree

Don't tell me you haven't read it.
It doesn't matter how old you are, how intelligent you are, how grumpy you are, you always appreciate Shel Silverstein. It's impossible to do otherwise.

Ooh, Let's Talk about Summer Plans!

Some highly organized readers may question the, ahem, spontaneity of recent posting. Have no fear! School is almost over and thus so will my normal social life, meaning I will only have my computer to comfort me and there will be plenty of posts. Some things, in particular, will be blossoming:

Freelance Writing Camp: The Most Productive Camp You've Ever Signed Up For. Writing camps in general are nonproductive. You sit, you listen to somebody ranting against adverbs, nothing gets published. However, you have never been to one of MY writing camps. MY writing camps are when you block out several hours of your summer days and write. You have a list of publications, deadlines, and you don't get to eat cookies until the queries are out. And forget about s'mores and campfire songs.

I'll be live-blogging, I'll be giving examples and success stories, we will have theme songs and Youtube breaks. What with school-year craziness, the summer is the best time to "catch up" with your writing. Don't let these frivolous hours go to waste!

Famous Author Profiles. Who was an editor at Mademoiselle in college? What Southern author broke into publication at fifteen (trick question: they ALL did)?

The Writing Workshop. That fun thing we did the other day? Still coming.

And of course, I am always open to suggestions.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Writing Workshop

Welcome to The Incredible Writing Workshop, where we look at actual pieces of writing and see where we can go from there. Look for both critique and publishing advice, specific and readable and downright fun. This week we're looking at "A Manifesto," the previous post on Innovative.

By now I think most of you have read the previous post "A Manifesto." Today we're going to look at (geez, I feel like a talk show host) how to turn a brainstorm, diary-style piece of writing like that into something publishable! Seatbelts and other protective garments prepared, let's go.


You had a horrible day, you let it out on paper and kazaam! You get something like my post previous. But now your ambition takes over and you want to write an essay about this Horrible No-Good Day. How would you structure it?

Categorize examples. Make a list of all the things that went wrong: "rejection from team," "no phone calls," "bad job," "frustration," etc. You can use these as points in your essay.

Connect to an outside theme. Essays or op-ed pieces work best when you connect a personal experience (a bad day) to a universal or outside theme. This could be an international event (the tragedies in China or Myanmar) or a culture trend (depression medication) or a historical person (Sylvia Plath.)

Work on tone. You want the entire essay to feel like those two paragraphs of brainstorm did, without being in that form. As you write the essay, try to recapture the same emotion that prompted you to write in the first place.


You've had a horrible day, wrote something like my post previous, and bazoom! it's a short story, right?

Create the situation. What you have is an emotion, what you need is a setting and a cast of characters. The "easiest" thing is to make it like your own sitch: a teenager with a bad day, staring out the window at a rainy future, etc. The "harder" thing would be to take these emotions and attribute them to a person most unlike yourself: a grandmother fearing Alzheimer's, a quadriplegic watching the Olympics on T.V., an insurance salesman who's just been laid off.

Translate to dialogue. Internal monologue (when the protagonist talks to himself, or to the audience) is not always as readable as dialogue. All those awesome phrases and examples of depression can be turned into a dialogue between two feisty/depressed characters. Your message will still come across, but it will be more interesting.


You had a terrible day and abacadabra! you're writing a Pulitzer poem. But how does it happen?

Take exact phrases. Poetry is the jewelry-making part of writing. Poets are delicate and precise with words, so in this case you would take the exact phrases from the piece and style it into a poem form of your choice. I'd recommend free or blank verse for this kind of thing.

Translate paragraphs into stanzas. The last part of the post previous was in paragraph form. To make it into poetry, take the most important ideas from your diary-style writing and form them into lines.

You eat chocolate
Conquer the world one day
One miserable day
One beautiful day
At a time
With chocolate
[ etc.]

I don't think this is how Maya Angelou wrote it, but take a look at her poem "Still I Rise." You can see how potentially she could have worked from paragraph/diary-style form into a poem with a fantastic rhythm and powerful message.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Manifesto

For Those Who Understand

When you are rejected from your school's going-to-Europe team as no. 3 out of two,

When you haven't written anything publishable in a month,

When you wish your friend would call,

When you are broke and receive a false hope of money,

When you are filling out applications for hopelessly boring jobs,

When you face a semi-existential crisis when you're doubting whether you are any good at anything anyway,

When it seems the world is not out to get you because why would it bother,

You eat chocolate. You manage not to cry because that would be giving in. You eat more chocolate. You plan devious dealings for the two boys that were picked as well as a sexism lawsuit, and then realize you are going to Europe twice in six months and that most older people are hopelessly sexist. You also realize that anyone capable of creating devious plans is capable of working in Disney imagineering, which is the dream job. You realize you are gifted beyond imagineering and may even be a published author one day. You will travel more than anyone else in the school put together. Ever.

You are the conquerer. You eat the last piece of chocolate, and set out to conquer the world.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Viatouch Article

My latest article for Viatouch Teacher Resources, "Not ROFL: Tips for Text Messaging Prevention," is up! See how I betray our teen secrets at