by Catherine Rayburn-Trobaugh
I wanted to be a writer nearly all my life, and I wanted to teach almost as long. The words, the stories, and the emotions of writing were fascinating to me. How could these symbols be arranged to have so much meaning? As a child I wrote whimsical stories and poetry, and as a teenager I used writing as an outlet for my angst. I loved the writing, but it was not so easy to love the mechanics.
I dropped my grammar and usage class in college because it seemed too clinical and it was a little scary. I studied literature for the lyricism, not the nuts and bolts. I had a notion that if you knew what was under the hood, writing wouldn’t seem so attractive and mysterious. My professor urged me to sit through the rest of the classes that semester, and the next semester I retook the class. I got an A.
What I didn’t understand then was that the mechanics are part of the craft. Without a good understanding of how language is constructed, it’s difficult to make the words behave as you would like them to. I’ve had students who tell me that they are artists and that the words just flow from them. But more often than not, they have difficulty portraying these beautiful and complex thoughts into a coherent format for their audiences. A good artist knows the ingredients in paints and the construction of a well-made brush, and a good writer knows the ingredients of a well-formed sentence.
by Catherine Rayburn-Trobaugh: President, Word Branch Media
Not all that long ago, I would have scoffed at e-publishing as being an outlet for writers who couldn’t get published traditionally. This year I’m publishing my own writings electronically.
With the rise in popularity of e-readers, especially Amazon’s Kindle, e-publishing became a viable and even respectable way to publish. In 2010, e-books sales edged ahead of traditional book, and the industry is changing because of it.
Although there are a number of e-readers and publishers, I only have personal experience with Amazon. I became a fan of Kindle when my husband gave me one for my birthday last year, and I fell in love with the look of e-ink and e-paper. The near instant gratification is a plus too. I was once sitting at a window in my house watching the snow fall. I had a sudden yearning to read Walt Whitman poetry and within seconds I was reading a free copy of “Leaves of Grass.” Pretty cool.
Publishing on Amazon is nearly as easy as downloading a book. It’s a matter of filling out some formatting and copyright blanks and uploading. There are some glitchy issues with the formatting, but it’s a pretty mild learning curve.
All of this is something of a game changer to the traditional publishing industry. The big guys are not exactly afraid of a handful of self-publishers, but they are taking note of the winds of change blowing in the e-publishing world. I do work for a major textbook company, and they are beginning to understand the necessity for distributing e-books as well as traditional books. As an educator, I think my students would appreciate carrying around a ten ounce Kindle rather than many pounds of books—I know I would.
There’s also a revolutionary attitude surrounding e-publishing. Yes, I have seen some pretty bad self e-published books, but there are a lot of good things out there—new and different writing that perhaps would have been overlooked by traditional publishers. It’s exciting to see the beginnings of a revolution in the publishing world, and it’s even more exciting to be a part of that revolution.
by Catherine Rayburn-Trobaugh: President, Word Branch Publishing
I woke up this morning knowing I should write a blog, but the ideas just weren’t flowing. Coupled with an allergy headache, I simply wasn’t in the mood. But I knew I had to soldier on, so I started Googling to get ideas. I did and from unexpected sources.
Almost all the hits on the first page were writing ideas for children. I almost blew it off as not serious enough, but I thought I’d take a peek out of desperation. The intended audience ranged from grade school to high school, and they were surprisingly thought-provoking, poignant and just plain fun.
“Time Savers for Teachers” listed 100 writing ideas ranging from “I have a disability” to “I will tell you a story that is only half true.” I smiled at the idea of, “When I become an adult this is what I will be like,” and wondered how the response to “my future spouse” would change as a child aged.
Houghton-Mifflin’s EduPlace had some compelling ideas for grades one through five that I thought would make good topics for adults. “Fireworks” is a charming subject for a second grader, and as a topic for an adult it might range from artistic description to explosive emotions. Mrs. Dell’s Writing Ideas gives a list of possible thesis statements as well as circumstances and titles. “My favorite vacation” works well for just about anyone.
So why would an adult contemplate writing ideas aimed at children? Because when we change our perspective, it triggers the imagination. It forces us out of a box with limited vision and into someone else’s world. So next time writer’s block attacks, consider taking a different view to make the ordinary special.
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