Posts Tagged ‘Smack Dab in the Middle’

“Notes of encouragement to new writers” is the theme this month at Smack Dab in the Middle, a blog by/for/about writing for middle grade students that — surprise! — has lots of great advice for writers everywhere. Sunday’s post by Chris Tebbetts makes some wonderful observations about showing up: for the work, for the community, and for ourselves.

Here are some of my favorite bits:

“In my experience, the people who make it in publishing are the ones who manage to give sufficient energy to both halves of that dichotomy [the art and the business of writing].”

“I was showing up, and showing up, and showing up, not so I could score a distinct win every time, but so that I could eventually find myself in the right place at the right time.”

“. . . persistence is everything in publishing. It’s also the one thing you can control.. . .”

Give it a read and take away whatever encourages you.



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“Call me Ishmael.”
– Herman Melville,
Moby Dick

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
– Charles Dickens,
A Tale of Two Cities

Here we have two of the most famous literary first lines in the English language (and quite possibly both the shortest and longest). First lines are first impressions, and we’ve all heard that a great first line is the best way to hook readers. But a first line can also do more, as Ginger Rue points out in this post at Smack Dab in the Middle, about one of the best first lines that most people have never read but will immediately recognize.

That brings us to the point that a well-crafted first line can reach beyond the readers to connect with the wider culture. A great many people who’ve never read either Moby Dick or A Tale of Two Cities can identify those opening lines. So when you’re working on your first lines, don’t just think about how they can engage the audience; think also about how they can project what – or who – the story is truly about.

blurred book book pages literature

Photo by Caio Resende on Pexels.com

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Thanks to technology, today’s writers are able to research almost any topic without leaving their chairs. The internet may be a terrific resource for knowledge-based information, but nothing beats a good old-fashioned field trip for experience-based information.

In a recent post at Smack Dab in the Middle, a blog by and for middle grades authors, Nancy Cavanaugh reflects how important (not to mention down-right enjoyable) field trips are to writing. Unlike school trips you may recall where someone else set the agenda and the schedule, you are in charge. You can invite (or join with) other writers, or go by yourself. You can arrange to meet with local experts, or see who you find when you get there. You can spend an hour, a day, or a week.

swampfireReading Nancy’s description of research she did at Okefenokee Swamp Park reminded me of a wonderful book I read when I was in the middle grades, Swampfire by Patricia Cecil Hass. It also reminded me of the ways in which places inspire us, both as readers and as writers. When we went up in the Gateway Arch on a family vacation to St. Louis, my children were beside themselves with excitement because that was where Percy Jackson had battled the Echidna in The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

lightning thief


So do yourself a favor and plan a writer’s field trip. Whether it’s brief and local or grand and far away, your writing will be better for the experience.

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