A friend and colleague of mine who went to our gig the other night took this picture of my band – Duke Rushmore — in the midst of playing The Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want. The bongo player is a someone’s friend from the audience whom we invited to jam with us. It was a cool dance party that night. That’s me on the saxophone, singing some back up and getting ready to solo.
I don’t know where I heard of this site, but the Writer’s Knowledge Base is a modified search engine with links and resources specifically around the art of writing. I was playing around with it this morning and I liked how the filters are mostly set to find answers to queries about writing. You don’t get the world at your doorstep with every search. (The engine is created by the guy who created Hiveword, a software that helps with the writing of a novel. I haven’t used it but it looks like it might be helpful.)
The Writer’s Knowlege Base reminds me of some recent posts by Richard Byrne about how to create your own Google Search engine for your own needs by tweeking parameters and fields of search. I may tinker with that one of these days …
I have two classes of students working hard on their own version of Choose Your Adventure format stories using the software, Twine, and they are really into it. Here is the assignment I gave them — I am trying to provide some basics for them even as I leave enough space for creativity. Since this is a pilot project (I’ve never done this particularly project with this particularly software, although I did something similar a few years ago), I am keeping an eye on how things progress and what changes I will need to make to the assignment when I do it again (later this year, with two other classes.)
As some of you know, I am in the midst of trying something new. Two of my classes of students have spent a week reading Choose Your Own Adventure novels, and now will begin writing their own. I was amazed at how many books they were reading, and I did an informal survey to gather some numbers.
I also asked them about what they were liking and disliking about the books.
The reader makes decisions about the story
There are many different ways that the stories can end
It’s entertainment reading
You can always backtrack into the story and start over at another point
The reader is a partner with the writer
The reader is a character in the story
Too many story branches end in death
It’s easy to lose your place, particularly if you want to go back
The jumping around the book can be confusing
The novels are too short
Lots of exaggeration, unrealistic adventure
Not all the endings were equally creative
Not enough choice (!)
I’ll admit — that last one threw me, but I was the recorder of the discussion here.
Now I get the fuss. I don’t know why I never got around to reading Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool when it came out. The book has been in our house, as my son read it and said he liked it. But after devouring and savoring Navigating Early, and knowing that I would have long gaps during state testing this week, I dug out my son’s Moon Over Manifest and brought it to school. It did not take long to get sucked up into the entwined narrative stories in the novel, something that Vanderpool did with such mastery in Navigating Early, too.
Here, the lively narrator — young Abilene Tucker — is sent by her father back to a town — Manifest, Kansas — as he goes off to work on a railroad. (There’s more to it than that, but I’ll let you read the book to find out more). Abilene works to find the connections that her father has to this small town, even as a local gypsy diviner tells the story of the town’s history and Abilene and two new friends try to uncover a past mystery of a German spy. Think of the story as a quilt, so that the narratives of the present and the past dance around each other, slowing weaving a tapestry of truths about the folks in the town of Manifest, and about Abilene’s life. That’s what Vanderpool does here and it’s a wonder to read and think about just how she pulls it off.
Moon Over Manifest also brings to life the idea of the idea of voice, as Abilene truly lives and breathes on these pages. It was one of those rare weeks where the large chunk of quiet time for state testing came in handy. In two days, I started and finished this book, and now Abilene and the town of Manifest remain firmly lodged in my head. That’s a good thing.