You know what's amazing about hosting this podcast? More often than not, a guest says exactly what I need to take my writing to the next level.
That's what happened in this episode when H.M. Bouwman took a deep dive into interiority. This summer, when I was working on drafting a new novel, I had the thought that I should reread the first chapter of Jennifer Brown's Perfect Escape, try to write it from memory, see what I missed, and then analyze it to figure out how to make the opening chapter of my rough draft better. I never got there due to the demands of my summer classes, but the idea lingered.
Well, it turns out that Heather Bouwman does this exact activity in her college creative writing class with Tracy Deonn's Legendborn to help her students see that they need to add much more interiority to their novels be it interior thoughts, flashbacks, or setting details. There's a lot more space in a novel than a picture book, so use it!
Heather also talked about the power of sharing her writing process with her students. How does one respond when a well-respected critique partner points out that your witch is a half-hearted villain? What does that mean, and how can the problem be fixed? Can sea monsters fix all problems in drafts? Finally, and this one's a lot less fun, what's the difference between revising and editing?
Speaking of revision, that's one of the other topics we delved into. Heather uses revision rounds to flush out the emotional arc of her major and minor characters. In Gossamer Summer, Jojo deals with grief in one way. In order to contrast Jojo's interior arc with the minor characters' interior arcs, she made sure that Jojo's older sister and Jojo's friend dealt with grief in different ways. By using multiple revision rounds to flush out different characters, the reader has many opportunities to find mirrors in the book.
For modern classics, Heather recommends Holes by Louis Sachar and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.
For modern author recommendations, please read anything by Varian Johnson, Gene Luen Yang, and Christina Soontornvat.
But as an expert in eighteenth century literature, she wants make sure she tips her hat to titles from other eras. Please check out James Thurber's The 13 Clocks. It's a playful text that launches into rhymed iambic pentameter. Also, for upper middle grade readers, be sure to read Frederick Douglass's first autobiography, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Heather emphasizes that he's absolutely not in favor of enslavers, which is misinformation that it currently being circulated, and that he writes deceptively simple, beautiful sentences such as, "You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man."
If you and your class have read some of Heather's novels, and would like to be eligible to win a virtual author's visit with her, please leave a comment below or share this episode on your favorite social media platform and be sure to tag Heather and me.
If you're a preschool or a kindergarten teacher, be sure to join us live on Saturday, September 16th for our first Chalk + Ink Chat of the 2023-2024 school year with kindergarten teachers and authors Tina M. Cho and Jyoti Rajan Gopal. Sign up here.
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