Author Archives: annacrowleyredding

I Need Space (and so do you!)

Ever feel so focused on the details of a manuscript that you actually lose sight of the entire work? Maybe you are working on the pacing or world building or hunting down ‘telling’ to replace it with “showing.” Maybe you have zeroed in on three words, writing and re-writing them over and over again. Meanwhile, six hours just zipped past. And these three words you labored over––exist in a manuscript that has 35-thousand more!

It’s critical to focus on the bits and pieces, to lose oneself in the particulars. But when I am ready to emerge from the deep the woods of writing, sometimes I need a compass to find my way out.

As I painter’s daughter, I know that artists also become consumed with specific brush strokes or the interplay of colors in hidden shadows, or using the reflection of a painted sterling cup to tell a story. Detail after detail lures the artist deeper into the painting until he is so consumed with the pieces, he can no longer see the whole painting.

Mirror in hand, my father will turn his back to a painting and stare at his work in the mirror’s reflection. This fools the brain into seeing the painting anew, from a different perspective, with more objectivity. And, like magic, mistakes and solutions are suddenly easy to spot.

How do we writers obtain the same distance from our work? How do we back away from the minutia and see the whole story? Free our creative flow? This is especially hairy after we opened the idea cupboard only to find it bare. Or face a tight deadline.

Here are some tricks that work for me:

~ Listen to someone else read your work aloud. This is as close to the mirror trick as we can get. Where do they stumble? Did the emotion in their voice match the emotion you hoped to convey? Did it make sense? Was it too slow in places? Things will jump out at you.

~ Read your WIP out loud to yourself. Did you stumble?

~ Put your MS in the drawer and leave it there (or stash it in a computer a file labeled “incubator”) and don’t touch it. Whether it sits in the incubator for two hours or two years, sometimes you need space. In Television News, self-critique is a staple of the process. You can’t improve your skills without it. But an anchor told me early in my career, let 24 hours pass before “watching back” any tape. Even with the passing of one day, the emotional connection to the performance is broken and now you can view it objectively.

~ Put down the computer and work it out on paper. Sometimes, when I’m especially stumped, stuck, or just not moving a work forward, I turn to cursive. There is something about writing in cursive that activates a different part of my brain. Suddenly while looping letters, a breakthrough appears on the page.

~ Go and do something physical, something out of your routine. Ride a ferry, journal at sunrise by the ocean, take a road trip, or skip down the block instead of walk. Whenever I shake up my external world, it is amazing how quickly things loosen up in my internal world.

~ Take apart the beaver dam. When I’m focused on a manuscript and get a new idea for another story, I find myself shutting it down. “I’ll get to that later, right now I’m working on this project and cannot be distracted.” Story by story, idea by idea, log by log, I’ve built a dam. And then, nothing is getting through. Why not devote twenty minutes in your day for a delicious idea feast? Get those thoughts on paper and keep the dam at bay.

What are your tricks? Share them below!

Here’s to space, new perspectives, and roaring idea rapids!

Anna


About Anna:

_sl13594_lr_2Before diving into the deep end of writing for children, Anna Crowley Redding’s first career was as an Emmy-award winning investigative television reporter, anchor, and journalist. The recipient of multiple Edward R. Murrow awards and recognized by the Associated Press for her reporting, Redding now focuses her stealthy detective skills on digging up great stories for kids –– which, as it turns out, is her true passion.

Redding’s debut middle grade nonfiction GOOGLE IT! will be published by Feiwel and Friends in May 2018. Anna is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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Meet Our Newest Emu: Anna Crowley Redding

 

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Even now, I can still clearly see the view from my windshield as I drove along leafy, tree-lined streets with my three-year-old boy and his baby brother strapped into their car seats, slowly making our way home from the library.

“You can be anything you want,” I promised my sweet boys. “Anything you want. All you have to do is follow your dreams.”

As soon as the words left my lips, I felt a twitch inside.  A pang. A thud of a forgotten memory, the whisper of a long lost dream.

A dream, quieted by the demands of life. School. Journalism Career. Raising Littles.

But, in that moment, after an afternoon surrounded by books, I couldn’t deny I heard it. It felt like an untied shoelace.

You can be anything you want. All you have to do is follow your dreams.

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Anna Crowley Redding, Age 10. That little toothless girl had big dreams (and even bigger sunglasses. Some things just do not change.)

For as long as I can remember, my dream was to be a children’s book author. At 10, I used to a carry a wire bound notebook around with me, filling  the pages with a murder mystery. In my teens, I wrote picture books and poetry. All along, I collected children’s books. Even in my 20’s, my father still added to my collection every year during the holidays. I loved it!

But the dream of actually writing for children slowly, mindlessly, invisibly drifted to the back burner––until that drive home from the library. Until the talk about following one’s dreams. And I realized that if I want my boys to follow their dreams, I had better get busy leading by example.

The next morning, I woke up earlier, made coffee, climbed into a chair in front of my computer, and started. And it felt––ridiculous. I mean, truly, it felt absurd, silly, and small. How could I justify it? The boys, the nursing, the laundry, the schedule, the money, no assurance it would ever go anywhere at all, and on and on and on.

But the next morning, it felt less ridiculous. Defending the time to write came easier, with practice.

And that twitch, that pang, that thud of a long forgotten memory became a battle cry, day in and day out. Something that could only be calmed with writing.

I joined SCBWI and prepared to attend my first conference. Business cards, sharpened pencils, and fresh paper packed into my bag, I walked through the doors with big expectations. After two days of workshops, seminars, and talking to other writers, it hit me: I was standing at the bottom of an enormous mountain. And I had not a single clue as to how to climb it.

I felt defeated.

Until the next morning, that battle cry woke me up and I returned to the computer. The mornings added up. So did meetings with my invaluable critique group. Countless revisions, workshops, seminars, false starts, failed attempts to quit . . . every morning, the battle cry came for me. And I answered.

Nearly five years later, my agent called.

“Hey,” I said. “I’m about to run into the school for a parent teacher conference. I can talk for five minutes now or longer this afternoon.”

“Five minutes should be enough,” she said, “to tell you we have an offer.”

A book deal. A real live book deal.

All I remember after that is crying and feeling extreme gratitude, the kind of gratitude that’s built morning after morning, setback after setback, word by word, sentence by sentence, and draft by draft.

Maybe you, too, are in the throes of raising amazing little people, juggling the demands of an intense career, or fending off the terror of trying to make ends meet (or all three at once.) And maybe you, too, feel that twitch, that pang, or hear that thud of a memory long forgotten.

Tomorrow morning, if you wake up and get started, imagine me there with you, cheering you on . . . no matter how ridiculous it feels. Because actually what you are doing is quite brave.

Write on!

Anna

P.S. As a practical matter, here are some things I did that made all the difference:

  1. Join SCBWI
  2. Attend a conference
  3. Find a critique group (the number of times they have picked me up off the floor!)
  4. Don’t Give Up!

 

About Anna:

_sl13594_lr_2Before diving into the deep end of writing for children, Anna Crowley Redding’s first career was as an Emmy-award winning investigative television reporter, anchor, and journalist. The recipient of multiple Edward R. Murrow awards and recognized by the Associated Press for her reporting, Redding now focuses her stealthy detective skills on digging up great stories for kids –– which, as it turns out, is her true passion.

Redding’s debut middle grade nonfiction GOOGLE IT! will be published by Feiwel and Friends in May 2018. Anna is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

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