Monday, February 28, 2011

Writer's Roundtable at Paragraphs

We have started a new group at Paragraphs for anyone interested in improving their writing skills. Any type of writing is welcome and there is no previous experience necessary. If you use words to communicate then you are wanted for this group -- songwriters, poets, historians, fiction writers, memoirists, manga -- whatever genre you are interested in, you are welcome. I am also setting up a Discussion tab for this group on the store FB page. Feel free to ask questions, offer suggestions to your fellow authors, post tidbits of information, whatever - the page is there for your use.

The group will have a variety of formats. Some months we will have individuals read a sample of their work and if they choose to, ask the rest of the group for suggestions or a critique of their work.

So that this is kept positive and no one is afraid to come to a meeting or intimidated by the thought of having their work critiqued, let me emphasize that sharing and requesting criticism is always voluntary. You are welcome to attend and listen and then share as you become more comfortable with the group. To be a good listener and to be able to provide helpful suggestions will add to the success of the group but will also improve the quality of ones own writing. To facilitate this I am going to share some basic guidelines. (Thanks to Pat Avery)

Critique Guidelines for Writer Round Table Discussions at Paragraphs

Basic Information:

1. Comments about a fellow writer's work should be constructive criticism of the material. Always show respect. A member of the group should never criticize the writer personally or ridicule his or her work.

2. Start with positive comments and then offer suggestions. Writers are creative personalities who write from the heart and intellect. Whether a person is writing a memoir, a novel, nonfiction or poetry it is uniquely personal.

3. Think in terms of cleaning up, strengthening, tightening and trimming the work. Help the writer whittle away unnecessary words and thoughts. Whatever the genre, a tightly written document generates more interest. Suggest improvements that add color and clarity to the work.

Areas for Critique:

Does it make sense? Did you like it? Did it keep your interest?

Is the plot consistent? Is it believable, understandable and well-organized?

Are the characters well developed? Were they consistent and true to their character throughout the manuscript? Could you form a mental image of each character?

Did the setting support the plot and characterizations? Were you able to form a mental image of place and time?

Did the writer develop a conflict? Did the conflict create tension? Did the plot keep your attention? Should the action be faster or slower? Were there too many subplots to stay focused? Did the plot come to a resolution?

Did the dialogue match the characters personalities? Was it believable and true to time and place? Did it move the plot forward or create a diversion? Did it build the conflict? Did the author use dialogue to show rather than tell the story.

Was the story easy to follow? Were sentences or paragraphs too long or short? Did the story flow smoothly? Was point of view established and maintained? Did the writer use too many -ly adverbs or were common words overused -- like very, many or just? Were grammar rules such as gender and tense consistent?
Of course, depending on the type of writing the above guidelines may vary but the basics are here and hopefully we will add to and revise these as we go along.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

President's Day Lecture at Paragraphs

Daniel Ruddy
Lecture and Discussion of
Theodore Roosevelt's History of the United States

Paragraphs On Padre Boulevard
February 21 at 7pm

If you could talk with any living or dead person about American history, who would it be?

For historian Daniel Ruddy the answer to that question is Theodore Roosevelt. As he states in the introduction to his book "Theodore Roosevelt's History of the United States", published by Harper Collins,

Knowing I could not resurrect the dead, I decided to do the next best thing and create Roosevelt's part of the conversation. The result is this book, which is based exclusively on Roosevelt's own words. I have not added a single word of my own to the main text, reserving my comments for the Explanatory Notes.

Beginning with Herodotus and Thucydides men have chosen to write about history with the hope that studying the great deeds of the past and the characteristics of the great men who performed them will be of service to the present.

Roosevelt claimed to be a historian and he did publish numerous books on history. His one wish was to write a history of the United States. While he never had the time to actually accomplish this goal, this volume, compiled by Mr. Ruddy, is just that, Theodore Roosevelt's History of the United States.

Ruddy, invites us in his Introduction to

..transport yourself back in time to a pleasant summer evening in the year 1918, to Roosevelt's home, Sagamore Hill, high on a hill in Oyster Bay, New York. Pull up a rocking chair and join TR on the veranda, with its fine view of Long Island Sound. after you settle in you can engage him in the topic that interests you most -- American history. It is a good topic to bring up because it interests him, too; in fact, it is one of his passions.

So I am pleased to welcome Daniel Ruddy to Paragraphs on Monday, February 21, in recognition of President's Day, for an informative evening celebrating the fine mind and astute observations of the 26th President of the United States.

Daniel has appeared on BookTV and been featured on Fox and friends. It is truly a pleasure and wonderful opportunity to welcome him to South Padre Island and Paragraphs.

Daniel Ruddy grew up on Long Island, New York, where a childhood trip to Roosevelt's home, Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay triggered a lifelong interest in TR. He is a marketing consultant for Fortune 500 companies, and he holds a master's degree in international relations from the London School of Economics He is an avid researcher into U.S. history and the presidency.