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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Starting That First Page

One of the most difficult things for any writer to do is begin that first page. Where do I start? How do I catch the readers imagination? How do I get readers to keep reading?  There are a few things that I have found work well, whether you're writing novels, short stories, magazine articles, etc., what you need to do is get people's attention.

I tell students in the classes I teach to figure out what their story is about - to understand the theme of their story - then try to put some of that in their first two or three sentences. At the same time, create a picture in the reader's mind. Let them be drawn into the story by a mysterious picture that they cannot get out of their heads. I love to use as an example the opening scene in the movie "Mama Mia". For those of you who have not seen the movie (and I highly recommend it), the movie begins at night. A young girl is alone in a small motor boat. She is singing "I have a dream...", and is heading for a small box on the shore in front of her. As she approaches the box you see it is a mailbox. She then puts in three envelopes addressed to three different men. Okay. What the heck is going on here? Why is she making this trip in secret at night? What is her dream? Who are these three men? It's a compelling opening to a wonderful story. As we learn later, these three men dated her mother at different times 20 years previously, and one of them could be her father. She is inviting them to her wedding to see if she can find out which one is her father. Try to do something similar when beginning your writing. Paint a picture for the reader. Then gradually let details out so little by little the reader begins to see the story and wants to know more.

I think the most important thing to take away here is to paint a picture. Let it be a bit mysterious, and then gradually inform the reader of bits and pieces of your mystery.

Let's begin!!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Poetry In Motion

When I first began writing poems I found myself questioning whether or not what I was writing was any good. But that did not stop me. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. Now, six books of poems later (I still find that incredible), I've come to a very important conclusion. My poems, like my stories and other writing, may not be of the Nobel Prize ilk, but they are mine. And if I had held off writing or publishing my work because I didn't think them worthy of someone else's praise, I never would have found the peace and satisfaction I have now. There are so many different types of poetry that grace our book stores and libraries that I find it impossible to put poetry into one standard category. Just like literature differs from writer to writer - Shakespeare to Hemingway, etc. - so does poetry differ from poet to poet - Yeats to T.S. Elliot. My belief has always been be yourself, do your own thing. There is always room for critique, for constructive criticism, and we should always leave ourselves open to suggestion from other writers. They have helped me see my writing in a different light - a second or third set of eyes, so to speak. But trying to write like someone else is fruitless. You, as a writer/poet, must find what it is that makes your writing unique. What makes your writing your own? It comes from your own soul, no one else's.

Here's a sample from my latest book of poetry "Just Yesterday, Poems From Another Life", published by GJ Publishing of Loudon, Tennessee:

Same As Always

Flowers nod their summer heads,
same as always.

Breeze filters thru drowsy maple leaves,
as it will.

Sun heats my face.
Rain coats my skin,
the same
the same…

Yet –  

Somewhere in the shadows
I hear
the lightness of
a young girl’s
impulsive laughter,
nights expecting the right
to tomorrow,
days without lingering doubts
or the heavy dread that
I haven’t done enough…

everything’s the same
everything’s changed.

©2014 Kathleen E. Fearing - All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Decisions - At My Age

All I can say is "Yikes!" Even though I'm in my late 60's, I'm still making decisions as to what I want to do with my writing - style and length, stuff like that. You would think that by this stage of my life I would have made that decision. But, no. The problem is - always has been - that I want to do everything. The realization is that I cannot do well all that I want to do. Explanation: recently, I have been thinking about changing some of my stories into plays. I have written one play - one that I do like. But the reality of playwriting is that (to me anyway) it is very labor intensive. Writing does not flow. It is stop and go, stop and go. So many questions have to be answered as you write. For instance, where are the characters now? What are they doing? Standing, sitting, dancing, posturing, yelling...  All of that is written down so the actor knows what the writer intended. I get tired just thinking about it. But I do love the drama, the raw emotion of a stage play. It is basic. It is immediate. It is being played out right in front of you by real people, not just characters on a page. So, this afternoon as I sat on my porch, I asked myself, "Self, what is it that you really enjoy doing?" The answer came to me clearly and without hesitation. Yes, I do enjoy the drama of a play, but, no, I don't want to write them. What I really enjoy is writing poetry and stories in verse for young people. The problem is, when tomorrow comes I may change my mind. But, hey, life is short, and I say, if you want to try something, do it now because there is no guarantee of tomorrow. Do it! You might just find your bliss.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Writing Connections to Family

I've just finished and published my latest book "Finding Hope, A Reason For Tomorrow" (, which I dedicated to my late cousin Janeen, who was the inspiration for the story of a young woman who died of cancer. And in planning to do a talk about writing about families at this Fall's Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, it occurred to me that I should have a picture of my cousin to go along with the talk; a picture people could see and make a connection to. The person in my head as I was writing was real ... someone I had talked with and laughed with ... someone who was really a combination of both writer and character. So I reached out to my cousin's family to see if they had pictures of her that I might use. And in doing so, I've made a new connection to a part of my family that I have not seen in many years. The feelings that connection stirred up were both sad and happy and filled with memories of my childhood and young adulthood. Those same feelings overwhelmed me as I was writing another book about my family, "Voyage of Dreams, An Irish Memory" (, about my maternal grandmother's emigration from Ireland to Boston in 1904. These family connections are strong and resilient no matter how much time has passed, nor how great the distance between us. And writing about them help us as writers (and hopefully readers, too) rework that connection to make it stronger.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Talking With Young People

Recently, I spent some time in the local middle school tutoring eighth graders on writing and taking evidence from text. I found the students eager to learn, eager to find answers, and very eager to please. They wanted to know. I saw a brightness - a sparkle in their eyes whenever I told them they were doing it correctly. We discussed different ways of looking at evidence and how to find themes and concepts in what they were reading - all this in preparation for a test they were to take in February.

Talking with adolescents one-on-one greatly reinforced to me how vulnerable and uncertain they are, their need for reinforcement from adults, and their need to succeed. Kids in their early teens, just at the brink of life, are searching for answers to lots of things. Seeing them, hearing their questions, also reinforced to me why I write for this age level. I look back at the books I read as a teen and remember the messages in those books. They helped me overcome fears, realize that I was okay, and that no one is perfect - least of all adults. I only hope that my books and the messages I send are helpful to readers.

I believe it is essential for writers to examine the messages they are sending to readers with their books. We want our young people to become strong, self-assured adults. Are we helping?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A wonderful New Year is in the works. I can feel it in the air. Can you? Sometimes, though, it's good to look back and maybe change a few things that need changing. Recently, I re-wrote (to a small degree - made some good changes) my book "Champ". Now re-titled "Champ, A Race To Find The Truth", the newly re-formatted book is, I think, more attractive to young readers, and will bring them to read this good story about family and forgiveness.  The new book can be seen at
Be the best you can be in the New Year and always.