Lack of Degree is not Equal to Lack of Knowledge

Since my daughter Pam has gone back to college to finish her degree, she has sought my help with her schoolwork. I never went to college so what would I know, right? At least that is how I felt. What did I have to offer my straight A student?  My daughter finds writing essays as enjoyable as white water rafting in a tornado. It has been years since she’s been in college. Her first term paper stress level turned into a panic-attack. She focused on her shortcomings and the strengths of the younger students in her classes. Asking me for help was an act of desperation, I am sure. She has exceptional study habits. However, Pam has seen the value I place on critique groups and input from others. I have asked her for her feedback. Her observations were always spot on. My example gave her courage to ask for help.

What I taught my daughter

  • Vomiting on the page

The first thing I shared with her was the vomit concept. Writing out everything you want to say on the subject no matter how lame. Once it is on paper, keep what works, correct what is needed and delete the rest. Implementing this one thing reduced her anxiety levels.

After her paper was written, she asked me to proof-read it. Being the intelligent woman she is, she resisted my suggestions. I smiled and walked away. Walking away gave her time to consider all the red marks on the page without feeling the need to defend her work. How many times during a critique had I resisted the suggestion of others? I would forget that they were seeing my work with fresh eyes and didn’t have all the background information that I did. Her final drafts never cease to amaze me.

  • Unnecessary words

Continuing our journey together as wonderful, intelligent college student and writer mother, I have encouraged her to remove all unnecessary words such as that and just. I introduced her to the find and replace button on the computer toolbar to save time in scouring her work for these kinds of repetitive words. We discussed using stronger nouns and avoiding adverbs.

  • Deleting sentences

Her essays at first were strong in the middle with weak openings and flat endings. Crafting better essays is often as simple as deleting the first few sentences or paragraphs and the last bit of the essay.

  • Oral discussion

Most of her papers are on things I know nothing about, but knowing the subject matter proved unnecessary to helping her craft her words. We have taken to discussing weak areas. As she verbalizes her knowledge of the material, creating the new sentence becomes easier. Peppering her with questions brings clarity. Inspiration comes from our shared dialog.

  • Use fewer words

Less is more has become my mantra for her. It is so easy to repeat a thought three ways in the same paragraph when one well-plotted sentences says it all. Sharing with her that two adjective rule helped sharpen her skills. For example if the subject was horrible and terrible (which have the same meaning) delete one or choose a different word such as horrendous. You reduce the power of your sentence with too many adjectives.

What my daughter taught me

It is such a joy to encourage my daughter in the thing I love and not be intimidated by the lack of a degree. This opportunity has encouraged me that what I know has value, too. Taking the imitative to grow my writing knowledge by attending seminars, webinars and conferences, taking online classes and reading writing craft  books has equipped me with  tools I can pass on to others.

Pam continues to maintain a 4.0 GPA, and her writing skills continue to improve. Working with her forces me to take a more critical look at each word I write.  Her trust in me has eliminated my feelings of intimidation. I have shared her emotional battle of comparison and am reminded to refocus on my writing goals instead. I will continue to learn, share and grow in my writing journey, and that is an awesome feeling.

How has sharing your knowledge of the writing craft encouraged your own writing journey?

Writing a Novel From a Screenplay

I want to welcome Eva Marie Everson to Writer’s Patchwork today. One of my fave authors I am excited to do this interview. She has graciously agreed to let me pick her creative brain. Today I want to ask her how to write in reverse.  Eva Marie was given the opportunity to write Unconditional the Novel

Author Eva Marie Everson

which was released in conjunction with its movie counterpart Unconditional. Starting with a screenplay to develop a novel must have its own set of challenges. My readers are anxious to learn how you did it.

Have you ever converted a screenplay to a novel before?

No, I had not, but I had been teaching fiction courses using movies as a learning tool for years, so I felt I was up for the challenge.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face with this project?

I can’t say I had a “big” challenge. Of course I doubted ever so slightly that I could pull it off, but the more I wrote, the more I knew I could.

I know that Papa Joe was a real person and you had the privilege of spending time with him. How much more of his story is in the novel than we see on the screen? What was some background that you don’t get from the movie?

For example, I asked him about his illness and he was able to give me so much more detail. I asked him about some of the issues in prison; he graciously explained. And, I asked his wife Denise what drew him to her when they first met. I got to throw that in as well.

I suspect that Samantha Crawford is a fictious character created to help drive the theme.  The movie gives us a very visual back-story of Sam’s life.  Because she is a story book artist the use of illustrations is very effective.  The rain gave the viewers the feeling of sadness and loss.  I love how you were able to build that same feeling of loss differently though words.

Explain how you reconstructed the on-screen scenes to paper?

Mostly in tears! I realized after a while that Sam hates the rain because it was the rain that drove Billy out the night he was killed, so she blamed the rain. Even though she had written that wonderful story about Firebird, she couldn’t see the truth behind her own words. So, I made the rain a “character” of sorts. Also, I had just gone through a deep grief and was getting through the final stages when I wrote Unconditional, the Novel. So, I allowed myself to hurt to the very core of my being … and then, when I’d bled all over the keyboard, I started typing.

Are you a plotter or pantster and how did that influence how you followed the screenplay story line?

I’m both when I work on my own novels. This time, I had a plot. I was able to create some background — for example, how Billy and Samantha met, fell in love, why they didn’t have children — but the rest was from the brilliant mind of Brent McCorkle, who wrote the screenplay and directed the film.

Often when a novel is converted to the big screen lots of liberty is taken in order to tell the story in under two hours. How much liberty were you allowed to reverse the process? What kinds of things did you add?  

Well, as I mentioned, I added some back story to Sam and Billy’s life together and I was able to add some facts about Papa Joe and Denise. I’m also able to add setting. What people are wearing. What they can hear … smell… see… touch and taste. I only had to slip inside their skin.

When you write a novel from your own ideas you decide how your characters are going to look, mannerism and weaknesses.  Did watching the actor’s adaptations of the characters limit your creativity?

No, because the producers chose wonderful actors!

Did you add more details to the secondary characters such as Denise or Anthony?

Denise, yes. I called her and we talked for a while. There’s a scene when she and Sam are talking about how much she loves Joe … that came from my conversation with Denise. Little things Denise said and did came just from what I got from the real Denise on the phone.  I wanted to keep Anthony as much a mystery as possible–which is understandable when you see the movie or read the book. But I had fun with his apartment. Describing it. Knowing I had to get Sam out of the apartment quickly when “T” comes home unexpectedly while she is rummaging through his things. That one scene led me to ask, “How did she get out?” That’s when I came up with the back door … 🙂

What did you learn from this experience that added to your writing toolbox?

That I absolutely loved the whole process and that I’d do it again and again. I also learned what I am capable of doing in a short period of time.

 

Tell us about your latest writing project.

I just turned in the final book in the Cedar Key trilogy for Baker/Revell. This one is titled Slow Moon Rising (the other two are Chasing Sunsets and Waiting for Sunrise). I’m currently working on a novel for Abingdon called The Last Will in Testament, which is a new stretch for me because it’s a Rom-Com.

I loved reading Chasing Sunset and Waiting for Sunrise. Can’t wait for Slow Moon Rising and The Last Will and Testament. Thanks so much for visiting me today. May Jesus continue to bless your writing talent.

Follow Eva Marie Eversons’s blogs and website. You will find a lot of good stuff there.

My 1 Writer, 1 Day Blog: http://tinyurl.com/46ond24

My Southern Voice Blog: http://tinyurl.com/4lm2wn4

New Website: http://www.EvaMarieEversonAuthor.com

Eye-Contact Becoming A Lost Art

How is your eye-contact?

Eye contact—what an important skill to develop. A skill that I have apparently forgotten. My husband was with me on some recent interviews. He takes pictures of people, things, and whatever I point at. I take bad pictures so have enlisted him to come along as I interview various people. After a few weeks of following me around, he remarked that I don’t give eye-contact. I humph, crossed my arms, and gave him good eye-contact as he shared his observations.

Charley pointed out that I asked questions while staring at my notebook or looking to the side. My head was often down.  I hadn’t done an interview in a few years so I guess my eye-contact skills were rusty. But when he added that I hadn’t been giving eye-contact to people for awhile my eyebrow went into flicker mode. When had this happened? I am not afraid of eye-contact. I like looking at speakers and nodding so they feel at least one person in their audience is paying attention.  Why was I avoiding eye-contact?

What a revelation

I did a little self-evaluation and came to some conclusions. I don’t have any scientific or statistical backing, but I’ll stand by my findings. As a receptionist, I spend a lot of time talking to people while filling out their paperwork. This means I am not looking directly at them. My eyes are on the computer screen or on the form in front of me. After 10 years of multi-tasking, I think my eyes no longer look at who I am talking to. Once I analyzed the problem, I made a conscious effort to look at people full in the face at least once and speak to them. I put down my pen or remove my fingers from the keyboard and looked at people. The next interview I did I purposed to stop writing, give eye-contact as I asked a question. I was amazed at how much better the interview went when I did.

So many screens

I wonder if a world full of screens to look at has become a substitute for face time. So much so that we may have forgotten how to look people in the eye. There is the lemming photo of a line of teens texting while waiting in line. Faces glued to their phone screens, no interaction with others in line. Spending hours with our social networks appears to be taking away our ability to interact face to face. Think of how often you are having a conversation with someone who is texting, maybe they try to be discrete by hiding the phone in their lap, but it still causes sparks of irritation to flicker a warning through your eyes to the offender.

Eye-contact makes a difference

As writers and speakers it is imperative that we give eye-contact to everyone we are with.  Eye-contact helps interviewers get a sense of the heart of the interviewee. Speakers get a feel for how their audience is receiving what they are sharing by catching the facial responses to their words. And the audience and interviewee feel you have a real interest in them.

Talking and multi-tasking

Has multi-tasking taken its toll on social skills?  In the work place are we so accustom to talking while performing other tasks that we don’t feel comfortable carrying on a conversation without our hands and minds engaged in additional activities? That’s a scary thought.

Developing better habits

Now that I am aware that I have fallen into the habit of lazy eye-contact, I am uncomfortably aware of looking at someone’s feet or over their head or the stain on their blouse. So, I am practicing eye-contact every chance I get. It’s amazing the result. Family members actually pay attention to what I’m saying. Catching the eye of one of our dogs brings quicker obedience. It makes my smiles more sincere with those I come in contact with at work. Eye-contact—what a simple but powerful tool.

How is your eye-contact?