Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What kind of writer are you? The Children's Author

The Children's Author -boy did these writers pick a difficult genre to write for.  This past birthday, my eldest son found a gift for me that was truly unique.  He signed me up to an online Children's Writing Course.  Even though my current writing is aimed at a slightly higher age than children, I have found that this course applies to any new writer.

Children's Books are generally categorized into Pre-School (which includes infant and nursery books for children under 7 years old); Over 7 (which includes children from 7 to 11 years old); and Teenager/Young Adult books for those children over 11 years old.  Of course, different publishers may change or rename these categories, but they do follow a similar categorization.

Needless to say, the basic rules of writing must still apply for whatever type of writing you do.  That is to say Setting, Characterization/Dialogue, Plot, Theme and Storyline are all critical.  The largest market for Children's Books are romance stories for young girls.  However, fantasy and science fiction are also popular now, and even for boys.  So pick a category, find out if there is a market, and start writing for the age bracket you want - keeping in mind that your main character should be about the same age as your audience.

Now, I'm sure you are thinking that to be a good children's book writer, you must have the mind of a child or possibly even act like one.  Not so.  I sincerely think that as long as you haven't got Dementia or Alzheimer's (of course, you wouldn't know it if you had them), and can still recall your time as a child, this should suffice.

I am currently writing a series of books, which might be described as auto-biographic, that are made up of numerous short stories from my early childhood.  I am writing them from the perspective of my age in the various stories/chapters, but even so, I consider them primarily for young adults and adults in the same age bracket as me (let's just say I'm over 50).

I am actually having a lot of fun writing these 'memoirs', but have found it challenging to keep my momentum and motivation going over the past few months, but even this topic has been covered in detail.  This course has also given me valuable information to become a professional writer and re-enforced my resolve to keep writing.

Next week - The Speechwriter

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What kind of writer are you? The Poet

The Poet -First off, not all male poets are gay, they are sensitive.  A poet is a person that has music running through their soul, and when they write, it comes out in rhythms and rhymes.  All you have to do is add music to their writings and you have a song.

There are so many kinds of poetry it will be difficult to describe them all here, but here we go anyway.  Let's start with the basics - The Sonnet.  Sonnets are lyric poems that contain 14 lines only.  William Shakespeare loved to write sonnets, and wrote many memorable ones.  They generally contain only one or two rhyme schemes.

The Epic Poem - For those poets that cannot get their message across in 14 short lines, there is the epic poem.  These poems usually have a hero or central character, and/or include an adventure.  Henry Wordsworth Longfellow was famous for Epic Poems like 'The Song of Hiawatha' or the 'Iliad' by Homer.  These poets would be considered the novelists of poetry.

The third type of poem is called the "Haiku" - These are much shorter than even the Sonnet, at three lines, and believe it or not they don't even have to rhyme.  Why they are even called poetry is beyond my comprehension, but alas, they are.  They originated in Japan, and that might explain it.  Perhaps they rhyme in japanese.

Moving onto the "Free Verse" poet - To me, these types of poems, which have basically no parameters, are a perfect example of a poet on drugs. They can be any length, be about any topic, include or exclude rhymes and leave the reader with no message whatsoever.  Perhaps if the reader is drunk or on drugs, they may make more sense.

The Cinquain - A five line poem inspired by the Haiku, if that is at all possible.  To top it off, there are numerous variations of the Cinquain.  Here is an example: TreeStrong, TallSwaying, swinging, sighing, Memories of summerOak.  Now if this is what you would call poetry and you get the message, you are a better person than I am.  But I must admit I love the use of capital letters in incorrect places.

The Ballad - Ballads, like Epic Poems, tell a story.  However, they are based on a legend or folk lore, and are often incorporated into songs to make them more effectively received and understood.  Another type of poem similar to a song.

The last popular form of poetry is the Name Poem - These poems should really be written for small children in my opinion, and they follow a particular format, just like the Haiku, Cinquain and Sonnet.  They begin a person's name, and each line thereafter begins with the next letter in that person's name.  For example if the poem is about James, the first line would begin with the word James, the next line would begin with the letter 'a', then 'm' and 'e' and finally 's'.  This would therefore be a 5 line poem.  Whoever dreamed up this type of poem was probably a highly organized neat freak.

There are many other types of poems and poets, but these are the major ones.  I am particularly fond of the ballad poet because I have been in numerous bands and have attempted to write lyrics to songs.  However, when I have found myself in a particularly depressed state, Free Verse has taken over a couple of times and I've written a couple of these gems.  When I go back and re-read them, I have absolutely no idea of where my head was at, but I do know that I was not drunk or on drugs.  I guess this is just one of those strange life's mysteries.

Next week -The Children's Author

Friday, January 16, 2015

What kind of writer are you? The Journalist

The Journalist - a person who writes about news events of the day and adds their own artistic talents to the mix whenever they can.  These writers are often criticized as being talentless and devoid of creativity, but in fact, many of the successful journalists are able to take a bland or boring story and embellish it in such a way as to make it interesting to the reader.  Others haven't developed this ability yet.

One of the benefits of being a journalist is that stories are constantly being created for you in everyday life, and if you are good, you can carry on with your version of the story for as long as it lasts - or even longer.  One of the downfalls is that the journalist can usually never achieve true creativity, and many of the articles they write are about human misery and suffering - not the most positive of topics.  Novelists and Authors don't give journalists the time of day.

There are basically 4 different types of journalists, Print, Photo, Broadcast and Multimedia; and they report on numerous topics such as Sports, Politics, Business, Crime, etc.  Print Journalists work with the written word and write particularly for newspapers, magazines or gossip columns.  Some are employed by a particular newspaper/magazine and actually have a career, and others work freelance, sometimes making more money than those with careers.

Photo Journalists are not really journalists in my mind, unless of course, they include text with their photos.  Needless to say, photo journalists will undoubtedly disagree with this assumption.

Journalism has evolved and become extremely fast-paced in recent years, and many stories have completely run their course before print media has even had the chance to publish them.  This is why the last two types, Broadcast and Multimedia, seem to be taking over as leaders in the industry.  Photo Journalists are also developing a far more important role because of the emergence of these two modes of communication because photos are critical in developing stories on TV and in the Multimedia.  What do they say 'A picture is worth a thousand words'?

I think the goal of ALL journalists is to become famous, get rich, and thus eventually get laid - in basically that order.  The topics that a journalist selects as their profession therefore becomes the target market for their sexual desires.  Yes, you guessed it, Political Journalists want to sleep with some politician they have a crush on;  Business Journalists want to give one of their subjects the Business; and Crime Journalists, deep down, want to get laid by either a sexy criminal or hot police officer.

But my guess is that the journalist who follows celebrities, and tries to get photos and stories of their lives, are the journalists that have the most fun.  Sure, some of their investigations lead to negative stories, but discovering smut on these 'people on pedestals' must be extremely exciting at times.  And there seems to be a never-ending number of people that like to read this crap, so their market seems pretty secure.  But ultimately, these journalists, have mad crushes on their celebrity subjects, and want to screw them in more ways than one.

Some journalists are even able to ascend to the pinnacle of stardom themselves, and if THEY ever become the news, it can become quite entertaining for those of us with no excitement in our dreary lives.  Journalists covering the antics of other journalists gives the public some of the juiciest of stories ever.  Jian Ghomeshi comes to mind.

Journalists - are 'the under-valued writers', in my book.

Next Week - The Poet

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Parking your car in Mexico.

I have previously mentioned that when parking on the street in Mexico, look for yellow markings on the curb (NOT red), and be sure to use your steering wheel lock.  And if you can, give one of the parking attendants (yes you can find them on the street) a few pesos to watch your car.  But much of the parking in Mexico is in parking lots, either private or provided by a store.

Some of these lots charge, and some provide parking as part of their shopping experience.  But you will find in all of these lots, persons that either sit in a booth and charge you as you exit, or a group of people I will call 'whistle blowers' that meander around the parking lot and try to guide cars into and out of parking spaces.

Here are some of the current parking strategies.  At the entrance of Mega grocery stores, you will find a ticket dispenser.  You simply push the button and are issued a ticket.  Also at this time, a large arm raises to let your car pass into the parking lot.  Many of these lots are underground, and are excellent to keep your car dry during rain and cool during sunny weather.  Once you have completed your shopping, you must pay the cashier an extra 3-5 pesos for your parking.  Do NOT ever lose your parking stub because you will then have to probably pay for an entire day of parking - after you prove the vehicle is yours.

Soriana grocery store generally has outside free parking and so does Walmart.  Although Walmart sometimes is underground.  One difference in these two free parkings is that the 'whistle blowers' at Walmart have to pay Walmart to assist clients with parking.  Most other stores allow these people to wander their lots and make tips.  Some stores even give them a small amount of daily pay - not Walmart.

Many private lots have an attendant at the front gate and give you a stamped ticket when you enter the lot.  Don't lose this either.  In many cases these private lots are located near various types of stores, and they sometimes have an agreement with the stores.  The store will stamp your ticket, and you will then get a reduced rate of parking because you shopped.  Sometimes buying a 5 peso item can save you many pesos of parking.

Valet parking is available at many high end restaurants and hotels.  Make sure all valuables are out of the vehicle before you turn it over to the valet, and make sure to check your vehicle carefully before turning it over to them.  Also, when the vehicle is returned, inspect it again to make sure they didn't do any damage.  You may also want to make note of the fuel level and mileage, just in case they decide to take it for a joyride while you are eating.  This is where cell phone cameras come in handy.

Also a quick aside.  Airport parking is generally as secure as the lots mentioned above, but much more expensive.  For example, many of the parking lots in Cuernavaca or Mexico City are somewhere in the area of 10 pesos per hour.  The MC Airport charges 44 pesos for the first hour and 22 pesos for every hour thereafter - slightly higher.