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Magical Realism- what the heck is that?

Many of you writers, and some readers, will have heard the term “magical realism.” It has recently appeared with some frequency on the wish lists of agents and editors alike. It wasn’t but a few years ago when I thought, “What the heck is that?” I recently read a post by Bruce Holland Rogers that talked about how magical realism was a debased term (he explains it much better than I do here, so visit this post for a more in-depth discussion). However, I might defend writers by saying that without correctly defining the genre and providing examples, publishing professionals do themselves a disservice when writers make claims that don’t add up to real magical realism. So what is it, then? Well, now that you’ve backed me into a corner with that simple question, I might try to make the definition as simple as possible. Magical realism is the acceptance of magic in the real world. Actually, Katharina Hagena says it great in her Huffington Post article on the topic: “In a novel of magical realism, you’ll find elements of the fantastic which break or creep into an otherwise realistic world.” So what does that really mean? Are the Chronicles of Narnia magical realism?...
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What’s Write About Art and Science

“We use math, science and code to create these amazing worlds. We use storytelling and art to bring them to life. It’s this interweaving of art and science that elevates the world to a place of wonder, a place with soul, a place we can believe in, a place where the things you imagine can become real—and a world where a girl suddenly realizes not only is she a scientist, but also an artist.” – Danielle Feinberg http://www.ted.com/talks/danielle_feinberg_the_magic_ingredient_that_brings_pixar_movies_to_life?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=tedspread         I attended an SCBWI conference in Alabama in October, met another children’s writer within an hour drive from myself, and we met up for coffee. We wanted to know more about each other and we began sharing the projects we were working on, our successes, our struggles and eventually came to the question of when our writing started.         I reflected on how I taught high school chemistry, science summer camps, and a couple of introductory laboratory classes at a local university. I spoke of how when I taught that I had quarterly chemistry projects that implemented writing, creativity, and art. I loved these projects because the creativity allowed students to have fun and show off their unique ways.         My new writer friend pointed...
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All I Want as a Writer this Christmas is…

Christmas is definitely a season of giving, but it’s a time of wishes too. Our favorite Christmas stories sometimes involve ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, hoping for something amazing to happen. As writers, we may be ordinary people, but we take ownership of our extraordinary imaginations. That means we have no problem talking about Christmas wishes…and making them too. So without further ado, these are the wishes on the WWAT crew’s letters to Santa: John: In the immortal words of Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation, I want the gift that keeps on giving. (No, not a jelly-of-the-month-club membership.) I want to get better. I want my writing to shine like a child’s smile on Christmas morning. I know that writing is subjective, though as most writers I have come to loathe that word, but I want my voice to be so powerful that it even if it isn’t your style, the writing sucks you in. I want my storytelling to be so incredible that readers have to turn the page, and when they run out of those, the only disappointment stems from there being no more to turn. I want vortex-like openings; lofty and thrilling middles; and heart-pounding, emotionally draining but satisfying endings. In...
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What Hooked Me? The Blackthorn Key by Author Kevin Sands

In this month’s blog, the WWAT Crew discuss what it was that hooked us in the middle-grade book, The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands. John: Puzzles, codes, and mysteries Oh My! If you love these things (and who doesn’t), you will love The Blackthorn Key. I knew I wasn’t alone since many of the reviews left at Goodreads and Amazon also mentioned how much readers enjoyed that part of the plot. Not much of a spoiler, but in the story, our young hero, Christopher Rowe, must solve a series of science-related puzzles in order to discover the final secret and defeat the baddies. I was most impressed with how the puzzles were relevant to the history and time period. That sneaky Kevin Sands, not only did he entertain me, but he taught me some things. It was actually the puzzle-loving reviews that drew me to The Blackthorn Key. One of my works-in-progress deals with a puzzle-solving twelve-year old, and I wanted to see how Mr. Sands did it. I wasn’t disappointed. If you love puzzles and specifically, secret codes, you might check out Mysterious Messages: A History of Codes and Ciphers by Gary Blackwood. It’s a fascinating book that discusses how people throughout history...
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Bah Humbug! The Most Wonderful Character

MARLEY was dead, to begin with. So begins what many consider to be the second greatest Christmas story of all time. There are many things I love about this time of year: the food, the family, and (as an educator) the break…but one of the things I love the most is the opportunity to read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in the season it was intended. I took the opportunity to read a portion of the book with my class last week, and before doing so I did a little background research on the story. I actually learned a few things I never knew. I knew that Dickens was actually struggling as a writer when he wrote it. His recent works had been less than well received and money was tight. I didn’t know that his own father had been thrown into debtor’s prison forcing him at twelve years old to work 10 hour days in a boot blacking warehouse. This experience would shape much of his later views, and these remembrances may have been on his mind when he first devised the plan for A Christmas Carol. After several trips to visit some of the less fortunate of the time, Dickens planned to write a pamphlet that would change...
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Welcome to WWAT!
What's WWAT? What's Write About This is a blog dedicated to examining what works in kidlit. By tackling various themes and topics, we'll break down passages, examine sentences, and explore concepts that make-up the components of successful writing. We welcome you back each week with a new post. Thanks for stopping by!
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