Creative Writing

That’s So Chocolate Bar: How a Book is Helping Fund Research to Cure a Rare Disease

When 6 year old Dylan Siegel wrote the book Chocolate Bar and then single handedly pushed for his parents to self-publish it, it was well received by the public, earning over $92,000 and landing him multiple book signings and interviews. So what’s the story behind Chocolate Bar‘s success?

Dylan, right, and his best friend Jonah, left
Dylan (right) and his best friend Jonah (left)

Dylan wrote the book to raise money for his 7 year old best friend, Jonah Pournazarian, who has a rare liver disease, glycogen storage disease.

“My goal is to raise a million dollars!” Dylan told TODAY.com. “Then I think I’ll make a whole series of Chocolate Bar books so I can raise money for different diseases.”

Amanda Riggle Author Profile

IMG_0206Published Poet Profile: Amanda Riggle

Interview by: Melanie Figueroa

Amanda is a student at Cal Poly Pomona, a tutor, and an editor at The Poetics Project. While Amanda’s goal is to become a teacher, she also writes poems and short stories. On April 26th, one of Amanda’s poems will be published in the Pomona Valley Review Literary Journal. For more information about the journal, visit their website www.pomonavalleyreview.com. Below is an interview I was fortunate enough to be have with Amanda about what it’s like to be published, her writing process, and, of course, poetry.

The Poetics Project: Amanda, you wrote this poem in response to a workshop for The Poetics Project. Can you please tell us a little about that assignment and how your piece was influenced by it?

Amanda: Before the website was launched, we had a small Facebook group in which we critiqued each other’s writing and had creative writing projects with a deadline for the work to be shared.  The assignment my poem was in response to had two requirements – one, that it be about childhood and two, that it fit with Russian formalist critic Victor Shklovsky’s view of art in that it takes a look at the mundane and transforms the familiar by describing it in unfamiliar terms so that the reader takes a look at the mundane subject and sees a new thing in it they hadn’t recognized before. My response to that prompt was to take the opposite view of childhood that society generally holds – that it is not something precious, unique, and priceless and, in fact, is something that everyone has, good, bad, or in-between.

Graffiti: Bringing Literature to the Streets

Great literature can inspire various forms of art, including the kind that paints our streets: graffiti. Graffiti is generally illegal in the United States, unless it is done in cities with walls designated for such a purpose. However, the drawings left on these walls are often painted over by other artists due to the limited space. Because it is illegal, graffiti writers often go through great lengths to leave their artwork on a public wall, often making political statements in the process.

Below are a few examples of literary graffiti around the world. Which one’s your favorite?

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Antoine de Saint-Exupéry The Little Prince

On Inspiration and My Writing Process

Inspiration is a little overrated when it comes to writing. My experience is that it might take you a couple of pages before you lose the impetus that got you started. In other words, you should rely on steady, determined, inglorious writing to take you the distance. I don’t mean to say inspiration isn’t important. The problem is, I think, that most people assume good writing comes from an epiphanic moment, which turns the exercise into a waiting game. When lightning doesn’t strike twice, people call it quits. Remember why you started, but never forget that the process of writing is as important, and usually yields more, than the whim that got your fingers typing. That said, here’s a little on where I find inspiration:

Reading other authors. It’s a basic but true ingredient of good writing. But don’t take my word for it:  authors from Raymond Carver to Stephen King praise the value of “research” when writing your own, original work. Ben Franklin copied whole journals to learn writing techniques. Don’t rule out work from fields outside your comfort zone, either: as a Humanities major, I’m not particularly great at math or science, but having recently read (and deeply enjoyed) works by Carl Sagan and Michio Kaku, I’ve found my own framework broadened by their views on astrophysics and the natural world. So read, read, read, until you’re confident in your own voice. Then keep reading.

 

I Kind Of Like to be Profane

Profanity is supposed to be offensive, I get that, but there are times when the word shit just works so perfectly that a PG substitution won’t quite do.

You know when you stub your toe on something? Shit! Shit just works so beautifully to express the pain, surprise, and anger all balled into one, four letter word. Saying shoot just doesn’t have the same impact, not in real life and not in a poem. Shit conveys a very real emotion that cannot be replaced by one word alone.

My Writing Process

I’m a somewhat frantic writer. I never find a quiet space to write, but honestly, when silence occurs, I do find that my writing comes easier.

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I’m too busy to look for that quiet spot, though, so I write on the go. I always carry a notebook with me and I jot down ideas. I always write down little lines or funny things I hear that I might think I can transform into a poem or short story later.

I buy those 99 cent composition notebooks and I doodle in them. I have two or three in my backpack at a time because I use them for different subjects – academic paper ideas, poetry ideas, and short story ideas.

25 Things Chuck Wendig Wants to Say to Aspiring Writers

Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer, and owns an awesome blog with some great advice for writers. Most great advice hurts, and his is no exception.

Number one. Stop aspiring!

Here are the two states in which you may exist: person who writes, or person who does not. If you write: you are a writer. If you do not write: you are not. Aspiring is a meaningless null state that romanticizes Not Writing. It’s as ludicrous as saying, “I aspire to pick up that piece of paper that fell on the floor.” Either pick it up or don’t. I don’t want to hear about how your diaper’s full. Take it off or stop talking about it.

Here are some more of my favorite tidbits:

7. FIGURE OUT HOW YOU WRITE, THEN DO THAT

You learn early on how to write. But for most authors it takes a long time to learn how they in particular write. Certain processes, styles, genres, character types, POVs, tenses, whatever — they will come more naturally to you than they do to others. And some won’t come naturally at all. Maybe you’ll figure this out right out of the gate. But for most, it just takes time — time filled with actual writing — to tease it out.

The Curious Relationship Between Writers and Cats

Writers have been said to be solitary beings, which may provide insight into why so many writers seem to choose cats as their companions, rather than man’s best friend. Cats aren’t pack animals, meaning they don’t feel the need to do what anyone else wants them to do. And they have large, peculiar personalities, which can also be said of writers.

When I began researching this curious relationship between writers and cats, I stumbled upon a poem written by William Carlos Williams:

As the Cat

As the cat
climbed over
the top of

the jamcloset
first the right
forefoot

carefully
then the hind
stepped down

into the pit of
the empty
flowerpot