Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wise Words to All of Us

At 20 November, 2010 , Blogger Rettakat said...

At first I was stumped, not understanding. But after reading the exchange here in comments, I think I can see better what you are saying, Welwyn.

To be honest, I'm still hoping more of the people that signed up for the project would feel like jumping in, and joining the "conversations." Maybe they didn't know that's just what one is supposed to do??! You are right... the joy of this kind of thing IS the give and take, not just the "take".

I write a blog on a totally different topic. There are 195 people who signed up to "follow". But only a very small handful actually participate by way of comments. I love that exchange, and have made quite a few friends. And I have come to learn that it is the norm to have lots of quiet readers, and a few that not only take away, but give back by commenting. We are all soooo busy, so I appreciate those few!

People who don't write a blog have no idea how much work it is. And when you are dealing with a physical challenge, like you are, that makes it even MORE of a challenge. I don't think people realize that the best way to show their appreciation is to join the conversation. They don't mean to be ungrateful... they just don't always know. I know before I started my blog, I didn't get it, either.

Sounds like this question from Atom has opened up a whole can of worms.. and that might be a GOOD thing. Because it will help clarify what you had in mind, and help us understand better and maybe others will feel encouraged to jump in, too.



My answer : What do I get out of it?

Atom asked me: "What are you getting out of writing this blog"?

Yesterday, I came to an interesting point in my thinking. I realized that I wanted the non-participating people in this blog to value what I was doing.  But they were, weren't they, by coming at all.  It may not even be their fault if they are incapable of involving themselves in other ways. Some came from foreign countries.  Possibly they were shy about expressing themselves in English.  A lot of people can read English but not so many can write it idiomatically, the way we were doing.  If it wasn't that, it could just be self-consciousness.  It could be people didn't know I would value their input.  When I was young, I didn't have many friends, and when a girl said that she was inviting all the girls in our grade five class to her birthday party, I had to ask her if she really meant me.  That confession is one I have never told anyone until today.  I didn't have the self-esteem to think I would be wanted at that party.  Other people could have those same kind of self-esteem issues. If one of you is reading this, please know that I'm inviting you to this party, and I will like you and enjoy your presence, and that a comment once in a while is all the "presents" I hope for from you.

A cynic could say, I suppose, that those who feel they can't contribute to our blog in other ways could maybe buy my books. Atom, you've ordered three.  That was really nice of you.  It's a great gift, it shows you value what I have done, and it completely makes me aware that you, sitting there quietly without commenting, have understood how hard it was that I worked, and wanted to thank me by buying my books.  I appreciate that very much.  I give all the money the books make to my web-master.  It's his payment.  But I got the present of your appreciation, which is very much appreciated by me in return. 

And the truth is, that I don't really care about what I make as a writer.  I used to make a lot, but it was awfully hard work, and I could have made much, much more every year by teaching math for a living. I wrote books because I loved writing. 

So here I am, back where Atom started.  Why do I write this blog?  What do I get out of it?

What I get out of this blog is the kindness of strangers who care about what happens to me when I'm sick.

What I get out of this blog is the sense that a few people who were complete strangers are becoming friends.

What I get out of this blog is the awareness that I'm really and truly doing my best to help other people do something they want to do.  That is important, to know you've done and are doing your best.

And since my last post,  I got some wonderful responses from Deb and Karen and finally Loretta.  Deb and Karen were stunned, I think, and responded as if I had meant them, which I never did, though of course I was advising them on writing issues, and they couldn't see how they could advise me on such issues.  Once I understood that I hadn't clarified  that that was not  what I wanted in this blog at all, I answered them. I always knew that there would be a "teaching element" in this blog.  I spent a quarter century as a professional writer and you,mostly, haven't.  So how could I start this blog as a writer who wanted to give back, and not expect to teach?

In any case, I never meant them.  The reason I never was unhappy with them (the EXACT opposite was true) was because they commented.  They asked questions.  They made it so easy for me.  I particularly like it when someone doesn't quite understand something I've said and writes to me about it.  I immediately have a topic to use in the blog the next day.  I won't embarrass the one who told me how seriously she took this blog, in that she was going back over all the posts and trying to figure out everything from the beginning, but it was wonderful to me to hear that.  For me, that should have been my immediate answer to Atom.  Giving and receiving were always in balance with the people who commented.  The "giving" from the people making comments on my blog comes from the serious attention to my words (imperfect as they are),  that made them want to make comments.  I think Atom phrased his or her question a bit harshly, making me feel almost as if I had to defend myself for writing the blog in the first place.  "What do YOU get out of it?"  Atom, I'm sure you didn't mean that, but that's how it comes across.  It's one of the reasons this kind of communication is so hard.  People can't hear the laughter or the gentleness or the kindness in the words.  The words have to do it all, and even professional writers fail time and time again at making their own personal words do that.

I would like to post the responses I received from Deb, Karen, and my responses back to them, but that would take up a lot of space.  You should read them, if you are interested, because it shows how badly I expressed myself, and how easy it is to take offense when it isn't meant or aimed at you.  I will post the response I got from Rettakat because she waited, so wise to wait, and she read the whole exchange, and then she came up with a comment that says exactly what it was that I wanted from this blog that I had to look at in the light of Atom's comment. Loretta put it in the context of her own experience and made it a perfect clarification of why I wasn't perfectly able to say that I was getting all I wanted out of this blog.  So please read the next blog.  It's all my blog friend Loretta's words -- and I say again, Loretta, that you could really be a writer professionally, as well as an artist, if you chose.  Picture books?  There are so few people who can both write them and illustrate them.  You might be one.

Pondering What Atom Asked

Atom asked me in my last post what I get out of writing this blog.

First, Atom, I would like to thank you for the gift of a question that hasn't got anything to do with how to write. You are the first person, I believe, in this blog, ever to ask me anything that wasn't related to something I'd already said in the blog somewhere.  I don't blame the core group who appear pretty much every day.  Loretta gave me a banner, and she and a couple of others have honestly tried to do what I ask, in this role that has somehow descended on me, of becoming a teacher.  But you have maybe noted in my sidebar that appears beside every post that I didn't want to become a teacher again, and that in this blog I hoped to be part of a conversation about writing (all the people who visit my blog providing me things to answer, and vice versa). I've done the vice versa but it has become a big job for me, since there was nothing for me to say in answer to anything.  I probably should have quit trying, and just let the blog die, while I waited for a "melody for me to riff on".  I didn't do that.  There were a few people who commented, and for their sakes I tried to give all I could about being a writer, whether it was what they wanted to know or not.  I became a teacher, exactly what I didn't want to be.

You mentioned a motto someone said, an important philosophical teaching of the East that I believe in.  "Giving and Receiving must be in balance."

Here, with a few exceptions, it's "I give, they take."

I think I'll post something every day until I feel I know the answer to your question fully.  What am I getting out of this blog? 

Atom and this blog

At 20 November, 2010 , Anonymous Atom said...

Hi Welwyn, In "the spirit of the season" I am taking you up on your offer and have contacted you through your website order page. 

But i'm curious.You seem to be giving a lot to this blog in terms of your advice which must take a lot of your time to compose, and now discounts on your books. I heard of a guru who said that, "giving and receiving must be in balance". What are you getting out of all this giving?

Thank you for wanting to buy some of my books, Atom.  I'll be sure to let my webmaster know that you're buying "In the spirit of the season."  That way you won't get charged full price.

Monday, November 15, 2010

In the Spirit of the Season

I'm giving a donkey to a needy family somewhere in the world, this holiday season.  Isn't that just the neatest idea?  My husband's giving medicine and a rooster and two hens.  You too can decide, in the spirit of the season, to spend $50 or more to help communities and families in poverty.   Just go to  World Vision is a trustworthy Christian organization who gives where help is needed, whether people are Christian or not.  I like them for that.
My husband and I chose to do this instead of spending a lot on each other.  But maybe you want to help make a difference in peoples' lives, without spending that kind of money?

Let me tell you something important.  A quarter of a century after I first was published, I still get letters from people who have rediscovered my books in libraries, and who want me to know how much that  particular book mattered to them when they first read it all those years ago.  One girl, who was really, really scared to go into high school, made herself remember how brave Morgan had been in The Third Magic, and she wanted me to know how it got her through her own ordeal. A girl who was half native and blond and blue-eyed wasn't suffering bullying from other kids, but still she read False Face and thanked me, because, she said, "Nobody ever writes books about me."  Someone else said basically the same thing about Ben in Out of the Dark.  "I was that boy, carving, instead of crying," he told me.  Another said, "I was the 3rd witch in the Scottish play in [....] Theatre.  Loved the way you portrayed them in Come Like Shadows.  I'm going to write to my whole cast to buy the book.  They'll remember your story forever."  And one young adult wrote to me, "I loved the mother whale in Whalesinger.  You didn't anthropomorphize, but she was still real to me. I'd been thinking about doing graduate work in physiology, but now I've decided to go into marine biology. The world needs people like that, and like you."  

I wish I could show you all the letters I've had.  If, for a few dollars you can change peoples' lives for the better by buying them a book that they will react to so positively that they remember it so many years later, that is perhaps almost as good a gift of a donkey, to people in our privileged Western World.

I've tried not to push my books at you in this blog, but if you think one or more of them could open the eyes of someone you know to a new and exciting viewpoint,  then perhaps one of my books would make a good gift, in the spirit of the season.

And so, I've decided from November 15 until December 1, 2010 to offer my books at special prices (see below for shipping).  You must send me an email to and say what books and autographs you want and where you want them shipped (and how). We will pack and ship within three days.  You will receive an online invoice from me with a copy of the exact shipping bill to prove that we paid that to ship as you requested.  We accept Paypal paid to  For those of you who haven't got Paypal, please email us so that we can agree on suitable alternatives.

A detailed description of all the books (with reviews) are described on could get them at, too, but not at these special prices, nor with an autograph!  
Special prices ending midnight Dec 1, 2010 follow:

(NO tax; we will pay it where applicable)

The Prophecy of Tau Ridoo (only in paper, illustrated long novel):   $7.00  ages 7-11

Time Ghost (only in hardcover): $15.00 ages 8 - 12 (CLA Honour Book , Children's Science Fiction Prize, USA, SC Book Award)

Beowulf (hardcover short novel, period style illustrations): $11.00 all ages (reading aloud to ages 4-5) (short-listed Governor-General's Award, CLA award, Red Cedar Award)

Sun God, Moon Witch (only in paper): $7.00 ages 11-14 (short-listed, CLA Book of the Year)

Witchery Hill (only in paper): $7.00 ages 11-14 (short-listed, CLA Book of the Year, ALA Booklist)

False Face (only in paper): $7.00 ages 11-14  (winner, International Fiction Contest, Ebel Prize, short-listed Governor-General's Award, CLA Book of the Year, Trillium Award, ALA Best Book)

Out of the Dark (only in paper): $7.00 (ages 11-14) (winner, Ruth Schwartz Award, short-listed Governor-General's Award, ALA Best Book)

The Third Magic (only in paper) $8.00 (*fantasy and science fiction readers of any age) (winner of the CLA Young Adult Award, winner of the Governor-General's Award, ALA Book of the Year)

Whalesinger (only in paper) $8.00 ages 12 and up: *mature readers, (nominated for Governor-General's Award, winner of the CLA Young Adult award, ALA Booklist, NYPL award)

Come Like Shadows (only in hardcover): $14.00   (*mature readers) (Winner Vicky Metcalf Award, CLA Young Adult Award, NYPL Award, ALA Booklist)

Handling: We do not charge for handling.

(a) Within Canada.  You will pay the exact cost of the type of service you request: priority, Xpress Post, expedited parcel, regular parcel.  Tracking numbers will be provided to all shipments at no additional charge. Most services are delivered reliably within 1-7 days except if by surface.   
(b) To the USA: You will pay the exact cost of the shipping method you request.  Choices are limited at this point by the USA government's limits on the kinds of parcels acceptable for cross-border delivery.  We do not advise surface for holiday delivery because surface can take more than six weeks, but if you have the time and are okay with that, it may be your best option.  Price for a three book envelope depends on distance but for air mail usually delivered between 5 and 8 business days our last delivery (to Los Angeles) cost $14.95.  Unfortunately, tracking numbers between Canada and the USA add $10.00 to the cost.  Yes, I know, it's shocking. 
(c) International delivery envelopes cost around $25.00 and will likely hold up to three books, or four to five paperbacks.  These envelopes are guaranteed to get there within a short period of time depending on where you live.  Air mail at exact cost is also available. 

I do hope you won't mind me offering you my books.  Thank you so much.


Tip 7: Remember the title of Tip 6? Let's see how Minority Report relates.

(Tip 6: How to discover the whole of your story?)

Loretta, your idea about the absolute worst moment in Minority Report was very, very close to being the answer.  You found the worst moment for him, because of all the characters in the whole movie, only he has any real idea of what is involved in halo-ing.  Good for you!!!

Loretta zeroed in on a moment that was worst for him and very hard on the wife.  Ideally,  in most two-hero stories, the worst moment would be the same for both characters.  Loretta felt that instinctively.  (Are you sure you don't want to write books on the side, Loretta?)  I think the moment she picked (had the wife been a minor character) would have been the right one.  Unfortunately, though, the flaw in the movie is that the wife is a major character (because she is needed for the resolution) and yet she doesn't appear as a hero until late in the story.  *Remind me to post, at another time, how the movie makers might have prevented this flaw without changing the movie very much at all.

It's natural to look for the worst moment for the husband because we spend a lot more time with him than with the wife.  (She still loves him, I think, and I think it's pretty clear why she had to leave him.  These things were done well, and the earlier holo pictures showed how important the wife is. But other than a few very minor scenes, we don't get to have the two of them together very often.) 

Loretta's instinctive reaction is RIGHT that the absolute worst moment for the two-hero story should happen at the same time to both of them.  Given that, she chose a moment that is the worst for him and quite bad for her.  But since this movie is flawed (as I think I said a million times too many), we have to look a little deeper.  The worst thing that can happen for him has happened.  The consequences of that worst thing continue for him.  Now, what is the worst thing that can happen to the wife???

I'm pushing so hard for exactly this worst moment in Minority Report because once you find it you will understand exactly what I mean by structuring a whole story around a worst moment for your hero (heroes), as I will - later - in carrying on with the solution to Tip 6

And so, I am saying that even in a flawed movie like Minority Report, we can still find one moment where things are as bad for the wife as they can possibly be, while they continue to be as bad for the husband as they can possibly be: this is the place in the movie I want you to find, okay?

Basically, you are looking for the CRISIS of the movie (writers often use that word Crisis when talking about plotting their novel.  Movie, novel.  It's just the same.  Crisis = worst possible moment for the heroes).

It'll be worth it to you, a thousand times more than you can imagine, if you can figure this place out.  Watch it over and over from the point where he's halo'd.  Eventually, you'll see it.  Try to come up with it on your own, okay?  That is, don't be too influenced by what your colleagues on this blog suggest.

I didn't mean to post for so long today.  But we've got to keep in touch, and though the workshop really is temporarily in abeyance, we can still do things like this, as long as I'm not feeling too rotten.

P.S.  Please tell your friends.  Tell your movie-loving non-writing friends.  Tell them to join us.  We're working so hard, and it's so much FUN, and they'll learn so much, invite them from me to be part of our group.

Gotta go take my morphine and lie down, now.



Sunday, November 14, 2010

Minority Report: Worst Moment Comments

I really liked your comments, which came from deep inside, where you put aside your own personalities and "became" the main characters.  This is what we always want readers to do with our books, right?

But just for a moment, stop being in the movie emotionally, and redefine "worst moment for the characters" intellectually as: the moment where it seems as if there is no way, absolutely no way, out.  This must be true for both the main characters.

Hard one, eh?

(eh? is a Canadianism).

So, think hard.  Where exactly do you realize that the two main characters are totally scrooped.  (seemingly).

Good luck.

Back to bed.

Keep at it, guys, you're doing great work.

Hugs from Welwyn