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Showing posts from August, 2011

More Writing Lessons from "The Help" (Part 4)

This past weekend I attended a great writing workshop in Norman, OK (sponsored by the Pioneer Library System). I was fired up by all of the speakers, including Rilla Askew and Mel Odom (I missed the songwriting and poetry workshop by Nathan Brown, but I have a friend who has notes!), but the day started out with the inspiring bestselling author, William Bernhardt. My ears perked up when he started to talk about the importance of storytelling, because I knew that the next Excuse Editor blog post had to do with that subject.
Mr. Bernhardt reminded us of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. By telling an emotional story about the problem of slavery, Stowe's book fueled the opposition to the practice, and to the South. Legend has it when President Lincoln met Stowe, he said, "So this is the little lady who wrote the book that started this great war."
What if Stowe would have stayed silent?
Lesson Four: Your Writing Matters
In "The Help," Ske…

Writing Lessons from "The Help" (Part 3)

Do you have BIG ideas for your work? That's great. But are they also NEW? Finding just the right way to tell a story in a world that has been spitting out stories since the beginning of time can be a challenge, but it is this challenge that makes the pursuit of creating so worthy.
Lesson Three: Originality
When I first started reading The Help, I was a little skeptical that the underlying plot line would be able to weave its way through the whole book: Junior League President wants to make sure Black maids have their own bathrooms because of her misguided and racist attitude. Of course, as I continued to read, I saw how this was just one element of the entire story. It was interesting, yes, and something I had not ever thought of, but it was just a symptom of the bigger problems of the times. Although the maids were responsible for the care of the families' children, they were still thought of as different and even dangerous, and needed to be "kept separate". Althou…

Writing Lessons from "The Help" (Part 2)

You often hear that writers need to develop a tough skin in order to deal with the looming rejection and criticism of the writing life. This is true, but even before you learn to cope with the reaction to your writing, you have to be brave enough to write, and then have the courage to share your writing. In this installment of writing lessons culled from “The Help”, I discuss a crucial element to the writer’s state of mind as she decides to share her heart and soul through her writing. No matter where it comes from, whether it is perfect or not, it sets you up to take the necessary risks.

Lesson Two: Confidence
Skeeter's attempt to secure an editor's position at a big-time New York publishing house without prior experience, clips, or understanding of the traditional career path may have been misguided, but it still got her foot in the door. She was young, and a hard worker in school. To her, it only made sense to apply to just one job, her dream job in New York City, a huge step…

Writing Lessons from "The Help" (Part 1)

"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett is a book filled with lessons about race, tolerance, and class. However, weaved throughout the story of Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny are nuggets of wisdom about the writing process. It is, after all, a celebration of previously unheard voices sounding out on the written page in a time when most were trying to keep such words silent. Isn't that what all writers are trying to do? Get our message heard? So,in my next few posts, in honor of the release of "The Help" movie, I wanted to share some of the inspiration I found in this story of a book that struggled to make it into the world.

Lesson One: Dedication
Sure, we all know of the obstacles put in our way when we want to write. I don't have the time. Or, what would my family think if I shared our secrets?
In order to even begin building the book, Skeeter had to convince Aibileen to help her. That was the first of many hurdles that race and class position would create. Once Skeet…