Tuesday, February 6, 2024

SEARCHING FOR YOUR STRENGHS



By Sarah Glenn Fortson   


Recently, I’ve come across articles on the importance of knowing your strengths as a writer. We humans tend to focus on shortcomings. When we read a critique of a work-in-progress, we most likely come away thinking of the “needs improvement” suggestions.

Trust me, it’s important to hear shortcomings. For example, my first few drafts of my book, GRANNY SMITH WAS NOT AN APPLE had talking bees in the orchard. At a conference, the presenter who critiqued my work said, “If this is a true story, get rid of the darn talking bees.” Except she didn’t say “darn.” Although a bit harsh, I am forever grateful that she pointed it out.

But in this post I want to take a hard look at the Granny Smith story in search of what I did well.

On the first page you’ll find imagery in the form of apple related words. “Listen carefully. Do you hear a crunching sound? Peel back England’s fog. You see Maria Ann Smith. A woman raised tough to the core.”

In several places throughout the story, I employ alliteration. “She will plow or pick or prune. She will shear or shuck or shell.” Before the families voyage to Australia, neighbors warn her of “seasickness, shipwrecks, and seafaring pirates.”

I’m proud of the sidebars throughout the book and the research I put into them. I was especially excited to find the actual ship manifest that listed the Smith family as passengers.

Lyrical language also stands out in my mind as something I did well. “…husband and son are climbing a ladder to place the beam to give the roof its pitch. Maria is mixing the mud to make the mortar to hold the walls in place.”

“She’s clearing the land to plow the rows, to plant the seedlings, to grow the apple trees.”

And at the end, I refer back to portions of the language used at the beginning in order to tie the story together in a neat little bow. “Listen carefully. Do you hear a crunching sound? Peel back the branches and you will see a gray-haired lady walking between rows of trees heavy with green apples. The crunching sound is Granny Smith--biting into one of the green apples that will soon be named in her honor.”

Now, dear reader, I challenge you. Take out your most recent work-in-progress and search for your strengths. Make a list of every aspect of your writing that gives you that sense of pride. Don’t be shy. Is there room to expand any element, or is what you have already enough?

Good luck. I bet you find more than you expect.




About the Author:



GRANNY SMITH WAS NOT AN APPLE is Sarah Glenn Fortson’s second book published by Peter Pauper Press. It was illustrated by Kris Aro McLeod and edited by Mara Conlon. Sarah’s debut is titled THIS COWGIRL AIN’T KIDDIN’ ABOUT THE POTTY, illustrated by Russ Cox. Sarah has a degree in journalism and a Masters in Education. She currently lives in Georgia. Learn more about Sarah at www.sarahglennfortson.com















           

24 comments:

  1. Excellent - I do look at correcting weaknesses. (I had to get rid of talking camels once - broke my heart!)

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  2. Robin Brett WechslerFebruary 6, 2024 at 9:23 AM

    I love GRANNY SMITH WAS NOT AN APPLE! And I appreciate your encouragement, Sarah.

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  3. Thanks so much for this helpful post, and your work looks fantastic!

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  4. Thanks for the push to look for and write down our story's strengths.

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  5. I love the crunchy, peely apple-words you use in that first example. It makes me almost smell an apple as I read along. And good advice - to look for our strengths. Too often I focus on the stuff that isn't working.

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  6. That ending harking back to the lovely opening is so satisfying! This is a good reminder to give ourselves a little pat on the back every so often. :) Thanks!

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  7. The many tips you shared are appreciated, Sarah.

    Adding alliteration to a story makes it sing.

    Suzy Leopold

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  8. Thank you Sara for this delicious post- can't wait to sink my teeth into your Granny Smith book and rework my latest drafts. I apologize- It is a terrible habit of mine but when I read and find a spelling error I am compelled to point it out- Your post title - strength has spelling error...

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  9. Thanks for a wonderful post, Sara. Iook forward to reading your book! Great idea to keep a list of what's working!

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  10. Word play and using vocabulary in “new” ways is fun!

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  11. So true, looking at strengths can propel us forward. I need to remember that because, probably like most people, I look for what needs change in my writing. Not a bad thing, but strengths can help me make those changes. Thanks for pointing this out. BTW, your book looks fascinating!

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  12. Such poetic writing Sarah. I love that you suggest we look for our strengths since I feel we are always searching for what is wrong with out manuscripts.

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  13. You did a lot well. I'll crunch the numbers on what I did well in some of my mss. What a great, uplifting way to look at our work for revision!

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  14. Thanks. I enjoyed your post. You've got me thinking.

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  15. Congrats, Sarah! Thank you for sharing these poetic devices to add strength to stories.

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  16. This is a comprehensive post about being your own best critique person. Thank you.

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  17. Thanks for the great reminder to look at the positive aspects of your own work. It's so easy to shut down when you only look at what's lacking.

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  18. Thank you for reminding us to look for the good and the positive, instead of focusing on the negative. It's a messgae worth repeating over & over. I put it near my computer.

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  19. A great thing to remember to look at what's good too, and to OFFER what's good when critiquing!

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  20. A wonderful reminder to look for your strengths. Thank you Sarah!

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  21. Thanks for sharing. I agree that your PB shows your strength in writing lyrical language. I like your use of sidebars to share related facts.

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  22. Love knowing that a favorite variety of apple is named after a real person. Thank you!

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  23. Thanks for the encouragement, Sarah!

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  24. Way behind. Catching up...wordplay resonates. Thank you.

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