Create Your Own Masterclass: Reading with a student’s eye by C.W. Allen – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. C. W. Allen will be awarding $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Create Your Own Masterclass: Reading with a student’s eye

Learning from the masters is valuable. And therefore expensive.

In generations past, if you wanted to become a master painter, or brick mason, or carpenter, or anything else, there was exactly one way to go about achieving your goal: become an apprentice to a master of the trade, who would teach you everything they know (for the low, low price of years service.) While the Master/Apprentice study dynamic has largely been displaced by the collegiate system, the modern masters have turned to the internet. Do a quick search, and you’ll find that successful writers like Margaret Atwood, R.L. Stine, Judy Blume, James Patterson, and Neil Gaiman are willing to share the secrets of their craft in online Master Class offerings. Never having plunked down the cash for one of these courses myself, I can’t say that they’re not worth it, only that, like many struggling writers, I can’t afford them. Fortunately, if you’re willing to put in the work, there is a budget alternative: reading these authors’ published works for instruction, rather than entertainment.

Benjamin Franklin taught himself to write

You probably know Benjamin Franklin as a respected American statesman, inventor, publisher, and writer, but as a fourteen year old newspaper apprentice, young Ben realized his writing was lacking. He didn’t have a teacher, but he did have access to many of the preeminent printed materials of his day—magazines and newspapers. He started out by taking sentence-level notes of articles he liked, waiting a few days until he had forgotten the actual wording of the article, and then trying to write the article himself, based on the notes. He then compared his writing to the published article to see where he might improve.

In the beginning, he realized his limited vocabulary was holding him back. Once he worked to improve the variety of words at his command, he focused on his writing voice. Little by little, he got to where he sometimes preferred his own version of the article to the original. He also played with format, turning a prose source into a poem, then using the poem to recreate the prose.

It’s worth noting that in recreating the writing of others, Franklin was not attempting to claim these copies as his own original work—that would be plagiarism. But for purposes of study, rather than publication, he saw no harm in imitating the work of writers he admired.

What to look for in writers to study

To follow Franklin’s example, first you’ll need to select an author to study. Reading a wide variety of authors and genres is important. However, for in-depth study, it’s best to select a writer that addresses the technical details you’ll need to iron out in your own work in progress, so a successful writer with recent publications in your preferred genre is best. Studying Shakespeare or Dickens probably won’t clue you in to what the current publishing industry is looking for.

Go after the low-hanging fruit first: has this author given a TED Talk or interviews about their work, or written a blog or instructional book directed at aspiring writers? After you exhaust nonfiction sources, dive into their published works. Is there something about the writer’s voice you admire? What narrative perspective did they choose for each work, and why? How do they handle dialogue? If the narration is omniscient, how are characters’ thoughts represented? What’s compelling about the first sentence of the novel? Are character descriptions introduced immediately, or gradually? What about setting? Backstory? Is the story timeline chronological, or presented in some other order? Where do chapters end, and why? What makes you want to keep reading?

Poetry, nonfiction, journalism, and other formats

Novelists aren’t the only writers that can benefit from close reading of sample texts. Poets will want to look at perspective and voice as well, but also rhyme scheme, meter, and stanza and line breaks. Are there intentional changes to standard spelling or capitalization? Does the poem ever break its own established rhyme scheme or rhythm? In free verse, how are line breaks used?

Journalists and bloggers will want to pay special attention to headlines, as well as use of color, font, and formatting. What tone does the article take? Are most articles or essays from the same work consistent in tone, or is there some variety? And of course, you can look for mistakes to avoid as well as successes to emulate. Are important details ever left out? Is the length appropriate? Are you ever confused, bored, or irritated by something in the writing or formatting?

We may not be able to get direct tutoring from our favorite writers, but by studying their interviews and published works, you can get the next best thing.

For Zed and Tuesday, adjusting to life in modern-meets-medieval Falinnheim means normal is relative. Lots of kids deal with moving, starting new schools, and doing chores. But normally, those schools aren’t in underground bunkers full of secret agents, and the chore list doesn’t involve herding dodos. The one thing that hasn’t changed: all the adults treat them like they’re invisible.

When a security breach interrupts a school field trip, the siblings find themselves locked out of the Resistance base. With the adults trapped inside, it’s up to Tuesday, Zed, and their friends to save the day. And for once, being ignored and underestimated is coming in handy. After all, who would suspect a bunch of kids are capable of taking down the intruders that captured their families, let alone the murderous dictator that put them into hiding in the first place?

Turns out invisibility might just have its benefits.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Snowflakes the size of baseballs were falling outside, which was ironic, since baseball didn’t exist anymore.

Zed had never cared much for organized sports, so the loss of baseball wasn’t so horrible, in his opinion. He cared a great deal about snow, however. In his last house, he’d had a favorite windowsill in the upstairs hallway that was deep enough to sit in and read while looking out the window. Cloudy fall afternoons made for excellent reading weather, but an early morning snowfall was even better, because school might get canceled, and then he’d get to stay home and read as long as he liked. That was before the move, though. His new home had school too, of course, but no windowsills. You don’t need windowsills in a place with no windows.

His older sister Tuesday was not such a fan of the “organized” aspect of baseball—she’d had some unusual barriers to making friends in her last town, not least among them her name, and it’s tough to play baseball by yourself—but she did enjoy sports, because sports are something you can win. You can’t win at reading a book in a windowsill. And anyway, she reminded Zed, baseball technically still existed, somewhere. It’s just that no one else in Falinnheim had ever heard of it.

About the Author C.W. Allen is a Nebraskan by birth, a Texan by experience, a Hoosier by marriage, and a Utahn by geography. She knew she wanted to be a writer the moment she read The Westing Game at age twelve, but took a few detours along the way as a veterinary nurse, an appliance repair secretary, and a homeschool parent.

She recently settled in the high desert of rural Utah with her husband, their three children, and a noisy flock of orphaned ideas. Someday she will create literary homes for all of them. (The ideas, not her family.)

Relatively Normal Secrets (Cinnabar Moth Publishing, Fall 2021) is her debut novel. She writes fantasy novels for tweens, picture books for children, and short stories and poems for former children. Her work will appear in numerous anthologies in 2021. She is also a frequent guest presenter at writing conferences and club meetings, which helps her procrastinate knuckling down to any actual writing.

Amazon Author Page | Twitter | Publisher Author Page

Buy the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Booktopia.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Relatively Normal Secrets by C.W. Allen – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. C. W. Allen will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Like most siblings, Tuesday and Zed don’t always get along. Unlike most siblings, their arguments are over things like whether their parents are hiding a life of crime, or are simply the weirdest adults on the planet. When they decide to go on the hunt for some solid evidence, things get weirder than ever: two thugs with shape-shifting swords show up, their dog shows off some tricks she definitely didn’t learn in obedience school, and even their treehouse turns out to be more than meets the eye.

Their escape leaves Zed and Tuesday stranded in a land where robots and holograms live alongside quaint medieval villagers and soldiers on horseback. Soldiers who insist their father is a disgraced fugitive, and their dog a legendary monster.

If they ever want to see their parents again, they’ll have to learn to work together. After all, they’ve got a mysterious code to break, secrets to unlock, bandits and soldiers to outwit, and a rowdy dog whose antics are getting more outrageous by the minute. Even if they manage to evade the eerie secret police and uncover enough clues to figure out what’s really going on, they’re not sure they’re going to like the truth.

Zed and Tuesday will have to decide who to trust and what really matters, or they’ll never get back to normal (whatever that is.) Because when it comes to normal, everything is relative.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Their father was fond of saying the dog had not managed to learn anything in the years that followed, but that was not strictly true. While it was true that she did not come when called or sit on command, the dog had in fact learned many tricks. Nyx had learned quite early on, for example, how to help herself to the contents of the refrigerator. No one was quite sure how an animal without thumbs was capable of opening a refrigerator door, since she had never been caught in the act, but an entire ham doesn’t simply get up and go for a stroll during the night, now does it?

Zed imagined some people would consider it normal to take a dog along to run errands—as long as the dog could fit comfortably inside a purse, that is, or at the very least wait patiently in the car. But Nyx was neither tiny, nor well-behaved and patient. She was, in fact, huge. Her bristly black fur and legs that seemed much too long for the rest of her frame made her look like a gigantic hairy spider. His mother spent nearly every moment in the dog’s company, and whenever she needed to go inside the grocery store, or post office, or other location where dogs are generally unwelcome, she brought Nyx along to wait in the car for her return. Nyx made use of this time by bouncing anxiously from seat to seat, smearing her nose on the windows.

About the Author:

C.W. Allen is a Nebraskan by birth, a Texan by experience, a Hoosier by marriage, and a Utahn by geography. She knew she wanted to be a writer the moment she read The Westing Game at age twelve, but took a few detours along the way as a veterinary nurse, an appliance repair secretary, and a homeschool parent.

She recently settled in the high desert of rural Utah with her husband, their three children, and a noisy flock of orphaned ideas. Someday she will create literary homes for all of them. (The ideas, not her family.)

Relatively Normal Secrets (Cinnabar Moth Publishing, Fall 2021) is her debut novel. She writes fantasy novels for tweens, picture books for children, and short stories and poems for former children. Her work will appear in numerous anthologies in 2021. She is also a frequent guest presenter at writing conferences and club meetings, which helps her procrastinate knuckling down to any actual writing.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Buy the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Google Play.

a Rafflecopter giveaway