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Amanda Hart Miller

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fiction

Two Exciting Opportunities Resulting from Self-Publishing

SuperDylan and the Night Horse is out! Also this month, I’ve received some other exciting book news.

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SuperDylan and the Night Horse, the sequel to SuperDylan and the Powers of Just Right, would make a fun, educational stocking stuffer for students in 1st-5th grade. This book follows six-year-old Dylan as he learns that he and his family will be moving and he’ll have to make new friends.  He starts having nightmares, but with a little advice from his sister, Dylan learns something wonderful about his own abilities. This book teaches imagination, creativity, and self-confidence.

I’ve also recently become involved in two other exciting projects.

I was asked to write a children’s book to accompany a sculpture to be built in the City Park lake here in Hagerstown, Maryland.

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The sculpture is being created by Paul Rhymer, also the artist who created the watercolor above. The sculpture will show a mama bear teaching her cub to fish, and my accompanying story underscores the importance of self-sustainability, lifelong teaching and learning, and the parent-child relationship. I wrote the book a few weeks ago and was proud to serve on a team that asked the City Council for funding last week. We were awarded our whole request, and we’ll be able to print and distribute the book to 5,000 local school children, along with lesson plans and information about the sculpture, which will be unveiled later in 2014. This is another fantastic opportunity, and one I wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for the Washington County Arts Council.

Washington County arts council

The Washington County Arts Council has been very supportive of my SuperDylan book, which they sell at their Gallery. Mary Anne Burke, Executive Director of the Arts Council, said she immediately thought of me as the perfect local author to join the team involved in this exciting “Fishing Lesson” project. Thanks, Mary Anne!

I was also asked to be the 2014 visiting author at Mercersburg Elementary School in Pennsylvania.

I’ll be visiting the school in January, reading SuperDylan and the Powers of Just Right to students, talking a little about the writing process, and then answering student questions. The school is purchasing a signed book for every student in the school. This is a fantastic opportunity for me to share the book with others and interact with the kids while doing something I love. I can’t wait! Thanks to Michele Poacelli for recommending me!

Neither of these opportunities would have presented themselves if I wouldn’t have self-published the SuperDylan books. I’d probably still be waiting to hear back from agents and the manuscripts would have been stuck in a folder on my computer. I’m thrilled about both these projects, proud to live in such a supportive community, and glad I can debut the Night Horse along with these two pieces of fantastic news!
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You Gotta Grow a Pair (of Vocal Chords): Voice in Fiction Writing

Regardless of point of view, the voice of a storyteller is just that: one voice. It isn’t the voice of no one, nor is it the voice of everyone. A story is told by one voice, allowing a reader to co-experience through the eyes of one particular person.

A voice that tells a subjective story is arguably the one powerhouse writers have over film, and the more I learn about fiction, the more strongly I believe that the quality of fiction all goes back to the strength of the narrative voice.

As Emily Dickinson said, Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.

I want a narrative voice that grabs me by the throat, submerges me, and holds me tighter, tighter, tighter. It should make me see more than I wanted to see and to see myself in a way I never thought I would. Even though that voice may be unreliable at times, even hateful at times, I want to trust that voice to always be true to itself.

Some of my colleagues and I discuss our most hated thesis statement in ENG 101 essays: “There are many similarities and differences between Subject A and Subject B.”

What? In what way is this an interesting statement? It’s so vague it can be applied to everything. There are many similarities and differences between a pen and a pencil. There are similarities and differences between a wooden table and a wooden pencil. There are many similarities and differences between an artichoke and an aardvark.

Right. This is stunning information. I’ll need a while to ponder this.

 

Not seeing the connection between a compare/contrast essay and a piece of fiction? Well, come closer and let me tell you a secret. Yes, closer. This one is a doozy. Here it is:

There are many similarities and differences between a compare/contrast essay and a piece of fiction.

Or, let me say it this way: Both essays and stories must feel urgent. They are not reports. While we can break them into parts (an essay is comprised of an introduction, thesis, body paragraphs, and conclusion while a story is comprised of exposition, rising action, climax, resolution) they are more vital than the sum of their parts. They must matter, not to everyone, but certainly to someone.

 

Here’s what happens in a lot of beginning fiction:

Story A is a story that follows an arc of rising action until the climax, and then the resolution both resolves the conflict while opening the topic for further thought. The writing is competent and clean and the reader is supposed to come away from the story believing that life is imperfect but precious. The narrator is, for the most part, likable. The narrator’s faults are equivalent to an interviewee answering the question “What’s your biggest fault?” with the statement: “My biggest fault? Yes, regrettably, I tend to work too hard.” The interviewer sighs and shakes his head in a fake acknowledgement of the courage it took the interviewee to come clean like this. Yet another over-achiever in the interviewee chair. The horror.

Come on now.

Be an individual. Glimmertrain accepts under 20 stories a year. They receive 15,000. You have to distinguish yourself from everyone else.

A story written for everyone in a voice unwilling to cause any discomfort or disagreement is a story that, ironically, will do very little to interest anyone. Or, as Nietzsche says, “Books for the general reader are always ill-smelling books.”

Voice is all about distinction. Voice is one specific mouth urgently whispering into one specific ear.

And sometimes, even once you’ve found your voice, it takes a while to find the right ear. Keep searching. Don’t try to compensate for a broken link in communication by mumbling.

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