Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Guest Blog: Susan Winkler

March 6th, 2015 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments

Today on Compositions, I welcome author and Paris-lover, Susan Winkler. Her new book, Portrait of a Woman in White, is set in WWII Paris. She joins us today to chat about how her love of Paris began with the movie Gigi.

. . . . . . . . . .


I fell in love with Paris when I was very young and saw the movie Gigi, at an outdoor drive-in with my parents and grandparents, in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Portland, with our 3 black and white TV channels was all I knew, so Gigi’s Paris and the belle époque offered another window onto life that yearned to explore.

I was 18 when I first traveled to Paris, to spend a summer, and stayed for the next year and beyond studying literature, art, linguistics, and of course, life. Outside my small academic program, many of my friends were journalists and filmmakers who flocked to Paris from around the world. I wrote for an American newsletter and had a press pass to the Venice and Cannes film festivals. When I came back and began grad school in French literature at Stanford, I missed Paris terribly.

There is something about the abroad experience when you are young, and not traveling with mom and dad, that can feed the imagination forever. I was predisposed to love the city, it’s attention to visual detail, and its incomparable beauty. Plus, I love speaking the language and becoming someone else when I am there.

I was very fortunate, over 20 years ago, to be asked by a publisher to write a guidebook to Paris (The Paris Shopping Companion), allowing me to endlessly explore my favorite city. But no matter how many trips I make, I never get to the bottom of my must-do list. So much to see, eat, do!

In my new novel, PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN IN WHITE, I explore WWII France, lovers, and a Matisse painting looted by Nazis.


Show, Don’t Tell: Downton Abbey Mistake

February 13th, 2015 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments
Highclere Castle, the home used for the set of Downton Abbey. –Wikimedia Commons photo by Bas Sijpkes.

Highclere Castle, the home used for the set of Downton Abbey. –Wikimedia Commons photo by Bas Sijpkes.

Last Sunday, Downton Abbey writers failed to achieve show, don’t tell. (Spoiler alert.)

In fiction, great writing uses this device. A simple example is instead of,  “She was angry,” we should write, “Her fists clenched.”

We feel the emotion as each character acts and reacts in ways true to their nature. This applies to writing and even to Downton Abbey.

This week, Edith–the meek sister–got terrible news. She’d been waiting for a year to hear something, anything, about her lost lover. And so had we. But when the news came to Downton, viewers were denied the scene. Instead, her father later told his wife and us what happened.

We did not see Edith wither when it was confirmed he died. Worse, we did not see her sit forward, her face brightening, when she is told she inherits his publishing business. Edith was given what many women were denied for years, and what the family assumed she never had. Power.

Consequently, the writers denied Edith’s power to persuade us, too. So when we next see Edith using her newfound strength, it feels unbelievable. False. Had we seen it, we would have been right there with her.

For further examples of show, don’t tell, check out this great description at Grammar Girl’s Down and Dirty Tips.

Sponsored Writing

January 30th, 2015 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments
Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons. Another contributor to my writing...

Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons. Another contributor to my writing…

I recently read this article about Ann Bauer’s writing life being sponsored by her husband. It proves my point that while writing is a solitary job, being an author is not.

True, my Ted helps to pay the bills–just as I worked to support him as he started a new practice a few years ago. But the money for groceries or electricity doesn’t fuel me nearly as much as his arms do. He’s not alone either.

If it were not for Leslie and Susie and others feeding me paying copy jobs, I could not have paid the editor who fixed what I could not see. If it were not for those clients who changed schedules so I could attend writing conferences, I would not now be presenting at them. My parents, historians, and my friends gave time as first readers. The baker on the corner occasionally gives me free coffee… An author thankfully introduced me to her (and now my) agent…

To my count, roughly 250 people have contributed in some way over these last six years. Financially, physically, intellectually and/or emotionally.

The better lesson from Ann Bauer’s article is to be gracious. Have some humility. Appreciate your talent, but appreciate those around you who give you time to exercise it.

Then honor them by putting your head down to write. Write well. And finish the book. I’m off to do just that.…