Saturday, August 21, 2010

Revising: Learning from Lewis Carroll

I am fascinated by how different writers revise.

Lewis Carroll wrote two versions of a book. He wrote (by hand) and illustrated Alice's Adventures Under Ground in 1862. (The link takes you to the book at
This book was expanded, revised, and published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (illustrations by John Tenniel) in 1866. (The second link takes you to an 1866 copy of Alice which can be downloaded in most formats or read online at Internet

The first chapter of the Under Ground book is almost identical to the beginning of the Wonderland book. Carroll only changes a couple words, such as "nosegay" into "fan."

There is a noticeable word change in the middle:
The ostrich changes to a flamingo!

Illustration by Lewis Carroll
I wonder why Carroll made this choice when he revised.
What is the difference between playing croquet with an ostrich or a flamingo?
Did he make this change because of the size of the bird?
The color of the bird?
Maybe flamingos are more docile.

Large scale revision is shown in the final chapters of the book. Three pages in the Under Ground book expand into two chapters in the Wonderland book!

When I write an initial story, I write an "exploratory draft." This is where I discover plot and characters; it is later when I revise, that I flesh out the scenes and find the best way to tell the story. This type of loose exploratory draft is what I see in those 3 pages of Under Ground.
It was a delight to discover (without access to all of Carroll's notes) how Alice Adventure's Under Ground was revised into Alice Adventure's in Wonderland. It is worth the time to read the conclusion of both versions and think about Lewis Carroll's revision choices.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Vermont College of Fine Arts Residency and summer travels

College Hall

A few brief highlights from my Vermont College of Fine Arts residency:
I was in a small group workshop which allowed time for other writing craft activities in addition to the normal VCFA workshop/laboratory.
I attended many incredible lectures, which covered a wide range of writing craft issues.
Visiting authors Gregory Maguire and Holly Black came to campus for Fantasy Day.

My next advisor is Martine Leavitt! She writes both fantasy (Keturah and Lord Death, a National Book award finalist) and contemporary young adult novels. She was one of my workshop leaders during my first residency at VCFA and I am excited to work with her again.

This coming semester is my final semester: during the next five months I'll complete my creative thesis and prepare a lecture which I'll give at January residency.

I am now back in Germany, after spending my summer traveling, visiting friends and family. Luckily, I was in Oregon when the wild blackberries were ripe and I enjoyed eating warmed by the sun, juicy, drop in your hand, ripe blackberries. It has been years since I've enjoyed fresh NW blackberries. I checked on my walk yesterday and the German blackberries are just starting to turn black, so I'll be hunting for a good blackberry patch here in Frankfurt.
Here are two photos from my travels: a waterfall in the forest in the Cascade Mountains and sea lions with the Newport bridge in the background at the Oregon Coast.