Ingredients for writing from a Maryland author


April 24, 2002|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

VISITING AUTHOR Margaret Meacham recently gave an audience of Shiloh Middle School sixth-graders her recipe for success.

Her tips for young writers have been developed during an 18-year career that includes adventure stories with a time-travel twist to places in Maryland's past.

"One of my favorite things about writing for teen-agers is visiting them at school," said Meacham, who teaches Towson University graduate writing programs on children's books and creative writing. She is published by Tidewater Publishers of Centreville.

Sometimes she models characters on her children so others will connect to complex historical themes.

"A story is a collection of scenes joined by transitions," said Meacham, who lives in Brooklandville.

She recounted how she developed such scenes from visits to Eastern Shore communities to talk with people and peruse historical archives. She learned of the "oyster wars" of a century ago - a conflict that seemed to be "the Wild West on the Bay," she said.

"Tongers vs. dredgers, the Virginians vs. Marylanders. I thought it would be a great idea for a story," she said.

She began the three-year process of writing The Boy on the Beach. She has since created imaginary creeks and coves on the Eastern Shore as the setting for several books, including Oyster Moon, which most of the Shiloh pupils had read.

She shared her recipe for writing projects to help pupils with schoolwork.

"The Japanese say an idea is a sound in the heart. Ideas are everywhere," Meacham said. "The hard thing is to dream about it, study it, pound it and polish it. Trick your brain by starting ahead. Just brainstorm for 15 minutes to get your ideas down. On the second day, add more. And while you're out Rollerblading, your mind will be working on the story.

"Stretch your work over a week and you'll have a much stronger project because you've given your brain time to think about it," she added.

Pledges from the school readathon held March 1 paid an honorarium for Meacham's visit. The proceeds also enabled the school to buy library books and send a sizable donation to the Literacy Council of Carroll County.

Meacham was pleased that the young people had read books to pay for her visit. She read from her latest book, which will be published this year.

"Creative writers read everything. Read what you like and don't like," she said.

Figuring out what makes something good is as much part of her recipe as using "simple and specific terms, and strong active verbs." She credits being read to in second grade for inspiring her desire to create a world from words.

"Human beings need stories as much as food and water," Meacham said.

Spring concert

Songs from favorite Broadway musicals will be featured during the Spring Choral Concert at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Shiloh Middle School.

Musicals featured include South Pacific, Cinderella, The Boys From Syracuse and Carousel.

Directed by Philana Quick, middle school pupils will perform the romantic tunes "There Is Nothing Like a Dame," "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair," "Falling In Love with Love" and "You'll Never Walk Alone."

The concert is free. The school is at 3675 Willow St., Hampstead. Information: 410-386-4570.

Naturalist needed

Do you have expertise identifying birds, trees or animals? Do you enjoy leading hikes to find wildflowers or discuss ecology? Can you relate nature to children? You can use what you know, and expand your expertise, by volunteering as a naturalist at Charlotte's Quest Nature Center in Manchester.

A naturalist is needed for weekend educational programs and programs for schoolchildren. The naturalist could help guide the direction of the center and might create programs. No pay is offered. However, an enthusiastic young adult might consider the benefit of volunteer service as a step toward a paid career at other parks.

Applicants should call the center at 410-374-3395 and leave their names, phone numbers and messages.

Pat Brodowski's North neighborhood column appears each Wednesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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