Today’s a great day for Women’s Fiction Writers! Not only is my friend, author Laura Harrington, back to share her wisdom on all things Pinterest, but today is the paperback launch for her novel, Alice Bliss. The new cover is just spectacular and evocative. I’d totally pick it up in a bookstore, if I didn’t already have it on my iPad, that is. If you haven’t read Laura’s series of posts on revisions, check them out by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. And if you haven’t read Alice Bliss — now’s a great time!
Please welcome back Laura Harrington!
Pinterest for Novelists: Can Pinterest Inspire Your Writing?
by Laura Harrington
When I first started hearing about Pinterest I reacted with a sense of doom. My first thought was, are you kidding me? There’s something else we’re supposed to be doing to connect to our readers/ build our platform? I felt that I didn’t have one more iota of available brain space for anything that was not actually writing.
And then my writing hit a snag. I was about half way through my second novel when I slowed to a halt. I felt stuck and stale and tired. Had I lost my writing mind to too much Twitter and Facebook and all the rest of it?
Or did I need some inspiration? Did I need to find a place where I could play?
I am a very visual person. Part of this is from my theatre background; part of it is my lifelong love of design and image. I was an art history minor in college and worked at a museum and in a prints and drawings gallery for two years between college and grad school.
I decided to take a look at Pinterest, to see if I could use it as a place to spark my imagination for my new book. When I began I had no idea where it would lead me, nor did I know how addictive it could be. (Warning!)
And yes, I agree with some of the criticisms leveled at Pinterest. It can be a glorified form of hoarding, many of the images have the gloss and emptiness of advertising, and lots of people use it simply to collect things: recipes, cute kitten photos, outfits. But it can also be as inspiring as exquisite paintings, cool old vintage photos, pure color washes, birds, clouds. Some boards feel like too much sugar to me. Some boards draw me in and inspire me. I especially like finding artists from other cultures to follow.
What is Pinterest?
Pinterest is a virtual corkboard where you can pin just about any image, being careful about attribution of course.
Where in the world do you begin?
The Next Book:
I started with a catch-all board, titled “The Next Book” and pinned any image that struck me as being part of the world of my next book, which is set in 1966 and 1970. Using key words I searched for images of Viet Nam, black and white photos of kids from that period, peter pan collars, Simplicity patterns, sewing notions, lakes, swimming, lakeside docks, cars, trucks, farmhouses. That “catch-all” board continues to be one of my favorites because of its variety. It never fails to draw me into the world of the book and spark my imagination.
Soon, however, my searches were becoming more specific and so were my boards. I started to get organized. Here are a few examples:
Two of my characters keep field journals with a particular interest in birds. But field journals turns out to be the most delightful of categories: here you will find pencils, drawing tools, beautiful handmade books, pages from field journals, watercolor wash techniques, etc.
Espaliered Apple Trees:
The father works with apple trees at the Cornell Agricultural Station in Geneva, NY, and is experimenting with the French espaliered method.
Books for the Next Book:
My research titles. You could also use a board to pin research articles, magazine clippings, etc.
One of my characters is a bird artist who becomes a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. These are the birds he might see or draw or be inspired by.
The primary relationship is between a brother and a sister. They are wild children, alive in nature. Finding images to capture their unique spirit is challenging and fun.
Are these images helping with my writing? Absolutely. The world of my book is deepening, becoming richer. My imagination has been shaken up and unlocked. Energized and inspired, my book has taken an entirely new direction.
Here are a few other ways that authors might use Pinterest:
A young woman is creating a book trailer for my first book, Alice Bliss, to launch when the paperback launches. She sent me her initial cache of images and I realized that these ideas, which looked great on paper, were not quite capturing the spirit of the book.
Pinterest to the rescue. I created a board for Alice Bliss/ The Book Trailer where I could easily share my ideas with her: She can pin images to this board as well. It’s a great place for us to test out ideas as she storyboards the book trailer.
As I worked to find images that capture the spirit of my books, I found myself thinking about book design. Perhaps one of the future uses of Pinterest will be as a place for authors to share their visual ideas with book designers. I love collaborating with designers and I am fascinated by their process. In no way do I want to take over or intrude upon that. But I do think that the author’s understanding of the visual world of their book is useful information for a designer to have.
My intuition tells me that Pinterest is going to have a powerful impact on book covers. Using boards to share images, looking at images and cover ideas online, where most covers will be seen, testing to see if the cover “reads” in a very small format, might very well enhance the process of design and give us ever more beautiful and striking covers.
Pinterest is not for everyone. Just the fact that it means spending more time in front of a computer screen was enough to keep me away from it initially. Now, however, I find I have to limit the time I spend there by setting a kitchen timer. It is so easy to get lost down that rabbit hole. But I have found it to be refreshing, to be a place where I can play and have fun, where I can find inspiration. Perhaps best of all, I can disappear into visual beauty, and take a rest from words, words, words all the time.
How do you use Pinterest?
If you’d like to take a look at the boards that I’ve referenced, above, just click on this link: http://pinterest.com/laurharrington/
Laura Harrington’s award-winning plays, musicals, and operas have been widely produced across America, in Canada, and Europe. She is the 2008 Kleban Award Winner for most promising librettist in American Musical Theatre. Harrington has twice won both the Massachusetts Cultural Council Award and the Clauder Competition for best new play in New England.
Her first novel, Alice Bliss, (Viking/ Penguin) has been lauded as a “Discover Great New Writers” at Barnes & Noble, “Best Books of the Summer” at Entertainment Weekly, a “People Pick,” at People Magazine and “Best Books of 2011” by the School Library Journal. Foreign rights have been sold in the UK, Italy and Denmark
Alice Bliss has been named a “Must-Read” book in the annual Mass Book Awards, 2012, and has been chosen by the Richard and Judy Book Club in the UK, where it will be featured in all WH Smith Book Shops throughout the summer.
Laura teaches playwriting at MIT where she was awarded the 2009 Levitan Prize for Excellence in Teaching. She has also been a frequent guest artist at Tufts, Harvard, Wellesley, and the University of Iowa.
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