Robert Gillen

the magic of storytelling

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Caution Tortoise Xing

The desert tortoise features as a character and a premise in my upcoming YA short “Off-Road.” Here’s a bit of information on the tortoise. Enjoy.

The tortoise is the state reptile of both California and Nevada. It is a threatened, not endangered, species.

Defenders of Wildlife estimate, “In some areas, the number of desert tortoises has decreased by 90% due primarily to human activity. Desert tortoise declines appear to have been most severe and widespread in the Western Mojave Desert.”

The National Park Service says, “Since the reproduction rate of the desert tortoise is low, the survival of every individual tortoise is important to the continuation of the species. Many of the threats to adult desert tortoises are related to or are the direct result of human activities; please be aware of how your actions can affect tortoises.”

Here are several links to sites where you can learn more about the desert tortoise:

Defenders of Wildlife

National Park Service

California Turtle and Tortoise Club

Caution Tortoise Xing; Mojave Desert Tortoise

Mojave Desert Tortoise

The Moon, Mars, and Alpha Centauri

Four years ago I wrote a post in my Creating Story blog about seeing Ray Bradbury at a 2009 book signing in a local bookstore.

Bradbury had arrived in a wheelchair, a rumpled man with a huge shock of white hair. He filled the room with excitement.

After speaking  for a few moments, he had fielded questions from his fans. Someone asked him what he thought the future held for our young generation. He sat up tall in his wheelchair, his eyes sparkling, and almost cried out, “We should go back to the moon! Go on to Mars, with the moon as a base camp. Then go on to Alpha Centauri.”

the moon, Mars, and Alpha CentauriHere was a master storyteller who spent a lifetime exploring this world and the entire universe in his imagination. His voice quivered with excitement when he told us of his own recent visit to the Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena, California. The JPL scientists guided him as he drove the Mars Rover on the surface of the same planet he had visited in his imagination since The Martian Chronicles. This from a man who never had a driver’s license in all of his then almost 90 years,

This is the power of story.  Travel back to the moon. Probe the vast universe.

Shooting the Off-Road Desert Race

I’m working on creating an exciting cover for the first book, “Off-Road,” in the YA series. In the meantime, here’s a picture of the camera Tessa uses in shooting the off-road desert race, the fictional Cactus 100.

She inherited the camera from her brother Ryder. He used it in his years at NYU’s film school. It’s a Panasonic HVX. The earlier version of this camera, the DVX,  was popular with indie filmmakers before the explosion of digital camera choices now available.

shooting the off-road desert race with a Panasonic HVX camera

Panasonic AG-HVX200

High School Journalists Report the Truth

Using investigative skills, high school journalists report the truth. The teens attend Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg, Kansas. What started as an assignment to do a profile on their newly-hired principal led to a thorough investigation which in turn led to the principal resigning.

teen journalist report the truth

Teen journalists Credit: Emily Smith, Pittsburg HS

According to The New York Times, “Maddie Baden, a 17-year-old junior and a staff member of the student-run newspaper The Booster Redux, set out to write a profile. Emily Smith, a teacher and adviser to The Redux, said… that she had not expected the reporting to lead to questions about [the principal’s] credentials.”

As the teens dug deeper into the story, they found enough information to question the truth of the principal’s alleged educational credentials.

Here’s an example of teens pursuing the truth, not taking statements at face value, and working with school officials to resolve issues. Nicely done, Gina Mathew, Kali Poenitske, Maddie Baden, Trina Paul, Connor Balthazor and Patrick Sullivan. You make us proud.

Read the full story here.

 

Creating a Community of Characters

creating a community of charactersOne of the joys of writing for me is creating a community of characters. Something like putting a band together. And I can thank several writers for teaching me how to do this. Author Elizabeth George, in her Write Away, recommends developing profiles on your characters before beginning to write your story. “Story is character and not just idea.” She says of character: “Give them flaws, allow them to doubt themselves about something, see to it that they grow and change, and make certain you are putting them into conflict.”

I thank teacher and writer Josh Adell for introducing me to The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri. Says Egri, “Character is the fundamental material we are forced to work with, so we must know character as thoroughly as possible.”

creating a community of charactersBoth authors recommend writing about your characters for as long as it takes to know them intimately and deeply. For me, I now have about 60,000 words and over 100 pages on character profiles. They represent three or four different stories at this point, but may all meld into one series as I progress. Some characters loom large. Others are minor, with brief descriptions so far. But all of them are distinct, individual, interesting.

My most recent – Maddy Dela Riva. A high school junior, challenged by physical limitations, strong in her determination and courage,   maybe a bit cocky, yet insecure in moments of introspection. I look forward to working her into the Film Crew series I’m working on. Maddy came to me the other day, and within hours she was crying out to be part of the story. She has all but forced her way into the series.

More to come…

Create No Hate

Irish teen Luke Culhane has been named Limerick’s Person of the Year.  Culhane won the 2016 award for his video Create No Hate. The YouTube video urges teens to stand up to online bullying. Stop, block, tell is his mantra. Culhane, himself a victim of bullying, has created a powerful message. Check out his video.

 

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