Making Music: April 2014

The Ink Splat is our monthly activity letter filled with inspiration sparking challenges and resources guaranteed to inspire your creativity. In this Ink Splat, the book and author spotlighted is Summoning the Phoenix By Emily Jiang along with an author interview! Submit a response to a challenge and you may have a chance to be published online! What are you waiting for?

The Challenge: Making Music

If you could play any instrument in the world, what would it be? It can be something familiar, something from another culture, or an instrument you made up! Describe it and tell us why you chose it, or try writing a poem about it!

Submit your response HERE!


 Summoning the Phoenix By Emily Jiang

      “Music is often called the universal language and its can transcend culture, gender, race. Anyone can learn to play at least one instrument. Anyone who can speak can sing.” — Emily Jiang

Every musician knows that learning to play an instrument has its challenges and its rewards. There’s the embarrassing first day of rehearsal, but also the joy of making friends in the orchestra. There’s dealing with slippery concert dress, or simply getting swept up in the music. The twelve children in this book are just like any other musicians practicing their instruments and preparing for a concert. But what sets these music lovers apart is that they all play traditional Chinese musical instruments in a Chinese orchestra. Including both flights of fancy and practical considerations, lively poems capture each child’s musical experience with a different Chinese instrument, while sidebars provide more information about each one. Vivid illustrations depicting each fascinating instrument bring you along on this musical journey. And then you are invited to the grand finale!

Interview with author Emily Jiang:

Q: What inspired you to write these poems?

A: In these thirteen poems, I wanted to capture the wide range of feelings that young musicians would have while preparing for a performance.

Q: Do you have a favorite poem from your book? Why do you like it best?

A: I don’t have a favorite poem, since I like them all for different reasons. Some of them make me laugh. Some of them make me sigh, in a good way. However, this is the poem that I found the most elusive in revision and had to work the hardest to get just right. I had to literally rewrite it from scratch the most number of times, maybe six or seven, until finally I thought, ah, now this poem finally works. I felt this poem is my soul on a page, how I would feel if I played the ruan, also known as the moon guitar.

The form of the poem was the trickiest part, and matching up the face part of the ruan with the one-word line in each stanza was a challenge. Each stanza turns on that one-word line.

Q: How do you think music connects to writing? To poetry?

A: Music and literature are similar in that they are both art forms that require time. They both have beginnings, middles, and endings. They both use techniques of rhythm and repetition. Songs, stories, and poetry all require structure, sometimes rigid, sometimes loose, but structure must exist.

Q: What’s the hardest part about writing a poem and how do you suggest overcoming it?

A: Writing a poem a poem is tricky because its canvas is so small and its words are so few compared to a short story or a novel. So every word in a poem must really count. A well-crafted song, story, or poem should evoke strongest emotion from its ideal audience and will forever change how one views the world. Sometimes a poem is a gift that practically writes itself with no need for revision. Most times a poem will require rewriting. When revising, consider cutting out words you think are not holding their weight, and if the poem remains essentially the same, that’s a good edit. Also, consider reading your poem aloud. If you are tripping over a word or line, that usually is a good indication that it need to be revised or cut. Don’t hesitate to cut out your favorite line if it makes your poem stronger. You can always add it to a new poem.

Emily’s Revising Advice!

“I’m constantly revising. There’s no such thing as a truly perfect poem, story, or novel. You can always change something, however small, to make it better.”

So what does she recommend?

“Write every day. Write with a voice that is uniquely your own. Write about what you love, what you fear, and what you think is fascinatingly weird. Learn something new, something that will make you experience the world with fresh eyes & fresh ears. Listen to lots of people who are different from you with an open heart. Read a wide range of stories, poetry, nonfiction, graphic novels, anything and everything that catches your fancy. Then write the story that you most want to read.”    

Thanks Emily Jiang!

Summoning the Phoenix is available at Amazon!

For more about author Emily Jiang and her books visit her website here.

Also, check out Emily Jiang’s article on “Summoning the Phoenix,” featured in The Big Idea series here!

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