Friday, April 30, 2010

If...Part 2

Still scoring essays...

"If you were to have your friends privately attribute a single quality to you, what would you want it to be?"


Thanks for all of yesterday's comments. I'll be catching up with all of you over the weekend!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

If...

I'm gone for the next two days, scoring district-wide writing assessments. But I can't leave you with nothing, so here is something to think about for today.



"If you could, in retrospect, thank one teacher you had in school for what he/she taught you, who would it be and what would you be thankful for?"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Places We'll Go!

TV. If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they'll have with twenty-six. Open your child's imagination. Open a book.
~Author Unknown


There are a lot of theories out there about how television effects kids. As with most things, I think it's harmless in moderation. In fact, my middle child has learned an enormous amount from the History Channel and Animal Planet.

But books... "Oh, the places you'll go." How often do we hear the statement, "The book was so much better!" as people leave a movie theater. I still shudder each time I think of the damage done to the Inkheart story by it's movie counterpart. The world's we can visit, the sights we can see, the people we can meet... nothing is better than the discoveries waiting for us inside every new book. And we get to be a part of it!
so... be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Alenn O'Shea
you're off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So... get on your way!
One day, it will be our worlds, our sights, and our characters they'll be discovering. Keep dreaming. Keep writing. Keep querying. Oh, the places we'll go if we persevere!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Swaggering Fingers

“If you don’t have a sensation of apprehension when you set out to find a story and a swagger when you sit down to write it, you are in the wrong business.”
~A.M. Rosenthal




I love this quote. We all have that sense of apprehension - five minutes of blog hopping will prove it. But the swagger... that's different.


It's okay to feel apprehension while we cook our ideas. It's natural to feel apprehension while waiting for critique feedback and throughout the query process. But while we're writing, we MUST believe in ourselves and our story. While we're writing, our fingers should "swagger" across the keyboard, confident of their strokes. Quality stories require a certain level of cocky certainty.

Today, give yourself permission to feel apprehensive without guilt. But when you sit down to write - really write. Write with a swagger!


What helps you feel confident as you write?

P.S. Shannon Whitney Messenger is having another mega-monstrous giveaway at her blog. Go check it out here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Beautiful Blank Pages


BLANK BEAUTY

Beautiful blank pages
kiss our
imaginations
with backgrounds
that demand precision.

Our black letters cross
on tightrope lines,
curving
without wavering
across deep, invisible currents.

These beautiful blank pages
are promises of our
reflections.
Our gentlest strokes
of darkness upon light.
Beautiful blank pages
kiss our
imaginations
with backgrounds
that demand precision.

Our black letters cross
on tightrope lines,
curving
without wavering
across deep, invisible currents.

These beautiful blank pages
are promises of our
reflections.
Our gentlest strokes
of darkness upon light.

~Unkown


Today, let's work to fill the white space with beautiful, black letters.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A First


****

Today I'm with Heather Kelly over at Edited to Within an Inch of My Life. Stop by and check out my first blog interview - so exciting! And you'll absolutely love Kelly. If you aren't following her already, pop over and fix that!

Please leave me a comment over there - we don't want to leave Kelly disappointed. See ya soon!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Not for Sale

"But for any writer worthy of the name there are moments during the writing process when the rest of the planet might as well have gone to Venus. And those moments are not for sale."


Today, let's take time to acknowledge our "aha!" moments.

Don't think about revision muck or query concerns or the waiting game or plot holes or time, time, time... Think about those moments when the words pour out of you and the rest of the world disappears.

Those moments are the reason we write - the small, but euphoric, victories.


What is one of your "not for sale" writing moments?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kids are Complicated

"You cannot write for children. They're much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them."
~ Maurice Sendak




This is an important key to our success as children's authors. Kids and their interests are changing more rapidly than ever before, especially in today's technological world. Graphic novels are one example of this. My video game-hungry students love them - with or without color. Although, I must admit that seeing Brutus and Antony as ninjas in the graphic novel version of Julius Caesar was a bit disconcerting to me.

If we are to realize our dreams, it is critical that we remain aware of the changing rate of maturity levels, the new and different needs, and the broadening interests of today's youth. Are some things timeless? Of course. But if kids and their interests weren't changing, we would never have seen Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - and it would never have been a smashing success!

How do you stay current with today's rapidly changing youth?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Impending Shapes



It is worth mentioning, for future reference,

that the creative power
which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book
quiets down after a time,
and one goes on more steadily.
Doubts creep in.

Then one becomes resigned.
Determination not to give in
and the sense of an impending shape
keep one at it more than anything.
~Virginia Woolf


Writing books is like a having a relationship - first comes daydreaming and euphoria, followed by continuous joy, followed by contentment, followed by occasional boredom paired with strong commitment. To me, the key here is strong commitment.

Trudge through the muck of revisions and the wait-time of querying. Keep molding and re-molding the "impending shape" of your MS until it becomes what it is meant to be. Then remain committed for the long haul.

What does your relationship with your MS look like right now?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Crichton's Cure for Writer's Block


I was fretting too much over that opening sentence.
I worked on it scrupulously,
thinking that if I could only get the first sentence right,
the rest of the book would come easy.
That was a big mistake.

Weeks went by with my staring at blank paper
and getting nowhere.

One day I decided to just start writing
in the style of the Dick and Jane first grade readers.
Simple little words,
without bothering about style or polish -
just to get the story on paper.

I started writing,
"There is a little town on a hill called Santa Vittoria.
It is in Italy. The people in the town
grow grapes and make wine.
One day, not too long ago..."
and so on. It worked fine.

Soon I was writing like mad all day long.
The pages began to pile up and I felt better.

Robert Crichton

Next time you feel like you've hit the creative wall, instead of butting your head up against it, just step aside. Plop yourself down in the grass and remember the basics. Write like a first grader until the creativity flows and the wall crumbles.

Have a weekend filled with creativity!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Insights of Teri Lesesne

"In a time when teens are confronted with difficult issues (no longer do we not discuss school violence, war, famine, global warming, terrorism, pandemics, and so forth with kids), YA literature discusses difficult topics with a frankness that isn't about didacticism so much as honesty; that isn't about lecturing so much as exploring; that isn't about answers so much as questions."
~ Teri S. Lesesne (from Adolescent Literacy)




We write YA literature at an exciting time. The genre has changed and become stronger within recent years, and we have greater freedom regarding topics and characters. According to Teri Lesesne, "Books do more now than present characters that break through the stereotypes; plots can shatter stereotypical ideas and portrayals of prom, peer pressure, drunken driving, anorexia and other subjects." We are writing more and more about topics that had once been ignored or banned. How cool is that?

Some of the breakout novels listed by Lesesne include:

Skin
by Adrienne Vrettos - about anorexia
Cruise Control, Stuck in Neutral, and Inside Out by Terry Trueman - about illness and disease
Rules by Cynthia Lord - deals with autism
Breathing Underwater and Diva by Alex Flinn - deal with abusive relationships and the post break-up recovery
Cut
by Patricia McCormick - about self-inflicted cutting
Sold
by Patricia McCormick - about a 12-year-old girl sold into sexual servitude Tangerine by Edward Bloor and Firegirl by Tony Abbot - both deal with handicaps Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan and Luna by Julie Anne Peters - both deal with real-world sexual orientations

We could all add titles to that list. Ellen Hopkins immediately comes to my mind. The point is that this is a wonderful time to be writing. Today, take a moment to appreciate the freedom we now have as writers. Take a moment to appreciate your genre.

Lesesne says it best: "The times, well, they are a-changin', and this new generation of YA literature does indeed reflect the changes of teens and the times."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Disloyalty: A Writer's Virtue

"I am happiest when I write what I do not expect. I seek surprise, contradiction, doubt, challenge. Many drafts are failures, but instructive failures. We have to fail in order to write... Each first draft is a new step into the unknown. It is by drafting (failing) that we uncover our true meaning."
~ Tom Romano (from Adolescent Literacy)



Most of us feel a strong sense of loyalty to our first drafts or our current WIP's. Romano says that he is never loyal to his first drafts - that is when the story tells us what it has to say. Through a great deal of editing and revision, our drafts become "natural, graceful, fluid," and express what we want them to say. Graham Greene said, "Isn't disloyalty as much the writer's virtue as loyalty is the soldier's?" If we cling too tightly to our stories - to favorite lines, paragraphs, scenes - we cling to mediocrity.

I wrote a picture book. I queried that picture book. BIG MISTAKE.

When I found a critique group and allowed others to provide valid and constructive feedback, I discovered it was never meant to be a picture book at all. It has become a full-fledged chapter book. I had to let go of the "picture book" mentality and some of my favorite chunks of text. That hurt a little. But you know what? I love what my story has become. And it's a stronger story.

Tom Romano was right. I'm happier with the story I didn't expect.

Today, have an open mind to the potential that may be hiding in your story somewhere - be excited about feedback that frustrates you. Seek "surprise, contradiction, doubt and challenge" within your writing and be happy when you find it.

Have you ever ended up with a story you didn't expect?

For Fun!

I found these darling little journals at Etsy.com. They are made on European paper and come in a variety of colors. Each journal includes fun sayings and inspirational writing prompts, and many of them include fun little pockets and mini envelopes. I have one of them at home, and it fits perfectly in my purse!


Go take a peek - mine arrived in only two days!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A 3 Step Recovery Program


Writers Anonymous: A 3 Step Program

[Step One: Resentment]
Hi, My name is Quentin.
I'm a write-a-holic.
I can't control it, can't curb
the urge to write.
I need help.
I want my life back.

[Step Two: Commitment]
I write poems on fast food napkins,
with toothpicks, using ketchup for ink.
I jot ideas for poems
on my arms and legs. When I run out of space,
I use my shoes.
I make motions
similar to Michael Jackson's moonwalk
when I need to erase.

I make up stories
while making love to my wife.
She left me. Who needs her?
She was suffocating my creativity.

I await submission replies
like an addict, hands trembling,
head shaking in disbelief.
Not another bout with rejection!
I'm manic depressive.
I'm happy to be here.
No I'm not.

I live for revision.
Instead of sex, I have poems.
I eat feedback.

[Step 3: Contentment]
As a recovering write-a-holic,
admitting my problem
has provided a much needed catharsis.
Joining this nurturing group has

(Excuse me,
but are you going to throw away that paper cup?
That's good paper!)

taught me to reconcile my past
and move forward.

~ Quentin Huff



Are you in denial?
Maybe we can help you find a support group near you
!

Happy Monday!




Friday, April 9, 2010

Overdue Award Love

I have been neglectful (again) of my award thank you's. I have received several awards over the past couple of weeks and am happy to pass them along.

My bloggy buddy Carolyn @Checkerboard Squares graced me with the Soulmate Award. If you don't follow Carolyn, you are missing out on one awesome sense of humor!

The rules:
1. Choose five followers/commenters that 'get' you
2. Write something fake (preferably not too mean) about them
3. Link to them, and link back to this post .

And now for five followers who truly understand me:

My two awesome CP's:
1. Valerie @ Something to Write About
2. Bethany @ Aspirations
and:
3. Jennie Englund
4. Angela @ Bookshelf Muse
5. Shannon #1 @ Ramblings of a Wanna be Scribe


*********

I pass along the Sugar Doll award, received from two awesome ladies - Lydia Kang @ The Word is My Oyster and Mary@ Writer's Butt Does Not Apply to Me - to the following sweethearts:


Princess Courtney@ Southern Princess
Kristi Chestnutt @ Random Daily Thoughts
Corey @ Thing 1 and Thing 2
Kelly Lyman @ Kelly's Compositions
L.T. Elliot @ Dreams of Quill and Ink



*********

I pass along the Prolific Blogger Award, recieved from the awesome Stephanie @ Hatshepsut to:


Patti Lacy
Valerie @ I Should Be Writing
Jen @ Unedited
Tina Lynn @ Sweet Niblets
Choco @ In Which a Girl Reads



*********

I pass along the Creative Writer Award, given to me byTahereh @ Grab a Pen to:


Stephanie Damore
Frankie @ Frankie Writes
Tricia @ Talespinning
Bane @ Bane's Blogging Blues
Liz @ Cleverly Inked




*********


I received the Silver Lining Award from Helen Ginger @ Straight from Hel, and I pass it to:



Tahere
h @ Grab a Pen
D.L. Hammons @ Cruising Altitude
Juju @ Tales of Whimsey
Charmaine @ Wagging Tales
Kayeleen @ Kayeleen's Creation Corner




Blogging has become a source of surprisingly strong friendships and support systems for me. I am truly blessed to have found all of you - those I follow, and those who follow me. If there are names above that you aren't familiar with, go check them out. You won't be disappointed.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

From an Almond to a Peach

"Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education."
~ Mark Twain

Photo of cut peach by Patrick Tregenza, courtesy USDA Agricultural
Research Service Image Library Fruits & Veggies


For writers, training comes in many forms. We have alpha readers, beta readers, CP's, online courses, workshops, conferences, favorite craft books, contests and blogfests... The opportunities are limitless and all are valuable.


Unless we are willing to accept constructive criticism and to work hard (for however long it takes) to improve our skill, we cannot expect to grow into our potential. Tom Romano says that the minds of others is an ally we have to "deepen our thinking and sharpen the quality of our writing." He adds that "Admitting people into the process of our writing, however, is a greater act of faith and fearlessness than writing about what we feel strongly but cannot yet envision."

Today, I encourage us to do whatever we can to exploit opportunities. I have not attended a writing conference yet, but it is a huge goal for me, despite my currently awful, one-minute pitch. Charmaine @ Wagging Tales highly recommends several online writing courses. Elana Johnson wrote a fantastic eBook, From the Query to the Call, and has been doing a series on how to be better bloggers. Roni @ Fiction Groupie and Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse provide incredible posts to help improve and strengthen our writing.

The opportunities abound. Use them. Enjoy them.


What have been some of the greatest resources to you in your writing development?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Let's All Be Famous!


Famous

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe, which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.
~ Naomi Shihab Nye


This is the kind of fame we can ALL have. It is within our reach every single day. As we strive to finish our WIP's, find our agents, sell our books, and stroke the bindings that proudly display our names at Barnes & Noble, let us NEVER forget to be the one who smiled back.


Go. Be famous. And never forget what you can do.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Description Muck

"Thin description leaves the reader feeling bewildered and nearsighted. Overdescription buries him or her in details and images. The trick is to find a happy medium."
~ Stephen King



As I work to complete my latest round of revisions, I'm living in the muck of description. How much is too much? In my effort to avoid wordiness and too much detail, I wasn't detailed enough (thank God for crit. partners, huh?).


Stephen King tells us that "Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant...[it] begins with visualization of what it is you want the reader to experience. It ends with your translating what you see in your mind into words on the page. It is far from easy." That, Mr. King, is an understatement.


The key is figuring out what to describe, how much description is needed, and what is not needed at all. Because the Naughty Boy Factory is not a place we've ever been to, I need to provide more description (thanks, Valerie) as well as more specific description. Ugh! I feel like I'm a tightrope walker - too much I fall to one side, too little I fall to the other.


How do you balance your details?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Begnnings Blogfest

Kelly Lyman is hosting the Beginnings Blogfest today. This is my first ever blogfest entry (other than Shannon M's poetry extravaganza) and I am super excited. This is the first page-ish of my chapter book WIP, which is quickly hitting MG length, so we'll see where it ends up. I'd love any feedback you care to offer. Enjoy!


SCOTT AND THE NAUGHTY BOY FACTORY




1 – A Mad Dad


It had taken two days of digging, but Scott finally had a small cup full of worms. He only kept the best ones - long and fat and slimy. This cup of worms was his best yet. He was sure that if worm collecting was an Olympic sport, this cup would be a gold medal winner.

Today was his sister’s birthday. He hated princess parties. Molly had spent all morning picking out the perfect party dress. Then she made Mom do her hair in three different ponytails before deciding it looked “right”. Whatever. Hair is hair. But the worst part came when the other girls showed up. Ugh! Could a party be more boring?

He was determined to liven things up. What they needed was a little more action. That’s why he was sitting on his favorite branch of his favorite tree, carefully holding his gold medal cup of worms. All he needed was for some of those girly girls to come a little bit closer. He knew they would eventually, because Molly’s tire swing hung just a few branches over.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before Molly and a couple of her friends headed his way. “This is going to be too cool.” he whispered to himself. “I’m sneaky like a ninja. And nobody can see a ninja when he doesn’t want to be seen.”

He waited, rolling the cup between his palms to loosen the dirt. His tongue flicked in and while he concentrated. When the girls reached the swing, he chose his target, took careful aim, and dumped. He smiled as he watched it fall. This was gonna be good.

The cup hit its target perfectly.

Molly screamed and started jumping around. She must really like my worms, he thought. He hurried down from the tree so she could thank him.

Molly’s hair and the shoulders of her pink dress were piled with dirt and dotted with worms. She hopped about, shaking her brown ponytail like it was on fire or something. Dirt and worms flew everywhere, hitting the girls who had scattered. Before he knew it, they were screaming too. Was it possible the girls might not be as happy about the worms as he thought?

“Molly, what’re you freaking out about? They’re just worms. If we hurry, we can pick them up again and have a worm fight.” Molly burst into tears and her friends screamed even louder.

He turned and saw his dad marching their way. Mom wasn’t far behind him, hurrying across the grass. She had that panicked look on her face; the one she always has when somebody gets hurt.

“Geez. It’s only a few worms.” he mumbled.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Roaring Seashells

Effective writers write using all of their senses. We think about thick grass in summertime, the taste of sweat after a hard workout, and the sound of bike tires on gravel trails. The challenge comes when we attempt to describe these things in fresh ways. Building imagery with strong sensory details is difficult to do without sounding cliche - bang! tweet! crack.



Sister Mary Louise Glonek sets a powerful example of writing with effective, yet fresh, detail.

I like the quiet crackling of root beer foam; the swish, then flap of the net as the basketball passes through...squeaky popcorn; slept-on mattress... moccasins treading soft sand, crisp as toasted linen; steel door weightlessly slammed shut; secret roar of a seashell; whirr of a movie reel; the ps-s-s-t of freshly opened coffee... whirr and buzz of the WALK signal; a Band-Aid coming off...creaky wicker chairs...
(taken from Writing to be Read)

Sound is a complex element of storytelling. Play with it - experiment.

* Invent new ways to say things based on how you think the sounds translate to letters.
*Collect fun examples of sensory details when you read the work of others.
* Listen to the ways small children describe things.
* Watch cartoons for a while.

Do you have a favorite "collecting" strategy?
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