Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Are They Beautiful or Breeders?

Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.
~ Henry Ward Beecher

Most of you know we moved into a new house recently. I've been busy unpacking, decorating, arranging and rearranging. Sadly, I still haven't figured out how to convince my husband that books aren't clutter - that it isn't possible to have too many of them.

If I had my way, we might decorate a little like this...

Or this...

But while I tend to favor the philosophy of Henry Ward Beecher while decorating the new house, my husband prefers to side with Agatha Christie:

It was clear that the books owned the shop rather than the other way about. Everywhere they had run wild and taken possession of their habitat, breeding and multiplying and clearly lacking any strong hand to keep them down. (1963)
~ Agatha Christie ~

I have no knowledge of books breeding or multiplying or taking control of our house. Really. I had no idea there were books under every bed and hidden in drawers and cabinets at the old house. Really. But now that we have a new, bigger house, I'm sure it won't be a problem. Really.

How about you...have the books taken possession of your house? Or do you have a stronger hand to control them?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Too Many Donkeys!

Fate has decreed that all lazy boys who come to hate books and schools and teachers and spend all their days with toys and games must sooner or later turn into donkeys.

~ The Adventures of Pinocchio, C. Collodi

I try to avoid certain things in the world, like watching the news and reading the paper - two things I try never, ever to do. I prefer to live in a bubble of denial, which is probably why I'm a writer. But when I sometimes end up in the room with my news-watching husband or accidentally glance at the paper, I think of this quote. Yes, I'm really that weird and nerdy. Sad, I know.

Why on earth would I think of that quote? Well, because there are so many donkeys in the world today, of course!! Where else would they have come from?

Why do so many of my students insist that they HATE to read, announce proudly that they have never read a book all the way through, and dare me to find one they like, fully convinced that it's an impossibility? Is it a coincidence that there are fewer readers and fewer people with basic skills in social etiquette in the world today? I don't think so. What happened to the days when people loved to read and when most people treated others with decency and common courtesy?

Can I prove a link between reading and common decency? Am I convinced there is a link? Absolutely! I miss NICE people, patient people who understood if you were struggling with a crying infant or needing to get into the other lane of traffic. Instead, too many are turning into donkeys!! The world needs more readers, people!

So... are you on board with my theory, or have I finally gone round the bend? You can be honest. It's okay, I can take it. Just break it to me gently.

P.S. Of course there are nice non-readers and not-nice people who love to read. The world is built on multiplicity and exceptions. :-)

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Puzzle Ring Blog Tour

The Puzzle Ring

  • Title: The Puzzle Ring
  • First Published: May 2009
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan
  • ISBN: 978-0-330-42493-6
  • Pages: 409

'The Puzzle Ring' is an historical fantasy for children aged 10+. It tells the story of a girl who discovers that her family was cursed long ago, and the only way to break the curse is to find and fix a broken puzzle ring. To do this, she must travel back in time to the last tumultuous days of Mary, Queen of Scots ... a time when witches were burnt and queens were betrayed and the dark forces of wild magic still stalked the land ...

Hannah Rose Brown was not quite thirteen years old when she discovered her family was cursed...

It seemed a day like any other day. Yet for twelve year old Hannah Rose Brown, it is the day when her ordinary life is changed forever, a day when she discovers a past full of secrets and a future full of magic.

Hannah lives with her mother, Roz. Her father Robert disappeared soon after she was born, and she and her mother are all alone in the world. Or so Hannah has always believed. Yet one day a letter arrives, addressed to the Viscountess of Fairknowe. Hannah thinks it's a hilarious mistake but the letter upsets her mother who confesses that Hannah’s father was the Viscount of Fairknowe, and the heir to Wintersloe Castle in Scotland.

The letter is from Hannah’s great-grandmother – someone she never knew existed – begging Hannah and her mother to come to Scotland. At first Roz refuses – she had sworn never to return to Wintersloe Castle. But Hannah is determined to go, her curiosity aroused by the letter’s reference to a curse.

Wintersloe Castle is an old house, built near the ruins of a castle and overlooking the waters of Loch Lomond. On the northern wall is a strange gate, built through the hollow trunk of an ancient yew tree. Through the gate, Hannah can see the round hill that rises behind the house, crowned with a blackthorn tree. This is called Fairknowe on the maps, but the locals call it the fairy hill.

Strange things begin to happen. A toad coughs up a round stone with a hole worn through the middle. When Hannah looks through it, the world seems different. She hears a dog howling at night – yet there is no dog at Wintersloe Castle. Shadows seem to stalk her. One stormy day, the toad shows her the way to her father’s old tower room – and Hannah discovers the history of the curse of Wintersloe Castle, which has blighted the family and the house for centuries.

Hannah is determined to break the curse, but to do so she must go back in time to the last tumultuous days of the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. She must face all sorts of dangers, including being hunted by the evil queen of the Otherworld and being accused of being a witch... (taken from the Kate Forsyth website)

I loved this book! My son loved this book. YOU will love this book. In my opinion, The Puzzle Ring has not received the attention it deserves, yet I am confident its day will come. It is charming and suspenseful and full of fantasy.




Which of your current favorite reads has yet to receive the acclaim you feel it should?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Contest Alert!

This Kimberly is giving away signed copies of books written by...

This Kimberly!

This book to be exact....

Go enter to win!!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Real or Imagined?

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Today, the mountainous journey toward publication may seem impossible. The path feels too rocky, the climb too steep, the end goal unreachable. But is it?

How do we know that this time our CP's won't finally give us the green light or that we won't have that aha! moment we've been waiting for tomorrow or that the next call won't be "the one"?

We DON'T know what's waiting for us at the top of the next rise.

So keep climbing!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's Awards Time Again!

I have once again been way too slow to share the blog love. I received some very special awards recently that mean a lot to me - because of the type of award they are, and because of the very special people who gave them to me. Today, I have the honor of sharing them with other special people!

I received this beautiful Journey Support Award from Courtney, the Southern Princess. This award is meant to be shared with those who have been there, supporting you along the way and keeping things meaningful. I have enjoyed every minute I have shared with the Princess!

And Courtney, I am giving this one back to you (something I rarely do) because you are one of my rocks. Thank you for also being there for me - from the beginning of my journey.

Others who have been there for me, who have kept me smiling and motivated and eager to return each day, include:
  • Stephanie @ Hatshepsut - I rarely receive an award I don't share with Stephanie. Her enthusiasm for all things Egyptian is contagious, and her blog is a joy!
  • Shannon Whitney Messenger (#1) @ Ramblings of a Wanna Be Scribe - I would be lost without the friendship, encouragement, humor, generosity, and support of this wonderful blogger we all know so well. Thank you, #1 - for all you do. I treasure your friendship.
  • Roxane @ Peace Garden Writer - I love your faith, your sincere and powerful voice, your kindness. I treasure your friendship. And one day, we still need to have that coffee with Mary.
  • Valerie @ Something to Write About - Wow. Valerie was my first critique partner, and she is spectacular. I cannot believe where she was able to take me and my MS. If it weren't for her, I would not be querying right now.
  • Jennie Englund - A fellow teacher, an absolute sweetheart, and a lucky girl who just got an agent!! I love you, girl!
  • Robyn @ Putting Pen to Paper - Despite her recent health problems, Robyn has been one of my greatest cheerleaders from the beginning. Feel better, friend!
  • Carolyn V. @ Checkerboard Squares - Carolyn is hilarious! Her personality and voice are unmistakable. There is no such thing as a frown when she is around!
  • Angela@ The Bookshelf Muse - This is the most useful and informative writing blog out there. I have an entire writing folder of Angela posts. Each post is immediately useful and brilliant. Not only that, but my MS would not be what it is today without her. Thank you, Angela!

This super-cool award came from Candace @ The Misadventures in Candyland. If you don't follow her blog, you are missing out on a wild ride!

I pass this award to these bloggy bff's:


I received this Versatile Blogger Award from Lisa @ Random Thoughts to String Together. Her blog is beautiful and always interesting. Go check it out! The rules for this award are as follows:
1) Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2) Share 7 things about yourself.
3) Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4) Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.

In the interest of controlling an already out-of-control post, I'm just passing it along to the following versatile bloggers:


And Finally, I received this adorable, doggie Who's Awesome Award from Julie Musil.

I'm passing this cutie to the following awesome blogs:

Southern Princess
Jonathon Arntson
Just Jemi
Jade Hears Voices
Searching for a Good Read


Phew! I do NOT even want to admit how long it has taken me to do this post. Thank you to those who shared each award with me. And thank you to anyone who actually read this whole thing!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Do You Need to File for Divorce?

The problem was that my revision was not a revision. I was unable to move from that initial vision of my [story]. For all its flaws, I was in love with my first draft and couldn't bring myself to file for divorce.
~ Bruce Ballenger

In Discovering the Writer Within, Ballenger suggests two ways to make it easier to "break up with" our first drafts:
  • Write it fast. The longer we toil over it, the more likely we are to fall into its grip. For all its flaws, a fast draft can have a spontaneity and freshness that is missing from a carefully constructed one. And partly because of its obvious weaknesses, it's easier to revise.
  • Attack it physically. The first time I attempted the cut-and-paste method of revision, it seemed heretical to take a pair of scissors and chop my carefully composed prose into pieces. I was still hung up on the sanctity of the typed page. But once it was disassembled, I was able to forget how tight I was with the draft - it was gone - and it was much easier to focus on the pieces that showed promise.
The most difficult thing for me when revising Scott and the Naughty Boy Factory was cutting some of my favorite sections from the first draft. There were chunks I loved - really loved - that needed to go in order to make way for stronger material.

But doing what is necessary always pays off - we get a better story in the end. It felt good to discover that I wasn't alone - most writers suffer from first draft separation anxiety. Ballenger describes it perfectly:
Like spurning a lover, there is still some pain involved in letting go. But from the wreckage of the first draft, a new essay emerges that is more satisfying, more whole, and more willing to share its meaning with me and my readers.
Don't be afraid to divorce the first draft. There is an even better one waiting for you!

Do you have trouble divorcing yourself from your first draft, or are you eager to rip into it and make those changes?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Word Tools

Bear in mind, when you are choosing words and stringing them together, how they sound.This may seem absurd: readers read wit h their eyes. But actually they hear what they are reading - in their inner ear - far more than you realize. Therefore such matters as rhythm and alliteration are vital to every sentence.

Such considerations of sound and rhythm should be woven through every aspect of what you write. If all your sentences move at the same plodding gait, which even you recognize but don't know how to cure, read them aloud. You will begin to hear where the trouble lies.
~ William Zinsser

Cadence and rhythm play such a large role in how a reader responds to writing. As a composition teacher, I work hard to teach my students the weaponry of punctuation and simple sentences. Yes, weaponry.

The right punctuation or a well-placed fragment or simple sentence can pack quite a punch. It is also true of effective - and clearly deliberate - experimental punctuation. Check out the first chapter of Carolyn Coman's book, What Jamie Saw. Phenomenal. She uses sentence length and unusual punctuation to build amazing tension in her first pages. Each time I read the beginning, I swear I can almost FEEL my heart-rate elevate and my pulse quicken!

And don't forget the no-fail pleasure of alliteration, consonance, and power verbs!

Remember, then, that words are the only tools that you will be given. Learn to use them with originality and care. Value them for their strength and their infinite diversity. And remember: somebody out there is listening. (Zinsser)
What favorite word tricks are hiding in your writer's tool kit?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Day!

Happy Father's Day

to all the wonderful dads and grandads

of our blogging circle!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Writing is Work

Lost in the Cycle

Work work work work, work work work work, work work work work
'cause there is nothing to do
even though there is always something to do
but why would you do that?
Stay up
No sleep
Go to sleep
Except not
Because the brain still says 'Go! '
When you say
Rest! '
No Rest
Come back to consciousness?
You never left,
did you?
Begin repeat
~ Jessica Cummings (11/14/2006)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Little Things People Do

...if we listen carefully enough, people will reveal themselves to us by the things they say. The same is true if we are attentive to the little things that people do - a gesture, a quirk, a habit.

I have since learned to pay attention to the ways people make their way through the world, to the ways that people speak without words. I notice the way Stephanie, a shy student of mine, shakes her foot like the tail of a rattlesnake when she's nervous. I notice the way Brock, a writer friend, fills in the silences by softly singing rock and roll lyrics, as if music is always playing in his head, just below the surface of any conversation and almost every thought.
~ Bruce Ballenger

Photo Source (

This is my area of weakness as a writer. Dialogue is a key component of our characterization - we know that. Idiosyncrasies are an equally important part of characterization. However, it's an area I pay little attention to in the real world. According to Ballenger, though, there is a wealth of good stuff to be had by paying attention to the behaviors of others.

I thought about this in regards to my own family.

When he's thinking about how to handle a situation or what to say to someone, my husband always moves his mouth in silent conversation, rehearsing what to say. But he has no idea he does it.

My oldest son subconsciously mimics the behaviors and attitudes of my husband.

My daughter has been a puppy for the last year and a half, paws up in every photograph.

My middle son says touche in response to everything and refuses to sleep without a fan blowing on him.

The familiar fiction writer's adage - "show don't tell" - applies to non-fiction writers, too. People, whether real or imagined, have much to show us, often unwitting revealed, not only in what they say, but in more subtle things: the disorder of a desk, the unearthly bounce of a long slide, the choreography of chairs (Ballenger).

What are some quirky habits you've added to enhance a character's personality?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Talisman

UPDATE: According to Random.Org, the lucky winner of a free copy of Countdown and a Countdown canvas bag is #14:


Congratulations, Lisa!
Please e-mail me your address

"All that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is this: Act as if it were impossible to fail. That is the talisman, the formula, the command of right about face which turns us from failure to success."
~Dorthea Bragg

Maybe this is a possible antidote to writer's block. Or query anxiety. Or self-doubt. Or whatever ails you. I love the word talisman. It brings to mind all things magical.

There is the belief that whatever we send out into the universe circles back to us. Why not confidence and success - the "fake it 'til you make it" philosophy?!

What helps you stay positive when it would be easier to let the doubts creep in?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Countdown by Deborah Wiles + Contest

One of today's lucky commenters will receive:

* A Countdown branded canvas tote and copy of the book!

I can't tell you how cool this book is - seriously! The story takes place in 1962, a time of "Duck and Cover" drills and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The main character, Franny Chapman, is wonderful. I fell in love with her almost immediately.

My favorite thing about this book is the creative and incredible layout. Throughout the fictional story are real-life song lyrics, historical speeches, photographs, commercial snippets... it's positively wonderful! They refer to it as a documentary novel - which it is - but it doesn't have that "academic" feeling that turns many kids away from history.

I am calling this one a MUST READ for anyone interested in history, MG books, teaching with literature, or cultural literacy. This book is amazing - period!

About the book:

Countdown is the first in a new trilogy of "documentary novels" set in the
1960s- a fascinating historical documentary in a unique style and format.
Filled with photos, news clippings, and songs of the era, this novel tells
the story of Franny Chapman, an eleven-year-old girl living in Washington,
DC, set against the backdrop of one of the most politically and culturally
defining periods in history.

It's 1962, in the days surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the world
seems to be on the terrifying brink of nuclear war. But for Franny Chapman,
everyday life goes on. While doing "Duck and Cover" drills at school, Franny
must face tensions with her younger brother, and worry about her older
sister- is she a secret spy?- while learning to look beyond outward

About the author:

Deborah Wiles is the author of National Book Award Finalist Each Little Bird
That Sings; as well as Love, Ruby Lavender; and The Aurora County All-Stars.
She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Additional Details:

Retail Value: Books are valued at $17.99 each.

Shipping Guidelines: This book giveaway is open to participants with a
United States mailing address only (international readers can enter if they
have a friend in the States who can accept their prizes by mail).

Stop by tomorrow
to see who the lucky winner is!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Be Thankful


Be thankful that you don't already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don't know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you're tired and weary,
because it means you've made a difference.

It's easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks.
Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.
~ Unknown

It's Monday, and you know I like to start the week on a positive note. Today, try to find a positive side in every situation - positive AND negative. If you're waiting for query news, be thankful there is hope and opportunity behind the waiting. If you are struggling with your ending, be thankful you have have a beginning and a middle. If it's pouring down rain, be thankful it isn't too hot!

Whatever you face today, face it with a thankful heart and your day will be a brighter one.

Happy Monday!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sunshine and Light

We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter's evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true.
~ Woodrow Wilson

Writers make the best dreamers. We see the details, everywhere, and savor them. And we are masters at nurturing our dreams - and each other's - until they burst in a rainbow of color.

Summer is here, and this is when I lose my focus. Without the anchor of work every day, my writing and blogging sometimes take a vacation here and there, too. I intend to make this summer different. I intend to stay focused this time, anchored to my dreams and to all of you from now until Fall - no vacation from my dreams!

Keep nourishing and protecting your dreams.

Does Summer effect your writing or blogging schedule?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Backyards Tell Stories

Front yards are boring.
Backyards tell stories.
~ "Backyards", Popcorn, James Stevenson

I can't tell you how much I love this quote. It brings back favorite childhood memories, most of which really did happen in backyards around the neighborhood. I remember thinking front yards were for flowers and green, kid-free grass and grown-up conversations. But backyards and alleys...they belonged to the kids.

Backyards are for hide-and-seek and trampolines and summer sleep-outs. They are for pets and forts and imaginary play; for leaf piles and snowmen and slip-and-slides.

So often, when I dig for new ideas, it's those backyard memories that surface first. Backyards do indeed tell stories.

Do your backyard memories ever appear in your stories?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Between the Sheets

Between The Sheets

I confess,

to sleeping with books,

covers spread open and waiting -
they beckon,
a fluttering of leaves
like lapping tongues.
Oh, their smooth embossed spines.

The tawdry ones are good for a night.

Rumpled, smelling of smoke,

usually borrowed and broken.

They're anybody's book,

sorry, sticky maybe,

used and returned.

The worldly wise leave an exotic taste,

others have the common language

of guttersnipes but
provide good tale.
Some disappoint -

summer flings, read

and dismissed,
important as the sand
shaken from my shoe.

I can't help but embrace them all,
stroking the ones I love,
smelling their words.

After a good read, I'm bushed.

Lying across my chest,
the latest listens to my heartbeat
while I take in what else it says.
~ Ellen Wade Beals

Whenever I make my 13-year-old's bed, I find several books buried under the covers and hidden under his pillows. I love it!

When was the last time you woke up with a good book tucked in next to you?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ageless and Timeless

Long after literature for adults has gone to pieces, books for children will continue to constitute the last vestige of storytelling, logic, faith in the family, in God, and in real humanism.

Children are highly serious people...We write not only for children but also for their parents. They, too, are serious children.
~ Stories for Children, Isaac Bashevis Singer
(Taken from What the Door Mouse Said, collected by Amy Gash)

In today's market, more than ever, adults play a major role in children's book sales and readership. Look at all of us - what do we read? PB's, MG, and YA! We would gladly tackle our best buddy and arm wrestle for a copy of Linger or Mockingjay - or is that just me?

And I think Singer is right about the quality and lingering messages of children's books. Timeless - plain and simple.

This week, write knowing you are a part of something priceless. Write what you love, and savor each word and each re-write. Your work is ageless. Your work is timeless. But most of all, your work is yours.

Happy Monday!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Paper Dolls

Have you discovered the Paper Dolls blog yet? If you are not following these girls, you are TRULY missing out on some serious fun!

Milly and Tilly (I just LOVE their names!) are two adorable girls (daughters of our very own Charmaine of Wagging Tales) who review books. What I've discovered, though, is that they have really unique tastes. I have ordered several of their recommended books for myself - um, I mean my kids.

Their reviews are well done and intriguing, they rate them on a scale of 1-5 paper dolls, and they recently included an awesome cupcake recipe (and a muffin recipe and a gingerbread man recipe...)! What could be better than that?! I give them a perfect 5 rating!

PLEASE take a minute today to visit and follow Paper Dolls. These girls will surprise you with fun reading ideas. I promise you'll fall in love with this blog - just like I did!

What is a 5 star/paper doll blog you can't resist recommending?

Thursday, June 3, 2010


We talk a lot about organization - to outline or not to outline, that is the question. I'm not much of an outliner. I'm more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants gal. In Discovering the Writer Within, Bruce Ballenger and Barry Lane recommend clustering as a way of organizing and building upon our thoughts and ideas. I like it. It works for me. I recommend it.
"Draw a circle around your subject. This is the nucleus. Free associate branches of words fanning out from the center. As with freewriting or brainstorming, don't think before you write. Let the words come in waves. Don't be afraid if your words don't mean anything to anyone else but you. Let your pen do the thinking. When one strand runs out, go back to the nucleus and start another. When you come across a word in a branch that is too evocative to skip over, let that word be a nucleus to start another branch. If your mind goes blank, doodle, darkening lines or circles until a new branch sprouts. Let your words grow like ivy on a great elm over the clean page..."
~ Barry Lane

Our nucleus words can be our story lines, our characters, our settings, our conflicts and resolutions - the possibilities are endless. I also love this description by Barry:
"Though it might seem crazy at first, clustering is a wonderful way to chase down ideas without being slowed up by sentences and allows a writer a chance to explore ideas without putting them into rigid form. Clustering can give you a little elbow room to play with an idea"
Clustering is just another tool we can use to help structure our stories and organize our thoughts. There are even multiple tools available on our computers. For someone like me, who is allergic to organizational strategies, this is the perfect tool. It helps me feel organized but let's me be messy while I do it! Perfect!

What is your favorite strategy?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Throw Yourself In

The Old Man of the Earth stooped over the floor of the cave, raised a huge stone from it, and left it leaning. It disclosed a great hole that went plumb-down.
"That is the way," he said.
"But there are no stairs."
"You must throw yourself in. There is no other way."
~ "The Golden Key," Dealing with the Fairies, George MacDonald
(Taken from What the Door Mouse Said, collected by Amy Gash)

Image Courtesy of

Writing is like the Old Man of the Earth's hole - we must throw ourselves in if we want to get anywhere.
  • A blank page? Throw yourself in.
  • Editing? Throw yourself in.
  • Querying? Throw yourself in.
  • Marketing? Throw yourself in.
Well, you see what I mean. It's far easier to talk about how we want to be writers, to dream about having the perfect agent, to imagine our books at Barnes & Noble than it is to actually make it happen. But "making it happen" requires work and risk and some blind faith.

Today... Throw yourself in!!

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