Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Oh-so-lucky-ducky is...

And the winner is...

In order to keep things fair, I deleted any comments that were duplicates, and I used Random.org to select a number. I worked an obscenely long time to figure out how to copy the full image, but this was all I got:

True Random Number Generator 37
16 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

So...

the winner of book 1 and book 2 of The Dork Diaries
and delicious Yo Yo Lip Gloss

Congratulations to #16, also known as... drum roll please
Nicole Zoltak

I will be emailing you shortly, Nicole.

Thanks for playing, everyone.
See you on Monday!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Dorks and Lip Gloss Anyone? Ends tonight at Midnight!

Dork Diaries International Giveaway!

ENTER NOW TO WIN
Contest ends tonight


Rachel Renee Russell's second book in the Dork Diaries series was released in June. These books are a wonderful hit with tween girls (and some of us slightly older-than-tween girls!). A good friend of mine (& librarian) was recently commenting on the lack of series for middle grade girls. Well, this one is a winner. Even my high school girls enjoy it's lighthearted fun! Books 3 and 4 are scheduled for release in 2011 and 2012, so the fun won't end anytime soon - woo-hoo!

If you've never visited the Dork Diaries website, you are missing out. It is just as adorable as the books, and every bit as tween girl friendly. It also has a link to the Dork Diaries blog - go check them out!!

The wonderful Ms. Russell and Yo Yo Lip Gloss are sponsoring this awesome giveaway. Seriously, what goes better with a good girl book than delicious lip gloss? I really wish I could win this you guys - these books are so fun! I will choose the lucky winner using Random.org and announce the oh-so-lucky-ducky on Saturday, July 30th.





Here are the rules:







If the winner is in the U.S. the prize is: 4 Yo Yo Lip Gloss Minis from www.yoyolipgloss.com and Books 1 and 2 of the Dork Diaries from Rachel: www.dorkdiaries.com

If the winner is anywhere OUT of the U.S. the prize is: a $10.00 gift card to Yo Yo Lip Gloss from www.yoyolipgloss.com and Books 1 and 2 of Dork Diaries from Rachel: www.dorkdiaries.com

To enter, simply leave a comment before midnight on Friday and leave me your email address. Easy-peasy! (And if you don't win, run to your closest bookstore and treat yourself)

Good luck! You will love, love, love these books .

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Conflict or Tension?

The wisdom of Ralph Fletcher was so well received yesterday, that I thought I'd share a bit more today. Another of my favorite bits of advice from What a Writer Needs deals with conflict. But that isn't what Ralph likes to call it.



I prefer "tension" to "conflict" because the term seems more inclusive. It would be hard to define a clear conflict in Cynthia Rylant's The Relatives Came. Yet there is a kind of tension that slowly builds as the story progresses: the pull of home. The relatives keep thinking of their grapes, back home, nearly purple enough to eat. That insistent tugging of home, the fact that the relatives cannot stay forever but must finally go back to their own beds several states away, lends a poignancy to the book. The reader feels a gentle sadness as the relatives drive away.

Tension might be thought of as resistance. Some writers create this resistance through language, in the writing itself, through the voice in which the piece gets written.
I love the way he approaches story conflict - that it is really just tension at its core. Mentally, I feel much more comfortable with my ability to create tension than with my mastery of conflict. Is there a major difference? No. Does it feel like there is to me? Yes. And that is enough. The idea of creating "tension" instead of "conflict" makes me feel lighter, more capable. For additional examples, see Chapter 9 of What a Writer Needs.

What do you think - conflict or tension?

P.S. Tune in tomorrow for a special international contest giveaway opportunity. You won't want to miss it!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Write Small

My favorite writing guru, Ralph Fletcher, says, "The bigger the issue, the smaller you write." According to Ralph, it is the single most important thing for writers to remember. In his book, What a Writer Needs, he provides a wonderful example of what he means.



Recently I asked a high school teacher if there was a drug problem in his school. He smiled sadly, shook his head.

"Not really, not now, but let me tell you about something that happened a couple years ago. This kid got hurt one day on the athletic field. Broke his leg in three places. They had to bring in a helicopter and pull the kid out. The big copter - landed right on the field. When kids saw the copter, they panicked. 'The narcs are coming! The narcs are coming.' they rushed out of their classes and into the bathroom. All you could hear was the sound of toilets flushing and flushing all over the school."
In another example, he included the story of a first grader whose mother had died two years earlier. Almost everything she wrote that year had something to do with the tragedy of losing her mother.

The bigger the issue, the smaller we need to write. That's when we need to focus in on the details, to slow down and paint a clear picture.
"You don't write about a serious drug problem. You write about a helicopter landing and the sound of toilets flushing frantically throughout a high school. You don't write about the death of a mother: You write about how 'her voice got quieter.'"
I love Ralph Fletcher. I've attended several of his writing workshops, and I always leave with a wealth of new tools to become a stronger writer. I also use several of his student writing books in my classroom. He's one of the best out there, folks.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Chance to Be Creative

"When you're stuck, those aren't the worst parts, those are the best parts - they're your chance to be creative.

When you want to skip something because it's too confusing to explain, that's your chance to slow down and behold the truth that real life is complicated, real people are complicated. Skip for the sake of convenience and readers will sniff a fake."
~ Po Bronson



Being stuck on a section of a story - dialogue, description, setting, plot - is not fun. It's frustrating and often discouraging. For me, it breaks the flow. It feels like all the good stuff is pouring away, draining from my brain while I sit, unable to move ahead.

This is my feel-better-and-re-focus quote. It helps the heaviness of disappointment feel lighter, more necessary and beneficial. I read it a few times, and then I go back and focus - really focus - on what is causing me to pause. WHY am I stuck? Then I slow down, embrace the "complication", and dig for my creativity (usually by calling for the kids!).

How do you tackle the frustration of feeling "stuck"?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Checking In

Hi, everyone!

I'm alive and well and missing you. It's Vacation Bible School week and I'm one of the pre-school teachers (not easy for a high school teacher, that's for sure!). I'll be back, blogging and catching up with all of you, on Monday.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Use All the Colors

Detail makes the difference between boring and terrific writing. It’s the difference between a pencil sketch and a lush oil painting. As a writer, words are your paint. Use all the colors.
~ Rhys Alexander
Trust me when I say, each of these posts is worth your time. You will be inspired, and you will be motivated to write!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Little Blog Love

In the interest of staying on top of awards and not killing myself off with monster-sized posts (like last time), I'm passing along an award I won recently from Erica @ Chapter by Chapter. I love her. Erica's husband is in the military and is coming home soon! Yay!! Her blog is upbeat and informational and a joy to visit. So... go visit!!




According to Erica, this one only has one rule: to share 5 fantasy/sci-fi novels that have inspired you. Wow. Okay, here goes. In no particular order, the five that first come to mind are:
  1. Lucifer's Hammer - If you want to cherish things like toilet paper and canned goods, this is your book.
  2. Fablehaven - If I could wake up tomorrow as the author of any series, this would be the one. Oh, how I wish I was that creative and original and could write like that!!
  3. The Maze Runner - wow. just wow.
  4. LOTR - no list could be complete without this! Duh!
  5. Deltora Quest series by Emily Rodda - I have hooked more non-readers with this series than with ANY other.
I pass some Sci-Fi/Fantasy love to:

Have a happy Wednesday!

The Real Thing

Write from your whole self. If you have a sense of humor, make sure that flavor’s in your writing. If you like talking ideas, make sure there are ideas in your writing. Anything less will be unsustainable. You will get bored inside the narrative realm you’ve created, in the same way it’s boring to sit at a desk all day filing papers. The only way to last for the long haul is to avoid boredom, and to avoid boredom you need to let your whole self in. (Not to mention you’ll bore your readers).
~ Po Bronson


The idea that we need to write for ourselves, to write what we love, is not a new one. We can open any book on writing, turn to any friend, tour writing blogs... any number of things. That's because it's great advice - the real thing.

I am drawn to this quote by Po Bronson. There is something about it that connects with me, speaks to me in a powerful way. This quote makes me want to sit down and write. It makes me want to write better and to write in a way that is real.

What is something that draws you to your computer and makes you long to write?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Title Tips

Here are a few tips about choosing titles from author Bethany Roberts. For more tips on writing for children, visit her website @ Bethany Roberts.com

WRITING FOR CHILDREN - TITLES:

  • Keep your titles short and snappy. I have learned this one the hard way! People seem to have great difficulty remembering my longer titles, but no problem remembering the shorter ones. A good general rule is to keep your titles from one to three words, no more than five.
  • Catchy sounds - In creating your titles, try playing with poetic devises like alliteration and rhyme. Of my own book titles, I think my favorite is MONSTER MANNERS because the alliteration makes it fun to say.
  • Use verbs - Another way to make a title lively is to use an active verb in it. I did that with FOLLOW ME!
  • Reflect the theme - a good title, however short and catchy, gives us a hint of what the story is about.
  • Hook your reader - The title is your first chance to grab the attention of a reader- or of an editor.
  • Has your title been used? Check with Books in Print (at your library), or do a search on Amazon.com

Do you have any title tips to add to the list?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Gone Camping


We are off on an impromptu camping adventure this week! I won't have internet access, so I'll visit everyone next week. It's so much fun to be spontaneous sometimes!

Monday, July 5, 2010

My First Book

MY BOOK!
I did it!

I did it!
Come and look
At what I’ve done!

I read a book!
When someone wrote it

Long ago

For me to read,

How did he know

That this was the book

I’d take from the shelf
And lie on the floor

And read by myself?

I really read it!
Just like that!

Word by word,

From first to last!

I’m sleeping with

This book in bed,

This first FIRST book

I’ve ever read!
~ David L. Harrison ~
(from Somebody Catch My Homework)


My soon-to-be first grade daughter read an entire Junie B. Jones book by herself recently. It was eight whole chapters! When I saw this poem, I laughed, picturing Molly and her Junie B. book - and yes, she did sleep with it! She was so proud.

I began collecting Junie B. books and Amber Brown stories and Kathleen Duey's Unicorn's Secret series (which is amazing, btw) when she was just a baby, anticipating the day she would be able to read them. She has a bookshelf full of books she is only now getting close to reading. And I can't wait!

The early years, as children discover the joy of reading, are priceless. The transition from picture books to chapter books is a major milestone, and I look forward to watching my daughter discover new friends and go on fantastic adventures, all from the comfort of her own bedroom!

What is one of your favorite chapter books or early readers?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

Contests Extraordinaire!!

Princess Courtney @ Southern Princess is having a wonderful To Kill a Mockingbird giveaway.
  • One 50th Anniversary copy of TKM
  • the DVD movie version, starring Gregory Peck
  • & a surprise from the Monroeville County Heritage Museum
Contest ends July 28th!
Please tell her I sent you!!


The Blogosphere's #1 Shannon - Shannon Whitney Messenger - @ Ramblings of a Wanna Be Scribe is giving away a signed copy of It's Raining Cupcakes, by author Lisa Schroeder. See her blog for additional details.



Contest ends July 8th!
Please tell her I sent you!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Playing the Games

Re: Critique Partners/Beta Readers
The best critique is almost useless if it does not activate the writer's internal critic. This can be done by acknowledging the writer has not been wasting his time, that there is something good on the page, which cannot be denied...a good reader empathizes with the writer's vision, sees beyond the words to what the writer is trying to achieve with those words. Good readers ask questions and make writers see where they have succeeded and where they have failed. And most of all, good readers make you want to write.
~ Barry Lane (from Discovering the Writer Within)



Critiquing is a pretty common topic around the blogosphere, because we can approach it from so many different directions. In Discovering the Writer Within I came upon an interesting way to look at our work - a new way to play the beta reader game.

Barry Lane shares a strategy of Peter Elbow:
To be good critics, writers must learn to play both the believing game and the doubting game when they look at their work. The believing game has to do with basic faith that you have something to say. The doubting game is about questioning the effectiveness of your writing.
Cool, huh? But wait...there's more!

Barry adds that,
A big mistake young writers make is seeking out readers and critics before they are ready to stop playing the believing game. The best criticism from a skillful reader will only offend or discourage if you are not ready to distance yourself from a piece of writing and play the doubting game.
I like the simplicity, yet dead-on truth, of this philosophy. Too often, we aren't ready for real feedback; we still need the basic reassurance to keep going, the assurance it's going to be worth it. We have to be emotionally geared for the criticism BEFORE we ask for it, or it won't be as valuable to us.

Do you skillfully play both the Believing Game and the Doubting Game?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Starstruck


What really knocks me out is a book that,
when you're all done reading it,
you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours
and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.
That doesn't happen much, though.
~ J. D. Salinger ~



Isn't that SO true?! I mean, be honest - haven't you felt EXACTLY like that after reading some of your favorite books?

I confess, I may have wished once or twice (or twenty times) that James Dashner and I could be best, best buddies (still working on that) or that Brandon Mull would text me and thank me for my adoration (which he hasn't) or that Emily Rodda would show up at my kids' birthday parties (they would be so starstruck!), but alas, none of that has happened (although James and I have e-mailed many times *grins happily*).

Sorry. I went a little fan-girl for a minute.

I'm willing to bet that you've all had those starstruck moments when thinking of favorite authors and how their stories affected you. I know I'm not alone on this one, cuz I've seen it on too many blogs - *coughs* like Shannon M. & Lisa Mantchev or LiLa and Lauren Oliver or Elana and Kathleen Duey...

You know what my favorite part about that is? That it feels SO GOOD to feel that way. Seriously. I love the way it feels to finish a fabulous story like The Hunger Games and suddenly want to know everything about Suzanne Collins and when she'll be anywhere near my city and how long I have to wait to have more, more, more!

I need a new book like that. The Scorch Trials isn't out yet. I know, I know, I can't believe I didn't get an ARC, either. I'm in a holding pattern as I wait for several not-yet-released sequels. So...

Name for me a book that left you starstruck,
in awe of the story and the author,
yearning for more.

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