Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Anything Can Be

"Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be."
-Shel Silverstein

Photo source: (http://womenonthefence.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Anything_Is_Possible.jpg)


This is as true for adults as it is for children. In fact, I think we can learn even more from it.
 
We need to learn how to listen to the "negative".  Sometimes things that feel disappointing or discouraging can be just the light that was needed to move you forward into new possibilities. To accept and embrace our areas of weakness as writers is the only way to conquer them. 

The mustn'ts and the don'ts, the shouldnt's and the impossibles and the wont's, can all be used to motivate us - to drive us to work harder, to learn more, to be better, to succeed.
 
LISTEN. Really listen, with an open heart, to the negative.  And then learn from it.  Beat it.  "Anything can happen, child. Anything can be."
 
Have you turned what felt like a negative 
into something positive with your writing?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - The Last Apprentice

 
Shannon Whitney Messenger decided it was time to give middle grade stories the attention they deserve, and "Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays" was born. I couldn't resist being a part of such brilliance.  Thanks, Shannon #1!  

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
 

From School Library Journal  (Review at Amazon)
Grade 5-8

When 12-year-old Thomas, seventh son of a seventh son, is apprenticed to the local Spook, whose job is to fight evil spirits and witches, he expects a life of danger. However, the boy doesn't realize just how soon he'll face a powerful enemy alone, as Mother Malkin escapes her confinement while the Spook is away. Thomas is forced to use his wits, and the help of his enigmatic new friend, Alice, to fight the evil witch. And defeating her is only the start of the boy's problems. 

Delaney's characters are clearly presented and have realistic depth, and Thomas's mother and Alice stand out for their strong words and actions. The protagonist's voice is clear, and his conflicts over his actions ring true. This first entry in a proposed series is an excellent choice for readers who are looking for a more sophisticated alternative to R. L. Stine's Goosebumps books (Scholastic), and the pacing and edgy illustrations at the start of each chapter will appeal to reluctant readers. Delaney's rural, quasi-medieval world is populated by a variety of magic creatures, and readers will look forward to discovering more of them, along with Thomas, as the series continues. 

A solid choice, particularly for middle school boys.–Beth L. Meister, Pleasant View Elementary School, Franklin, WI 

I love this series - love it!  It's a bit dark and not one that should be read right before bed, but it's unique and fascinating and irresistibly compelling. I chose the review above because it is one of the best I've seen at capturing the feel of these books.  My son started reading them around 5th grade. He's in 8th grade now and still can't wait for the next book - and neither can I!  Give them a try.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christine'sThankful Tuesdays #4


Christine Fonseca's Thankful Tuesdays #4
 

Christine Fonseca had the brilliant idea of dedicating each Tuesday in November to writerly things we are thankful for. She invites anyone to play along, and she even set up a schedule for us. Here is the remaining schedule:

11/23 – Giving Thanks to Writing (in general)


Today's focus is on Writing

On this Tuesday before Thanksgiving, there is much to be thankful for.  I am thankful for my wonderful husband and my three precious kiddos.  I'm thankful for a job I love in a town I never want to leave.  And I am thankful for writing.

Writing has always been a major part of my life.  I majored in English because of my love for words and literature.  I became a teacher so I could live in that world every day.  Now, I teach mostly composition and can't wait for the day when I get to teach creative writing, too.  But the best writing thing that has EVER happened to me was the day I began blogging.

Today, I am thankful for all of you.  This blogging community keeps me motivated and energized and encouraged and supported.  I no longer feel like I'm on an impossible journey - one that no one else understands.  I have all of you to commiserate with, to celebrate with, to learn and grow with.  And I am thankful.

My writing gratitude goes to all of you.
Thank you for being here with me.

I am taking the rest of the week off for the holiday.  My sister is coming from Seattle to visit - Yay!  I'll see you all on Monday.  
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

 
Shannon Whitney Messenger decided it was time to give middle grade stories the attention they deserve, and "Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays" was born. I couldn't resist being a part of such brilliance.  Thanks, Shannon #1!  

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday


Dragonspell 
 By Donita K. Paul

Goodreads Blurb:
One Dragon Egg Holds the Key to the Future.

Once a slave, Kale is given the unexpected opportunity to become a servant to Paladin. Yet this young girl has much to learn about the difference between slavery and service.

A Desperate Search Begins…

A small band of Paladin’s servants rescue Kale from danger but turn her from her destination: The Hall, where she was to be trained. Feeling afraid and unprepared, Kale embarks on a perilous quest to find the meech dragon egg stolen by the foul Wizard Risto. First, she and her comrades must find Wizard Fenworth. But their journey is threatened when a key member of the party is captured, leaving the remaining companions to find Fenworth, attempt an impossible rescue, and recover the egg whose true value they have not begun to suspect…

Weaving together memorable characters, daring adventure, and a core of eternal truth, Dragonspell is a finely crafted and welcome addition to the corpus of fantasy fiction. 
Dragonspell is the first book in the DragonKeeper Chronicles series.  There are 5 total, and I was disappointed when they ended.  This is my favorite dragon series - no contest.  Kale is a wonderful character, one you will fall in love with immediately. Her dragons are adorable.  There are large dragons in this series, but Kale's are the size of kittens, and they each have magical properties and personalities.

These books can usually be found in the Christian fiction section of bookstores.  They have an amazing storyline with a powerful overall message. But even better than that, THEY ARE AWESOME!  Fun, playful, totally addictive!

If you love fantasy and dragons, this is a don't-miss series. 

Happy Monday! 

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's an Epidemic


In honor of shedding our funks and doubts, of trading them for courage and confidence, I am infecting you all with a new plague.  Enter the weekend happy!

Happiness Epidemic

Without any warning, the disease
sweeps across the country
like a traveling circus.

People who were once blue,
who slouched from carrying
a bag of misery over one shoulder

are now clinically cheerful.
Symptoms include kind gestures,
a bouncy stride, a smile

bigger than a slice of cantaloupe.
You pray that you will be infected,
hope a happy germ invades your body

and multiplies, spreading merriment
to all your major organs
like door-to-door Christmas carolers

until the virus finally reaches your heart:
that red house at the end of the block
where your deepest wishes reside,

where a dog howls behind a gate
every time that sorrow
pulls his hearse up the driveway.
~David Hernandez

Have a wonderful and funk-free weekend, bloggy buddies!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Believe With Me

“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” 
~ Mahatma Gandhi


Yesterday Elana J. did a post to encourage us the we CAN do this writing thing.  In that post she said, "I've noticed I've been in a bit of a funk, and that quite a few other people have been as well. Doubts are high. Confidence is low." She was right.

I have been in that funk--along with so many others--doubting myself and letting insecurity nibble away at me.  Elana encouraged me.  Shannon M. encouraged me.  My world class CP Valerie encouraged me. And then yesterday, Elena encouraged me again.  Today, I am making the choice to BELIEVE.

I am owning my own encouragement (but don't stop, ladies. I love you!).  I am choosing to believe that query wars will not defeat me; Scott and the Naughty Boy Factory will find a home; the agent I've been too terrified to query will love it.  I believe.  

Valerie tells me there are two rules of writing: to write and to be brave.  I choose to be brave.  I choose to believe.

Believe in YOU today!

“Believe in Yourself and there will come a day when others will have no choice but to believe with you.”
 ~ Cynthia Kersey Author 

P.S. Forgive my absence on your blogs this week.  I'm in a writing frenzy right now.  I'm reading your blogs.  I'm just not commenting.  I swear.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I'm a Bag Lady...And So Are You

"A writer is like a bag lady going through life with a sack and a pointed stick collecting stuff."
~ Tony Hillerman


photo source (http://www.thedigeratilife.com/images/baglady1.jpg)

Okay everyone, on three...

Grab bags!
Ready sticks!
And...
Write!

What creative and playful simile can you come up with today?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christine Fonseca's Thankful Tuesdays #3

 


Christine Fonseca had the brilliant idea of dedicating each Tuesday in November to writerly things we are thankful for. She invites anyone to play along, and she even set up a schedule for us. Here is the remaining schedule:

11/
16 – Giving Thanks to Editors
11/23 – Giving Thanks to Writing (in general)


Today's focus is on Editors

Editors are the buffer between our work and the world.  They are there to ensure that our stories enter Readerville at their best.  They not only improve our manuscripts, but they also make us better writers.

James Matthewson, an editor for IBM says:
Anyone who has ever written anything for publication can cite chapter and verse about how they have been saved by a good editor. Even if editors don’t make changes, having a second set of eyes with a different perspective on the audience allows writers to relax and create better work.

I have read post after post written by blogging friends about their experiences with editors.  Without fail, they feel like they have a much stronger story once they've finished.  

Today, take time to appreciate the countless hours spent by editors so that our writing and our stories can truly shine! 

To editors everywhere,
THANK YOU!
 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Nerds: M is for Mama's Boy


Marvelous Middle Grade Monday


Nerds: M is for Mama's Boy 
by Michael Buckley


Shannon Whitney Messenger wisely decided it was time to give middle grade stories the attention they deserve, and "Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays" was born. Thanks, Shannon! 


Goodreads Blurb:
In this second outing for the 5th grade super spies, Duncan Dewey, codename "Gluestick", is the point of view character. This time the group must fight a very unlikely villain - he still lives with his Mum. In other words, it's the NERDS against a nerd. 

Michael Buckley nailed middle grade humor in this book - big time! The super powers of the kids in book one were awesome.  Add some buck-toothed squirrels worshiping our buck-toothed hero-turned-villain and it's even more hilarious.  I found myself in awe of Michael's ability to somehow channel the imaginative energy of this age group.

After watching my son sit for hours, laughing hysterically and insisting on reading parts to his little sister, I knew I had to read this one.  All I can say is...no wonder it's such a hit! Upper elementary  kids (esp. boys) through jr. high aged are the perfect audience for this one.  I highly recommend it!

Happy Monday!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thank You + A Winner

"You have to write a lot. And you have to rewrite what you wrote a lot more."
~ Holly Black



A Thank You

Many thanks to those of you who helped with my query woes yesterday. The feedback was wonderful, and I think we accomplished a lot together. THANK YOU!


*****


A Winner


The winner of
Monday's Marvelous Middle Grade Giveaway
and a new paperback copy of

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
is...


True Random Number Generator 52 5 Powered by RANDOM.ORG


And lucky #5 is...

JEN DAIKER

Thank you to everyone who entered. I'll be doing another Marvelous Middle Grade Monday next week! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Is this better?

Is this one better?

Version Three (posted after feedback)

Eight-year old Scott may be a bit lazy and messy and like to pick on his sister, but when he ruins her birthday party with a well-aimed cup of worms, his fed-up parents ship him off to The Naughty Boy Factory—a place he’d always believed was about as real as Bigfoot or the Bermuda Triangle.

At The Factory—where naughty boys are transformed into perfect gentlemen—the evil director and her scary robot guards alarm Scott enough to do as he’s told. But when he discovers two of the factory’s biggest bullies have been brainwashed into perfect angels, Scott decides things have gone too far. It’s all or nothing—escape or end up re-programmed into polite, spineless, mama's boys.

****

Versions one and two are still below. I decided to play with some of the feedback and see what I could come up with. Keep those hatchets sharp and hack away, people - I love it!!

Help Wanted

Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty.

~ Sicilian Proverb

(http://inlinethumb11.webshots.com/32138/2227801470030586854S425x425Q85.jpg)


Those who have followed me for a while know that I entered query wars recently. I'm feeling a bit battle-scarred right now, and I would love some feedback from you.

I love my original query (I'm not going to tell you which one it is), but I'm not receiving any requests to see my MS. Therefore, with some help from my inner circle, I've been playing with my query letter and my early chapters. Now, I would love it if you would be willing to trudge through my two versions and let me know what you think. What works? What doesn't? Any changes you suggest?

In order to keep this shorter, I did not include the final paragraph of personal info. Yes, you're welcome.

Version One


Dear __________,

Eight-year-old Scott is stunned when he ends up at The Naughty Boy Factory—which was supposed to be a myth, like Bigfoot or the Bermuda Triangle.

Sure, he’s a bit lazy and messy and likes to pick on his sister, but so what? Somebody has to keep things interesting. And how is he supposed to grow up to be a ninja-mechanic-airplane pilot if he never gets to practice his skills? But when Mom and Dad decide to ship him off for some fixing, Scott finds out The Factory is no myth—it’s real.

Thanks to an evil director, her scary robot guards, and the B.A.D. center (where the really bad boys are sent for some serious brainwashing), Scott and his group of boys reluctantly do as they are told. They are led them through a series of better behavior stations, including the Ear Enhancer, the Mouth Wash, and the TongueTorium, where their bad habits are all mysteriously “fixed right up”. But then it’s on to the Hands and Feet Department to fix their running, wrestling, and bug smashing fun—and that’s when Scott decides things have gone too far.

Hoping to save himself and his new friends, Scott confronts Mr. Little. Just when Scott thinks he’s won, the director captures them all—including Mr. Little—and herds them toward the B.A.D. center. It’s all or nothing—escape or end up transformed into boring, well-mannered mama’s boys.


Version Two
(slightly edited since first posted, based on comment feedback)

Dear __________,

Eight-year old Scott may be a bit lazy and messy and like to pick on his sister, but so what? Somebody has to keep things interesting. And how is he supposed to grow up to be a ninja-mechanic-airplane pilot if he never gets to practice his skills? But when he ruins his little sister’s birthday party with a well-aimed cup of worms, his parents ship him off to The Naughty Boy Factory—a place he’d always believed was about as real as Bigfoot or the Bermuda Triangle.

Thanks to an evil director, her scary robot guards, and the B.A.D. center (where the really bad boys are sent for some serious brainwashing), Scott and his group of boys reluctantly do as they are told. After being marched through a series of better behavior stations, including the Ear Enhancer, the Mouth Wash, and the TongueTorium, Scott worries he may end up a boring, too-good, mama’s boy. Then, at the Hands and Feet Department, Scott is told his running, wrestling, and sneaking-up-on-sisters days will soon be over. And that’s when he decides things have gone too far.


So...is my face dirty? Do not spare my feelings. This is business. Besides, a good writer needs to handle constructive criticism well. Right? Right!

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