Monday, November 30, 2009

May I Have a Drumroll Please....

I am thrilled to share some good news today. I received my very first blog award! I know, I couldn't believe it either. An embarrassingly excited thank you goes out to Southern Princess for honoring me with the Honest Scrap Award. Her blog is awesome, so if you haven't checked it out yet, you need to get yourself over there, pronto! :)

There are some rules that go along with this honor. I am now required to:

1.) Honestly divulge 10 things about myself (this could be scary)

2.) Pass it along to 10 of my favorite bloggers!

Here goes...

1. I am a hopeless "Fanilow" - yes, that's right, I LOVE Barry Manilow! I told you this could be a little scary. I hope you can still respect me now. :)

2. I am absolutely phobic about dentists. I usually hyperventilate at least once and I cry the whole time. Really. No joke. Remember, I'm required to be honest.

3. I am a complete and total freak about baseball! (some of you may already know this)

4. I played both trumpet and French horn in high school.

5. If I could change one thing about myself, I would wish to be a morning person. Morning is so hard for me!

6. I love shopping online, vanilla lattes, and chocolate with nuts!

7. I was 40 years old before I got my first cell phone. Ugh! Did I say that out loud?

8. My dream agent would be Emily van Beek of Pippin Properties! (Hey! A girl's gotta have a goal) :)

9. My favorite picture book author is Patricia Polacco. Ooooh, I love her! :)

10. I'm a high school English teacher and I totally LOVE my job! :)

Okay, if you're still with me and haven't run away screaming yet, here's the fun part! I am going to pass on the love to... may I have a drumroll please?

Stephanie @ Hatshepsut: The Writing of a Novel
Roni @ Fiction Groupie
Candice @ Suffering from Writer's Blog
Valerie @ Something to Write About
Corey@ Thing 1 and Thing 2
Charmaine @ Wagging Tales
Lisa and Laura (everyone's favorite crazy duo) @ Lisa and Laura Write
Terresa @ The Chocolate Chip Waffle
Sarah and Katie @ Plot This
Caroline @ Caroline by Line

These are some of my daily, must-read blogs, all run by some truly awesome ladies! Give them a visit! ;-)

Last but not least, there is a whopper of a contest going on over at In Which a Girl Reads.
You'll find the following posted at her site:

So, in celebration of reaching 100+ followers, I'm holding a giveaway. There will be three lucky winners who get to choose from 25 books (and I may be adding more books throughout the giveaway).

The three winners:

1. First winner gets choice of 3 books from pile
2. Second winner gets choice of 2 books remaining in pile
3. Third winner gets choice of 1 book remaining from pile

I may add in another winner, depending on the number of entries.

Go check it out! :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's Game Time!


Just for fun, let's continue our wordplay for one more day! Anyone stealing a moment to blog on this feasting day is begging for extra time with letters - don't you think? So here's the deal:

How many different words can we writing minds find in the words
Happy Thanksgiving?

Yes, I know this is child's play, but aren't all children's writers just big children at heart? To keep it interesting, though, I challenge you to find words of 4 letters or more (which isn't easy with only two vowels)! ;-)

Ready... Set... Go!

P.S. Sorry, Stephanie. Hatshepsut isn't in there - I already checked!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Do you ever ponder the coolness of words? As writers, most of us are probably weirdly excited by words. After all, they are the key to our craft!

In my composition classes, we talk often about the power of words and the value of specificity - not settling for "said" every time, but using something like "whispered" or "cackled" instead. There are so many fun words out there, but too often we settle for the everyday. For fun, I like to have my students list their top ten favorite words. Sometimes we like the sound of a word or the meaning behind a word or a memory associated with a word... It doesn't matter WHY they like the words. After listing 10 words that are woohoo! for them, they must use all ten words in one poem - not always an easy task. The poems ALWAYS blow me away! I think it's because the students wrote using words they love, words that were fun or important to them.

I love words like:

(and wordsmithery, of course)

What are some of your favorite words? How do you wordsmith when you write?

Monday, November 23, 2009

I really, really miss baseball!!!

Sorry folks, but I'm having a moment...(now, imagine my loudest outside-voice) I MISS BASEBALL!

I am a major freak of a baseball fanatic - Oakland Athletics all the way! :) If you don't approve of my team, blame my husband who brainwashed me long ago. This year, we only missed about 10 games all season (Tivo is my friend!). I miss Adam Kennedy and Mark Ellis and Kurt Suzuki. I miss my husband cursing at the TV because we're playing badly. I miss being angry at Bob Geren for decisions I don't always understand...

In the off-season I watch basketball and hockey (I need at least 4-5 games a week to replace my baseball void), but it's just not the same. I MISS BASEBALL!

Is anyone else having baseball withdrawls? Is there something else you hate having to live without? It's okay if you need to use your outside voice - I can take it! :)

Contest over at The Bookshelf Muse!

Just like over 200 other bloggers in the writing world, today I'm posting some great contest news! Angela, over at The Bookshelf Muse, is celebrating a major blogging milestone. As a celebration, she is hosting a huge contest with multiple winners of amazing prizes! Here's some of what you'll find on her blog:

Interested in entering? Here's how:

1 entry for commenting that you are a follower (if you aren't yet, please join today!)
1 entry for linking to this contest on a blog
1 entry
for linking to this contest through your twitter or facebook


Musers have reminded me I've not included sidebar linking and Livejournal! Yikes!

So, for additional entries:

Mention the contest on your Livejournal (1 entry)
Link to The Bookshelf Muse in your sidebar (3 entries!)
(Big bonus points here!)

So that's a total of 7 possible entries per Muser! Contest runs until December 1st, so let's start seeing those comments!

You HAVE to click over there and
check out the prizes. Then, if I were you, I'd get those 3 entries and hope you can borrow some of Tamika's contest mojo! ;-)

Friday, November 20, 2009

This was inspired by...

In Sharon Creech's Love That Dog (a favorite of nearly every writer I know), Jack discovers his writing voice by "borrowing" lines and ideas from famous authors like William Carlos Williams and Robert Frost - and we can't forget that Mr. Walter Dean Myers! :)

It is human nature to model ourselves after those we admire. Musicians, authors, artists... all credit their love of craft to someone who inspired or encouraged them - sometimes famous, sometimes not. Denzel Washington and Marlo Thomas both gathered stories of inspiration and influence into the best-selling books, A Hand to Guide Me and The Right Words at the Right Time. We buy books like these because they encourage and motivate us, give us hope and inspire us. We all love stories of success.

As I work toward publication as a picture book author, Patricia Polacco continues to influence and inspire me. Pink & Say is one of the most artfully told picture book stories I've ever read. I dream of writing with that degree of emotional pull and sincerity. Though short, her books pack the emotional punch of many short novels!

Who has had the greatest influence on you as an author? Why?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Where's Mom?

Not long ago I attended a Women of Faith Conference. My son Scott is one of those clingy, mommy's boys, who hates to be without me for any length of time. Leaving the house is never easy, so a three day absence was a real trial for my husband. He did his best to explain to the kids where I went and that I would only be gone for a few "sleeps".

While I was gone, he and the three kids ventured to Costco. As women know, any time a man appears in public with his children but without his wife, other women are amazed. We feel the need to compliment the bravery of such daring husbands! Such was the case with the check-out lady at Costco.

While Sean and the kids waited, the checker smiled at the kids and told my husband he was a "brave soul" to bring three children to Costco alone. Then, she offered her smile to the kids. "Are you guys having a day out with dad? Where's mom today?" Big mistake.

Inside the shopping cart, Scott burst into tears. He told the lady, with his own special dramatic flair, "She went to be with Jesus!" The poor woman was unprepared for that answer. As she tried to apologize to my husband, who was laughing instead of comforting our child, Scott cried harder. "She left. She left us and went to Jesus!"

Scott kept crying. Sean kept laughing. The woman began crying. Finally, my husband choked down his laughter enough to explain the situation.

Next time that sweet woman sees a man alone with his children, She'll surely be afraid to ask, "Where's mom today?"

To me, children are a treasure trove of writing ideas (not to mention endless hours of entertainment & frustration). What are some of the best/worst "writeable" moments you've had with your children or from your own childhood memories?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Is it Just Me???

If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don't listen to writers talking about writing or themselves. ~ Lillian Helman

I came across this quote the other day and felt compelled to blog about it. I can see how someone might worry about a student's personal style or voice being influenced, but is that necessarily a bad thing? I think of the authors I've heard speak, as a child and as an adult. For me, that is the stuff dreams are made of - the excitement and motivation and awe that keep us going.

Just recently, I heard Chris Crutcher speak. I laughed, I cried, and I left there determined to work harder and to write better. Two years ago I met Brandon Mull, and I watched as the line at our local Borders wrapped its way through the store like the world's longest snake. While waiting 30 minutes in line (so my son could have his moment to drool) I thought to myself, Look at how many kids he has touched. That's what it's all about.

Isn't blogging exactly the kind of thing she warns against? What are we all doing if not seeking out other writers - "listening" to what they say about writing and themselves, about individual process, successes and failures? Young writers are no different. Like all of us, they crave motivation, encouragement, stories of success that reassure them dreams really CAN come true.

Maybe it's just me, having some kind of allergic reaction to this particular quote. What do you think?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

If I could be...

If I could wake up tomorrow as the author of any book series I wanted, who would I choose...?

...Brandon Mull.

From the very last turn of the very last page of the very first Fablehaven, I've wanted to be Brandon Mull. I know I was supposed to say J.K. Rowling, but that's just so obvious. Besides, I really would rather be Brandon. If you have not read this series yet, you can't officially call yourself a true fan of MG/YA lit. - maybe a nearly true fan, but not a full-fledged true fan. Seriously.

Now, if you know me well or have paid attention to this blog, you know I am somewhat obsessed with James Dashner and The Maze Runner. In fact, I am nearly finished with the second book in The 13th Reality series (also very good, but Maze still kicks butt). Truly I say to you, he is a very close second.

There are books we love, and then there are books that somehow become a part of us. Have you ever finished a book and thought to yourself, "I really, really wish I had written that"? It's a silly thing, probably something only writers do, yet it's such a powerful emotion. So Brandon, there's this crazy-writer-blogging-lady who wishes she was you. (James, this is where you let out that big sigh of relief)

Now that I have confessed my personal desire to be Brandon Mull, it's your turn...

If you could wake up tomorrow as the author of any book series you wanted, who would you choose?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Don't Miss This One!

The holidays are coming... the holidays are coming!

Everyone - yes, EVERYONE! - needs to read this fun Christmas book! This little-known picture book is a treasure. The Great Mizzariddle, by Roland McElroy, is destined to be a kid (and teacher) favorite.

Amazon describes it well:
The Great Mizzariddle is about a lost prospector's discovery of Santa's North Pole headquarters and the "absurdiculous" language spoken there. Have you ever met a "smelligent" man, or tasted "Santafrassoup?" Neither had McFurkle, an old prospector who stumbles into Santa's workshop by mistake. McFurkle soon learns that Santa's elves, in an effort to promote the most efficient use of their time, have begun combining words they use every day. A "squeeze and a hug" becomes simply "a squg." If someone is "smiling and laughing," they are said to be "smaffin'." And so it goes. The Great Mizzariddle, with its entertaining plot and amusing word combinations, is written for children of all ages.

Read it. Laugh out loud. Read it again and find yourself speaking the language of the North Pole (I mean Nole). Then smile inside and recommend it to everyone you know.

You can find it on Amazon here...
The Great Mizzariddle

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Short Excerpt: The Naughty Girl Workshop

The Naughty Girl Workshop

Uh-oh. Maybe she should have been more careful with Mommy’s good jewelry… maybe she shouldn’t have tried to use the cat as one of her dolls…maybe she shouldn’t have tried to cut her own hair yesterday. Molly thought of her brother, Scott, who was sent to the Naughty Boy Factory a couple of years ago. He’d made it home okay, so maybe it wouldn’t be too bad. She could still feel those little butterflies fluttering in her stomach, though, as her mommy called for the trolley.

Earlier that morning, Molly had been standing in front of the long mirror in Mommy’s room, turning this way and that, admiring her reflection. She loved the look of Mommy’s sparkling jewelry draping her neck and dangling from her tiny wrists; she loved the pink lipstick smeared over her lips (and face) and the smell of Mommy’s lotion; but most of all, she loved the pretty black shoes with the high heels and how tall they made her look. But unfortunately for Molly, Mommy didn’t love what she saw.

“Molly Anne! You know it’s not okay to play with Mommy’s things. We’ve talked about this before.”

“But it’s my turn!” Molly stomped her foot and made a pouty face at Mommy.

“No, you don’t get a turn with Mommy’s big girl stuff. That’s why it’s Mommy’s – we’ve had this conversation before. It’s time you learn to behave like a proper little lady. I’m calling the trolley.”

And that’s how Molly ended up outside, butterflies in her stomach, waiting for the trolley. The Naughty Girl Workshop trolley was bright-pink and piped out cheery Mary Poppins music as it drove through town. The sound always reminded Molly of the Popsicle Man. Sometimes kids would run out with their ice cream money, disappointed to find a trolley full of girls instead. She’d never dreamed she would be one of those girls, but now she was.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


If you are considering self-publishing your book, I highly recommend checking out the blog, Getting Past the Gatekeeper at

This blog is hosted by an unknown literary agent and is full of the good, bad, and ugly on self-publishing, social networking, publicizing/marketing your book - the works. I'd say it's basically a truckload full of good info! Check it out.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Awesome Give-Away Contest!

Lisa and Laura Roecker, sister authors of the upcoming book, A Kate Lowry Mystery: The Haunting of Pemberly Brown (Sourcebooks Spring 2011), are having a drop-everything-and-enter-now kind of contest over at their blogspot,

They will be giving away a brand new Kindle to one of their blog-following members. The contest will end at midnight on Friday the 13th... scary. If you aren't a follower, well, you should be!

Congrats, ladies, on your new book. I hope I get to read it on my new Kindle!

Still Waiting...

The journey toward having a published book is everything they say it is - waiting, waiting, and more waiting.

Currently, I am waiting to hear back from two different publishers. One has a copy of the picture book version of The Naughty Boy Factory, and the other has the early chapter book version. The first publisher hooked me up with an illustrator who has done some early sketches, so that gives me hope. But the wait feels endless.

It is what it is, and it's the same for everyone.

So... I'll just keep waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Gotta Love James Dashner!

Since reading The Maze Runner (and re-reading it twice), I can't get enough of James Dashner. I highly, hugely, wholeheartedly recommend it. If you loved The Hunger Games, you'll love The Maze Runner - guaranteed.

I've begun following his blog. His sincere and almost kid-like excitement is a joy, especially in his post about meeting Judy Blume. So fun! He let's us all tag along on his whirlwind journey as he becomes a "somebody" - a soon-to-be-really-big somebody! The blog also includes a link to the book trailer, which is fascinatingly creepy. Go see it. I dare you.

The Piano Man

(observations from Pike Place Market)

He plays his soul each day
To us - for a kind word,
Some quarters in a cup.
As he sits in his blue windbreaker,
His blonde ponytail
Falls against his scraggly beard,
Keeping time while he plays
Perched upon the rusty, silver stool
That wobbles loosely with the rhythms.
Strong, soiled hands, blanketed
by fingerless, brown gloves,
Revitalize the keys of his battered piano.
His feet beat
Atop the wooden block
He uses as a footrest,
As he collects,
Day after day after day,
His small fortune of coins
In a bowl, paper-mached with duct tape.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Do You Speak Spanish?

Montana is not exactly a culturally diverse state. My children's experience with other cultures is pretty much limited to Dora the Explorer and Ni Hoa, Kai-lan. So, whenever we visit my family in Washington, the wonderful diversity of Seattle's culture does not go unnoticed. The last time we visited was no exception.

The kids and I went shopping with my mother (shopping and Starbucks are how the women in my family bond). When we reached the register, a beautiful Muslim woman was working behind the counter. Scott took one look at her and in his best "outside-voice" shouted, "Oh, cool! Do you speak Spanish?" She was very gracious and laughingly answered, "No, I do not, but I bet you watch Dora... yes?"

Just then two women joined us in line, speaking Chinese. Scott literally jumped straight up in the air, turning to face the two women. "Wow! Do you speak Spanish?"

I was mortified. Scott was overjoyed.

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