Monday, March 28, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Follow My Leader

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. Others who can be counted on for a great MMGM review each week:

Follow My Leader
James Garfield

Goodreads Blurb:
After Jimmy is blinded in an accident with a firecracker, he has to relearn all the things he used to know - how to get dressed, how to find his way around the house, even how to eat. With the help of a determined therapist, he learns to read Braille and use a cane. Then he's given the chance to have a guide dog. Learning to work with Leader is not easy, but Jimmy tries harder than he ever has before. Can Leader really give him the ability and the confidence he needs?

I probably read this book five times as a girl. It's another book that's been around a while, but the story is timeless.  I loved following Jimmy as he dealt with the accident and I especially loved the bond that formed between Jimmy and Leader. This book is great for both boy and girl readers, especially dog lovers.
Happy Monday!

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Great Idea

"An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea."
~ Gautama Siddharta

If you're a long-time follower, you know I am a fan of Suzanne Pitner's writing articles. She is full of great tips, strategies, idea starters, and information. I read this article recently and loved it, and I can't help but share one of the awesome tips she suggested.

Keep a File of Writing Prompts from News Reports

This idea has been mentioned many times, and the reason is because it works. Read the newspaper with an eye for unusual or interesting articles. In a recent week, these articles appeared:
  1. A respected man robbed three banks.
  2. Sea turtle eggs were moved to safer shores.
  3. A Druid celebration occurred at Stonehenge.
  4. Thrill seeking teenagers jumped off moving cars on a bridge into a river.
These articles could all be turned into stories. Why would a respected community member turn to bank robbery? What if something unusual happened at Stonehenge this year? How would a teenage driver deal with his buddy slipping and falling into oncoming traffic?

Is that a fantastic idea or what? I recommend you hop over and read the full article. Better yet, click the writing articles link above and bookmark away. She is a treasure trove of great info!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Do, Read, Ask

To solve any problem, here are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? And third, who could I ask?
 ~ Jim Rohn

Do you know what's really cool?  All three questions can be answered right here, in our own blogging community. There are countless blog posts dealing with those exact writing questions.

1.) If you want to know what you need to do to get started blogging or writing, it's out there. If you want to know what to do to begin a query, perfect a query, submit a query, it's out there. If you want to know what to do to find/begin a critique group, it's out there . . . whatever you want to do, the answer is our there.

2.) If you want to know what to read to become a better writer, recommendations abound in the blogging community. If you want to know about plotting, voice, characterization, the market, ANYTHING, it's out there.

3.) Who to ask? Yes, even that is out there. As we blog, we learn who the "go-to" people are, and if they can't help us, they usually know who can. Elana Johnson knows all (although she'll deny it). Angela Ackerman, Shannon Messenger, Jody Hedlund, Susan Quinn, Les Edgerton, and Christine Fonseca are some of my other "go-to" people. We could ALL add names to that list. Help is out there.

We are so lucky to have the information, support, and knowledge of this writing community at our fingertips. So very lucky!!

What is one blog or resource you love that's "out there" to help?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


What simple action could you take today to produce a new momentum toward success in your life?
~ Anthony Robbins

Our writing journeys have definite periods of productivity and periods of lack of productivity. We get stalled by lack of ideas or plotting or writer's block or "the end" or any number of things. So then what? 

Rich Fettke, author of Extreme Success, has 10 tips for maintaining our momentum:

1. Take some time to clarify your desired future outcome. Success is seeing what you want and moving toward what you see. 

2. Use visual reminders of your intention. Get some magazines and cut out pictures and words related to your goal. Put them where you’ll see them on a regular basis, like on your bathroom mirror, in your wallet, next to your computer screen, or on a poster board.

3. Set clear goals with clear timelines. 

4. Be action-oriented.

5. Ask yourself, "How much and what kind of fun will I have with this project?" This will help raise your energy. If you’re dreading the process there’s a good chance your momentum is going to get stifled.

6. Fill your mind with inspiration. Read books, listen to audio programs, and watch videos that educate, uplift and inspire you. Go to seminars and attend conventions related to your goal. Read about and learn about people who have done what you want to do.

7. Take a Risk a Day. So often to move towards what we really want requires us to get out of our comfort zone. By getting into the habit of taking a risk a day you will strengthen your courage as you take those important actions that can lead to your greatest opportunities.

8. Create a support team. Ask a few of your friends to form a group to support each other on your goals. Find a mentor, someone you think would add input, support, advice, feedback, and/or accountability to help you keep your attention on your intention.

9. Consistently review your top three intentions. This will add fuel to your fire and will help you focus your attention on what matters during your day. It will also help you recognize the opportunities that might help you move toward your desired future outcome.

10. Clarify how your intention also helps others. The fuel that can come from helping others can inspire you to take action and stay focused on your goals.

Numbers 7, 8, and 10 are my favorites, although I think they are all brilliant. When I first read #10, I thought of Elana and her e-book From the Query to the Call, and I thought of the WriteOnCon team and all they've done this past year. There are so many ways we can use what we've learned to help each other.

So . . . what simple action could you take today to produce a new momentum toward success in your life?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sharp Sticks

The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called "truth."  
~Dan Rather

As much as this is true for teacher/student relationships, it is equally true for critique partners and beta readers and agents and editors and anyone who provides some form of valuable feedback or instruction regarding a writer's work. 

Next time you feel pushed or tugged or poked after a critique, look for the "truth" behind it.  That's how we inch ever closer to the dream.

What is your most recent experience with a "stick of truth"? 


Friday, March 11, 2011

Sorry, guys. I know I've been awol for the past week, but I'll be gone a bit longer.  We had a family emergency today, and I need to go to Seattle to be with my mom and sister. I'll be gone through at least next Wednesday.

Bear with me. I promise to catch up with everyone as soon as I can.

I miss you already!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Favorite Picture Book Blogfest

Megan Bickel @ The Write-At-Home-Mom is hosting today's Blogfest. Why?  Because picture books  deserve love too!

For the full list of blogfest participants, click HERE.

To choose only ONE picture book is an impossible task, not because I can't do it, but because I don't want to spotlight only one. 

In our blogging circle, we don't talk much about PBs or PB writing. AND. THEY. ARE. WONDERFUL. In fact, I do teacher in-service trainings about using PBs in ALL subject areas and at ALL grade levels. But in the spirit of the blogfest, I will share my mostest favoritest picture book of all.

Pink & Say
by Patricia Polacco

Oh, how I love this book.  But I cry every time I read it. Not just a tear or two, but full-out crying with tissues and nose-blowing. It is so full of courage and heart that it overwhelms me every time. And it's all true, every single word.
"I touched Mr. Lincoln's hand. It were near Washington. We were quartered there just before Bull Run. The president himself were shakin' everyone's hands. And I just put my hand right out."

"And he took it?" Pink asked.

"Yep, he took it," I answered. 

"Now there's a sign, ain't it?" he said, smilin' broadly.

"Touch my hand, Pink. Now you can say you touched the hand that shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln."
The illustrations are beautiful and heart-wrenching, like this one from later in the book when Pink & Say are being separated. *sniff, sniff*

"I watched tears fill his [Pink's] eyes and cleaved my hand to his until they wrenched us apart. They smote him and dragged him away from me."
Patricia's final words about Pink kill me every time. But you'll have to read it to find out what happens. *hint, hint*

The coolest part comes from Patricia's final words to the reader:
"I know this story to be true because Sheldon Russell Curtis [Say] told his daughter, Rosa.
Rosa Curtis Stowell told it to her daughter, Estella.
Estella Stowell Barber, in turn, told it to her son, William.
He then told me, his daughter, Patricia.
When my father finished this story he put out his hand and said, 'This is the hand, that has touched the hand, that has touched the hand, that shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln.'"
Here's the Goodreads blurb:
There are few picture books written about the Civil War, and none are as powerful as this one. This story, about how a young black soldier rescues a white soldier, opens young readers' eyes to the injustices of slavery and the senselessness of war. Highly charged emotionally, this masterful retelling of a true story, narrated through the white soldier's eyes, is made all the more powerful when it is revealed that the soldier was the author's great-great grandfather.

Patricia Polacco is my PB hero. She can cram more power and emotion and truth into a picture book than anyone out there. And she is a MASTER at voice. If you're looking for examples of writing with strong voice, head to the library and fill your basket with Patricia Polacco stories. Each is different, and each is spectacular. That is not hyperbole, folks, it's fact.

What is your mostest favoritest picture book?


Monday, March 7, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Till Death Do Us Bark

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. Others who can be counted on for a great MMGM review each week:

Till Death Do us Bark
43 Old Cemetery Road (Book 3)
by Kate Klise, M. Sarah Klise (Illustrator)
Expected publication: May 2nd 2011 by Harcourt Children's Books

Goodreads Blurb: 

When a dog arrives at Spence Mansion, Seymour is overjoyed. His adoptive parents, Ignatius B. Grumply and Olive C. Spence, are less enthusiastic—especially when Secret, the dog, begins barking all night long. Is it possible Secret just misses his old companion, the late Noah Breth, whose children are fighting like cats and dogs over their father’s money? Or does Secret have a secret that, in the end, will make the entire town of Ghastly howl with delight? 
This third book in the 43 Old Cemetery Road series, a runaway mystery told in letters, limericks, a last will, and loose change, is guaranteed to please anyone who’s ever tried to keep a secret.

These books are so much fun! Kate Klise is beyond clever: names like M. Balm, Rita O'Bitt, Kitty and Kanine Breth, Shirley U. Jest, and Seymour Hope. The story is written in letter format all the way through, which is both fun and a great lesson for young readers. It also adds to the suspense. 

I read this book in only a few hours, and then handed it over to my eight-year-old--you know how I love to see what my boys think. He laughed and laughed. Then he asked me if there were any more. Yep! It's a winner. 

If you haven't read the first two books yet, I suggest that you do before this one hits the shelves in May. Then you'll be all caught up and can wait for book four like I am!

*Book courtesy of Harcourt via NetGalley

Happy Monday!

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Master

My daughter had a wonderful time in first grade this week, reading, dressing up, and all sorts of silly, Seuss-like things. A fun time was had by children (and adults) all across America.

In honor of Dr. Seuss week, I end the week with one of my favorite Seuss quotes:

"I like nonsense - it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope... and that enables you to laugh at all of life's realities."
~ Dr. Seuss

Photo Source: (

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Courage Zone

"Success is not measured by what you accomplish but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds."
~ Orison Swett Marden

Each of us has encountered opposition, brick walls, rejection along this writing journey. Yet we are all still here, day after day, supporting each other, holding each other up and cheering each other on. That takes courage. According to Keith Hicks, 
"All personal and professional growth happens outside of the comfort zone.  No person and no organization will grow by staying in the comfort zone, so the bottom line is if you want to grow, you’ve got to step outside that zone."
And stepping outside the comfort zone = entering the courage zone. And according to Orison Swett Marden, entering the courage zone = success

That means, we are all successful already! The proof is right there in the formula. So . . .

Congratulations on your successes!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Story Arcs

"Applying a short story arc to each scene in a novel will strengthen the plot and character motivation, and build tension to the climax of the book."
~ Suzanne Pitner 

In her article, "Novel Writing Tips, Applying Short Story Arc to Scene Structure", Suzanne Pitner explains how we can apply the traditional short story arc to individual scenes of our MS in order to better build the story's tension.
"Thinking of scenes as mini stories, each with a beginning, middle, and end helps writers to define the characters, plot, and subplot in a novel. A short story focuses on one plot element, and a scene should do the same thing."
She suggests ending our scenes at the height of the conflict, and opening the next scene with how the conflict was handled. The final scenes of the story will provide the resolution.

Suzanne compares this strategy to waves building in intensity throughout the story.
"Each scene will build upon the one that came before, but each will still maintain that mini story arc. As this continues through the book, the tension will rise until the novel reaches its dark point. It will be like riding a crest of a wave that builds in power until it reaches the shore. At the dark point, the water recedes. To the unaware person, it might appear that things are going to be fine. Until you, the author, bring all the force of those waves back to shore in a tsunami, the climax of the story.
The article is really quite interesting, as are ALL of Suzanne Pitner's writing articles. I suggest you follow the link below and read the full text.

How do you keep the tension building throughout your story?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sizzle Those Sentences

"No sentence exists in isolation; a writer must also consider how it rubs up against the other sentences on either side."
~ Ralph Fletcher

In his book, Pyrotechnics on the Page, my long-time favorite writing guru, Ralph Fletcher, shows us a variety of ways to make our writing sizzle. One of my favorite things about ANY Fletcher text, is that he never gives instruction without example--and the examples are always wonderful! 

In a chapter on "Harnessing the Supple Power of Sentences", he suggests strategies like:
  • intentional fragments and run-ons 
  • the strength behind short, snappy sentences 
  • the 1-2-3 cadence
  • sentence reversals
With each strategy, he provides examples that make the "what" and "how" of implementing it perfectly clear. 

If you are looking for a new book about craft, Google Ralph Fletcher or go HERE to visit his website, and then choose one! I have almost every one of his books, and they are well-loved.
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