Wednesday, December 31, 2008
What really did me in was celebrating my wedding anniversary on the 28th and 29th. Who wants to blog when you're away with your husband on an overnight trip, shopping, seeing movies, and eating delicious food at great restaurants? I couldn't very well pull out my laptop and say, "Excuse me, honey, but I just have to write a blog entry in middle of our romantic getaway." Well, I could have, but it might not have stayed a romantic getaway for very long. So, if there's one lesson I've learned through all this, it's that blogging about life is not more important than life (and the people with which you share that life). And that lesson, my friends, is worth more than all the blog entries I could ever write.
May this New Year be filled with many blessings and many more exciting chapters in this book we call life.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Top 10 New Year's Resolutions For Writers
By Joanna Penn
1. Write more. Find the time to invest in your writing. There is a myth of creativity that you need the perfect time and space to create perfect words. But you write about real life, so find time in your real life to write. "Write at the edges of the day" - Toni Morrison, author of "Beloved"
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I found this gem over on Darcy Pattison's blog, and I just had to share it! Apparently we writers have a lot to learn from Frosty. This is absolutely ingenious!
Frosty the Snowman's Top 6 Writing Tips:
1. Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.
Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow
Extended character descriptions. Don’t be afraid to take time to describe the main character. One the continuum of character descriptions, this one is longer than you’ll find in most children’s picturebooks. But it works because this is a character story.
2. but the children
Know how he came to life one day.
There must have been some magic in that
Old silk hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.
Point of view. Notice the point of view here. The attention is squarely on Frosty, not on the children who found the old silk hat. When you write a story for kids, you don’t always have to put the child as the main character.
3. O, Frosty the snowman
Was alive as he could be,
And the children say he could laugh
And play just the same as you and me.
Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.
Language play. This section doesn’t add much to the plot, it’s just pure language play. But this is perfect for the younger audiences, who know that playing around with language is half the fun of reading a story or singing a song. Great onomatopoeia.
4. Frosty the snowman knew
The sun was hot that day,
So he said, “Let’s run and
We’ll have some fun
Now before I melt away.”
Conflict. Every good story needs conflict. And the character’s attitude in the face, well, in the face of certain death, is evident. It’s an attitude of taking joy where you find it and facing the future with courage.
5. Down to the village,
With a broomstick in his hand,
Running here and there all
Around the square saying,
Catch me if you can.
He led them down the streets of town
Right to the traffic cop.
And he only paused a moment when
He heard him holler “Stop!”
For Frosty the snow man
Had to hurry on his way,
Development of the conflict. The traffic cop provides an extra bump of conflict that adds to the story’s development. For picturebooks, it doesn’t have to be much; in fact, it can’t be huge, or you’re writing a novel. This is perfect, just the introduction of an authority figure who yells, “Stop!” but can’t really do anything to stop the breakneck speed of Frosty’s life.
6. But he waved goodbye saying,
“Don’t you cry,
I’ll be back again some day.”
Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.
Hope. Children’s stories may end in tragedy, but the best offer a spot of hope. Notice also the nice repetition of the language play that sends the story off with a nice echo.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
When the editors of School Library Journal make a list of the Best Children's Books of 2008, writers--and readers--listen. This isn't just any old magazine, but THE world's largest reviewer of books for young readers.
Here's just a peek at a few of the books they chose -- I plan on checking out some of the ones I haven't already read over Christmas break:
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury
Mail Harry to the Moon! by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley
Wild Tracks! A Guide to Nature’s Footprints by Jim Arnosky
We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson
The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson
My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath
Keeping the Night Watch by Hope Anita Smith
Sunday, December 14, 2008
We did do some fun "Christmasy" things this weekend, though. On Friday night, we went to see A Christmas Carol at Madison Park Church of God. This is the first time we've been to see the show, and we were pleasantly surprised! The music, acting, set and costumes were very impressive. On Saturday night, we attended the Anderson Symphony Orchestra's Christmas Concert featuring jazz pianist Lori Mechem. What a great concert! It definitely put us in the mood for Christmas!
Friday, December 5, 2008
2. A digital recorder for interviews. (Not necessary if #3 is purchased)
3. A Livescribe pen that records interviews and transcribes them for you when you download them to your new laptop. (See #1)
4. An idea that publishers can't say "no" to. (Good Luck!)
5. Gift cards for Panera Bread, Starbucks, or other coffee shop hangouts that play jazz and provide great ambiance for writing.
6. Homemade gift certificates for TIME to write. (Especially priceless to a mother of three.)
7. An iPod nano to play cool music that will inspire creativity.
8. An all-expense paid trip to the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles.
9. A beautiful new journal.
10. A good book to read while you're waiting for your muse to kick in.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I'm back at my old haunt--Panera Bread--tonight for a rare Internet surfing and blogging evening. I used to come here quite regularly to get out of the house and find some peace and quiet (and a bagel or bowl of soup, of course) while I worked on freelance projects. But there's one thing that's missing from the picture of those days gone by -- the freelance projects (I'd even settle for a singular "project" right now). Not that I have been pounding the pavement in search of projects, mind you, but I do fondly remember the day when the projects used to come to me. It was heavenly. Now, I sit staring at my inbox waiting for an e-mail from one of my contacts who's ready to assign a lucrative project. My eyes are getting tired.
Day 1 of the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge has been completed. Keep in mind, I never said that these had to consecutive days. Just 12 days during the month of December. Stay tuned for Days 2 through 12...
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Once again, Debbie Ridpath Ohi at inkygirl has hit the nail on the head. How does she do it? Her comics all seem to be about my life as a writer. Does she have one of those hidden cameras mounted in my house somewhere?
I fear I am becoming a once-a-month blogger, but I'm just not ready to give up on the whole blogging thing just yet. We'll see what the New Year brings. Did I just say "New Year"? Freaky, isn't it, to think that 2009 is only a little over 2 months away? Whoa! I still remember all those nuts who were stocking up and getting ready for Y2K! (Forgive me if you were one of them.) Now we're sitting on the edge of Y2K+9! Crrraaaaaazy!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
There's nothing like a Writer's Conference to get the juices flowing again. A good one is coming up in Indianapolis, but I'm not sure whether I'll be going or not. Depends on whether I can scrounge up $99 by Oct. 1. We'll see.
Well, there. I've blogged. Are you happy now? (That's a rhetorical question.) See you next month... :-)
Saturday, August 16, 2008
The book of Proverbs likely has the most to say about our words and how we use them. For example:
Wise words are like deep waters. Prov. 18:4 (NLT)
Wise words are more valuable than much gold and many rubies. Prov. 20:15 (NLT)
In the book of John, God describes Jesus as "the Word."
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
But I think my favorite passage about the power of words is in 2 Corinthians 3:3 (NIV):
You are a letter from Christ ... written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
I pray that the letter I am displaying to others is one of compassion, hope, and faith in a God whose love for His children is not limited to words, but speaks volumes.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Speaking of writing, my agent forwarded me a rejection letter from a large NYC publishing house. Keep in mind, the book my agent is representing is my humorous children's fiction picture book about a chicken who discovers he has artistic talent. Not exactly true-to-life stuff here. The editor wrote: "I don't understand why the pig can read but Chuck can't and where the pig gets the famous painting from." My clearly frustrated agent wrote a note to me on the forwarded letter: "Julie -- I'm concerned for this editor's career in publishing!" My sentiments exactly. This editor can "buy" the fact that a chicken talks and has artistic ability but can't quite "get" the other fictional points that move the plot along. Maybe she needs to change genres -- non-fiction might be a better fit for her. Ah, well, I'm learning to take rejection really well. Maybe the next letter will be a yes! :-)
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The 2009 edition of CWIM is coming out sometime in August, so don't rush out and buy the 2008 version. Better wait and get the most recent version.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
The book I was reading was Susan Pfeffer's haunting YA novel The Dead and the Gone, which is the companion book to Life as We Knew It. Both books follow the events in two different teen-agers lives after the moon is knocked out of its orbit by an asteroid, catastrophically altering the earth's climate. The main character in The Dead and the Gone is Alex Morales, a 17-year-old New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent. When both of his parents disappear after the deadly tidal waves spawned by the asteroid crash, Alex is left to care for his two younger sisters as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland.
Once again, Pfeffer has produced a gripping page turner that not only makes the adrenalin pump but also makes the tears flow. On more than one occasion, I found myself thinking about the characters after I had finished the book and wishing I wasn't finished. Pfeffer's characters are so real and the emotions she harnesses are so raw that the reader just can't help but feel connected to them. This is a definite must-read for anyone who wants to write YA fiction or just loves to read YA material.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Thursday, June 19, 2008
If you're not familiar with Lisa's work, check out her book, Millicent Min, Girl Genius. Like Lisa's blog, Millicent Min, is a heartwarming and hilarious book. Lisa also has several other best-selling books, including an American Girl book in the new Julie series, Good Luck Ivy. How cool is that?
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Charming and engaging at the age of 79, Carle delivered the 31st annual Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture to a packed house. Kids were fidgeting, babies were crying, and everyone else was hanging on every word of this amazingly talented man.
As a publishing newbie back in the late 1960s, Carle said, "I didn't think of children and their visual and literary needs... I simply wrote books I enjoyed."
The Very Hungry Caterpillar actually started out as Willi the Worm, but through discussions with his editor and some experimenting with a hole puncher, the award-winning book was born.
"I developed each story like a play, with a curtain, beginning, middle, end, and then a curtain again," said Carle.
Carle showed slides of how he develops his unique collage illustrations: He paints tissue paper and then cuts or tears it to form the images in his books. The process was fascinating to see.
"Each sheet is a work of art in itself, and I hesitate to cut it," Carle said.
Since I don't have much artistic talent myself (OK, I can barely draw stick figures), I was amazed at how easy Carle made it look. He is truly an amazingly gifted artist.
At the end of his speech, Carle shared some humorous letters from his young readers. This was my favorite:
"I would like to visit you, but I'm not allowed to cross the street."
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
A little geeky editor humor goes a long way on a bad day (or a good one, for that matter).
HUMOROUS GRAMMAR RULES
1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
2. Never use a preposition to end a sentence with. Winston Churchill, corrected on this error once, responded to the young man who corrected him by saying, "Young man, that is the kind of impudence up with which I will not put!
3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Be more or less specific.
8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies endlessly over and over again
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren't always necessary and shouldn't be used to excess so don’t.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not always apropos.
13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous and can be excessive
14. All generalizations are bad.
15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
16. Don't use no double negatives.
Friday, April 4, 2008
I like the simplicity of this quote by novelist Robert Crichton. As writers, I think we try to make the process way too difficult at times.
I was fretting too much over that opening sentence.
I worked on it scrupulously,
thinking that if I could only get the first sentense right,
the rest of the book would come easy.
That was a big mistake.
Weeks went by with my staring at blank paper
and getting nowhere.
One day I decided to just start writing
in the style of the Dick and Jane first grade readers.
Simple little words,
without bothering about style or polish -
just to get the story on paper.
I started writing,
"There is a little town on a hill called Santa Vittoria.
It is in Italy. The people in the town
grow grapes and make wine.
One day, not too long ago..."
and so on. It worked fine.
Soon I was writing like mad all day long.
The pages began to pile up and I felt better.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
If you've never read anything by Clements, I'd suggest you start with Frindle, his most well-known book.
Here are some of Clements' words of wisdom from the presentation:
"Time is the secret ingredient to all good writing."
"When you pick up a book, you're picking up a chunk of someone's life."
"Details make a story ring true to life."
"'What happens next?' That's the most important question in writing."
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
"One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment."
-- Hart Crane, American Poet (1899-1932)
So read away, my friends! Read away! It's not a waste of time. You're drenching yourself in words.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
I love writing conferences and usually try to attend at least one a year, based on my available funds. I met my agent two years ago at the Central Ohio Writers of Literature for Children Conference, which sadly, is not happening this year. Although my dream conference would be the prestigious Maui Writers Conference, this year I'll have to settle for the less-exotic destination of Indianapolis. I know, Indy is a far cry from Maui, but at least there will be two high-powered editors from Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins there. Here's the link for more info: Indiana SCBWI Conference
After all, it isn't so much about the location as it is about learning and networking. At least, that's what I'm trying to convince myself.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
In other news... I have now finally joined the ranks of high-speed Internet users, hallelujah! Which means I spend way more time surfing the Web than I should. All in the name of "research," of course!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
This hilarious comic from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at inkygirl is right on the money. With three kids 11 and under, this is exactly the way I feel 99.9% of the time. As a matter of fact, as soon as I get over this cold (yep, I'm still sick), I'll be outside, building my igloo.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Monday, January 21, 2008
Your life is an occasion. Rise to it.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
THE TWELVE FORM REJECTIONS
(inspired by The Twelve Days of Christmas)
In my twelfth form rejection, the letter said to me:
regarding (CAPS & BOLDFACE TITLE),
thanks for your submission,
we're so glad you thought of our house,
we're proud of ev'ry book we publish,
see Writer's Market for our guidelines,
due to the number of submissions,
we can't give personal suggestions,
though we strive for quick responses,
after careful consideration,
good luck in the future,
but this story doesn't fit our current needs.
So I cried for just a minute, and then
(surging with ambition)
tucked a self-addressed-stamped-envelope
into my next submission.
Cute, huh? Well, it seems to be the story of my life lately. But who knows what lies ahead in 2008? A book contract would be nice. To be continued...