Thursday, January 27, 2011

Win, Win, Win Your Words

Today's Grain of Gratitude: I'm thankful I'm employed. I'm thankful for my education and my mind. I'm thankful I can read. I'm thankful for my passions. I'm thankful that I found Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge in my local library. I CAN change my life. I CAN live out my dreams!

It's high time I pick up the pace and announce several winners of the rowing, I mean writing, race. First of all, I'd like to thank all my lovely followers who read my blog each week and comment. The winners to my monthly picture book contest for November and December are:
  • November - A Princess Tells You What to Do by Catherine Denton
  • December - A Monster in Your Yard by Jerone Agee
  • There were no entrants for January. 
Congratulations! Thanks so much to all who entered. And I do sincerely apologize for being so terribly late. I hate to make excuses, but I did start working full time, and it was the holidays. You can expect your critiques by Valentine's Day. 

February is almost here, and I invite all of you to enter the picture book contest this month. I had said that when I gained 100 followers I would do something special, and I didn't. So now I'm nearly to 200 followers, which I never even imagined a year ago. February is my anniversary month, the 10th to be exact, and I feel compelled to offer the extraordinary. A contest like none other I've ever offered. The contest will last all month. I'll kick if off on February 1st, as I'm still working out the details. No, it's not agent representation or even $50, but it'll still be cool. Cool enough, anyway. Because you guys are cool.

Keep on keepin' on!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Once Upon a Twice, the best nonsense-verse story ever

I promised Denise Doyen that I would make a YouTube video of me reading her book, Once Upon a Twice. And I finally did. Please take six minutes out of your day to honor her by listening to my reading of this awesome book. I absolutely LOVE the language! It's ingenious. Enjoy!

Monday, January 24, 2011

100 Years and Still Popular

Tonight I read The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes by Beatrix Potter to my daughter. The original book was published in 1911, 100 years ago. Wow! I've never really been a fan of Beatrix Potter, although I know someone who is a HUGE fan! I didn't really grow up on her stories, other than the most popular of all, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, of course. Despite my childhood lack of interest, she is still considered one of the most classic children's book authors (and illustrators) of all time.

So what can we as writers take away from my 100-year celebration of Potter's Timmy Tiptoes? The elements of all good fiction:

  • likable characters (The squirrel, Timmy Tiptoes.)
  • action (Collecting nuts.)
  • plot (How will he ever fit down the hole to collect the nuts? Why, he'll be much thinner after winter, of course!)
  • conflict (the birds cause the other squirrels to think Timmy Tiptoes took their nuts)
  • literary genius (I love how the birds' songs are meant to mimic actual bird songs.)
  • suspense (How will he be freed? Will his wife, Goody, ever find him? What is that little chipmunk up to?)
  • resolution (A storm chops off the top of the tree and Timmy Tiptoes escapes.)
Do you have a favorite Potter book? Which element of story-telling does it exemplify the most for you?

Keep on keepin' on!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Writing Time

Time, Energy, and Focus...

When I have the time to write, I often lack the focus.
When I have the energy to write, I often lack the time.
When I have the focus to write, I often lack the energy.

So if my blog suffers slightly because of it and I don't have exactly three posts on exactly three topics on exactly Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, it's probably because I'm watching TV with my son and laughing my head off. Or maybe because I'm at gymnastics with my kids AND the grocery store on the same night. Or maybe because I actually ran two miles in the morning and cooked dinner that night.

Whatever the excuse, it's truly not because I don't want to, but the laundry has to be done, the dishes have to be washed, and the bills have to get paid. Shucks, really? I had the whole day off, for once, (and my children had to use today to make up snow days) and I STILL didn't do any writing. Alas, I whine, but the feeling may always be there...that there is never enough time or energy or focus. Mostly time. Then energy. Then focus. But I AM writing now. So right now, I have all three, and that is a good thing.

  • Today's writing tip: Even if it's just TEN minutes, take time to write. (That's how long it took me to write this post.) Maybe fifteen...
  • Today's grain of gratitude: That I had some time alone with my husband. Now I don't feel guilty about taking some time alone to write.

What about you guys? How do you find more time and energy to write?

Keep on keepin' on...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stylish Blogger Friends!

I won a blog award!  Thanks, Joanne, over at Figuring Out the Small Stuff!

This is how this fun award works:
1.  Thank and link back to the person who honoured you with this award.
2.  Share 7 things about yourself.
3.  Award 15 recently discovered groovy bloggers.
4.  Contact these bloggers and tell them about their award.
My seven things:
  1. My daughter (who is four) and I got our hair cut Saturday night. We only get it trimmed once or twice a year.
  2. It's supposed to snow here for the next 36 hours.
  3. My Christmas tree is still up.
  4. I love going to school. I've been to college twice and I'm thinking of taking a certification class online. Either teaching or technology related, or both. 
  5. I don't have a goal weight, but rather a goal size: 10! From a 14, that's only two sizes to go...
  6. My writing desk doesn't even have a pencil cup!
  7. I wish everyone in the world cared enough about Earth to want to save the rainforests.
At long last, here's who I choose to give this award to:
  1. Faith, blogger of Literary Coldcuts on Toasty Buns, a cool-looking blog that's been around since 2008. Lots of cool stuff.
  2. Alison Pearce Stevens, author of science and fiction, but not both...
  3. Alyson Peterson at Crazy Writer Girl - she is humorous and spunky.
  4. Sarah Frances Hardy at her new blog, Picture This, a fellow picture book blogger :)
  5. K. D. Anderson at her new blog for YA
  6. Mrs. P. Ripp at Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension. She's a 4th grade teacher (my favorite grade, by the way)!
  7. My Word is an Oyster - Lydia Kang talks about writing and mixes in medicine
  8. Jest Kept Secret - She participates in the Road Trip Wednesday, and interviews writers BTWP (before they were published).
  9. Coffee Rings Everywhere - Rayna M. Iyer from Bombay India, on writing and being a mother
  10. Dooley Noted - Sarah Dooley is the debut author of Livvie Owen Lived Here.
  11. The Picture Book Junkies Blog - a group of 5 professional illustrators!
  12. Picture Books and Jolliness with Heather Kephart, (master of web/blog design)... and writing...
  13. Natalie Whipple at Between Fact and Fiction. She writes YA and is repped by agent Anna Webman of Curtis Brown, LTD.
  14. Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares - the name says it all
  15. The Miss Rumphius Effect - a teacher and librarian discusses POETRY. Lots of great blogrolls on the sidebar, too. Many famous writers and poets frequent this blog!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Writing Stress

I'm thankful for my writing stress, for that means that I have a lot of ideas and a lot of goals, just never enough time. The stress to get it all done. The stress to find time to fit it in. The stress to accomplish anything writing related. But somehow, I manage to get bits and pieces of writing in here and there.

My husband has come up with a way to pay off our 30-year mortgage, in which we still owe 25 years, in 7 years. That means, if all goes according to plan, we will have paid (I mean HE will have paid) a 30-year mortgage off in about 12 years! Wow! And then I can work part-time! Yippee!!!!!!

Today's writing tip is on story length and word count, kind of. I'm not sure if I've written about this before, but it's good enough and short enough to repeat. Also not sure if it applies to all written pieces of fiction, or just picture books. Think of your story in five chunks. The beginning should be 1/5 of the total. The middle should be 3/5. And the ending should be 1/5. Not sure where I heard it, but it does seem to be a good rule of thumb.

(I edited this blog post and put my blog award on its own separate post. That's why some of the comments here may not make sense.)

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Two Great Books - Are You Clever Enough?

    Today I would like to recommend:

    1. Mazeways: A to Z  by Roxie Munro
    2. You Read to Me, I'll Read to You  by Mary Ann Hoberman
    Mazeways is lots of fun and teaches vocabulary and problem-solving skills. My four-year-old LOVES this book!!! 

    You Read to Me... is a book where the left-hand side of each silly kid poem (in blue, or maybe red) is read by one person, and the right-hand side (in red, or maybe blue) is read by the other person. The parts in the middle are in purple and are to be read by both readers. I can't believe my first grader picked it out. He read two of them with me for our bed-time story. Cool! 

    These books get a 4-clover rating from kids, parents, and teachers, and a three-clover rating from writers. If you've read either of them, how do you rate them? Are you clever enough to come up with your own book that will earn a four-clover rating? Which one would you be more likely to check out of the library? I checked out Mazeways, but may be buying it. I already own You Read to Me, I'll Read to You.

    Keep on keepin' on!

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    How to Write: One Day at a Time

    What I learned this weekend is that writing is still slow, no matter how fast you want it to go. And no matter all the normal setbacks of life, writing your masterpiece (whether a novel, a picture book, or a magazine piece) is still accomplished one word at a time.

    why is writing so slow? || slow is good | snails are slow | snail mail | how to write faster

    How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you build a successful writing career? One story at a time. How do you write your stories? One word at a time. This may seem simplistic, or even redundant, but it bears repeating. Working full-time definitely puts a kink in my writing life. I'm still adjusting, and it's only been two months. But then there were the holidays.

    Once I get organized (one scrap of paper at a time), I'll feel like I can breathe again. Then I'll be able to finally critique five short stories in a month again. Hope you gals over at Story Swappers and Writer Exchange can forgive me...

    So what am I thankful for today? 

    Anything slow: snails, school buses, pot roast, the living room painting project, and my kids getting ready for bed.

    Sometimes slow is good.

    Writing takes years to perfect, years to break into print, and years to feel like you've "arrived." And that's okay. If you're in it because you love it, then you're in for the long haul. You got this! One day, one story, one word... at a time.

    When your desk is cluttered, it's hard to focus and get anything done. You've come to a standstill - slower than a snail. To speed up and get back to work again, you have to declutter. So, take an hour to go through all your papers. Tidy up your office. Get organized. Decluttering adds speed to the writing process. And who wouldn't like to be a little faster from time to time?

    Which brings me to the fact that I'm also thankful for fast things, like high-speed internet. And all my wonderful blogger friends and followers - even if you're a little slow like me.

    What do you tell yourself when you feel unorganized and you can't breathe and all you want to do is write, but you just can't until you declutter? 

    Keep on keepin' on...

    Saturday, January 1, 2011

    HIGH FIVE #3: Interview with Deborah Freedman, author of Scribble


    Welcome back to HIGH FIVE, the monthly interview with debut picture book authors.

    This month's HIGH FIVE goes to Deborah Freedman, author of Scribble, published in 2007. She also has a second book coming out this September, Blue Chicken.
    ISBN: 9780375839665
    Published in Hebrew by Iguana Publishers
    Emma loves to draw princesses. Her little sister Lucie prefers kitties. Emma and Lucie might not always get along, but can their drawings? Deborah Freedman makes a wholly original picture-book debut with this charming story of two sisters and their scribbling rivalry.
          1. What are three of your favorite picture books (because we all know you really have way more than three)?

    This is a really mean question! I am an obsessive and unrepentant picture book collector with books in every room of my house.  So maybe I’ll offer up three that don’t appear so often, have inimitable voices, and make me smile:
    1. Charlotte and the White Horse, by Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak
    2. Hey Willy See the Pyramids, by Maira Kalman
    3. The Shrinking of Treehorn, by Florence Parry Heide and Edward Gorey
          2. Every room, really? Wow! I’ll have to check out your faves; I’ve never heard of them. How did you come up with the idea for your debut book? Do you have anything in the works that is NOT a picture book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it? If not, can you tell us about one of your other picture books?

    Scribble was based on ideas that had been simmering for years. Like most parents, I fell in love with my children’s first drawings, and like a lot of artists, I’m inspired by children's drawings and have always wished that I could be that loose, that imaginative. One of the things I love about the art of young children is that so often there is a wonderful narrative that goes with it; I know that my own kids often asked me to write little descriptions or stories down at the bottom of their pictures. After years of looking at and thinking about their artwork, one day I had an idea for a book - about two sisters who draw together, and the story behind their drawings.

    Except for my blog, writes with pictures, an eclectic place where I play around and test out different ideas, no, I haven’t been working lately on anything but picture books. The pb is just “my” format – I love playing with words and pictures together, and always have several projects on my desk at any one time. My next book, Blue Chicken, is what has occupied me for the past many months. It’s about a chicken who wants to help paint the barn, but ends up making a huge mess. I’ve had tons of fun with the art for this book, finding all sorts of different ways to splash paint around! But like my chicken, I’ve made a mess, and now I have to clean up my blue-splattered studio. The chicken has been making small appearances on my blog, and will continue to visit until the book is released by Viking next September.

    3.       You’re books sound wonderful! Can’t wait to see them both, as well as a third! Will you share your top three tips for writers about writing, publishing, or whatever you have learned along the way that stands out as being very important, but no one ever tells you about?

    Hmmm… I feel a little silly giving “tips”, as though I have things figured out. I wish! But here are three things I’ve learned so far:
    1. Don’t ever think of any time spent working or any rejection as a waste. Even if your writing ends up in a drawer or the garbage or wherever.  The process is important, growth happens, carry on.
    2. We all have heard that writers need to persevere and grow thick skins if they want to be published. But we also need those things after a book is sold as well. Publishing requires a lot of stamina and resilience at every stage, through the editorial process, publication, and beyond – the challenges don’t get easier, they just change!
    3. Be patient. Some of us take years to find our voices.  But a true voice is worth waiting for.
    4.       All great tips. Thanks! Can teachers use your book in the classroom? Do you have any additional resources available for teachers?

    It always makes me really happy to hear about teachers and museum educators using Scribble, in lessons about art or visual literacy, or feelings, or story structure. And I do enjoy visiting schools and museums, especially since my baby is a teen now and I don’t get to be around young children very much otherwise – I need a hit of that creative exuberance every once in a while! I talk a bit about my presentations and workshops on my website, where I also have coloring pages, reading suggestions, and links to other sites that have come up with terrific ideas for using Scribble (including Reading Rockets and Curriculum Connections) at home or in the classroom. I am about to begin working on curriculum guides for both of my books.

    5.       Your three coloring pages are great! They allow the child to insert their own drawings. What advice can you give parents about creating literate children? Did you read picture books to your own children?

    I couldn’t wait to start reading to my children; my husband and I read to all four well into their teens, and now we still love to share books. As soon as my babies were able to hold up their sweet heads, I popped them into a snugglie and walked to the local library. Of course reading to an infant is more about cuddling than anything else, but at some point a baby or toddler will associate that closeness with a book. So literacy can evolve from intimacy…I like that!

    Thanks so much, Deborah, for joining us today. It was fun. I wish you all the best of luck this year with your writing! Does anyone have an additional question for Deborah?


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