Monday, September 29, 2008

Tales from the Conference: Writers are really Good Fairies! Good Fairy 101.

Remember in the movie Pinocchio when the Good Fairy floats through the window in her sparkly blue gown with her handy-dandy magic wand in tow? And POOF! She turns Pinocchio into a real boy.

Guess what!? That's us! Writers have a magical power. The power to breathe life into our characters.

My first break-out session at last weeks SCBWI Carolina's conference was with author, Stephanie Green. Her session was titled CPR FOR WRITERS.

I couldn't help but imagine my characters running around as little paper dolls looking up at the first bright light of evening (aka my computer screen) crying out "I want to be a real _______ (girl, boy, bad guy, etc.)" And with my trusty pen I point, aim and POOF! My paper dolls inflate like a balloon, their flesh fill out and voila! The Characters are no longer flat. They have been given life!

So, here's Good Fairy 101. Giving shape and life to your paper dolls:

Stephanie's major point was "motivation with emotion." Motivation is everything and it has to be strong and sincere.

ie: if your character wants to be popular. . . Why does she want to be popular? What is her motivation and the emotion behind the motivation. She has to have a good reason in order to be believable.

Stephanie gave a great writing exercise to help us conjure up emotions from our own childhood so we can use them in our writing. She suggested that we take 20 minutes (or whatever allotted time we choose) and write down memories from our childhood. Dig deep, try to find things forgotten and associate the emotions that go with those memories. Even things that may have seemed insignificant. You might be surprised at the results.

I was surprised to remember Christmas time, my cousin always brought a gift, year after year, with a tag labeled "To: Aunt Cecil"

I never met aunt Cecil. Aunt Cecil never can to our family gathering, yet my cousin always brought a gift. This Aunt Cecil was always a quiet mystery to me. Who was she? Why didn't she come? This wasn't an major part of my life, but it still stirred a great deal of curiosity within me. An air of mystery at Christmas time.

So, if you're ever having writers block, or are just in the mood for a writing exercise, this is a lot of fun!

hmmm. . . I think I need to go shopping for a tiara and a pen that looks like a magic wand. After all, a Good fairy isn't complete w/o such accessories! :0)

I can hear our paper dolls crying out to us now!

Happy Good Fairying!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tales From the Conference: The Stories behind the Stories. What I learned from Anita Silvey

Saturday morning started off with author, Anita Silvey giving us a little talk about Our Greatest Children's Books and the Stories Behind Them. First I was thinking "OK, how interesting can this be?"

Answer: VERY!

First of all, Anita if funny with a capitol PH! She could talk about how paint dries and she could make it funny or phunny. But this lady did her homework. The content, along with her speaking ability was pure delight. Here's some mini snippets from some of the things that she shared.

**** The following words are not verbatim. These are from my notes. Hopefully I wrote down the info correctly. If it's not, the error is in my note-taking, not in Anita's presentation.

1) Anne of Green Gables started out as a Sunday School story. Big publishers turned her down. When she went to a smaller publisher, they said they would publish the story, but they didn't think the story woudl sell well, so they offered to pay her a $500 flat fee. Luckily for her (and her estate), she turned them down.

2) The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahm = His editor HATED the book.

3) The Secret Garden = was considered an insignificant book in its time.

4) The Story of Ferdinand was meant to be a silly book, but because it was released during the war in Spain, it was taken to be political and it was analyzed as such.

5) Curious George was written by a Jewish German living in Paris. He and his wife had to wrap up his manuscripts, and ride their bikes out of the Country with the Nazi's 36 hours behind them all the way. When they arrived at the border, a German Guard stopped them for questioning. He asked what he did for a living. He replied "I'm a children's book writer." The guard asked to see his work, looked over the Curious George Manuscript, smiled and said "my son would love this book. You may pass through." So, Curious George literally saved the lives of his creators from the Nazi's.

6) The PB "The Carrot Seed" started out at over 10,000. No, that is not a typo with too many zero's. It really did start out at over 10,000 words. Now that's cutting down!

7) For Dr. Suess, No one would publish "To Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street" They all said his style was too different from the mainstream. He was about to burn his manuscript and give up writing when a chance meeting on the street brought him to the man who would go on to publish his book. He was known to say that if he had been walking on the other side of the street that day, he would have never been published and would have probably given up writing.

8) Gary Paulsen, the author of "Hatchet" didnt' put anything in his fiction that he hadn't tried himself.

9) Lois Lowry was encouraged not to write The Giver. They thought it would ruin her career.

10) Kate DiCamillo (author of "Because of Winn Dixie") was rejected over 4,000 times. Again, this isn't a typo. I'll type it again. 4,000 rejections. WOW! As a writer I don't know if I should be encouraged or discouraged!

I believe these stories (in more detail) along with many more are in Anita's book "100 Best Books for Children"

There was a lot more, but these are the ones that caught my attention the most. Anyone who was there, and would like to share anything else, please add it in the comments!
And the Lucky Winner of an Autographed copy of
LET MY PEOPLE GO IS . . . . . . .


Brenda, contact me via e-mail with your mailing address and I'll get that to you ASAP! :0)


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Book Giveaway and an Author Interview with Tilda Balsley

I'm going to take a short break from sharing my conference experiences so we can have another Author interview and BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Author, Tilda Balsley has graciously answered a few questions about writing and reading and her picture book LET MY PEOPLE GO.

I was impressed with this book. This is a humorous and catchy picture book in rhyme. It's fun and memorable!

Leave a comment in the "comment" section below, so you have a chance to win a free copy of LET MY PEOPLE GO!

Comments will be accepted up until this Saturday at Noon. After that I will pull out my trusty tupperware bowl and draw the name of our lucky winner.

Until then, enjoy our interview with Tilda.

On Writing:

1) Can you share a little bit about how "Let My People Go" came into being. (ie: slush pile, assignment, etc.)

I wrote "Let My People Go" (a readers' theater/picture book) specifically for the children at our church who were studying Passover. They decided to perform it during church. Several friends-- who knew I was writing and submitting children's books --said "Well, have you sent out this one?" So I did. I chose Kar-Ben because their turn around time was so much better than anywhere else and I was reaching a "discouraged" point with rejections. I never had to send it anywhere else. From the very beginning, Kar-Ben has been wonderful to work with. Within the next few years, they will publish two more of my books: a readers' theater for Purim about Esther and Mordechai, and a book for Hanukkah (rhyming but not readers' theater).

2) Did you find it difficult to convey such a serious subject into a PB format?
While writing it, my goal was a fun, easy to read and remember, rendition of the plagues. I felt removed from the human tragedy. However, once it was published and my three year old grandson was sitting on my lap looking at the "bloody" water, I was struck with the seriousness of the themes. I found myself skipping over some of the harsher aspects. I never really intended the book for a three year old audience--but I've found they love that NO! NO! NO!. (And of course, it's meant to allow even a toddler to participate in a family seder.)

3) What do you hope people will get out of "Let my People Go"?

As with every picture book, every reader (listener) enjoys and benefits in a different way. As a former reading teacher, I know that the readers' theater aspect will improve the fluency of beginning readers. For readers at Passover, I hope it will enrich their Seder experience. For all readers, I hope it will be lots of fun.

4) What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?

I always love writing rhyme.

5) Do you have a current work in progress that you can tell us about?

I just finished a humorous collection of poems written from a dog's point of view. Children's poetry can be hard to sell, but children love dogs, laughter and sillly rhyme, so I'm hopeful.

6) What advice would you like to impart to aspiring authors?

Read what you have written over and over and over. Each time, be open to revision. Aren't we lucky to have computers to make this process easier?

7) How about a writing schedule? Do you have one?

I do not have a strict schedule, but I do some kind of writing (editing or researching included) every day, usually starting before breakfast. I'm a "half an hour here-half an hour there" writer. It can go on all day with other stuff interspersed.

On Reading:

1) What books or authors have inspired you the most? I'm inspired by other picture book writers (and illustrators). I still love those "old" Dr. Seuss books like "The Foot Book" and "The Eye Book." And I love Shel Silverstein, Lauren Child (That Pesky Rat), Mem Fox (Tough Boris etc.), and scores of others. >

2) What is the last book that you've read?
I just read Wendell Berry's "Hannah Coulter." It was wonderful.

Thanks for your interest in my book.

Now . . . Start leaving those comments for a chance to win an autographed copy! :0)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tales from the Conference: My critique and Place your vote!

My SCBWI Carolina's conference experience started off with a 10 page critique with editor Martha Mahalick, editor at Greenwillow.

Martha gave me great insight and encouragement. On my current work in progress.

The encouragement: She said that what she read intrigued her and that she could tell that I had created a fully-realized world with interesting characters. My writing is smooth and dialogue flows naturally.
~squeal!~ That makes me happy.

But. . . . there's still work to be done.
1) my villian is too villiany, aka, too flat.
2) and she felt that some of the dialogue that included back story had too much info. There was a feeling that those sections of dialogue had a feeling of "too much info" for the readers benefit, instead of how people would really talk.

3) She thought I could give more thought to the Title. My original title was "The Search for the Charm Keepers" but she said that sounded more MG than YA. And though she wouldn't reject a piece based on a title, she said that there have been things that have come across her desk and the title alone made her want to pick it up and read it. So, if a better title can get an editors attention, you better bet your bippy that I'll work on it! :0)

So, what am I going to do to fix it?

1) I'm going to take my villian out for coffee and ask him about his childhood and what makes him tick. Why does he do what he does? How does he justify his actions, because surely he doesn't see himself as villian. How does he see himself? hmmmm. . . maybe I can get him a spot on Oprah, I'm sure she can get him to spill his gutts.

2) I'm not quite sure how to fix dialogue. The first step is to go through it again, find the places that need to be fixed and have my critique group do that too, and then go from there. If anyone has any advice on how to fix dialogue, please leave it in the comments. Any in put is appreciated.

and last #3) The title. I think I've decided on a new title "Unseen Enemy"
Do you like it? Cast your vote now!

Not onlly does Martha have great advice, but she has an awesome collection of shoes as well! and she says, I quote, "I think cute shoes are the secret to world domination."

Friday, September 19, 2008

SCBWI Carolina's 16th Annual Conference Day is Here!

Conference Day is Here! The count down clock is set to mark my first scheduled activity, which is a 10 page critique with Martha Mihalick, editor at Greenwillow. I'll be sure to take lots of notes, and pictures and I'll take time to blog about all the things I learn!!!! I'm so excited. I love conference time! :0)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Love your blog Award Nominations!

Brenda - has awarded me the "I Love Your Blog" award! Thank you Brenda! That made my day! :0) I do LOVE Brenda's blog about writing and her Going Green tips, but since I'm supposed to pass on the award, I don't think I'm allowed to pass it back to her. but if I could, I would. :0)

Here are the rules...

1) Add the logo of your award to your blog.
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3) Nominate at least seven other blogs.
4) Add links to those blogs on your blogs.
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.

And now I get to nominate 7 other blogs for the here goes These are the blogs I love:

YA Fresh = authors Kelly Parra and Tina Ferraro talk up all things YA and have fun contests with book giveaways. They are generous and funny! I love what they do!

The Bookshelf Muse = Becca and Angela probably already received this award, but for all the hard work they do on their emotion and setting thesauraus, they deserve the award again!

Jacqui's Room = Author Jacqui Robbins posts pert' near every day about books, writing and life in general and manages to keep me laughing!

Trees are not Lollipops = This is Kate's blog about life, art and writing. Her title alone captured me! It makes me smile every time I look at her logo. :0) I'm smiling right now just thinking about it.

Roots in Myth = Author PJ Hoover shares tips on writing and insights into her writing journey.

Writermorphosis = I'm proud to say that Janelle is a critique buddy of mine and a very talented writer. She was a Cybils judge last year and writes insightful posts about writing and books. Her last post cracked me up!

Ian Sands = Another one of my critique buddies, Ian is crazy-genius creative! His imagination is inspiring!

Thanks for the great blog-reads guys!

I've been meme'd

I've been tagged in a Meme by Brenda. I'm supposed to tag some people too, so I'll tag Karen Lee, Janelle, Beth, Kathy, Kia, Jacqui, and and I'd tag Ian too, but he never responds to these kind of things . :0P

So, here's my answers

  1. What are your nicknames? My brother calls me Chris. That's about it.
  2. What game show and/or reality show would you like to be on? I'd like to be on What not to wear. It would be humiliating at first, but to get a $5,000 shopping trip and makeover in New York . . . . . who cares! :0)
  3. What was the first movie you bought in VHS or DVD? 1st VHS was Bird on a Wire w/ Goldie Hawn and Mel Gibson
  4. What is your favorite scent? Vanilla or coconut
  5. If you had a million dollars that you could only spend on yourself, what would you do with it?
    I'd buy a beach house.
  6. What one place have you visited that you can't forget and want to go back to? France
  7. Do you trust easily? Nope.
  8. Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think? depends
  9. Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days? What me? Unhappy? No way! I'm a little ball of sunshine! :0)
  10. Do you have a good body image? nope. I avoid full length mirrors at all costs and cringe when I see a photo.
  11. What is your favorite fruit? blueberries or strawberries
  12. What websites do you visit daily? facebook
  13. What have you been seriously addicted to lately? skinny Vanilla lattees from starbucks
  14. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is? thrifty, earth conscious, smart, funny, and strong.
  15. What's the last song that got stuck in your head? Jenny Says by Cowboy mouth
  16. What's your favorite item of clothing? Yoga pants and a t-shirt
  17. Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy?sure
  18. What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground? first I'd see if it belonged to anyone else. If there were a lost and found, I'd return it. If not, I'd pocket it.
  19. What items could you not go without during the day? my laptop, my car and wireless internet. hmmmmm. . . maybe I should forget about becoming Amish.
  20. What should you be doing right now? There's always stuff that needs to be done, but since it's 11:00 at night, I think I'm safe to say there's nothing else I SHOULD be doing now.

Seeing Through the Eyes of a Child: Object and Word Association

As parents or adults, we love to hear the cute ways kids use words in unusual ways. They use words in the way that they understand them. They have yet to learn appropriate context. As writers this gives us opportunity to relearn our world. Break out of the box of appropriate context.

Some recent examples from my house:

My 4 year old uses the word "timber" in place of "fall". ie: "I timbered off the chair."
No, we are not a family of lumber jacks. I have no idea where she got this.

My 2 year old calls polka dots "bubbles"
When I pull out a polka dot dress or shirt she gushes "Oohhhh! I like bubbles!" When I try to tell her they are polka dots, she adamantly exclaims, "No! Bubbles!"

And the other night my 4 year old prayed that her older sister would get 100 percent on her spelling test. Instead it came out "Dear God, please help my sister get 100 tents on her spelling test."

So, here's your creative challenge for the day. Try to think about the words and objects that you encounter throughout your day. How could a child precieve them?

Or please! Share some of your "cute" kid association stories to help get us in a creative frame of mind.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Setting your imagination free! Creative exercise. What turns your creative wheels?

These pictures were snapped a couple of years ago in the early spring. I pass by this location often and I am always compelled to the scene. I've never known why. I get the same feeling whenever I go into an antique store or see any run-down barn.

Most people would see this as an eyesore. But to me, there's something that draws me in. I don't want to live in one, but I sure like to look at it.

Then, earlier this week I was reading a blog post by Kathleen Duey. She posted a picture of some ruins from a trip where she could see one of her characters "shivering" (if I remember correctly.)

Reading her post was like switching on a light! I figured out why I'm so drawn to these locations. Old places: ruins, run down barns, antiques -- they trigger my imagination. There is a story that my mind wants me to see. There are stories in these old places and wheels in my mind start turning, wanting to speculate what might have happened.

I sat down, concentrated on the pictures and let my imagination go free. What was my creativity trying to show me?

This is what I came up with:

olden times scene:
I see a young girl, barefoot with golden pigtails and an aproned frock. Her brother is in overalls putting down his work pale and chasing a frog. Avoiding chores due to the carefree abandon inherent to childhood.

Modern scene: A runaway teen seeks shelter on a rainy evening, but when she enters the abandoned barn, she finds much more . . . . .

There. Whew! My brain feels so much better now.

So, answer me this

what kind of places set your creative wheels to turning? And/Or What do you see in my pictures?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tutored By the Tale: hooking a reluctant reader - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

"I don't usually get into Sci-fi." "I don't usually get into ghost stories."

I found myself saying these two phrases this past week after finishing "The Seer of Shadows" by Avi (ghost story) and starting "The Adoration of Jenna Fox" by Mary Pearson (sci-fi).

However, looooved Seer of Shadows. Couldn't put it down. And I'm totally inspired by The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

I'm not the only one who has made such statements. So I asked myself "Self, what makes someone like a book that is in a genre that doesn't usually hook them?"

I thought of a blog that I posted a little while back about combining rhetoric and literature to draw a reader into the story. You can click here if you're interested in reading my thoughts on that post. If not. The basic premise was this "Start your story on common ground; a place where the author, characters and the reader find themselves in familiar territory."

Both of these books are perfect examples of that thought. So, I disected the begining of these books to see what they had in common. How do these books create a "common ground"

Here's what I came up with:

Setting: Though none of us have been to 19th century New York, and few of us (if any) have woken from a trauma induced coma, they set the scene in a way that a reader can, at the very least, create their own view of what the scene looks like.

1st Pesron Narrative: I think the books point of view should be whatever tells the story best. In these cases, I think the 1st person narrative was a good choice because it helped me to put myself into the protagonists shoes. 1st person gives us a more intimate knowledge into the mind of our character. It helps put "us' in the story, even though it's a place or a circumstance to which we can not relate.

Hints of what is to come: Within the 1st page of the book there are many hints of what is to come. Although Avi's "ghost" doesn't show up til many chapter into the book, there are a lot of hints and descriptions that set the reader up for what is to come.

Jenna Fox hints at problems, situtation, confict, etc. I'm not finished with it yet, so I don't know what all it hints at. But I know hints when I see'em and them there iz hints if I've ever seen'em! :0)

So, these tales have tutored me in this: Don't whiplash your reader into a new world or a strange circumstance. Start at a place where they can understand, set them up with hints and reel'em in nice and steady. Don't give them whiplash. :0)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ain't nuttin' like a good book! What are some books that you didn't want to put down?

Make-up is off, pony tail is up, candles lit, pillows plumped, kids in bed, tea is made. I'm ready to dive into a book that I picked up at the library today.

I'm rather excited because I love to read, but I've been in a reading rutt. For the last year my goal was to read at least 4 books a month. Many months I exceeded that goal. I've given up t.v. time so I can read and write.

The problem is, I'm a little burnt out now. I love to read, but for about 2 months I've picked books up at the library. Good books, but I just couldn't get into them. I'd read a couple of chapters, and then return them, unfinished, until I could find a book that would draw me in and capture me. I'm in a mood for that type of book. a "Capture" book

I love a book that can take me away to a different time, a different place. A book that can make me forget the here and now and take me on an unforgettable journey. A book that I get excited to read and don't want to put down. It's been a long time since I've been able to find a book like that. Well, a long time for me. like 2 months.

Dear friends, I am happy to say that I've finally found a book to break me out of my rutt. It's "The Seer of Shadows" by Avi. I'm sure I'll write a review when Im done.

As for now, I don't want to type anymore. I want to get back to my book!!!!!!!!!

Oh, and I was wondering, what are some books that have captured you? Books that you haven't wanted to put down? After all, I'll need some suggestions for when I finish this book (which may be very soon. Like tomorrow.) What are some of your "Capture" books?