Friday, December 30, 2011

Storyteller's Journey

   Goals - not resolutions - for 2012

Many years ago, on New Year's Eve, my husband and I decided to make goals for the coming year - rather than resolutions. Since that time  these annual goals have had a much higher rate of success than their previous resolutions! So, with that in mind, I decided to make goals specific to my writing career - here they are:

1- Write consistently. Attempt to write 1,000 words a day - five days a week.

2- Send in my MG manuscript, Livvie Biddle, to an agent - no later than April.

3- Do a major rewrite on my picture book, The Scandinavian Santa. Tighten the text as much as possible to reduce the word count.

4- Look in to self publishing the PB as a Storybook. (Even if I reduce the word count - it will still be too high for today's PB market.)

5- Rewrite my MG manuscript, The Tale of Willaby Creek. (This story is one I am very fond of - if I can tighten the text and make a few more changes, I may submit this ms in the Fall.)

6- Rewrite the second book of Livvie Biddle that was thrown on the page during NaNoWriMo!

7- Attend another writers' conference. I would like to attend the SCBWI annual conference in Los Angeles in August. However, the regional SCBWI retreat I attended last October, in Oregon, was a blast!

8- Begin researching for the later stories in my Livvie Biddle series.

9- Continue networking with other writers - both online, and at writer events.

10- Get represented by an agent! If this goal is attained I will be ecstatic. (Notice: I didn't mention getting published in 2012 - I'm too realistic for that! Maybe 2013.)

One reason I have put these goals on my blog for my followers to see, is that it places a bit of self-imposed pressure on me!

Do you have any writer goals, or resolutions, for yourself in 2012?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bibliophile's Corner

by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Flap Copy description:
Eleven-year-old Marty Preston loves to spend time up in the hills behind his home near Friendly, West Virginia. Sometimes he takes his .22 rifle to see what he can shoot, like some cans lined up on a rail fence. Other times he goes up early in the morning just to sit and watch the fox and deer.

But one summer Sunday, Marty comes across something different on the road just past the old Shiloh schoolhouse - a young beagle - and the trouble begins.

What do you do when a dog you suspect is being mistreated runs away and comes to you? When it's someone else's dog? When the man who owns him has a gun? This is Marty's problem, and he finds it is one he has to face alone. When his situation gets too big for him to handle, things become more frightening still. Marty puts his courage on the line, and discovers in the process that it is not always easy to separate right from wrong. Sometimes, however, you do almost anything to save a dog.

My thoughts:
Shiloh is a middle grade novel set in the back woods of West Virginia. The heart-felt tale deals with the complexities of making difficult choices as an adolescent in an adult world. The plot and character development were somewhat weak and the pace a bit slow for me. However, the insight to the main character's heart was wonderful! Ms. Naylor won the Newbery Medal Award for Shiloh in 1992. I would recommend this book to the young reader who loves animals.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Incredible Inspiration

Public Domain

Merry Christmas!

Thanks to my blogging, twitter, and facebook friends!

May you and yours have a very Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Storyteller's Journey

                Emphasis on Editing

To give myself the best chance of attracting the attention of an agent, I have decided to look in to possibly hiring an editor. Two of my writer friends have already tapped in to the talents of two different literary editors. It seems that with all of the well documented changes in the publishing world, there is another one to add to the mix: Less editing done by agents and publishers; more editing done by the writer prior to submission. (Including hiring a personal editor.) Since I am a pre-published writer, I have very little knowledge of the "good old days" in publishing. However, it seems that in the present book market the traditional publishing house demands a near market-ready manuscript; with the explosion in the number of would-be authors, they can afford to be extremely selective. Most agents are  inundated with submissions and are all too familiar with the demands of the publishers; they too can afford to be very selective. Consequently, the writer must somehow set herself apart from the other enthusiastic and talented writers; having her manuscript edited prior to submission is one possible way to rise to the top of the agent's stack of submissions.

Have you ever employed, or would you employ, a literary editor?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Whimsical Word of the Week

Yuletide -

The Christmas season.

(Period extending from December 24th to January 6th.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bibliophile's Corner

by Roald Dahl

Flap Copy description:
Matilda is a genius. Unfortunately her family treats her like a dolt. Her crooked car-salesman father and loud bingo-obsessed mother think Matilda's only talent is as a scapegoat for everything that goes wrong in their miserable lives. But it's not long before the sweet and sensitive child decides to fight back. Faced with practical jokes of sheer brilliance, her parents don't stand a chance.
The "Trunchbull," however, is a different story. Miss Trunchbull, ex-Olympic hammer thrower and headmistress of Matilda's school, has terrorized generations of Crunchem Hall students - and teachers. But when she goes after sweet Miss Honey, the one teacher who believes in Matilda, she goes too far.

My thoughts:
The award-winning author, Roald Dahl, was truly inspired when he wrote the classic - Matilda. The precocious pranks and hilarious humor in this middle-grade novel are woven together with the element of the little guy (little girl, in this case) taking down the big bully. I laughed out loud while reading this wonderful book! I would highly recommend Matilda to readers of all ages.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Incredible Inspiration

Our sons: Brian, Kevin, and David
 A Yuletide Message:

"Remember amidst the blogging, texting, and tweeting-
To not forget the laughing, loving, and singing!"


All the best to you and yours!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Storyteller's Journey

An Important Source of Inspiration

Reading is an important source of inspiration for me. However, it wasn't until last month, when I participated in NaNoWriMo, that I realized just how much I truly need it to write. Due to the higher amounts of writing time I spent in November, my reading time dropped to nearly nothing - I read only two MG books last month. I felt like I was operating on little or no energy emotionally, as well as creatively. Once I began reading regularly again, earlier this month, I felt like I was back to normal. I've always thought of reading and writing like breathing in and out; most authors and other literary types agree - to be a decent writer you must read regularly. I wholeheartedly agree. I also find that reading, especially in the genre I'm most interesting in as a writer, is a great way to stay abreast of the current children's book market. However, reading a wide variety of books - including adult novels - is like a feast for the mind, and the soul.

As a writer - do you read your genre, another genre, adult novels, or all three?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Whimsical Word of the Week

Humbug -

1 -Something that is silly or makes no sense.

2 -Something that is meant to deceive or cheat people.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bibliophile's Corner

The View from Saturday - by E.L. Konigsburg

Back Cover description:
*Noah, who quite by accident was best man at the wedding of Ethan's grandmother and Nadia's grandfather.
*Nadia, a hybrid with a halo of red hair, a dog that's a genius, and a fondness for baby turtles.
*Ethan, the silent second son of one of Epiphany's oldest families, who discovers he likes halos.
*Julian, the strangest person on the school bus, who starts everything by inviting the others to a tea party.

How did Mrs. Olinski, returning to teaching ten years after being paralyzed in an automobile accident, choose these four to be her sixth-grade Academic Bowl team? And how did this unlikely foursome become even unlikelier champions, in far more than just the state middle school championship? The View from Saturday is a rich and rewarding journey that answers these questions and raises many more.

My thoughts:
The View from Saturday is a remarkable middle grade novel written by E.L. Konigsburg - she won the Newbery Medal Award for this book in 1997. The author skillfully weaves colorful characters into a plot that tugs at the heart, and challenges the mind. This book touches deeply on many life issues - I would strongly recommend it to readers of all ages.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Incredible Inspiration

Sunshine cannot bleach the snow,

Nor time unmake what poets know.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, December 9, 2011

Storyteller's Journey

I Should Have Learned Juggling First!

Writing is a bit like juggling...don't you agree? Think about it - you must balance a number of items simultaneously: writing, blogging, networking, rewriting, revising, querying, and submitting are just the beginning to the juggling act. The published author (I assume) must deal with a lot more marketing, daunting deadlines, possible speaking engagements, etc. Right now I feel like I'm juggling all I can handle - but to have the opportunity to possibly be repped, it's time to add another ball to my act! I have just begun looking for a local literary editor to polish my WIP before I submit to an agent. I'm also working on giving my blog a minor makeover before the end of the year. I've always been a decent multi-tasker; it's not the work - it's knowing how to properly prioritize my writer's tasks. To be honest I think I've spent too much time writing and not enough time submitting. I've written three manuscripts and sent out one query letter - to one agent. (And - received one rejection letter!) However, and this is a big however, two of the three stories need minor to major work before submitting. One thing I've learned is to fully complete one manuscript, before starting another. (I  know - what was I thinking?! ^_^)

I would love to hear your thoughts on juggling all the aspects of being a writer!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bibliophile's Corner

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
by Jacqueline Kelly

Flap Copy description:
     The summer of 1899 is hot in Calpurnia's sleepy Texas town, and there aren't a lot of good ways to stay cool. Her mother has a new wind machine from town, but Callie might just have to resort to stealthily cutting off her hair, one sneaky inch at a time. She also spends a lot of time at the river with her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist. It turns out that every drop of river water is teeming with life - all you have to do is look through a microscope!
     As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and learns just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.

My thoughts:
Jacqueline Kelly's debut novel The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, will tug at your heart at every turn. Written in first person, the main character, Callie, finds a shelter of solace in her eccentric grandfather as she looks to a new and uncertain century for young women - especially if their dreams include science. Ms. Kelly's character development, dialogue, and pace are perfect. She won a Newbery Honor Award for her brilliant effort. I would highly recommend this book to all middle grade girls - especially those who enjoyed the character of "Jo" in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Incredible Inspiration

Remember, this December, that love
weighs more than gold.

Josephine Dodge Dasham Bacon

Friday, December 2, 2011

Storyteller's Journey

     A Newbie's Nod to NaNoWriMo

It goes without saying that to complete the required 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo takes more than a lot of writing - a good bit of discipline and organization are helpful as well! Prior to commencing with the manuscript madness I decided to do some research, make an outline, and develop my characters. This was extremely helpful; all went well until I finished my MG draft with only 32,000 words to show for it! After that I had to begin a sequel; with no outline or research done - I had severed the tie to any kind of prepared writing - and was free writing! Since I am a type A person, this was extremely disconcerting. The funny part about it was that some of the text was - as I had expected - horrible. However, some of the text was brilliant. What I learned from this unexpected turn of events was that I need to loosen up a bit; allow some spontaneity to season my writing.

For any of you truly sane writers out there who have never plunged into the National Novel Writing Month pool... a few suggestions:

1- Do it! At least once. It will give you a glimpse at what it takes day in and day out to be a professional writer. During the month of November my average daily word count was about 2,000 words. Stephen King writes at least 2,000 words everyday...everyday!
(Is that really what I have signed up for?! ^_^ I think so.)
2- Aim for writing between 1,800 and 2,000 words instead of the basic 1,667. If you do that you will be able to celebrate Thanksgiving - without writing! I actually took two days off, and finished two days early. Aiming high lessens the stress - that way you can concentrate on writing, and not word count.
3-Prior to November - Prepare by doing your research, making an outline, and, if you have the time, doing an in depth development of your cast of characters. Knowing your characters really well is a great way to create an idea if writer's block should set in.
(Or you miscalculate your outline! ^_^)
4- Finally, join a NaNoWriMo support group. I participated in two FB groups during the month of November. In both groups, the members have bonded so much that we are all going to continue networking throughout the year - discussing things pertaining to writing, and also just as a place to say hello to friends.

After taking a few days off to recover from the intense typing I'll start some more research for my tentatively planned MG series, and then do a rewrite of my WIP.
Congratulations to all those who participated in NaNoWriMo!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bibliophile's Corner

by Aprilynne Pike

Flap Copy description:
"I don't do patrols, I don't go hunting, I just stick close to you. You live your life, I'll keep you safe," Tamani said, sweeping a lock of hair from her face. "Or die trying."

Laurel hasn't seen Tamani since she begged him to let her go last year. Though her heart still aches, Laurel is confident that David was the right choice.
But just as life returns to normal, Laurel realizes that a hidden enemy lies in wait. Once again, Laurel must turn to Tamani to protect and guide her, for the danger that now threatens Avalon is one that no faerie thought would ever be possible. And for the first time, Laurel cannot be sure that her side will prevail.

My thoughts:
Illusions is the third book in Aprilynne Pike's series about Laurel - a teenage faerie. Like the first two books - Wings and Spells - this story has colorful characters and an entertaining plot. All three books, I believe, would be appropriate for readers from fourteen and up. Illusions is a popular choice at our community library; I had to wait for two months for it to become available to check out!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Incredible Inspiration

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.

Edward Stanford Martin

Friday, November 25, 2011

Storyteller's Journey

          Tip #6 - Join the SCBWI

The previous tips I gleaned from the speakers' presentations at the SCBWI conference I attended last month. This last tip, comes from my own wonderful experience.
Joining the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators has turned out to be a great investment. For a modest membership fee you receive regular updates of the latest news in children's literature, which includes: writing tips, opportunities for grants, scholarships, and awards; not to mention the open invitation to attend a number of writers' conferences around the country, some open only to SCBWI members. You're also informed of new and upcoming authors; as well as great links to agents and editors. One of the most unexpected benefits I encountered was the chance to network with wonderful writers who take their craft seriously...and know how to laugh! Also, I am aware of at least a handful of agents that have begun to accept submissions from only SCBWI members; and some who prefer to have met you at one of their conferences.
I hope these tips have been helpful! Next week: My impressions of NaNoWriMo.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bibliophile's Corner

by Aprilynne Pike

Flap Copy description:
"I just can't storm in and proclaim my intentions. I can't 'steal' you away. I just have to wait and hope that, someday, you'll ask," Tamani said.
"And if I don't?" Laurel said, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Then I guess I'll be waiting forever."

Although Laurel has come to accept her true identity as a faerie, she refuses to turn her back on her human life, and especially her boyfriend, David - to return to the faerie world.
But when she is summoned to Avalon, Laurel's feelings for the charismatic faerie sentry Tamani are undeniable. She is forced to make a choice - a choice that could break her heart.

My thoughts:
This sequel to Aprilynne Pike's debut story, Wings, about Laurel - a teenage girl who discovers she's a faerie - is wonderful. The character development and delightful dialogue in Spells are skillfully written. Her descriptions of the faerie world - Avalon - paint a beautiful picture of that fantasy setting. I am looking forward to reading her third book in this series, Illusions.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Incredible Inspiration

Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.

Henry David Thoreau

Friday, November 18, 2011

Storyteller's Journey

                  Tip #5 - Get With It!

What I mean by the phrase, "Get with it!" is as writers we tend to want to hunker down and emerge from our cave when our writing is complete. The only problem with that is when we do emerge the world may have just passed us by.
Staying up on writing, publishing, and technology trends is essential in this day and age of e-publishing. Obviously, many new developments are still in a state of flux - but remaining completely ignorant may bite us in the backside when we do get ready to publish. I don't know about you, but I don't want to look like a deer in headlights if an editor says, "You could self-publish, and then possibly print on demand." We need to know our options before the opportunity to publish is presented to us. We all know how spending too much time  tweeting, blogging, e-mailing, etc. will detract from our writing time. I allow myself one hour each morning to catch up on Facebook, Twitter, E-mails, and the blogs I follow. After that if I'm not finished, I make a list on a sticky note, attach it to my laptop, and tend to it the next day - or maybe that evening. Whatever the level of your interest in publishing and technology; we all need to be informed. Remember: "There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action."
                                             Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bibliophile's Corner

by Aprilynne Pike

Flap Copy description:
Laurel was mesmerized, staring at the pale things with wide eyes. They were terrifyingly beautiful - almost too beautiful for words.
Laurel turned to the mirror again, her eyes on the hovering petals that floated beside her head. They looked almost like wings.
In this extraordinary tale of magic and intrigue, romance and danger, everything you thought you knew about faeries will be changed forever.

My thoughts:
In this mythological fantasy Aprilynne Pike tells a lovely story of Laurel, a teen growing up in Northern California; she just happens to discover she is very different from her sophomore classmates - she's a faerie.
The character descriptions, voice, and plot were captivating in Wings - I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend this book for the teen reader.

(My book reviews for the next two weeks will be the second, and third books in Aprilynne Pike's series.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Incredible Inspiration

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

Albert Einstein

Friday, November 11, 2011

Storyteller's Journey

Tip #4 - Hip, Hip, Hooray!

That's right - every writer needs a pep talk! (Can you tell I'm in the middle of NaNoWriMo?)

Writing is a solitary, sometimes lonely, road to travel. Here is a list of things that might motivate you and lift your spirits:

1 - Attend a writers conference. If that isn't possible, take a writing pal to a cabin - or inexpensive get-away - and write all weekend.

2- Give your writing area/desk a make-over. Buy a new knick-knack or some colored pens; you might place a special photo on your desk. Maybe a new coffee mug that says: "Write!"

3- Carve out a piece of time each day to write; or if that is too lofty, each week. When things come up and you just can't write because of scheduling conflicts - don't beat yourself up - life happens! Also, if it's just that you can't get going, then read a book in your genre, write a poem, or journal. (Watching television won't cut it! :-)

4- Set achievable goals. You won't write a bestseller in two months - "brick by brick" is the best approach. However, it helps me to have a finish date. Presently I'm hoping to complete a new project by Easter - 2012. I'm using NaNoWriMo to help me get going. If it doesn't work out - I'll just regroup. Remember, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." Brian Littrell

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Whimsical Word of the Week

Sockdolager -

A conclusive blow or remark; also, something outstanding.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bibliophile's Corner

Between the Roots
by A.N. McDermott

Back Cover description:
"Just like you can't know when you'll die, you can't tell how long we've lived."

A multigenerational commune in a walled state, the Colony has been a fixture in the small Pacific Northwest town for over a hundred years. When Sammy O'Doul impulsively trespasses, he watches a strange ritual, where an old woman is dug up alive from the forest. Before he can escape, he's surprised by a strangely simple old man who tells him all is not as it appears. Gradually Sammy uncovers surprising secrets that challenge not only his impressions of the Colony but of himself.

My thoughts:
Between the Roots is the remarkable debut MG novel by A.N. McDermott. She skillfully weaves a tale of mystery and adventure as the curiosity of Sammy, the main character, digs deep into forbidden old secrets. Relevant themes of tolerance, acceptance, and respect are subtly laced through this unique story. I would recommend this book to middle grade readers between the ages of 10-13.
Congratulations, A.N. McDermott!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Incredible Inspiration

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

Rachel Carson

Friday, November 4, 2011

Storyteller's Journey

            Tip #3 - Mulligans are okay!

For those of you who are not golfers - a mulligan is a do-over, allowing yourself to take another swing at the golf ball without counting the stroke. Most golfers call this for what it is - cheating! But as a writer, mulligans are okay. Rewrites are just a fact of life; if not starting over with a whole new story completely.
Rarely does a writer construct a great story on her first draft. If you realize the benefit of rewriting you won't see it as fixing a poor story; rather, just getting your story out of the rough!
The key is to know when a rewrite is needed, or when a major revision will be enough. Belonging to a critique group and using beta readers when your manuscript is complete will help you determine the "score" of your story. In any event, I have realized that being a writer is one of the best ways to learn perseverance, much like playing golf.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bibliophile's Corner

Splurch Academy For Disruptive Boys
Curse of the Bizarro Beetle
by Julie Gardner & Sally Faye Gardner

Book Cover description:
The king of all troublemakers, Cody Mack is no stranger to the principal's office. But when his parents decided enough was enough, Cody was given a punishment far worse than he could ever dream up: Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys.

With evil Headmaster Farley banished from school, Cody should be celebrating...but when he stumbles upon a creepy Egyptian beetle lurking in the school's dungeon, he knows that dark forces are on the rise at Splurch Academy.

My thoughts:
The middle grade novel, Curse of the Bizarro Beetle, just may be the zaniest children's book I've ever read. After Cody Mack is bitten by a rat-vampire he and his mischievous pals embark on a quest to keep him from becoming a vampire permanently. That is not Cody's only trouble - a large Egyptian beetle decides to attach itself around the young boy's neck. This comic adventure culminates on Halloween night; it is complete with colorful characters and dicey dialogue - a great book for a young boy who is a bit of a prankster.

                                                        Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Incredible Inspiration

If you tickle the earth with a hoe she laughs with a harvest.

Douglas Jerrold

Friday, October 28, 2011

Storyteller's Journey

Tip #2 - Deepen your Characters

I first learned this tip from an early writing mentor of mine. When she told us she made a 3x5 color-coded card with information about every character in her story, I thought she was crazy. Now I do the same! This was reiterated by one of the well-known speakers I heard at the recent SCBWI retreat I attended.  There are many ways to do this; but the simplest is to start with physical traits, habits, flaws, family history, pivotal point in life - you get the picture. When you are well acquainted with your characters, it makes creating a believable story that much easier. This may sound like a lot of work, but when you're in the middle of writing your novel and you get stuck, if you really know your characters you can figure it out. What would Winnie the Pooh do? :O)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bibliophile's Corner

The Year of the Dog
by Grace Lin

Flap Copy description:
It's the Chinese Year of the Dog!
When Pacy's mom tells her that this is a good year for friends, family, and "finding herself," Pacy begins searching right away. As the year goes on, she struggles to find her talent, deals with disappointment, makes a new best friend, and discovers just why the Year of the Dog is a lucky one after all...

My thoughts:
The author/illustrator, Grace Lin, invites us into the beautifully detailed world of a young Chinese-American girl, Pacy, her family, and friends. Grace Lin's own childhood inspired this humorous, profound, and unique middle grade novel, delightful for all young readers, especially girls!

Grace Lin recently returned from a trip to Europe, where she took her handpainted "Pacy" dolls with her - so much fun for little girls! I have attached a link for you to see her amazing creativity - enjoy!

Grace Lin is the recipient of a Newbery Honor Award which she won in 2010 for her beautifully written MG novel, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. You may check out her blog - gracenotes - there's a link on the right side of this page. She's one of my favorite children's authors - can you tell? ^_^

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Incredible Inspiration

When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.

Peace Pilgrim

Friday, October 21, 2011

Storyteller's Journey

As I mentioned last week, I will be sharing some of the great information I brought home after attending the recent SCBWI retreat in Sublimity, Oregon. Beginning today, on through the month of November, I will give you my impressions from the presentations I heard two weeks ago. (By the way, I will be participating in NaNoWriMo, so I'll fill you in on that experience on the first Friday of December!)

Tip # 1 - Get Personal!

What I mean by this is to go beyond the form and craft of writing to tap into your own heart, as well as the heart of your characters - especially your main character. In today's writing market the trend is toward character-driven stories, rather than plot-driven stories. This means we must introduce and expand our characters in such a way as to be interesting to the reader right away. This is even more important in children's literature where the "hook" must be set in the heart of the young reader, early in the first chapter, or you'll likely "let one get away!" This is something I heard from the person who critiqued my work. Make sure you give your main character a great first impression, and quickly, and you'll be well on your way to a character-driven story - Good Luck!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bibliophile's Corner

Elijah of Buxton
by Christopher Paul Curtis

Flap Copy description:
Eleven-year-old Elijah is the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves just over the border from Detroit. He's best known in his hometown as the boy who made a memorable impression on Frederick Douglass. But things change when a former slave steals money from Elijah's friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Elijah embarks on a dangerous journey to America in pursuit of the thief, and he discovers firsthand the unimaginable horrors of the life his parents fled - a life from which he'll always be free, if he can find the courage to get back home.

My thoughts:
Elijah of Buxton has all of the elements you hope for in a great middle grade novel: wonderful character development, an engaging plot, and written in a skillful, storytelling style. The author, Christopher Paul Curtis, has written this historical fiction with a strong dialect, which may be a good challenge for the younger reader. For me, it was the most important element in making the story extremely believable. Elijah of Buxton won a Newbery Honor Award in 2008. It is one of those rare books I can strongly recommend to readers of all ages - adults, too! But be prepared, you better have your Kleenex ready!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Incredible Inspiration

South Falls - Silver Falls State Park

A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Friday, October 14, 2011

Storyteller's Journey

Last weekend my storyteller's journey took me to the SCBWI Fall Retreat at Silver Falls State Park. On the third day of the conference I was able to fit in a bit of hiking and enjoyed the beautiful scenery at South Falls. Since we were treated to a rare day of sunshine in the Pacific Northwest that day, many other nature lovers had the same idea! Even though it was a bit crowded in the park, I was able to capture a few good photos - I'll share them with you on Sundays, in the coming weeks.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the nature walks, what I will remember most from that amazing weekend is the great information that was shared from the five ladies pictured here. Their knowledge of all things literary is only exceeded by their kindness and generosity of heart!

Karen Grencik - Co-Founder of Red Fox Literary
Emma Dryden - Dryden Books - Editor & Consultant
Michele Torrey - Award-Winning Author
Suz Blackaby - Award-Winning Author/Illustrator
Ellen Hopkins - NY Times Bestselling Author

The wealth of information and insight, all given with a high level of expertise, (& a dash of humor ^_^) was overwhelming. When I returned home I informed my husband I felt like my mind, my heart, and my soul were about to explode! As I process through the valuable instruction I received I will share it all with you in the coming weeks. However, it will be given from my own perspective, so I will not be giving information from any of these wonderful speakers specifically; rather, how it fits into my journey as an aspiring author. By the way, thanks also to Robin Koontz and Judith Gardiner. In the midst of pursuing their own writing careers they managed to put on one heck of a writers' conference for SCBWI - you two are awesome. I hope to see you & a lot of new friends again next year!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bibliophile's Corner

The Higher Power of Lucky
by Susan Patron

Flap Copy description:
Lucky, age ten, can't wait another day. The meanness gland in her heart and the crevices full of questions in her brain make running away from Hard Pan, California (population 43), the rock-bottom only choice she has.
It's all Brigitte's fault - for wanting to go back to France. Guardians are supposed to stay put and look after girls in their care! Instead Lucky is sure that she'll be abandoned to some orphanage in Los Angeles where her beloved dog, HMS Beagle, won't be allowed. She'll have to lose her friends Miles, who lives on cookies, and Lincoln, future U.S. president (maybe) and member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers. Just as bad, she'll have to give up eavesdropping on twelve-step anonymous programs where the interesting talk is all about Higher Powers. Lucky needs her own - and quick.
     But she hasn't planned on a dust storm.
     Or needing to lug the world's heaviest survival-kit into the desert.

My thoughts:
The Higher Power of Lucky is a delightful middle grade novel, and is the 2007 Newbery Medal Award winner. The well developed colorful characters are what you notice right away. Lucky, a precocious ten-year-old and her pals - a cookie mooch named Miles, and the highly intelligent Lincoln, are extremely entertaining, as well as believable. Deeper issues of abandonment and death are dealt with in this thoughtful book in a tasteful, but powerful way. The author, Susan Patron, is a master at revealing the human heart. A great book for all young readers.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sentimental Serendipity

                          After two years of writing, revising, editing, and playing tug-o-war with my sweet artist husband ^_^ we have finally completed a mock book of our Christmas story - The Scandinavian Santa. It is classified as a storybook/picture book, however at 3400 words we will be hard-pressed to get it published traditionally -since the recommended word count these days is no higher than 1200 words. However, Michael's impressionistic style paintings in the book are exquisite, & we did stick with a 16 page format, so we'll see what happens. Since this collaborative effort resulted in something extremely special to us, we are open to self-publishing this work if that is our only option available. The main character, Santa Swanson - (St. Nicholas' nephew) was inspired by my own maternal great-grandfather, Peter Swanson, who immigrated to this country from Norway.