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.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Storyteller's Journey

Those of you that know me well know that I occasionally pre-post my blog entries - this post is one of those. The reason being that on Friday, October 7th I will be attending the SCBWI Fall Retreat in Sublimity, Oregon...which is today! By this time some of my family and friends are probably tired of listening to me go on and on, but please let me say a bit more. I want to thank a few special folks: The Magic Pen Critique Group: Kriston, Cliff, BJ, Nicole, Franki, & Tina - you all have helped me in so many ways. I know when I return, whatever the outcome, you will be there with your kind support and friendship - you're all the best! My three sons: David, Kevin, and Brian - the three of you have helped and supported me in so many ways, it means so much. Thanks, to my three musketeers! And finally, my sweet husband, Michael - his passion for the arts has been such a fuel to my own creative dream. Thanks honey, for your love and support! This conference is really just another important step on my journey, but I am attending without knowing even one person - being a natural introvert, this is a big deal for me.
See you all soon!

I have attached a link to an especially beautiful photo taken of South Falls at Silver Falls State Park.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bibliophile's Corner

The Seekers - The Quest Begins
by Erin Hunter

Flap Copy description:
Kallik is a young polar bear, happy to travel with her mother and brother across the ice toward land and eager to arrive before burnsky, when the ice will melt.
     At the same time, grizzly cub Toklo and his family journey over a mountain toward the salmon river, searching desperately for food. Toklo's brother, Tobi, is sick, and their mother presses Toklo to travel farther and faster to bring Tobi to safety.
     And, in the Bear Bowl of a zoo, young black bear Lusa plays, eats the sweet fruit tossed to her by keepers, and dreams of a life in the forest, where a small black bear can be quick and clever enough to outwit even the biggest enemy.
     Fate is about to change these three bears' lives forever, bringing them amazing adventures and unexpected suffering, and finally setting their paws on a path toward a future they cannot yet imagine...

My thoughts:
The Quest Begins is the first book in the Seekers series written by the author team known as Erin Hunter. The middle grade novel documents the lives of a polar bear cub, a grizzly cub, and a black bear cub - each in a separate chapter added into the text layer upon layer until two of the tree bears' lives intersect near the end of the book.
     Although the plot is a bit slow to develop, once it does it's well worth the wait to enjoy the journey of each of these bears. The natural settings and insight to bear behavior are beautifully written. I would recommend this book to readers of all ages who enjoy the wonder in nature.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Incredible Inspiration

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow them.

Louisa May Alcott