Friday, August 31, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

Keeping the Balance - Writing!

This summer has been one of the busiest I've had in many years: trips to our cabin, selling our cabin, a visit from my parents, a brief visit from my brother and his family, and then having our three boys here on and off has filled our time. Then throw in my husband's art festival, my trip to California, and our commitment to hosting two groups in our home monthly, and I barely kept my head above water! However, I bet everyone could share a similar story - summer's just a busy time.

What has kept me balanced through the chaos? Believe it or not, it's been my writing. Like many women, it would be easy for me to get swallowed up by the needs of my family. However, I made a commitment to make writing a priority a few years back, with the expectation to make strides in my skills and my word counts. What I didn't expect was how it would bring balance to my life. Although I'm still a pre-published, pre-represented writer, I take my writing seriously. This has slowly, but surely, caused my family and friends to take my passion seriously too - they know I need my time. I'm hoping that if I keep writing, I might just get a book published someday - but I'm also hoping to keep the balance in my life that I have so unexpectedly found.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein:
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

Public Domain

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Borborygmic -

pertaining to the rumbling of one's stomach or intestines.

Example - as a metaphor: The old mansion was quiet, except for the sounds emanating from the borborygmic furnace in the basement.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

Alchemy and Meggy Swann
by Karen Cushman

Flap Copy Description:
"Ye Toads and Vipers!"
Thus says Meggy Swann, newly come to London from the country village where she was raised. She's not happy to be there, and why should she be? Her mother was glad to see the back of her. Her father, who sent for her, doesn't want her after all. The city is awash in dirt and muck, teeming with thieves and rogues, and very weary to walk around in - especially for Meggy.
She is the alchemist's daughter, though. Just as her father seeks to transform base metal into gold, Meggy sets out to change her condition for the better. In doing so, she finds herself to be braver and stronger and friendlier than she ever thought possible, and a competent rhymer as well.
Earthy and colorful, everyday life in Elizabethan London has its dark side - but it also has gifts in store for witty, sharp-tongued Meggy Swann.

My Thoughts:
Karen Cushman is a Newbery Medal winner and a master storyteller of historical fiction - Alchemy and Meggy Swann is another glorious example of her talent. Set in Elizabethan England; the sights, sounds, and smells of London remarkably come to life in this beautiful book. The protagonist, Meggy, is beset with severe challenges in her life - both physically and emotionally; this old world tale skillfully reveals to the reader the young girl's surprising and wondrous transformation. Ms. Cushman weaves a story of betrayal, abandonment, greed, and possible murder to which Meggy Swann confronts with strength and spunk. I would highly recommend Alchemy and Meggy Swann to readers from the ages of eight to eighty!

To learn more about the author, Karen Cushman, click here:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Incredible Inspiration

For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it.

Ivan Panin
Lecturer on Russian literature.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

Constellation or Shooting Star?

The memories I have of attending summer camp as a youngster are some of my most cherished treasures. I can recall sitting around the campfire and staring at the stars with my fellow Camp Fire girlfriends. The first time I ever saw a shooting star was at Camp Melacoma - I had been amazed. However, waiting for another flash across the night sky was excruciating. I found myself enjoying the view of the Big Dipper - it was so massive and bright hanging in its reliable location in space.

As a writer it is tempting to write a novel using the best creativity and craft I possibly can, but as quickly as I can. However, if I was lucky enough to have that story published it would probably be like a shooting star - a flash that quickly disappears. How much better it would be to take the time to research, build, and write a novel that has a chance of lighting at least one young person's path - a constellation.

One of the themes that seemed to echo over and over again at the recent SCBWI Summer Conference was the idea of writing something classic - something timeless. That message has inspired me to go back, yet again, to my W.I.P. with a new vision and a new vitality to "connect the dots" of my manuscript in a more complex manner. Rather than just get my story launched into literary cyberspace, I hope to have a chance to send it into orbit. Although I've mentioned Brian Littrell's quote on my blog before, it's just too appropriate not to use again:

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Miasma -

a noxious atmosphere or influence; unpleasant or unwholesome air.

Example: There was a moral miasma that was palpable in the prison.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
by Catherynne M. Valente

Flap Copy Description:
September is a girl who longs for adventure. When she is invited to Fairyland by a Green Wind and a Leopard, well, of course she accepts. (Mightn't you?) But Fairyland is in turmoil, and it will take one twelve-year-old girl, a book-loving dragon, and a strange and almost human boy named Saturday to vanquish an evil Marquess and restore order.

My Thoughts:
The unusual title of this upper MG novel is just the beginning of the unique features of Catherynne M. Valente's debut children's book. The award-winning novelist was honored once again when The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making became the first self-published work to win a major literary award by receiving the Andre Norton Award. It went into print in 2011 and went on to become a national bestseller. The whimsical fairy tale is full of wonderful words, complex characters, and a plot that puzzles you at every turn. Neil Gaiman gave this tantalizing tale the following praise: "A glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian fairy tale, done with heart and wisdom." The author has written her colorful creation to stand alone, but reveals to the reader in the last chapter there will be a sequel, satisfying her legion of fans. Although I loved this book, I do feel some of the vocabulary might be a bit advanced for the young reader; therefore, I would highly recommend The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making to readers aged ten and up.

To learn more about the author - Catherynne M. Valente -
click here:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Incredible Inspiration

The trees are God's great alphabet:

With them He writes in shining green

Across the world His thoughts serene.

Leonora Speyer
American Poet and Violinist

Friday, August 17, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

   Meeting Literary Masters

One of my main objectives in attending the SCBWI Summer Conference was to hear from the accomplished authors whose work I love and respect. However, it became clear to me after hearing the first day's keynote addresses that I wanted to actually meet as many of them as I could. This does not come from a groupie mentality, rather, I knew these brief meetings would be something I would long cherish. I accomplished my goal by purchasing a book by each author, and subsequently having them each sign their book during the conference, or at the autograph party that was held the final day. Here are my thoughts and reflections on each of the wonderful writers:

Linda Sue Park - This lovely lady won the Newbery Medal Award for one of my very favorite children's novels - A Single Shard. (She also organized the flashmob honoring Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser at the Hippie Hop!) When I met Linda Sue on the last day of the conference I mentioned that a Korean friend of mine had read A Single Shard in her attempt to improve her English speaking skills. Ms. Park was so gracious; she explained how I can direct my friend to her books in the Korean translation if she would like them in her native language. Just another example of the kindness I have seen so often in the Kid Lit world. Thanks, Linda Sue Park!

Karen Cushman - The keynote address given by Ms. Cushman is something I will never forget. One of the things she said was: (paraphrased) you must be like a lighthouse - lighthouses don't move around the shoreline, they stay put where they are. I took from that to mean you must be true to who you are, and to what you write. She obviously knows what she's talking about since she won the Newbery Medal Award for her book, The Midwife's Apprentice. It was a thrill to meet her on the final day of the conference. Thanks, Karen Cushman!

Tony DiTerlizzi - This talented author/illustrator could definitely have a second job doing stand-up comic - he had the entire audience in hysterics at his keynote address! When I happened to bump into him midway through the conference I had thankfully already purchased his book, The Search for Wondla. He, too, took extra time to speak with me, even though a line quickly formed behind me. His energy, passion, and commitment to children's books inspired me even beyond what he shared with his words. Thanks, Tony DiTerlizzi!

Patricia MacLachlan - It was so surprising to me when I heard Ms. MacLachlan give her keynote address - she is so funny and quirky, besides being a literary genius. Her unique personality itself reminded me that writers are an extraordinary and creative group. She stressed (paraphrased) the importance of living a rich and textured life, and how that benefits our writing. Meeting this winner of the Newbery Medal Award for her book, Sarah, Plain and Tall at the autograph party, is something I will never forget. Thanks, Patricia MacLachlan!

Clare Vanderpool - For some reason Ms. Vanderpool was the author I most wanted to meet. Besides being the Newbery Medal Award winner in 2011, she is a wife and mother who seems like the girl next door. When I attended her workshop I was not disappointed! She shared her insights on writing with a grace and generosity that made me respect her all the more. When I introduced myself at the end of the workshop (with her book, Moon Over Manifest in hand) she shook my hand and began briefly chatting like I was a peer and a friend. Reflecting on that moment later in my hotel room I realized just how special that meeting had been. Thanks, Clare Vanderpool!

Gary D. Schmidt - When I attended Mr. Schmidt's workshop on layering your characters, I only knew that he had won the Newbery Honor twice for his books: Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, and The Wednesday Wars. Although those accomplishments themselves are more than enough to garner huge respect, what really floored me was his wisdom and insight to life. This English professor, who lives with his family on a 150-year-old farm in Michigan, blew everyone away - both at his workshop and even more with his closing keynote address. It was an honor for me to have him sign his most recent book, Okay For Now, at the conclusion of his wonderful workshop.
Thanks, Gary Schmidt!

Below is a photo of the books these awesome authors so graciously signed!

I would love to hear if you are one who likes to meet authors too!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Agelast -

one who never laughs; a mirthless person.

Example: Even the comedian could not get the agelast to laugh!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bibliophile's Corner

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place ~The Mysterious Howling
by Maryrose Wood

Flap Copy Description:
Of especially naughty children, it is sometimes said: "They must have been raised by wolves."

The Incorrigible children actually were.
     Discovered in the forests of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children. Alexander keeps his siblings in line with gentle nips; Cassiopeia has a bark that is (usually) worse than her bite; and Beowulf is alarmingly adept at chasing squirrels.
Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess. Only fifteen years old and a graduate of Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, Penelope embraces the challenge of her new position. Though she is eager to instruct the children in Latin verbs and the proper use of globes, first she must eliminate their canine tendencies.
     But mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these three wild creatures? Why does old Timothy, the coachman, lurk around every corner? Will Penelope be able to civilize the Incorrigibles in time for Lady Constance's holiday ball? And what on earth is a schottische?
     Penelope is no stranger to mystery, as her own origins are also cloaked in secrecy. But as Agatha Swanburne herself once said, "Things may happen for a reason, but that doesn't mean we know what the reason is - at least, not yet."

My Thoughts:
There is so much to like about this unique novel, by Maryrose Wood, that it might just leave you howling for more - which can be accomplished since The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place - The Mysterious Howling is the first in a series by the talented author. Delightful setting descriptions of Victorian England, colorful and complex characters, and a plot that leaves you puzzled all make for a remarkable read for children from the ages of eight and up.
     The second and third books in the series - The Hidden Gallery; and The Unseen Guest - have already been released. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place books were all beautifully illustrated by Jon Klassen who was a faculty member at the recent SCBWI Summer Conference.

To learn more about the author - Maryrose Wood - click here:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Incredible Inspiration

The question is not what you look at, but what you see.

Henry David Thoreau

Friday, August 10, 2012

Storyteller's Journey

Salute to the SCBWI Conference

For those of you who have attended a major writers' conference you know how overwhelming it all can be. I returned from the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles to my Pacific Northwest home earlier this week with thoughts and emotions whirling around my mind like the wind racing down the Columbia River Gorge! Although I have attended many writers' events, a regional SCBWI retreat, and the Wordstock Conference in Portland, Oregon, the annual SCBWI Summer Conference is in a category all of its own. Thankfully, the fast-paced 3-4 day event clicked on in me the ability to keep to a tight schedule from my dental hygiene days. I am proud to say that I didn't skip one scheduled session (of my choice) that I could attend...but, boy did I pay the price. I was so glad that I had a hotel room of my own, where I collapsed in bed late each night. Processing through all of the inspiring information will take me weeks, if not months. Here are the musings that still linger in my mind:

* The amazing authors who gave keynote addresses - setting the bar of excellence so high that I am extremely proud to be an aspiring children's book author.

* The wonderful workshops where I received great information and education.( More to incorporate into my writing.)

* The accomplished agents and editors that I met who were all nice, but no-nonsense.
How else would you expect them to be? ^_^

* The SCBWI members I met from around the world: Australia, Canada, Great Britain, South Africa, and numerous states in our own country. The memories of hanging out with 1,234 booklovers will last a lifetime.

* The humor and fun provided by the executive director of SCBWI -
Lin Oliver - it was contagious. I found myself constantly smiling, or outright laughing. What a blast!

* The encouragement and inspiration I received to stay the course of my storyteller's journey. I heard so many tales from published authors of the ups and downs of our business, that I realized anew just what I've signed up for.

I'll leave you with a quote that I heard from Gary D. Schmidt:
"Speed is never the friend of the writer."

I hope this gives you a bit of insight into the workings of a major writers' conference, if you've not already attended one.
Next Friday my blog post title will be: Meeting Literary Masters.

I'd love to hear about your experience(s) of attending a conference!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Chatoyant -

changing in luster or color, as cat's eyes.

Note: I will share my reflections of the SCBWI Summer Conference in my Storyteller's Journey post on Friday.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Whimsical Word of the Week

Eesome -

pleasing to the eye.

Note: I will miss my next few posts - I'll be attending the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, CA. I'll be back next Wednesday!