Friday, September 30, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

How My Protagonist Picked Me Up

When I crafted the first draft of my middle grade novel in the autumn of 2011, I had no idea I'd still be working on it five years later! In that time I've had two other children's books published. However, I always believed that Livvi Biddle was something special - something that just might be Livvi Biddle art by Victoria Lindstrom            worthy of traditional publication.

What I didn't know, and would never have believed, was that my protagonist, eleven-year-old Livvi Biddle, would pick me up as a writer.

Character-driven novels have always been my favorites to read. Give me a complex and compelling protagonist and I'll follow the author to the end of the book - no matter what the main character is doing. While working diligently on my own middle grade novel, I always knew my protagonist could be stronger, more interesting, hopefully, even extraordinary. However, that would take a ton of work! So while the months slipped slowly by, and then turned into years, I continued to change and challenge Livvi Biddle. Whether or not my novel is ever represented by a literary agent and published traditionally, I'm so very proud of her. She is a main character with spunk and courage.

The surprising thing is that when I look back on my own development as a writer (and in some ways as a person) it seems to mirror my protagonist's development. It took a stronger and wiser writer to create a stronger and wiser main character. My protagonist - Livvi Biddle - helped me as much as I've helped her. She truly picked me up, dusted me off, and said, "Are you about ready to believe in yourself?"

If you are a writer and feeling discouraged, don't give up. It just might be that your own protagonist is patiently waiting to pick you up, too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Obfuscate - (verb)
render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.
Example: The sorcerer's spell was able to obfuscate the prisoner's memory.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

The Bronze Key
Magisterium Series - Book 3
by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Amazon Description:
Magic can save you.
Magic can kill you.

Students at the Magisterium are supposed to be safe. Under the watchful eyes of the mages, they are taught to use magic to bring order to a chaotic world.

But now the chaos is fighting back. Call, Tamara, and Aaron should be worrying about things like pop quizzes and magic contests. Instead, after the shocking death of one of their classmates, they must track down a sinister killer… and risk their own lives in the process.

As Call, Tamara, and Aaron discover, magic can only be as good as the person who wields it. In evil hands, it has the capacity to do immeasurable harm, unless it is stopped in time.

In this striking third book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare present us with a school where anything, good or evil, can happen, and the only way to unlock the truth is to risk everything to find it.

My Thoughts:
The Bronze Key, by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare, is fast-moving and filled with magic - a marvelous upper middle grade novel! Complex and believable characters, coupled with a plot full of twists and turns, make this book a must read for any reader who loves tales of fantasy.
I highly recommend The Bronze Key to readers from the ages of eight to eighty, and anxiously look forward to Book 4 - The Golden Boy!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

Photo credit: Public Domain
  This Author's Humpty Dumpty Rewrite

          *     *     *     *     *     *     *
  Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
  Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
  All the King's horses,
  And all the King's men,
  Couldn't put Humpty together again!

    ~ An English Nursery Rhyme ~

When I received my editorial notes last winter, there was good news and bad news. The good news was that I do have skills as a writer; the bad news was that my light fantasy novel needed to be restructured, etc. While that might sound simple enough, nothing could have been further from the truth! And while Humpty Dumpty fell off a wall and could not be put back together, my middle grade manuscript has been torn apart, and indeed been put back together. It's been restructured, strengthened, tightened, and given a much needed dose of magic. It's taken me eight months to complete - and it still needs revisions & edits!

Tackling a major rewrite is not for the faint of heart.

Here is a list of traits required to achieve a Humpty Dumpty rewrite:

*Perseverance - being a stubborn soul helps!

*Conviction - that your story is worth the time and effort.

*Knowledge - you must clearly know what is wrong with your story.

*Organization - to  improve your manuscript you must have a plan.

*Love - you must love your protagonist & your story to see it through.

*Belief - you must believe that once completed, the novel will sell.

*Drive - you must be driven, single-minded, not easily distracted.

The above list is clearly not for the casual writer. So why bother?

As I mentioned above, I did just complete my rewrite, but it still needs revisions, beta reading, and possible edits. Then there's the crafting of the dreaded query letter. Submitting to an agent is still months away. However, I'm already reaping rewards from the painstaking process.

Over the last eight months I've developed more writing muscle!

It's not difficult to sit down with a cup of coffee & jot down a few action scenes with your favorite character. However, a major rewrite is like tearing down a house, picking up the pieces, then reassembling the house into a better version of itself. Being a nerd/student-type helps.

Note: I recently purchased THE MAGIC WORDS by Cheryl B. Klein; the timing of that book's arrival could not have been better! While I have completed my reading of the informative resource book, I have not yet completed the exercises included in its pages. I plan to slowly reread the book and then complete most of the exercises. I strongly recommend that every writer of MG, & YA fiction, read the book - it's that good. Ms. Klein even includes the key elements in a manuscript that she always looks for when considering an author's submission.

We'll see if my Humpty Dumpty rewrite gains me agent representation. If not, I'm still a much better writer for having gone through the process.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Concord - (n.)
agreement or harmony between people or groups.
Example: The politician worked for a pact of peace and concord between her country and the United States.
Happy International Day of Peace! 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

Wolf Hollow
by Lauren Wolk

Flap Copy Description:
Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

My Thoughts:
Lauren Wolk has written a true middle grade masterpiece; Wolf Hollow is an example of children's literature at its finest. The reason I feel so strongly about this book is because the author didn't just pen a well-written novel for children, she wrote a novel with an exceptional protagonist living in an adult world - with all its complexities. Respecting her readers, Wolk includes lies, secrets, pain, death, and sorrow in this poignant, yet inspirational story. A must read!
I highly recommend Wolf Hollow to readers aged eight to eighty!

Click here to learn more about the author Lauren Wolk.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

My Writing Life

As summer transitions into autumn, I realize that my life as a writer is also transitioning. When I began seriously writing ten years ago, my goals were to write a book and get published.

While I've achieved both those goals, what I've learned along the way is that there are other goals much more intriguing and satisfying to me. My life as a writer is what makes me most happy. The writing, the researching, the blogging, the networking, the retreats, and on and on. Since my school days, just being a student has always been what offered me the most satisfaction. For me, being a writer means being a student. So, while I have new goals, new stories, & new opportunities, I also realize I have a new stability and a new routine in my life as a writer. Completing a new story, finding the right agent, or publishing a new middle grade novel, cannot make me any happier than I am right now. (Well, gaining agent representation might make me a bit giddy!)
Click here if you'd like to view my most recent quarterly newsletter.
(It includes a contest to win a copy of The Scandinavian Santa!)

Click here & then scroll to mid-page if you'd like to subscribe to my newsletter and have not yet done so. By subscribing, you have an extra chance to win a signed copy of The Scandinavian Santa.     (The winner will be announced on Friday, November 25th. Good luck!)

        Wishing all you scribes a wonderful season of writing!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Whimsical Word of the Week

Trogglehumper - (n.)
the very worst nightmare you can have.
Example: The troll was troubled by a trogglehumper as he tossed and turned in his sleep. 
(From the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Bibliophile's Corner

Oxford Dictionary
Roald Dahl -
Compiled by Susan Rennie

Amazon Description:
This is not an ordinary dictionary. After all, you wouldn't expect an 'Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary' to be ordinary, would you? Lots of dictionaries tell you what an 'alligator' is, or how to spell 'balloon' but they won't explain the difference between a 'ringbeller' and a 'trogglehumper', or say why witches need 'gruntles' eggs' or suggest a word for the shape of a 'Knid'.
All the words that Roald Dahl invented are here, like 'biffsquiggled' and 'whizzpopping, ' to remind you what means what. You'll also find out where words came from, rhyming words, synonyms and lots of alternative words for words that are overused.
Oxford Children's Dictionaries are perfect for supporting literacy and learning and this is the world's first Roald Dahl Dictionary from the word experts at Oxford University Press. With real citations from Roald Dahl's children's books and illustrations by Quentin Blake, the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary will inspire and encourage young writers and readers.

My Thoughts:
My copy of the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary just arrived and I love it! While I cannot claim to have read the entire 287 page hardback book, I can attest to its whimsical words - by Roald Dahl - and its imaginative illustrations - by Quentin Blake. The book also includes many, many "regular" words making it a fun reference book for not only kids, but adults who are kids at heart. I chose to feature this book since tomorrow - Sept. 13th - marks the 100th birthday of Roald Dahl. (The iconic children's book author passed away on November 23, 1990.)
I highly recommend the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary to everyone!

(Check out my Wednesday post; I'll feature one of Mr. Dahl's words!)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

Children in a World of Chaos
   (How We Can Help Them )

After a summer filled with more mass murders you wonder what the children around the world are thinking. What do their views of the world look like? We are not only in a war on terror, we are in a fight for the future of our children - for our civilized societies.

I am the mother of three grown sons, a former pediatric healthcare provider, and a current children's book author. Children have always been an important part of my adult life. I admire their honesty, their curiosity, and their optimism. But what will become of those beautiful attributes given the present state of our world? Will the children of today grow up believing that mass murders are just part of life?

You don't have to be a parent, teacher, or librarian to be concerned. It might seem cliché to say it, but today's children are tomorrow's future. It is imperative that we equip them to be beacons of light in an ever darkening world. No matter who you are, you can help our children.

Here are just a few ways we can each support children everywhere:

Be honest. When a terrible act occurs - and is all over social media - be honest. Explain that not all people are bad, but don't say it can't happen to them. That's not true. Explain that we all must be smart - and be aware of our surroundings. We also must tell our children that there are no promises in our world. This can actually add to their value of life if you have a heart to heart talk with your child, student, or friend. (If you and the child are people of faith include that in your discussion.)

Be informative. Inform the child of all the ways you (and the government) are attempting to keep he or she safe.

Be encouraging. Explain to the child that you are there for him or her. Invite the child to ask questions anytime she likes. If the child is in fact fearful, have a discussion about fear. Share any fears you've had in your life and how you dealt with them.

Be respectful. All questions are valid since they are weighing on the mind of the child. Answer them seriously. Don't say: "Oh, that can't happen here." That's not good enough. Attempt to get to the real reason the child is concerned and discuss that.

Be inquisitive. Don't think that since a child doesn't mention something in the news, that they're not concerned. Ask her: "I know you probably heard about...would you like to talk about it?" Sometimes children keep their fears and worries bottled up inside of them just like adults do. Share how you feel about the tragic incident.

Be inspirational. Remind the child of some of the wonderful things that are happening in our world. Point out some of today's heroes and how they dealt with fear, adversity, etc. Challenge the child to be a beacon of light in our world. Tell her she can come to you at any time.

I am not a psychiatrist or mental health provider - the things I've discussed are my personal opinions. I am just a mother who has raised three sons. I was always honest and open with them; once they were five or so, I discussed issues with them like they were adults. (Children are smart and can spot condescension.) Please consult a healthcare professional if your child is bothered by current events.

Finally, reading to a child is a wonderful way to give them hope.
If you also write books for children, create strong characters!
(Click here for a recent article that discusses this topic further.)

Hopefully our children will grow to be courageous, not cynical.