Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
The other night at our meeting we did more celebrating than critiquing. On the subject of holiday travel with kids, we started talking about DVD’s in the car. Not surprisingly, even those of us who are parents cringed at the idea. Whatever happened to old fashioned word games?
A few of us shared our favorite family word games. In my family we had one called “irrelevancies.” One person named an object. Another person then named something completely irrelevant to that object. The third person had to figure out some way they were related. Like one time when my sister said “flamingo,” and my dad said, “matchbook.” (Flamingoes were a favorite obscure item.) I thought about it and decided that they both have something you can pluck off of them: feathers and matches.
That got us thinking about animals. Why do different kinds of animals have different names for a group of them? For example, why is a group of sheep called a herd, while wolves are a pack? And why do some animals get a cool group name, like a pride of lions? So we started inventing names for groups of animals. One person got to choose the animal, and whoever picked the best name for a group of them got to choose the next animal. So the next time you come upon a family of porcupines, according to us, that would be a prickle. Naturally.
Anyone else want to post your favorite word games?
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I read a lot. This probably comes as no surprise to you, whether you know me or not, because the one thing you do know about me is that I’m a writer, and writers read. I also work in a library. Temptation in the form of reading material is moving across the desk in front of me all the time. But like most of us these days, I’m getting to the point where I just can’t remember what I have and have not read.
About two years ago I started a journal of all the children’s books I was reading. At first it was a traditional journal, real paper pages and everything. Each book got a page: date read, title, author, publisher, year of publication, CIP summary from the back of the title page, and then my own thoughts about the book. Eventually I got to the point where I wanted to look up a book I had read, but had a hard time finding it in the journal. I started copying all that information into an Excel file. Much easier. I could do a search by author or subject or even by publisher if I was sending out submissions and needed a reminder of who published what.
Recently I found out about a website that helps you do all this electronically. Online. And quickly, too. Check out www.librarything.com. You can create a virtual library of everything you’ve read, and if you want, you can rate it too.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Last year I was listening to an editor speak at the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Fall Conference, and she said that finding an editor is a lot like dating. Just as you may go out with someone who is perfectly nice, but just not right for you, an editor may like your story, but it isn’t what they’re looking for at that time. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person or even a bad writer, they just want something else.
Recently I sent the manuscript of my middle grade novel to an agent. We were supposed to have had a meeting at a conference, but he was unable to attend. I spoke with one of the conference coordinators a few weeks later, and she put me in touch with this person, who graciously agreed to look at my work. As soon as I sent it, I felt like I was on a blind date. Beating heart, sweaty palms, the works. I kept telling myself not to place too many expectations on this. After all, people get lots of rejections from agents. Besides, he probably got dozens of submissions just in that day. I’m sure that in his world, my beloved book was just one of many. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I wondered if he was “the one.” The possibility that my work was in the hands of someone who could make things happen lurked.
After a day or two, I stopped thinking about it so much. I still haven’t heard back from the agent, and that’s okay. He’s busy. I was never the kind of girl to wait by the phone for a guy to call for a second date. On the other hand, if the phone rings and I answer and it’s him, I’m pretty sure I’ll have butterflies in my stomach.
(I think it quite comical that they went to the trouble of including a pronunciation for the last name "Bunce" but not for "Lecense"....)
Library association launches award for teen books
Wednesday, December 10, 2008 3:18 PM EST The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Five novels for teens are finalists for the American Library Association's first-ever William C. Morris YA Debut Award.
The prize is given for books that "illuminate the teen experience and enrich the lives of its readers through its excellence."
The nominees, announced this week: Elizabeth Bunce's (rhymes with once) "A Curse Dark as Gold"; Kristin Cashore's (ka-SHORE) "Graceling"; James Lecesne's "Absolute Brightness"; Christina Meldrum's (MEL-drum) "Madapple"; and Jenny Valentine's "Me, the Missing and the Dead."
The winner will be announced Jan. 26.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
My daughter's middle school has a weekly email newsletter. They sent this out this week, and it says feel free to share, post, link etc. So I thought I would! See below.
These are not my picks, and I don't endorse or recommend this list, just sharing what was sent to me.
I would LOVE to hear what everyone else is giving this year, children's book-wise. You already know I recieved Knuckleheads. I'm giving a book by Emily Gravett (Wolves) to my 3 year old nephew.
My middle school daughter has run through all the Warrior cat series and is now onto the "Clique" series. Yikes. My dyslexic 4th grader loves the Animal Ark series and the My Secret Unicorn series. They aren't too hard for her but they are of high interest to animal-crazy kids.
And my 9th grader was just recently complaining that he doesn't have time to read for pleasure during school. He's right, actually, he is a VERY busy kid. But he last enjoyed the last Eragon book, Brisinger, by Christopher Paolini.
Me? I am re-reading one of my favorite historical novels, Dear Companion, by Kelly Joyce Neff. It's a first person narrative of Martha Jefferson that starts the day she met Thomas Jefferson, until her death. And of course Pride and Prejudice is always there on my bookshelf awaiting a comforting re-read as well.
What are you giving? What do your kids enjoy? What are you reading? Do you agree with the list below?
A MESSAGE FROM OUR LIBRARIAN:
Books, of course, make great gifts. It's just a matter of choosing the right one. Well, we're here to help. After carefully culling through our Best Books 2008 list , we came up with 21 irresistible titles chosen for their sure-fire kid-pleasing appeal. Click here for the list--and feel free to copy, forward, post, link or otherwise pass it along.
Paste in this link: http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6617203.html
Monday, December 8, 2008
He was talking about his English teacher. He said, "I really like Mrs. A_____. She's really really smart. She's, like, the smartest person I know."
"She's almost as smart as you, Mom."
Took my breath away. Here I am, stay at home Mom, bemoaning how people don't know how smart I am because they only know me as a stay at home Mom. Feeling less because I don't have a PhD or a high-powered job, even though I am smart enough to have either or both if I had made different life choices.
And along comes this goofy 14 year old kid, himself an honors student, to say something like that in such matter-of-fact manner. He wasn't meaning to compliment me, which made it all the better to me.
I have lists of other amazing things my kids have said or that I have said to my kids, but I think I will let this particular one stand alone. Forgive me while I bask?
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Everyone was always nice. "Oh that’s the hardest job there is," They’d say.
I kept reminding myself that I loved being at home, and that there were lots of parts of working that were no fun, and that I was lucky. Sometimes, though, I wished that I could say something more prestigious about myself and that I could contribute money to the family.
If only I could get published, then I could say, "I'm a writer." I would make money, too.
Instead of making money on my writing, though, all I did was spend money. I took an expensive ICL class. It was great. I loved it.
Next I saw a writing class advertised in UVA's continuing education catalogue. I asked for that class as a Christmas present. I loved it, too.
In my UVA class the students had to critique each other’s work. The first time they critiqued my work I got mad. They were harsh, and they didn’t understand what I was trying to do. The next day, though, when I looked at my paper, I realized that I had failed to make them understand. From then on I welcomed criticism.
After being in the class I knew that I wanted a critique group, but I didn’t know how to find one. I went to a local SCBWI event and asked if there were any critique groups that I could join. They told me that all the critique groups were filled up. They said that I should start my own, but I didn’t know how.
Then I saw another writing class advertised. This one was called "Writing for Children." That’s the kind of writing that I did. I had told myself not to spend any more money on my writing, but I couldn’t resist. I signed up for the class. The teacher was great and the assignments were fun, but the best part of the class was the critiques from the other students.
One day during class I looked around and realized that people who had been willing to spend money to improve their writing surrounded me. If I could convince them to form a critique group with me, we could give each other the best part of the class for free.
Three other students were interested so we began. To help us grow I posted fliers in the libraries and invited everyone that I knew who had ever mentioned being interested in writing.
After the first six months none of my first three members were coming but by that time three other women were coming regularly. We carried on.
Today none of the members from my initial group are part of Slushbusters, but I am grateful for everyone who ever came to a meeting. They helped me stick with my writing and enabled the group to survive.
So far I still haven’t made any money on my writing, but it is a hobby that I love and now it is a FREE hobby!!
The case of the Slushbuster and the Ex-Boyfriend
A package arrived for me the other day. I wasn’t expecting anything.
I looked at the return address and saw that it was from my ex-boyfriend from high school. Ex meaning like, I’ve been happily married for 22 years and haven’t seen this guy for at least 25 years. He’s married too, 600 miles away. We hadn’t kept in touch until we started emailing a few years ago through the magic of the internet. Like many other people, I am finding that through Classmates, Facebook, MySpace, etc, people from the past keep popping up. People told me I shouldn’t be emailing with an ex-boyfriend. Hey, I even email with his wife, who I have never met. We bonded over a shared love for Sting.
Anyway, I have this package. It’s not my birthday. He’s not prone to sending me gifts out of the blue.
So I open it up and it’s Jon Scieszka’s new book, Knucklehead.
Okay. Love Jon Scieszka. Been meaning to get this book. Cool!
It gets better.
Last spring, the Slushbusters attended an author’s party en mass. Jon Scieszka was the author-of-honor. We all got at least one of his books and got them signed and had a chance to talk to Jon. He was promoting Knuckleheads, which was not out yet. So we saw a few galleys and heard him speak about the new book. (He is a hilarious speaker. If you ever get to go and see him, or if you are ever in a position to choose an author/speaker for a conference, put him on top of the list.) I couldn’t wait to get Knuckleheads, but I’d have to wait for publication. Meanwhile, I picked out Smash,Crash and had Jon sign it for my ex’s son, who was 3 at the time. I saved it until his birthday and sent it up to him. Apparently he loves it. It’s one of his favorite books. (The lion blanket I sent him the year earlier was a big favorite too. Am I good or what?)
Mystified by the inscription, I hop on my computer and email my thanks to the ex and his wife. It seems that recently Jon was up their way at a book signing, so they returned the favor and picked up a copy of Knuckleheads for me, explained about Smash, Crash to Jon, and LO, behold the inscription on my book. VERY COOL!!
Whoever said it was a bad idea to keep in touch with an ex-boyfriend? Don’t believe it.