Friday, April 30, 2010

I Was the Kind of Kid....

I was the kind of kid who dreamed of long Rapunzel hair, even though my mom kept mine functionally short.

I was the kind of kid who feared ghosts.

I was the kind of kid who loved class fieldtrips far away so I could spend long chunks of time daydreaming on the bus.

I was the kind of kid who was never without a band-aid or a bruise.

I was the kind of kid who faked sleep in the car just to be carried inside.

I was the kind of kid who imagined tiny villages between the squash plants.

I was the kind of kid who ate more pancakes on Sunday mornings than my dad.

I was the kind of kid who stuck out my tongue when I drew pictures or played sports.

I was the kind of kid who watched the night skies on summer nights for shooting stars and UFO's.

I was the kind of kid who cried at the Ugly Duckling.

What kind of kid were (are) you?


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Still Funny After All These Years (Or why I would probably marry Jon Scieszka except that I am already married)

I totally forgot how great  this book is!  I read it to five or six classes last week and, dang, it was funnier each time!

And the genius of it!  I mean, the interaction between the text and the illustrations are incredible.  And then there's the way the the reader really becomes a part of the story.  I am simply in love with this book.

StoryQueen + StinkyCheeseMan = TrueLove*

It is the the kind of book best shared with an audience.  So, if you ever need a book to read to kids (2nd and 3rd grade is the prime age for this type of humor) I give it a four crown recommendation.

Jon Scieszka is the king of funny.

But all of the credit is not his...oh no, oh no!  Lane Smith (the fabulous illustrator) did a bang up job with the silly text.  Speaking of Lane Smith, this book is one of the funniest books around:

This reads like a Dick and Jane book (for those of you that remember back to the time of the dinosaurs) but it is hilarious.  When each of my daughters was learning to read, they read The Happy Hocky Family  over and over and over.

So, if you need a Tuesday-pick-me-up (and I always need a Tuesday-pick-me-up) check out these two oldies but goodies.


*The StoryQueen does not want to imply that she likes smelly men.  Not the case.  Just so you know.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Point of View

Soooo important when I am trying to establish the voice for the story, the voice for the writing, is the POV.

And yet.....

I am struggling a bit on a particular piece, and maybe that is because my understanding of POV is a little flawed... maybe...

I mean, there's 1st person, right? That's where the narrator is actually a character in the story.  One of my middle grades is in first person.  It seemed to work well for the story being told.

But this is where I get confused.

3rd person limited-The narrator only knows what the MC knows. (Think Harry Potter...we never know what Ron is thinking, what Dumbledore is thinking...just Harry*).   This is really the only "head" the narration jumps into. (Sometimes the narration might head jump, but that is usually done by chapter, or by larger paragraph breaks.)

3rd person omniscient-This is where the narrator knows all, knows what everybody is thinking.  The Graveyard Book is a great example of this technique...but so are books by Roald Dahl, and Eva Ibottson (two of my favorite middle grade authors.)  They head jump right and left.  And it works.

But is this technique limited?  In which circumstances does it work and where does it not? (Can you get away with this technique in places other than MG in this day and age?  Or is it even outdated in MG?)

I read a great post by Livia Blackburne which talked about the death of omni POV.

So, what do you think?


*Of course, there's that chapter in the beginning of one of the Harry Potter books that deals with the whole prime-minister thing, of which Harry would know nothing about....and then we sometimes get a bit of Voldemort, but I think that works because of their whole special link.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Meet Little Gray

Photo by Peter Meade

This is Little Grey. (Look, he is waving to you)

He is a life-sized California Grey Whale replica made by the first- graders at my school entirely out of  the beach trash they cleaned up in Carlsbad.  The kids got together with artist Theresa Espinosa to create Little Grey, which is on tour right now to help other people remember that the proper way to treat our beaches is NOT to litter on them.   (If you want to see Little Grey, he is currently residing at the Legoland Aquarium in Carlsbad.  I hear he will be visitng other places, including Legolands all over the world.)

If you look closely at this sea creature, you will see unbelievable things that people have left at the beach...dentures, anyone?

So, if you go to the beach,
don't leave your teeth there.


Actually, just don't leave any trash there.


Happy Earth Day.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Overheard in the Revision Room

My Inner Editor Harrison:  See kid, it's like this.  That first revision you did?  Well, that was for you, the writer.

Mutt (who is not really me, but will have to do since I couldn't find a picture of Indy and Short Round together....not that Short Round is like me either, but he is funnier.):  Tell me something I don't know.

Harrison:  I'm trying to, kid. That first revision was your chance to take that junky first draft and craft it into something that was close to your vision...or as close as you were likely to get...alone.

Mutt:  Now you're getting all confusing on me, professor. What do you mean by alone?

Harrison:  Stop combing your hair and listen, will you?  I'm talking about the second revision now.


Harrison:  Heck kid, sometimes there's thirteen of 'em.

Mutt:  (chokes and gasps)

Harrison:  That first revision, well, that was for you, the writer.

Mutt:  You already said that.

Harrison:  Want me to wipe that mouth right off your smirky face?

Mutt:  (shakes head no.)

Harrison:  The second revision...and all the revisions after that....well, kid, those are for the reader.

Mutt: The reader?

Harrison:  That's what I said, kid.  The reader.  And the only way to know how the reader is going to navigate your text is to get one....a reader I mean.  And then comes the most important part.  You still listening?

Mutt:  (nods)

Harrison:  You have to listen to what the reader says.  I mean, they are doing you a favor.  They are telling you stuff you'd never know without them.  Now, just to see if you were listening, tell me what I said.

Mutt:  Er, um, first revision = for the writer, second through thirteenth revision = for the reader.

Harrison:  Well done kid.  You just might make it out of this snake pit,   mine shaft,  er um, manuscript.



Friday, April 16, 2010

Lessons from a Flower

From an actual Storyqueen journal entry:

A flower cannot grow faster
than a flower can grow
(and that's the truth.)

Because it takes time for the roots
to adventure out from their home
in the cozy seed and
nourish the stem
so that the stem is strong enough
to hold up the head of the flower...
so that the petals can develop
and the blossom
can bloom.

You cannot rush a flower.

And that is that.

 I wrote this when I was starting something new...and it would not start.  I get impatient with myself sometimes, hoping, wishing I could write faster than I am able to. 

But I need to remember that a flower cannot be rushed.

And a good book needs to develop naturally, organically to be strong enough to hold itself together in the end.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Things that are Wretched:
1.  Cleaning the closet under the stairs
2.  Over-cooked vegetables
3.  Black dog hair on a white tile floor.
4.  White dog hair on black pants
5.  When the words just aren't there

Things that are Wondrous:
1.  Stuff on youtube (in small doses).
2.  Carlsbad strawberries
3.  When all of the mustard flowers blossom along El Camino Real
4.  Onion rings on top of a steak salad with bleu cheese
5.  A quiet house early in the morning

Things that I have to do Today:
1.  Write one page of Area 51 (tinkering with voice).
2.  Write one page of Calista.
3. Plan presentation for Point Loma Nazarene University (which is tonight)
4.  Put some beans and green chile in the crock pot
5.  Call my mom

Things I  wish I could do:
1.  Fly
2.  Cook dinner and NEVER have to clean up after
3.  Sleep well every night
4.  Drink coffee (except probably I am wishing that it tasted good...then I would drink it, but it smells lovely and tastes like it was made in Hades.)
5.  Travel the world.

Lists, anyone?


Sunday, April 11, 2010

New Blogger on the Block

If you get the chance, you might want to stop my Ms. Book Sniper's blog.  She's an agency insider which sounds very cryptic and she going to tell us stuff so cool and secret that she has to remain anonymous in order to do so!

I love stuff like that!

And I'm not just posting a link to her blog because she reviewed my book and really liked it, even though she did on both accounts (squee!).  Here is the evidence:  el linko.

I wish I had know about this earlier!!


P.S. tomorrow she starts answering questions from readers!!  

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The LEGO Method of Writing a Book

I've said many times that I don't outline.  It's probably some post-traumatic stress left over from high school note-taking or something like that.

But, as I start in on some new projects, I thought I'd analyze what I actually do in lieu of creating an outline.

I'm kind of like a kid with LEGOs.

First, I get collect all of the LEGOs (ideas) I can about the book and stuff them into a bag  (document).

At this point, I know I want to build something, but I am not sure what it is.  If I knew exactly what I wanted to make, like this:
Then I would probably need an outline,(those little paper directions that I always lose) otherwise it would NEVER look like that in the end.  However, usually, I am not quite sure what I want to make.  I just keep sticking LEGOs (ideas) together in different ways and taking them apart until I end up with some kind of something that might be cooler than I would have dreamed, like this:
(this is an Escher LEGO house, by the way)

Now, often it doesn't come out so cool.  Often I have to take it all apart and put all the pieces in a bag for a while.

But for me, I think the reason I fear the outline is that I don't want to settle for what I think might be something nice when maybe I could create something amazing.

So, I start with my collected bits and begin to see possibilities.  I think discovering the potential is the part I like the best. 

(Of course, sometimes I have a vision and no idea how to build it, but that is another story.)
One last gratuitous LEGO pic that pretty much sums up writing:

Monday, April 5, 2010

You Guys!!!!!!

So, I cheated a little. 

I had actually already decided which two books I was going to work on first before I posted the one-sentence blurb on each.  However, I wanted to know what you know, which ideas* were intriguing.....that kind of thing.

And then I asked my 4th and 5th grade writing club what they thought.

You Guys = 4th and 5th graders!!


Far and away, the most intriguing (to the kids) concept was #4, Area 51 Elementary School.  (You guys said the same!)  I asked the kids what they liked, since the blurb is ultra-vague.  Basically, they liked it because I told them to stop reading it.  The more I told them I couldn't tell them about the stuff in the book, the more they wanted to know....kind of like the kid on the playground taunting, I've got a secret!  I've got a secret!

In second place (among the 4th and 5th graders) was #1, Calista.  They could not stopp asking questions about this one:

Mrs. Thomas, how did the girl lose her soul to the Lady of the Lake?
  Um...I dunno....yet.
If the otter is a shape-shifter, why does it choose to be an otter?
This comment led to a 10 minute long debate about what could possibly be cooler than to be a shape-shifting otter. 

This title also placed high with you guys, tying with the Willoughby Girls.  (But a few of the boys in the club said that although they don't mind reading about girls, 4 was really an awful lot of them.)

Remarkably, I had already started #1 (because I wanted to spend a little more time in Celtic Folklore) and #4 because, well, it's Area 51.  I probably shouldn't write about I want to.

So, there you have it.

Kind of cool to know that you haveyour collective fingers on the pulse of the middle grade target audience!

And thanks to all of  you who took the time to read and respond. I appreciate it more than you know.


*If you missed my 4 book idea blurbs, they are in the post below.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lest you think I am kidding.....

I hesitate to post this today, April Fool's Day, because you might think the ideas listed below are jokes.

I assure you they are not.

These are my genuine 100% true ideas, whittled down to one sentence each (pretty much).  I am still struggling a bit with deciding which two I will pursue for now.  I have written fake queries for all four, and each has its own "Manifesto" filled with ideas about the direction each book might take.

But only two have sample pages so maybe those two will be the ones I write first. 

However, I promised that if I had not decided, I would seek your opinions.

So, what tickles your imagination?  (These are all middle grades, by the way)

1.  Title:  Calista

An oprhaned young girl, accompanied by a shape-shifting otter, must complete three magical tasks to regain her soul from the Lady of the Lake.

2. Title:  Wandering the World with the Willoughby Girls

When their twin dowager aunts go missing, the four Willoughby sisters:  Australia, France, India and Portugal, accompanied by their champanzee butler, take on a death defying challenge across seven continents to thwart the kidnapper before it is too late.

3.  Title:  In the Kingdom of the Selkies

In exchange for her mother's freedom to care for her ailing sister, Laria agrees to spend a year and a day with the seal people.

4.  Title:  Area 51 Elementary School

A boring little school which serves the children of parents that work at Area 51 is not weird, strange, bizarre or different from other schools in ANY way.  So stop reading about it.  Now.



I'll clean up the typos later, I have to take a kid to Chorus practice.