Monday, June 28, 2010

Back to Work and Summer Books

Wha??? Back to what?

That's right. After only a week off, I'm back to work again.

This time, it's a writing class (only a week long) for children. I am trying not to fragment their little brains* too much, but we are going to tackle three writing tasks in one week.

By week's end, they will have completed:
  • an opening chapter to a novel they would like to continue writing,
  • a picture book dummy with illustrations
  • a small collection of poetry (from which a poetry jam may or may not grow)
*Actually, their brains seem pretty gigantic. Far larger than my brain was at their age...and I am certain mine has only shrunk since then. (Or is it shrank? or shrunken?) See?

I know it's a lot, but it's three hours a day. I think they can handle it.

On a different note, I am interested in suggestions for summer reading. I'd really like to keep it in the MG or YA category. My list of completed reading this year is embarrassingly tiny. I intended to read more, but my brain needed this antiquated thing called sleep so.....

But I want to know what the good books out there are. What are the books that you could just NOT stop reading, even when you knew you should go to sleep? What are books that refused to let your brain turn itself off while you read?

Leave suggestions in the comments, please...pretty please????

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Picture's Worth....

Recently I read some blogs posts which highlighted the importance of gathering visual images when writing a story. Natalie did a great job here. Weronika did one here

Very cool idea.

So I collected some of my own and collaged them together in a hodge-podgey kind of way:

This is for a book I finished the revision on recently:

I look at the pictures and it takes me right back into the story. I think I am going to do this on my next WIP while I am working on it, instead of after.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tell the Truth Tuesday-Truth or Dare Version

I don't usually do this sort of have a plan for my blog or anything....but since it IS Tuesday, and I've got stuff to tell.....

1. My daughters get home from China TODAY! The house was far too quiet without them. I am so excited. I think they probably will never be allowed to leave again....ever. Maybe I'll build a wing onto the house, over the neighbor's garage, so they can live there with their own families someday...perhaps tents in the backyard...nope, too far away...
(Anyway, I have had only little snippets of contact with them and it nearly did me in.)

2. I got to arrange the name cards at the Gala Event on Saturday Night for the Rolling Readers....and yes, somehow my card ended up next to Gerald McDermott....still not sure how that happened:). And yes, I wore the tiara. Except for to and from the car, which would have looked weird. (I'll post pictures soon.)

3. If you wear a tiara to a gala, the appetizer boys (gentlemen who walk around with Trays of Food) will call you Princess....which, sad as it may seem, was strangely fun.

4. The pace of summer is throwing me for a loop. What is it they say about idle hands and the devil's workshop....? Anyway, I have taken to daring some of my bloggy friends to complete certain tasks. Just for fun. Mostly the tasks are writing ones. So, if your e-mail is on your blog and if you see something in your inbox that says the DARE...well, you've been warned. (If you are hankering for a dare, or if you want me to dare someone else, leave me a note in the comments. I'm an equal opportunity darer.)

5. I found a new place for my tiny little desk and I'm not sure if I like it or not. Why is it that the person who uses a desk more than anyone else in the house has the tiny little thing which is actually a TV tray?

6. I thought I would probably finish the revisions on Nix today...but now I am not certain....there is this one scene that is giving me fits.

How is your Tuesday? I dare you to tell it true!


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Summer Goals

I cannot believe it!!!


So, before I settle into the types of days where I look at the clock and say, "Three o'clock??? How did that happen?" I thought I'd look at my goals for summer. Might as well start out with a plan, which by the way is very different from an outline, in case you were wondering.

1. Keelie of the Lake (formerly called Calista)-Middle grade. Complete first draft.
Already 10,000 words. Needs about 30,000 more.

2. Nix the Naughty(Middle Grade/Chapter Book)- Final revision with agent before it goes out on submission. (Should be done in the next week...then we'll see...)

3. Wren Faire (YA-though I might adjust to tween...?)-Revise for plot and such...big picture revision. BIG project.

4. Surfiesta (picture book/poetry)- SERIOUSLY??? Has this book NOT been on every single one of my goals list since last summer??? Why can't I finish this one? I have one more stinking poem to go and for the life of me, I am NEVER happy with the rhythm and rhyme in that one poem. Okay, If I do not finish it this summer, I will eat the poem that is giving me fits. Eat it.

5. Area 51 Elementary (chapterbook)- maybe 10 more pages. I don't want to finish it this summer, but I'd like to get a little more done. This one is a slow write for me, but comfortable, so I'd like to keep it going, however there is no rush.

6. New Picture Book-? I'd like to be inspired to just crank out something new...the kind of picture book that flows easily in the first draft and seems almost right upon the first read.....*sigh*....(yeah, I know, people in hell want ice water, too.) But I wrote a couple this year that I hadn't planned on, (Icky Chicky, then Bob the Slob and the Wobbly Blob) and they were such fun since I had no expectations....

7. Chicken Wizard and the Egg of Destiny (easy reader)- revise when I receive agent notes....sometime this summer.

So, there they are, the magnificent 7. Seven writing goals by which to navigate my summer.

Wish me luck! I set sail today!


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Endings, Beginnings and Angst

Today, I will watch as my baby, the youngest of the Thomas Girl Crew, walks across the stage at school to receive her promotion certificate from fifth grade. No longer an elementary school student....the last of her breed.

I have had an elementary student (of one type or another) in my little family for the last fifteen years. And always at the school I work at. This is the end of an era.

Today, I will cry a bit, not only at the fact that this is the end of elementary school for Cali, but for all of her ten and eleven year old peers. I love those kids. They represent the best part of what I do.

Today, I will wonder if my other girls are okay in Shanghai, as part of the San Francisco Cultural Arts Contingent at the World Expo...knowing that they are missing their little sister in the worst possible way....they three of them are very close. They will be sleeping while she is graduating...maybe they will be dreaming of her.

Today, I will wish deep in my heart that all ninety-nine fifth-graders will hold on to their dreams and dance around with them joyfully, like they danced around the waves at their beach party yesterday, and not just chuck them away like the tattered back-pack that smells like old cottage cheese that no one needs anymore because it is summer.

Today, I will cry with sadness. With joy. With a little worry.

And with hope.


Monday, June 14, 2010

To Tiara or Not To Tiara.......

On Saturday, June 19th I have been invited as a guest author at a fundraiser for Rolling Readers, which is a wonderful program that pairs volunteers with struggling readers. (It's kind of a schwanky, cheese and such...)

Anyway, I was very honored to be asked. Janelle Cannon (Stellaluna)
will be there. AND Gerald McDermott!!!

I heart Gerald McDermott. (I am secretly hoping to sit next to him so I cal tell him how much kids love his books. I mean, he probably already knows, but I've read his stuff to kids a BUNCH of times and well, it just really resonates with children.

So, the dress for this event says, "Creative Cocktail Attire."

What the heck is that?

Usually, when I appear as an author, it is as the Story Queen....cape, velvet gown, plastic crown....but somehow that doesn't seem quite right for such a schwanky event. (And I don't think any of us are doing a reading, per se).

The question is: Tiara or no Tiara?

I'm leaning towards a rather tasteful tiara, maybe something black and simple in terms of clothes.....

But is that just over the top?

You tell me.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Talismans...and, oh yeah, the world DID swallow me up.

Okay, maybe not the world, just the week. This week swallowed me whole. It ate me alive. I swear, the last coherent memory I have is Monday...and suddenly it is Friday??? Wha????

Anyway, I was cleaning my desk at school (a HIDEOUS job) and I found a very special folder that I totally forgot about. Some people collect beautiful things, display them elegantly and have lovely houses that make me drool with envy. But I collect paper.

Lots of paper.

Most of the paper on the desk I don't even look at. Ever. It's just there.....yes, I need the employee safety protocol for 2003! Yes, I need my evaluation project fot 2007!


Yet I can't seem to let these pages go.....but I was gonna....until a stack fell out of the folder and I remembered why I could not throw the folder away.

It held the collection.

It held my talismans. Little snippets written by students about writing that are filled with such beauty.....*sigh*

They make everything I do worth while.

Here is one, written my a student who didn't speak English when she first came. I am leaving her original spelling.


Without writing
I would never remember all
the butiful things
I have wrote.
Writing is more powerful
than speaking.
Speaking might make you
forget things,
but no matter how old and wrinkly it is,
you will still remember every written thing.
Also, my hart says
to keep writing.
It is like my hart is controling me
to write as much as I need.
When you say something butiful
it will break against the wall,
but when you write,
you will keep it


And that, folks, is why I do what I do.

Sometimes, as grown-ups, we forget the passion, the need, kids have to express themselves in writing. Their hearts control them.

Just like our hearts control us.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Some Things I Tell Kids #2

My second answer to the question of what makes someone a writer is a big one:

You have to be a risk-taker.

You have to be willing to risk it I'm not talking about your life, or your health or your money. No. You have to be willing to risk something that is even harder to let go of.

Your pride.

You have to be willing to let someone else see your writing AND you have to be willing to learn from the experience.

An example from my writing past:

About five years ago, with a few easy readers and picture books under my belt, I decided to try and write a chapterbook, or perhaps an easy novel. I had a title (this is where most of my writing starts) and characters and kind of a rough idea of how many chapters and such so I sat down and wrote. Being the non-outliner that I am, I had no idea when I was going to be done until I actually finished it. (Along the way, I had mentioned the idea to my editor and she was game, so I kind of felt like it was a slam dunk.)

It was not a slam dunk.

Here I had risked my pride, my writing reputation, writing in a different style, taking a chance and she did not buy the book.

Let me say that again: She did not buy the book.

Especially hard because she had been quite enthusiastic about the premise. And then she wrote to me about why she couldn't offer for it, even though she loved the voice, adored the characters, and found the dialoge enchanting. My book had no plot.

No plot.

I took the risk and failed.....or did I?

I like to think I did not fail. I like to think I did something far better. I learned.

After that, I made it my business to learn about plot, to understand it. And I knew it would take time. Plot is not the same thing as a premise. But the truth is that I never would have really understood PLOT without failing first. And in order to learn the lesson, I had to take the risk.

I am a better writer for trying and failing.

Today, I can look at that old manuscript and I do not cringe. I smile, for it helped me understand things about my own work that I never would have had I not taken the risk and written it.

(Of course, there is NO WAY I am going to show it to anybody now!!)


Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's a Small World After All......

So, 'tis really a small planet. I mean, where else would girls from sunny SoCal

be hopping on a plane next week to Shanghai, China

to perform Irish Dance

at the World Expo!

(So, I am sorry I've been neglectful of blogging and commenting....but I've got to get my two older girls ready to See the World!!!)

In case you were wondering, I am not freaking out.

I'm not.


P.S. Neglected to mention that neither the mother hen (me) nor the papa rooster (Sean) gets to venture across the sea with them (hence the crazed-mom-worried-syndrome.) We have to hang out behind and....oh and stuff.