Wednesday, January 30, 2013

End of January Goal Check-In

Well, my year of goals and gratitude it off to a rollicking start.

In terms of my goals for the month, let's take a look.  I was supposed to:

1.  Finish revisions of a new middle grade novel and decide on a title.  Well, I got a few more notes the other day, so I am still working on it, but soon. Soon.  And I think I'll keep the working title (for now, anyway.)  All in all, pretty pleased with this one.  Not a completed goal, but close.

2.  Write a new picture book.  Does it count if I am revising an old one?  Yes, let's say it does.  And that should be done tonight!  Ha-HA!  Very excited about this one. I am going to refer to it as KWAP, which sounds kind of funny when you say it, actually.

3. Look at Chicken Wizard again.  Oops.  I did not do this.  I kind of forgot because I was working on something that was not even on my goal list for January.  Sorry, Chicken Wizard, but I think I have to bump you to the next month.

4.  No, I did not have a fourth goal for January, but I ended up writing an early chapter book anyway!  Yay!  It is just the first draft, so if I decide to "keep" it, I know it will need revision.  Probably lots.  But it needs some time in the cooler before I make a decision.  I really like it, but it is pretty different from anything I've done, so I definitely need to wait until I can see it with fresh eyes.  It's name is Dingle.

My goals also include trying a new restaurant each month.  This month it was Urban Plates.  Folks, I can really get behind this whole farm-to-table movement.  This place is so good!  We went last night after my storytelling even at Ashley Falls Elementary School in Del Mar and I would have gone back again tonight except that I have a lot of work to do and it is kind of far away.
Photo take from their website.  I reckon they wouldn't mind.  I mean, I am talking about how good the food is and I suppose they would want people to see how good it looks, too.
  I'll end with what I am grateful for this month:

  • THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate winning the Newbery award this year.  (Also thrilled that a few bloggers and librarians thought that THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET was a dark horse in the race that stood a chance (slim, most likely:) of getting an mention...heck, to have my book mentioned anywhere near books like IVAN was humbling and amazing.  Even though TRINKET'S chances were remote, I can't tell you what an honor it was that my book was a part of the conversation.)
  • Not cutting all my hair off.  Man, I was tempted. Some of those cute, choppy, pixie styles are just so, well, cute.  But instead, I just got it layered a bit and that made all the difference.  So much less scraggly. 
  • Three day weekends.  We had two this month.  Nice way to start the year.
Did you meet your goals for the month?  And what are you grateful for?


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Where I Will Be this Week

Hi folks,

This is a busy week for me.

Tuesday, January 29th:  I will be spending the evening at Ashley Falls Elementary in Del Mar for their "Slippers and Stories" event.  I am very excited!  I might have to find some very cool slippers to wear--that I can bling up before the event.  Must put that on the list!  Maybe Oreo will have some slippers, too... (where does one get slippers for a pet monkey puppet?)

Wednesday, January 30th:  Story Day at Jefferson Elementary.  I have not yet completely decided upon which grade levels will get which stories, but so far it looks like this:

1st:  The Magic Fish
2nd: Kipling's The Elephant's Child from JUST SO STORIES
3rd:  The Letter Activity Pt. 2. (In December, the students wrote to my puppets.  Now, it's time for some asnswers!  Live, unscripted answers!)
4th:  A Chinese tale (I am thinking 7 Chinese Brothers maybe.  Our fourth graders take Mandarin classes, so I'd like to do a story from China.  Also thinking about Ten Suns.)
5th:  A German tale:  (The fifth graders learn German, so I'd like to do a little known Grimm tale, but I need to do a bit more research.)

Friday, February 1st:
I'll be at Barnes and Noble in Oceanside at 7:00 for the Mission Meadow's bookfair.  Thinking of bringing a few door prizes--maybe making up a few more Trinket boxes.  I'll be talking about the GOOD KNIGHT books and THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET and probably read a little of each. And of course, the puppets will come.

Saturday, I will be sleeping in, I think.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Why I Cannot Rate Books on Goodreads or Other Places

As I struggle through report cards (also known as the-grid-with-a-thousand-boxes) I realize why I have given up on recording the books I read on Goodreads, (and rating them) and why I am unable to rate books using any kind of logical system.  You see folks, as a teacher in today's world, I already have to rate EVERYTHING else.

 Seriously, you would not believe it if I told you, so I won't bother boring you with the details. But really, REALLY, I have to rate almost every student paper I see on a 5 point scale.

And you know, it's really nice to just read a book and ENJOY it, and not have to think about if I feel if the author was ADVANCED in their storytelling, PROFICIENT, BASIC, BELOW BASIC or (heaven forbid) FAR BELOW BASIC.  It is a gift I treasure--just to go with the author on their journey into their book.  Yes, there are some adventures I like better than others, there are some that resonate with my heart more than others. But honestly, getting to read for pleasure is just so filled with PLEASURE, I find myself unable and unwilling to assign it a number.

I kind of wish I could.  It would be so much easier for me if I could look back on the books I have read with some sort of organized template and think, "Ah yes, I gave it four and a half stars for these reasons......"  and I kind of envy the folks that can do this.  But for me, NOT having to rate my reading choices is perhaps the best thing about my personal reading time.

How about you?  Do you make reading rating systems work for you....or not?



Sunday, January 13, 2013

I Did It! (But it took longer than I thought, of course.)

I guess it's  like that saying that encourages you to shoot for the moon, then you will land among the stars.  I made a goal to write a chapterbook in 2 days, and though I did not make my goal, I finally did finish it a week later!  A week!

Not bad.

So even though I did not reach my goal, I came closer than I would have without said goal, so that must count for something.

Anyway, my baby weighs in at about 7,200 words.  I'll let it sit, then revise it in a while.  It might get trimmed down a little.  But I think it is a lovely book-baby.  Here are some of the things I love about it:

  • fire breathing puppy
  • box turtle named Teddy Roosevelt
  • A little girl with attitude who eventually proves her worth
  • family relationships
  • cake
  • chewed-up stuff
  • interesting use of the word "spigot"
And I got another idea for another early chapterbook, too.  I can't decide if I am going to jump right in and write this one, or wait a few days.  I rather believe in striking when the iron is hot, but I don't want to write the idea toooooo fast.  That is one sure way to ruin a good idea, forcing it before it is ready.

But yes, a productive week in all.

On the down side, my list of things to do today had 12 items on it.  I completed only 5.  It is only 9:00 pm here, so I suppose I could manage a few more things.  Trouble is, I just don't want to!  Maybe one more thing....yeah.  One more.

Ha!  I just wrote a blog post!  Done!


Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Crazy Things We Do Sometimes

Sometimes, I like a challenge.

I have been struggling to make time to write an early chapter book for a long time.  A long time.  And I am really frustrated with myself that I always put it on the back burner.

Not today. Today I turn the flame on under the pot.

As a self-inflicted challenge, I am giving myself 48 hours to write said book.

Impossible! you might say.  And you might be right.

But why not try?  I mean, who's it going to hurt if I can't do it?


At this point, I have the concept and a few pages.  I have no idea how long the book will be, but I'll count it a win if I get 5k words by my deadline.  (Magic Tree House books are 5k-7k, as are Junie B Jones books, however, Geronimo Stilton are 8k-10k, as are Marty McGuire books. And Humprey the Hamster books weigh in at an impressive 30k.)  I really have no idea how long this little book will want to be.  I am pretty sure it will wind up between 5k and 10k, but that's because that is where I WANT it to fall.  Sometimes stories have other ideas.

So, in addition to that little challenge, here are my January goals:

1.  Finish revisions of new middle grade novel.  Decide on a title.  (I have a couple of working titles, but I still keep thinking I will find the one that makes me go--WOW!)

2.  Start a picture book.

3.  Look at Chicken Wizard again.  It's sitting in my computer--no one has really seen it, and yet, I wait for this one piece of it so sing.  I need to figure out what it's problem is!!

Okay, I think I am good with those goals for the next few weeks.


Looking back on 2012, I am thankful for:

*Going to ALA in Anaheim and meeting the great folks at FSG, including my editor.
*Going to SCBWI for the first time.
*Getting starred reviews for the Seven Tales of Trinket from Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, and Booklist, in addition to a really lovely one from School Library Journal.
*Having an amazing launch party (and getting to see my girls dance together  one more time!!)
*Working with extraordinary third-graders.
*Having a talented artist like Dan Craig paint the cover for Trinket.
*A new desk.
*A husband that realized I needed a new desk and found the perfect one.
*Beautiful, talented, smart daughters.
*Henry and Mikey

Okay, back to the craziness at hand!

ETA:  12:20, January 6th

Already 1,367 words into the story!  Now off to run a few errands.  I'd like to make Thai curry chicken lettuce wraps for dinner and need to get some things.  

5:43, January 6th

I've got 2,163 words, and will probably write for a bit again later tonight.  I  like where it's going, but something REALLY wild needs to happen in the next part.  Folks, this is way fun.

9:24, January 6th

2,416 words.  And I just named a box turtle after a president.  So there.  But now I am second guessing myself.  Is George Washington a better name for a box turtle, or is Teddy Roosevelt?

6:26, January 7th

2638 words, but I've barely had the time today!  In a few hours, my time limit will be here!  Oh no!  

9:45, January 7th

2949 words.  I wanted to do more tonight, but I am so incredibly tired--and the Nyquil is kicking in so I'd best pull up the covers and drift off.  

5:48, January 8th

3,305 words.  yeah, yeah, I know.  I am way over my time limit--almost by a day!  But I look at it this way, this is 3,305 more words that I would have had without my crazy goal.  I still think I can finish soon, but I am pretty sure that this is going to be at least 6,000.  (I really don't want it any more than that.)

8:55, January 8th

3,643 words.   Really cracked myself up with a certain scene. And the turtle has been named Teddy Roosevelt, in case you were wondering.  I really think I can finish this in a few days.  So jazzed!

7:06 January 9th

4,145 words.  Homestretch time...maybe.  But yeah!  

10:12 p.m. January 10th

Dudes--4,724!!  It is not done yet, but I think it will be under the 6,000 mark.  Okay,so it was not a chapterbook in a day--but it might be a chapterbook in a week, and I'll take it.

And I named the turtle Teddy Roosevelt.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pretend It Is December For Just a Minute More: SLJ Review

Bear with me here--just give me five more minutes of December, then you can move on with the rest of January.  See, I forgot to post this, and well, it's really lovely and I'd like you to see it.

This is from the December issue of School Library Journal:

THOMAS, Shelley Moore. The Seven Tales of Trinket. illus. by Dan Craig. 370p. Farrar. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-374-36745-9; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-374-36744-2.
Gr 4-6–Set in a fantasy version of the Middle Ages and shot through with medieval-style magic, this is the story of 11-year-old Trinket, who takes to the road, accompanied by Thomas the Pig Boy, after her mother dies. She is in search of her father, a traveling storyteller who left when she was little. As she journeys, she discovers her courage, her own storytelling gifts, and a strong sense of self. The episodic narrative consists of a series of linked stories, one to a chapter, in each of which there is an adventure or a conflict with magical creatures, including fairies, a banshee, a highwayman, and a pooka. These stories are tied to Trinket’s own development as a storyteller. Her adventures are expertly told, with some suspense or danger in each chapter. However, the danger is resolved by the end of the chapter, giving the whole a gentle, reassuring feel. One is reminded of the world of folktale journeys and quests. The language is simple and direct, with a sprinkling of archaic words adding a taste of the medieval. Trinket’s character is clearly drawn, and her determination and sense of self come to the fore when she is confronted by the Old Burned Man and the reality of who he is. The accessible format will appeal to readers who like their fantasy not too scary, and the flow of the narrative lends itself to being read aloud.–Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City

Thank you, SLJ!

(And my favorite part of the review--"...expertly told..." 

My head is so fat I might not be able to fit it out of the door for my morning run:)

And, since we are spending 5 more minutes in December, let's talk resolutions before the year steamrolls any further.

I am not doing any resolutions this year.  Don't get me wrong--I liked mine from last year.

1. Read more
2. Write more
3. Laugh more

They worked well for me.  

But for 2013, I want to focus on Gratitude and Goals.  I want to be grateful for wherever I am in my writing live.  I really want to smell the roses, or the grass, or the moist dirt, or whatever. I will probably be making some gratitude lists throughout the year to help me remember.

As for Goals, I think I just want to make a list of stuff I want to do.  No resolution...just a list I can check off.  (I am useless without lists. I rely on them for most everything.  Why not use one to shape my 2013?)

1.  Go someplace in 2013 I have never been before.
2.  Eat food from a different restaurant each month (something NEW--not the same old take-out)
3. Make monthly writing goals the first week of each month. (I used to do this and it really helps me focus.)
4. Write 4 picture books.
5. Write 2 chapterbooks
6. Finish revising middle grade novel, start a draft of another.
7. Run everyday.
8. De-clutter each cupboard and closet (at least once--not that it will stay that way, but--)
9. Do one special thing with each of my daughters.

And there you go.  

Okay. I guess it's okay to return to 2013.

I am ready.