Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Great Read Aloud Experiment Part 2

Wow.  Sometimes it's like the Earth swallows you up, you know?

It isn't the Earth, actually, it's my job.  In the past, when my work got stressful, I found I would blog a lot.  I needed to keep that write part of me alive and not let it slip away.  However, right now most of my brain cells have been overtaken by 32 third graders, and instead of needing to escape from the situation, I find I really like it.  I greatly enjoy these little people and thinking about ways to make our time together as meaningful as possible.

A part of me will always be a teacher, I suppose.

So, as I blogged about before, I thought it would be interesting (exciting, crazy, maybe stupid) to read my middle grade novel to my own class.  We are a little more than the middle of the way through, so I thought I'd share some thoughts.

1.  There is NOTHING like writing a special part of a book that you HOPE that kids get, and then seeing the light bulb go ON and hands shoot up into the air with comments!  It.was.awesome.  Today I was reading the fifth tale, A Pigboy, a Ghost, and a Pooka, and I got to the part where one of the characters may or may not be what they seem.  Oooooh! The gasps, the looks, the questions.  I'll never forget their faces.

2.  It made me hope there would be an audio-book of Trinket someday.  I actually like hearing this story better than silently reading it.  I think there are those books that lend themselves more to be read aloud, and some that are more private, and better savored in solitude. Trinket is the former.  

3.   Would I change anything about the book?  Short answer:  No.  Long answer: Truthfully, there are a few phrases that I read differently than I wrote them.  I don't know why my brain makes the change, but it does.  So there is that.

4.  It makes me itching to write!!  My writing time has been small lately, and focused mostly on revision.  I really want to write something that surprises me.  I just wish I knew what.  (Of course, then it wouldn't be a surprise, would it?)

So, I have a few minutes which are not packed with anything, so I think I will open a word document and see where it takes me....


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Unless: A few thoughts about Dr. Seuss

It struck me the other day that the genius of Dr. Seuss is not his rhyme or his rhythm or his invention of the perfect word to fit into the perfect verse.  It is not his creation of unusual and almost impossible creatures in hues of pink, yellow and green.

The genius of Dr. Seuss lies in the heart of his stories--or more basically, the simple fact that his stories are full of heart.

Example #1:  I was reading THE LORAX the other day to my class. We were near the end of an IB unit entitled I Need the Earth and the Earth Needs Me so it seemed appropriate. The kids were there--right there-- with the good doctor as the Lorax bemoaned the loss of the truffula trees and the brown barbaloots.  All was lost for this corner of the world until I turned the page and in largish letters was the word UNLESS.  Our world will go the way of the Lorax's world unless we make a choice to change things.  Unless.  I will admit, I got a little teary when I read that word, mostly because my kids totally GOT IT.  They know if the world is to change, it is up to them.  Dr. Seuss knew that almost 50 years ago.  He knows that our only hope is children.

Example #2:  My daughter was in a production of Seussical  a few weeks ago.  She was the Sour Kangaroo (the villain, which she played well--almost too well:).  Anyway, there is a part in the musical near the end when the egg that Horton has been sitting on finally hatches and durn it if it didn't cause a big lump in my throat and tears in my eyes!  This was a mid-school production, and Horton was a 14 year-old boy in overalls and a trucker hat with elephant ears and I am crying!  Crying!

And Dr. Seuss would probably say:

And it should be,
     It should be,
           It SHOULD be that way.

So much heart.  Reread HORTON HATCHES THE EGG, or THE LORAX.  You'll see.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

What I Did Over My Spring Break

It ends tonight.  *sniff*  *sniff*

It is not that I don't want to go back tomorrow and see my lovely students.  I do.  But I would be a liar if I didn't say how much I enjoyed not having to get up in the dark of the morning, and having nice chunks of unstructured time.

It is hard when you are a wife and a mom and a teacher and a writer to NOT feel like there is always something that you SHOULD be doing.  Every moment that I am doing one thing, I worry that I am not getting something else done that I should be.  Sheesh.  That is why Spring Break is so nice.

So, here is what I did:

1.  Saw a production of Seussical (which I need to blog about in detail, soon!)

2.  Prepared a very easy Easter dinner for my family and my visiting folks that was very tasty.  I sometimes forget how good simple can be.

3.  Shopped a little, but not much.

4.  Went to the San Diego Zoo (with about everyone else in San Diego!!!) It was so crowded.  But I saw the most adorable otter, and it reminded me of a shape-shifting otter I once wrote about.  Such a beautiful day, too.  My youngest daughter has a fancy camera, so it was really a photography excursion for her.  But for me, it was just amazing to be in the presence of wild animals.

5.  Spent time with my daughters, just goofing and watching junk TV.

6.  Wrote a lot.  I finished a completely new version of Nix the Naughty, my wacky medieval romp which stars a trouble-making boy and his adventures in a scriptorium. Think if Jimmy Neutron wrote the Book of Kells.  I also started two new middle grades (while Nix simmers and awaits revision).  Well, only one of them is new.  The other one is a rewrite of In the Kingdom of the Selkies which I have decided to take in a new direction.  It is hard when you finish writing something and know that if you made a different choice early on, the book would be stronger.  So, I have been putting off the revision until I could figure out what the new first lines of the book should be.  And finally, I think I've found them.  (Crosses fingers.)  What?  Oh the other new middle grade?

Well, I think it is sci-fi.

I know, right?

We'll see.  I plan to write two books side by side until one takes over.  I know it sounds crazy, but it allows me to write more freely if all-of-the-pressure-of-the-world is not on one book.  I guess it's like not putting all of my eggs in one basket or something.  I dunno.  I just know that it helps me to start things if I start two completely different pieces at the same time.

Oh, and I drafted a picture book, too.  (I am just waiting patiently for the right ending to come along....)

7.  And I read!!  Several books that touched my brain and my heart.  Will post a recommendation list soon.

But for now, I have to prepare myself to go back to school.

Which of course means a trip to Costco.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013



I have a lot I'd like to blog about and just haven't had the time to do it--so soon.  I'll do it very soon.  I mean, I've got to reflect on my March goals and then I had a very insightful experience with Dr. Seuss.  Oh, and I've got to update my progress on the Great Read Aloud Experiment of 2013 (in which I am reading my book to my class).  However, today is Tuesday, the second official day of my Spring Break and thus far, I have written nothing.


And I'd like to finish a draft this week, begin a revision (in which the first page must be totally reworked and if I don't capture the right voice within the first few lines, the manuscript if done for) and draft a very short picture book that has been kicking around in my brain for three weeks.

It seems like a lot--but I've got a week!  A week with no extraneous work!

So, to make myself accountable for today, I am going to live-blog my progress today.  The manuscript I am working on is currently 15,222 words.  I'd like it to be around 20k (about the length of a Wimpy Kid book).  I have fortified myself with a breakfast of a blondie with browned-butter icing, topped with a piece of Irish bacon. (This may be the best breakfast ever!!)  And tea.  Always tea. I let myself have a rare sleep-in this morning, so I can't say that I am tired.  No excuses.  I think I'll start with a 30 minute timed writing and see how far I get.

Wish me luck! Start time:  11:22  Total: 15,222.

(The last line I wrote in this ms is:
     I hear the rocks and dirt crunch under his feet.
     He is coming towards me.)

End time:  11:58  New Total:  15,819

Just did a timed writing for 30 minutes.  Not a bad start.  I got through a scene that I was struggling with (as in having no idea what was going to happen.)  Yay!  Now, I am going to get dressed for the day, maybe read a little, then try another timed writing in a little while.

I decided to do a 1k1hr on twitter with some other authors.  I began at 1:30 and finished at 2:26.    A little over 1,100 words! I worry that I am moving too quickly through some scenes, but I think I can go back and flesh them out if they seem sparse on the re-read.  I am just excited to feel the momentum of the story moving forward to its climax.  I'd love to try another timed writing for an hour in a little bit.  My fingers seem too sloppy to tackle it now.  I am about to enter a battle scene with Vikings, a couple of monks and a very inept knight.  

End time: 2:26  new Total 16,925!

Spent a good deal of time reading.  It is so nice not to fall asleep and have the book hit my face, which happens most nights because I am sooooo tired by the time I finally get to read.  What a gift, to read leisurely.  I was reading Gayle Forman's new young adult novel, JUST ONE DAY,
which was really, really good.  I thought I'd do another timed writing for an hour, but life intervened (in the form of an epic lightsaber vs watergun battle right outside my window.)  I only got about 400 more words.

New Total:  17, 372!

So that makes more that 2k in one day, which is fairly awesome for me.  I might try one more after dinner, which I think will be leftovers from Easter dinner. 

More later, perhaps.