Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dumb Bunny Hop-Hop

In honor of one of my favorite holidays and one of my favorite books, I am holding a 'Dumb Bunny Hop-Hop'. So hop on over and link up. You may just win one of the funniest Junie B. Jones books ever. And just so you don't trip up when it comes to the rules, here they are:

1. Write about the competition on your blog. (1 entry point)
2. Tweet about the hop. Make sure I have your link. (1 entry point)
3. Comment on this post, telling me the name of your favorite Junie B. book.(1 point)
4. Email me a picture of you doing the bunny hop. (10 entry points) Your pic will be posted if you do this. (just for fun/totally optional)

The person with the most points will win! In the event of a tie, I will put the names in a hat and have one of my children pull a name out.

Contest Ends at midnight on Easter Eve. The winner will be announced on Easter.

Friday, March 18, 2011

5 Things An Author Can Learn From A Pirate

Today my three year old was running around the house, pretending to be a pirate, and I found myself thinking, 'Do I really want my son pretending to be a pirate?' I mean, historically speaking, pirates are NOT known for their good behavior. In fact, they're known throughout the world as thieves. YIKES!

But then the rational me stepped forward-a.k.a the person I was before I became a mommy-and I started thinking about all the fun that I had pretending to be a pirate as a child. And then I thought, ' Chilax, Mom! There has to be something redeemable about pirates or the world wouldn't be so fascinated by them. I mean authors write about them all the time. Filmakers reenact their lives. And children dress up like them for Halloween.

So I chilled for a sec. and thought, what are the redeemable qualities of a pirate? I mean everyone has at least one good trait, right? And when I was done, it surprised me that I was able to think of quite a few redeemable qualities in a pirate. To be honest, I actually started to think, 'Man, maybe I need to be a pirate! Heck, all writers could learn a thing or two from pirates.

So I decided to pass on my new found knowledge to ye, me friends and fellow pirates. ARGH!

5 Things An Author Can Learn From A Pirate

1. If you want to get the booty, you have to work-off your patooty. Being an author is hard work. So if you joined this profession thinking that all of your ideas are great and that it's going to be SOOOOO easy to get published, you'd probably better rethink your career plans. Authors are some of the hardest working people out there. They write into the wee hours of the night, rewrite until their eyes cross, and network until they amass an army of supporters. And that's not the kind of thing that happens overnight. It takes time. A lot of time. So if you want to get the booty-a.k.a the publishing contract-then be prepared to work your butt off. Because writing is not for the faint of heart. And often times, you'll have to work two jobs at once.

2. It's all about the hook! A good hook captures your attention and draws you in immediately. Without one, readers and agents will not keep reading past the first few pages. So be bold with your beginning! If you have a good hook, you'll surely sell your book.(Ok. Possibly sell your book. But that didn't sound as cool.)

3. X marks the spot. Editing is key when it comes to quality writing. Rome was not built in a day, people. It took a lot of time and planning. And good writing is a lot like creating a great civilization. So if you want your book to see the shelf and be known as the book among books, you must edit. Otherwise, thank the Romans for creating the sewer system, because that's exactly where your book may be headed. Believe me. I know from experience.

4. You can't be a good captain without a loyal crew.
It takes a lot of work to run a tight ship. And the key to any successful endeavor is teamwork. Agents, publishers, editors, family, and friends are all a part of your team/crew, so thank them. Because without their support, your ship may run aground. Without them, you may not finish your book. And without them, you may not even be inspired to write at all.

5. Sometimes 'walking the plank' is the only answer. Everything you write is not going to be brilliant. And sometimes you may need to make a character, sentence, or story 'walk the plank'. Sometimes a member of your crew may even need to 'walk the plank'. And that's ok! In the words of the Gambler, Kenny Rodgers, "You've got to know when to fold 'em. Know when to hold 'em. Know when to walk away. And know when to run." And if anyone's had a successful career, it's that man. So if I were you, I'd heed his advice.

Happy Blogging, Fellow Pirates!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Snow Day

Snow Day
by Jessica Stanford

I didn’t go school today,
for I was feeling sick.
My tummy ached and lurched about.
I couldn’t eat a lick.

I sneezed and wheezed an awful lot.
My Mum rang up the doc.
He quickly came and looked at me.
His face was filled with shock.

“Your boy is ill-so gravely ill-
I think his time is through.
I’ll try my best-my very best-
But that’s all I can do.”

“The signs are here-so very clear-
I think you’d better sit.
I fear your boy is fading fast.
I can not help a bit.”

“Too bad he’s not out with his friends,
enjoying this snow day.”
“What’s that?” I ask. “ What did you say?
We don’t have school today?”

Then, I jumped up. “I’m healed!” I yelled.
My sheets fell to the floor.
I threw my snow suit on, and then
I raced right out the door.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My good pal and writing critique buddy over at 'The Write At Home Mom', Megan Bickle, had a Picture Book Blogfest this past week. And while I'm a few days late, I'd still like to get in on the action. Because as an aspiring picture book author, myself, there is nothing that I love more than a good picture book.

Picture books are my passion! I just love the way that I feel when I'm reading or writing one. A great picture book is like a time machine to the past. And just like a good song on the radio, reading a childhood favorite has a way of bringing you right back to all the hopefulness and sheer joy that you felt as a child reading them. And who doesn't want to feel that kind of hope and exhiliration in their adulthood?

So here goes. My favorite picturebook-today, anyway-is The Cat In The Hat by Dr. Suess. In my opinion, this book is the book that started it all. The Cat In The Hat was the first book that really made children love to read. Before The Cat In The Hat, the best that a child could look forward to reading was a book that said things like 'See Jane run. See Dick run. See Spot run after Dick and Jane.' BORING! And that is why I love The Cat In The Hat.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Got Voice?

Mark Twain said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." And I couldn't agree more. But what Mr. Twain failed to say-at least out loud-is that what makes the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug is your voice. And that without one, you'd be like a sailboat without wind-capable of sailing, but simply drifting about slowly in the vast ocean of slushpiles.

For awhile now, I'd forgotten that about writing. You see, lately, I've been so worried about what others would think about my comma placements and my descriptions, that I'd actually forgotten how to write like ME. In a way, I had writer's laryngitis. My words were there, but they were garbled. And they didn't really represent the passion and zest that I had when I actually spoke. And believe me peeps, I'm a pistol.

Part of the reason I'd lost my voice was because I wanted so badly to follow a magic formula (it doesn't exist) and get my works published. And the other reason was because I was so afraid of how far to take my opinions and jokes. I mean 'Could I really say what I wanted?' I am a teacher, after all. And at the end of the day, that's the job that pays the bills, not my passion for the written word. Fear can be a paralyzing thing, people.

But in the end, I had to realize that if I didn't learn to use my voice, that no one would ever truly LOVE my writing. Sure. They might like it. Heck, they may even dig it. But they'd never really love my writing the way that I love Kathryn Stockett's. Now, that girl has voice. She has big time voice.

So it got me thinking 'How can I make my writing voice stand out? And what can I do to strengthen my 'voice' muscles?' And below is what I came up with.

1. Write like no one's watching. If you write a story thinking that 'everybody and their grandma' is going to be critiquing your writing,you'll never write a story with great voice. One of the things that stifles a writer's voice the most is the worry of failure. And if you give up that worry and write for yourself, you're giving yourself permission to write like no one's watching.

Last week, I wrote a story with the intent of it never seeing the light of day. And frankly, it was the most liberating experience that I've ever had. I was able to throw caution to the wind and let all my emotions hang out, so to speak. And as a result, I churned out one of the best stories that I'd ever written. Well, at least, as far as my voice was concerned, anyway.

2. Do your research. If you're writing a story about an African American woman during the time of integration, then by golly, you'd better do your research. Again, I refer to Kathryn Stockett. After reading her book The Help, I would've guessed that she was an elderly, southern African American. Imagine my surprise to find that she was a middle aged, caucasian. Now, in her particular case-from what I've read, anyway-Stockett herself was raised (by help standards) by an African American woman, a decade after the events transpiring in her book. So, in a way, she was doing the ultimate research for her book as she grew up. But even being raised by someone who had lived during that time period wouldn't have yieled a story as awesome as The Help. I mean I was raised by a WW2 veteran, and I couldn't write a story about that time period to save my life.

So until Kathryn Stocket tells me that she didn't do any research on that book, I'm going to assume that she researched until her eyes bled. Because man, that girl wrote The Help as if she lived during that time period. And I bought it. Hook. Line. And sinker.

3. Become your character. The person you are today is not the person you were yesterday. Every day holds a new experience and feeling. So what was it like when you were a child? How did you feel when your father walked out on your mother? Channel one of your former selves, and you'll be able to harness the voice of today's character. Everyone has been scorned by a lover, or has watched someone being scorned. Everyone knows what it's like on that first day of school, with a ball of nerves churning in the pit of your stomach like a volcano nearing eruption. Use that knowledge to create your character's voice. Become a medium, and channel them.

4. Read until your eyes bleed. Or at least until you need a pair of reading glasses because you've read so much that your eyes are strained. Learn from the masters. Heck, copy them if you have to. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. At least, that's what I've heard. So fake it til' you make it. (But obviously, only during a writing exercise. You obviously don't want to steal another writer's thang'. That, my friends, is a big no-no.)

So in conclusion( my teacher speak), if you don't have voice, you will never reach the highest level of your writing. And in the end, I think that's something that all writers strive for.

So what do you do to strengthen your voice muscles? Is there a writing excercise that you've discovered in a book, class, or critique group that has really helped you out? Is there something that you thought of on your own? Do share. Please. I'd love to hear your ideas.

* Kathryn Stocket bio link

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Dr Suess!

In honor of 'Read Across America' and the beloved Theodore Geisel a.k.a Dr. Suess, I am going to post some of my favorite Dr. Suess quotes today. Feel free to post your own favorite quotes in the comments.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

“I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An Elephant's faithful-one hundred percent”

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who'll decide where to go.”

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."