Goals Deep into January

Last week I learned that a four day work week is no excuse for not meeting my 6000 words/week goal.  We had a snow day complete with a parade of visitor from 7:15 am until 8:oo pm.  I got over 1000 words written that day working in fits and starts although I also shoveled snow for an hour (it was quiet outside).
Obviously, this snow day did not hurt my total word count.  It may have even helped.  I was determined to get things done in spite of the parade.  All in all, I pulled down 7630 words last week.  The one thing on my goal list that I didn’t accomplish was reading the how-to chapter.  I started it later in the week but got hung up on the first exercise which requires me to observe people and how they express various emotions.  This would have been fine the day everyone was here but that’s not the day I did my reading.
School is closed today in observation of Martin Luther King day.  My son spent the night at my sister’s so I’m trying to get a bit done before I go get him.  I probably won’t be getting much done once he gets home — he has a school project to finish and while I’m  not helping with it per se, he is a very group kind of kid.  He wants someone there with him so he’s not suffering alone.  I’ll be in the same room getting a whole lot of knitting done and also folding my laundry and possibly ironing.
I’ll have to hit the ground running tomorrow, because my list of goals is long.  I try for two/day but a few extra crept on to the list.  Wish me luck!
  • 5 posts for One Writer’s Journey (Done!).
  • 1 review for the Bookshelf (Done!).
  • 1 blog post for Church (Done!).
  • Script rewrites if any are requested (Done!).
  • 4 new scripts (Done!).
  • 2 new chapters for middle grade (in progress).
  • Smooth over problems in first four chapters of middle grade.
  • Read more of the how-to chapter.
  • Picture book to agent which will require a final tweaking of the manuscript.
  • Clean up a pile here in my office (Done!).
  • Brainstorm some new ideas (Done!).
  • Query WD (Done!).

Good luck to all of you in meeting your weekly goals.


PS.  Don’t forget to set some goals.  It really is the first step!

Tahiti Pehrson

Every once in a while, I see a piece of cut paper art that I just itch to pick up.  To try to understand, check out the work of artist Tahiti Pehrson. She cuts everything out by hand and her work is so intricate and layered that I want to pick it up so that I can rotate it and try to get a better look at some of the details.

Seriously, click above to visit her gallery.  It is amazing stuff.

Special thanks to Design Sponge, the blog that introduced me to Ms. Pehrson’s work.


Why Do You Write?

Last week, I started reading Crafting the Personal Essay by Dinty W. Moore

Part of chapter 1 was to spend five minutes writing about why we write.  Here is my answer:

I write to dig deep down beneath an idea and see what lies behind it, what led to it.

I write to see what happens when two things – ideas, places, themes, characters – are combined.  What do they have in common?  What light does one shed upon the other.

I write to learn and explore and to see – what lies beyond the turn of the next page.

I write to tell a damn good story.  I come from a strong line of southern story tellers.  Not Deep South southern but midwest and west Texas southern, country boys and rural women who all have a yarn to spin, a tale to tell, a way of bringing laughter to the dinner table, heads nodding and then eyes turning to another as the next one picks up the tale of “do you remember when. . .”

I write to create this feeling of togetherness, of people drawn together.  In my family, it was at the dinner table or in the living room afterwards, cups of coffee in hand.  Yes, coffee.  After dinner.  Even in the summer.

My readers and I won’t be gathering around a literal table, a dining table, but perhaps we can gather together around a single idea, brought together by our shared humanity, common human experience, a group desire to know, to do, to explore, to lift another up.

I write to be heard.

So, why do you write?


Book Trailers

Book trailers fascinate me.  There is so variety among trailers that I love puzzling through why the various elements were chosen for specific videos.

Watch the trailer for Kelsey Ketch’s upcoming YA, Death’s Island. Immediately, I get the graphic images and the smoke.  I have no doubt in my mind why these match this particular book.

But the lovely island shots?  The pretty little boat?  The Pirate’s of the Caribbean soundtrack?  That’s where I’d love to pick someone’s brain.  Initially, I’d have said, “No.  Those don’t work.”  But the whole does work.

So I’m left noodling over why.  Opinions?


Books: ALA Awards and My Own Recent Reading

Wow.  What’s that relaxed feeling?  That’s a book reviewer not running around like a woman possessed on the day the ALA announces the medalists.  Instead, I can just sit back and continue what I’m already reading knowing that I can simply request the winners I haven’t already read later in the day.


The paper now publishes a wire story on the reviews which is ok by me.  Here’s a hint:  You cannot acquire, read and review 5 or more book in three days and do justice to the books involved.  Just cannot.

I’ve been planning to post on my recent reads so I’ll do that first and then go on to the ALA winners.

Last week, I read:

  • 204 Rosewood Lane by Debbie Macomber (Thorndike Press):  Women’s fiction.
  • The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O’Connor (Farrar Straus and Giroux): Middle grade novel. Of the three books, this was my favorite.  At first I wasn’t sure I liked it — why is the girl character the pest?  That is so stereotypic in a boy’s book.  But O’Connor knows her publisher and her audience.  Click here to read my review.
  • The Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (Bloomsbury):  Young adult mystery.

And now on to the ALA winners!

John Newbery Medal winner: Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (Delacorte Press)
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm (Random House Children’s Books)
Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus (Amulet Books)
Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children).  I haven’t read this one but I enjoy Sidman’s work.
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad/HarperCollins Publishers)
Randolph Caldecott Medal winner: A Sick Day for Amos McGee illustrated by Erin E. Stead by by Philip C. Stead (Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press)
Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave illustrated by Bryan Collier by Laban Carrick Hill (Little, Brown and Company)
Interrupting Chicken written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick Press)
Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults winner: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown and Company).  This one caught my attention, but I haven’t read it yet.
Stolen by Lucy Christopher (Chicken House/Scholastic Inc.)
Please Ignore Vera Dietz A.S. King (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children’s Books).  I love, love, love Kings writing and can’t believe I missed that this had come out.  Naughty me!
Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick (Roaring Brook Press)
Nothing by Janne Teller (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award winner: One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad/HarperCollins Publishers)
Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers (Amistad/HarperCollins Publishers)
Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Little, Brown and Company)
Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty written by G. Neri, illustrated by Randy DuBurke (Lee & Low Books Inc.)
Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award winner: Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave illustrated by Bryan Collier by Laban Carrick Hill (Little, Brown and Company)
Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix illustrated by Javaka Steptoe, written by Gary Golio (Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company).  Check out my review of this title here.  This is one that I picked up because I know the author’s wife and ended up simply adoring the book.
Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent (Author) Award winner: Zora and Me written by Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon (Candlewick Press)
Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent (Illustrator) Award winner: Seeds of Change illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler by Jen Cullerton Johnson (Lee & Low Books Inc.)
Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Practitioner Award for Lifetime Achievement winner:  Dr. Henrietta Mays Smith.
Schneider Family Book Award winners picture book, middle grade, ya:
The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Lynne Avril (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick (Scholastic Press)
Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John (Dial Books/Penguin Group (USA) Inc.)
Alex Awards for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences:
The Reapers Are the Angels: A Novel by Alden Bell (Holt Paperbacks)
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender (Doubleday/Random House, Inc.)
The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni (Amy Einhorn Books/G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown and Company)
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: A Novel by Helen Grant (Delacorte/The Random House Publishing Group)
The Radleys by Matt Haig (Free Press/Simon & Schuster, Inc.)
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton (Thomas Dunne Books for Minotaur Books/St. Martin’s Press)
Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok (Riverhead Books/Penguin Group)
Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray (Hyperion)
The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To by DC Pierson (Vintage Books/Random House, Inc.)
Take a close look at these titles.  Do adults really need you to tell them when a book is a novel?  Really?
Laura Ingalls Wilder Award winner: Tomie dePaola.  Not a surprise here since he’s the fabulous author/illustrator of something over 200 books.  Maybe the question should be — how long have you been giving out this award and why wasn’t he first?  But then my adoration may make me biased.
Margaret A. Edwards Award winner: Sir Terry Pratchett.
Mildred L. Batchelder Award winner: A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux, translated by Y. Maudet (Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books)
Departure Time by Truus Matti and translated by Nancy Forest-Flier (Namelos)
Nothing by Janne Teller and translated by Martin Aitken (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
Pura Belpré (Author) Award winner: The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Peter Sís (Scholastic Press).  Read my review here.
¡Olé! Flamenco written and illustrated by George Ancona (Lee &Low Books Inc)
The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle (Henry Holt and Company, LLC)
90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis (Roaring Brook Press)
Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award winner: Grandma’s Gift illustrated and written by Eric Velasquez (Walker Publishing Company, Inc./Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc.)
Fiesta Babies illustrated by Amy Córdova,  by Carmen Tafolla (Tricycle Press/Crown Publishing Group/Random House, Inc.):  Wow.  Wonder what will happen since Tricycle has gone Adios?
Me, Frida illustrated by David Diaz, by Amy Novesky (Abrams Books for Young Readers):  I love Diaz’s work so I’m really looking forward to this one.
Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams Books for Young Readers).
Robert F. Sibert Medal winner: Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot by Sy Montgomery (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children)
Honors:  Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca (Neal Porter Book/Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing).  This is amazing since I’ve actually met Greenberg!!
Lafayette and the American Revolution by Russell Freedman (Holiday House):  Not surprising to see Freedman’s name on this list but sure glad it is here!
Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award winner: Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher (Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books)
will grayson, will grayson by John Green and David Levithan (Dutton Books/Penguin Group (USA) Inc).
Love Drugged by James Klise (Flux/Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.)
Freaks and Revelations by Davida Willis Hurwin (Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group, Inc.)
The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Penguin Young Readers Group)
Am I the only one wondering if lesbian teens might also need a book or two?
Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner: Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile (Candlewick Press)
Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! written and illustrated by Grace Lin (Little, Brown and Company)
We Are in a Book! written and illustrated by Mo Willems (Hyperion Books for Children)
William C. Morris Award winner: The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston (Carolrhoda Lab/Carolrhoda Books)
Hush by Eishes Chayil (Walker Publishing Company/Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc.)
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey (Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group)
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride (Henry Holt)
Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber (Margaret McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)
YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults winner: Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel (Amulet/Abrams)
They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Spies of Mississippi:  The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement by Rick Bowers (National Geographic Society)
The Dark Game: True Spy Stories by Paul Janeczko (Candlewick Press)
Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and Debates by Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw (Charlesbridge)
Now off to request a couple dozen books!

Goals: Firmly in 2011

The boys went camping last weekend (yes, it was cold!) so I hoped to get a scad of writing done over and above my 6000 word goal.  I did manage to pull down 6830 words total.  What can I say?  I had a cold.  I wasn’t terribly sick but I’ve been messing with it for weeks so I read and listened to audiobooks and knitted and sewed and wrote just a little.  It was nice.  And I did meet my goals.

This week I plan to:

  • 5 posts for One Writer’s Journey (Done).
  • 1 review for the Bookshelf (Done).
  • 1 blog post for Church (Done).
  • Script rewrites if any are requested (Done).
  • 5 new scripts (Done).
  • Rewrite the first four chapters for the middle grade (Done).
  • Work on the outline for the middle grade (in progress).
  • Read a chapter in a how-to (in progress).
  • Clean up a pile here on my desk (Done).
  • Brainstorm some new ideas (Done).

That’s 10 items which “should” work out to be 2 a day.  I say should because up to 6 inches of snow is predicted by breakfast tomorrow. Obviously, if that happens, there will probably be no school tomorrow.

I don’t think I want to finish the outline of the middle grade.  A new chapter came into being this weekend and I don’t want to stifle that kind of creativity.  So I think I’ll just try to stay two or three chapters ahead of where I am in my writing since I know how the story ends.

So tally-ho, away I go.  Off to get some writing done.  I hope everyone else has a productive week too!


Traits a Writer Should Have

“Curiosity is one of those insatiable passions that grow by gratification.” ― Sarah Scott

What makes someone a good writer?  This is one of those things I periodically find myself contemplating.  This time it came about because of a phone conversation with one of my publishers.  It was a good conversation in many ways, including that it got me thinking.

  1. First and foremost, a successful writer should also be a reader.  And it isn’t enough to read Victorian novels if you plan to cash in on chick lit. You have to actually enjoy reading whatever it is you write. Seriously.  I mean it.  If you hate to read fantasy, do not try to write it.  Your antipathy will show.
  2. A writer is curious.  To have the drive that it takes to finish a story, a writer has to want to know what happens.  What happens on the next page, in the next chapter or in the sequel to their first novel.  Writers are driven by this need to know.
  3. A writer has to have some knowledge of who their audience is.  What are they interested in? What do they care about?  You have to have a clue so you can connect with your audience.  When I wrote a prayer for a mother whose child was diagnosed with autism, I drew on my experiences with autistic students, the things that their mother’s had discussed with me and the concerns any mother has for her child.  You have to do the same when you write a picture book or a novel.  Connect with your audience.
  4. A writer has to know if they are doing this for a living or as a hobby.  If  the answer is hobby, making money is ok but not critical.  If this is your job, you need to know it because you need to submit your work accordingly.  This may mean having to clarify this point for an editor or publisher; you are passionate but you are also making a living.
  5. A writer has to be willing to draw the line in the sand and to let their editor or publisher know just where that line is.  At some point, you’ll end up working for an editor who wants you to change something at the very core of your story or a publisher who simply pushes you too far.  Know ahead of time what you consider small things, things you are willing to shrug off and change.  But also know what the deal breakers are and why.  Not wanting to change something simply isn’t enough.  You have to know and acknowledge why you aren’t willing to change it. Then you have to be able to articulate this.
  6. A writer has to have brass.  It is essential to follow through on numbers 4 and 5 above.  It is also 100% necessary if you are going to consistently find the time to write and identify it as writing time vs free time, time that might otherwise be spent doing whatever someone else plans to ask you to do.  Not that you should always say no, but without brass, you won’t have time to write and you will spend way too much time being said or angry.  With brass, you can draw the line in the sand, point it out and then get down to brass tacks (back to work).

Your own six traits might be altogether different depending on where you are in your writing and various other life experiences.  But these come to mind where I am today.


Trying New to Me Technology in 2011

Been wondering what the hoo-ha is about the Kindle in particular or e-books in general?  Then check out Don’t Die Dragonfly by Linda Joy Singleton.  For one month, you can get a Kindle copy of Singleton’s 2004 novel at no cost.  Don’t have a Kindle?  Neither do I, but I was able to download the Kindle for PC application.  Now I can take this new technology, or something close to it, for a spin.  At no cost to myself, I’m willing to give it a try.

Speaking of trying new things, I got The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as a Playaway Digital Audio player.  I would love to report that I adored it but the ear buds, my son’s, were remarkable uncomfortable, as was having the cat periodically stroll past and snag the chord with one paw.  I apparently do not like being yanked around by one ear.  Hey — she’s a big cat!  I may try it again later when my husband, and the connector for going MP3 to speakers, is home from the office.

Fingers crossed that the Kindle experience will be much less startling.


Civil War Portraits and the LOC

A second post about the Library of Congress this week.  The library has recently made a large number of Civil War portraits available online.  You can view the images via the library’s Flickr channel or through their own website.

The images are from the 700 piece ambrotype and tintype collection recently donated to the library by the Liljenquist family.  You can read more about the donation itself here.

As a researcher, my interest is in the images as objects of history.  We get to see not only the images, but also the frames.  You have family groupings, individuals, civilians and soldiers.  Some are heart-breakingly serious while others are eerily frivolous.  What are the stories behind these images?  Surely you and I could come up with a couple of dozen story ideas here alone.


Chronicling America

I still love actual physical archives but electronic archives are also amazing things.

I know I’ve blogged about Chronicling America before (here), but it’s worth noting that the Library of Congress is still building the site up, recently adding an additional 440,000 historic newspaper pages to the site. Is it really worth your while to check it out?  To find out, I popped by to see what they had for St. Louis, Missouri (bearing in mind that these are only offerings whose titles begin St. Louis . . . ).

Not only did I find the St. Louis American and The St. Louis Daily Evening News and Intelligencer, which I already knew about, I also found the following:

St. Louis Commercial Advertiser

St. Louis Commercial Gazette

St. Louis Commercial Record

The St. Louis Journal of Agriculture

The St. Louis Live Stock and Produce Review

The St. Louis Post and Mystic Family

The St. Louis Presbyterian

Still not convinced that it just might be worthwhile?  I actually found something like 29 St. Louis, Missouri based newspapers.  This won’t be their entire content but, given that I didn’t even know that these papers existed 15 minutes ago, it is information I otherwise would not have had access to.

But what about papers from smaller towns?  They also have The Alpine Avalanche from my father’s home town in Brewster County, Texas (current population roughly 5800 in 2000).

Take the time to find out if they have something for the area you are writing about.  You might be pleasantly surprised.