Using Your Photos to Create Coloring Pages

Do you take photos for your articles or stories?  If so, you can turn them into coloring pages that you can give away on your site or use in school visits or within handouts.

You will need digital photos and Photoshop.  To find out how, check out this post on Photojojo!



I’ve done a ridiculous amount of reading since I last posted about my reading on March 2nd.

Death Threads by Elizabeth Casey

Beaks! by Sneed B. Collard III

Teeth by Sneed B. Collard III

Wings by Sneed B. Collard III

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

Sivu’s Six Wishes by Jude Daly

Apple Turnover Murder by Joanne Fluke

How to Knit a Love Story by Rachael Herron

Quicksand by Iris Johansen

Undecorate by Christiane Lemieux

Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham

Every Bone Tells a Story by Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw

Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Battuta, 1325-1354 by James Rumford

A Quick Bite by Lynsay Sands

Nox Dormienda: A Long Night for Sleeping (An Arcturus Mystery) by Kelli Stanley

Bobcat: North America’s Cat by Stephen R. Swinburne

Lots and Lots of Zebra Stripes: Patterns in Nature by Stephen R. Swinburne

Wings of Light: The Migration of the Yellow Butterfly by Stephen R. Swinburne

Animals: Black and White by Phyllis Libacher Tildes

Animals in Camouflage by Phyllis Libacher Tildes

Lost Boy: The Story of the Man who Created Peter Pan by Jane Yolen

What have I learned from my reading?

Grip the reader and don’t let go.  When I was sick, I read two novels and a picture story book in one day.  I didn’t read every word of the picture story book and skips large parts of both novels just because the picture book was shorter.  It was more interesting. Every word counted.  The novels wandered.  They poked along.  They could have been MUCH shorter.  Seriously, when someone can read the first four or five chapters and the last four chapters and be perfectly happy that they have experienced all that your book has to offer, that means you’ve done something seriously wrong.  Your ending wasn’t in the least bit surprising.  If it had been, I’d have to go back and read the middle.  Would.  Have.  To.  But I didn’t.

But if you tell a gripping story, I’ll read a book cover to cover about a subject that I thought would make me yawn.  You see, I may feel compelled to try a book that was a gift, but I am a fickle pickle when it comes to reading.  Bore me, and I’m gone.  Surprise me with a character that I feel for and want to see  win and I’m with you to the end.


Why You Need the Latest Info

Are you using only dusty old data in your writing?

Last week I wrote a post about reading about a mistranslation in Cinderella — her glass slipper should have been fur.  I assumed this was a new  way of thinking, a new discovery, when really it is quite old.  I discussed doing your research when you write history so that you can use trendy sounding ideas in their original context and surprise readers with how “forward thinking” people have been through the ages.

It is also important to do your research so that you know about the latest and greatest information on your topic, even when your topic is quite ancient.  This was brought home to me as a read “If These Teeth Could Talk,” a National Science Foundation article with a video about what scientists have recently discovered in studying dental casts of the fossil remains of ancient human ancestors.  What they’ve recently discovered contradicts much of what I was taught about fossil man.  Basically, what ancient man could eat often differed from what he did eat.

Are you using the most up-to-date information?  Have you included anything that will catch your reader by surprise?  If you answered “no” to either of these questions, maybe some new research is in order.


ALA’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2010

Not sure what to read next?  Check out the American Library Association’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2010.  The list below includes the reasons given for the challenges as well as my own personal notes on the books.

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
Sue here:  This book struck me as very straightforward.  Two male penguins raised a penguin chick.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence.
Sue here:  I loved this book.  It was a very realistic depiction of life on and off the reservation.  These boys seemed really . . . real.  So sometimes the language was off color and, let’s face it, they referred to sex just like real teen age boys.  Awesome book.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit.
Sue here:  I have to wonder if parents were objecting to this book when it was on our reading list in high school.

Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit
Sue here:  I haven’t read this one yet, but I have heard excellent things about it.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

Lush by Natasha Friend
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Sue here:  I’ve read other work by Sones and really liked it.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint

Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie
Reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: religious viewpoint, violence

Sue here:  Over all, do people object to any old mention of religion?  Or do they only get testy when it doesn’t agree with them?  Obviously, my opinion leans towards the latter.  I hope you find something on this list that makes you want to ask questions, think for yourself and voice an opinion.  Nope.  You don’t have to agree with me.  I have a tween.  I’m used to eye rolls and disagreements.  But we also have some very lively discussions.


Goals in the Last Week of May

Well, I didn’t get much checked off my list but I did manage to write 7273 words last week.  My son was sick two days and shared with me.  I spent part of Thursday watching tv with him and playing games.  Friday, I beached on the sofa and read two novels.  Then on Friday evening a tornado hit two miles away.  I wonder how many times an editor has had that excuse — I would have finished my article, but we had a tornado.

This week my goals are:

  1. Cut 100 words and submit my next CW article.  Done!
  2. Get one more interview, do the reading and wrap up my Writer’s Guide article.  In progress.
  3. Do the background research and approach the subject for a CW profile.  In progress.
  4. Watch some more Plot Whisperer videos.  I’m doing this to help me finish outlining the plot for my middle grade.  Yeah, I know.  It sounds like an excuse, but even video #1 gave me some serious insight into my plot.  In progress.
  5. 5 posts for One Writer’s Journey.  Done!
  6. Post 2 reviews on the Bookshelf.  I didn’t get one done last week so I want to do an extra this week.  In progress.
  7. 1 post for PrayPower.  Done!
  8. 1 post for the Church blog.  Done!
  9. Brainstorm new ideas for Writer’s Digest.  I worked on one idea last week but am kind of ho hum about it.  Need a better idea.
  10. Brainstorm new ideas for  In progress.
  11. Finish how-to chapter.
  12. Clean up more in  my office.  In progress.
  13. Work some more on my nonfiction picture book rewrite.
  14. Play around with my new picture book idea which will require doing some research.
  15. Script rewrites if any more are requested.  Done!
Off to see what I can accomplish.

Winds and Rain All Around

Just a quick note to my many publishing friends across the country.

My family and I are fine!   A tornado touched down about two miles south of our home, closing the local airport and leaving many without power.  Homes were destroyed but miraculously I haven’t heard about any loss of life.

Please pray for the communities of Ferguson, Bridgeton and Maryland Heights, Missouri, those hit hardest by the storm.  I haven’t heard anything yet about any schools being hit but I can’t imagine that they all escaped unscathed.  There are at least two within half a mile of where the tornado touched down.

More on Monday.


Egg Art for Easter

Easter means Easter eggs.  Think artistic eggs and you may think Faberge or pysanky eggs.  Soon you’ll be adding a completely different look to your gallery of egg art.

Check out the work by artist Franc Grom (Franca Groma).  The video is not in English but take a look so that you can see some of his amazing creations, made by drilling holes in intricate patterns all over an egg shell.  Wowza.

May you all have a Blessed Easter!


Where to Start Your Story

Last week when I was reading Kristen Nelson’s blog, I got a bit of a shock.  She listed 10 mistakes that she considers the mark of a beginner (see specific post).  Why was this a shock?  Because my all time big problem was there at #7 — starting your story at the wrong place.

Really?  This makes me a beginner?  An amateur?

Before I got my tail in a kink (or at least worked to keep it there), I decided to do a bit of research and reading on the topic.  Often, writers who start their stories in the wrong place, begin with way too much back story.

Not my problem.  I tend not to give my reader quite  enough information to get her bearings.

I pulled out the critique that I just got from Jennifer Mattson.  Yep.  She definitely wants me to rewrite my beginning.  But she didn’t say I started in the wrong place.  What she did say is that given the exact scene I started with, she would think that my character might have a very different problem than he does.

It looks like I’ve started at about the right point in time, but not with the right details.  My character is intelligent but impulsive, not always stopping to think things through.  That’s what I need to show in my opening scene.

I may have started in an okay place, but I definitely have my character facing in the wrong direction.  When you get a comments from an agent or editor, read and reread.  After all, you don’t want to fix what’s not broken and leave what is.


Plotting Your story

A week or so ago, Ann Finkelstein, recommended Martha Alderson’s videos on Youtube.  I didn’t have time to watch them when she gave me the info, but then Jill Corcoran blogged about them.

Obviously, it was time to check these videos out.  Alderson’s nickname is “The Plot Whisperer,” and her 27 videos focus on how to construct your plot.  I’ve always felt like my plots were pretty solid.  Maybe not perfect, but definitely not my weak spot.  (Beginnings, anyone?)

But Ann had commented on how much she has learned about plot from the videos.  When a top notch writer recommends something like this, I tend to listen.

So far I’ve only watched the first video which is on pre-plotting, specifically thinking about who your character is and their goal.  Did I learn anything?  Let’s just say that Alderson has broadened my thinking about character goals and how they work.

I’ve embedded the first video below.  That said, it only seems to be appearing inconsistently so I’ll link to it here.   Now I’m off to watch #2.

Happy Learning!


On Cinderella and the Assumptions We Make

I don’t remember when I first read about the probable mistranslation that had resulted in Cinderella’s glass slipper, but I do remember thinking “Well, at least they finally figured that out.”


As if it was a new discovery.

I laughed myself silly when a recent Library of Congress post pointed me to a newspaper article from 1911 on just this topic.  Given the fact that I am well under 100 years old, when I read about the slipper mistranslation, the knowledge was rather “old school” and not new at all.

It makes me wonder, what other ideas or lines of thought do we assume are more modern than they really are?   What information could you include in a piece of historic fiction that might surprise your readers?

No answers.  Just something to noodle over.