Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fifth Graders and Fairies

For a dog that drives me crazy, he's pretty photogenic. But don't let the photo fool you - he is ALL terrier! And terriers like to dig, and yap at the birds, and do all sorts of annoying things. But he's my daughter's dog and so we love him. Luke. My husband named him.

So, I went outside on this cold and blustery April afternoon to take a picture of my daughters' fairy house. Last summer they fell in love with this book called Fairy Island with real photos of fairy houses. So they wanted to make their own fairy house to attract fairies to our garden. Now it has become a spring ritual to set it up and make it nice for the fairies (who migrate by the way) for their spring return. But the wind blew it into a messy pile. So I will have to photograph it another time.

The reason for that photo still exists in my mind though and I would like to share that with you anyway, sans the photo... As writers it is important we know our target audience - and what they think, believe, aspire to, etc. As adults we kind of lose some of our imagination, but as writers, we need to engage it, hold on to it, and connect with our market as much as we possibly can.

My 5th grader says she doesn't believe in fairies, but I know she still wants to believe they are real. Whereas my 3rd grader will out right tell you fairies exist. So if I was writing to a 3rd grader, I would need to keep that in mind. This age group might not need proof or convincing. But, if I was writing to a 5th grade crowd, I would need to be very convincing in my story that this could be true and present it in such a way that a 5th grader would believe me. And once on board, that 5th grader might even believe me more than a 3rd grader.

So who is your audience? And how do you stay in touch with their beliefs, values, struggles, interests... Let's share...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Let's do a Spin on the Book Meme Game

So, I thought, since we are all writers... what if we do a fun little spin on the Book Meme Game. What if we give a sample from our very own books we have written?

So here are the rules...
  1. Choose anyone of YOUR OWN manuscripts. It can be a picture book, MG novel, an adult novel... It makes no difference.
  2. Turn to page 30 of your novel or page 3 if it is a PB
  3. Find the 5th sentence.
  4. Post the next 5 sentences of text.
  5. Then tag 5 writer friends to do the same.
  6. See if you can visit Your Tagged Friends and the Person who Tagged You to read their short excepts.

Sounds fun? I hope so. So here is mine. Oh and be sure to include the genre of your book. Mine is a middle grade novel reality-based fantasy...

Pg 30 Sentence 5: Mama’s face fell soft again.

The next 5 sentences of text: She reached out and placed my right hand in hers. She looked at my fingers and then let my hand go. Then she grabbed my left hand. Was she looking for something, I thought. Then she found what she’d been searching for, her ring glowing on my finger, giving away my secret.

Now I tag...






I can't wait to read your short excerpts!


Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Interrupt This Blog to Bring You a Book Meme

Rachel tagged me to play a blogger tag. Here's what you have to do.

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the next three sentences.
  5. Tag five people and post a comment to Rachel once you've posted your 3 sentences.

OK, so here goes mine. The book I chose is The Giver by Lois Lowry. She won a Newberry for this novel BTW.

The 5th sentence is: They hugged one another.

The next three sentences are: The small child went and sat on the lap of the old woman, and she rocked him and rubbed her cheek against his. Jonas opened his eyes and lay contentedly on the bed, still luxuriating in the warm and comforting memory. It had all been there, all the things he had learned to treasure.

TAG! You're IT!:

Sarah Hina

PJ Hoover

Dawn Buthorn

Rebecca's Writing Journey

Jeanne - Still a Dreamer

I think it would be cool if we did our own meme from our own personal books since we are all writers. Maybe not page 123, because we might not all have 123 pages in our books. But maybe we can do one say pg 30 (pg 3 for PBs), lines 6, 7, and 8. Anyone game for that?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rejection Letters, Editors, and Agents, Oh My!

Hey, if you want to give a writing exercise a try, visit my other blog. As I think you all know, I also run a writer's group, The Hunterdon County Children's Writer's Group.

Weekly, I am inspired by a fellow blogger I think most of you are very familiar with; Christine Elden. So, I decided to inspire the writers in my group by providing them with a writing exercise.

You don't have to be a children's writer to participate and it can be for whatever audience you want. No pressure. Just have fun. If you want to give it a try, the deadline in May 1, but I would be thrilled to read your entry after that date as well, so it's not completely black and white.

Now onto other news... I heard back from the editor who has had my first four chapters of my MG novel. She wrote the nicest rejection letter I've ever received. It was long and filled with encouragement and constructive feedback and basically said she loves my "lyrical writing style," but the reality-based fantasy doesn't work for her. So, it was more a personal taste thing than an issue of talent and that feels great believe it or not. She did say she would welcome any other material I have for consideration. So, again, I think it was the nicest rejection letter I have ever received.

Lately, two thoughts have been motivating me... FINISH MY NOVEL and find an agent; in this order. I feel very driven that I must stop flitting about perfecting my early chapters and just get to that elusive last word of the last sentence on the last page! Then, I want an agent. I know. I know. Who doesn't. But what do you all feel? Agent? Or no agent? that is the question for today's posting. Do you think novelists MUST have an agent in order to land that oh-so-wanted book deal? Let's hear what you think...


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Springtime and Excerpt Number 5

It's Thursday and sunny and 70* gorgeous degrees! Spring has sprung. All the forsythias are a burst of yellow, my irises are pushing their way up, daffodils are in bloom, and the song birds are singing.

Ahhhhh the springtime. It is no wonder how poets of long ago, and even today, became inspired by the earth's annual rebirth. It is hope in green tender shoots of grass. It is energy in the buds waiting to POP open on the branches of trees. It is music to be in the midst of all the wild life and children at play. Ahhhh springtime.

So in honor of springtime, here is excerpt number 5 from my middle grade novel. It is about hope, and energy, rebirth, and the music of the relationships in our lives - especially the broken ones needing repair and renewal.

It’s not that he finally warmed up to me. He didn’t wrap his arms around me and tell me he loved me. It’s not that he even said another word to me, or that we spoke volumes to one another. But we did do something together, side-by-side. He pushed. I pulled. I placed. He moved. And together, we put the living room back. Piece by piece. To the way it was before.

When we were done, we plopped down on opposite ends of the couch, looking straight ahead. Not a single word was spoken, but I knew he was thinking the same thing – she’s gone. She’s really gone. And now it looks as though she was never here.

I guess I’d have to wait to bury my hair, because as long as Papa was willing to sit there, I was willing to sit there, until we watched the sun and moon trade places in the sky.

I thought, sometimes a living room’s just a living room, and a tree’s just a tree. Sometimes Mamas die and leave little girls alone. And sometimes Papas and Mamas get lost, even if they’re right beside you, in a store or sitting on a flowered couch

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Excerpt 4 Kind of/Sort of... "We're Not Alone"

Below is a short scene written for Christine Elden's blog where she tempted all of us to write a scene involving (perhaps) a cave and something skittering across your MC's imagination. This was what I wrote...
Tristan knew she was safe, but the forest was a different place at night. In the dark, the once friendly trees turned to black, foreboding shadows with long, crooked fingers ready to snatch at her.

Somewhere from behind, Tristan heard a snap. She looked at Joe. He was sound asleep. She watched him jealously wishing she, too, could dream.


There it was again. Closer. The hair on the back of Tristan’s neck tingled. Tristan steadied her breathing forcing her ears to open wider, taking in more sound.


“Joe,” she whispered shaking off his dream. “We’re not alone.”

“Hrm,” Joe mumbled.


“Did you hear that?” Now Tristan was on her feet, her heart pounding. Joe was right beside her.

“It’s coming from over there,” Joe pointed to a dark, dank cave.
Why hadn’t they seen it in the light of day? If they had, Tristan would have felt brave with the sun on her side. But in the dark, who knows what was lurking there under the cover of night.
What I learned - It is very hard to tell a story, even just a scene, in 150 words! I am not a "short" writer. I like words. No. I love words and so I do not use them sparingly, but I hope I use them in a controlled way. When I originally wrote this scene is was almost 250 words. I don't feel cutting it to 172 words (I was still 22 words over) helped the scene. I actually think it hurt the scene. I lost a lot of the suspense and build-up.

I think writing something in 150 words is a good challenge and definitely has it's place. I just don't think it's place belongs in most scenes within a novel. That is NOT to say, there aren't always words to cut and paragraphs to tighten. There are! I cut words and tighten paragraphs and cut pages from chapters. You can just feel when a chapter is running too long and you can see when dialogue or a sentence is too long.

I'm up for a challenge and am not saying that we shouldn't all strive to write, short and concisely. But, I think it is also important to know when slashing a scene has turned it into a scene devoid of emotion, tension, props, build-up, motive, a small feeling of resolution, and that oh-so-important feeling of "On no, what's to come next" so your reader can't wait to turn the page.

Obviously, Christine's intention with exercises like this one is not to do the above in 150 words. Writing in 150 words does teach you to respect words, to be mindful of how many words you are using, and not to over-do it. It makes you ask yourself, "Is there another way I can say this in less words?" Like I saidm it is a challenge and I am grateful for it, because it opened my eyes to an emotion my novel is lacking - fear!

So keep 'em coming Christine! These exercises do for writers what scales and arpeggios do for musicians! They sharpen and hone.

Happy Writing Everyone!

Sheri ks, ks

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous