Friday, May 29, 2009

Some Linky Love and Other News

Take these stairs to the Blog-o-Sphere!

I must spread some linky love to my good friend and top-notch critiquer, Laurie Wallmark. She has just joined the blog-o-sphere. Welcome, Laurie! She also has a great new website (- well, it's new to me! Is it new, Laurie? Come to think of it, maybe I have seen it before...)

What can I say about my writing buddy, Laurie... Well, she is amazing! With so many balls to juggle, she does it so well. Not only is she a writer in my writer's group, one of the facilitators of the Hunterdon County Children's Writer's Group, but she is also Assistant Regional Advisor of the NJ chapter for SCBWI. When I say she is a wealth of information, I meant it! And boy does she give a great critique. I used to think I was Queen of Grammar until I met Laurie. I promptly took off my false crown and donned Laurie's head instead. (Besides, she looks so much cuter in it!) So, check her out folks! And be sure to do it at least weekly as she has information on editors, agents, and the ins and outs of writing for children.

Is that Light at the End of the Tunnel I see?

Or do I see dead people... No, no, no, that's a different blog article altogether.... It's definitely light.

Since I went from being a student to a teacher, I have always had summers off, so to me, a new year begins in the fall, not in January. I often confuse people - OK my husband in particular - when I say 'this year' and I am including this past fall... To me, that's still THIS YEAR. So, now that we've come to an understanding about my wacky perception, let's move on, shall we?

THIS YEAR, I thought I would NEVER make it to June! I was teaching preschool two mornings a week, writing a blog on greenifying your home, writing real estate copy (as I've done for three years now), substitute teaching, writing my WIP middle grade novel, being a mom, house keeper, yada, yada, yada.... So, understandably, I had my doubts.

Well, I gave up the substitute teaching pretty soon in the SCHOOL YEAR. And sadly, my blog on greening come to an end (hopefully temporarily) due to this economy. (That was an excellent monthly gig for a freelance writer!) And so I was left with preschool, real estate copy, writing my WIP, and all the rest of motherly/womanly responsibilities.

At times I thought I would buckle under the pressure. I spent many nights up until 2 am so I could meet my real estate copy deadlines and still go to the preschool job early the next morning. Several tearful nights with hubby, I claimed I would quit one job or the other. But each new day I talked myself out of it seeing the pros each job had to offer - preschool - a steady paycheck and camaraderie with other adults, real estate copy - keeping my writing skills sharpened and meeting deadlines.

And now here I am at the home stretch! I can actually see light at the end of the tunnel. Summer's just around the corner, school's almost done for the YEAR, my copy writing is coming to a simmer, and I am filled with so many emotions.
  1. PROUD - Is it OK to say you're proud of yourself? Well, I am. Seriously, I never thought I could get through this year. True, I didn't finish my novel (YET!) and I had that deadline set and moved several times, but still, I accomplished an insane schedule and survived. Plus, on top of all of that, I participated in NANOWRIMO and reached something like 43,000 - 45,000 words in one month.
  2. MOTIVATED - the summer's coming, my preschool job will be on summer break, my kids are eager and excited to start their various summer camps and I VOW I WILL finish my novel THIS SUMMER!
  3. TIRED - OK, I am exhausted but it's a good kind of exhaustion. The kind that says you're alive and able to do something you didn't think you could.

Let's discuss... Was there some tough obstacle THIS YEAR you didn't think you could survive but did?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My First School Visit

Today, I did my first school visit. I've been in front of a class before. Actually, for 8 years! But this time was different. Today, I stood in front of the class, not as a teacher, per se, but as a writer and it felt great! I loved every minute of it. Well... except the pre-public-speaking-jitters. But once I got started that all vanished. Well... except some physical signs of my nerves lingered... I always break out in a ruddy, hivey, rash on my chest when I'm nervous about something.

*note to self - no matter the season, be sure to wear something that comes up high on my neck!

So, what did I talk about? Well, this was a 4th grade class getting ready to embark on writing their own stories. The teacher wanted her students to learn not only about what it's like to be a writer, but about first person vs third person and POV.

I began by telling them a bit about me, what I do as a writer for a living and about my speculative middle grade novel. I showed them how my idea began on the back of a napkin and then I read the first page of my novel as it progressed through its revisions.

After each first page was read, we discussed if it was written in third or first person, whose POV it was told from, and if it told the reader much about the MC; the setting, genre, etc. They saw how the first draft's first page, although sounded "pretty" really didn't say much about my MC.

Then, we spoke about my third draft and how it began with a prologue. Again, they were able to see it had now moved from third person to first person and the POV was from an object and not a person...

I asked them to raise their hands if they ever read prologues. One student boldly rose her hand. I explained that's why the NEXT draft no longer had a prologue...

*note to all writers - kids don't read prologues!

By the time we got to my current draft's first page, they were able to identify all the "wanted" elements of a first page; hopefully, a hook that grabbed their attnetion, they knew the MC, her age, her friends, that she was no longer friends with them, and that she was different in a very rare and unique way.

Then we went on to list all the pros and cons of third person and first person before moving on to POV. To really show POV, we listed examples of fairy tales on the board and who the MCs and antagonists were. The kids tried to come up with ways to tell the story from the antagonists view point. Stories to read that do this well are The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and Wicked by Gregory McGuire.

Next week, I will return to lead a writer's circle with them. In the meantime, they will begin writing their stories.

It truly was a lot of fun. I felt alive and happy when I left and now I know, I CAN do school visits! I have plenty to talk about and plenty to share, and the kids were fantastic!

Discussion Topic
Do you think it is fair to charge for school visits if you are not published yet? I did this one for free. But I would like to hear from the peanut gallery! What do you think?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Book Worm Review of If I Stay and more...

Here's my latest bookworm review...

The last book, I read was If I Stay by Gayle Forman. This is Forman's second novel.

17-year old Mia is forced to make a decision that will keep you guessing and wondering. In a book about love, family, acceptance, being true to yourself, and making tougher than life decisions, Forman delivers her characters in a believable, well-rounded way. Written in first person, a compelling story is told to the reader by Mia, a talented and in-love cellist and how her life changes forever on a snowy morning. I recommend this book as a Must Read. It is a fast paced, yet quiet and delicate story.

It has been compared to The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and I can see why. Both stories are written in the same haunting first person style and both tell a tale about a teenage girl who needs to perhaps reconcile or decide what to do. Both are gripping and stay with you for a long time to come.
If I Stay has recently been optioned by Summit, the same company that produced Twilight, although there is no comparison between the stories, Catherine Hardwicke, who also directed Twilight will be directing the movie version of If I Stay. But, my advice, read the book BEFORE the movie.

Some honest feedback: I didn't love the book's first few chapters. I had a hard time liking her perfect, happy family and her place in it. But very quickly, that all changed. As soon as The Point of No Return occurred, I was hooked which, thankfully takes place pretty soon. If you find yourself struggling through the first few chapters, I suggest sticking with it until after the turning point, at least.

And what about the ending? Well, without giving anything away, I wasn't exactly dissatisfied but I wasn't blown away either. It ended the way I thought it would, and I guess I was happy about that, but I was hoping Forman would have something unpredictable up her writer's sleeve.

Give If I Stay a try and let us know what you think.

Here's a link to a great interview with Gayle Forman about her book...

I hope you'll consider trying my five minute writing prompt... There will be a first place prize... A copy of If I Stay.
“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