Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 - The Year of the Book

Trent Reedy - soldier/ scholar/ author/ and all-around nice guy declared that 2016 would be the year of the BOOK.  He aimed to read over 100 books in 2016 and challenged the rest of us to also do so.

(His latest book - The Last Full Measure - came out in time to prepare us for the election results in November.  Here's hoping the things he predicted in this Divided We Fall trilogy don't actually come true.)

In his honor, I hereby list the books I've read this past year.
(no, I never reached 100, and I've probably forgotten to list some.)

Here are the books I read this year:

Austrian, J.J. Worm Loves Worm. Illus. Mike Curato.  NY: Balzer & Bray, 2016.   
Andrews, Troy. Trombone Shorty. Illus Bryan Collier. NY: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015.  (ghost writer = Bill Taylor)
Charlip, Remy. Fortunately. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1964.
Gag, Wanda. Millions of Cats. NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1928. Newbery Medal honor.
Henkes, Kevin. Waiting. NY: Greenwillow Books, 2015.
                        Caldecott Honor 2016
Rohmann, Eric. My Friend Rabbit. NY: Roaring Brook Press, 2002.  The Caldecott Medal, 2003.
Savage, Stephen. Supertruck. NY: Roaring Brook Press, 2015.

I Can Read
Adler, David A. Don’t Throw it to Mo! Illus Sam Ricks. NY: Penguin young readers, 2015. Geseil award
Fenske, Jonathan. A Pig, a fox, and a box. (level 2) NY: Penguin Young Readers, 2015.
                        Geseil award
Hoover, P.J.  TUT, the story of my immortal life.  NY: Tor, 2014
Willems, Mo.  Several in the Elephant and Piggy series.


Britt, Paige. The Lost Track of Time. Illus Lee White. New York: Scholastic Press, 2015.
Burnham, Molly.  Teddy Mars, Almost a World Record Breaker. New York: HarperCollins, 2015.
…..  Teddy Mars, Almost a Winner.  (book 2) New York: HarperCollins, 2016.
Coville, Bruce. Diary of a Mad Brownie – with Supporting Documents. (The Enchanted Files)  Illus. Paul Kidby.  NY: Random House, 2015.
….. Goblins on the Prowl. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2015.
Cuevas, Michelle. Confessions of an Imaginary friend, a memoir by Jacques Papier as told to Michelle Cuevas. NY: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015.
Federle, Tim. Better Nate than Ever. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2013.
Hannigan, Kate. The Detective’s Assistant. NY: Little Brown and Co, 2015.
 …. Cupcake Cousins. NY: Hyperion, 2014.  (not as good as the one above)
Jones, Diana Wynne.  Dogsbody. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1975.
Mass, Wendy.  The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase.  NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2016.
Messner, Kte. The Seventh Wish. NY: Bloomsbury, 2016.
Sylvester, Kevin.  MINRS.  New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2015.
   ….  MINR2S.  New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2016.
Time, Nicholas (pen name for multiple writers)  In Due Time (series)
              Going, going, gone. (book 1) NY: Simon Spotlight, 2016.
              Stay a spell. (book 2)  NY: Simon Spotlight, 2016.
              Wrong Place, (really) Wrong Time. (book 3) NY: Simon Spotlight, 2016.                                     (actual writer = Caroline Smith Hickey for book 3.)
YA Fiction:
Axelrod, Amy. The Bullet Catch, Murder by misadventure. New York: Holiday House, 2015.
Carter, Ally.  All Fall Down. Embassy Row novel 1.  New York: Scholastic Press, 2015
                        ….  See How they run. Embassy Row novel 2. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.
Jamieson, Victoria.  Roller Girl. NY: Dial, 2015.  (Graphic novel)
Korman, Gordon. Schooled. NY: Hyperion, 2007.  (Commune boy meets Middle School)
Lackey, Mercedes. The Collegium Chronicles.  NY: Daw Books,. Vol 1-6.
 …. The Herald Spy series.  NY: Daw Books,. Vol 1- 3
 ….. Hunter. New York: Hyperian, 2015.
 ….  Elite (a Hunter novel)  Hyperian, 2016.
Nielsen, Jennifer A. Mark of the Thief.  Book 1. New York: Scholastic Press, 2015
   ….  Rise of the Wolf (Book 2 of Mark of the Thief) New York? Scholastic Press, 2016.
Papademetriou, Lisa and Chris Tebbetts. M or F?  New York: Razorbill/ Penguin, 2005.
Patrick, Cat.  The Originals. NY: Little Brown, 2013.
Westrick, A. (Anne) B.  Brotherhood. NY: Viking, 2013.

Kulling, Monica.  ZAP! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge. Ill Bill Slavin.  Canada: Penguin Random House, 2016.
Reich, Susanna. Fab Four Friends; the Boys Who Became the Beatles.  Illus Adam Gustavson.  New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2015.
Weatherford, Carole Boston. Voice of Freedom, Fannie Lou Hammer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. Illus. Ekua Holmes. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2015.


Anderson, M.R.  Symphony for the City of the Dead, Dimitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad.  Sommerville, MA: Candlewick, 2015.
Sheinkin, Steve. Most Dangerous, Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2015.
Sweet, Melissa. Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White.  New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

976.044 BRO – Brown, Dan.  Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.  Graphic Novel format.

Lackey, Mercedes.  From a High Tower. New York: DAW books, 2015.
 ….  A Study in Sable.  New York: Hyperian, 2016.
Putney, Mary Jo. Once a Soldier. NY: Kensington Books, 2016.
Schwab, V.E.  A Darker Shade of Magic. NY: Tor, 2015.  v-1 of a series.

331.48107 Povich, Lynn.  The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek sued their bosses and changed the workplace.  NY: Public Affairs, 2012.
791.4372E  Elwes, Cary with Joe Layden.  As You Wish: Inconceivable tales from the making of the Princess Bride.   NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014.  (second time reading – just as good)

824.914G  Gaiman, Neil.  The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction.  NY: HarperCollins, 2016.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Books Make Great Holiday Gifts

10 Reasons Books Make Great Holiday Gifts
  1. Because you want to support your favorite writers
  2. Because they’re way better than fruitcakes
  3. Because you want to help your favorite author make the New York Timesbestseller list
  4. Because you’re tired of reading the same book to your kid every night
  5. Because you want to support your local indie bookstore
  6. Because a book is easier to wrap than a hockey stick
  7. Because if you send an e-book, you won’t have to wrap anything at all
  8. Because a paperback is cheaper than seeing the new Star Wars movie in IMAX
  9. Because that bookcase your friends bought for their new apartment is collecting dust
  10. Because books contain multitudes and enrich the lives of others

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Great lists of great books from Fuse #8

Well, it's my own fault.  I've been busy doing other things.
How did I not know that Elizabeth Bird has been doing a MONTH of 31 Days 31 Lists of various types of good (or sometimes bad) picturebooks.

What lists do you ask?
There are lists of Folktales, Photography picturebooks, Alphabet books, Picturebooks with MESSAGES that hit you over the head, Great Funny picture books, and more - lots and lots more.

Now, the link I have above is to the main page of her blog, so if you are reading this in 2017, you will have to scroll back to the December 2016 posts in order to find these lists.

Click on over and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How to Write a Book

Good advice from the multi-published (and multi-award winner) Kate Messner:

She says:

Just got an email from an elementary school student asking how to write a book. I started her off with these two suggestions, which apply to writers of all ages.
1. Read a lot of stories that are similar to the kind of book you want to write. A LOT. Like, sign out a great big pile of books from the library and read them all. Think about which ones you like best, and why. When we read like writers in that way, we learn what makes a good book. 
2. Carry around a notebook. That way, when you have an idea, you can jot it down right away and it won't get lost in your busy brain.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Writer's Quotes - Stephen King

I'm attaching a link to a chart listing 14 pieces of writing advice from Stephen King.
Good for all writers.
Readers will also find this informative.  It might let you know just why that self-published book you bought was so unsatisfying and why traditionally published books, that are revised many times by the writer plus helpfully improved by an editor at a traditional publishing house, are so much better and more satisfying.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Writer's Quotes - P.G Wodehouse

P.G. Wodehouse, wrote almost a hundred books of fiction, 16 plays, and composed lyrics for 28 musicals, most of them humorous. 
When asked about his technique for writing, he said, "I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit."

Monday, November 14, 2016

A few other Quotes

Sometimes I discover quotes that seem to apply to situations today.  For Example:

Harper Lee in To Kill A Mockingbird:
They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself.  The one thing that doesn't abide may majority rule is a person's conscience.

Marcus Aurelius - Meditations:
Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be.
Be one.

Frederick Douglass - speeches:
I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.

Marcus Garvey:
The ends you serve that are selfish will take you no further than yourself, but the ends you serve that are for all, in common, will take you into eternity.

John E. Lewis:
If not us, then who?
If not now, then when?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Writer's Quotes - Gene Wolfe

Neil Gaiman has a book called The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction and it's so full of good quotes that I might have to buy the book so I can refer to them from time to time.

Here's one he says Gene Wolfe told him about the act of Writing:
"You never learn how to write a novel.  You just learn how to write the novel that you're writing."


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Monday, November 7, 2016

Nonfiction Monday - Some Writer!

Sweet, Melissa. Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White.  New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.
Available now.

If you haven't heard about this book yet, I will be surprised.  This is a long-awaited biography of the author of Charlotte's Web and other books.
Although we expect Melissa Sweet to have done a picture book biography, this is not one of those.
It could be more accurately described as a biography with lots of pictures, photographs, illustrations, and samples of his magazine articles and essays. 162 pages.
From the very first page. . . no . . . beginning with the endpapers the reader is drawn into the world of E.B. White -- from his adventures driving a Model T Roadster across the United States to his life on a farm in Maine. And all that time writing, writing, writing.

Almost everyone knows the book Elements of Style by Shrunk and White, but did you know that the "White" was E.B. White?  It was a required textbook for every English class I took in college. (I can't find my old copy, darn it. Maybe I haven't looked in the right bookcase.)

I have a feeling that this will be a strong candidate for the ALA Sibert Award to match the one she won this year for The Right Word.  Check Melissa Sweet's website for more info about that.

Just Google this title to discover hundreds of other reviews of this new biography.

Friday, November 4, 2016


I voted.  Did You?
I couldn't believe how long the ballot was this year.
Evidently, California insists on having the electorate vote on things that the elected officials up on Sacramento or in the city council should have taken care of.   A good many of them were revisions and updates to the city charter.  (We no longer have a City Manager - that was a 1960s thing. Now we have a Mayor.  My reaction was - and you just noticed that the terms needed to be revised?  That should have been taken care of when the terminology first changed, however may years ago that was. By the city council.)

I get a mail-in ballot, but I like to hand deliver it.
So, once I checked the library website to see what time they closed, I fought rush hour traffic over to Solana Beach, talked to the nice ladies running the ballot table, and officially dropped my ballot into the ballot box.  Ten minutes before the library closed.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Storytelling advice from Hamilton

Well, one month after posting Shakespeare's views on writing (It's Hard to be the Bard), I want to direct you to another link about writing.

You've already seen the HamDoc, right?  That PBS special about how Lin Manuel wrote the hugely popular Broadway play (soon to be performing in a city near you), HAMILTON.  Which explores the act of creation.  Four years to write two songs.  And then all the rest of the songs written and brought to stage within the next two years!
(if you missed this program - click on the link. This link will be live for the next month.)

Well, Chuck Wendig has now written a blog post he calls: Five Storytelling Lessons from Hamilton's America.
Good advice.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Writing is Hard

Now, there's a play on Broadway (soon to closed and but then will be traveling the country, I hope, I hope) that shows some of the very hard work writers do to create your favorite reading material. (or your favorite movie or play)  Especially the last five lines of this song:

Hard to Be the Bard Lyrics SOMETHING ROTTEN

What people just don't understand
Is that writing's demanding
It's mentally challenging and it's a bore
It's such a chore
TO sit in a room by yourself

Oh my god, I just hate it!

And you're trying to find
An opening line or a brilliant idea
And you're pacing the floor
And hoping for just a bit of divine intervention
That one little nugget that one little spark
Then Eureka! You find it you're ready to start
So now you can write, right? Wrong!
You're not even close, you remember that damn it,
Your play's gotta be in iambic pentameter!
So you write down a word but it's not the right word,
So you try a new word but you hate the new word
And you need a good word but you can't find the word
Oh where is it, what is it, what is it, where is it!
Blah-blah-blah, ha ha, ah-ha -UGHHHHHHHH!

The song also celebrates the perks of being famous - which, of course has to be interrupted with more of what we writers call BIC (butt in chair) if you want to keep on being celebrated as famous.
Take it from me - it's 99% BIC and only 1% with the 'being famous' part.

Then it's back to my room, where I resume
My attempt to write a hit
Just me and my beer and the terrible fear
That I might be losing it
Here's a video clip of this song that you might enjoy.

And here's another one.

And a double dose of I hate Shakespeare plus It's Hard from the Jimmy Fallen Show.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Children's Book Writers United

A lot (and by a lot I mean a whole lot) of children's book writers are for Hillary Clinton. If you click on the blue link, you'll see statements from many of them, including some of your favorite authors:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Seventh Wish

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner. Bloomsbury, 2016.  Available now.

This book has caused a lot of controversy and I'm not sure exactly why.
Basically, it's a retelling of the old folk tale about a fisherman who catches a fish who gives wishes.  But the wishes don't turn out exactly as expected.  (The Fisherman and his Wife)

In this case, it's a girl who goes ice fishing with friends. (My goodness it must get cold where she is because she talks about the ice eventually becoming several feet thick.)
She catches a small fish who totally surprises her when he speaks - Release me and I will grant you a wish.   She was going to throw him back anyway because he's too small, so she quickly makes a wish and drops him back into the hole in the ice.  What wish?  A typical middle school girl wish - that Roberto Sullivan falls in love with her.

But it's the wrong Roberto Sullivan who falls in love with her.
Each time she makes a wish, it doesn't turn out the way she hoped.  Darn.
So, is it the magic/ wishing in the story that is making schools reject this book?

But Messner doesn't write simple stories.  She intertwines several plots here.
There's the wrong Roberto plot.
There's the dancing Irish Dancing plot.  (We learn a lot about dance class and the tryouts (feis) to move up to advanced classes,
There's the fact that her mother needs a better job.
There's her dance friend who needs to pass her English as a second language class in order to be allowed to attend regular classes at her school.
There's her other friend who has a Flour baby for Home-Ec class - a sack of flour she has to treat like a real live baby to teach her the responsibilities of being a parent.
There's a sister who has gotten into drugs and is now in rehab.

So - which of these plots makes this book unsuitable for school libraries?

None of them, as far as I'm concerned.  All the characters are fully developed.  The plots intertwine forming a good view of a busy middle schooler's life.  And, having had experience with a relative who was a drug addict, the plot about her sister and drugs is spot on.  Yes, the drug addict hides his/ her habit from everyone, steals, lies, goes through rehab and then goes back to being on drugs. Again and again.
That last part is very painful for the family and for Charlie herself - because she works so hard to ice fish, selling the fish she caught in order to earn enough money to buy a solo Irish dance costume - and her older sister steals the money to pay for her drug habit. Not only that, she abandons Charlie in a far-off city where she is competing in a feis.
This is a true picture of how drugs take hold of a person and the grief it gives the rest of the family as they try to cope.

Too many children are living through this experience and this book shows these children that they are not alone.  And that wishes can't and won't solve our problems. We have to work them out ourselves.

To see more about Kate Messner, search her website here.

Bloomsbury has created teachers' guides for this book which can be found here.

Friday, August 19, 2016


(The sleeping beauty castle at Disneyland. I took a side view because too many large families were massed in front of the castle taking selflies and group photos.)

Last week our family did what a lot of southern California families do - We went to Disneyland.
Because of my crushed vertebrae was forcing me to move slowly, I reserved a suite at a Disneyland hotel so that we could easily get in and out of the park.  My daughter, her husband, and my grandson took over the 'living room' area of the suite while I got one of the beds and my granddaughter and her best friend took the other in the bedroom. This worked very well.
We did things together (celebrated my daughter's birthday) and things separately.

I highly advise anyone going to get the park hopper ticket so that they can spend time in both the basic Disneyland park and the adjoining California Adventure, even going back and forth if they wish.
We got the three day pass even though we only stayed two nights at the hotel.  What a great deal! That way we got to enter the parks Tuesday, the day we arrived, all day Wednesday, and also on Thursday, the day we left. In addition, the three day pass came with extra privileges. YAY!

I loved walking around, comparing the modern Disneyland with the black and white film of its creation that my sisters and I had watched on the Micky Mouse Show in the 1950s.  The two teen girls went off on their own, riding rides and meeting film stars. (Their top adventure was the photo opp with the teen age Sith in the latest Star Wars movie!)

My daughter's family went their own way with their 5-year-old.  Suddenly I got a text that I should show up at Tomorrowland at a certain time because my grandson was going to go to Jedi School.  There he was - in a brown Jedi robe - learning how to handle a light saber, and finally fighting a Sith.  (It took the whole crowd to use the Force to force Darth Vader and his black students back into the Jedi Temple - which then sank into the patio.  Quite a scene!)

That was the best thing about this adventure.  With all of us having cell phones, we were constantly texting back and forth, meeting up to do rides or other activities together, then going off to places that interested us again.  The girls often met up with my daughter and her family and took charge of my grandson, which he loved.

 I loved the evening parade at Disneyland the first night as well as the World of Color shown against spouting fountains of water the second night.  We could see the spouting water from our suite at the hotel, but instead of pictures on it, we just saw fantastic colors - but we loved that show as well.  (Almost as good as the fountains in front of the Bellegio in Las Vegas.  Nope, better.)

Yes, we had a great time.  Will we go again?  Probably. If I can save up enough money for the whole family, again.  Because there's lots more I wasn't able to see and by that time my vertebra should be strong again and maybe I could go on some of the quieter rides.

Tower of Terror?  Not me.  Even thought it is highly recommended by the teens in our group.

Have you ever been?
What was your favorite part?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Writer's Quotes - Jane Yolen

Yes, another goodie from jane Yolen - quoted from her daily report on Facebook:

I'd like to make a mini-rant this morning about inspiration v. perspiration. 
Most writers love the zip of the inspire part and hate the slog of perspire. That's understandable. We live for the highs not the lows. The white heat of the moment when a idea is sparking, not the long, slow unwinding of those sparks, the dampening of that fire, the cooling of the embers.
I'll never forget the first time I read the quote "I dream of an eagle, give birth to a hummingbird." in an Edith Wharton biography, a favorite phrase of hers. It made me understand myself and my difficult relationship with the work I do.
All art is about failure. But some failures are more glorious than others. And along the way, along the slogline, we get to try and make that failure better. And better. And God help us, better. 
Remember, the hummingbird, too, is beautiful. And it flies.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Writer's Quotes -

"You don’t get stuck because you’re not a real writer. 
You get stuck because you are, 
and the ‘stuck-ness’ is part of the deal." 

Wise, wise words from author Jess Keating to the writer in all of us.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Writer's Quotes - George R.R. Martin

These are taken from an article in BuzFeed.  Click on the link to see the whole article.

On his first stories.

“I never finished any of my early stories. They were all beginnings, an endless number of beginnings.” 
“The best writing advice I had was [in] ‘Heinlein’s Rules for Writers’ by (American science fiction author) Robert A. Heinlein. His first rule is that you must write, and I was already doing that, but his second rule is, ‘You must finish what you write,’ and that had a big impact on me.” 
“I had these cheap alien toys and I made up stories for them. They were space pirates. They didn’t have names so I made up names. These were the first stories I wrote. Even as a little kid I was thinking about torture.” – George R.R. Martin

On childhood.

“We never went anywhere because we had no money and we had no car, but I would look out the living room window and see the lights of Staten Island. It was incredibly romantic to me, like Middle Earth. Of course, the danger is you eventually get to Staten Island.” 
“Reading. That was the sport I was good at.” – George R.R. Martin

On his first professional work.

“It was a story called ‘The Hero’ which I sold to Galaxy magazine in 1970, for $94.” 
“I was a journalism major, and I would take creative writing classes as part of that, but I would also look for opportunities to write stories for some of my other classes. So for my course in Scandinavian history, I asked if I could write historical fiction instead of term papers. Sometimes they’d say yes.” – George R.R. Martin

On writing.

“It’s different for every writer. It’s not a career for anyone who needs security. It’s a career for gamblers. It’s a career of ups and downs.” 
“ The main thing is the stories. Ultimately you want to get back to that room, back to your people.” 
“I’ve been very lucky. There were times when I was afraid I would never sell another book, but I never doubted I’d write another book.” 
“It’s being ready to accept rejection. You can work on a book for two years and get it published, and it’s like you may as well have thrown it down a well. It’s not all champagne and doing interviews with The New York Times.” 
“There’s part of me that loves words. But sometimes it feels like you’re trying to drive nails with your shoe.” – George R.R. Martin

On killing characters and torturing readers.

“I could have written a story about a well-adjusted family. Ned Stark comes down to King’s Landing and takes over and solves all their problems. Would that have been as exciting?” 
“The way my books are structured, everyone was together, then they all went their separate ways and the story deltas out like that, and now it’s getting to the point where the story is beginning to delta back in, and the viewpoint characters are occasionally meeting up with each other now and being in the same point at the same time, which gives me a lot more flexibility for killing people.” – George R.R. Martin

On underdogs.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for the outsider, for the underdog. ‘Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things’, as the title of one of the (TV series) episodes goes. The angst that they have in life makes for more conflict, makes for more drama, and there’s something very attractive about that. My Game of Thrones is told by outsiders of both types. None of them fit comfortably into the society into which they’ve been born, and they’re all struggling to find a place for themselves in which they’re valued and loved and respected, despite what their society considers their deficiencies. And out of that, I think, comes good stories.” – George R.R. Martin

Friday, July 15, 2016

Writer's Quotes

The history of the American novel has been one of writers thinking they had nothing to write about and then discovering they did.
Le Anne Schreiber

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Writer's Quotes - poets

Thoughts from a couple of poets:

Too many poets delude themselves by thinking the mind is dangerous and must be left out. Well, the mind IS dangerous and must be left in.  
Robert Frost

When I went to school, I knew poetry was not a dead thing.  I knew it was always written by the living, even though the dateline said the mind was dead.
Stephen Vincent Bene't

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Writer's Quotes - John Saul

"When I start a book, I always think it's patently absurd that I can write one. No one, certainly not me, can write a book 500 pages long.  (I had a hard enough time writing seven 128 page books.)
But (he goes one) I know I can write 15 pages, and if I write 15 pages every day (I'm good if it get 5-10 a day), eventually I'll have 500 of them.

John Saul, American Novelist

Monday, July 4, 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Writer's Quotes - Jane Yolen

A guest post: Jane Yolen

This month's thought on writing: 
Poetry especially is not a One/Done writing activity. I constantly revisit and revise my poems. I read each line aloud to test its rhythm. I roll it around my tongue to find the sweet spot in each line. I tighten and cut to make the poem more compressed. I search out the sense and sensibility of the whole.
Sometimes I read a new poem to my critique group--an ongoing (40 years) group of seven professional and very well regarded children's bookwriters. Each day I see something good and something that needs work in a particular poem. Each word in a poem is sacred. So it better be the right one. Maybe I make a single word change, or add a new line, or an entire verse. Sometimes I take them out. 
The great French poet and philosopher Paul Valery said that a poem is never finished but abandoned. He didn't mean abandoned as in throwing the poem away. He meant there comes a moment when the poet abandons the poem to the universe, having given that particular poem his/her best shot at perfection. (And note the last part of that word. Uni-VERSE.) 
Time to write a new one. 
How many times do I revisit a poem? As many times as it needs. I often revise a poem 20-30 times before abandonment.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Writer's Quotes

Although this quote was given to us by a writer at the VCFA Alumni mini-residency, she thought that it actually was something her athletic coach wrote on the board before every game.
Any who - it applies to all of us:

Commitment --

The will of the mind to finish what the heart has started 
long after the mood in which the promise was made has faded.

Which is probably why we continue writing and writing even when we are sick and tired of writing until we finally finish the manuscript.

Return to Wonderland

Last week I took the full day flight back to Vermont.  Yes, it takes that long to fly from California to New Hampshire and then rent a car to get me to Montpelier, Vermont.
To attend the Alumni Mini-Residency.

Yes, I finally graduated, got my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults to add to my Masters in Library Science last summer at Vermont College of Fine Arts, which meant I was now an Alumni and could finally attend the mini-residency.  Why do I keep saying 'finally?"  Because It took me many years what with attending only the summer sessions.

On the other hand - it enabled me to spread out the cost of the grad school, so that I was not overwhelmed with $40,000 in debt when I graduated.  In fact, I had no debt at all because of a good savings plan prior to attending the college. (which is a good thing since I am now retired from my day job.)

Now that I've attended one of them, I know what to expect if and when I go to another.

Note to self - remember that someone who submitted the manuscript they read at the evening Reading session to the agents at the pitch session got an offer of representation.  (I used different pieces of writing and got good feedback, but no offer.)

Note to others - if you were one of the people complaining that all we learned during our four semesters at VCFA was how to write better, but nothing about the business of writing, this is where the focus is definitely on the business of writing.

It was great seeing so many other alumni.  The Weather was wonderful - perfect warm weather with soft breezes. The lectures were informative. And I love, love, love the drive through the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Writer's quotes - William Goldman

After reading Carry Elwes's memoir about his adventures filming the Princess Bride, I've been reading two books by the author of that book and screenplay - William Goldman.

Adventures in the Screen Trade
Which Lie did I Tell? - More Adventures in the Screen Trade

At the end of the second book he says:

A Good Story is something with an interesting premise that builds logically to a satisfying and surprising conclusion.

We get fed on stories in the cradle and forever on.
Want to read a good story?
Pick up The Little Engine That Could.  Soppy and primitive, sure, but today just by chance I read it again and let me tell you, you are rooting with all your heart for that crummy two-bit nothing of a train to get those toys over the mountain.

That's all it is, this business of writing.
Just get the fucking toys over the mountain.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Writer's Quotes

Ah here's the quote that Bruce Coville loves to quote. (because it's the spine in all of his tales.)

                        Always grab the reader by the throat in the first paragraph, sink your thumbs into his windpipe in the second, and hold him against the wall until the tag line.

Paul O'Neil, American writer

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Writer's Quotes

You can't wait for inspiration.
You have to go after it with a club
------- ----- Jack London (1876-1916)

Wow, he died a hundred years ago.  And we are still enjoying his books.
How about that?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

In Praise of RAs

Now, you're probably wondering what a RA is.
Actually, if you belong to SCBWI, you know what a RA is.  And yours are probably just as great as mine are.

Hmmm. For those who don't know what I'm talking about (all others just skip the next part):
SCBWI = Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
RA = Regional Advisors

Actually, they should be called - Regional Organizers.

The first Regional Advisors I knew were the organizers of the Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia region of the national organization.  They ended up being the co-authors of my first picture books
Busy Toes
Busy Fingers
both written by C.W. Bowie.
(you can see the book covers over there to the right of this blog)

 Claudine Wirths, Wendie Old, and Mary Bowman-Krhum.
(we assumed that there wouldn't be enough room on the spine of our books for all three names, so we squashed our names together and came up with our pen name. (I'm the W part)
We had fun writing the books. And more fun going around speaking about them and doing signings at conventions of librarians and teachers.

After they retired from being RA, other wonderful volunteers took over as Regional Advisor(s) of that region.
Did I mention that this position is a Volunteer position?  All that work/ no pay.

When I moved to San Diego, I discovered the local SCBWI group here was extremely active one.
The two co-Regional Advisors are Janice Yuwiler and Patricia Buckley. and the Assistant Regional Advisor is Debra Schmidt.

Besides all their work running this large SCBWI group, planning great monthly meetings with editors, agents and published authors as speakers. the three of them have given me personal help.

Well. Way back last July 2015, I attended the International SCBWI Conference (held every year in Los Angeles).  Why not? It was just a couple of hours north of San Diego.

I drove up on Thursday so I could get a good night's sleep because the Conference started bright and early Friday morning.  As I unpacked, I discovered I had forgotten several things from my ditty bag. Not knowing that the hotel would have supplied me with new ones, I rushed out of the hotel, down the hill to the nearby shopping center and bought some.  Once back in the room with my goodies, I continued unpacking and discovered I had forgotten my nightgown!

So - back I went down the hill to the Macy's store to buy a replacement. Luckily I found one very similar to the one I had bought at Macy's at home and carried it back up the hill.
By this time I was very tired.
I was looking forward to getting into the hotel pool and swimming some laps.
When I had almost reached the hotel, I was looking up the hill at the hotel and not where my feet were going.
Unfortunately, at that point one of the sidewalk slabs had risen about an inch above the others and I tripped.
I crashed. Hitting the side of my head on the sidewalk.
I was unconscious for a while. Don't know how long. Then I heard people approaching. Saw my glasses in the middle of the sidewalk. Grabbed them and clutched them close to me.
Eventually people helped me up and helped me into the hotel. At which point they went to find my RAs.

 The RAs helped me to my room. The hotel people gave me ice packs for my head.
And for the rest of the evening, just as I was settled down on the bed, someone would call my room to see how I was. The hotel. Each one of the RAs.
I kept checking my eyes for any sign of concussion, but there was no sign. (one pupil larger than the other)
Finally everyone let me sleep.

The next morning, Janice walked me to the nearby optician (in the shopping center) who quickly fixed my glasses. (the earpiece was warped - that's all)

As you can tell, I think RAs are wonderful !

Monday, April 25, 2016

Writer quotes

Occasionally, I'll post various quotes from writers.  Today - William Faulkner

Read, read, read,
Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it.
Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the mast. Read! You'll absorb it.
then write.
If it is good, you'll find out.
If it's not, throw it out the window.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Tadpole Time

            There’s a river not far away that flows under the railway bridge.
            It’s cool under there.
            We walk down the hot railway tracks, past Old McDonalds’ fields, enjoying the scent of winter wheat rippling off the fields to offset the whiff of black tar seeping from the railroad ties. Step on the hard, rough ties, not on the gritty gravel between. It’s a stretch, but we can do it. When we reach the bridge, we’re always tempted to continue stepping from tie to tie (with open space between – open to the river far below). But then we tell each other tales of what would happen if the train came while we were still on the bridge. There’s no walkway. We’d be right between the tracks with no place to go. It’s too dangerous.  We don’t go. Instead, clutching our smooth quart glass canning jars in our hands, we slide down the steep dirt embankment to the river. 
            It’s tadpole time. 
            We step barefoot into the chilly, slow-moving water and dig indentations, little safe harbors into the gritty clay riverbank with our hands, about one-foot wide and a half-foot into the shore. I don’t know who first got the idea of digging these, but by now I’m the one who tells the others how to do it to attract the most tadpoles. Then we rest our bottoms on the damp shore in the cool shade of the railroad bridge, and eat the lunch we’ve brought. There’s no sound but the rush of the river, the crinkle of waxed paper unwrapping, and comments about whose mom’s homemade jam made the best PB&Js.
            It’s tadpole time. 
            Time to peer into those harbors we dug which now have tons of little wriggling black bodies in them, all lined up with their oversize heads to the shore, tails gently waving pointed toward the river.
            Attack!  Scoop. Success! With jars full of the little wrigglers, we climb back into the blast of heat from the overhead sun and tromp on home with our prey, yelling to each other about which side of the tracks we’d roll off of and hide if a train comes.
            I don’t know what the other kids do with theirs, but I dump our tadpoles into our fishpond to hide among the great green lily leaves until they are fully-growed frogs. This is my job every year. Daddy says their job is to catch mosquitoes all summer long so they don’t bother us.
(This expidition to catch tadpoles in the Springtime is the absolute favorite memory of mine, of a day when we lived in Monroeton, Pennsylvania and I was 6 or 7 or 8. It’s a time I looked forward to every year and always enjoyed its quiet contentment, and was always proud of my success as a tadpole catcher.)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Everything you wanted to know about Writing -

But were afraid to ask?

Follow this link to discover the secrets of writing as a profession.
(It's a newspaper column so I don't know how long this link will be valid, but go ahead and try anyway.)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

So - You've written a Picture Book

and now you are wondering if it's any good.

Here's what Kate Messner does about that. She has many picture books published by traditional publishers and knows.

Click here for her latest blog offering which she calls - Picture Book Math (and why you should write something new).

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Eggs

I just had to post this beautiful picture of eggs created by Melinda Chase on her beautiful Easter/ Spring Celebration plate.  (my favorite color)

And Don't forget to read Here Comes the Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood.
Max's Easter Surprise or Max's Chocolate Chicken by Rosemary Wells.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Just a few thoughts

Happy Saint Patrick's Day.
Did you wear green?  It looks as if I forgot to do that.  Oh well, at least I didn't wear Orange like my husband always did. (mostly while he was working for an avid Irish descended lady.)

Speaking of my husband - this was a guy who never ever took a vacation.
So one day - on our Anniversary in June - I plotted with my husband's workplace and KIDNAPPED him.  I drove around with him all day long, exploring places where he had gone camping with his family at the top of the Chesapeake Bay where the Susquehanna River joins it.
At first he was a nervous wreck as I drove further and further away from his workplace, but by the end of the day he had relaxed immensely and finally admitted that he had enjoyed himself and that he had needed a day out.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Raindrops are Falling on my Roof

It rained in Southern California this weekend.
Not something we see often here.
(although El Nino has been kind to us this year)

I had forgotten to wash my teen's leotard and I knew it wouldn't air dry in time for her to wear it that night, so had I hung it outside from a nail at the edge of my condo's roof.  Blowing in the wind. (it was in the sunshine for a half hour, then clouds and wind came.  Good, sez I, that will make it dry faster.

Then I went back to my computer, writing and peeking at Facebook every so often.

The next time I looked outside - RAIN had started!  You can bet I ran outside and brought the leotard back inside.  Five minutes later the storm hit and it poured.

Good thing I got it inside when I did.
(it was mostly dry by the time teen needed it for ballet that evening.)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Rejection just means You are Working as a Writer

Here are a few things writers should remember as they get rejections for their work:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Writing Retreat

At the end of February, our San Diego SCBWI held their bi-annual writer's retreat at the Mission San Luis Rey.  What a great, productive weekend we had.

One of my goals was to finish the revision of the picture book I'm writing with a friend. (we write under the pen name C.W. Bowie)
I sat on the grass near the giant, old Pepper tree (planted in 1830) with my trusty laptop.
I did complete it and emailed it off to her, thinking I now had time to work on another project. She emailed her response back to me with more suggestions for revision by dinnertime (her bedtime back east).
I looked it over on Sunday, made some final notes, we went back and forth another time or two AND we decided it's ready to send out.
p.s. - yes I did get to work on that other writing project, too.

Here's the article in our local SCBWI newsletter written by Patricia Morris Buckley , RA.

There’s nothing like the peace of the San Luis Rey Mission — the gardens, the ringing of the bells, and hours of uninterrupted time to create. 
Almost 50 chapter members spent the last weekend in February at the Mission for a three-day retreat. The event began with a wine and dessert mingle, complete with a get-to-know-each-other bingo game ending in signed books as prizes. After the festivities, critiques were handed out and participants either relaxed, continued to socialize, got to work on revisions or called it an early night. 
The next day began with a huge breakfast (all the meals were wonderfully prepared) before heading off to workshops, critique groups or work. Three formal critique groups were held at various times over the weekend and 11 well-attended workshops covered everything from picture book revision and teacher guides, to web press kits and nonfiction writing. 
(Note - one of these workshop/ lectures was given by me. The final one on Sunday -- Persistence: Dealing with Submission and Rejection.  
By Sunday at 5 p.m., many members had made significant progress in their designated projects as well as making or deepening friendships, enjoying great food (including snacks a plenty) and being inspired by the beautiful grounds. 

In the end, it was hard to leave and return to the “real” world, but our time away was invaluable!