Monthly Archives: February 2012

A Very Important Quiz that Has A LOT to Do With Writing

I am  going to ask three important questions that would personally never happen to me and I would personally never discuss in public or on a blog. Please consider each of them carefully and think about how you, as a person, would personally react in these personal situations. 

1. You are driving a long distance in the middle of the night with three small children. To begin your journey you must  switch from one rather large highway, to an even larger freeway in order to get out of a metropolitan area. You think you know which exit to take. However, as you drive, you get a sinking feeling that you missed the exit. Do you

a. call local friends/family and clarify directions.

b. remain calm and keep driving. You have been watching the signs carefully and you trust that you would have seen the major interstate signs.

c. get off at the next exit, turn around, go back the other way, waste forty five minutes. Turn around again.  panic. Start to cry. Think about how stupid it is to cry. Why are you crying? Should you stop and ask someone? Who would you ask? What if you get carjacked? So you call a close spouse or friend sobbing that you are a moron. They tell you to calm down. You say, yes. I am calm. I am so calm. I am a responsible, capable adult. And finally, an hour later, go back the original direction and get to the correct exit.

2. You are driving a long distance in the middle of the night with three small children and you need to go to the bathroom. CLARIFICATION: ALL THREE CHILDREN ARE ASLEEP. Do you

a. stop at a gas station, get the baby, the toddler and the child up out of their car seats and drag them into the bathroom with you.

b. get off at a deserted ranch exit and umm, sorry Mom, pee on the side of the road.

c. pee in a diaper.

3. You are driving a long distance in the middle of the night with three small children and you see a very large semi and you get strong feelings of fear in your heart for unknown reasons but possibly because you have a vivid horrible imagination and read bad news stories, so you grip the steering wheel and push down the accelerator and pass the semi at eighty miles an hour. As you get out from his/her shadow, the driver brights you three times. Do you

a. think it must mean he’s saying hello. You feel happy inside

b. think you have a flat tire or some other issue with your car and take the nearest exit to check things out.

c. think he’s going to kill you. He is going to kill you because why did he do that? Why would he do that. you don’t know. You don’t know. what does it mean? Is he from a semi-truck gang? Is he mad you passed him? You start to cry because you’re not ready to die and you also dont know if you should really speed up or slow down and why did he do that? Sobbing, you call a close spouse or friend to see what it means. what does it mean? Why did he do that? What does it mean?

Please complete this quiz and have your friends take it too. It’s important and means a lot of things. It also has nothing to do with me or the upcoming Project Writeway challenge. Thank you and the end.

P.S. The winner of the Play at Home prize this week is Miss Ilima Todd! Yay!

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Nothing Like a Contest to Remind Us We’re Aging!

We lucked out this week and got the amazing Claudia Mills to judge this middle grade contest for us.

Here’s her bio:
Claudia Mills is the author of forty-five books for young readers, most recently the Mason Dixon series from Knopf and Fractions = Trouble! from FSG, which was just named one of the “best of the best” books of 2011 by the Chicago Public Library.

Claudia has an amazing mid grade voice. When I first discovered her work, I’d published only Kelly and Me and a few Latter-day Daughter books. Claudia’s voice, her characters and their situations made me laugh till I cried. We met at an SCBWI meeting and I stalked her for only a little while before we became fast friends. I’ve loved her ever since I read one of her Dinah novels. Meeting her only confirmed my undying affection–Claudia is as funny in true life as she is in her writing. Plus also, guess what? I’ll love Claudia Mills till the day I die (and after that, too). We are PTSW and share the same agent.

Here’s what the amazing Claudia Mills had to say about YOUR writing:

Oh, this was hard to do! There was something I liked in every single one of these, from a sparkling detail, to an especially memorable line, to a promising story premise, to a surprising twist. Here’s a few:

The doctor speaking “in that high voice used for littler kids than me”
The scene idea of a boy sent to do his service hours cutting out valentine hearts for the dance committee
The idea of a a clueless character doing inappropriate field research into the science of love
A school project of making a mini city with marshmallow and spaghetti
A girl called Queen Dork because King Dork likes her
An opening line: “No one else believed it was a dragon house, but we knew.”
A vivid sense of place: “I set my suitcase down on the porch, hoping that it wouldn’t put another hole in the rotten boards. A small shower of dust fell from the roof as a truck rumbled by.”
Parents having to sign a permission slip before you can watch a snake eat a mouse
Two girls judging another girl’s curtsey as only a “peasant curtsey”
Feeling like “the gray-blue color of crayon that’s only good for storm clouds and stinky whales”
Another great opening line: “Until I kissed him, I’d thought Trent Lowry was cute.”
Plus a great closing line: “At that moment, I would’ve given anything to be kissing a frog instead of having one hop around in my stomach.’

Okay, no more stalling. I guess I really must choose.

So:

First place: Hugh Greenwood

I’d thought a lot about what Uncle David’s house would be like. The drive to Malone had taken three hours short of forever so there had been plenty of time. Besides, imagining a house I’d never seen was easier than imagining an uncle I’d never met. I came up with hundreds of possibilities: a mansion, a ranch, a log cabin with a bearskin rug, but the run-down, peeling, saggy house that we pulled up to didn’t come close to any of them.
I set my suitcase down on the porch, hoping that it wouldn’t put another hole in the rotten boards. A small shower of dust fell from the roof as a truck rumbled by. I coughed. There had to be some kind of mistake.
“This is it, Sam. No mistake.” Deb followed me up the steps, careful to avoid the gaping hole in the third one up. She always denied it, but I knew she had ESP or something; it was part of her job.
“Don’t give me that look,” she nudged me. I tipped into the railing which groaned and covered my sleeve in dirt and slivers. “I know it may not be– ”
“Safe?”
She gave me her shush-up-and-be-nice look.
“–what you expected, but I’m sure it’s perfectly fine.”
I saw her eye the front door which sat crooked in its frame. It looked like it would take some convincing to open.
“Besides,” she straightened her sweater, the envelope thick with my files shifted in her hand, “we talked about this. You’re not old enough to have a say in where you go. You’re lucky to have family to go to at all. At any rate, we are very thorough about these things. We’d never put you with your uncle if he didn’t check out.”
“Maybe you weren’t thorough enough this time,” I muttered as Deb stepped up to press the bell which dangled out of the wall by its wires.
A muted ‘ding-dong’ echoed behind the door.
Footsteps started from somewhere in the house and moved toward the door. The handle turned but the door didn’t budge. There was a brief pause and a muffled curse. Suddenly the door rattled violently, bringing down another shower of dust. After more cursing and one last screeching yank, the door flew open. A man covered in wood shavings and sweat stood in the doorway.
“You must be Sam.”

I loved the vivid sense of place here that put me completely into the scene with every detail. The opening drew me in immediately: “I’d thought a lot about what Uncle David’s house would be like. . . Imagining a house I’d never seen was easier than imagining an uncle I’d never met.” By the end of the short scene, after the beautifully detailed presentation of the house, I couldn’t wait to see what the uncle was like. That last line, “You must be Sam,” made me wild to know more about how the relationship between the two would develop.

Second place (tie) :
Ruby Tuscadero
Very funny young middle-grade voice, with spot-on kidlike perceptions of the cool and uncool teachers.

Emberly Clark
A well-framed scene building to an abrupt wrenching shift from funny to scary, just as would happen in real life.

April Hill, that means you are out. Please move over to the Play at Home side.

Congratulations, everybody, for putting your work out there for all of us to enjoy.

And thank you, Claudia, for helping us out this week.

NEW CONTEST


This week you must write a short, personal essay about you, the writer.
Please don’t think, “Essay? School! Yuck! No creativity there!”
What we want is something that touches our judge in some human way and convinces us of your heart.

You have just 300 words.
That means every word you use, counts.
So tell us why writing matters to you.

Remember to use a new name, and don’t tell anyone until after the judging is over.
The contest closes at five (5) pm on Wednesday, February 29.

You may vote for two (2) people now!
Judging will be on Thursday and Friday and will close midnight.
Follow the rules, exactly!

On your marks, get sets, go!

PS I am apologizing right now for any mistakes I may have made in this post.

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Kyra here!

It’s Friday again. I actually DID write something for last week but for some reason it didn’t get posted.
I’m sorry about that. Things would be easier if I had a MacBook instead of a trendy {and very annoying} iPhone.
So I will blend last weeks post and this weeks post together in a blender for your viewing pleasure.

Last Thursday I got to eat lunch with famous writer Emily Wing Smith. Can I say that she is very very cool?! I think I am going to ask her for an interview … Maybe she will say yes. Emily, if you’re reading…. would you be up for an interview?

Anyway.
The WIFYR conference is now live. So that means you can sign up.
This is going to be the best year yet, so don’t miss out!
Have you checked out the website? It’s so nice. And easy to use. So you should sign up! (i will try and say this ten more times before i’m through) And then we can all hangout and make a study group.
Can you imagine how fun it would be taking a class taught by my MOM?!? {or one of the many other AMAZING authors that we are also bringing out?}
I really wish I could take all the classes and cram that very useful information into my brain.

Speaking if brains… How is everyone’s writing coming along? I’m happy to share that finally, after months of re-writing, I am really starting to feel good about my novel. Its a Christmas miracle!
I am so book crazed right now. I really need to get my new library card and start reviewing some of the new books that have been coming out.
I plan to do a review of WAITING in a few weeks. I read it on my trip with Eric and his family. I will share one thing about the book right now and that is this……
I had to try and hide my misty eyes from the car full of Indians. Which basically means, it’s very sad, and very beautiful. {more to come later}

Well I am very exhausted and need to rewrite a couple more pages and then beat a couple more levels of Bejeweled { my latest distraction}

Everyone have a great weekend.
Cheers!

PS. Don’t forget to sign up for the conference!!!

PPS. Did I mention how signing up for the conference will be the best thing you do all summer pretty much ?!

PMS. I can feel this blog post getting very carsalesmanish.

PISS. I will now stop.

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FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO VOTE

The entries and polls are in the header under Project Writeway . . .

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Three Thing Thursday

Hello Lovelies.

Today is Thursday. It is also the day I am going on an adventure with my small children which could include multiple hours in the car. This is very exciting for me since, as many of you know, I usually don’t venture away from my yard. Also exciting is the new entries posted in the header for Project Writeway Season 1 Episode 5!

In celebration, here are three things:

1. Contest stuff: Read each entry carefully. Is it a true middle grade voice? Or does it sound like an adult trying to come off as a 8-12 year old? Do you see a conflict right away? What does the MC want? What are they like? What do they care about? Who are they? Now you may be wondering, can you get all that from such short passages. This is something we can talk about.  I think that yes, yes you can get all that from even shorter passages. Every sentence you write (heck, every word you write) should contribute to the reader’s knowledge of the MC and the conflict. Remember you must vote by midnight on friday. You only can vote for two in each category. And you must give me lots of candy. 

2. Many people are giving up things at this time of year. Sara Zarr, a good friend and wonderful writer, is always vocal about her experiences with this season. While I have never observed Lent, I have been thinking that it would be smart for me to be more deliberate in my choices for many reasons. Sacrificing something that is taking away from the things that matter most (my family, my writing, etc.) would be a good thing. So for the next little while I’m going to try to limit my internet use to email, possibly recipes if I’m desperate around dinner time, and maybe one other site of my choosing (not the following: facebook, hulu (can I do this?), msnbc, people.com, all sad and horrific news stories, apartment therapy, etc. etc.)). I’m going to start with one day. And then I’m going to do it the next day. I’ll see what happens from there. Are there things/habits/websites that suck you away from writing (I know Chris already wrote about this a couple of weeks ago). Do you want to join me in my quest? Even for a day?

3. WIFYR registration is open! I am teaching boot camp and you guys, it’s going to be cray cray. I have been preparing and planning and preparing. My class requires each student to turn in 55 pages of writing (55 PAGES people! I am so excited), a synopsis, and a query letter. We are really going to dig into each other’s manuscripts. We’re also going to do some prep reading in the months before the conference. If any of you want to party, come to my class. The other classes will be fun too, I’m sure. But not, as I mentioned, as cray cray. It is boot camp afterall.

Okay. That’s all. Kissing.

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Finding Yourself in Fiction

I just received an advance copy of Carol Lunch Williams forthcoming (May 1, 2012) novel titled Waiting.    It’s intense, of course, and packed with emotion and interesting characters doing interesting things.

One character, however, stood out above all the others:  Mr. Crowe.

Now this is not the first time an author has based a character on me (see last week’s post about Edward, Xander, and the gang).  The first such instance was in Louise Plummer’s delightful first novel, The Romantic Obsessions and Humiliations of Annie Sehlmeier (1987).  In that novel a charming, sensitive teacher is named Mr. Crowe.  The conncection is obvious.

Here’s a section from Carol Lunch Williams’ newest novel:

I tap on the glass again, and Mr. Crowe strides over and swings the door open.  “Yes, London?”

How did he know my name?

I’m mute.

Now, it’s a good thing this is only an advance copy because, as both of you have noticed, Carol needs to rewrite this scene—or more likely, to re-insert the material that certainly was there in an earlier draft.

Here’s how it should read.

My hand trembles when I tap on the glass, hoping for a glimpse of Mr. Crowe, the Adonis of my Florida high school.  Though my heart is pounding with anticipation, I know that it’s unlikely that he’ll notice me.  His students hang on his every word, scribbling notes furiously and pausing only to snatch glimpes of the man they idolize.

By some sort of miracle, though, he does notice, and he glides over, looking every bit like Mr. Darcy, and with a flourish, swings open the door.  My hands have turned cold and clammy.  I’ve never been this close to anyone as kind, generous, and stunning as Mr. Crowe, and I have to place my hand on the doorjamb to steady myself when he says, in that melodious baritone, “Yes, London?”

I am mute, completely overpowered by the magnificent man standing before me.

I’m confident Carol will make these changes.

So here’s a reading-writing challenge for you.  Find your name in a novel or short story, select a scene that has your namesake in it, and rewrite that scene in a way that portrays you in the properly positive light.

It’s good practice for characterization, and it’s fun to find yourself in someone else’s fiction.

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Middle Grade

For inspiration, some excerpts from middle grade novels. See if you can guess them all.

  1. Stanley and his parents had tried to pretend that he was just going away to camp for a while, just like rich kids do. When Stanley was younger he used to play with stuffed animals, and pretend the animals were at camp. Camp Fun and Games he called it. Sometimes he’d have them play soccer with a marble. Other times they’d run an obstacle course, or go bungee jumping off a table, tied to broken rubber bands. Now Stanley tried to pretend he was going to Camp Fun and Games. Maybe he’d make some friends, he thought. At least he’d get to swim in the lake.
  2. Grace stood before the front window where, beyond the road, beyond the trees, Lake Michigan lay calm and glittering. A lake view! Just wait until those so-called friends of hers with their classy houses see this place. The furniture would have to be reupholstered; no, she’d buy new furniture – beige velvet. And she’d have stationary made – blue with a deckle edge, her name and fancy address in swirling type across the top: Grace Windsor Wexler, Sunset Towers on the Lake Shore.
  3. “I’ll never tell.” He looked straight at Claudia to see her reaction. She looked puzzled. He smiled, and so did she, for she then felt more certain than ever that she had chosen the correct brother for a partner in escape. They complemented each other perfectly. She was cautious (about everything but money) and poor; he was adventurous (about everything but money) and rich. More than twenty-four dollars. That would be quite a nice boodle to put in their knapsacks if they were using knapsacks instead of instrument cases. She already had four dollars and eighteen cents. They would escape in comfort.
  4. It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. Frightened meant that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen. Frightened was the way he had felt a year ago when an unidentified aircraft had overflown the community twice. He had seen it both times. Squinting toward the sky, he had seen the sleek jet, almost a blur at its high speed, go past, and a second later heard the blast of sound that followed. Then one more time, a moment later, from the opposite direction, the same plane.
  5. As I grew older, I learned to delay my obedience, but each moment cost me dear-in breathlessness, nausea, dizziness, and other complaints. I could never hold out for long. Even a few minutes were a desperate struggle.
    I had a fairy godmother, and Mother asked her to take the curse away. But my fairy godmother said Lucinda was the only one who could remove it. However, she also said it might be broken someday without Lucinda’s help. But I didn’t know how. I didn’t even know who my fairy godmother was.
  6. Of all the kids in the seventh grade at Camillo Junior High, there was one kid that Mrs. Baker hated with heat whiter than the sun. Me.
    And let me tell you, it wasn’t for anything I’d done.
    If it had been Doug Swieteck that Mrs.
    Baker hated, it would have made sense. Doug Swieteck once made up a list of 410 ways to get a teacher to hate you. It began with “Spray deodorant in all her desk drawers” and got worse as it went along. A whole lot worse. I think that things became illegal around Number 167.
  7. There are mice.
    Lots of mice. Running all over my room. Letting out crying sounds that grate on my ears. They crawl on my feet. My legs. I feel them on my arms. Soft things with toenails like blunt needles.
    “Momma?” I say. She’s dressed in a long nightgown. Her fingernails are sharp like the tops of just-opened cans. “We gotta get rid of the mice. We gotta call an exterminator.” I hand her an old-fashioned phone.
    “You’re right, Lacey,” Momma says.
  8. She was born Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she did not open her eyes for three days.

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