Tuesday, October 25, 2005

My Writer Girl

Today, seven year old A woke me up when her alarm rang. Then, she went into the kitchen and started working on a story while I made breakfast. She wrote while she ate. She wrote while I got the other girls dressed. She wouldn't stop writing. Ten minutes before we were supposed to walk out the door for school, I reminded her to get dressed. She had just one more sentence to write. Nine minutes to go: one more sentence to write. Eight minutes to go: she finally went to her room to get dressed and do her hair, telling me that the story is finished and that I need to type it today.*

It's a cute story--What Creature is Babysitting Anna? with lots of repetition.**

She has a big plan for this story. Her illustrations will be photographs that she takes with her digital camera. (Does anyone have a dinosaur mask I can borrow?!) When her class had a traveling stuffed lion last year, she dressed him up and posed him in front of the house by the snow, on her sister's high chair, reading a book, in bed under the covers...and other cute lion places. Then, she put those pictures into PowerPoint and made a Valentine for each kid in her class -- from the lion.

So, her inspiration for the art in her book comes from that. It also comes from a very cute book we read last night, Dougal the Garbage Dump Bear (Kane/Miller Press). The story is about a bear who is neglected by his owner and winds up in the dump. He has great adventures in the dump and makes lots of friends and learns that sometimes bad luck is the best kind of luck to have. It is VERY cute, among my top ten picture book reads of the year.

The story is cute, but what makes this book spectacular is the art. The author, who found Dougal in the dump where he used to work, took pictures of Dougal and friends doing cute things (like sitting on a bench and feeding ducks). The photos are laid out scrapbook style to tell Dougal's story.

I leave you with a few thoughts:

1) Why is it that my seven year old is more disciplined about her writing than I am?
2) Is it legal or ethical to collaborate with one's minor child on a manuscript?
3) Check out my review of Dougal the Garbage Dump Bear at YA Books Central.

* In case you were wondering, this story is not homework. She is really into her writing right now. She wrote a story about 18 Monkeys Sitting in a Tree (her teacher calls them the 18 monkeys) and read it to the class. Anyone who writes a story on their own time and reads it to the class earns the right to sit in the author's chair during DEAR time. A HUGE deal to the kids -- or at least to the three monkeys who have written stories.) She also brings home her free time writing folder to continue work on her stories, which are very cute!

**I love her stories! They always fit common patterns we all learn when writing...the three events, counting down, or a repetitive line. If I may pat myself and hubby on the back for a moment...I can tell she's a child who has been read to a lot! :-)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Halloween Stories

I meant to do this much, much earlier. October just got away from me. I've posted several Halloween picture book reviews at YABooksCentral.

My favorite Halloween books: Room on the Broom and Rattlebone Rock. Both rhyming with a great dance-like rhythm. My husband, who isn't such a picture book lover, also loves these.

Monster Stew--Another really fun book. An ABC stew monster-style. Illustrated by S.D. Schindler

Skeleton Hiccups--A short picture book about a skeleton who gets out of bed with hiccups. Nicely-illustrated by S.D. Schindler.

The Runaway Pumpkin--A great rhyming picture book, also illustrated by S.D. Schindler.

Trick-or-Treat, Smell My Feet--with little trouble-making witches.
A Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet -- with a big costume dilemma.

The Legend of Sticky Gonzales--a self-published picture book we received at YA Books Central. Interesting concept...probably the wrong format. Might make a nice middle grade novel or short story. It was way over A's head (almost 8) and the girls freaked out because it says "hell," which is a word that applies because it's about the devil.

If you are still looking for great Halloween reading, pick up some of our favorites...and tell us what you think.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Creativity in Children

I usually steer clear of supermarket magazines unless I'm reading on a plane, but the cover of the November 8th Family Circle caught my eye: How to Raise Creative Kids. It's one of my favorite topics, so I had to pick it up.

I have a thing about creativity, specifically, teaching kids to write. I believe it's important for kids to learn to write because I believe that a person who can write will always be employable and will always be able to support herself. Beyond that, I've never been able to articulate WHY I think writing is a critical skill.

I LOVE this quote. The writer is speaking about creativity, but I think it applies to how I feel about writing.

" 'Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to achieve their goals,' says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D., director or the Quality of Life Research Center at California's Clarement Graduate University and author of Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (Harper Perenial). 'They don't tend to let external forces control their destiny.' "

I think I might just have to check out that book!

Um...if you're wondering...I think the new cough medicine is working! I've posted twice since I took the first dose :-)

(Almost) Back in Action!

Thank you Chris and Troy for your comments regarding my illness!

Here's the update:

Today was worse than yesterday. I coughed so much that my throat felt like I'd been breathing through my mouth while running on a cold day. This afternoon, I realized I needed to go to the doctor, but I didn't have time. We have so much going on over the next few days. Spending 1/2 a day at the doctor would totally mess up our plans. (The way it is, I have to be at conferences and S's preschool at the same time. Oops!)

Tonight when Hubby got home, I went to the urgent care. There was no one there. They were joking about needing to stand on the street with a sign "URGENT CARE. NO WAITING."

Unfortunately, I then spent 20 minutes at the pharmacy before anyone told me they were not on my insurance company's preferred list...which meant I'd have to spend A LOT of $$ for my meds.

So, 2 1/2 hours later (still better than a 1/2 a day when people have work, school and other appointments and activities!) I am back home with super duper cough medicine, an antibiotic and a diagnosis: I have bronchitis.

I had the same thing this exact time last year--except then I also had fluid in my ears from flying with a sinus infection.

Hope to be back in action on Monday...after all my company leaves.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Yep...Missing Again!

I hope to be back to blogging and book reviewing soon. I've been sick for close to three weeks now. Just as my nasty cold is getting better, I've come down with something else: fever and chills.

No writing. Missed critique group. Hopefully, I'll feel better by the time by family arrives for our big weekend adventure. All my brothers and their families will be here for some Halloween fun this weekend. Sunday, we're taking cousin pictures. We have nine cousins now, ages 8 years-6 months. Should be fun...if I'm among the walking by then.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

How cool is this? Look what I won!

Look what I won today! Troy Wilson, author of Perfect Man, has been a guest author this week on one of the lists I belong to.

"I'll be sending you earlier drafts of both Perfect Man and Frosty is a Stupid Name, along with the photocopied e-mail I sent to editor Maggie DeVires re: my final changes to Frosty, and why I wanted to make them. I will sign all of these, and draw my trademark cartoon images of myself on them too."

I can't wait! I have big plans for this stuff. For a hint, see previous post on the writing club I hope to offer at my daughter's school.

Friday, October 07, 2005


I was shocked when I learned that 95,000 kids in the Kansas City area qualify for the free lunch program. Many of these kids go without food over the weekend because their parents do not or cannot provide food.

Our paper ran an article today about an interesting solution:

The Harvesters organization (our local food pantry) is working with schools in a program called BackSnack. They send a backpack full of food home with the kids on Fridays--and kids are thrilled to participate. The kids think it's special and even those who don't qualify want the backpacks. (At one of the participating schools, 75% of the kids qualify for free lunches, so it's easy to see why there's no stigma attached.)

They mentioned one family of five that has to make $214 worth of food stamps last all month. It made me sick to my stomach when I read that. We won't even talk about how much I spend each month on groceries, Target runs, and other things we really don't need.

I'm pondering ways to help with this effort locally. It just makes me so sad. Here's a link to the article, but I think you have to register (Free) to read. http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/12838281.htm

This doesn't have much to do with writing, so I'll just add that I have a manuscript that touches on a similar topic. I really need to get those manuscripts out of this house! It's hard to sell anything when they live on my computer!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Can you believe it's NaNoWriMo time again! Write a 50,000 word novel from beginning to end in one month!

I failed miserably last year. I couldn't take the pressure. Seriously, I cease to function once November hits and I start freaking out about the seven November birthdays in our family, Thanksgiving, the zillions of Christmas presents I have to buy, holiday pictures and cards, school parties, my one-week-before-Christmas December meeting, Christmas and S's and A's birthdays. The shopping eats up every bit of "me" time I have!

I'm going to try again. Maybe I'll actually get to that coffee shop to write this year!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Great conversations!

There's a great conversation taking place at RealWritingTeachers. Troy Wilson, author of Perfect Man, is this week's guest author. I've saved the entire interview and all the follow up questions--it's 20 single-spaced pages so far! I'm full of ideas as a result of this author interview.

I've also been jotting notes for an after school writing club I'd like to offer to the kids in grades K-3 at our elementary school. I've been talking about this club for about eight months. I think I finally have some fun ideas. I want to work with the younger kids so I can help them with stories to submit to the Reading Rainbow contest (open to grades K-3). I thought I could get some 4-6th grade leaders to help by recording (probably writing them into a notebook) the stories the kindergarten and first grade students tell them.

Rough ideas:

Week 1: Discuss the purpose of keeping a Writer's Notebook. Decorate our notebooks and pens.

Each of the following weeks,
  • I'd lead with a picture book.
  • Then, I'd go over some author interview notes (when I have them available).
  • We'd probably do some craft, game, song or other activity related to the book.
  • We'd discuss concepts that are easy to identify in the book.
  • We'd practice the concept in our own writing.

Since the contest also includes illustrations, I'd introduce some picture books with unique illustration styles (paint, felt, clay, collages) and include interview comments from illustrators.

Early--maybe the first or second week--we'd talk about where writers get their ideas, and we'd start brainstorming for their individual projects.

Some of the things we'd discuss in our weekly club meetings: plot, conflict, characters, showing vs telling, sparkle words, overused words, action verbs.

A few weeks in, we'd start sharing our ideas and we'd discuss how to give feedback on the work of others.

As we got closer to the April deadline, we'd work more on our writing and less on the crafty things.

Each child would complete a story with illustrations and submit it to the contest. To wrap up our club year, we'd have a Writers' Cafe dessert/coffee/hot cocoa night where kids could share their work, either in book format or by reading it to the guests.

What do you think? Too much? Too little? Am I nuts?

I know...at this rate, I'll never find time to write!


THIS POST HAS BEEN EDITED BECAUSE it has been getting lots of Halloween google hits...and I'd hate to think the people I was talking about could google it!

Sorry I've been MIA. Wow, four days without blogging and I wasn't even on vacation.

I spent all day Friday cleaning for out-of-town visitors. I think I'm hiring my neighbor's cleaning lady. It took me all day to pick up before I ever got to cleaning. I just don't have time for this...and we have three more special visitor occasions this month.

We had a great visit with the in-laws who spoiled my kids rotten, buying DVDs and dolls and games we don't need (and the kids loved!). They also watched soccer games (the girls loved having a new audience) and took the kids to Chuck E Cheese's while baby K napped.

I'm slipping into my winter panic attack already. It usually doesn't hit until mid-November. I thought the preschool schedule would help. It might...if Baby K would nap! Poor baby, she's sick with a crusty nose yet again.