Wednesday, November 30, 2005

On My Mind

I have a lot on my mind again tonight.

1. Critique group is next next week. I have nothing to share. Sure, I finished the picture book they critiqued last month, but I don't want to share it. I think it's because I didn't take their advice...and I don't want to hear it again. Is that wrong? Am I stubborn?

2. I keep hearing that quiet picture books are not selling. This confuses me because it looks to me like Little Brown is buying them. Have you read A City Christmas Tree? I just love it. But, it's quiet.

3. And, what about "jumping right into the action" on the first page? I am a big believer in this one. Kids today (myself included!) get bored if the action doesn't start right away. For proof, compare some of the movie remakes--FREAKY FRIDAY comes to mind. In the Tatum O'Neill version, it seems like the credits and that slow, slow music will never end. In the Lindsay Lohan version, the movie starts with upbeat music and action before the credits ever roll.

So, what's the point? Does my story really need the action to start on the first spread if I think a one-spread scene set up helps the story along? I guess you have to see it to understand, but the humor is in what is NOT said. (YES, this is the advice I didn't take in #1 above.)

4. We have a super, awesome speaker coming to our SCBWI retreat that is still in the planning stages. This presenter is one of three I recommended to our RA ( if my idea is original ...or that my opinion matters ;-). I'm psyched and can't wait to spread the news!

5. Before I go to bed tonight, I'm writing down a few ideas for a middle grade novel. I'm still thinking about carrying around a model of my character and keeping a journal about her experiences to get started.

6. I still need to write SOMETHING for critique group, but how do I do that when I have all this going on: neighborhood hayride with Santa (I'm in charge), school holiday party to plan, S's birthday party, Christmas cards to design and print (I ALWAYS make mine and our relatives expect this from least my mom's aunts do. Seriously, they told me so.), the family calendar to print (it's designed. Would you believe it was over one GIG?!) But, hey...I did make it through four family birthdays in the past week. I've made two cakes and one batch of cupcakes this week alone!)

Traffic Jam

I've had a record number of visitors to my blog today. I see a lot of it is local traffic, but I have NO idea why. So...if you're checking this blog out for the first time today, clue me in: what brought you here? My curious mind wants to know :-)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A Great Thanksgiving

We had a great Thanksgiving. We Pricelined a nice hotel in downtown Omaha for $35 / night. Hubby asked for a room on one of the upper floors so the girls could see the holiday lights.

On Thursday morning, they woke up at 7:00. After showering and primping, we explored the hotel while their daddy slept in (just a little). The place was deserted--just us and a Southwest Airlines crew from what we could tell. (They did tell Hubby that they had over 100 empty rooms that night). A hotel worker asked if the girls could have a present. He gave them each a cool backpack that included a book, coloring book, colors and a magnetic picture frame. They came in handy. We always drag more junk into hotels than we can manage to fit into our suitcases. I thought it was a nice gesture...and a great value...considering our room was uber cheap! case you're wondering...we had a great time with the relatives too. One of the first Thanksgivings since we moved away that I haven't gotten a migraine when we visited.

It was a short visit. We came back Friday afternoon. I took two girls to the urgent care first thing this morning--sinusitus leaking out baby K's eyes again. S has a sinus infection and a horrid cough. Antibiotics for both.

Their Grandma came to town tonight with the cousins we just left on Friday. They're having a special girls'/cousins' weekend on the town. Hubby has a friend in for the football game. They're at the casino wasting money right now. Baby K is sleeping. I am taking a break from revising. Gotta get to work. I'm burning valuable alone time!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving assignment

A has homework over Thanksgiving break! When I first heard about it, I curled my lip. Homework on Thanksgiving? That's about as cruel as Thanksgiving without leftovers, mashed potatoes without corn,*...or a trip over the river and through the woods without grandparents and cousins.

I was surprised when A asked for a pen the minute she sat in the car. She just HAD to start her homework. She was excited about it. So much for ruining a kid's Thanksgiving! They made paper bag turkeys in class on Tuesday. Our new turkey is to spend the entire weekend with A and go everywhere she does. She has to keep a journal about the turkey's adventures. (I noticed they are encouraged to use colorful adjectives and to focus on word choice and character--to focus on their Six Traits skills).

She wrote on the way home from school; she wrote before dinner; she wrote with a flashlight under her covers before bed time. I'm sure, even if the excitement wears off, she has enough to earn her E for Excellent Effort.

It occurred to me that this would be a great way to start a novel. To literally or figuratively carry a character around for an entire weekend and keep a journal. I'm going to have to think more about this. I'm really in the mood to write a novel, but until today, I didn't know where to start. This might just work for me!

Happy Thanksgiving!

*(If you haven't tried mixing your corn and potatoes, try it this year. That's the way kids in my family have eaten Thanksgiving veggies forEVER...and it has now been passed to the next generation.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Thanksgiving Picks

When you tire of turkey, football and cousins this Thanksgiving, why not curl up on the couch with a good book? Two of my favorite seasonal books:

Turk and Runt by Lisa Wheeler--Confused turkeys think it's an honor to be chosen for Thanksgiving. When they discover they're about to be basted and roasted, they devise a plan that will keep them safe through the winter holidays.

Thank You Sarah. The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson--I bought this one last year for S whose birthday falls near Thanksgiving. It is one of her favorite books. It's the story of Sarah Hale, a stubborn, brave, super hero with a pen, who spoke up for what she believed and wrote and lobbied for 38 years to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. If you don't get to this one for Thanksgiving, give it a read around President's Day--Lincoln is the president who made Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Very behind on book reviews again!

I'm extremely behind on book reviews again, so I'm going to post some of the reviews (or at least the links) here and at YA Books Central. I have a few favorites that I think are just too good to miss. See, I missed the boat on some of the super Thanksgiving titles--and we're already beyond Thanksgiving in the book review database. More on Thanksgiving later.

Here's a winter book I just adore: Frosty is a Stupid Name by Troy Wilson. It's no secret that I'm a big Troy Wilson fan. So far, his books show kids having fun with their imaginations. It's the way I like to write, so naturally, I'm thrilled to see a market for his books! Strong voice and great books to get kids wondering WHAT IF?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Writing Workshop

conference notes deleted.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A writing day...

Tomorrow is a writing day. I'm attending a writing workshop with one of the Carus editors. It should be a shove in the right direction. Have I mentioned that I almost never actually send stuff off? Nope. I just write and decide it's not good enough to mail. Tomorrow's workshop is on the submission process, specifically queries.

Should be fun...if I don't get lost! I think this is at the same hotel I went to for my critique last April....the one where I mistook homeless people for college students and nearly had my purse swiped from my car. I'm a little too naive to venture out of the suburbs!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A really fun night

Notes deleted.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A draft! It's a baby draft!

I'm happy to announce the birth of a second draft. It was a difficult process, but I've made progress.

Along the way, I think I discovered one of my big writing flaws. Nearly every sentence, with the exception of the dialogue, describes a character's actions. On this next draft, I'm going to work on adding more descriptors that do not involve sentences that begin with the character's names or "they." It seems like every time I add that other type of descriptive information, people tell me to "show, don't tell" or advise that "this would be a good place to cut unnecesary information." Maybe I'll need to read more picture books, keeping this in mind.

This story is told in present tense. I'm going to write the next draft in past tense to see if that helps any.


In other news, we have our SCBWI-Kansas quarterly meeting tomorrow night. I have a writing workshop to attend on Sunday. I received notification about two more writing events (plus another potential event). It was just a few short months ago that I complained that nothing was happening in Kansas. For the record, things are really taking off here!

And, if you're keeping track, I did write while Baby K napped today. Unfortunately, I also forgot about an interview I was supposed to conduct. Fortunately, the applicant called me to find out where I was. I've been very bad about writing things on my calendar. Between the writing, the calendar-making, working out and playing, I just forgot.

I'll be in lots of pain tomorrow. I went to my gym's Power Pump class today for the first time in months. Gotta attempt to get into shape before my really-cool, upcoming vacation :-)


Every Christmas our family creates a calendar for the upcoming year. It features all the kids (the cousins/grandkids) on each page, and we give one to my grandmother and dad along with their other Christmas presents.

Well, this year, we have nine kids to include and it's my year to create the calendar. I started out by downloading a bunch of digi-scrapping papers. Don't laugh, but I do the layouts in Power Point. I have not yet mastered Paintshop Pro or Photoshop to the point that I have the control I have in Power Point. I opened a PPT document and created 12 slides. Then, I placed a picture of each kid on each page, making sure I had enough of each kid, and enough for each season. Next, I selected (most likely a temporary) scrapping paper for each page.

At about this point, I realized that I didn't have the flexibility I needed to cut pictures, rotate pictures, place good shadows, bevel, etc. the way I want. What did I do? I went out and spent $100 on Photoshop Elements 4.0.

I am now officially obsessed. The hours slipped away last night as I tried to learn my new program. I'm sticking with Power Point for the layout (too big of a learning curve to figure it all out during the holidays!), but I sure had fun messing with my pictures. It is amazingly easy to change the color of someone's shirt or add someone to a picture. I took a picture of A rock climbing and added S on the climbing wall right next to her. Not that I needed to do that. I was just test driving my new toy.

This was supposed to be my big writing weekend. Hubby was out of town and I had two whole nights to write away. Hopefully, I'll be able to control this new obsession and get some writing done this afternoon while Baby K naps.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Time to clean the house

I survived October with a very clean house, thanks to my new cleaning lady and the fact that we had a visitor or party for five weeks in a row. However, all this partying and visiting didn't help the writing.

This week, I got busy writing. And, my house screams "Neglect! She's forgotten about me!" It's a disaster. The laundry is piled three feet high in the hallway leading to the bedrooms, the counters are cluttered, toys are scattered across every floor. We did manage to pick up the Connect Four pieces, the Boggle pieces and all the playing cards K scattered around the room.

Why is this significant? Hubby was out of town this week. I lost my keys in the mess, so I used his. Then, I found mine and lost his...and I still can't find them.

See what happens when I write? If I pick the kids up in the little red wagon, you'll know I'm writing instead of cleaning. Hubby is leaving town again. We could probably live without those keys a few more days? Right?

UPDATE: 9:45--A called from school to tell me the keys were in her backpack! Since she's only in 2nd grade, and doesn't own a cell phone (like most 6th graders do these days!) she called from the teacher's classroom phone. If the teacher didn't think I was a nutcase before. I'm sure she does now! BUT, wasn't that sweet of A to call me?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Critique Group Size

Varian Johnson, author of Red Polka Dot In A World Full of Plaid, (who also has his first book signing tomorrow! YEA! GOOD LUCK!) posted a question in my comments section.

Varian says:
Just "big" is too big for a critique group? Is there a magic number that works? Or, is there a good system to ensure that everyone doesn't submit something for critique at the same time?


I've been wondering the same thing. Our critique group is rather new. This week was the first time we had four people attend! We got right down to business and spent what averaged to be 30 minutes on each manuscript. I found myself wondering how that will work if we ever have everyone there at once. At that rate, we'll need another two hours...and I know my brain shuts down waaayyy before 11:00.

Here's our format:

We meet once a month. Each person attending brings a manuscript copy for each person in the group. When it's your turn, you hand out your manuscripts. Then you read. The others take notes + = things you like, - = things that don't work for you, ? things you don't understand, and lots of little notes at the end and in the margin. When you've finished reading, you shut up. Each person makes their comments--no one interrupts or comments on the comments--until everyone has had a turn. Then, (this is really my favorite part) it somehow turns into a brainstorming session (when the need arises). We usually discuss/brainstorm any comments we think would make help the story. I'll explain these sorts of comments later. This week, some turned into mini lessons on craft. Very fun!

What are your thoughts? How big is too big to be effective?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Another new blog!

It must be my day to find out about new blogs. Here's another handy one: BookLocker Online Marketing Blog for Books. From the people at Writer's Weekly and the POD/ebook publisher BookLocker.

A cool new blog

I'm always the last to know about these things, so just skip right over this if you've already heard about this great new blog. The people at (who create the Children's Book Insider Newsletter) have a blog. So far, it has lots of cool news for writers.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Great Critique Group Meeting!

I had a great critique group meeting tonight. Our group is really starting to gel. We're a relatively new group--our five original members met for the first time in May. Two dropped out for a short time, but plan to return next month. And, we just recently added three more members who have insightful comments and observations.

I originally sought out a critique group so that I would force myself to write something each month. I need a deadline. I'm a big procrastinator. So, after being sick for too many weeks, I still had nothing new to take. I refuse to take something old, and I'm definitely not going empty-handed.

I dropped S off at preschool. Baby K fell asleep in the car. I left her there to nap in the safety of the closed garage. I wrote for 1 1/2 hours while she napped. Then pieced together another 45 minutes or so--enough to barely write a rough, rough first draft.

I took the draft tonight and received some excellent feedback. I think sometimes I benefit from this more than taking a piece I feel is polished. I mean...if I already think it's perfect, I'm not so open to revisions...or a complete rewrite.

Now I'm all ready to revise tomorrow. Cross your fingers that the over-caffeinated baby will nap on cue tomorrow! (Did I mention that she guzzled pop during Chicken Little? She LOVES pop. She can't have pop--soda, or cokes, as you call it in other parts of the country--so much that she digs through the trash to find empty cans to suck the droplets out of!)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Sky Is Falling!

A has almost finished her story, "What Creature is Babysitting Anna?" She has revised (a little). She bribed her sister (with candy) to pose for pictures. S was a great model and showed the appropriate amount of fear and surprise. Tonight, we put the pictures into PowerPoint with the text. Tomorrow, she's adding white circles to cover MY face (I posed as the creature). Then, she'll print the story and color with markers on top of the photographs to finish up the features on the creatures. Imagine the pictures as a second grader's version of the illustrations in Knuffle Bunny.

This was the fifth weekend in a row that we've had visitors. (Yeah, no wonder I'm not getting enough sleep!) It was fun to visit with my sister-in-law and nephew. They came for the Chiefs game today.

We saw Chicken Little on Saturday. What a CUTE movie! I'm a sucker for Disney movie soundtracks, so guess what my girls owned as of 4:00 today? Hubby was against buying it--it's too close to Christmas. A found a loophole--she sat in front of the computer on the Chicken Little site playing games and listening to the song. She decided that she'd sing "One Little Slip" by Barenaked Ladies for her music class talent show tomorrow (real low-key, seat-of-your-pants fun day.). SO...of course that meant that we needed to OWN the CD so that she could practice!

I have critique group again tomorrow...and nothing prepared. Uh oh. Maybe they'd like to see me dance to "Shake Your Tail Feathers" by the Cheetah Girls. On second thought. Probably not.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Silly Stats

I admit to checking out my web stats. Some searches are pretty on-target. Others...not so much.

This past week, someone entered the search terms: "need book report on the boyfriend list by e. lockhart." Being nosey, I had to google this to see what comes up. I didn't search long enough to find a book report (or my own blog), but I did find a nice interview that I can't believe I missed when it was originally posted. But, this made me wonder: wouldn't it be faster to just write the report than to search 10 pages deep on the web?

Another one that comes up a lot is when people search for Lauren Barnholdt .... um...yes, another reference to Lauren. That should straighten things out. Not. But, you should cruise on over to her blog for all the exciting news about her upcoming book REALITY cover. Awesome blurb!

I received lots of Halloween hits from people looking for activities to tie in with Halloween picture books. Unfortunately, I had reviews, but not activities. Better luck next year.

I'm curious about this one: her stalled car humiliation stories. No clue what that was about, or how they got to my blog from that one.

But, at least I don't have Debbi's luck. Her hubby can't read her blog from work because it says the content is X - rated. Something about a word that sounds like six. (It's not X rated...just for the record!)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

No NaNoWriMo for Me

I was all set for NaNoWriMo when the reminder email arrived in October. Then, I caught a cold that turned into bronchitis. I've been exhausted to the point of not being able to function, so I went back to the doctor last week begging to have my thyroid checked.

I got the results of blood work today. My thyroid is fine and so is my iron level (amazing considering how little meat I eat.). The doctor's recommendation? Get nine hours of sleep each night.

What? Doesn't he know about NaNoWriMo? Nine hours of sleep would mean that I need to go to bed at 10:00. That only gives me an hour per night to write, sign permission slips, read...and do anything else that requires silence to think.

I'm still not convinced my problem is sleep, but I might be forced to give it a try.