Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Writing Advice from Kristin Wolden Nitz/Let Your Characters Talk to Each Other

I've always loved all things Victorian, and those who know me will be quite surprised to find out that I am a closet mystery and suspense lover (when I was ten my mother actually took me out of school so that I could meet Phyllis Whitney, revered Mystery & Suspense Novelist and Author of the Chapter Book MYSTERY OF THE GREEN CAT in person and, at one time I had read and owned almost ALL the Agatha Christie paperbacks in print). So when I recently read a summary of  Kristin Wolden Nitz's new Book, SUSPECT...

Jen is scheduled to spend the summer helping Grandma Kay run a Victorian bed and breakfast. But Grandma Kay’s plans include a lot more than housekeeping. She intends to solve a real mystery from the past: the disappearance of Jen’s mother. During the build-up to an elaborate, role-playing Murder Mystery Weekend, Jen’s worst suspicions are aroused. Could a member of her own family be responsible?

I was extremely excited! A Victorian theme, a missing mother, a Murder Mystery Weekend -- perfect ingredients for a gripping tale.  However, as Kristin explains today, for a well-told story, you have to "Let Your Characters Talk to Each Other." Here, she shares some ways to do just that!


Let Your Characters Talk to Each Other by Kristin Wolden Nitz

Ever since I read Natalie Goldberg’s WRITING DOWN THE BONES, I’ve been a fan of café writing.  I’ve found that it really helps me immerse myself in a scene. Sure, on some days, I write pages of garbage, but on other days,  I can barely keep up with the give and take of my characters as they interact

So let’s say that there’s a scene coming up between two of your characters.  Instead of trying to pull together a polished scene, let your characters have a conversation while the sounds of the coffee grinder and milk frother fade away. 

Here’s a quick summary of Natalie Goldberg’s basic technique:

1.      You “rent” a table at a café or coffee shop by ordering something.  Since you don’t want to waste your money, this should keep you seated. 

2.      Sit down, turn off your internal editor and start writing. 

3.      “Keep the hand moving.”  Don’t go back to fix things.     

Here are my additional suggestions for generating dialogue:

  1. Consider beginning with a few things that are going on right before the conversation such that you and your character are in the moment.  Worry about transitions later.
  2. When things are happening fast, don’t worry about tag lines or quotation marks.  You know who is saying what to whom and when your main character is leaving certain reactions unsaid.  
  3. Add in any bits of action or description that pop into your head and directly affect the conversation.  Otherwise, you can fill all that in later.  
  4. If your characters aren’t talking, you can also fill in specifics about one character or another until things get rolling again. As Ms. Goldberg said, “Keep the hand moving.” 
I finished my first draft of my YA mystery Suspect back in 1999 before I started café writing.  But I do have a new scene that I wrote as part of a major revision in December of 2009.  I had thought about sharing the rough draft first and then showing its evolution into polished prose. A quick glance at my notebook showed that the scene would be next to incomprehensible.  So instead, consider reflecting on how a goodly chunk of your scribbles could actually survive draft after draft and wind up in the novel.

“Listen,” Bri said, “I’ll give you twenty bucks if you do all the bathrooms.”
For a split second, I found myself calculating how many gallons of gas I could put in the Volvo for twenty dollars. Then I told her no in the firmest voice I could manage. “We’ll take turns.”
“But I’ve got my senior pictures tomorrow.  You know what those latex gloves can do to your hands.  I want to look perfect.”  She held up the backs of her fingers and waved her French manicure at me. “I couldn’t reschedule my appointment. Please?”
Or maybe she hadn’t even tried to reschedule so she’d have a good excuse to avoid doing the bathrooms.  The suspicion must have shown in my face because Bri stiffened.
“Come on, Jen,” she said. “it’s not like I’m a total wimp.  I mean, I’ve probably shoveled more horse manure than you ever will.” 


“Fine,” I said. “You can do all the bathrooms the next time we work together.”
Bri pouted. “Couldn’t I give you the twenty instead? I mean, it’s not like you care about your hands.”


“Why are you even working here?” I demanded. “You don’t need the money.”
“Mom thinks a job will look good on my college applications,” Bri said, rolling her eyes. “It’s so stupid. She’s always, like, ‘Your dad and I can send you anywhere you want to go, honey, as long as you can get in.’ It drives me crazy. She’s on me all the time.”
Yeah, I thought. Having a mother who cares about you and wants you to be happy must really be rough.


I’ll give you twenty bucks if you do all the bathrooms.
Cost more than she was going to make in the next few hours.  He who hesitates is lost.  I lost. Keeping gas in the Volvo’s tank. 
I wouldn’t ask, but my pictures are tomorrow. She waved her perfect nails at me.
I would let anyone else off.  I wanted to make her pay.
No. That’s okay.  You can do all the bathrooms next time we work together.
I’d rather give you twenty bucks now.”
What’s the point of working
Mom’s got the college apps on the brain. You can go any place that you can get into honey. It’s hell.
Yeah. Having a mother who cares about you and wants you to have a good life must be rough. 

Kirkus Review of SUSPECT

Nitz intertwines and then untangles relationships among the teens and guests, weaving a credible mystery for a wide adolescent audience. With clues and red herrings neatly scattered throughout, the book scores as a darned good little mystery. Intriguing, suspenseful fun. (Mystery. 12 & up)

Website and blog:

Bio:  Kristin Wolden Nitz has lived on the East Coast and West Coast as well as in the Midwest and Italy since graduating from Michigan Tech with a degree in electrical engineering.  She writes the things she likes to read, which might explain why her novels include an upper middle grade sports novel, lower middle grade fantasy and young adult mystery.    

Monday, September 27, 2010

Writing Inspiration/Finding the Spark in Non-Fiction by Lori Mortensen

 When the Blue Oasis Online Support Team (BOOST) Critique Groups folded oh, so many years ago, many of the members decided to wander off on their own into the vast desert of children's writing. Some of us banded together as a force to weather the often arid climates of children's magazine and book publishing. I was in one such group. Recognizing the bright light that glowed within each other, we decided to call ourselves the Rising Stars and vowed that we would figure out a way to navigate ourselves toward success.

Among the talented writers in my pack was a girl named Lori Mortensen. She could nail any genre she studied -- fiction, nonfiction, magazine articles, picture book -- you name it! We've had so much fun creating challenges to get published in a particular magazine (i.e., Highlights, Ladybug, Turtle) or a particular type of story (Rebus, Panel).

I am so pleased to have her here today as the first of my Rising Star Guest Bloggers to celebrate the release of her book COME SEE THE EARTH TURN: The Story of Foucault's Pendulum, published by Random House/Tricycle Press. Shop at Amazon.com!

I can honestly say that I had no doubt ever that Lori, or any one of the girls would achieve their dreams (and we ALL did). Because even then, when we were perhaps even ten years younger, you could not only see the talent, but a spark. So of course, I smiled when Lori sent me her piece for my blog and I read her title -- The Spark of Nonfiction. So when you leave this blog post, you'll recognize what it takes to find a good topic to write about in non-fiction, and you'll know it takes more than just talent -- longevity, stick-to-itiveness and that special spark -- to reach your dreams. So keep twinkling!

The Spark of Nonfiction

To me, writing nonfiction is all about the spark—the kernel of an idea that sets you off in a certain direction. When I was a new writer many years ago, I didn’t know what that spark felt like. I looked around and I had no idea how to pin down an idea. What made one idea better than another one? They all seemed the same to me. As I gained more experience, however, I realized the most important factor was my reaction to whatever I came across. When I learned to identify the subtle “ah, ha!” feeling, what to write about became clear.

My new release, Come See the Earth Turn: The Story of Léon Foucault, was the result of accidentally finding an in depth book about Foucault in the library. Like many others, I remembered going on a field trip to a museum as a child and watching how the pendulum swung back and forth. I remembered how fun it was to see how the great shiny pendulum knocked down one peg, then another. But that was all I knew. So when I found a book about the man responsible for this demonstration, my curiosity was peaked.  Who was he anyway? When I read that he sent his colleagues an invitation to see the earth turn, a light bulb switched on. I knew I wanted to share his story with young readers.

It was a similar story for my award-winning release In the Trees, Honey Bees!
In this case, however, my father-in-law was a beekeeper. (At one time, he had over 300 hives!) Because of my association with him, I became curious about bees. Was there more to them than making honey and doing their familiar dance? Honestly, I didn’t think there would be. After all, I’d read the books about bees just like everyone and there were lots of books about bees on the shelf. However, when I looked into the subject, I was amazed. Who knew that bees did different chores as they matured in the hive? I didn’t. Who knew that bees gathered water and tree sap in addition to the familiar nectar and pollen? I didn’t. Who knew that honey bees used tree sap to seal cracks in their hive? I didn’t. Once again, the spark gave me direction.

Looking for a subject to write about? Look for that inner spark.

ABOUT LORI MORTENSEN: She has sold over 100 magazine stories and articles and two dozen fiction and non-fiction books. To learn more about Lori and her award-winning books, visit http://www.lorimortensen.com/.


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Friday, September 24, 2010

Writing Prompt/Character - Kick the Habit With Tracy Barrett

As a former student of mythology and ancient civilizations, I am always excited to capture a glimpse of either one of these fascinating studies in modern-day writing, and even more enthralled to see an entire work based upon them!. Of course, you can imagine my joy when I saw the following book review published by Kirkus:
King of Ithaka "A rousing introduction to epic characters and mythic creatures of ancient Greece from the fresh perspective of an engaging young hero." (Kirkus)
Here is an additional teaser, taken from the flap copy:
Telemachos has a comfortable life on his small island of Ithaka, where his mother keeps the peace even though the land has been without its king, his father, since the Trojan War began many years ago. But now the people are demanding a new king, unless Telemachos can find Odysseus and bring him home.
     "Return to the place that is not, on the day that is not, bearing the thing that is not. On that day the king will return." With only this mysterious prophecy to guide him, Telemachos sets off over sea and desert in search of the father he has never known.
I can't wait to get my copy! Shop at Amazon.com!
So while I await my personal audience with the KING OF ITHAKA, I have arranged this little meeting with its talented author Tracy Barrett. Here, she shares an insight into characterization and helps you to kick old habits and write outside of the box. Enjoy the process!

Characterization: Kick the Habit with Tracy Barrett

Authors tend to write about people like themselves. Even if they change their characters’ gender, ethnicity, age, social status, we still see lots of main characters who (like their creators) love to read, want to grow up to be writers, feel like outsiders, are introspective and intelligent, etc. To break this habit, think of:
  • a personality trait you find offensive
  • a vacation spot that’s popular but that doesn't appeal to you at all
  • an activity that bores you to tears
  • the food you dislike the most
and write a scene in the first person from the POV of a character who unapologetically has that trait, goes to that spot, indulges in that activity, and eats that food eagerly. No sarcasm and no unreliable narrator allowed—make it believable!

For more on Tracy and her books, check out her Website:


Please consider becoming a follower! All followers will earn a chance in our monthly drawing. The winner will be able to choose from a list of books and magazines.
I love to hear your comments! Please feel free to comment and leave your thoughts. You will earn an extra chance in our monthly drawing!  Thank you for following us.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writing Prompt/Finding Folklore Voice with Bobbi Miller

Thomas Carlyle once said, "Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him."  This is  true in many ways. As writers, our job is to listen.  We should listen to the stories themselves, to the people, to the ways they or told, to why they are told.  What I love about folklore is that it celebrates people, the stories they have to tell, tells about their life or time and passes along their knowledge or lesson. 

Folklore is the root from which modern day story telling began. Even if you don't plan to write folktales, it is surprising how much can be learned from even a brief study of the genre.  I am extremely pleased to have author and writing teacher Bobbi Miller here today to share some of what she has learned in her study of folklore and help you find your folklore voice. Be sure to check out her link!


Finding Your Folklore Voice with Bobbi Miller

We’ve all heard similar advice about the folklore process and how to retell the folktale. Research the tale, study its context, recognize and play with the universal motifs, including character and plot, and the kernels of truth that defined the  tale. Two of my favorites, Eric Kimmel and Rafe Martin are masters of the process and each has written, told and taught extensively, creating an impressive collection of folktales around the world. [You can read more of their insights, as well as a gathering of several writers, editors, agents and librarians, on the role of the picturebook folktale in the current publishing climate, ‘Where Have All The Folktales Gone?’ at http://www.bobbimillerbooks.com/for_writers.html#gpm1_5)

In my own journey learning about the process, I come to recognize that a folktale, whether a retelling or adaptation, is defined by its oral nature. As a result, language becomes as integral as the story and the illustration. In fact, language becomes as much a character as the protagonist. In my picturebook “Davy Crocket Gets Hitched” (Holiday House, 2009), the language, like the characters, is rambunctious and bodacious. The language defies the tidy, restrictive, even uptight structure of formal grammar. It mocks it, in fact, using pseudo-Latinate prefixes and suffixes to expand on the root. The result is a teetotaciously, splendiferous reflection of a wild frontier too expansive for mere words to capture.

In this exercise, play with language by creating metaphors and similes that engage in the senses.  Stay away from the obvious, and dare to explore and stretch your imagination!

  1. These socks smelled like ____.
  2. She buried the secret like a ____.
  3. His voice grated like a ____.
  4. The mist rose up like ____.
  5. The clouds scowled like ____.
  6. The tree kissed the sky like ____.
  7. The forest is ____.
  8. His temper raged like ____.
  9. The children followed their teacher like ___.
  10. He has a heart of ____.
  11.  She sang like ____.
  12. Jack and Jill danced like ____.
  13. A spider on the wall is ____.
  14. The cat slept like ____.
  15. The children on the merry-go-round screamed like ____.
  16. The mouse twitched with ____.
  17. Home is ____.
  18. An empty house smells like____.
  19.  Friendship is ____.
  20. I am a ____.

Come see more about my books and my process on my website at http://www.bobbimillerbooks.com/index.html.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Writing Prompt/Have Fun Thinking Sun with Connie Goldsmith

With the prospect of a long, dismal New York winter peeking around the corner, I like to steal as much last-minute sun as I possibly can.

However, as with everything else, there is both a good way and a bad way to capture the sun. Fortunately, I have writing pal Connie Goldsmith here today to share some fun ways to think sun and writing about it AND some ways to avoid damaging your skin and/or risking skin cancer!

Writing Prompt
Think - SUN

Think of a day when you spent time in the sun. Were you stretched out on a towel at the beach or a pool? Bobbing in a boat on a lake, or water skiing in the ocean? Were you just a kid, a teen on a date, or a parent with a child? Find a nice memory about the sun and write ten words associated with that memory.

Put two of those words together into a sentence or two that describes your day. Then pick two other words and write another couple of sentences.

Try to include all of your senses:
Sight (sparkling water? colorful umbrellas?)
Sound (waves? gulls? friends chatting?)
Smell (salt in the air? hotdogs from the concession stand?)
Taste (cold beer or a diet Coke? sweet lemonade?)
Feeling (the slick sheen of Coppertone? a caress?)

Add emotion. How did you feel? Happy? Content? Now write two to three paragraphs about the joy of that sun-filled day. Can you envision that day through the eyes of a child? Maybe it would make a picture book or an article for a parenting publication. Maybe it could be the kick-off point for a middle-grade novel.


I spent my teen years in Sarasota, Florida and have many wonderful memories of days spent at the beach with friends. One day in the 10th grade my BFF and I cut school and went to the beach. A reporter from the local paper wanted our picture (of course, we were cuter and much thinner in those days). We agreed, but only if he didn’t say what day of the week it was. We didn’t want to get in trouble for cutting class. The photo came out with the title, “Two local beauties take in the sun recently at Siesta Beach.” Twenty-five years later my friend had the photo put on a T-shirt and sent it to me – what an amazing gift that was!

Now, I’m a middle-aged writer/nurse who thinks about the sun in a much different way. These days, when I think sun, the words that jump into my mind are ultraviolet radiation and melanoma. That’s what happens when you write a book about skin cancer.

One of my new books from Lerner Publishing is, “USA Today Health Reports: Diseases and Disorders: Skin Cancer.” Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is the fastest growing cancer among young people. Many skin cancers can be prevented simply by using sun screen. Don’t think tanning booths are any safer. In 2009 the World Health Organization put tanning booths in the same class of carcinogens as cigarette smoke, mustard gas, and plutonium. Now that’s something to think about!

Protect yourself from skin cancer:

* Slip on a shirt (long-sleeved is best)
* Slop on the sunscreen (at least SPF 15)
* Slap on a hat (wide-brimmed to protect neck and ears)
* Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes

Connie Goldsmith
My new books from Lerner:

Battling Malaria: On the Front Lines Against a Global Killer
USA Today Health Reports: Hepatitis
USA Today Health Reports: Influenza
USA Today Health Reports: Skin Cancer
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Writing Advice/Get That First Draft Out by Arthur Slade

 Many years ago, when I began reviewing for the professional print book review journals (some which are sadly no longer around), I remember being assigned a first book from Canadian author. As a reader interested in mythology and Iceland, I remember being intrigued by the prospect of this book called DRAUGR. Yet, what I remember most is that DRAUGR proved to be a satisfying, well-plotted middle grade adventure story and the author -- quite talented. Of course, I quickly picked up THE HAUNTING OF DRANG ISLAND and THE LOKI WOLF. Fifteen books later (including DUST, TRIBES and now THE HUNCHBACK ASSIGNMENTS), I am pleased to now have Arthur Slade here as my Guest Blogger!

Here, Arthur shares advice for success...

Writing Advice--Get That First Draft Out by Arthur Slade

One of the difficulties about being writers is that we often daydream--it’s our job. But sometimes it becomes procrastination. So when you have a limited amount of time to write just take out an egg timer and set it to twenty minutes (or whatever time period you prefer). Promise yourself that you will write as quickly as possible without pausing to think (or daydream) and you won’t stop until you hear that bell ring. Even if your house is on fire. There’s something very motivating about the “tick tick tick” of the clock. Don’t worry if what you’ve written in that time isn’t perfect, that’s what rewriting is for. This is just a way to get that first bit of writing down and get your creative juices flowing. You can turn your prose into gold when you rewrite.

Arthur Slade is the author of fifteen book for children.
He has published several novels for young readers, including The Hunchback Assignments; Jolted: Newton Starker’s Rules for Survival; Megiddo’s Shadow; Tribes; and Dust, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Literature. He lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Visit him at: http://tinyurl.com/arthursladeFB

His latest novel is The Dark Deeps, the second book in
The Hunchback Assignments series. About the Dark Deeps:

Transforming his appearance and stealing secret documents from the French is all in a day’s work for fourteen-year-old Modo, a British secret agent. But his latest mission—to uncover the underwater mystery of something called the Ictíneo—seems impossible. There are rumors of a sea monster and a fish as big as a ship. French spies are after it, and Mr. Socrates, Modo’s master, wants to find it first. Modo and his fellow secret agent, Octavia, begin their mission in New York City, then take a steamship across the North Atlantic. During the voyage, Modo uncovers an astounding secret. http://tinyurl.com/hunchbackassignmentsFB

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Writing Prompt/Brainstorming with Lisa Wheeler

I have known Lisa Wheeler since she spun her first tale in WOOL GATHERING. Since that time, I have done some gathering of my own, as I now have in my collection WOOL GATHERING, FARMER DALE'S PICK-UP TRUCK, TURK AND RUNT, OLD CRICKET, AVALANCHE ANNIE, ONE DARK NIGHT, PORCUPINING, SIXTEEN COWS and SAILOR MOO, to name just a few!

It looks like she has served up another treat with UGLY PIE, which  is next on my "To Buy" list!
Shop at Amazon.com!
The cover is scrumptious and even somewhat matches the style of my kitchen and my Jim Shore Folk Art animal and seasonal art collection
http://www.jimshore.com/content/ . I think I want this book on display in my kitchen cabinet when we're finished reading!

But enough about my kitchen. I'm extremely psyched to have such a prolific author here this UGLY Saturday morning in New York, to prompt me (and the rest of you) to start the morning writing.  When I read the exercise myself, I not only found it inspiring, but LOVED hearing the process by which she created this book (and Sailor Moo). Fun and fascinating, Lisa!

I'm sure, with Lisa's seeds for thought, we all can make something good of the writing day and maybe even bake a marketable pie!


BRAINSTORMING: Word Lists by Lisa Wheeler

When asked to do writing exercises in workshops, I usually freeze up. I have flashbacks of elementary school and having to perform on demand in front of the classroom. So when Lynne asked me if I would be willing to share a writing exercise, my first reaction was panic!

But then I realized that maybe others out there are like me and freeze up when asked to write on demand. So I decided to share a little thing I do at the onset of writing my picture books.

Simply put, I brainstorm. I am a character driven writer, so I usually have a character in mind but have not yet been ‘told’ what his /her story will be. This is when I sit down with my notebook and begin to brainstorm.

Let’s take my newest book, Ugly Pie. I knew the main character was named Ol’ Bear and I knew he wanted Ugly Pie. That’s all I had.

So I begin to make word-association lists. I made ne list for my character and another for either the setting or something important to story—in this case, pie.

So the list might look like this:

Three bears

And then, I brainstorm words that have ‘bear/bare’ in them, as I am a horrible punner.
Bare naked

I move onto pie.

Sweet potato

Why do I do all this? First off, it gives me a sense of story. As I make list, I am getting images in my brain that set the tone as well as give the story a sense of place for me. Second, as I begin writing the story, chances are, I may get stuck. Happens all the time. When that happens, I pull out my lists. Aha! There I see a word that may lead me to a place I never anticipated going.

For instance, when I was writing Sailor Moo, I had three pages of word lists. Some were under the COW heading and some were under OCEAN. At one point in the story, I had no clue where the story was heading. I went to my lists and saw that under both headings, I had the word ‘seacow’. I knew I must have one in Sailor Moo’s adventure and that is how she came to befriend the manatee.

I realize this way of beginning won’t work for everyone, but the next time you decide to write a new story, give it a try. You ever know where those lists might lead you.

Lisa Wheeler is passionate about children’s books. “I love everything about them, including the smell.” To date, Lisa has twenty-eight titles on library shelves, with more to follow over the next few years. She’s written picture books in prose and rhyme, an easy reader series, three books of poems, and creative nonfiction for the very young.
Awards include the 2004 Mitten Award for Old Cricket, given by the Michigan Library Association, the 2005/06 Great Lakes, Great Books Award and 2005 Missouri Building Blocks Award for Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum, the 2006 Bluebonnet Award for Seadogs , the 2006/07 South Carolina Picture Book Award for Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum .
and most recently, the 2008 The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for Jazz Baby given by the American Library Association.
Her newest titles include Dino-Baseball, illustrated by Barry Gott (CarolRhoda), and Ugly Pie, illustrated by Heather Solomon (Harcourt)
Lisa shares her Michigan home with one husband, one dog, and an assortment of anthropomorphic characters.
Check out her website at http://www.facebook.com/l/9f49eUVpSLmLEfwBneIMqjYGUhg;www.lisawheelerbooks.com

Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week/Future!

BBAW 2010 has provided a fun challenge for me this week amongst a lot of personal challenges, and I am thankful for the diversion, very much in the same way that I am thankful for the diversion that a book brings.

Today our BBAW organizer has asked that we Book Bloggers tell what we enjoyed about BBAW and share our blogging goals for next year.
First and foremost, I loved waking up each morning to a BBAW goal and theme. I am one of those writers who loves rising to and achieving a challenge. I found that both fun and inspirational! I also enjoyed Tuesday's opportunity to interview and get to know another book blogger (i.e., Ari from Reading in Color http://blackteensread2.blogspot.com/ ) so it doesn't feel so much like I am blogging in a vaccuum.

My interview of Ari is here:
Ari's interview of me is here:

In addition, I became acquainted with many other fascinating bloggers and blogs, and my reading list has grown. I just love having lots of entries on my reading list -- a world of possibilities <3

My blogging goals: 
  • Comment
  • Review more books
  • Shop at Amazon.com!
  • Comment
  • Have contests
  • Comment
  • Have polls
  • Learn more HTML
  • Be the best blogger I can be.
  • Have FUN!

I can't wait to be a part of this event next year!

Book Blogger Appreciation Week/Forgotten!

Coming from a theatre-study background, a love of Broadway, art and shooting stars, I do love those picture books that just WOW me and knock my socks off with either spectactular, jump-off-the-page art, or language that is just loud or makes you sing.

Yet there is one picture book I read several years ago that is oh so quiet and demure and oh so spectacular in the most sublte, sweet way. MUD IS CAKE by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by David McPhail.
Shop at Amazon.com!

"Mud is cake if you pretend and don't really take a bite. And juice is tea with a fairy queen if you act it out just right."

While the text is soft spoken, the message is strong: Let's pretend: Anything is possible! Let's see what we have here, and make it work!

On the outside, this book is about pretending, but on the inside, where it counts, this book is about believing. It instills the sense that anything is possible -- an important thought to carry through life. Hopefully you will read this book to your children or grandchildren and they will never forget it!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week/Unexpected!

I was born in Brooklyn and raised in New York my whole life, so I'm certainly NO Cowgirl and my idea of camping out is anything below a Marriot level hotel...

So when fellow Yellow Brick Road
Member(s) /Blogger Leslie Zampetti (pictured to the right)http://zampettilw.wordpress.com/ and Rob Saunders highly recommended that I read Tammi  Sauer's picture book COWBOY CAMP I was thinking, "Thanks, sweeties, but No." Of course, I am always open to trying anything once, so I skeedaddled myself down to the library and pulled a copy of COWBOY CAMP off the shelf. Well, before I had even gotten to the end, I had already formulated a plan to leave the library and head right to the bookstore to purchase my very own copy to KEEP! Now if that's not an unexpected turn of events, I don't know what is!

COWBOY CAMP by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Mike Reed, features a young boy who wants to be a cowboy very badly, although he doesn't have all the "usual" cowboy makings. Through a series of trial and error, Avery learns what it REALLY takes to be a cowboy, and provides a satisfying, fun ending for the reader.
Shop at Amazon.com!

And since my story is short and sweet, I think I'll share a little anecdote about New Yorkers and cattle. When I was growing up I had a close friend named Danielle who lived next door. When I was twelve, her family had to move to Texas. I was devastated. So my parents decided to fly me from New York to Texas to stay with them  for the summer. While I was there I got bit by fire ants. The next day, on the way to Humble Vacation Bible School  we couldn't unload off the bus, because a longhorn blocked the exit from the bus into the church. When I called my mom and told her about these exciting stories (that could never, ever happen in New York), my Mother, who had lived in New York her whole life, covered the receiver (but I could hear her), said "Johnny, we've gotta get her out of that place! There's wild animals all over!"

I guess she meant the cattle and the fire ants. I laugh everytime I think of this. Wild Animals LOL

Back to our topic: Unexpected! Since that first unexpected delight, compliments of Leslie and Rob, I have gone on to enjoy several other picture books by Tammi Sauer: Chicken Dance, and Mostly Monsterly. Lots of fun -- Check them out!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week/Swap!

The next fun event in the Book Blogger Appreciation Week http://www.bookbloggerappreciationweek.com/, which is certain to be filled with discovery and literary treasures is the Interview Swap. I am excited to have been paired with the bright and colorful Ari of Reading in Color http://blackteensread2.blogspot.com/. You can see her Interview with me there!

Here's what Ari had to say:

1. What was the inciting event that inspired you to undertake your Reading in Color blog?
When I first discovered the wonderful world of book blogs, I was excited. A place where I could discuss books with other book-lovers read interviews with some authors and read reviews of new-to-me books. How cool! But then I started to notice that there were hardly any books about people of color (PoC). This became frustrating because I wanted to be able to read books not just about white people, but about African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans. I figured I couldn’t be the only person who felt this way, so I started my blog. I want to give a voice (albeit my voice is small) to those in literature who are under-represented, because it is so crucial for children and teens to see themselves reflected in literature.

2. Who is the most memorable person of color or minority that you have met as a result of your book/reviewing and blogging?
This question makes me sad because I’ve never met anyone in the literature world because of my blogging! There are so many great people I’ve ‘met’ online that I would love to meet (the Color Online staff for one  I have met author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and that was awesome. She is so nice and all around brilliant.

3. Which person of color inspires you most? Why?
Oh wow. This is a really hard question. (Do you mean a PoC in literature or in the world?) I know it’s cliché but I’d have to say Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was just...WOW. I love his determination, his commitment to non violence and his unwavering faith. He was consistent on all issues and I admire his quiet strength. I wish I had met him.

4. Please share an inspirational quote from one of your favorite books about a person of color.
There are so many great quotes! This one has always resonated with me because I’ve tried to express this thought myself “Sometimes I feel like there's a tattoo on my forehead that says 'ghetto'. And I don't know if it'll ever go away, not even if I change my clothes, move out of this neighborhood, and graduate from college […] The thing is everyone who’s black ain't ghetto, and everyone whose ghetto ain't black." From A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott

5. Please share an inspirational quote from one of your favorite authors of color.
Not so much inspirational but a fun quote “I wear my cool on the inside; that’s why my hands are so cold.” Dia Reeves

6. I am just in awe that you are participating in the Global reading challenge and are reading two books from each continent and books from twelve countries or states! Which is your favorite book from this challenge so far and why?
I’m participating in several reading challenges this year because I love a good challenge, especially when it comes to books ;) I’m not even close to being done with the Global Reading Challenge but so far my favorite book is Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins. I knew nothing about the conflict in Burma and this book explained it from a more human side. As I said in my review, Bamboo People is a lot like the bamboo that the people of Burma represent; it has multiple purposes. The story entertains uplifts and educates. It is a story that will leave an impact on you, whether you realize it or not. I couldn't help but wonder if Chiko and Tu Reh would have been friends, we will never really know due to the fact that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Both boys start off letting their circumstances shape them, but they soon learn to take their future into their own hands. I was transported to Burma and learned not only about the causes of the war and the trials of living there but also the smaller things like the clothing, food and the outward differences between the Burmese and the Karenni (most Karenni are Christians whereas the Burmese are Buddhists). What I really want to know is why did the U.S. only just allow the Karenni to enter the U.S. in 2009? An absolute must read for everyone, it reminds us, once again, that literature teaches tolerance.

7. Which classic book or movie would you like to see remade so that it would be more accessible to and speak to readers of color? Why?
Whoa great question. I don’t watch many classic movies. I guess I would say Sixteen Candles by John Hughes. I never liked the character of Long Duk dong. He needs to go.

8. If you had unlimited funds to visit one country in the world on your next vacation, which one would it be, and why?
I would love that! Spain. There is a town in Spain that bears my last name (which I’m not sharing ;) and it would be awesome to visit it. Also I want to watch Real Madrid (the futbol team), see bullfighting in Barcelona and just take in all the sights. I would need to spend close to a year in Spain to be really satisfied.

9. I know you review MG and YA books featuring people of color, but as the Author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten, I have to throw you a curve ball (LOL). If you could be any anthropomorphic animal, which one would you be and why?
The Lion from The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. He is wise, tough, fair and loving. Plus he’s described as being a beautiful lion. haha

10. Please share the next five entries on your reading list.
I tend to read in a random order. I start with books sent to me for review and then go from there.
1. Amigas: Lights, Camera, Action! By Veronica Chambers
2. Where I Belong by Gillian Cross
3. City of Ghosts by Bali Rai
4. The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan
5. Sammy & Julianna in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz
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11. Name five things that you would LOVE to see in the next Young Adult book that you read.

1. Intercultural romance (i.e. a Black girl falling in love with an Asian guy, etc.)
2. A paranormal with a PoC in it
3. Sarcastic humor/dry wit
4. Panamanians (my dad is from Panama and we really get written about. It’s usually Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Cubans. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading about those cultures. But I would love to see some more books about Panamanians or any other little written about Spanish-speaking country)
5. A fun novel set in a boarding school with a PoC as the main character.


Thanks so much for this wonderful interview, Ari! I have enjoyed getting to know you better. And my reading list has certainly grown. Thank you for all the important work you you do! Hugs!