Friday, December 31, 2010

Writing Goal: Counting to 100, One Book at a Time

One of my favorite things about New Year is that it gives me the opportunity to reflect and redirect so that I can cut out some of the things I wasted time and effort on, and make certain to squeeze in the things I didn't make enough time for.

Reading more this year is among the things at the top of my list. My reading list for last year consists of the Hunger Games Trilogy and that's it!

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to come across a challenge on Home Girl's Book Blog to read 100 books!

Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Manga, Graphic Novels, Library books, Novellas, Young Reader, Nonfiction – as long as the book has an ISBN or equivalent or can be purchased as such, the book counts.
So, I can't wait to start tomorrow! I will update this page with my progress, and hopefully will have a 100 booksl by the end of the year.

Who will join me?

Here's my list so far...
3.  ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis (Currently Reading)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Run for those Hills/Not Exactly A Writing Tip by Diane Mayr

I recently finished reading The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.  It confirmed for me what I've seen in my own life, the internet is changing the way I read and comprehend.  The Shallows is an interesting read.  The implications for the future--what we write, and how we write it--are enormous.

One point Carr made, came as a surprise to me, although it shouldn't have:

A series of psychological studies over the past twenty years has revealed that after spending time in a quiet rural setting, close to nature, people exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory, and generally improved cognition.  Their brains become calmer and sharper.  The reason, according to attention restoration theory, or ART, is that when people aren't being bombarded by external stimuli, their brains can, in effect, relax.  They no longer have to tax their working memories by processing a stream of bottom-up distractions.  The resulting state of contemplativeness strengthens their ability to control their mind. (p. 219)

I've found myself increasingly involved in writing haiku.  Haiku, traditionally has been about the natural world.  Has my interest in haiku been as a result of an unexpressed need to be out in, and observant of, the natural world?  I've become more attentive to nature.  I go for walks and bring along my camera.  I feel good, both in mind and body.  Then I come home to renewed creativity.  I win all around!

The need for nature in the lives of our children has long been recognized in books such as  Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Cornell and Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv.  Louv says, in his introduction,

This book explores the increasing divide between the young and the natural world, and the environmental, social, psychological, and spiritual implications of that change.  It also describes the accumulating research that reveals the necessity of contact with nature for healthy child--and adult--development.

I know I'm the last person on earth to be offering advice about getting away from the computer--between work and home, I spend more hours on the computer than I do sleeping and eating!  But perhaps, by making you more aware of what can happen when you do get a dose of nature, you will be able to act on it and save yourself, and your children.

Here's a haiga that resulted from one of my too infrequent ventures outdoors:   

(c) Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.  First published in Sketchbook, Vol. 5, No. 5, September/October 2010  

Personal info:

Diane Mayr has been a public librarian for nearly 25 years.  She spent about 10 of those years in children's services, which explains her origins as a writer for children. 

Diane has three picture books to her credit, the latest being, Run, Turkey, Run!, which was illustrated by Laura Rader (Walker Books, 2007).  Her first book was nonfiction, The Everything Kids Money Book (Adams Media, 2000). 

The "America's Notable Women" series from Apprentice Shop Books quenches her thirst for research, and she gets to profile some amazing women.   Diane also devotes much of her time to blogging through her library blog, Kurious Kitty's Kurio Kabinet, a quote blog, Kurious K's Kwotes, and her personal blog, Random Noodling.  She also shares a blog with long-time writing buddies, The Write Sisters and maintains the Reads-To-Go blog for New Hampshire book discussion groups.

Recently, Diane, a closet poet for many years, has started submitting her short form poems for publication.  She has haiku, tanka, and haiga (illustrated haiku/tanka) in recent issues of frogpond, The Heron's Nest, Notes from the Gean, haijinx, Berry Blue Haiku (for children) and Sketchbook.  She posts a haiga each Sunday, and a haiku each Tuesday, at Random Noodling, too.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

WRITING TIPS: Pruning Your Prose with Jane Sutton

I’d like to make a plug for revision.  Not only does revision enhance the characters you create, but it fights the writer’s biggest enemy: the blank page.  Staring at the blank page (or computer screen), a writer’s inner conversation goes something like, “I don’t know what to write, I don’t know how to start, whatever I write will be stupid or has been done before, in fact done much better than I could write it if I ever get started…” etc., which may morph into “I need to steam clean the living room carpet.”

But knowing you’ll be revising—rewording, adding, tweaking, reordering, and deleting—frees you to start.  Remind yourself that not every word needs to be perfect. In fact, it shouldn’t be.  If you spend too much time on a draft, you will develop a crush on it and be reluctant to change even one comma.

When you read over your draft (aloud!), look for ways to show characters’ personalities and emotions more clearly.  Could you add or rewrite dialogue, thoughts, actions, or descriptions to make characters more vivid?  Could you add another character’s reactions to make the main character’s traits stand out? See if verbs, in particular, can be more evocative (“walk” might be “strut” or “sidle”; “said” could be “roared” or “whispered”; “eat” can be “gobble” or “picked at.”). Even in the limited-word format of a picture book, carefully inserted adverbs or adjectives (not too many, though) can help convey character.

As you revise, look for spots where you can add sensual language…No, I don’t mean that kind of sensual.  I mean, use your senses to help your reader see, hear, etc. what you’re describing and to make your piece more interesting to read.

Oh, and remember to prune. Cut anything that will confuse or bore your reader. If there’s a passage you know is extraneous but can’t shake your crush on, save it for some other project it might be perfect for.

--Jane Sutton


Jane's latest book, DON'T CALL ME SIDNEY (Dial 2010, illustrated by Renata Gallio) is a picture book about an earnest, big-hearted pig named Sidney, who writes a birthday poem for his friend and decides he has "a way with words." His quest to be a poet is stymied when he realizes that his own name lacks a suitable rhyme. When he changes his name to the more rhymeable Joe, humorous consequences ensue, and he eventually comes up with a crowd-pleasing compromise.  School Library Journal called the book an “…amusing story about a poetic pig's search for his true identity…”  Booklist commented, “After reading or hearing this, young readers may enjoy trying to come up with rhymes for their own and their friends' names.”

To learn more about Jane, visit:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

WRITING PROMPT: Playing Around with Memories by Brandi Dougherty

Writing Prompt: School Plays!
The idea for my new picture book, The Littlest Christmas Star, came from remembering my school Christmas play in first grade. I was one of the stars in the night sky hoping to lead Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. I had one line in the play and I was so shy and scared to say my line. But, rather than writing a story about a shy kid who doesn’t want to be in the play, I decided to write about a very outgoing boy who not only wants to be in the play, but he wants to be the STAR of the show!
So, here is your writing prompt:  think about a school play you were in as a child. Or if you weren’t in a play, think of one your own child, niece, nephew, sibling, or friend was in instead. Think about the theme of that play and the role you or your loved one had. Is there a story behind the story? Maybe everything went wrong on opening day. Or maybe the lead forgot her lines.
Or, is there a new story to tell that spins off from the plot of the play itself? What about the character you portrayed - can you imagine what his or her life was like outside of the play? Or, what happened after the play was over (either in the life of the character, or in a continuation of the play’s story)?
So many fun picture book scenarios can spring from this. Now get busy! J
Bio: In addition to The Littlest Christmas Star, Brandi Dougherty is the author of the New York Times Best Seller The Littlest Pilgrim (Cartwheel Books 2008), and three middle grade novels: Miss Fortune (Scholastic, 2010), The Friendship Experiment (Scholastic, 2009), and The Valentine’s Day Disaster (Scholastic, 2008). She lives in San Francisco with her boyfriend and their dog.

Monday, December 6, 2010

WRITING PROMPT: A Sense of Place with Bethany Hegedus

Writing Prompt/Superb Settings by Bethany Hegedus
My first two novels, Between Us Baxters (WestSide Books, 2009) and Truth with a Capital T (Delacorte, 2010) are both southern novels—one set in the civil rights era South and one contemporary—as in the present day—the events in the book could be taking place today, at this very moment. This one. Now. Or whatever moment the reader picks up the book and delves into Maebelle and Isaac’s story.
Both books are set in fictional Georgia towns. Between Us Baxters takes place in Holcolmb County, Georgia in 1959 and Truth with a Capital T takes place in Tweedle, Georgia. (AKA: Twiddle-Your-Thumbs-Georgia, as there is not a lot to do.) I choose both to be in fictional towns rather than real-life towns as I like to be influenced by reality but not be tied to it. But, when it comes to setting aren’t we supposed to be portraying something real? After all, I write historical and contemporary fiction—not fantasy.
Well, for me, to produce realistic and vibrant settings I like to call upon a place, but to not stay tied to that place. For Between Us Baxters, I imagined Holcolmb County as Burke County, Georgia—a county not far from Augusta, Georgia where I taught high school in the mid-1990’s. I called upon the pine trees I loved, the willow I would sit under as a girl, and the scent of rain as it transformed red, cracked Georgia clay into mud. I used my senses—calling upon real details—the way a windshield fogs in the South from the inside out due to humidity, the way a tree can not only shade you but welcome you, and the way a trip into the woods alone can turn from feeling freeing to daunting in a matter of minutes as the sun goes down.
For Truth with a Capital T, I drew on the small town of Halleyville, Alabama where my grandpa and grandma Bell lived. My last trip to Halleyville, Alabama was when my grandpa died. But, I do remember being in the car, signing Kenny Rodgers songs on the trip from Chicago, and crossing over a bridge on the way into town. The bridge was just an itty, bitty thing. It went up and and then down—kind of the shape of a slinky (Yes, I am a 70’s kid) and before we knew it we were on the other side of the bridge. That bridge had a nickname and I am a sucker for nicknames: The Kiss-Me-Quick Bridge, because if you were going to kiss someone as you went over it better be quick. That bridge and its nickname worked its way into Truth with a Capital T. It is an integral part of the plot. Many a scene takes place under the bridge, in the muddy waters below and it is a place of great significance as Maebelle explores her family’s history and their mysterious past.
Writer Prompt/Creating Superb Settings
Think of a place that you love. That feels familiar to you. It can be a large scale, like an entire town, or small scale, like a tree or a bridge. Imagine being there. What do you see? What can you hear? How does the air smell? Brisk? Clean? Are you indoors or outside? Now, picture your main character in this spot. How does he/she think or feel about this place? Is it special to them or is it common place? Does your character have the same feelings about the place as you do or are they different, how so and why?
Have your character move around this place. Are they walking? Jumping? Sitting? Standing? Caressing worn upholstery? Kneading dough on a hard counter? Are they wading through a stream? Turning the pages of a book? Facing an enormous crowd? Watching a sunrise? Is anyone with them? If so, who? Is this person friend or foe? Does your character need to hide or does your character welcome this new guest? Are the quarters cramped or expansive?
Is this place currently in your work-in-progress? Could it be? Should it be?
When creating settings we have much to think about.  We need to think about character, about the time and place of the story, but we can also spend some time not thinking, but imagining.  For me, the magic happens when I plumb my own memories, combine those memories with who I know my main character to be, and then and only then do my settings come close to being superb.

Books by Bethany Hegedus:
Grandfather Gandhi (forthcoming Atheneum Books)
Truth with a Capital T (Delacorte Press, releases Oct. 12th!)
Between Us Baxters (WestSide Books/09)
Co-Editor, Hunger Mountain Young Adult & Children's   
readergirlz Austin Host

For more about Bethany, visit her website at:

Friday, December 3, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Josephine Nobisso's Show; Don't Tell!

In this season of sharing and caring, I wanted to share my review of a fabulous picture book that is perfect gift for a child, or even an adult who writes or wants to write well (I personally LOVE it)!

This 40-page literary treasure chest unlocks the secrets of writing with the help of five folksy, but humorously drawn animals created by the talented Eva Montanari: Peguin, Duck, Rat, Cow and Lion. Together, they take the reader on a marvelous adventure in which he/she is an integral character who touches, sees,  smells, hears, sees, ponders and learns.

Each illustrative spread proves informative and challenging, and can be easily used on many levels, in fiction or non-fiction, or by a child or an adult who is reviewing writing principles or revising a piece of writing.

For example, in addition to the all important mantra "Show; Don't Tell," another piece of advice that I personally loved is the idea that a good noun is more important than an adjective. There's even a supporting experiment. This book is chock-full of tips and advice to teach writing skills and/or bring your skills to the next level. It's a wonderful tool with captivating illustrations, and I can easily see why it has won so many awards, including: CBC Children's Choices Award, 2006 Global Learning Initiative Award, Parent's Choice Foundation Award, Foreward Magazine Book of the Year Award Finalist, Book Sense 76 Pick, and Nappa Parenting Publications Nappa Gold Award.

The cover, although beautiful, only gives a hint at the vivaciouness and color of Eva Montanari's gorgeous acrylic and pencil-on canvas that lies beyond. The pages are vivid, filled with texture and movement. My daughter and I could look at them again and again -- and that's what picture books are truly about!

Wait, there's more! Just wait until you discover the little surprises that Josephine Nobisso and her designer/daughter Maria Nicotra has tucked inside this inspiring, interactive book! It's truly a rare treasure.

About the Author: Josephine Nobisso is the award-winning author of over 40 books for children. She received teaching certification from the State University of  New York at New Paltz, and studied languages in Urbino, Italy, and in France and Austria. She has home-schooled her daughter Maria, who now worked with her as the Art Director of Gingerbread House, which they founded together. 
Her website is:

Eva Montanari graduated with high honors from both the State Institute of Applied Arts and from The European Institute of Design in Milan. Her paintings have been exhibited on three continents, and she has worked with some of the most important agencies and magazines in Italy. Besides having illustrated several books, Eva has many covers to her credit, and has also written texts for her own picture books. Ms. Montanari lives in Rimini, Italy, where she was born in 1977.  Show; Don’t Tell!, Secrets of Writing is Eva’s first book with Gingerbread House.

For more about the author Josephine Nobisso, check out:
For more about Gingerbread House check out: more about Eva Montanari, check out:

To order autographed copies of this book, please contact:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WRITING TIP: Give the Dog A Bone by Lynne Marie

Two days ago, PiBoIdMo ended. I achieved my goal of 30 ideas in 30 days! It was so much fun and so productive, but now I really miss it. The daily goals, the inspirational blog posts in my in-box, the comments from fellow authors, illustrators and writers. I'm already going through withdrawals. Unfortunately, I haven't been yet been able to sink my teeth into my delicious ideas, but that time is coming soon. Still, I loved having those daily goals hanging over my head. And for the rest of you who did too, I want to throw you a bone, and give you something to chew on over the next month.

The Picture Book Marathon is coming February, with training in January. Sign-ups should be posted in early December:

So start gearing up for the race. Stretch those muscles and practice your craft! Good luck you you!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

WRITING TIP: Dream Small(er) with Lisa Yee

I am one of those people who people who believe that there's an aspect of Christmas that is a spirit, kind of like happiness. With that in mind, I've decided to celebrate the whole month! So join me to celebrate you, me, the big and the small. Whatever it is, find something to celebrate and be joyous about each day of this holiday season.
For today, I have something wonderful to celebrate! My Guest Blogger is one of my favorite authors, who's signed with one of my favorite editors (Arthur A. Levine) with one of my MOST favorite publishing houses (Scholastic). So tonight, while those visions of sugar plums dance in your head, Lisa reminds us that the sugar plums don't have to be big, small is just fine!
WRITING TIP: Dream Small(er) by Lisa Yee

If you go into this business (and yes, let's be honest, it is a business) with the dream of writing a mega bestseller, you might as well just quit right now. Sure, there are the HARRY POTTER books, and the TWILIGHT books, and even the WIMPY KID books, but those are anomalies.

Instead, tell yourself straight up, "I'm not going to be atop the New York Times Bestseller list."

Phew! Don't you feel better already? Because with that weight off your shoulders, you can get on with the craft of writing.

We all want to sell well, but you can't do that until you write well. (Okay, wait. I take that back. If you are a celebrity, you can get on the bestseller list.) So then, focus on writing that solid sentence, that coherent paragraph, that good page, and then see where you can go from there.
Lisa Yee is the author of:
Millicent Min, Girl Genius
Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time
So-Totally Emily Ebers
Good Luck, Ivy
Absolutely Maybe
Bobby vs. the Girls (Accidentally)
The Year We Missed My Birthday
You can learn more about Lisa Yee at:, as well as follow her on her fabulous adventures at: