Sunday, December 19, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Saturday afternoon my critique group partner and dear friend, Maria Veres and I drove to Chandler to attend our Oklahoma SCBWI chapter's Christmas party. She always makes the boring drive to Chandler FUN. We giggle a lot and get there in no time! She's one of the funniest people I know. Oh, and she brought me delicious banana pineapple bread and a dozen fresh eggs from her own chickens. I'm blessed to have her as my friend.

Although this is a blurry photo (it was clear on my iPhone), you can still see the cool colors of those eggs:




The party was held at our Regional Advisor's house, Anna Myers. We all had a great time eating too much delicious food and listening to each and every one's Christmas memories. Helen Newton Dunlap sang, "Mary Did You Know" a capella. That's one of my favorite Christmas songs. I held back tears listening to Helen sing that song. It was beautiful. I have so many Christmas favorites. But the one I remember most from my childhood is "Do You Hear What I Hear?" I still love it especially the version sung by the fabulous Carrie Underwood.

What are your Christmas song favorites?

Happy Holidays!  Wishing you much success in 2011!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

You've Found The Right Critique Group If . . .


 1.  Not only are you excited they are critiquing your work, but you cannot wait to critique theirs. They are some of your favorite writers and people.

 2.  There are no personality conflicts. You actually like these writers and call them your friends.

 3.  They kick your bootay, but you appreciate their honesty. It makes you a better writer.

 4.  They are tactful in what they say never breaking your spirit and making you want to quit writing forever. They point out your manuscripts weaknesses and STRENGTHS.

 5.  Their comments and suggestions propel you to want to be your best. This encourages you to keep  growing in your craft.

 6.  You cheer them on in their successes and they cheer you on in yours. Jealousy doesn't sabotage your relationships. You are honestly happy for one another.

 7.  They hold you accountable because you must produce work each designated time. This makes you more productive.

 8.  These wonderful people inspire you.

 9.  You truly appreciate all that they do.

10. You want to tell everyone about your critique group because they are freakin' AWESOME!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why I Haven't Been Blogging

Okay, so I haven't been blogging. Shame on me, but I have been BUSY. Here's what I've been doing:

  1. Drinking large amounts of coffee and tea to tackle 2-16.
  2. Writing
  3. Revising
  4. Writing
  5. Reading
  6. Critiquing partners' manuscripts
  7. More reading
  8. Revising some more
  9. Brainstorming ideas
10. Research, research, research
11. Trying to decide if I should continue blogging
12. Struggling to slay the laundry monster
13. Attending writers' meetings
14. Failing at keeping a house full of boys clean
15. Spending time with friends
16. And most importantly . . . being a wife and mom!

So many excuses, I KNOW. If you are a blogger, what keeps you away from blogging?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Funny Blog Posts For Writers


1. Hello Hello! by agent, Janet Reid. If you've been writing for a while, you're probably familiar with many "trying to get an agent" faux pas. This blog post is a funny example of what NOT to do when trying to contact an agent.

2. Vlogs by author of The Siren, Keira Cass. This chica's quirky humor cracks me up. I think she's HILARIOUS. Maybe you will, too.

3. Picture Books and Easy Readers by Author Shelly Moore Thomas. Okay, this isn't a blog post, but it's a vlog discussion from Write On Con. AND you'll learn a few things about writing for these age groups in a silly and FUN way.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Summer Book Reviews Part II: Mockingjay and More

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
(the last book in the HG trilogy)

From Amazon:
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12.

I'm glad I didn't devour Mockingjay. I read it in the span of two weeks. The read was a roller coaster ride of on the edge of your seat emotion. That was enough for me to be ready for the HG to end. I was wanting the characters to find peace in a sunset of hope. Cheesy, but true.

When the book ended, tears were streaming down my cheeks. To me that's the best kind of book -- the rare ones that make my tears unexpectedly spilleth over. I wasn't sure Mockingjay could hold up to the first two books. But, it did. These books will stay with me for a looooong time. Suzanne Collins is brilliant.

Interested in knowing more about the author and how she got the idea for the HG series? Check out this Borders Book Club interview with Suzanne Collins.







Happy reading!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Summer Book Reviews

The very best books I've read all summer? The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, the first two books in the young adult HG trilogy.  A few of my writing buddies raved about these books as did my twelve-year-old next door neighbor. I'm a little behind the reading times.

Although I'm usually not a reader of violent books, I must admit that what made me want to read them is the jaw-dropping plot line of injustice. It really ticked me off. Halfway through Catching Fire, I almost chucked it across the room and said "good riddance" to the series. I kept reading because I really cared about the characters and what happened to them. And things got a lot better and hopeful. Whew.

Want to know something crazy? After reading Catching Fire, I dreamed that I was the main character, Katniss Everdeen. I stopped at 7-11 on the way to the Hunger Games where I stocked up on (of all things) beef jerky, strawberry Twizzlers, and Dr. Pepper. That's how much these books have impacted me. Have you ever dreamed you were a book character?

I'm currently reading Mockingjay, the third book in the HG trilogy. I bought it from a bookstore on release day. Yes, I wanted to scarf it up like it was the last piece of layered chocolate cake. But since it's the final in the series, I really want to savor every word. Many times, I've rushed through great books only to feel sad they've ended. I agree with the blog post written by Christopher John Farley in the Wall Street Journal, 'Mockingjay': Please Don't Devour The Hunger Games.

Book Reviews:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives in Panem, a post-apocalyptic United States where a powerful government called the Capitol has taken over after several devastating disasters. The Hunger Games are an annual televised event where the Capitol chooses one boy and one girl from each district to a fight to the death. The purpose of the Hunger Games is to show how no one, including children, is above the Capitol's crushing power. The last child standing wins the game.

This book absolutely had me from the first page. Katniss Everdeen is the strongest character I've come to know in a book. I was amazed by her bravery and sacrifice. She must make a decision that affects her life forever. How will this affect her relationship with her crush, Gale, and (gasp) a new love interest? Read it, to find out.

 Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (second book in HG series)

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled a rebellion against the Capitol that she's not sure she can or wants to stop. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.
 
As I indicated above, I nearly chucked this book. I was appalled at some of the horrific things that the Capitol has in store for Katniss and others. This book kept me up waaaaay past my bedtime until 3 AM one night. After I read the last page, I was feeling hopeful for the people of Panem and Katniss Everdeen. I couldn't wait for the last installment of the HG series, Mockingjay. Review to come...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

School's Back In Session

"Lord, Thank you for a wonderful summer with my children. We made memories to last a lifetime. And thank you for school starting back up next week. Amen."

The quote above is what my cuz wrote on her facebook page last week. Amen, sister! I couldn't agree more. My kids went back to school TODAY. My sadness didn't last long. They started fighting, and I quickly shooed them out the door.

Excuse me while I do a happy dance --to "Back in the Saddle Again". Aerosmith, baby. Your kids back in school, too? Bored out of your mind? In need of caffeine? Feel free to dance with me, people. Air guitars welcome. Goooo.

I'm saddling up to my regular writing schedule. Yeehaw! I did get some sporadic writing and research done over the summer thanks to sports day camps and awesome grandparents. I'm working on several new projects that I'm super excited about. Even got lost on one of my research excursions. Knew something was wrong when all I was passing was hay bales and cows. Maps on my iphone saved me. Getting lost in farmland for research is worth it. Good thing I didn't roll down my windows, though.

Also attended a way cool online writing conference at Writeoncon.com. And it was FREE. If you missed it, you can still check it out. You'll even find recorded transcripts of live chats from editors and agents. Some of my favorite sessions were Give Yourself Permission by editor Molly O'Neill  (inspiring), Writing With a Real Life by author Lindsey Leavitt (funny, quirky, down-to-earth gal, love people like her). The live chats were wonderful, too.  But really, it was ALL fabulous. The conference was so well-received, they are planning a Write On Con two next year. I'll definitely be back...in my PJ's, curled up in my comfy chair, with a nice cup of tea (saying that last tea bit in my corny British accent). What a great way to enjoy a conference.

I did read, of course. Read through The Chronicles of Narnia series again (still working on that, think I missed some as a kid), plus new books as well. Have some definite favorites.

Hope you had a summer full of fun memories with those you love and great reads. If you're interested, I'll share some HIGHLY recommended books with you in upcoming posts...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer Hiatus


The summer season is well underway. My kiddos last day of school was a few weeks ago. I’m now the mom of a 5th and a 2nd grader. Can’t believe how much my boys have grown. Big C was the tallest kid in his class this year, and Little C’s feet are HUGE – reminds me of a rowdy Rottweiler pup. My babies are growing up so fast!

Since they are out of school and family is my first priority, I will be taking a summer hiatus from my blog to spend time with them and write when I can.

Here are a few of my favorite songs of the summer season...Can you tell what era I grew up in? Think mullets, mile high mall bangs, and MC Hammer pants, people. Scary fashion. Great music.

Boys of Summer by Don Henley

Cruel Summer by Bananarama

Had to throw this in, too. Forget Justin Bieber. You've probably heard of internet sensation, Greyson Michael Chance. This unbelievably talented kid lives in our town! Greyson recently signed a record deal with Ellen Degeneres. Wow! Fabulosity. Go Greyson!

Happy summer!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Author in the Spotlight - Larry Mike Garmon On Marketing His Work-In-Progress, NEVЯLAND


Larry Mike Garmon began his writing career at 16 writing sports and news for the Wyoming State Tribune. He soon took up photojournalism, and by the end of high school he had worked as a stringer for UPI, AP, Rocky Mountain News, LA Times, New York Times, and the National Editors Association.

His publishing career began with the Hardy Boys Casefiles mysteries series, writing five, including one Nancy Drew-Hardy Boys SuperMystery set at Quartz Mountain, Oklahoma.

Because of his experience with the Hardy Boys series, Universal Studios and Scholastic Books, Inc., contracted Garmon to develop and write a six-book young adult series based on the classic Universal Studio monsters: Dracula, Wolf Man, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

He has written for the RollarCoaster Tycoon middle grade series.

Garmon is currently marketing his work-in-progress, a young adult novel, NEVЯLAND.


Tell us about NEVЯLAND.

NEVЯLAND is a post-apocalyptic middle grade-young adult transitional novel about Laynie Price, a 13-year-old eighth grader who wakes to a world where all adults have disappeared. Everyone 18 and older is gone, plus the remaining 4,000 plus children are trapped in the city by an invisible wall. And, they discover that when any of the 17-year-olds turn 18, they disappear as well. Does that mean, then, that eventually everyone will disappear? And why 18?

I’ve wanted to write a post apocalyptic thriller for some time, but I didn’t want to go the typical route of the zombie craze or have anything to do with recombinant DNA.

The story came from two simple questions I asked myself after a day of teaching. I don’t know why these questions came to mind, but they did:

1. What do young teens especially wish for?
2. What do young teens fear the most?

I thought about these questions for a day and a half, and just as I was about to go to sleep one night, the answers came to me. Rather, the ANSWER came to me because the answer is the same for both questions—for parents to disappear.

That answer begged another question: If all the parents were to disappear, what would happen?

I’ve raised five children and have taught high school for 27 years. Teens both hate and desire the presence of adults. We’re the security and stabilizing force in their growing chaotic world. We’re the obstacle keeping them from the freedom they so desire.

So, take out the adults, and what would happen? This is the world of NEVЯLAND, a place with no adults, like the namesake from Peter Pan, but also a place of chaos, hysteria, confusion, fear, and near hopelessness.


You have a unique approach to marketing. What ways are you marketing NEVЯLAND? What should readers look forward to?

I’ve started a blog specifically for NEVЯLAND as well as a NEVЯLAND Facebook Group and a NEVЯLAND website.

I blog at least five to six times a week about the writing of NEVЯLAND. The blog is aimed more at writers or those interested in how a novel is put together. It includes the technical angst of writing and probably wouldn’t interest the average reader.

I address the Facebook Group members as NEVЯLANDers so they feel they are a part of the story. The Facebook Group gets updates on the story. I post news about characters and what they are going through. This allows the characters to become real people. I quote from Laynie and others and even allow the characters to post their own comments.

I also hold contests for the NEVЯLANDers with real prizes from NEVЯLAND. My first prize was an autograph draft copy. I’ll be offering t-shirts, mugs, posters, and other items promoting NEVЯLAND.

The Facebook Group went from Zero to 266 in five days. My goal is 1,000 by August. We’re sitting at just over 300 now in less than two weeks, and all of them by personal invitation from me or invitations from other Facebook Friends.

On the web site, I post character profiles, interviews with characters, background information, and sundry items of interest. I’m still getting this all together. Now that school is over, I’ll be able to work on it more thoroughly.

I’ve also started “publishing” the Junebug Journal, which is the local newspaper in the story. Of course, it’s published on the NEVЯLAND web site by Chad Chapman, Jr., the son of the publisher—his father disappeared along with the other adults.

The Junebug Journal contains weekly articles about what is happening in the southwest Oklahoma town of, where the story takes place. Readers will get interviews, photos, and insights that won’t be in the novel. Also, the “newspaper” gives me an opportunity to work on background material and characters and gage reader reaction.

This is similar to what Charles Dickens and other 19th Century writers did. They published their novels as weekly serial chapters in newspapers and journals, and then when the serials finished, they revised their stories according to the readers’ reactions and published the revisions as books.

Dickens even changed the ending of Great Expectations because the readers of the weekly newspaper version hated his original ending and wrote to the newspaper to tell him so.

I’m publishing the book in installments on the NEVЯLAND Facebook Group page, the website, and the blog—chapter by chapter—and hoping for feedback. So far, I’ve gotten some great feedback from Chapter One, some very good questions, plot pointers, and even technical corrections.


Many writers are superstitious and keep their writing projects top secret. What made you decide to put your novel out there?

I used to practice this superstition religiously, but now I’m talking up a storm.

I’m not sure when exactly I changed my mind about putting my stories out there as I write the tales, but it was a slow evolution over the past three years.

Finally in the fall of 2009, I decided to open up to a few people about what I’m doing. I did so with a few friends and through the OWFI Yahoo groups. I received encouragement, suggestions, and warnings.

The next step was to open up to the “civilians”, the non-writers, the readers—the writer’s true and most critical audience. This was the hardest step to take.


I’ve never seen an author market a novel before it was finished. Have you seen anyone do this? If not, how did you come up with the idea?

I haven’t seen anyone take it to the level I’ve taken it, but I don’t feel as if I’m an innovator or trailblazer.

I saw on IMDb the other day posters advertising a movie that won’t be out for two more years. It’s becoming more common to start to sell the product before the product is available for the public.

A writer’s success is as much in marketing as it is in his talent. Agents, editors, and publishers want writers who can sell themselves. Gone are the days of the aloof writer pounding away at his lonely keyboard in a small dark room in a forgotten corner of the house.

A writer needs to be both Ringmaster and tightrope walker.

Although I am basically a shy person, I believe in my talents and my stories. Who better to sell myself except myself?


How important do you think social media is in a writer’s career?

It’s becoming the key element in a writer’s successful career. A writer will still have to write good stories readers want to read, but he must also bare his soul on the Internet as well as in the printer’s ink.

I kept away from social media for a long time, thinking it was too time consuming and non-productive.

One reason I stayed away from it and even laughed at it is because I saw many, many non-published writers substituting “social networking success” with “writing success”. They had hundreds of blog followers and wrote everyday in the blogs or commented cleverly and often on but they had nothing in hard copy print.

“Success” in writing comes only upon publication.


Many writers are shy, how do you think they can get past that and get themselves on the internet stage?

I’m going to sound like a Nike commercial: Just do it!


Where can we find information on NEVЯLAND?

Website: LarryMikeGarmon.com

Blog: http://talewright.blogspot.com/ or http://nevrland.wordpress.com/

Facebook: NEVЯLAND Group

Email: nevrland.oklahoma@gmail.com

JacketFlap published page: Larry Mike Garmon

Sunday, May 16, 2010

South Carolina and Books

Hey, y'all.

This is how Hubby and I were greeted at a few restaurants on a trip to South Carolina last week. So hard not to giggle with each warm southern welcome. We dug the accents, friendliness, and all that wonderful charm and hospitality.

It was difficult to find time to write during our trip, but I did squeeze out a few paragraphs one afternoon.

We drove past lanes of lush oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. Countless Magnolia trees dotted the landscape. I imagined what life was like during the Civil War era. And without air conditioning. The air was a sticky breeze. Good thing mosquito season was a few months away. We cranked up the music on Sirius radio as beautiful houses with wrap around porches whizzed by on the way to Kiawah Island where we spent a few days.




Then onto Charleston where we found super cool Blue Bicycle Books located on King Street. There you'll find used, rare, and local books. You'll want to check this place out if you visit Charleston.








I bought a used copy of The ABCs of Writing for Children for only $4.95! And Girls in Trucks a debut novel by author, Katie Crouch who grew up in South Carolina. I wanted to load up on purchases, but I had to hold myself back. I have a teetering tower of unread books at home, and I couldn’t fit anything else in my carry on.




We strolled along the Battery overlooking the historic Charleston harbor. Across the street amazing homes built in the 1800s lined the waterfront. We wished we could go inside each glorious one for a tour then sit on a porch to sip some sweet iced tea or a frosty mint julep.



Then we headed to the Battery Carriage House Inn that was built in 1843. It's supposed to be haunted. Guests report seeing a headless soldier hovering over their beds and other eerie occurrences. We may just have to stay there sometime...if I get really brave. I'm the type who would see a ghost.


The smell of jasmine and honeysuckle tickled our noses. The Historic District smelled better than Honolulu. I kid you not. I plucked some jasmine from a bush in front of a home with a for sale sign.



Then off to downtown Charleston where it didn’t smell so nice with the horse-drawn carriages and all…




After that to lunch for some of the best gulf shrimp we’ve ever tasted. Oh. My. Gosh. Yum. We should have had the steamed clams, too. Those suckers were HUGE. Also, had the she-crab bisque, but it was better on Kiawah Island.



I devoured half of Girls in Trucks on the plane ride home. A few times, I laughed a little loudly. People looked at me funny. Read the rest of the book over the next few days. It's sassy, scandalous, and heartbreaking. Not at all what I envisioned from reading the back cover. The ending was something I never saw coming, y'all.

We loved South Carolina and our awesome bookstore visit. I'd love to hear about your vacation bookstore finds or the ones in your city. What local bookstores do you recommend?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Writer's Rap

You may have seen this video by children's writer, Erin Dealy. If you haven't, it's worth watching. Love it!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Author in the Spotlight: Susan A. Meyers - The Princess and the Pee



The Princess and the Pee by Susan A. Myers is illustrated by Manelle Oliphant and is published by Blooming Tree/Tire Swing Books (February 16, 2010).

Book Synopsis:

Princess Pia Scarlett wants to see fireflies at night. Her older sister, the Darling Millicent, won't let Pia sleep on the top bunk until she stops wetting the bed. Can she stop? A bet is made...
Which sister will win?


What was your first book?

Callie and the Stepmother. It's about a girl who believes fairy tales are real. This causes a lot of problems when she gets a stepmother of her very own.


What was your inspiration for writing The Princess and the Pee?

There were two. 1. Almost every family I know has a child in it who has problems with bed wetting. The Princess and the Pee takes a humorous look at how Princess Pia Scarlett (or Princess Pees-a-lot as her older sister calls her) solves her problem. I hope this book can encourage others. But it's not just about bed wetting. It's also about problem solving and sisterly conflict. 2. I just couldn't pass up that title!


What were you like as a child?

I loved to read. And since I was also a tomboy, my favorite place to read was in a huge oak tree that grew next to our house. I'd climb to the top, get comfortable and read while eating apples.


Describe your journey to publication? What struggles did you have?

My first story was published in 2000. I went on to publish several short stories in magazines and anthologies, but didn't get my first book published until 2005. I used to start a lot of projects, but never finish them. I'd read a great book and think, "that's the type of story I want to write." So, I'd put down whatever I was currently writing and start another story. I didn't start getting published until I made myself stop writing beginnings and start finishing my manuscripts. Sending them out is also key. I love email submissions because I don't have to look for stamps, address envelopes and go to the post office!

How did you learn the craft of writing?

Classes, conferences, and critique groups. I urge anyone who wants to write for children to check out the SCBWI. Find out if they have a local chapter in your area and join. It's well worth your time and money.


Why did you decide to become a writer?

I've been writing since I was a kid. I used to love writing scenes set in exotic places like Hawaii. When I became a mother, I started telling my son bedtime stories that I made up. I started writing the stories down. It wasn't until several years later that I thought about actually getting them published.


When you were a kid, what was your favorite book?

Little Black - the first book I could ever read by myself, Little Women, Nancy Drew Mysteries, Cherry Ames mysteries (these were actually before my time, lol, but my grandmother shared them with me. That, of course, made them extra special). Gosh, there are so many.


What advice can you give to aspiring writers?

See above about the SCBWI. LEARN YOUR CRAFT. I think one of the saddest comments I've ever heard was from an unpublished writer is, "I don't need to get my work critiqued, I know I'm a good writer." Good writers know how important it is to get your work critiqued!

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Thanks, Kim, for this interview. Everyone, check out my blog and The Princess and the Pee at susanameyers.blogspot.com.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Self-Doubt and Pep Talks




“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Sylvia Plath

Sometimes there’s a sneaky dark mass that sits in the corner as I write. It slithers to my desk and whispers discouragement in my ear. It climbs into the car with me for a ride to the library, or Starbucks, or wherever I write. Then it taps me on the shoulder like an incessant child.

“Excuse me. EXcuse me. EXCUSE me. Who do you think you are anyhow? You’re not up to par, you know. You have a lot to learn and a far, faaaaar way to go. You can’t really do this. That’s a really dumb idea. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Why don’t you just give up silly girl with silly dreams. Girl, puulease.”

This is the voice of self-doubt and it tries to sink its slimy talons into me when I write, or before I write, or even after I write. It’s mean. It’s ugly.

Okay, so I told self-doubt to bite me after I got pep talks from a few invaluable writer friends. They know what it’s like. They have to tell self-doubt to bite it, too. It comes with the writing territory. Hmmm. This could be one reason some writers get tipsy.

I called a writing friend and emailed another. I shared my fears, my doubts, my growing frustrations.

They cheered me on.

“I have a lot to learn myself. Glad to know I’m not the only one. You’ll get there. You just started this journey, don’t be impatient! My time will come when it’s the right time and so will yours. Keep your chin up.”

Thanks for the encouragement, my friends. I’m going to believe that now and get out the artillery. One moment please.

I’ve just channeled Lara Croft then kicked some self-doubt butt. He’s wounded and wrangled and tied up at the moment. I can be one tough chica—with a little help from my friends. I’m going to write now—before the sorry sucker squirms loose.

Call me if you need a pep talk. I’ll loan you a weapon.


Monday, April 19, 2010

One April Morning



Today marks the fifteen year anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. This review is in remembrance of all who lost their lives that day, the survivors, their families and friends.

One April Morning
By Nancy Lamb and Children of Oklahoma City
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Reading level: Ages 6 and up
Hardcover: 1 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; 1st edition (April 1996)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 068814666X
ISBN-13: 978-0688146665

Summary:

Author, Nancy Lamb was visiting her hometown of Oklahoma City when the bomb exploded. She interviewed fifty Oklahoma City children ranging from ages 3 to 14. Of those interviewed, none lost loved ones in the bombing. Lamb considered those children “too fragile.”

One April Morning was written in close collaboration with Oklahoma City therapists, clergy, and teachers. The book is filled with quotes from children deeply affected by the bombing. Each section describes a specific incident – from how life was for children in Oklahoma City before the bombing, to what happened during the bombing, and afterwards. The children share their feelings of shock and fear, guilt and anger, and their sense of hope and healing.

I was touched by the emotion-packed illustrations and the powerful words from children. “The first night it rained, it seemed like God was crying, too,” said Emily. “God doesn’t like people destroying His world,” said Addi.

Although I enjoyed the book, it was difficult for me to read. I grew up in Oklahoma and was in the city that day. My memories are still vivid fifteen years later.

On April 19, 1995, I was working on the third floor of an office building just six miles away from downtown Oklahoma City. I felt the bomb blast. Our building rumbled under our feet. The windows rattled.

That day, 168 of my fellow citizens lost their lives. A few of them were my friends. Fifteen years later, it is still awful and heartbreaking. Tears are welling in my eyes as I type this because the images and events of that day are forever etched in my mind. It's still hard to talk about.

I will never forget what happened on April 19, 1995 at 9:02 AM.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Shin-chi's Canoe



Shin-chi’s Canoe
Written by Nicola I. Campbell
Illustrated by Kim Lafave
Groundwood, 2008, ISBN: 9-780-88899-857-6

Inside the jacket flap: "The system of Indian residential schools was one of the great injustices perpetrated against the First Nations in Canada and the United States."

Part of the author's note: "When the Europeans came to the Americas they believed Native people were uncivilized. They pushed them off their traditional lands and onto reserves, or reservations. In the late 1800s governments decided to colonize Native people, forcing them to adapt to the European way of life. In both Canada and the US (as well as in Australia and New Zealand), laws were passed forcing Native children to be educated in church-run boarding schools. The purpose of these schools was to sever all ties the children had to their families, cultures and traditional territories."

Shin-chi’s Canoe is a finalist for the Governor General's Literacy Award from the Canadian Council for the Arts and the sequel to Nicola I. Campbell's award-winning book, Shi-shi-etko.

Although this book is fiction, Campbell interviewed her family members and elders who are survivors of residential schools. Kim Lafave used archival photos for the illustrations. The book shows the devastating experience for children and their families in the government-sponsored, church-run schools.

Summary:

Shin-chi’s Canoe is the story of six-year-old, Shin-chi who is accompanying his big sister, Shi-shi-etko, to residential school for the first time.

This lovely, but heart wrenching tale shows the children sitting together with their family on the porch waiting for the cattle truck to pick them up. Shi-shi-etko tells her little brother things he must remember. He must only use their English names, and that they are not allowed to speak to one another. Then she gives him a gift from their father of a tiny canoe that represents everything Shin-chi must keep hidden. Shin-chi knows he won’t see his family again until the salmon return in the summer.

Upon their arrival, Shin-chi keeps his canoe hidden as the priests and sisters separate boys and girls. The school teaches the children how to pray as the Europeans do. The girls learn to cook, clean etc. while the boys learned to farm, do carpentry and blacksmithing.

Especially disturbing is that the children are given only burnt toast and porridge for breakfast while the teachers feast on steaming plates of bacon, eggs and potatoes from the farm. Thin soup is served to the children for lunch. For dinner it’s hard buns with stew. However, the teachers dine on meat, vegetables and corn for lunch and dinner. The children were never given enough food. The illustrations show the plump teachers through French doors feasting in hues of color while the children in the chow hall are in black and white.

The canoe keeps Shin-chi hopeful throughout the book until he and his sister are eventually reunited with their family in the summer.

This beautiful book teaches children about the resilience of Native children in an ugly era of social injustice. It reminded me of my own family’s extraordinary strength as some of my own ancestors are survivors of residential schools here in Oklahoma.

Monday, April 5, 2010

How To Find Time To Write

Most of us are crazy busy. Full-time jobs, housework, kids, sports, homework, family, friends, and other commitments keep us constantly on the go. Top that off with finding time to write, and that can be a challenging feat. It’s enough to make your head spin like Linda Blair’s in the move, The Exorcist.

If you have a passion to write, finding time is not impossible. Here’s how:

Get up early.

The crack of dawn has never been my thang. I’m not an early riser. I like to sleep in ‘till the very last possible moment. Then I reach for a big honkin’ mug of java or Earl Grey tea to jolt my brain cells awake. For many writers, the quiet of the morning proves productive. Set your alarm and give it a go you early bird, you. Make writing your first priority of the day.

Stay up late.

I’m more of a night owl kind of gal. I’d much rather stay up late to write than get up before the sun. To me, there’s just something so wrong about getting up while it’s still dark out. Late into the night can be an ideal time to write. The kids are in bed, the phone doesn’t ring. Hopefully the prose will sing.

Write while the kids are in school.

If you’re a stay-at-home work your tail off mom like me, you probably have some luxury of writing while your kiddos are in school. This is the time I write most. I lug my laptop to the library, Starbucks (writing can be lonely, and I need to be around people!), sit at my breakfast table or in my office to write. My creative juices seem to flow better when I mix up writing locations. School hours are a good time to write!

Write during your lunch hour.

One of my writing buddies has a full-time job and spends her lunch hour writing. Sometimes she goes to a park with her laptop in tow to get away from the office. Knowing you only have small amount of time to write can make you super productive. Oh, yeah.

Write on the fly.

If you’re on the run, keep a small notebook handy so you can write anywhere when ideas strike. One day, I made the mistake of not carrying any paper or pen in my purse and ended up using a Subway napkin and cobalt blue eyeliner pencil. Not pretty. You can also use your phone’s notebook feature. I’ve written many ideas on my iphone. Love that technology.

Happy Writing!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

10 Things I’ve Learned About Writing So Far

"Easy reading is damn hard writing." Nathaniel Hawthorne

1. There are no secrets to getting published.

The key is to always keep learning. Read. Read. Read to see how the greats do it. Go to writing conferences. Take online classes. Obtain a degree in journalism, English or creative writing if feasible. Get an MFA. Whatever you decide, take that knowledge, work hard, and practice the butt in chair (bic) principle, and write. It’s as simple as that. No secret formulas or hocus pocus required.

2. Rejections get less painful.

I remember when I sent out my first query. I was devastated when I received my first form rejection. Over time, I’ve become more thick-skinned. Each rejection made me try even harder. Then I started receiving personal rejections. Eventually, I was able to sell my first story! Although each rejection is never fun, it no longer brings me to my knees in a depressed heap. Life does go on!

3. Not to take critiques personally.

Getting a critique can hurt. You put your soul into your writing. To have someone not like what you’ve written can be tough. I’ve learned not to take it personally, though. It’s not me being scrutinized. It’s my manuscript. Also, I’d rather hear what I need to work on instead of how great my manuscript is when it isn't. I don’t want to send it to a publisher prematurely who in turn rejects it.

4. Good critiques are like gold.

I’ve been a member of critique groups, have critique partners, and have received professional critiques here and there. Some advice I’ve written off literally. I just wasn’t feelin’ it.

I do know a good critique when I hear one. Sometimes it’s a confirmation of what I’ve been worrying about in my manuscript. Do I need to make a smoother transition? Or did they point out something I missed logistically? What about big picture issues? Those are the critiques like gold. I am truly grateful for each and every one. They improve my writing.

5. Revise, revise, and revise.

No writer I know of can pull off a great manuscript the first time they write it. That’s why writing is so stinkin' hard. To write something that looks so simple takes draft after draft after draft after draft. Did I mention revising?


6. Accept writing advice.

Experienced writers know a lot more about the biz. Read their blogs. Read their books. Go to conferences and hear them speak. I’ve learned some great things from established writers and still hope to learn more!

7. Try new genres.

Most of my writing background in is nonfiction writing. I have a degree in journalism and have worked as a freelancer, a contract writer for a university, and in public relations where I’ve written copy, articles, and press releases.

Attending multigenre conferences allowed me the opportunity to think about writing for a new genre. I never thought I’d want to write for children. Now, I’ve sold a few nonfiction articles to children’s publications, and I'm writing a few children's books. So glad I tried another genre!

8. Make friends with other writers.

Over the years, I’ve attended lots of writing conferences and met many writers. I can honestly say these are some of my most favorite people ever. I’ve made great writing buddies who offer the best support and advice. I learn from them and we lean on each other and share in the joys and heartaches of writing. Don’t know what I’d do without them.


9. Writers can take breaks from writing.

Unless you are a contracted writer, it's okay to step away from writing. Life happens. People you love get sick. Your hubby goes out of town, and you have to hold down the fort and take care of the kids. Whatever the reason, you can stop writing for a while. That doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. It means you are a person who is overwhelmed and needs some time away. I’ve recently taken my own writing hiatus due to a number of overwhelming reasons. And now I’m jumping back in.

10. Never give up.

I can’t count how many times I’ve listened to those negative voices swirling inside my head telling me that I’m not good enough. Several times, I’ve almost given up. Writing isn't easy. But, if I would have given up the first time I beat myself up and actually called it quits, then I would never have sold that first story. How sad that would have been if I would have given up on my dreams.