Book Reviews, Fiction

Kids’ books to beat winter boredom!

If you have children, you probably have mixed feelings about the holidays–excited and scared at the same time! Two weeks! How am I going to keep them busy for two whole weeks?? There are only so many holiday crafts, parades, and Christmas films.

How about supplying the kids with books to keep their brains active and you sane!! Here are a few I’ve read and liked…

Picture Books

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The Gingerbread Witch is a fun story written by Lisa Logan with help from her 4-year-old son, Dean. My kids (age 7 and 4) love it because it’s not your typical sweet-as-sugar children’s book (often written more for the parents than the kids!). There’s an actual story here–a really good one! And a lesson to be learned.

Chapter Books

        

Straight from the horse’s mouth — my daughter and I both like these mysteries involving Cam, a girl with a photographic memory and her best friend Eric. They are great at solving mysteries! We especially like the very first in the series, Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Stolen Diamonds.

Young Adult

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Into The Land of Snows by Ellis Nelson is a fast-paced story about 16-year-old Blake who must deal with his parents’ recent divorce. When he gets into trouble, his father demands that Blake join him — at Mount Everest! I haven’t finished reading this book yet, but I’m enjoyed it so far and have read lots of Nelson’s well-written book reviews. I have high hopes for this book!

 

Uncategorized

Power of Pixton

capture_pixtonI really love pixton.com because for years I’ve dabbled with creating comic strips, only to get discouraged when my scribbly drawings were too messy. I couldn’t duplicate the characters well enough, and I’d soon run out of steam. But my friend, writer Lisa Logan, introduced me to pixton a couple of months ago, and I’ve been cartooning ever since!

Here’s my latest attempt at humor – in response to the U.S.A. election this week. I’ve been thinking that while words can be mightier than the sword — as we’ve seen on TV, they can mobilize huge numbers of people — they only have the power that we give them. Words alone, without the human emotion behind them, are powerless.

So, we can choose to be broken down by horrible words. Or we can render them meaningless by responding to them as though they were a toddler’s crayon scribbles or the boring ingredients on the back of a box of cereal.

Anyway, here’s my comic!

Fiction, Writing Tips

Kids can write!

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Kids, learn the basics of how to write a story!

I’ve been experimenting with the website pixton.com, which my friend Lisa Logan (also a writer) introduced me to. You can create your own comic strips or graphic novel – the trial period is free, and after that rates start at $8/month, which is pretty reasonable.

It’s a lot of fun, and as Lisa says, is also a kind of therapy. I’ve made comic strips about the election, my 3-year-old’s habit of shouting “Poop!” really loudly, and all sorts of things.

Anyway, I created a tiny ebook (PDF) for kids that lays out VERY basically how to write a story. Here it is if you’d like to share it with a kid you know. The age range is about 7 to 9 (my 2nd-grader helped me come up with ideas). So, please download it and let me know what you think! I’m hoping to do a longer, more detailed version at some point…eventually…

Kids Can Write! (pdf ebook)

Fiction, Getting Published, Nonfiction, Writing Tips

4 ways NOT to start your book!

img_8699About two weeks ago, I attended Bookmarks Festival of Books & Authors. It was the first time I’d been, and I was only able to stay for a couple of hours. But it looked great from the little bit I saw! Besides showcasing local and national authors, the festival offered Slush Pile Live (Sponsored by the NC Writers’ Network) for aspiring writers to have their work critiqued. Well, the first 300 words of their work, anyway — anonymously by a panel of  agents and editors.

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I submitted my 300 words and waited, heart thumping, in the audience for them to randomly pick my work and tear it apart. They never got to mine. But I did learn a lot listening to them tear apart other people’s writing! Here are some tips I gleaned from the painful lessons of others. (Okay, they weren’t that cruel, really!)

  1. Don’t start a memoir with a date. So many submissions started with something like, “September 29, 1962” and then went on to describe events chronologically that weren’t super-exciting. A memoir should read like a novel, with character development. The first section should give the framework for that character’s journey, not just a list of dates and events.
  2. Don’t start a story with so much excitement that the rest of the story can’t possibly live up to that first scene. At least two of the entries started with really gripping, tense scenes. One involved a mystery intruder and a scream from inside the house — the tension was too much, a panelist said. The scream made the story “almost comical” (ouch!). The other started with a gripping car accident which then dwindled when the character just stood around watching the night sky!
  3. Don’t start with a boring topic. One submission described a bug in the sink. Another started with the character getting hugely excited about registering a copyright. The panelists didn’t want to hear the rest. The author has to establish why the reader should care about the story, one panelist explained. The first few sentences are a “microcosm” of the work, the other added.
  4. Don’t use flat language that tells instead of shows. The unpopular entries didn’t include sensory details to anchor the reader in the scene. They contained clichés and flat declarative sentences that didn’t show the character’s personality. The panelists liked a children’s book entry, told from the point of view of a little girl who’d been struck by lightning while she sat on a fence. The writing was full of color and funny words, specific to that character.

All the panelists had really great suggestions and insights about how to start a piece of writing. The key idea I took away from Slush Pile Live was that you only have a few seconds time to capture a reader’s (especially an agent’s or editor’s!) attention. Every detail and sentence counts. Don’t go off on tangents, and don’t include boring stuff that doesn’t really matter.

In my next post, I’ll write about a few of the authors I met at Bookmarks — dedicated writers who didn’t mind standing in the blinding sun for hours to meet new readers!

 

 

 

Embracing Creativity, Uncategorized

Showdown at the Mountain Retreat

I had the opportunity to participate in a “Barbie Project Runway” challenge recently! I recommend it to adults and children alike as a great way to incorporate design, engineering, and sewing skills into your creative practice. Plus, it’s fun!

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Preparations for the BRBs Runway Barbie Challenge

There were lots of trials before the showdown…and having Fiona as a competitor meant we had to censor Barbie’s attire to have a PG rating.

looking stylish!

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 Showdown!

DSCN0003 Raspberry Sorbet Barbie-layers of fabrics, patterns, flowers and topped with a pink sock hat-well done Fiona!

DSCN0002 Barbie on the bar-bee -Aussie Barbie sizzles in a saucy hat and cowboy boots getting ready to barbecue

Hail to the SHE Hail to the SHE- the first presidential Barbie dressed for her inaugural ball: this gal has a whole wardrobe ready for every occassion

DSCN0001 Tina-Sheena Barbie channeling the 80’s with highlights , tie dye top and animal print skirt..GRRRR!

DSCN0018 These boots for made for walking!Party Rock Barbie is in the building

DSCN0007 ‘Summer fun’ Barbie- classic and classy style but somehow has lost her shoes and is unable to stand up unaided

DSCN0006 Bo Ho Moma in psychedelic leggings and graphic print sock top with an unfortunate hand salute

DSCN0005 Blossom Barbie-better known as exhibitionist…

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