Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Cop Out Post

This weekend was kinda crazy, and I'm rawther exhausted, so all you get is this adorable photo of a white lion cub:

sneezing lion cub

I'm pretty sure this little lionette was posed and ready for her photo shoot, but then she felt a sneeze coming on. She is in the middle of saying, "No - don't take the --- CHOOOOO!" when the photographer took the photo anyway.

Okay, and you also get one of my favorite photos from my Italy trip:

il duomo, siena, italy
Il Duomo in Siena

I am quite proud of this photo. Isn't it majestic?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Little Backyard Bugger

groundhog eating acorn

I've been focusing on editing and re-writing this week, so instead of a delightful debate on the state of children's literature today, I bring you our little backyard scoundrel.

He is a scoundrel because I'm pretty sure it's him and his family making noises under our house, scaring the bejesus out of me when I'm home alone.

Yeah, that's right. He may look cute, but he's a menace! A menace with a mouth full of acorn.

A menace who doesn't even have the grace to pretend to be scared when I walk right up to the glass doors and start taking a series of photos of him eating an acorn. I swear he's freaking smiling for the camera.

Here's another photo:
hungry groundhog

And one with a head tilt:
cute groundhog

The brat.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Inspiration from Within the Writing Ranks

Helen Keller writing
Helen Keller's hand writing from Boston Public Library

Sometimes you just need a good, inspirational tale to get you through the writing day.

As a writer, it helps to hear about somebody else who struggled and came from behind to publish something wildly successful. Here are the three stories that I like best. They're writers whose stories make me think, "Yeah, I've been at this for a while now, but they were too."

Author Inspirations

Lois Lowry

The Giver Book Discussion
See? She's so good she gets Book Discussions.
Image from CCAC North Library

Lois Lowry has my favorite story. She wrote two books that won Newbery Metals, but she didn't start her professional writing career until after she'd raised four children, gone back to school for writing, and divorced her husband. She published her first book at age 40. I've read about her story in a few different articles, and she always sounds like such a gracious and wonderful person, but if you want to know more about her story, this is her bio on her website, and and this is an article where she answers questions about her writing process.

The writing process article is neither dry nor boring. I think my favorite part was when she said that she could always edit more, so sometimes you just have to call a story done. She regrets not expanding the third section of The Giver, but says:

On the other hand – if I had extended that section, made the book 250 pages long, it would not have been published until the next year. And so it would probably not have won the Newbery Medal, because Walk Two Moons was published that next year, and so… I guess I was wise to quit when I did.

Meg Cabot

crowned cupcake
Up next: a story about a cupcake's royal discovery.
Photo from Clever Cupcakes

Meg Cabot, of The Princess Diaries fame, kept every one of her rejection letters (that was back in the days before email query letters became the norm) in a postal bag under her bed. She accumulated so many that the bag is now too heavy to lift.

Then, once she finally managed to find an agent, she had a heck of a time getting anyone interested in the idea of a 14-year-old girl who discovered she was a princess. Meg talks about her story and her postal bag here. Again, I really recommend the article. She seems like a fun person.

JK Rowling

I really want to go here.
Photo by Scott Smith

Then, of course, there's J.K. Rowling. I mean, given the insane popularity of her books, she'd be a household name no matter what. But then add in her moving rags to riches story, and you've got backstory gold.

Not that I think her story helped sell Harry Potter. I think the books did that on their own. But if she had the Veronica Roth (Divergent) sort of backstory, which was: get out of college, get a book deal, and immediately publish an insanely popular series, well, I don't think many people would care about that story.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Plea to Suzanne Collins

Reading to Write - My MG Addiction

addicted to reading
Photo by Sara Berry

I've been making a real effort to read MG this year because as everyone in publishing says, you've got to read the genre you want to write. The MG age group and its writing possibilities really appeal to me - especially now that darker is acceptable.

For me, MG age is when everything really starts to change. You still get treated like a kid by the adults around you (which can create great conflict), but you can see adults' fallibility. Hormones start to come into play, but there's less of that irritable hormone overdrive that happens in the more high school time frame. (At least that's how I remember it.)

All Thanks to My Local Library

new york public library
New York Public Library Reading Room by Derek D

I'm not quite positive that I've read all of the following MG books since January, but I definitely read them in the last 365 days:

Please, Suzanne, Don't Leave Me Hangin!

Because a Laundry Room was Gregor's Entry to the Underland
Photo by Tobias Löfgren

All of these books were good (seriously, I'm not just saying that - they really were), but I've got to make a special plug for the Gregor/Underland books. Gregor gets sucked down a laundry ventilation shaft with his baby sister, Boots, into The Underland. In the Underland there's a war going on between the super pasty human Underdwellers and the ginormous, talking rat Underdwellers. The rest of the species (Bats, Cockroaches, Spiders, Mice, etc.) are mostly caught in the middle, although the Bats definitely align with the humans and serve as their flying mounts. Think of these other creatures as you do the Talking Animals of Narnia - they aren't just big and smart, they're individuals in their own right.

These books are action-packed, and the characters are phenomenal. I'm not going to consider this a spoiler b/c I won't tell you which book it happened in, but I cried when a giant Cockroach died. That's how good Suzanne is! Honestly, it was one of the most valiant deaths in the series, and, yes, she does kill off a fair number of characters, although it wasn't nearly to the Hunger Games level.

The Gregor books are addicting and thought-provoking, much like Suzanne Collin's other series. (You know, that one about the kids in some game.) My only complaint is that I REALLY need to know what happens to the characters after the fifth book ends! Seriously, Suzanne, where's that 6th book??? I need it! Please! What do I have to do to make that happen?

Did I mention they're addicting?