Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Skype 101 from the other side of the computer

What I've learned from a year's worth of Skype chats.

The best Skyping, like the best Author Visits, happens when the kids know something about the book. The very best ones happen when they've actually read the book.

It's easier to hear the questions when students approach the computer, one at a time, and give you their names, then ask. Or at least when they have a microphone. (I learned this from a wise Skyper I know. Thanks, Barbara!)

Having just Skyped with a great class in the faraway northeast, here's a quick video run-down of our 20-minute session.  This is my second year with these fabulous teachers, and I'll come back any time they ask.

This is what they see behind me...
Looks fairly organized, no?

This is what they don't see under my desk. (Shorts and old flipflops usually.)

They also don't see the other side of my desk. Not always like this.
Messy today because I was working on revisions until about five minutes before the call.
Note the glass of water, the tissues, the book. Ready for anything they bring!

I tidied up the other side of my office/ guest room. 
I couldn't put it all away. This is my To Do stack.

 Another tip- You need light, lots of light. But I usually make sure the computer is turned away from this window. Especially if the class is "calling" from a cold, snowy place.

Today the kids and their teachers had on sweaters. I'm not telling what I was wearing.
(See picture 2, above.)

I especially loved today's questions, showing how deeply they understood my book. Now I'm off to think more about Liam's inquiry. "Besides the Beatles and Elvis, what other culture from the Sixties did you put in GLORY BE?"

Teachers, Book Clubs, Readers- Click for Kate Messner's list of AUTHORS WHO SKYPE FOR FREE. Please note: These free visits have restrictions.

Related post: Skyping: What a treat!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Cautionary Tale and A Writing Tip

This morning, up early and working hard, I tipped over a glass near a stack of 
writing notebooks.

 The good news? It was water.
 The bad news? Although they were mostly salvageable, some are unreadable.

I had been meaning to go through these notebooks forever because I was convinced they contained very valuable information. Maybe not!

But I always tell students the importance of keeping notes. 
Next time I will mention the value of keeping notebooks in safe places. Away from liquids.

But the other good news relates to a single page discovered inside the oldest, wettest notebook. Notes from a book I bought after reading it from the library. It may have been the very first book on writing craft I added to my newly created library. 

Lee Wyndham's Writing for Children and Teenagers.
An oldie, yes, but good information and a few used copies are still floating around for sale out there. Also in libraries.  

My book is not readily available so I'm glad I found this note inside a 
waterlogged notebook:

And right now I need to know everything there is to know about making ENDINGS better.

In case you can't read my notes:

1. Can't just think things out
2. Something must happen to the Main Character, a powerful personal experience that shocks, rocks or floors her. Terrific impact.
3. Then have a quiet scene to show the Main Character has changed. The Main Character thinks over her actions.
4. Then a scene where she PROVES she's changed.
5. CONCLUSION: The original character has changed considerably so
Be Brisk. Be Brief. Be Gone.

I'm off to re-create my ending! Thanks, Lee Wyndham.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Said -- Still Not Dead?

Today I'm minding my own business, pulling my hair over revisions, using my beloved Scrivener, concentrating madly.

Till I decided to use the Scrivener dictionary/ thesaurus tab. I guess I must have been searching SAY, though for the life of me, five long hours later, I can't think why.

But this appeared:
 word notes!

say, said
While most writing can be improved by choosing strong and precise nouns, adjectives, and verbs, this isn't always so. When reading a novel's dialogue, we should be paying attention to what the characters say, and learn about their feelings through their words. But too many young authors overstress the verbal markers of back-and-forth speech. So we read Frank replied or Frank riposted or even Losing his temper, Frank violently expostulated. Much of the time a careful writer can set up the rhythm of a conversation so that it's always clear who's speaking and with what degree of passion. If more precise identification is needed, a simple Frank said will usually suffice, the weak and common verb scarcely intruding on the give-and-take on the page.
— MD
Conversational, opinionated, and idiomatic, these Word Notes are an opportunity to see a working writer's perspective on a particular word or usage.

Just for fun, I posted the above in my status on Facebook.
Hey, I needed a little diversion from all the very hard work I'd been doing all day.

And boy-howdie! I got some reaction from my writer friends.

Almost two years ago, I'd blogged on the subject, here:

You really should read what some extremely talented writers had to say in the comments.

Much of this controversy stems from writing lessons for students advocating the use of synonyms for said.

Two years later, the topic still excites and infuriates.
What say/ announce/ yell/ explain endlessly/ blab/ question/ sigh/ hiss/ SAY you?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Going home again, a quick visual tour

Is there anything better than hearing what kids, enthusiastic teachers, and super librarians  have to say about your book?
I can't think of a single thing!

I arrived at Pelahatchie Elementary School, Rankin County, Mississippi, in a rainstorm, with the radio blasting alerts every ten minutes. Flooding! Hail!

Inside, all was calm and bright.

The halls were decorated with quotes and pictures. 

 Magnetic letters on the circulation desk!

Pelahatchie librarian Mrs. Black and me.

 Highland Bluff Elementary School librarian, Mrs. McWhorter.

A very impressive reader.

WOW! Lunch in the library for a select group. The kids had brought their treasure boxes from home. Some made their own, from all the fun things Mrs. Black supplied. Beads, cracker jack prizes, candy--the old-fashioned kind!

Pimento cheese and root beer, in bottles. Emma's Lemon Cookies for dessert. Yum.

Lunch with the librarian, a few special kids, and ELVIS!

(Yes, that's a Juke Box, made by Mr. Black. Impressive, no? 
He also made the pimento cheese and the lemon cookies!)

 The kids at Pelahatchie Elementary love the car! What a cozy place to read.

Great questions, yummy food, books to sign--Such enthusiasm for Glory Be.
 The fourth graders at each school were reading the book 
for their literature circles. 
We could have talked all day!
Thank you, Mississippi friends and family. I hope I'll be back soon.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

And the winner is....


I don't know Sherry, but I do know she'll love Bobbie Pyron's DOGS OF WINTER.

Congratulations and send me your mailing address, Sherry.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mississippi, Here I Come (back)!

Excited to be going back to the place I call home. 
Or close to it.

Though truthfully, I've never been to Pelahatchie, Mississippi, I can't wait to meet the librarians and talk to the kids next week. 

My "small world" state story? One of the librarians is a granddaughter of my daddy's colleague. 
She and I both worked, at different times, as interns for the State Library Commission. 

Southerners are so connected to each other!

Y'all can't really come though. Sorry.
I won't be hanging out at Lemuria to sign books this time.  
This is a trip to talk to students, teachers, share the story of my book.
(But I bet if you call Emily at the bookstore, she could arrange for me to leave a copy there for you.) 

 I'm thrilled to be headed home!
Home truly is where your story begins...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Children's Literature Network

This is for my writer friends.

When you are new at being a Published Author, it's hard to know which advice to take.
Before my first book made its appearance in the world, I received a lot of great tips.
One of the best?
Join Children's Literature Network.

So I did.

Here's the website:

They do bios, birthdays, and geographical listings of their members, book announcements and your book events.

Here's a little Q&A from a regular feature:  

(my answer, of course)

Some of what they've been doing for their impressive list of authors, for TEN years now?
Providing connections, raising awareness, creating in-depth resources.
Like them on Facebook, here. 

Check out their homepage and see what you think. 
Lots of great stuff, for authors AND for readers. 
Okay, what are you waiting for? Head on over and tell them I sent you! 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Sharing the Wealth

I love a good dog story.
But there's got to be more than just dogs doing cute things. Give me adventure! Give me heart! 
Give me Bobbie Pyron's fabulous novels.

Today is your lucky day, readers. I have a copy of THE DOGS OF WINTER. I'm sharing.

 Here's a link to Horn Book's review, from Bobbie's own blog.

For those of you who haven't been librarians since Caesar Was a Little Boy (as my funny father loved to say) -- Bobbie and I possibly have-- Hornbook is the Holy Grail of reviewing journals for kids' books. To get a tiny little word of praise by their reviewers sends an author into a swoon. But a full-fledged great review? Wow. Way to go. And all the other reviewers have been downright starry-eyed over this book.

I finished it yesterday, warm inside my house, but I felt as if I'd raced with Ivan through the snow. Based on a true story that's almost impossible to believe, this middle-grade novel will really grab you and hold on for a while.

Truly, Bobbie Pyron's books aren't just books about dogs. 
They are so much more.
Leave me a comment and you could be my lucky winner of THE DOGS OF WINTER.

(Thank you to our mutual publisher, Scholastic, for sharing the brand new hardback copy. Only read once, by me. )

I also loved her first "dog book" reviewed here: 

And Bobbie has a great blog about Authors and Their Dogs,
 (She let me squeeze a grand-dog into my spot.)

Comment here or on Facebook for the next week. 
This giveaway ends on February 10th.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Thought for the Week

Tidying up my desk.
Found this little notebook, 
a celebratory thought from 
last winter's tea with Linda.

(I'm taking it as a good omen.) 

We can do this, folks!

Related post: A Pinch Me Moment