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

Monday, November 30, 2009

Rejection, etc.

Do you ever get tired of hearing how many times Now Famous Writer (fill in the blank) was rejected before finally having a book published? The stories are legend. And I've heard them all. But somehow as I was driving in the grey rain just now and listening to the radio, this was nice to hear. Even though- true confessions- I wasn't a huge fan of Anne of Green Gables, I've always appreciated her popularity and love it when an author has a following of young fans like she does.

So, it's Lucy Maud Montgomery's birthday, and here's what I heard on the radio. (Click here to see what Garrison Keillor has to say about other writers today, especially Oscar Wilde. Now I'm curious about that Paris hotel...) :

It's the birthday of Canadian children's writer L.M. Montgomery, born Lucy Maud Montgomery in Clifton, Prince Edward Island, in 1874. Her mother died when she was a toddler, and her father sent her to live with her mother's parents. There were no other children around, just Lucy and her grandparents, and she spent a lot of time reading and writing poems. She left home for a few years to teach, but when her grandfather died, she came home to live with her grandmother, and she stayed with her for the next 13 years. And during that time, she wrote her first novel, about an orphan girl with bright red hair who gets sent to live with a couple from Prince Edward Island who were hoping for a boy instead. It got rejected over and over, so she put the manuscript away in a hatbox and turned to other things. But eventually, she got it back out, read it, decided it wasn't that bad after all, and sent it out again. This time it got accepted, and in 1908, Anne of Green Gables was published and became a classic children's book.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Turkey, the Last Words

Jury still out on the Cajun roasted turkey. But sometimes you do what you have to in the face of a small oven and lots of side dishes.

But the turkey on the apple pie was perfection!

Now, back to Reading and Writing Words. Enough with the cooking and eating chatter...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Quote for Turkey Day +1

This was on my Facebook friend and fabulous writer, Deborah Wiles' FB status just now and I'm enjoying the thought. Hope you are too. Not to mention the turkey sandwich...

She posted-
He forgot about the turkey sandwich:
"If you have a garden and a library you have everything you need." Cicero

Related Posts: Southerners Writing Books

Beautiful Libraries

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Writing Quote for Today

No one has ever had an idea in a dress suit.
- Sir Frederick G. Banting

(Does that also work for dresses?)

So stay in your jammies whether you're cooking the turkey or catching up on your reading.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Story Structure

In my voyage to uncover whether I'm a pantster (write by the seat of your pants) or a plotter (self-explanatory), I discovered the Story Fix blog.

My friend Lee had already sent me the recent Wall Street Journal article, How To Write a Great Novel. (I'm not sure you can still read it online from that link, but all you need is this StoryFix blog entry to take you right there.) Then I found the Story Fix guy, Larry Brooks, who analyzes and takes apart the original article and tells us why it doesn't exactly work out that way.

Still, the WSJ had some good points. And when I read this quote, it reminded me to read the book that just won the National Book Award:

To research his 2009 novel "Let the Great World Spin," which is set in New York in the 1970s and is a finalist for the National Book Award, Mr. McCann went on rounds with homicide and housing cops, read oral histories of prostitutes from the era and watched archival film footage.

One thing always leads to another in this blogging world. Read the Wall Street Journal article just for fun. Then click on over to see Larry Brooks' opinion on why it's important to know the ending before we begin. And if all this talk of story structure sends you running in another direction, pick up one of the books mentioned in the article. Knowing a writer reads his characters' lines out loud, or tears up a million beginnings, just might make the book-- if it doesn't completely destroy the reading experience-- a lot more interesting.

Related posts: Beginnings
Great Writing Advice

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Dreaded Cliché.

Over at the Through the Tollbooth blog, there's a great posting about clichés. And you won't be surprised by the list, even though it's already a year old. I guess a cliché becomes a cliché when it's overused, over time. Right?

So here's the list. Take note, the source is Oxford University (the one in England) and they're not really calling them clichés, just overused phrases. But be sure to click on over to Carrie Jones' posting on The Tollbooth to see her thoughts about clichés in writing.

What do you think? Got any others that really bug you? (How about the verb forms of bug...)

Oh, and check out #8. And I always thought that was a Southern thing. Then again, we Southerners learned how to talk from our British/Scottish/Irish forebears, didn't we.

Top 10 Overused Phrases
1 - At the end of the day
2 - Fairly unique (oxymoron)
3 - I personally
4 - At this moment in time
5 - With all due respect
6 - Absolutely
7 - It's a nightmare
8 - Shouldn't of
9 - 24/7
10 - It's not rocket science

Thursday, November 19, 2009

National Book Award

FYI-This year's National Book Award for Young People's Literature was just announced. The winner? A nonfiction book about Claudette Colvin, a young teen whose actions during a very important part of our country's history were largely unknown by contemporary young readers.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Potato Peel Pie Society

Am I the last reader on earth to pick up this book? And why did it take me so long? What a terrific story. And my goodness, hairbow ties? Is that really why they're called that? How could I not have know this.
My friend Julie tells me it's one of her favorite audio books to listen to also.

My former Book Group just read it and often I try to keep up with what they've chosen, so thanks Melissa for sending me on this journey, for telling me to google the book. I love this blog posting by writer Annie Barrows. I'd never thought about the concept of literary meandering, following one book as it leads to another. But it's true, isn't it. A clue in one book, a reference, a name, will send you off meandering to find connections. The whole Charles Lamb thing in this book sent me off to those college literature tomes gathering dust on the bookshelves.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is written as a series of letters, and here's a quote from one of Juliet's letters to Dawsey:
Have you ever noticed that when your mind is awakened or drawn to someone new, that person's name suddenly pops up everywhere you go? My friend Sophie calls it coincidence, and Mr. Simpless, my parson friend, calls it Grace. He thinks that if one cares deeply about someone or something new one throws a kind of energy out into the world, and "fruitfulness" is drawn in.

Oh, and just in case you wondered. Despite my love of book related food items and as much as I adore beets, I have no interest in making the potato pie recipe.

Related post: Indie Awards

Monday, November 16, 2009

What's Your Definiton of Children's Books?

In the current discussion over at the School Library Journal's Mock Newbery blog, the point is being raised about the whole definition of "childhood," as it pertains to books eligible for the award. This quote from E.L. Konigsburg's book of essays and speeches, TalkTalk, makes a lot of sense to someone who's been there for both worlds: the backyard neighborhood and the TV screen...

As I was growing up, I always had the feeling that I understood a lot more than I knew. When I listen to my grandchildren, I think they know a lot more than they understand. The difference is exposure. Even before starting school, they see more and hear more than I did as a high-school graduate. Perhaps, saying overseen more and overheard more is a better expression because they have been exposed to a great panorama on a very small scale. Their big world is a small place--the size of a television screen. My small world was a big place--my neighborhood.
E.L. Konigsburg

Today's Mock Newbery post is about one of my favorite books of this award season: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. While I didn't particularly agree with the analysis on the posting, she has a point and makes it well. Guess we'll just have to wait until January to see what the "real" Newbery committee comes up with.

Related post: Calpurnia Tate

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Best Blogs for Kids, and Why Bother?

I'll bookmark this article for sure. Not just because Elizabeth Bird pulls together links to some of my favorite book bloggers (her Top Ten), but also because she says some important things about why blogging is important, whether it's making a difference, and who the heck reads blogs about kids' books anyhow.

Here's one of her questions, posed early in the article:
Sometimes I wonder if this is just a case of bloggers reading one another's posts, commenting on one another's blogs, contributing to an insular community that doesn't have much impact on the outside world. Do kids' lit bloggers influence publishing decisions? Are library systems basing their purchasing decisions on our recommendations? Should they? And to what extent is a blog about literature for youth a reliable source of information?

There's a happy ending to her posting, I'm glad to report. We blog about kids' books because we love the literature and love the connections our blogs give us to other like minds. If people who buy the books listen in, all the better.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Last Newspaper Boy in America

Such an appealing cover. And Sue Corbett really knows how to write for middle grade readers. But honestly, newspaper boys? Would kids care? Should they? Or is the whole newspaper thing something the next generation, the Youth of Today, finds totally beyond them. And while I'm at it, how many young readers still spread out the funnypapers (i.e. comics to you Yankees) all over the floor every afternoon to read?

So I put this one in the To Read pile. But the cover kept speaking to me.

Then I opened the book and got to know 12-year-old Wil David and his slightly oddball family. And I really really loved this book. There's adventure, mystery, even a budding love interest of sorts. A county fair with its own con artist. A mother who loves to read. The small town setting is the perfect venue. Just one good thing after another.

The Last Newspaper Boy in America is such a terrific read that it doesn't really matter whether kids have a clue what a newpaper boy/ girl is. Though they should. And after reading Sue Corbett's latest novel, they'll know for sure about delivering newspapers in America.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I'm working very hard to learn to see better. No, I'm not getting new eyeglasses. But I've learned since I slid over from the very bookish world of a school library into the more creative side of my brain that I'm much too literal. It's hard work to see things in a different way. I know, I know, sometimes a rose is just a rose. But then there are those days when you need to think of "what if" over and over until just the perfect scene comes into your story. And that's when it pays to have an artist on the other end of your emails. And if she's an artist who also writes, all the better.

So I've been missing my friend Leslie Guccione's sage advice. Her ability to point her writing students in new directions and tell us what we're missing, where to look next for a character or a plot point. I've also been missing her funny, funny stories this week. Leslie's husband died of the most terrible disease, ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. Joe and Leslie were a perfect couple, devoted, encouraging, loving to each other.

Yesterday as I walked on the beach, I remembered when they visited us and we laughed that Joe was bringing his foul weather gear to the Gulf of Mexico. Didn't he know that Florida in the early spring was nothing like the coast of Massachusetts, where his own boat was moored? Leslie and I rolled our eyes. But Joe had the last laugh. The day we ventured down the canals, Joe was the only one warm enough to enjoy the trip. The weather had turned and the wind was blowing. Nothing like New England. But nothing like Florida either.

I'd never seen beach glass until I visited their beach. Now I walk and hope I'll find a tiny specimen on our soft white sand. Yesterday I thought I had. Turned out to be just a clear-as-glass jingle shell. I picked it up anyway. I stared at it and thought about how it might fit into a story. How the perfect round shape might mean something more than just a shell found on a walk on the beach. I know Leslie would create a history of how many times it had been trampled upon, and by whom. It would be a funny story, characters who love each other but fight just the same, flawed, as characters should be, but so worth the telling.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Refrigerator Poetry anyone?

I love this kid lit posting. I do so need a break.

Refrigerator poetry! What great ways to waste time (or jiggle your brain or whatever you want to call it). So many excuses to sit on the computer. Check out this one in particular.

Then get outside and take a walk..

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Writing Quote of the Day

"A story knows what it wants to be...
Your job is to step back and let the characters become real."

G. Neri, St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading
October, 2009

Related posts: Boys Love Books
Quote for the Day

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Wing Nut

Now isn't that just about the best title ever for a middle grade novel? Actually this one might fall into the "Tween" category, ages 10-14. I like so much about Wing Nut. Here's what I had to say on my Goodreads page:

I picked Wing Nut up from the display shelf of my local library's Florida Sunshine Reader Awards and from the beginning I was hooked. A kid, his mom, a hippie commune, an old man, his purple martins- such disparate elements weave into a story that is just plain fun to read. The developing relationship of 12-year-old Grady and what seems to be a grumpy old man is an important element that's never sentimental, often humorous. I loved the writing, the story, the characters, the title- everything about this one.

A couple of thoughts about the book:
It was peopled mostly with grown-ups, defying one of the rules of writing for kids. And I didn't even notice, the story was so strong. Then upon rereading, I discovered other kids, mostly as described by Grady. One reviewer thought the fact that he was homeschooled and very critical of his public school experiences was a tad harsh. But some of the bullies Grady remembers from his past experiences seemed pretty true. And they made for interesting kid characters.

So do you think it's OK, to fill a teen/tween story with grownups, if all the adults in the book are as interesting and well-told as these characters?

I was also going to say I loved the book jacket photo. Then I noticed, as is often the case, oh no! They changed the cover on the paperback edition. Not crazy about that one. But here's the original. Wouldn't this make a kid want to read Wing Nut?

Oh, and just for comparison- here's the paperback's cover. More or less kid-friendly?