Friday, December 28, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Open our eyes.
We are not alone.
No one is forgotten.
Good triumphs over all evil.
Hope waits around the corner.
A day comes when no one cries anymore.
A day comes when death is swallowed up by life.
A day comes when families are back together again.
Until then, fill us up with anchoring words.
Faith, love, hope, long suffering, kindness.
Lead us beside those quiet waters.
Create in us new vision.
Flood us with peace.
Surprise us with joy.
Fill us with hope.
Lord, save us.
Good things to you and yours in these days. Remember the power of God's light.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I'm going to take a moment to talk about endurance. How do we take that next step when we are tired, when so many people have said no, and so many doors have slapped shut in our face that ears are ringing? A few things help me.
First, the pattern supports me. The very shape of my life keeps me on track. I've made room for writing. I honor my work and don't think of it as something I'm going to do, but something that I am doing.
Next, I have many friends that are in the same boat with me. It's easier to row if you know that there are lots of people in the boat. The industry of the rowers help me feel that success will come my way.
I stay aware of the beauty of small things: a scene, a letter, a poem. Each brushstoke is important to me. I don't have to think about the next book I will write. It's just one more word. It's one more snippet of story.
I understand the power of a reasonable goal. It's just the best feeling -- the words flowing on to the paper. I don't get into the end result. I dwell in this moment, in the revealing that needs to happen now. It's a powerful rush.
Try letting go of all the voices and just flow with the journey. Joy in it. Prevail. Let me know how it goes.
I believe that man will not merely endure. He will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.
Friday, December 07, 2007
First up, sketches of my new book arrived; I've done my research and signed off on the pages. You can pre-0rder my new book, Rembrandt and the Boy Who Drew Dogs , on Amazon. I've seen the sketches and they are truly brilliant. Here is an early peek at the cover.
There's more up. Here are the covers of my new Picture Window Books. Very jazzy too.
I had a school visit last week at St. Thomas More Parish School in Houston, Texas. Wow, thanks to Mrs. Fontenot and the K-1 classes for the warm welcome. Librarians and libraries rock! What a fun school! I hope you like tasting green beans. I hope you are really using your imagination.
I'm writing passages again for Trillium Publishing. This stuff is fun. Writing these short snapshots of story hones my skills. I also like the influx of Christmas cash.
I have a page included in this ebook: Wish Someone Had Told Me That! 64 Successful Children's Authors Give You The Advice They Wish Someone Had Given Them. Children Book Insider. 2007. Follow this link to buy it: http://write4kids.com/wishbook.html. Good advice for beginning children's writers.
I'm nursing my aching SI joint (hip bone connects to the spine bones). I fell during a freak ice storm a few weeks ago and I am very slowly mending.
The eggs are silent. Waahh! Not even a jiggle. Waaah! Waaah!
That's the bits and pieces. I'm off to bake pies and work on the revision.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Let's start with some spiritual wisdom and HIGH FIVES to begin our journey.
First up and high fiving you to the future:
"choose to be optimistic, it feels better." - His Holiness the Dali Lama
Next up, another wise guy shares a nugget of wisdom and gives you a high five blessing.
Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”
Pope John XXIII
Next a wise guy gives some imploring high fives!
We are not cisterns made for hoarding, we are channels made for sharing. Billy Graham.
There are so many wise ones to give you high fives!
There would be nothing to frighten you if you refused to be afraid.-Gandhi
Can you feel the power?
“I believe the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity is daring to dare”
Hey, this high five time would not be complete without a word and high five from this sweet mother.
We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. Mother Teresa
Keep checking back, folks! I will do my best to post a high five, holy snap or nugget of inspiration each day of November to keep you going.
All best on the journey. Molly Blaisdell
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
Hi Folks! Hundreds of you are lurking. Come on, post your goals for the 2nd Annual Golden Coffee Cup. Add your goal by the end of the day Nov 1, 2007 to the comment section on the 2nd Annual Coffee Cup page. Wild ruckus is coming. High Fives! Holy Snapping!
Remember 4 of you will receive a cup of coffee. Here is a cup of inspiration.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Post your goal here: The 2nd Annual Golden Coffee Cup . This is a motivational event and it is a contest -- four of you will win a cup of coffee. Check out the link for the complete rules. This coveted award will be given to the successful November goal setters. This is my answer to that "interesting concept" (cough, cough) of requiring writers to churn out 50,000 incomprehensible words in one month. Hey, some folks tell stories with few words and lots of pictures and feel like they are left out in the cold. We will churn less with much more comprehension in our month. Join us! The 2007 Golden Coffee Cup will be awarded for a month of goal setting and achievement.
I'm back from the SCBWI Oregon Retreat. Silver Falls is beautiful -- fall leaves and the most awesome waterfalls. I had the opportunity schmooze with some wonderful writers. Terry Pierce, the author of many books for kids, including the early reader Tae Kwan Do!, hiked the falls with me and few of my new friends.
Bruce Coville sent shivers down my spine with his recitation of the The Highwayman at the "not planned but held every year for 18 years" end of the retreat party. I was something of a poetry addict in high school and memorized every word of this poem. Such a gift.
Margaret Bechard shared her passion for revision. She stressed every word should move the story forward and if its not doing that it should be removed. I also enjoyed writing exercises with Deborah Brodie. She's a freelance editor and book doctor these days, folks, after 30 years working for companies like Roaring Brook Press and Viking. I also had the opportunity to hear Candlewick's Senior Editor Sarah Ketchersid. Her passion for a well constructed, timeless picture book moved me. I took away a deep sense that picture books have fathomless depths of meaning, offer countless illustratable moments, and tell one story. All and all, a lovely time.
Two gems I took away from the conference. Both from a critique session. You never know where you will find those gems.
"Everyone says, 'character, character, character' but you find out its also plot, setting, theme. . ."
"Actually, first chapters are hell." Carol Bloemen
Thursday, October 11, 2007
I'm off to the SCBWI Oregon Retreat. Should be a fun time. I'm going to hike the 10 falls if it's not raining or snowing.
I received galley proofs today of my next two books: A Secret Matter and Up, Up in the Air.
They look very lovely.
Here are some encouraging quotes as you think about setting your goals:
Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome. - Samuel Johnson
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. - Theodore Roosevelt
Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. - Thomas Edison
I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. - Christopher Reeve
Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. Courage is what counts. -Sir Winston Churchill
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Want to be featured in the 2008 Annual Golden Coffee Cup? Send me (firstname.lastname@example.org) a digital picture that expresses your "High Five", a link to your blog, website or book, and up to three sentences of inspiration. This opportunity is open to children's writers and illustrators only. You do not need to be published. I will fit in as many as I can.
For the past few years, in honor of National Novel Writing Month, I've had this little event on my blog for anyone one who needs an extra boost of motivation to get their current project rolling. If you don't know about Nanowrmo, National Novel Writing Month, this is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30. This is a kamakazie approach to writing, it's about quanity and not quality.
The Golden Coffee Cup is a different kind of motivational thingy. This coveted award (an awesome picture of a coffee cup emailed to you that you may display it with pride) will be given to the successful November goal setters, but for EXTRA, EXTRA INCENTIVE!!!!! , four lucky winners from the group of successful goal setters will receive a Starbucks card for genuine coffee. Winners will need to send me(email@example.com)their address to receive their card.
This is my answer to that "interesting concept" (cough, cough) of requiring writers to churn out 50,000 incomprehensible words in one month. I do the judging and it is wholly subjective. Even so, you do not have to be my friend to win. Really, honestly, cross my heart hope to die stick a needle in my eye.
1. Post your November creative goals on this post by Nov 1. That is the deadline, folks.
2. Come back weekly for general cheering and wild ruckus, celebrating your successes. We'll do some holy snappin'. For extra motivation, my virtual celebrity guests will be on hand to offer high fives for your achievements!
3. If you reach your goal from Nov 23 to Nov 30, and post on blog again, you will be recieve your Golden Coffee Cup picture. There is no verification process, I believe you. Send in your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org and your Golden Coffee Cup picture will be emailed to you. Display it proudly as wallpaper, post it on your blog, print it out and tack it on your bulletin board for year-long motivation. Write a great post and you might win the real coffee!
The Golden Coffee Cup is about making a goal and keeping it.
If you are a novel writer, you can write something new with a realistic word count goal, keeping your life in mind. Your goal might also be making your first novel submission (think Delacorte Contest) or a revision of a novel you've already written. You can do this!
If you are a picture book writer or artist, hey, picture books are harder to write than they look. I don't really care about the word count because if your project is over 500 words that might be a problem. Picture book artists tell stories too. You might be an artist making a dummy and a dummy is certainly as hard to create as a novel. This is about quality not quantity.
Win your very own Golden Coffee Cup. Win a cup of hat java!
Let's bring some excellence into that creation!!!!!
I can't give you a peek at the THE Golden Coffee Cup but here are the Motivational Coffee Cups. Feel the power pouring into you!
Friday, October 05, 2007
It's that time of year.
Here are some goal setting tips.
Create a compelling goal; one that you have passion about.
Get out your closet optimist and let positive goals rip, like write 1 fabulous manuscript page every day as opposed to to 175 pages of worthless stuff.
Call someone with a Type A personality and have them enter your goals on your calendar.
Choose the most important goal and focus on it.
Avoid huge goals. Keep reality at the front of your mind.
Think about moving past the outcome and considering the performance. Your goals should be as much about what you can control as possible. So a goal can be something like, go to the library every Friday for two hours and work there, instead of I will write 10000 words on Friday.
I long to accomplish a great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.
Friday, September 28, 2007
In honor of National Novel Writing Month, I have a little event on my blog for anyone one who needs an extra boost of motivation to get their current project rolling.If you don't know about Nanowrmo, National Novel Writing Month, this is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30. This is a kamakazie approach to writing, it's about quanity and not quality. The Golden Coffee Cup is a different kind of motivational thingy. This soon-to-be coveted award (an awesome picture of a coffee cup emailed to you that you may display it with pride) will be given to the successful November goal setters. This is my answer to that "interesting concept" (cough, cough) of requiring writers to churn out 50,000 incomprehensible words in one month. Hey and some folks tell stories with pictures and feel like they are left out in the cold. I’d like to churn less with much more comprehension in my month. I ask you to join me. The 2007 Golden Coffee Cup will be awarded for a month of goal setting and achievement.
1. Post your November creative goals here by Nov 1. That is the deadline, folks.
2. Come back weekly for general cheering and wild ruckus, celebrating your successes. We'll do some holy snappin'. For extra motivation, celebrity guests will be on hand to offer high fives for your achievements!
3. If you reach your goal by Nov 30, you will be eligible for a Golden Coffee Cup. There is no verification process, I believe you. Send in your email address to email@example.com and your Golden Coffee Cup will be emailed to you. Display it proudly as wallpaper, post it on your blog, print it out and tack it on your bulletin board for year-long motivation.
4. New for this year: Four lucky winners will receive a real paper cup of genuine coffee (winners will need to send my their address to receive coffee) because everyone loves a free cup of coffee. All you have to do is submit your goal to The Golden Coffee Cup on the first week of November and then come in the last week and let me know that you have achieved your goal. I will read the goals and then the achievement and then award the "real" cups of coffee to the best entries.
I do the judging and it is wholly subjective.
GOAL GUIDELINES: The Golden Coffee Cup is about making a goal and keeping it. If you are a novel writer, you can write something new with a realistic word count goal, keeping your life in mind. Your goal might also be making your first novel submission (think Delacorte Contest) or a revision of a novel you've already written. You can do this! If you are a picture book writer or artist, hey, picture books are harder to write than they look. I don't really care about the word count because if your project is over 500 words that might be a problem. Picture book artists tell stories too. You might be an artist making a dummy and a dummy is certainly as hard to create as a novel. This is about quality not quantity. Win your very own Golden Coffee Cup. Let's bring some excellence into that creation!!!!!
Want to check out the 2007 winners of the Golden Coffee Cup? Click here.
The top secret fantasy project is buzzing along this week.
I booked my first full day school visit to feature my upcoming book -- Rembrandt and the Boy Who Drew Dogs, Barrons Educational Series, May 2008. Yay!
I saw the biggest moon this week. It hung low over the Cascades and was bigger than a silver dollar. I always feel blessed when I see something like that.
Lo! the moon ascending! Up from the East, the silvery round moon; Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon; Immense and silent moon.
Friday, September 21, 2007
I'm watching seals and munching a sandwich.
Here is my personal crew. No one else was out on such a cold, wet day.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
A standard picture book is 32 pages long. Two pages are devoted to front matter – title page and LOC (Library of Congress blurb) and sometimes back matter – acknowledgements, sources, and author’s notes. That leaves about 27 to 29 pages to share your story. You also have about 500 words to share your story. This means that only very important things need to happen. There is just not a lot of room.
The plot is all about what happens next. The first thing that happens is the hook. It is the moment that draws the reader in. This action should be something that your reader will identify with. If you can slide in a double meaning for the grown-ups – all the better. If you add an educational/holiday/consumer slant with that action – yay! If you twist in a universal meaning and dash on humor-- why, the editor might read more. Remember that’s just the first action in the story arc, your first piece of the plot puzzle. Yes, you have your work cut out for you.
Here’s another bit of advice, each plot point must transition smoothly from one to the next. A great plot is like giving a ball a push down a hill. The ball bounces down in a natural way and depending on the slant of the hill with varying speeds. You’ve got to place your character in circumstances that will roll them forward to a natural conclusion. You might find that when you take a hard look at your story that the sequence of events doesn’t quite ring true. Is there a purpose to your sequence? You should be able to answer for every action in the story. You need to understand why things happen.
OK, you’ve written the whole story? It’s charming and you know it, but the interested editor has written you back the dreaded “quiet story” or “thin story” note. Hey, this picture book had a beginning, middle and end and every one of the kids in your child’s classroom laughed out loud when they heard it. Yes, Drusilla loses her doll. It is a great beginning. Next, she makes a flyer and posts it on the street pole. Yes, that is the middle. Then the doll is returned to her by a Babushka. That is an ending. So what’s the problem? No complications! Here’s some news: three is the magic number. You need a series of at least three big complications. Less will lead to dreaded "too thin" notes from editors.
Hey, I didn’t say a word about rhyming the text, and I'm talking about picture books. Those rhyming text picture books work the same. They need all the stuff above, and you have to shove every word into a highly structured format and all the words have to flow perfectly, naturally, sensibly. No prob. Right.
I hope you've found something here that will give you that little push you needed to create an awesome picture book! I will close with two quotes that help me when I'm crafting my plots.
"Clear your mind must be, if you are to discover the real villains behind this plot."
“A story to me means a plot where there is some surprise. Because that is how life is-full of surprises.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer
Friday, September 07, 2007
I’d like to introduce myself: my name is Molly Blaisdell and I am a life-long fan. I’m 39-years-old, and I’ve tried to write this letter so many times, I’ve lost count. It’s hard to put into words my gratitude for the gift of your stories.
It all began when I was thirteen-years old. I read A Wrinkle in Time and it changed my life. I was a struggling student in school, barely literate and angry about just about everything. Your story drove a fire for books inside me. I felt like Meg was my best friend and I felt like you were too. Meg gave me hope that things would work out. You opened my eyes to the brilliance of a loving God. I’ve continued reading your books and go back to them again and again. You’ve challenged me in so many ways and helped me find my path. You gave a failing child hope and, ultimately, gave me courage to write my own stories.
I always pray, “Lord, whatever Madeleine is having, I will have two helpings.” Your writing is such an inspiration to me. I spend my time willing to fail, because I’ll never accomplish anything unless I take the risk -- more of your sage advice threading its way through my life.
If my life were a quilt, more than a few of the patches would be devoted to you and your stories. Strands of your faith and belief run through every thread that is holding this quilt together. I will meet you in paradise, if not sooner.
To love, to love
Above all we know
We need to love.
I’m almost frustrated because sometimes words don’t even get into the neighborhood of our true thoughts. Here are the easy ones – thank you.
"No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."- -MEDITATION XVII, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, John Donne
Sunday, September 02, 2007
I will start with my best advice, creating authentic picture book characters takes time and patience.
Here's the first big thought. It is essential to choose characters that suit the very stylistic form of picture books. Characters in a picture book need to be kids or anthropomorphic animals. An adult character at the center of a picture book should be avoided. This is not a mild warning, folks. I'm serious. Only one in a billion stories work with the "whole grownup at the center of the pb story" angle. It's easier to make a brave toaster, scary talking vacuum cleaner or a wild and woolly washrag character than a believable adult character in a picture book.
Now that you have settled on a great character -- perhaps, Clucky Strut, a chic chicken, or six year old Max Uh Mum, math genius -- it's time to decide how many more characters will be in this book. It's best to focus on one character in a picture book. Two is OK, but be sure they are very different characters. Two voices that sound exactly alike are generally frowned upon. Three is a crowd but possible. Four, that's the outer limit, folks. Remember your entire pb text is at the most 5 pages and that is a very long picture book at that. Note, you can have more non-essential characters; these characters fade into the background and really serve as part of the setting -- think Where's Waldo. Waldo is the only "real" character.
Next, let's talk about an old idea -- character is plot. Characters need pathos --real problems. Your main character will need to change from the beginning of the book to the end. Humor is welcome here. Clueless, confused, and complicated is usually a good thing. Mean, manic and malevolent is not such a good thing. Characters need an internal struggle and external struggle. This is "real" fiction, folks. Dig deep. Create characters we will all cheer for, weep for, and laugh with. No one one wants cardboard.
Last, is my "show don't tell "warning. What does "show don't tell"mean anyway? You have very few word to make your characters come alive. Don't tell just tell us that your character is spunky, bright, funky, crazy, empathetic, clueless, cute, or cuddly. What is something a spunky person says? Reveal your character through dialogue. What does a bright empathetic character do? Use the plot to show this. Where does your funky character live? You can use setting to give us a sense of your character's personality. You can use the theme, too. What does your clueless, cute and cuddly character care about? Drive the story with verbs and nouns and be very sparing with adjectives and adverbs. I find asking lots of questions helps me move away from cookie-cutter characters to fresh, original characters.
I hope you can use some of this discussion to strengthen your work. Check back next week for more picture book musing. I'll end with a couple of quotes from some guys that "have been there, done that and wrote the book."
First, find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him.
I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
The first thing -- you need to think of a brilliant idea, and I will mention that these ideas are very rare. Read several hundred picture books and you will see what I mean. Everyone has been there and done that. An original picture book idea is about as rare as a white tiger, the Florida manatee, or the California condor.
Everyone on the planet has a picture book -- because one of the strange myths of our generaton is that anyone can write a picture book. Go to any cocktail party of regular random people and you will see what I mean. At least half of them will have a picture book manuscript and will have spammed every publisher in existence with said manuscript. Rhyming bedtime stories about singing toothbrushes, dying parent stories, and a smattering of talking dinosaur stories are a few of the tired ideas circulating.
Celebrities (who are basically regular random people who have had the blessed opportunity to work with talented writers and directors) are also able to get their books into the publishing pipeline with relative ease. They write books because "no one is writing good picture books anymore". Sigh.
Then there are many illustrators who don't need a writer -- think William Joyce, Mo Willams , and Laura Kvaznosky (some of my favs). They write quite brilliantly all on their own. After that, a number of award-winning middle grade and YA writers also write picture books. Their names are "brands" , if you will, and these very talented writers get slots before you.
OK, that's enough (but there are more), you get it. The odds are stacked against you for publication, so you must have a brilliant idea.
The idea must be warm, parent -friendly, kid-friendly, laugh-out-loud funny, fast-paced, action-packed, original, universal in appeal, crisp, shiny, age-appropriate, simplistic but have great depth, and it doesn't hurt if it ties into school curriculum's or reaches a segment of the population who have lots of money to burn and need more reasons to spend -- a toy-tie in doesn't hurt either -- Beatrice Potter led the way on this one.
So do you have the perfect idea? Yay!
Now, a daunting fact --someone just like you has already thought of this idea. They have a file in their computer right now. The big trick is to write the definitive story that expresses this idea -- the perfect picture book text. I'll talk about that text in the next post.
Great ideas often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds.
I have never had so many good ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden.
The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.
Friday, August 17, 2007
1. Having trouble physically moving your characters through the scene? The cup of water was on the desk, then it's on the porch and then it turns into lemonade. (Oh, yes, this happens to me sometimes.) I now have a habit of making nifty maps and drawing sketches of the physical places that my characters visit. I also collect pictures that represent the various items in the setting. I have found this habit saves much time if my character returns to that particular place in another scene of the book or if there are setting errors in a scene.
2. Having trouble with the time-line? It's Monday when the package comes and the next day the character is in Japan -- uh how did she get that package if she was at the airport? Hey, I need a datebook to manage my life, and my book gets a calendar, too. I print out a journal calendar and fill out the timeline of the novel. Takes time to do, but saves time in the end.
3. Search for "-ly" in your manuscript. Use the "Find" feature in Word. Do you really absolutely need all those adjectives and adverbs? Expand this search to word abuse. Do you use the word "just" too much? Do characters "walk "everywhere? Search on these keywords and delete some of them and improve others. Your manuscript will thank you.
4. Want to see your manuscript in a new light? Change the margins and the font of your manuscript. This will help you see your manuscript with new eyes and find errors you literally weren't seeing.
These are some simple hints. I hope you find that your manuscript is buzzing.
I'm really against reinventing the wheel; here are some genius quotes from folks that have been there and done that:
I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English - it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them - then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.
I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.
I can't write five words but that I change seven.
Editing should be, especially in the case of old writers, a counseling rather than a collaborating task. The tendency of the writer-editor to collaborate is natural, but he should say to himself, 'How can I help this writer to say it better in his own style?' and avoid 'How can I show him how I would write it, if it were my piece?'"
The most valuable of talents is never using two words when one will do.
This morning I took out a comma, and this afternoon I put it back again.
Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.
Friday, August 10, 2007
My daddy sent me a deep dish pecan pie from the Colin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas. Yum. That's kind of like a star falling from the heavens.
Neil Gaiman's Stardust opens today. Universe is going so far out for my birthday! Thank you! (If you don't know who Neil is, you should really read more.) His movie is about about a falling star , so appropriate. Neil's one of the peeps --a bona fide children's book writer - Coraline. That's going to be a movie, too. Neil's on my list of awesomely cool people I'd like to meet.
The current book: Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time". Pure genius.
Have I mentioned that I'm a great fan of Will Shakespeare? I really miss Texas around my birthday. I miss Shakespeare at Winedale. I saw at least 20 plays there as a teenager. I watched Shakespeare productions in a old barn; the bard's words were spoken with twangy Texas accents -- does it get better than that?
So I close with this quote from my main muse:
At my nativity
The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes
Of burning cressets, and at my birth
The frame and huge foundation of the earth
Shaked like a coward.
Henry IV, Part 1, act 3, sc. 1, l. 13-7.
Friday, August 03, 2007
Next to the great joy of writing books is the pure joy of making friends, remember that as you go toward that goal of publication.
I read The Plain Janes! Whoa, the terrorist attack shocked Jane touched my life. I'd have been so P.L.A.I.N. in high school and actually did some of that in college. My poor bike ended up welded at the top of a giant sculpture in front of the Academic Building. Once, I got this column of hundreds of red and yellow balloons filled with helium. They were part of an architectural exhibit. I asked for the balloons after the exhibit and they gave them to me! I ran for hours with a mountain of balloons up and down the hallowed paths of A&M; I've never had so much fun --please note --will be a BIG KID my whole life.
I've added Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson to the reading list. Is it true that M. T. Anderson is her brother? (OK, authorities are chiming in and saying this is a myth.) I will have to continue to celebrate the genes of Aaron Eckhart, Paul Fleischman, Brian Selznick, Rose Wilder Lane, and Crescent Dragonwagon. Do you know any others? I have cool genes, too. My sister is the awesome Lee Kuruganti.
I'm going to see Becoming Jane later at the local theater. I'm going by myself and I'm going to munch popcorn. So much fun. I'd probably buy cable if there were a Jane Austen channel.
"Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery."
“Why not seize the pleasure at once, how often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparations.”
Friday, July 27, 2007
This week, I read a series of three books, Uglies, Pretties and Specials, by Scott Westerfeld. Oooh, sci-fi, post-apocolyptic, plastic surgery fun. One of the first things I do when I read a book is to check out the dedication. Oh, did Scott endear himself to me when he dedicated to his book, Specials, to everyone who has thrown his books against the wall. Yay! I so applaud book throwing!
My hope is that every book I read will be worthy of being thrown against a wall. I love when authors rattle my cage. My dream is that I will publish books that will be thrown against walls.
What kind of books do I like to read? For me, that first chapter of a book had better turn the normal world inside out. The only writer who I allow to skip this rule is Louis Sachar (I give him five chapters). I look for a pounding pace, an impossible to put down book -- Scott W., Orson Scott Card and Eva Ibbotson have all interrupted my sleeping patterns.
The pace can slow down if the story refuses to let me stay the way I am. I read The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing this week. M.T. Anderson's books make me very uncomfortable (not that whale book) and for that I think he is a genius. So far I've wanted to toss all his books against the wall at some point.
I read local authors. Here is some news: Washington state writers rock! Two of my favorite stick with me books this year were from Washington wrtiers. Janet Lee Carey's Dragon's Keep freaked me out. I got a few chapters in and then refused to read it for several weeks because it was so creepy, but then couldn't stand not knowing what happened. Dia Calhoun's (please read her books) Avielle of Rhia haunts me, just haunts me. That terriost attack brought up a maelstrom of emotion in me.
I'm looking for great historical novels, but I don't like getting bogged down in nostalgia or an author's agenda. Any suggestions, folks?
Writers! Tell me a story. Give me someone to root for. Make me care. Transport me somewhere else. Understand me better than I understand myself.
Recent titles that have caught my eye and are on top of the to be read list: Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller, yay, Jerry Spinelli's sequel -- Love, Stargirl, The Falconer's Knot by Mary Hoffman, My Mother the Cheerleader by Robert Sharenow, and The Plain Janes by Cecil Castelucci.
“Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new after all”
“It is all very well to be able to write books, but can you waggle your ears?”
James Matthew Barrie
“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”
Francis Bacon, Sr.
Friday, July 20, 2007
My article, "Phoenix Rising", is in the 2007 July/Aug issue of the SCBWI Bulletin. I could have written book about how death drives stories forward.
I thought I might share an extra thought or two about death in books for the younger set. I recently judged a writing contest and noticed a recurring problem in many of the manuscripts intended for the picture book audience. These manuscripts centered on the death of a family member or friend. For the youngest children, emotional development must be considered when introducing the catalyst of death into a story; death can create a minefield of unintended misunderstanding. Psychologists agree that younger children take explanations of death at face value and will misinterpret mild or vague expressions of loss. It is common knowledge, that children under the age of seven believe that death is reversible; they also embrace magical thinking, like believing they can wish someone to be alive. Children often connect events that don’t belong together like a death and a bad day. Most explanations for younger children will be taken quite literally. Keep these thoughts in mind as your craft your picture book stories.
Now one more bonus. Exercises to sharpen your writing. Write about your first experience with the death of a pet. Explore the emotions of that moment. Include the sensory details. Add the dialogue of the people present when your pet died. Now, write about your first experience with the death of a person. How did you feel? How old were you? What were the sensory details of that moment? Where were you? Try writing every detail of the setting. How did you feel about that death? Were your feelings different than those around you? Try expanding this exercise by asking several people you know about their first experience with death and writing short scenes about those experiences, too. The purpose here is to create an authentic, emotional account of death. This will help you achieve a realistic form of death within your stories. As with all good storytelling, pay attention to the details.
Want to learn something? Have you ever wondered if your story is in the right POV? Here is a post by Nathan Bransford (a literary agent for Curtis Brown). He wrote this post about first person vs third person. I liked this one and it really made me pull out some manuscripts and ask questions. Enjoy.
I'm speaking next Saturday at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. Come by and say hi if you are there.
Here's the blurb:
10:30 - Noon (July 28, 2007)
Young Adult Track
Marketwise for Children’s Writers.
Speaker: Molly Blaisdell
Moderator: Danielle Rollins
There is no magic formula that will ensure publication in the children’s market, but this thorough look at how to research the market will help. Many tips and strategies will also be offered that will help you generate opportunities and will set you on sure paths toward publication.
Location: Emerald Ballroom F
It's raining here in the wilds of Woodinville today, and I'm hard at work on my novels. I'm so glad that people believe in me. I'm always confident about my writing. I'm a born storyteller. But selling my work? This is something that I have no control over. I got a long string of "nos" this week. All the wobbling eggs just stopped. All of them.
I take a deep breath and keep on writing. Have I come to another dry desert? Will anyone give my work a look again? The scary part of that question is the answer may be no. I have to keep all that out of my head and fill up with words of others.
"I have a lot of faith in you, and your energy, and passion to write."
"I know a day is coming when I will say I knew you when."
"You are a worker bee and that means you get the job done."
" You are like Hootie and Blowfish, like they were this small band with hundreds of fans. playing at colleges. Then, whoa, their day came and then they had millions of fans, and then that backed off and they had thousands of fans. You will be like that."
"I loved, loved, loved your book."
"I stayed up all night reading. I just couldn't stop."
I'm so glad for all the people who have encouraged me. It really helps warm me up on the blah cold days.
Friday, July 13, 2007
I saw a good movie this week, Neverwas, and I wanted to give it a plug. I loved Neverwas. Great actors: Aaron Eckhart (his mom is a children's book author in real life), Nick Nolte, Ian McKellan, Wiliam Hurt, Alan Cumming -- lots of strong performances. The story was intimate -- about a man coming to understand the love of his mentally ill father. The father committed suicide when the son was a child. I might have connected with movie more than most because I'm a children's writer and because a few people I have loved have taken their own lives. If you watch the movie you'll get the harmonic there. This is a real gem. Look for it.
I read a reissued book by Eva Ibbotson this week that just shocked me. It's called A Countess Under the Stairs. I love it when a writer takes my breath away with the beauty of language, the life she breathed into what would be formulatic fiction in anyone else hands, her take on a time in history that few seem to explore. Eva is slowly making her way on to my all time favorite author's list.
So now a for some inspiration to help keep keep you on the path.
All from Ursula K. LeGuin:
"My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end”
“The important thing is not the finding, it is the seeking, it is the devotion with which one spins the wheel of prayer and scripture, discovering the truth little by little. If this machine gave you the truth immediately, you would not recognize it,”
“comfort was allowed to come to them rare, welcome, unsought: a gift like joy."
Friday, July 06, 2007
I'm an out of place person myself-- a stranger in a strange land. I really don't get corporate culture. It totally confuses me. I'm a throwback to the days of artisans. I'm a throwback to Thoreau. What is really important anyway? The right clothes? The right schools? The right friends? I'm dedicated to discovering the "essential facts of life". It's why I liked these books: Feed by MT Anderson, the Mortal Engines series by Phillip Reeve and House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. These stories are a little grim in my opinion, but the writers are asking questions and exploring the consquences of the world that ulitmately we create, and I believe that is so important.
Personally, I tend to skew toward a more hopeful view of the future. I know, it may seem crazy, but I really do trust the next generation. I'm counting on them to do better than my generation. To be more. I'm deeply moved by kids that seem to care more about the world. They can see beyond the borders and boundries that we seem hopelessly entangled in. It makes me think of a little story at the end of Walden, Thoreau tells us about a bug:
"a strong and beautiful bug which came out of the dry leaf of an old table of apple-tree wood, which had stood in a farmer's kitchen for sixty years, first in Connecticut, and afterward in Massachusetts — from an egg deposited in the living tree many years earlier still, as appeared by counting the annual layers beyond it; which was heard gnawing out for several weeks, hatched perchance by the heat of an urn. Who does not feel his faith in a resurrection and immortality strengthened by hearing of this?"
I am rooting for that bug! I'm hoping for a warm urn that will set this generation on a journey that will flood our world with impossible hope and life. I hope that my books will provide some of that warmth. I hope that you bring some of that warmth to your work this week.
Friday, June 29, 2007
For the weekly update, I'm almost finished with my passage gig. I think I wrote my favorite two passages this week: Stan Lee and Marie Curie.
Stan planned on being a great writer someday but got tangled up with what he felt was the lowest of the low writing in the early forties -- comic books. I totally identify with a writer who needs a paycheck. As this young writer and editor of comic books (only 20) dreamed of doing something worthwhile in the writing field, he wrote endless comic book scripts.
One day he snapped and thought he would quit. He took a leap of faith and wrote what he wanted to: The Fantastic Four was born. Here were superheroes with no super secret identities. They had fun. These heroes squabbled like a family and half the time having superpowers sucked. Next, Stan came up with The Incredible Hulk, Spider-man, Thor (a personal favorite) and then the X-men popped up (Note, my daughter is named after one of the X-men. Can you guess which one?)
The thing that inspires me about Stan Lee, instead of moving on to "important" stuff, he elevated comic books into an art form. He reminds me of Atlas. I can think of few writers for young people that have had such a far reaching effect in our society. Still, I have yet to attend one children's conference that even acknowledges his existence. Hmmm.
A quote from Stan,
(This is really packaging material, but it sounds cool. Let us always remember we are the wordsmiths.)
Marie Curie has always been a role model for me. From a young age, she had noble (ha, ha) purposes. She was a scientist, a teacher, a writer, a mom and life-long learner. I read her autobiography in high school and again in college. I even majored in chemistry in college. It took me time to take her lessons and apply them to my life. The idea of pushing on regardless of the trouble--I've been so grateful that she pushed on and told others to do that too. Her example of strength has helped me through many hard times.
Here's a quote from Marie:
All my life through, the new sights of nature made me rejoice like a child.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Saturday, June 16, 2007
It was a pretty quiet week. I dragged the bones to critique group and yoga this week. I’m centered in so many ways now.
So here’s some fun stuff again from my daughter. One day a few years back, before my daughter had a cell phone, the following PowerPoint presentation showed up in my inbox. This is kind of long but I remember laughing so hard I fell out of my chair. Enjoy!
WHY I NEED A CELL PHONE!!!!!
So my daughter did wrangle a cell phone from me with this powerful presentation. I did not understand text messaging at the time, but it became very clear when I got that first $300 phone bill. We've lost a phone since I caved to creative cell phone persuasion. We have oodles of fun over in the wilds of Washington.
One last stream of consciousness note: Hey, people , I need a good book to read. Any recommendations?
Friday, June 08, 2007
I thought camels had a tank of water up in that hump and that's why they could live in the desert. Camel humps are made of fat. Camels can live in the desert because they efficiently handle fluids. Who told me camels had a tank of water in their humps? Here's more. I did not know that penguins live at the equator. I am sorry that I'm so ignorant. The universe is conspiring to rectify that situation, because I'm still writing passages. I did 9 this week. I have no current assignment, but 12 ought to show up on Monday.
On the writing front an odd egg has wobbled a little bit. I was very surprised about that.
I sent out my first round of queries for my new novel – flat out photocopy rejection, one mild revision letter.
We lost the car keys again. Where did we find them this time? Under the wet/dry vac on the carport. Ah, the first place I should have looked; at least, that what my teenaged son tells me.
On encouragement, I've been thinking about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I went and pulled out my copy of Bring Me a Unicorn. I had forgotten how she could turn a phrase and how she infused her personality on a page.
On that note here is a nice quote from Anne:
The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach - waiting for a gift from the sea.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
I'm back to writing passages. Today's topic? Camels. I'm excited about that. Who knows what will be next!
I read books during my vacation. I finally finished Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey. This book made me squirm, shiver and shake. A girl who is part dragon. A poppy-addicted Mom. Did I mention a whole clutch of Dragons? Yes, go read it now. The first Newbery contender I've read this year.
Next up is Judy Gregerson's book, Bad Girls Club. This one uses POV to chilling effect. It's one of those uncomfortable, makes you think, shift in your seat, reevaluate the way you respond to the world books. Kudos.
I've been thinking about what comforts us. My list is short: my kids, mashed potatoes, books, and letters.
If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair. C. S. Lewis
I have a shelf of comfort books, which I read when the world closes in on me or something untoward happens. Anne McCaffrey
Like Anne, I keep a box of comfort books under my bed. What's in the box? The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander, Collected Poems by Emily Dickinson, The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin, Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, Three Against the Witch World by Andre Norton, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, The River by Gary Paulsen, Miracles on Maple Hill by Virgina Sorensen, Among the Impostors by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Chaos by James Gleick, Moon Have You Met My Mother by Karla Kuskin, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card, Austenland by Shannon Hale, The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg, The Amplified Bible.
What are your comfort books?
We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we've established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile. Earl Nightingale
Friday, May 18, 2007
I curled up with the Chronicles every night. I'd read all the books over and over again until the spines cracked and then the pages came loose and I kept them together with a rubber band. I didn't have any direction. I thought I would never go to college. I would never amount to anything. A dim light at first, and then brighter and brighter -- I mattered. I would make a difference. I would have a wonderful life. I had a purpose. I had a destiny.
I'm never going to be able to give the honor due here. His stories have served as a guiding star for me.
Dona Nobis Pacem.
Lloyd, thank you for your hard work, for your labor of love.
Angelorum te suscipiat. Aeternam habeas requiem.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
So here are my top 10 novel writing passages (ha, ha, I love to play with words).
1. The first novel.
2. The first rejection letter.
3. The second novel.
4. The first signed rejection letter.
5. The third novel.
6. The first signed rejection letter with a personal note.
7. The fourth novel.
8. The first signed rejection letter with a one page personal note.
9. The fifth novel.
10. The first signed rejection letter with a multi-page note.
Let's hope that number 6 is the first signed acceptance letter.
"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained."
Sunday, May 06, 2007
The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
I cannot imagine life without this book. I never see this on lists of favorite books and I don't understand it. The book was published in 1965 a year after the year I was born. Ms. Snyder has won three Newbery honors, but I just never hear her name when people talk about fab, fab children's writers. She is one of the greats to me.
This is a story about friendship, mystery, being lost and then finding a place in the world.
From Amazon: Robin was always "wandering off" (her mother's words) to get away from the confusion she felt inside her. It was not until Robin's father found a permanent job at the McCurdy ranch, after three years as a migrant worker, that Robin had a place to wander to. As time went by the Velvet Room became more and more of a haven for her--a place to read and dream, a place to bury one's fears and doubts, a place to count on.
Next up is Miss Hickory by Caroyln Sherwin Bailey
This one won the Newbery in 1947. I loved this book that for me celebrated the natural world.
Miss Hicory was a homemade doll made out of a stick with a hickory nut head, she has adventures, including having her head eaten, wherein she becomes a graft on an old apple tree.
Next up is a series of books that I remember throwing against the wall because I was shocked by what the author had to say. Throwing the book is an odd reflex I have. I have no control over this reflex; it is just something that has happened a few times to me. When I think about my books, I want to write books that are emotionally shocking in that way. This is Margery Sharp's series --The Rescuers, Miss Bianca and the rest.
A little girl that Miss Bianca is going to rescue is chatting to Miss Bianca and then we find out the girl is sitting on human bones; well, I tossed the book across the room.
Here are some other gems:
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill
The Girl in the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Potter
Jack and Jill, Under the Lilacs and Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott
Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars by Ellen MacGregor
Have Spacesuit Will Travel by Robert Heinlein
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
Now it's time to get serious about the novel. I'm going to work on the current novel until I get another gig. Back to Novel Push 2007. I'm going for a page count goal right now: 5 pages a day. My new book is set in the magical Big Thicket of Texas; I mean magical. Sometimes it would "snow" spiderwebs. Orchids, baygalls, pitcher planets, palmetto, bromeliads, woodpeckers, Loblollys, Sweet Gum, I felt so connected to the natural world. I believed fully that angels, aliens and ghosts were all in that tangle of woods. I also believed it was a place you could hide and only be found if you wanted to. I remember plotting, when school was being particularly nightmarish, to hide out in the Thicket and live in a blackberry patch. These patches formed these awesome caves that made great hideouts. I'm totally working on writing what I know.
I'm gearing up for the Western Washington SCBWI conference. This upcoming week, I'm going to go read something of Bruce Coville's that I haven't read before. He's actually the co-author of one my favorite books, Armageddon Summer. He's awesome but like a polar opposite to me. I'm a Mole type; he's a Frog type. Think Wind in the Willows. I was in my son's school library the other day and eavesdropped on a group of students. The librarian asked the students who their favorite author was. Hands shot up and Bruce Coville was the first name flung out. Cool. There will be editors and agents and lots of friends. Should be an happy weekend.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Monday, April 09, 2007
I really wanted to show everyone my awesome Super Easter Eggs, but my son's camera is a video camera, too, and I took movies instead of pictures of the eggs. Now the eggs have been turned into tuna salad sandwiches and it is too late to see them. I am posting the drawings of the eggs. I'm sorry if you were looking foward to this moment. If I figure out how to post the video, I will.
Here is Spidy Egg, Super Egg, Wonder Egg, Bat Egg, Flash Egg, and Green Lantern Egg (no ham).
This is a picture of the actual notebook I did the drawings in, and I have included the side-kicksL Aquaegg, Gleekegg, Wonder Twin Eggs (You've got to be a real Justice League fan.) Down there at the bottom is Robin Egg - ha, ha, ha.
From The All-New Super Friends Hour" 1977.
[Opening narration] Narrator: Gathered together from the cosmic reaches of the universe, here in this great Hall of Justice, are the most powerful forces of good ever assembled: SUPERMAN! BATMAN AND ROBIN! WONDER WOMAN! AQUAMAN! And The Wonder Twins: ZAN and JAYNA, with their space monkey, GLEEK! Dedicated to prove justice and peace for all mankind!
Jayna: Form of a falcon.
Zan: Shape of water.
And for those humming away at work!
Winnie the Pooh: Hum dum de dum, hum dum de dum. I am so rumbly in my tumbly.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Fab George Shannon shared his thoughts about how folktales are used to develop character in fiction at the recent local SCBWI meeting. Next up, Peg Kehret. Her turtle plan is something I deeply identify with. She's seen book fads come and go, but she keeps on writing her stories and they keep finding their audience. She's not a flash in the pan, but someone who is in this for the long haul. She mentioned that if you are going to add a scene with a beautiful moonlit night on the ocean to the current work that there better be some people drowning in that water. (Some great advice, folks.) I thought I would cry when she said writing saved her. I feel that way when difficult times come. Writing is a true gift. You give to it, but it gives back. My better self emerges when I write stories.
I also had lunch with grammar guru, Gail Martini-Peterson and marketer extraordinaire, Judy Gregerson, this week. Writing is lonely business and it was fun to just have lunch and chat with real live people!
I missed critique group because the whole 'not going to bed though I'm sick thing' finally caught up with me.
My Easter eggs will be posted soon! They are beyond awesome! Check out Angie Broussard's blog. She's my sister. The connection to Spider-man and Pikachu is definitely genetic.
Not everyone is meant to make a difference. But for me, the choice to lead an ordinary life is no longer an option. Peter Parker aka Spider-man
With great power must also come great responsibility. - Your friendly neighborhood, amazing Spider-man