Thanks so much for visiting HipWriterMama, my blog about children's books, authors and readergirlz!

It's time for a change. I've decided to focus my attention on my writing blog, www.vivianleemahoney.com. Hope to see you there!


Monday, April 30, 2007

Inspiration Monday: An Interview with Author Dominique Paul

For this Inspiration Monday, I thought it'd be fun sharing a recent interview I had with Dominique Paul, author and director of a movie based on her first book, The Possibility of Fireflies. Dominique was incredibly gracious with her time and answered every one of my numerous questions with quite a bit of thought.

First, I should tell you, I borrowed Dominique Paul's book The Possibility of Fireflies from the library. Ellie, the main character of the book, is such a strong girl, she made it to my Weekly Strong Girl Role Models of Children's Literature. If you haven't read this book yet, you simply must. Don't be discouraged about the pink swirly cover. Which by the way, I think is very cool. I love pink. But I know some people hate pink and will just look at it and think Eeww. Do me a favor and don't be deceived by the cover's luscious pink hue.

The Possibility of Fireflies is a wonderful coming of age story. I cried. And I was totally rooting for fourteen year old Ellie Roma, who has a fascination with Elvis Presley. Ellie has a neglectful, volatile mother and an older sister who is becoming a juvenile delinquent. Her father left and Ellie finds herself wondering whether he left because he didn't love her anymore. Ellie's mom was really neglectful and mean spirited. It just made me so sick. Gwen, Ellie's older sister, was a wild party girl who wanted to get away from he mother and out of the house. Every once in awhile she would show a little bit of kindness to Ellie, but Gwen's pain and recklessness for the most part kept Gwen in trouble and Ellie reluctant to take part.

Enter new neighbor, dishy musician, 21 year old Leo. Of course, I'm then thinking, "Uh-oh...you're gonna lose me on this." And then you find out Leo is one cool guy who helps Ellie realize that no one can save you. The ending had me on edge, waiting for what would happen. You'll find that despite the sadness of Ellie's life, Ellie finds hope, strength and survival as she reaches for the possibilities. Here is the first chapter of the book.

The first part of this two part interview is below. My questions are in blue-green bold italics. Dominique's answers are in regular print. Be forewarned: There are some SPOILERS. Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of Dominique Paul's interview.

I love your bookcover. It's so pink and cool, almost like a tattoo, but not really. I understand most authors don't really have a say to their bookcover. Did you?

I gotta give it to Simon and Schuster on this one. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the cover. I was imagining something quiet, maybe even a firefly or two, and they sent me this. I had consultation rights, but that doesn't mean much. I'm glad you think it looks like a tattoo because that's the concept. It's supposed to represent the rock n' roll aspect of the book. But I didn't think it looked rock n' roll enough. I was having a meltdown thinking that people would think it was a book about Wicca! It was a very Spinal Tap moment. I was crying and saying it looked like a fairy was going to fly out of it. It's funny now, but that was a very hard day.

What made you choose the 1980's as the time period for this book? Did you find yourself having to do alot of research to remember the days, or was it fairly easy to go back in time?

I was feeling nostalgic for the 80's and after I got a few chapters into the book, I realized this could be set in any time period so I used it. I have kept journals since I was 13 so I was re-reading a lot of those during the writing process, which I guess you could call research. There would be funny lines in my journals that were only funny in the context of the 80's. Like I was furious at a friend of mine because she still hadn't gotten an answering machine. When she finally did, it was always full (it only held ten messages). It just got me thinking about the limits we used to have that aren't there anymore and how they shape your frame of reference.

1980's music clearly plays a big part in your book. Just curious, were you listening to alot of Duran Duran and Jon Bon Jovi while writing the book? Were you thinking about the soundtrack for your movie? Will Jon Bon Jovi have a cameo appearance in your movie?

Wouldn't it be awesome if Jon Bon Jovi played the Dad in the end? Jon, are you reading this? hahaha. I wrote my book to a now defunct DirectTV satellite station called Power Rock. In the script version, I actually wrote music cues in the direction lines! Apparently no one does that. But nothing brings up memories like music. And smells. Have you ever noticed that?

What inspired you to write The Possibility of Fireflies?

I'd just turned 28 and really was feeling lost and discontented in my life. I'd been pursuing an acting career in LA and was just depleted and miserable. I'd been searching for what to do with my life for many months. I went to therapy. I started doing Yoga. I went to Sedona. Still no answers. Then, and I realize it sounds sensational, but one day out of nowhere, it just clicked. I finished my breakfast and then sat down at my computer and I wrote Chapter One. I was living with my boyfriend at the time and when I finished it, I handed it to him. I said, "I think my life's about to change." He said, "Holy shit. You're a writer."

What is your writing process or ritual?

I write in bursts. I wish I could do a few hours here and there, but I can't. When I'm writing, I'm possessed. It's three straight days in front of the computer, in my pajamas, surviving on hummus and crackers, and holding in my pee for as long as possible because I can't tear myself away. Then when I burn out, I go back to my life and I dread getting sucked back into the writing hole. It's all very bipolar.

What similarities do you find between yourself and your main character, Ellie Roma?

That's a tough one. When I was writing the book, I was as lost as Ellie was. She's a searcher and so was I at the time. We kind of found our way together. I am as overly optimistic as she is. As unrelentingly hopeful and determined. I romanticize everything like she does. Probably just as insecure as she is unfortunately. At least at that time in my life.

I was somewhat disappointed that Celia wasn't a strong best friend. I felt Ellie's and Celia's friendship was more surface level. Celia never confronted Ellie about her problems. Why did you portray Celia this way?

Part of it is Ellie's fault. Because she was so ashamed of her situation, she really didn't open up to anyone about it. In this way, she never really gave Celia the chance to step up. But at the same time, Celia had a very naive, sheltered life. Ellie didn't trust that Celia was strong enough to handle the truth, so I think she opted for superficial companionship rather than risk being judged or worse--abandoned.

I really enjoyed your book and found myself thinking of this movie I saw about 10 years ago called Beautiful Girls (1996) written by Scott Rosenberg, when I finished the book. The one similarity with your book and the movie is the exploration of the possibility of "romance" between an underage girl/young man. What made you think of this storyline and the way Leo handles Ellie's crush?

We had to have a love interest. And Ellie wouldn't be interested in a peer or a classmate. It would have to be someone extraordinary (at least to her), and yet also accessible (like a neighbor). Beautiful Girls is a good comparison, except that the age difference is bigger in the movie. I saw the movie after I wrote the book, thank God. But I see now that it's kind of a common archetypal relationship--older guy/younger girl.
I like to think the Leo truly loved Ellie. That everytime she walked away, he found himself thinking, "What if she was older?" But Leo is more of a receptacle for Ellie. A place where she could put all her love and longing. She believed she was in love, but really he was just a catalyst for helping her find herself. Which, if you think about it, is what all relationships are.

Describe your process in figuring out the ending for the book.

Crazy as it sounds, I kept trying to find a way for Ellie and Leo to end up together. But obviously, there was just no way to make that ring true. Ultimately, I realized that no one could save Ellie. No one could come into her life and fix it. She couldn't go to the Meyer's (best friend Celia) either. That would be a band-aid. She had to be her own hero. And as I thought of it, I began to see that her deepest fear is that her mother is right...that she is unloveable. I thought if she can face that fear, if she can question this "belief" about her worth, then she can triumph over anything. And so I thought, she has to go to her father and see if he wants her.

I've had some reviews that say, "Oh sure, she left a bad situation because she was lucky enough to have somewhere to go." Those people just don't get it. In the first draft, she goes to her Dad's but we never see him and we never know if he welcomes her with open arms or not. But my editor felt we needed to know, so I added a few pages. But I think his reaction is irrevelant. It's about Ellie's choice to leave home. The choice to question all you've been told is true. That's what my book is about.

How long did it take you to write the book, The Possibility of Fireflies, before you sent it out to publishers?

The book took about a year to write. Then I sent it to five agents who all passed. I was heartbroken. Then a friend, who also happened to be a TV agent, suggested I turn the novel into a screenplay. That's how I broke into screenwriting. It was through my screenwriting agent that I finally found a book agent in 2004.

How long did it take before your book was accepted by Simon and Schuster?

Once I got my agent, Diane Bartoli in late 2004, she submitted the book to publishers in early 2005. Within a week there was a bidding war. I couldn't believe it. Ultimately, we went with Simon and Schuster.

Do you find screenwriting different from writing books? How?

At first I hated screenwriting. I found the structure very suffocating. There's a formula: a three act structure and certain important plot points that must hit on the right page number, etc. But now, I like it. There's comfort in knowing what the rules are.

What has been the hardest thing you have had to do regarding your book?

That's tough. First of all, clearly the Universe thought I needed to learn patience! If you told me in 2002 when I finished writing the book that it wouldn't be published until 2006, I would have jumped off a building. And then the two years it's taken to get the film going? Absolute torture for me. So that's been hard, and also the sacrifices I've made to get to this point. There isn't a lot of time or energy left for friends and relationships. Some friends have gotten mad that I'm less available, they think success is going to my head or something. But this has taken everything I have and there isn't room for much else at the moment. It can be lonely. My best friend told me that one day this book/movie will give back to me everything I've given to it. I like to think she's right.

Clearly, you're a woman who loves possibilities and is willing to give your all to getting things to happen. What advice would you give to the Ellie's of the world?

Thank you for saying that. I take that as a huge compliment. Maybe it's OCD, but once I get the notion that something is possible, I can't stop until it's manifested. What else is there? For me it's all about creating something from nothing. The harder the better apparently. For the Ellie's of the world, I would just like to say: You are everything you secretly dream you are and more. Even if you don't have evidence of that in your immediate surroundings, one day when you are ready, you will go out into the world and create it for yourself. Just keep the faith, have courage and work your little butts off!

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out more about how Dominique became the director to the movie based on her book, her advice for writers and screenwriters, and her biggest surprise through her whole adventure surrounding The Possibility of Fireflies. Here is Part Two of Dominique Paul's interview.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Sunday's List: The Magic or Madness Trilogy

This week I remained captive to the Magic or Madness Trilogy by Australian writer Justine Larbalestier. The three books that comprise the trilogy are Magic or Madness, Magic Lessons and Magic's Child. These YA books are geared toward teens ages 14 and up.

As I'm not really into the fantasy genre, I really wasn't sure what I'd think about Magic or Madness. Well, after reading Magic or Madness, I realized I needed to find out what happened next. It was that good. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to find a copy of Magic Lessons. Then on Friday, just as I finished Magic Lessons, I found out from my library that they had a copy of the recently released Magic's Child...just for me. I just love the library!

Justine Larbalestier crafted quite a wonderful, intriguing trilogy...full of twists and turns...love, friendship, family, loyalty, trust, mathematics, good, evil, betrayal, and of course, lots of magic. These books are set mainly set in Australia and New York City. There's even a glossary at the end of each book that gives a definition for Australian words. I must say, this was quite a neat way to read a trilogy...I didn't have to wait a year or two between books to find out what happens next. I could just hunker down and read all the books to my heart's content. This was a real treat.

I won't tell you what happens in the last book, Magic's Child, since the book just came out. But I will promise you won't be disappointed. It is simply engaging with a very cool ending. Which left me to wonder...hmmm...perhaps Justine Larbalestier could be convinced to write one more book?

And now, A Sunday's List:

1. Reason, Jay-Tee from Magic and Madness by Justine Larbelestier, ages 14 and up: 15 year old Reason Cansino is afraid of her grandmother. Reason's mother, Sarafina, has taught Reason how to run and hide from her grandmother; they have spent years moving about the bush and changing their names to hide from Sarafina's mother, Esmeralda.

One day, Sarafina goes a bit batty, and Reason soon finds herself on a plane to stay with her grandmother. Sarafina is placed in an institution. Reason won't interact with Esmeralda, and instead, checks out Esmeralda's house to find answers to Sarafina's teachings. Reason finds the door to New York City-it is the back kitchen door of Esmeralda's house. Nothing like travelling from Australia to New York City is a moment's time.

Reason is one tough cookie. She is a mathematical brainiac. Reason is logical, brave, proactive, and not afraid to speak up for herself and to push back on other people.

Jay-Tee is the girl Reason meets in New York City who is out to look after herself only. Jay-Tee manipulates Reason a bit and then feels guilty. Jay-Tee eventually becomes truthful with Reason. They soon become friends. Jay-Tee is fun, brave, fiesty and likes to live a bit on the wild side. Reason soon learns she is magic and questions all her mother has taught her.

Reason, Jay-Tee and Tom, the boy next door, are all magic. Jay-Tee and Tom are more experienced with the magic. Reason soon learns that either they use the magic and live a short life. Or they don't use the magic and go insane.

2. Reason, Jay-Tee, Esmeralda from Magic Lessons by Justine Larbelestier, ages 14 and up: Reason, Jay-Tee and Tom, the boy next door, hang out and learn magic from Esmeralda. All of them worry about the magic or madness choice. Jay-Tee has used much too much magic and realizes she doesn't have much time to live. Reason goes on quite the adventure where she shows her persistence, courage, loyalty and bravery. Jay-Tee believes in Reason. She fights for Reason and realizes how nice it is to have a friend her age. And while Esmeralda is still not totally trusted, she becomes quite a protector of her magic students.

3. Reason, Jay-Tee, Esmeralda from Magic's Child by Justine Larbeslestier, ages 14 and up: Oh, you'll just have to read this final book in the Magic or Madness Trilogy. It was just released, so I won't tell you a thing. Except you won't be able to put it down. And that is something, coming from a person who just tolerates fantasy tales.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Poetry Friday: Writing Time--Time to Make the Donuts

Here's a lovely poem by William Wordsworth to get me thinking. Cloudscome is hosting Poetry Friday today. Go on over, leave a comment with your poetry submission, and check out some wonderful poetry.

Most Sweet It Is
by William Wordsworth

Most sweet it is with unuplifted eyes
To pace the ground, if path be there or none,
While a fair region round the traveller lies
Which he forbears again to look upon;
Pleased rather with some soft ideal scene,
The work of Fancy, or some happy tone
Of meditation, slipping in between
The beauty coming and the beauty gone.
If Thought and Love desert us, from that day
Let us break off all commerce with the Muse:
With Thought and Love companions of our way,
Whate'er the senses take or may refuse,
The Mind's internal heaven shall shed her dews
Of inspiration on the humblest lay.

When I was little, I was quite amused by the Dunkin Donuts TV commercials. I really can't remember much about the commercials except for the fact the donut man would always get up early, and repeat in a monotone voice, "Time to make the donuts." And no matter what the circumstance, the donut man would get to the bakery to make donuts because he clearly loved to do so. He was committed to the process and wanted to make those donuts. No matter what.

At least this is how I remember the commercial. Commitment to a project and the willingness to make the time to write are some obvious things that are required for success as a writer. But as we all know...Stuff happens. We might be tired, we might have lost our creative flow, or perhaps, we were sucked into Procrastination City. There also may be other pressing things in our lives that require constant attention.

The thing is, okay, this is what I personally believe, we gotta get through this muck and commit to the time, the project, the dream. It can sure be hard going. Many people have full time jobs, have kids, or have other responsibilities they need to juggle. But they still find the time, and are committed to making their dream happen.

I need long stretches of time to get my best writing done. I can think, edit, research, and make my notes. There is no way I can concentrate on my writing when the kids or my husband (I work for him part-time...) require my full attention, so most of my writing is done when the kids are fast asleep. Sure, I can write in the scraps of time I can find throughout the day, but I need to juggle around stuff and kids. I find it difficult to get back to the bits and pieces I've worked on. So I adapted. And that doesn't bother me, because I'd rather have the the time I need to work on my stuff.

What do you do to make the time?

Quick Note: Come back this Monday, April 30th, to read my interview with first time author Dominique Paul, author of The Possibility of Fireflies. Find out her tips for writers and screenwriters. And be inspired by her journey on how she wrote her first book, the screenplay for her movie and her new career as Director for her movie.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Deer Tick Trouble: Help Please!

I was a bit freaked out this morning. I found a disgusting tick on the crease of 3 year old's right arm this morning, hanging out, sucking away at her blood. Of course I panicked. All I'm thinking is, Oh no! Lyme Disease. Rocky Spotted Mountain Fever. Check out the other tick-borne diseases. Need. Doctor. Now.

Thankfully, hubby was around barking orders. Get the tweezers! A glass full of water! Find a lollipop! Take the tweezers and pull it out!

What? You mean you're not gonna do it? No, in my family, I'm the one that has to do all the yicky yucky stuff regarding blood, gore and anything remotely disgusting. He hugs 3 year old, and starts instructing me on how to do it. Go to the base of the tick with the tweezers. Pull him straight out. Oh. You got him!! Put him in the water. Hurry! The head's still in her. Get a needle. You gotta pick it out. No. Go deeper. Be aggressive! Don't wimp out! The head's digging in! Gotta get it out!! No you're not doing it right! I finally thrust the darn needle and tweezer at him so he can do it. But he can't bear the thought of hurting her.

I'm sweating and ready to throttle him. 3 year old is in hysterics. She starts hyperventilating, collapses and vomits all over herself. Clearly, it's time to clean her up and take her to the pediatrician. Let's not forget to bring the tick so they can identify the bloody thing.

To make short of this long, emotionally draining experience, it was a deer tick. The type that can cause Lyme Disease. A couple of nurses tried to get the head out. No success. Our pediatrician, who is the most amazing pediatrician ever, tried to calm me down. He then proceeds to tell me that new studies are out that indicate it doesn't matter whether you can't get the tick head out. The disease carrying spirochetes are in the tick body, so as long as it's out, there's no need to further traumatize the child.

Well I was grossed out about a tick head lodged inside my child's arm. Plus, if it turns out my child ends up with Lyme Disease, I'm gonna think, it was that tick head. So traumatize her more, we did. Sob. In case anyone is interested, here are the correct removal procedures for ticks.

So now we have 2 - 3 weeks of waiting, to see if a rash develops. And if so, she will get aggressive antibiotic treatment.

We're out in a populated suburb, but clearly safe enough for deer and wild turkey to want to hang out. For any of you out there, any suggestions on how to make sure the deer don't come around our yard? Is there something safe we can use outside the perimeter of the house to prevent these little weasels from sneaking in?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Keeping Track of Writing Ideas

Lately, I've just been a swirl of ideas; all jumbling around in my brain. I've taken to writing them down in a notebook. But there are many times when I get these brilliant thoughts, and of course I'm unable to write anything down. Like when I'm driving, or in the grocery store, or have my hands all slimy from one of the kid's art project. And by the time I have access to pen and paper, I've lost part of the essence of the idea.

I've been thinking about getting a mini cassette recorder. Maybe that will help. What do you do to keep track of your ideas?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Inspiration Monday: Connect the Dots, Do What You Love, Follow Your Heart and Intuition

Steve Jobs is quite an interesting man. Whether you like him or not, you have to agree, he has accomplished incredible things in his life. At a young age, Jobs did what he wanted to do--he followed his heart. While in high school, Jobs worked summers at Hewlett-Packard with Steve Wozniak. He attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon and dropped out after one semester. He backpacked across India. When Jobs was 21, he started Apple with Wozniak. No college degree. No money. Just pure drive, determination, smarts and a dream.

Jobs was the 2005 Commencement Speaker at Stanford University. I recently discovered his speech and found it inspiring. Jobs shares three stories. Here are the highlights. I think you will be inspired.

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

"Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle. "

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Here's the link for the text to the 2005 Stanford University Commencement Address of Steve Jobs.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Catalyst and A Sunday's List

I picked up Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson because I like the intensity of Anderson's writing as she portrays the problems of young teens. And I wasn't disappointed. Type A Kate Malone is a high school senior who runs to escape her feelings. Her father is a preacher, who is more into tending to his flock than his family. Her mother is dead. And Kate takes care of the household and her asthmatic brother. She struggles with her identity as "Good Kate" and "Bad Kate." And if that's not enough stress, Kate is also a Chemistry whiz, a cross country runner, and is totally obsessed with getting into MIT. The only college she applied to.

Kate's life changes as she finds out she didn't get accepted into MIT. She then finds out her neighbor Teri Lynch, the girl who has habitually bullied her, will be moving in for awhile. I was a little disappointed because I felt the relationship Kate and Teri developed was a bit rushed. There was just too much lack of trust to have a relationship develop that quickly. I also had some questions on how Kate managed to deal with being a MIT reject, to dealing with no future college, to being cool with her situation.

I really liked Catalyst. I found the characters likeable and subject matter very realistic. It is an intense read. Can you believe I was feeling Kate's stress? This book made me go back 20 some years ago and think about when I was a high school senior waiting for my acceptance letters. I applied to four colleges, three safety schools and my One. It was my One I was waiting for, that got me all in a mess. I rebelliously told my parents I wouldn't go there because it was their dream. Secretly, I obsessed. To this day, I still remember the despair, stress, anxiety and total elation when I found out I was accepted. Amazing how much power a letter or packet can have.

And now, A Sunday's List of Strong Girl Role Models in Children's Literature:

1. Kate Malone and Teri Litch from Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson, ages 15 and up: Type A Kate Malone and bully Teri Litch. Two opposite people who find themselves, through circumstances, leaning on each other for help and support. Kate does so much to help out at home. She is smart and strong, but put all her eggs in one basket. When she finds out she doesn't get into MIT, she breaks down. Bully Teri Lynch and her brother Mikey end up moving into Kate's home when their house burns. Teri is strong enough to stand up to a group of football players who tease her. She is protective and wants so much for her brother. Kate and Teri learn there is more to each other and help each other through a major tragedy.

2. Ellie Roma from The Possibility of Fireflies by Dominique Paul, ages 14 and up: What a wonderful book. Ellie Roma is a fourteen year old girl who realizes that she can grab at the possibilities of her life and go after whatever she wants. Ellie is a sweet, vulnerable girl who has a neglectful, volatile mother and a sister who is running wild. Despite the sadness of Ellie's life, she finds hope and reaches for the possibilities.

This is Dominique Paul's first book. She is currently working on the movie based on her book--she wrote the screenplay and will be directing the movie! I will be featuring an interview with Dominique very soon. You'll find out what inspired her to write the book, how she became a director, her advice for aspiring writers and screenwriters and how she embraced the possibilities in her life. We'll even touch on the subject of tattoos, rock and roll, and more...Stay Tuned!

3. Billy's mother from How To Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell, ages 9-12: Okay, okay, this book is all about the boys, but it is quite amusing. Yucky, but entertaining with its rhymes and pranks. Billy makes a bet with his friends and has to eat 15 worms, 1 a day for 15 days. If he does it, he wins $50 for a shiny, new motorbike. Billy's mother is all freaked out when she realizes her little boy has been eating worms. She calls the doctor and when he reassures her, she is all set to support her boy. When Billy's friends come a knocking, asking her to make sure Billy eats his worms while they are away, Billy's mother saves the day with some tasty ways to eat worms. Now that's a strong mother!

4. Stevie, Alex and Joey from The Sisters Club by Megan McDonald, ages 9 - 12: The three Reel sisters, Stevie, Alex and Joey, all contribute journal entries into this book. It is mainly narrated by middle sister Stevie. I had a hard time getting into this book. It wasn't until I was half way through the book, when I finally started enjoying it. With that said, the sisters love to hang out together and form The Sisters Club, because sisters are forever. Even though the sisters fight, they end up resolving their differences when it really counts to help each other out. The sisters are fun, smart, loving, loyal, talented and earnest.

5. Pinky, Dot and Babs from Three Sisters by Audrey Wood, ages 4 - 8: This easy reader has three short stories about the three pig sisters, Pinky, Dot and Babs. They goof on each other, but are quite supportive of each other. They are not afraid to say things and do their best to make everyone happy. The illustrations are a bit strange...the sisters look like troll pigs.

6. Esther Morris from I Could Do That! Esther Morris Gets Women The Vote By Linda Arms White, ages 4 - 8: Esther Morris was quite instrumental in getting women to vote in Wyoming. She was the first female judge and the first female to hold political office in the United States. This enthusiastic picture book shows Esther Morris accomplishing quite a bit, with her mantra, "I Could Do That!"

Saturday/Sunday Wanderings, Part II

The 13th Carnival of Children's Literature is up! Jen Robinson did a great job organizing this. You'll have a multitude of posts to delight your reading taste buds.

There was quite a bit of commotion around the kidlitosphere regarding Roger Sutton's post on This is why I don't have a blogroll. Or friends in response to Fuse #8's post on Sillies.

Chasing Ray addresses this in You Can't Buy My Love and Existential Crisis: First in a Series of Reviewing. Finding Wonderland has a post and an entertaining cartoon about this.

Mother Reader, Jen Robinson, Original Content, and Liz B. are other bloggers that have intelligent posts about this. All quite interesting and gives us something to think about.

[Edited to add: I just noticed Roger Sutton's post on Why Do I Review Books? Here's Grace Lin's post I'm Part of the Problem... Libby Koponen writes a post on Thoughts on Reviewers. Caroline Hickey notices the trends of first time authors for Marketing Your First Book.]

I am loving Alkelda the Gleeful's creative posts on Children's Books That Never Were. Check out this one called the MisGiving Tree.

Kelly has a fun post to think about, Books That Make Me Ask: "Am I Alone Here?"

Elaine Magliaro posted about how she would look up poems for us...I love her ending comment, "Please be reasonable in your requests." Hee hee. Well, she did it! Great job Elaine!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Saturday Wanderings

I am in total peace right now, despite a raging headache. My dear husband has taken the children off on a seashore adventure. I am left with some quiet and so much to do.

I must say, this was a relatively tough week. There was so much sadness and contemplation. So it was nice to be able to visit Robin Brande for a much needed dose of The Friday List (nice things you did for yourself this week). I thought I'd need to pull at straws to find something nice I did for myself, but there was much to be happy for.

A Wrung Sponge and 7-Imp have tributes for Poetry Friday about praying for hope for the students at Virginia Tech and links to the text and video for Nikki Giovanni's Convocation Address.

The links below, courtesy of The New York Times, share a little bit about the beautiful young individuals that lost their lives last week at Virginia Tech. May God bless them and watch over their families as they try to find hope in their grief and loss.

Ross Abdallah Alameddine
Jamie Bishop
Brian Bluhm
Ryan Clark
Austin Cloyd
Jocelyne Couture-Nowak
Kevin P. Granata
Matthew Gwaltney
Caitlin Hammaren
Jeremy Herbstritt
Rachael Elizabeth Hill
Emily Jane Hilscher
Matthew Joseph La Porte
Jarrett Lane
Henry J. Lee
Liviu Librescu
G.V. Loganathan
Partahi Lumbantoruan
Lauren Ashley McCain
Daniel Patrick O'Neil
Juan Ramon Ortiz
Minal Hiralal Panchal
Erin Nicole Peterson
Daniel Perez (Daniel Perez Cueva)
Michael Steven Pohle, Jr.
Julia Pryde
Mary Karen Read
Reema Samaha
Waleed Shaalan
Leslie Geraldine Sherman
Maxine Turner
Nicole Regina White

Cho's family issued a statement full of grief and agony over the Virginia Tech horror. The Daily Kos: State of the Nation asks people to include Cho's family in their thoughts and prayers. I agree with this one, his family are victims in this as well. They are reeling from the horror of this tragedy and have much guilt, grief and shame to overcome. Please, let's be respectful of them. Not only have they lost a family member; they now have the weight of the Virginia Tech tragedy on their shoulders.

Korean Americans have been so upset about this tragedy, they have been apologizing for Cho's act of horrendous violence, and worried about the repercussions. Author Jenny Han, one of The Longstockings, asks Why? Here are two blogs I discovered (Thanks Dad!) of Americans who are living in Korea and their take on things: The Marmot's Hole has a post which is updated with new information regarding the shooting at Virginia Tech and the reactions from Koreans. Scribblings of the Metropolitician has interesting posts. He's an American expat living in Korea, is half Korean, but...is he for Korea or against? One particular post I found intriguing is Who Is This Guy? which explains why he writes the way he writes.

It has been written that Cho emulated a horror film. Cho's English professors, one which was Nikki Giovanni, banned him from their classes because of his disturbed writing. Clearly writing is subjective. What one person considers to be disturbed writing will be another person's form creative expression. Which led me to wonder When Is Writing Considered to Be Warped?

This has been such a sad time. There are so many questions. Very few answers. So much promise lost. So much grief and anguish to absorb. I hope we don't ever see this again. Ever.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

When Is Writing Considered To Be Warped?

I have been so upset about the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech. I can't stand the senseless loss of so many promising young lives. I grieve for their beautiful lives...the unbearable grief, anger and incredible agony of their families...and the unfortunate lessons we need to learn from this. I am horrified by the vicious, destructive imaginings, biting anger, and intense loneliness of the individual responsible for this. I wonder what has happened in his life to bring him to this brutal act. And I grieve for his family, who is undoubtedly suffering alone in their painful shame, loss and incomprehension. I pray for everyone who has been touched by this unbelievable madness.

This is such a sad time for our nation and our youth. We teach our young to be vigiliant and trust their gut warnings about lurking danger. We entrust others to ensure our protection from the unknown. Yet, no matter how vigilant, good, kind, intelligent or brave we are, it still doesn't prevent sickness from creeping in and invading.

I am struck with how the killer's Creative Writing and English professors recognized his disturbed writing and had him banned from their classes. In 2005.

And I wonder. At what point is gruesome writing considered to be warped? Personally, I can't read or watch anything with an element of horror. It gives me the heebie jeebies, and I would never be able to sleep. But in all seriousness, there are so many books, movies, and games geared towards the younger generation, that I consider to be horrific and warped, but are clearly considered by others to be creative and profitable.

Is there a difference between a disturbed college student's writing and the sick, gruesome books, movies and games out there? If so, I'd like to know what. Because writing is so subjective, and one person's view of disturbed sickness and reality will be another person's view of interesting entertainment. At what point, do we say Stop! This is not acceptable!? So people will hear it? Please, someone, help me understand.

What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail Challenge Ends

Thanks to all who took the time to think about your goals and dreams, write it down in a concrete mission statement, and share it. Everyone has wonderful goals and I'm thrilled you took part in this exercise. Much better than just thinking and dreaming, isn't it? Doesn't it make you feel braver and much more action oriented? You are on your way!

I put everyone's name in a bowl and let 8 year old choose the winning name. The moment you've all been waiting for...NYC Teacher! Congratulations! Send me your name and address to my e-mail: hipwritermama@comcast.net with the prize you would like.

I'll have another Challenge up in a couple more weeks to help you reach your goals.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Inspiration Monday: I've Got My Mission Statement...Now What?

By now, most of you should have your mission statement written down. The deadline for submitting your mission statement to me for the What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail? Mission Statement Challenge is this Wednesday, April 18th at 9pm, EST. You can add your mission statement to the comments, post a comment to let me know you'll send me your mission statement via e-mail (so your e-mail isn't filtered out), or link to this post with your mission statement. You can find the rules and prize information right here.

So. Now what? You've written your mission statement. You've shared this with someone else and have a great cheerleading team behind you. So. Now. It's time for you make steps toward achieving your dream. Some people are able to just dive right in and go at it until they reach their goals. Others might need a bit of handholding and encouragement.

Regardless of where you fit in the spectrum, personally, I believe there are a few things that will determine what type of journey we will have as we work toward our dreams.

Get Rid of Your Mental Junk
Most of us have years of negative self talk stored away in our brains. Maybe someone told us we weren't good enough, smart enough, talented enough. Or someone may have laughed at what we were doing. Or harshly criticized our efforts. Or, some kind hearted person may have told us, too many people have failed at trying to do the same thing, to spare us the effort. Fear surfaces. Doubts multiply. We stall.

This mental junk is quite tricky. It oozes in the crevices of our brains and manages to infiltrate our minds with no warning. It dictates how we act, react, and go about our daily lives. Isn't it time we gave the negative self talk the boot?

Enough is enough. Clearly we won't be able to erase years worth of mental junk in a day. But, if we take baby steps, we can work towards hope and possibilities without the mental junk dragging us down. One minute at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time. This reshifting of attitude will certainly loosen up the hold of the negative self talk. And as we change our attitude, we'll find our habits and behavior changing. This refreshing change will help energize us when we need it most.

The No Excuses, No Blame Rule
Don't point the finger. No excuses. Stuff happens. We all know that. But instead of blaming your parents, your spouse, your kids, your dog, your cat, your neighbors, your roommates, your school, your job, your hair, the weather, or Mr. Nobody--take charge and be accountable for your actions. The fun thing is that people won't expect it and will be awed. The best thing is you'll find yourself reworking things because it's all you, baby, all you.

Hard Work and Discipline Required
The mission statement we created will help us visualize how we're gonna get to our goals. We might need to revise our mission statement every once in awhile as we move closer to our goals, but for the most part, it will keep us on track. Now I want to be clear. Just because you've visualized your dream, it doesn't mean it will automatically happen. Unless you have a mysterious fairy godmother you'd like to share. I won't tell.

It's gonna take lots of hard work on a regular basis to get to your dream. Discipline will be key to perfecting your craft on a regular basis. Ouch. I never said this was gonna be easy. However, it will be so worth the effort. You'll see. You can do this.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Sunday's List of 70 Books

I figured this would be a good time to organize a list of all the books that have made it to my weekly Sunday's List of Strong Girl Role Models that I've read so far this year. There are 70 books! What an accomplishment! Over the next couple of days, I'll categorize these books into age groups so it'll be easier for people to find books for their children.

And now, The List of 70 Books from A Sunday's List of Strong Girl Role Models in Children's Literature:

1. Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
2. Millicent Min and Emily Ebers from Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee
3. Millicent Min and Emily Ebers from Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time by Lisa Yee
4. Charlotte from Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
5. Junie B. Jones from any of the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Parks
6. Miss Delphinium Twinkle from Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
7. Miri from Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
8. Becky and Abby from Fault Line by Janet Tashjian
9. Cousins Lily, Tess, Rosie and Aunt Lucy from The Cobble Street Cousins by Cynthia Rylant
10. Olivia from Olivia Kidney by Ellen Potter

11. Olivia from Olivia Kidney and the Exit Academy by Ellen Potter
12. Aunt Celeste, Madame Vera and Lila from Lila Bloom by Alexander Stadler
13. Princess and Queen from The Princess and the Pea by Lauren Childs
14. Clementine from Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
15. Thora from Thora: A Half Mermaid Tale by Gillian Johnson
16. Susie Salmon, her sister Lindsay, Grandma Lynn, and Ruth from The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
17. Annabel and Lucy from The Steps by Rachel Cohn
18. Princess Allie, Princess Mellie and Princess Libby from Princesses Are Not Quitters by Kate Lum
19. Claire from Claire and the Unicorn happy ever after by B.G. Hennessy
20. Dona Flor from Dona Flor by Pat Mora

21. BabyMouse from BabyMouse, Queen of the World! by brother and sister team Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
22. Syvvia, Dora, their mother, their father, and so many more - Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy 23. Queen of Attolia, Queen of Eddis and all the Goddesses from The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
24. Ivy and Bean from Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall
25. Millicent Madding, Miss Ogelvie the librarian, Goody Constance Madding, long lost Aunt Felicity from The Misadventures of Millicent Madding: Bully-Be-Gone by Brian Tacang
26. Pacy, her Mom, best friend Melody from The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin
27. Ruby Lu, her mom, her grandma from Ruby Lu, Brave and True by Lenore Look
28. Kiki Kitty aka Fashion Kitty, Mother Kitty and Mary Jane Tabby from Fashion Kitty by Charise Mericle Harper
29. Trixie and her mom from Knuffle Bunny A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems
30. Shug, Celia, her dysfunctional mother from Shug by Jenny Han

31. Grace, her sister Delia, her mother, teacher Miss Lesley, and Arthur's mother from Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop
32. Zelda and Ivy from Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways by Laura McGee Kvasnosky
33. Holly from Stellina by Matteo Pericoli
34. Molly from Molly's in a Mess by Suzy Kline
35. Ruby Lu, Flying Duck from Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything by Lenore Look
36. Catherine from Rules by Cynthia Lord
37. Judy Moody from Judy Moody, M.D.: The Doctor is In! by Megan McDonald
38. Rosella, twin sister Myrtle, and Fairy Ethelinda from The Fairy's Mistake by Gail Carson Levine
39. Lorelei, Queen Hermione from The Princess Test by Gail Carson Levine
40. Mercy Watson, Mrs. Watson, and Baby Lincoln from Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride by Kate DiCamillo

41. Amanda Pig from Amanda Pig, School Girl by Jean Van Leeuwen
42. Penny and her mother from Penny From Heaven by Jennifer Holm
43. Danitra Brown, teacher Miss Volchek from Danitra Brown, Class Clown by Nikki Grimes
44. Mama Love, The Great Lady of Peace, Patience, The Invisible Princess from The Invisible Princess by Faith Ringgold
45. Isabella aka Sojourner Truth from Only Passing Through, The Story of Sojourner Truth by Anne Rockwell
46. Lucy Rose, her mom, Madam, best friend Jonique from Lucy Rose: Here's the Thing About Me by Katy Kelly
47. Bella, godmother Aunt Maude, foster mother Beatrice, stepsister Alice from Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley
48. Summer and May from Missing May by Cynthia Rylant
49. Martha Boyle, her grandmother Godbee from Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
50. 20 extraordinary women from Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull

51. 26 inspirational women from Amelia to Zora: Twenty-six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee
52. 15 year old Patty Ho, camp friends Anne and Jasmine, Auntie Lu, and Patty's mother from Nothing But The Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley
53. 12th Wise Woman and The Princess from Sleeping Bobby by husband and wife team Will Osborne and Mary Pope Osborne (author of the Magic Tree House series)
54. The Queen and the Frog Princess from The Frog Princess by Laura Cecil
55. Oonagh from Finn MacCoul and His Fearless Wife: A Giant of a Tale from Ireland by Robert Byrd
56. Clare and Mabel from On Pointe by Lorie Ann Grover
57. Melinda from Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
58. Patricia and her babushka (grandmother) from My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco
59. Tricia and her mother from Rotten Ritchie and the Ultimate Dare by Patricia Polacco
60. Violet from Arthur's Back to School Day by Lillian Hoban

61. Becca from The Patch by Justina Chen Headley
62. Virginia Shreves and teacher Ms. Crowley from The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
63. Aunt Sara from Surrender by Sonya Hartnett
64. Roxie from roxie and the hooligans by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
65. Melanie from The Diary of Melanie Martin: or how I Survived Matt the Brat, Michelango, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa by Carol Weston
66. Little Sister from The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman
67. C.C. (Cyd Charisse), her mother Nancy, gal pals Helen and Autumn, and Sugar Pie from Shrimp by Rachel Cohn
68. Cyd Charisse and Sugar Pie from Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn
69. Margaret, her mother, her grandma Sylvia Simon from Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume
70. Sheila from Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

Thursday, April 12, 2007

50 Things

First of all, I have to tell you, I gave myself fifteen minutes to write this post. Gotta finish these darn taxes. Today. That's the only way I'll be able to treat myself to a trip to Jordan's Furniture. Where there are many rooms of furniture, just waiting to be hand selected by me. And if I buy a much needed sofa by Monday, April 16th, and if the Boston Red Sox win the 2007 Major League Baseball World Series, I am in for a treat with a rebate. That would just be too cool. The Boston Red Sox winning. A nice leather sofa. I would be so happy.

But right now, I am in an overwhelmed state of mind. Because I'm a bit of a procrastinator when I really don't enjoy a project at hand. Like my taxes. Which should have been organized quite a long time ago. Like by the end of last year. Or if I had a great system, it would have been done throughout the year, so there would be nary a sweat on my brow. Or if I applied Robin Brande's Great DeCluttering Experiment to this sordid topic, I would be so completely done. But I didn't. And am berating myself.

But. I remembered Robin's recent post where she shares this article from Real Simple that challenges you to Declutter Your Mind and Think Clearly. 50 Things. 50 Things! Out of your mind and out of your life. And I thought, now I am going to go out of my mind. Then I read the article more carefully, and realized you can combine your house clutter and your mind clutter to equal those 50 Things. But you have to write everything down, so you have a record to celebrate the clutter you threw out.

In some ways, I relish this process because I am a person who loves organization. My friends may snicker because I am perhaps the most disorganized person alive. Truly though, when everything has a place and things are neat and organized, I can think clearly, relax and write. When things are a mess and all over the place, I can't think and it really creates a havoc of its own.

And this mental clutter, which works in mysterious ways to stop me from moving towards my dreams...well, it really does have to be given the boot, doesn't it? So, I figure I just need an adjustment of my attitude. Here are just a few things:

1. I'm gonna be grateful I found my two missing eyeglass lenses. Okay, this is where I found something because I decluttered.
2. Life would not be better if I were taller. I'm just the right height.
3. I am going to schedule regular times to write in the daytime. Because I deserve it. Not just in the night hours when the kiddies are asleep.
4. I don't have to continue working and repacking everything from the diningroom table everyday. I will create my own little workspace where I can organize and write by the end of May.
5. I'm not gonna beat myself over things I didn't do. I'll do it differently next time.
6. I can and I will. Because I can.

Okay, this took a little longer than fifteen minutes. But I feel so much better. Back to work.

Bold Mouse in the House

A few moments ago,
I made a rather gross discovery.
I've got a bold mouse
on the loose in my house!

He's under the stove
and creeped out tonight.
I saw him, I screamed
and he freaked out.

Back under the stove he quickly went,
then peeked out
and inched out
to see where I went.

I'm trapped in the kitchen
perched high on a chair.
Wondering, where there's one...
GULP...could there be more?

There's nary a crumb
on my pristine clean floor,
What in the world
made this little guy come here?

Quick! Help is needed!
I beg on bended knee.
How to trap this quick little mouse
so I can set him free outside my house?
I am so, so, so grossed out!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Inspiration Monday: Oh, The Places You'll Go!

I discovered Dr. Seuss's book, Oh, The Places You'll Go!, when it first came out in the early 1990's. I love this book. It mixes enthusiastic cheers for those days when you are so on, soothing whispers of encouragement for the really bad days, and the what are you gonna do about it attitude for the days you simply just wait. Oh, The Places You'll Go! was perhaps one of my favorite gifts to send along to friends and family who were off to new adventures--whether it was new job, starting a company, or pursuing their studies. I would write a nice letter to them on the inside cover and then fill the inside cover with with what I thought were inspirational quotes. I offer up a few quotes to you today, to help you glean whatever message you need from these wise words.

If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.
~ Thomas Edison

It's time to start living the life you've imagined.
~ Henry James

Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.
~ George Washington Carver

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
~ Sir Winston Churchill

Do something every day that you don't want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.
~ Mark Twain

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

I have a little motivational journal I started in sixth grade. It's rather tattered and has offered me quiet encouragement over the years. One of my favorite poems from my journal is this one:

by Edgar Albert Guest

Figure it out for yourself, my lad,
You've all that the greatest of men have had,
Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes,
And a brain to use if you would be wise.
With this equipment they all began,
So start for the top and say "I can."

You are the handicap you must face,
You are the one who must choose your place,
You must say where you want to go.
How much you will study the truth to know,
God has equipped you for life,
But He Lets you decide what you want to be.

Courage must come from the soul within,
The man must furnish the will to win,
So figure it out for yourself, my lad,
You were born with all that the great have had,
With your equipment they all began.
Get hold of yourself, and say: "I can."

And remember, next Wednesday, April 18th is the deadline for submitting your mission statement to me. You can either post it in the comments or post in the comments that you will e-mail your mission statement to me and then e-mail it to me. The purpose of this thought provoking exercise is this: First, this will make you accountable to your goals and dreams. Second, you'll have a chance to win one of three cool prizes. Details here.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Poetry Friday: A Salute to Shel Silverstein

I discovered Shel Silverstein about eleven years ago...from...two of my nephews. My nephews loved Shel Silverstein's books. From Where the Sidewalk Ends to The Giving Tree to Falling Up, these little guys were the ones who taught me how wonderful poetry can be. Now it's my turn to share these great poems with my little ones. So this original salute to Shel is dedicated to my grown up college boys B & B.

A Salute to Shel Silverstein
by HipWriterMama

You can celebrate National Poetry Month in so many ways,
there's no right way or wrong way, just do it today!
Pull up a chair and stay here awhile,
as I share with you, enlighten you, about poetry I love.

A non-poet I am, I must truly confess,
sometimes sweet lovely poetry is not always my thing.
My eyes glaze right over, I stifle a yawn,
but read it I must for life's truth can be found!

But then I found Shel
and his poems made me think.
Poems can be fun and wacky,
thoughtful and light!

Shel Silverstein is a poet I admire alot,
He lets me dream and imagine, and just have real fun!
Shel's colorful drawings, quite expressive I'd say.
Very cool magic for simple black and white.

Young kids and old
will just smile and cackle.
They'll discover some new things
to discuss with each other.

For instance, instead of begging your children to clean,
calm down, relax and recite some neat poems.
Tell your kids, Oh No! you don't have to pick toys up.
Snarl and growl about the The Toy Eater.
And stifle a giggle and jiggle your butt.

Or shake things up
and trick your kids,
"Who wants a Cheap Rhinoceros?"
And all they asked for was a cute little pet!

When your child is sad and can't find The Missing Piece to herself.
Sometimes hearing this thoughtful poem will help her think of a way.
Open your mind,and explore a New World,
just remember to leave the nasty Whatifs right outside the door.

Here's where my salute ends to cool, hip Shel.
Go find his wondrous books to read out loud,
Or celebrate National Poetry Month and teach some great kids.
Or listen to Shel's Underwater Land if you'd rather dance and sing.

No matter what you end up deciding to do,
there's a world of neat poems you'll find to explore.
Thanks B &B for sharing dear Shel.
Who knew there were countless ways to enjoy poetry, love poetry, and reading it loud!

Kelly is organizing Poetry Friday Roundup!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Math Appeals to Kids

My second grader is starting to like math. She loves riddles more. So what could be better than some books that combine pictures to help children problem solve and math contained in versed riddles? Greg Tang, author of Math Appeal, The Grapes of Math, and Math Fables just to name of few, creates fun and math challenges for creative learners everywhere. Most of the books are for children ages 7 - 10. Greg Tang adds little hints at the end of each riddle, to help the child problem solve. Sometimes children will discover there is more than one way to find the same answer. So it keeps these kids on their toes. Here's part of a riddle:

Know Dice
Come on, lucky, shiny dice,
Roll a pair and count it twice!
Boxcars, snake eyes, double threes,
Can you add up all of these...
(find the rest of the riddle in the book!)
from The Grapes of Math, copyright 2001 by Scholastic, Inc.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A Cool Poem Dedication To Me!! Really!

I am quite honored. Elaine Magliaro from Wild Rose Reader dedicated a clever, original poem to me, called Letter From The Queen of Beasts. You must simply go there so you can see it's really true. I'm not making this one up. Really.

And once you're there, check out her poem book recommendations and teacher plan. I have to tell you, I'm really impressed. And not just because Elaine dedicated a poem to me. A really cool poem...Now I must go off and hunt.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A Non-Poet's Poem for National Poetry Month

It's National Poetry Month!
Oh no, what to do?
Lean in a bit,
open your ears,
and heed my wise words
ever so carefully,
A poet I'm not,
So I'll quickly send you on your way
to give you time to discover
a wondrous bouquet of poems
to fill your heart's desire.

First, let me say,
Liz Scanlon finds something way cool,
how about signing up
for Knopf's Poem-a-Day.

Gregory K. posts an original poem a day.
April Fool's! Whipped Cream! A Cat!
And just like that,
a new poem appears.

Elaine Magliaro, inspired by Gregory K,
thought a poem a day would be great fun.
Nothing like wishing on a star
in the hopes your brother will turn into a fish!

Kelly Fineman finds a hidden gem.
Write 2 poems a day with NaPoWriMo.
Just be sure to follow the rules,
if you decide you want to join in.

Join readergirlz diva Lorie Ann Grover
as she shares her graceful verse book, On Pointe.
Dance to her music playlist,
and dream with Kermit.
Don't you just love him?

It's time to finally end this rather long poem,
But I don't know quite how to stop.
So just clap politely as I take a deep bow,
and make a quick gracious getaway.

Some Cool Things Around the Kidlitosphere

Amazing news!! I found out from Buried in the Slushpile that brilliant, amazing, incredible Markus Zusak will be the on-line writer-in-residence over at the Australian website Inside A Dog, for YA literature. If you haven't guessed by now, I love, love this brilliant author of The Book Thief (Printz Honor book) and The Messenger. Check out his first post on this site. He promises about 20 chapters of a side project he's working on, called 53 Killers. OMG, I'm in total heaven.

Elaine Magliaro from the new Wild Rose Reader, shares a poetry contest for children in 4th - 6th grade. If you want to know more about this poet extraordinaire, check out her 7-Imp interview.

Emily just started a new blog called Deliciously Clean Reads, which focuses on middle grade and YA novels that are free from swear words and sex.

Kelly shares a New York Times article on the pressure teen girls are under. I found Kelly's link to this over at readergirlz. I found this so disturbing as a mother of girls. I can only hope helping my children develop their self confidence and esteem will enable them to deal with whatever life hands them when they reach their teen years.

Author Mitali Perkins created a new blog, Sparrow Speaking! Listen Up!. This is so creative. Mitali's fictional First Daughter, Sameera Righton, will be blogging about the 2008 presidential campaign. Mitali asks for readers to help choose between two titles for this 2008 new book #2 about Sameera. Book #1 about Sameera is called First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover, due to be released June 2007 by Dutton.

Monday, April 2, 2007

What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?

Here's my challenge to you for this Rejection Mope-jection Monday. Think about your dreams with the key focus being: What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail? Create your own Mission Statement and be as specific as you can. Identify the who, what, where, when and how, if possible. While it's certainly easy to giggle and joke around because of your discomfort at having to identify the specifics, be serious about this. After all, this is your dream. You don't need a fairy godmother to wave her magic wand. It's all you. You will determine whether you will succeed at grabbing the star, or if you just have plain bad luck. If you'd like, share your mission statement in the comments section or just write it down and put it somewhere where you can see it on a regular basis.

The whole point of this exercise is to be able to visualize your dream so it is incredibly real to you. You can see it--even the very minute details of what is happening when you realize you have achieved your dream.

Here's my Can Do Mission Statement:
I am actively sending out my manuscripts and will have an award winning picture book and sought after YA novel sold to well respected publishing houses by the end of one year, April 2, 2008.

When you think about what you want with a positive can do attitude, and are specific to what you can envision, you are instilling this core belief into your daily actions. No matter what obstacles are thrown in your path, you will be able focus on your can do mission statement and find a way to move forward and work toward your dreams.

For anyone who is ready to write down their can do mission statement in the comment section and make yourself truly accountable to your plan of action, I'll put your name in a drawing to win one of three prizes with a couple surprise inspirational fripperies:
  1. The Success Principles: How to Get from Where you Are, to Where You Want to Be, by Jack Canfield
  2. Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, by Ursula Nordstrom
  3. Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss


  1. Think about your dreams with the focus of What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
  2. Write down a specific can do mission statement in the comment section.
  3. Due to holidays and tax day, the deadline to post a comment is Wednesday, April 18th.
  4. Let's keep comments positive and encouraging so people feel safe posting their dreams here.
  5. Any negative comments will be deleted.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Shrimp and A Sunday's List

Oh my goodness. I just finished reading Shrimp by Rachel Cohn and am in love. This is the third book I've read by Rachel Cohn over the past few months or so, and I must say, this talented writer can create these loveable one of a kind characters, flaws and all. This wonderful book is the sequel to Gingerbread, Cohn's first novel, which I enjoyed, but the sequel, Shrimp, just takes it to a whole new level.

Cyd Charisse, known as C.C. in this book, is still the ever resourceful, determined, observant, smart, hip, match making girl from Gingerbread. But in the book Shrimp, she's comes onto her own and learns how to make friends with girls her age, lets her mother into her life, gets her boyfriend back, finds her strong convictions regarding the love of her life's parents and school, helps her friends and half brother, and discovers herself in the process. Nothing like being true to yourself. I highly recommend this book. Note: There is mature content in this book.

And now, A Sunday's List of Strong Girl Role Models in Children's Literature:

1. C.C. (Cyd Charisse), her mother Nancy, gal pals Helen and Autumn, and Sugar Pie from Shrimp by Rachel Cohn, ages 14 and up, mature content: C.C. is just the coolest girl. She finally starts making friends with girls her age, Helen and Autumn. These girls are smart and talented. They help each other out and cheer each other on. C.C.'s mother, Nancy, develops from a pathetic mother in Gingerbread, to loving mom who is a total pain but is really trying to understand her daughter. C.C. is amazed at new things she learns about her mother. Sugar Pie is just as hip as ever, telling C.C., when C.C. is worried about how she's gonna tell Shrimp about her secret, "It's a hurdle to get over...This is when you have to remember some people have no feet." C.C. is one gal who is true to herself. What a great book.

2. Cyd Charisse and Sugar Pie from Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn, ages 14 and up, mature content: Cyd Charisse, "recovering hellion" is booted out of boarding school. She moves back in with her mother and stepdad, finds a new boyfriend, Shrimp, and generally finds ways to disrupt the household. At first I found it rather sad that her one true friend, is Sugar Pie, a very cool clairvoyant older lady who lives in an assisted living facility. But, this friendship is very much needed. Sugar Pie gives Cyd Charisse the much needed love, kindness and support that is somewhat lacking from her own mother. Eventually, Cyd Charisse is sent to spend some time with her biological father. Cyd is a strong, independent gal who is incredibly resourceful. Good book.

3. Margaret, her mother, her grandma Sylvia Simon from Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, ages 11 and up: I was nervous when I finally picked up this book to reread as an adult. This was after all my coveted guidebook to puberty when I was growing up. My friends and I secretly had copies of Are You There God, It's Me Margaret circulating around, reverantly keeping up those bust exercises, giggling with relief when we read about training bras and periods. This book was quite influential in keeping us all sane with answers to certain questions we were sometimes nervous about asking our own mothers.

I really enjoyed reading this book again as an adult. Nothing like a flashback of preteen awkwardness to make me totally appreciate how much I need to be prepared to help my kids get through their preteen insecurities. Are You There God, It's Me Margaret is wonderful book for preteens who are dealing with their insecurities of puberty, friendship, faith and finding their own way to talk to God.

I admit to being a bit prudish with some parts of the book. Whoa, Spin the Bottle and Two Minutes in the Closet? And already rumors about a girl getting it on with a couple of boys? But then I look at the preteen and teen kids out there in my town, and think, maybe this is too much of a reality and I need to readjust my attitude on this one. But...do I really have to?

Margaret is the new kid in town and makes some new friends. She gains confidence as she learns more about how her body will eventually mature. She learns that rumors are not always true, that she has her own way of talking to God, and she is okay the way she is. She has some wonderful support in her own mother and grandma. She can talk to these two ladies and tell them about her concerns and they each help Margaret in their own way.

4. Sheila from Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume, ages 8 and up: Okay, Sheila has a rather minor role in this book, which is about Peter Hatcher and his problem of a younger brother, Fudge. This book is a great depiction of life with a pain in the butt younger sibling who just simply gets into all of your things because he has you up on a pedestal. Oh poor Peter. And his clueless parents. But. They finally make up for it in the end. As for Sheila, know it all classmate of Peter. Sheila loves being in charge. She makes sure she clarifies things, organizes things and wants to make sure she gets credit for doing the job right. She might not be the best team player, but she sure knows when to stand up for herself and when to compromise.