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!


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stay Tuned: Author Interview on Friday

Happy Halloween everyone! I wanted to let you all know that I have a great interview with Cecil Castellucci planned for this Friday. So come on back and check out she has to say about what the biggest surprise of her writing career has been so far...and more.

Hope you have a Spooktacular evening! Hwaa ha ha haaa!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Boston Red Sox Won the World Series (and I won a free sofa!)

Remember when I posted about this? Well...the Boston Red Sox WON the World Series!!! I should've bought the leather sofas I was drooling over...

Oh well. Congratulations, Boston Red Sox! You did us proud!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Robert's Snow: Interview with David Ezra Stein

Nobody is allowed to bid on this snowflake. It's mine, I tell you. All mine. I know. I'm being selfish. But seriously. I want this snowflake. Not because the artist, David Ezra Stein, is one talented guy. Which he is. And not because he's on Fuse #8's HMOCL list.

And not even because David Ezra Stein wrote two books starring a character named Ned. Though I think the snowflake should weigh heavily in my favor since my husband's name is Ned. And while I'm at it, how about the coincidence that David's middle name is Ezra and that's the first name of the man who founded my alma mater.

Okay. I know I'm stretching the reasons why I deserve this snowflake. But, seriously. Look at this snowflake! David used acrylic and black ink...simple materials for a beautiful snowflake that has my name all over it...all because it reminds me of a cute version of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz and all that he wanted...Courage. Pure and simple. Courage.

David has written and illustrated four picture books: Cowboy Ned & Andy, Ned's New Friend, Leaves and Monster Hug! His illustrations and books are joyous, sweet and charming. Perfect for hanging out with your little one(s) and reading out loud. And congratulations is in order for David--Leaves was recently awarded the New York Public Library, Best Books of 2007.

David was kind enough to agree to an interview. Little did he know what he was getting into. Without further ado...I'd like to welcome David Ezra Stein.

HWM: What made you realize you wanted to write and illustrate children’s books?
David: In senior year of Parsons, where I was studying illustration, I had a teacher named Pat Cummings who was a real, live children's book author and illustrator. Meeting someone who makes her living that way put the idea into my head that I could do the same. She told me she loved my class work and I had a good shot at getting published. During that semester, I suddenly remembered how I'd loved books a child, and how I'd always written stories for pleasure, and it all fell into place. Well, not right away; it took four years before I sold my first book.

HWM: Which came first, the illustration or the writing? How did this all come about?
David: Well, if you go back to the age of three, I was already drawing. Writing had to wait until I could read, of course. I remember in school we had special time set aside to work on our own books. This was in first or second grade. My friend and I collaborated on a 100-page book about Charlie Brown. It was all pictures, and I don't know if we ever made it to 100, but it was ambitious. I also drew more than my share of spaceships bristling with guns.

I kept on drawing and writing all through school. It came from a very personal need, not from any real outside source. When I finally published my first book, it was like the public tip of a very big personal iceberg of work...if you catch my drift.

HWM: Your website is wonderful. How involved were you in the design of it?
David: Thank you! I created it all on my own. I have been building my own websites for about 5 years now (i.e., as long as I've had one). I hope folks come visit me and my books there. There's a cool book-making project up, and I will soon be selling prints of my artwork there, among other things.

HWM: The picture book market is tough to get into nowadays. What do you think sets your work apart from the other picture books out there?
David: I don't quite know the answer; Maybe you should ask my editors and art directors! All I know is that the picture book form is very close to my heart, and when I look at the bookshelves in the store I just know there's room for me up there. It's like there's a big conversation going on, and I have something to say that I need to add to it!

HWM: How do you come up with the ideas for your books and artwork? Tell me about your books and any new projects you’d like to share.
David: I have ideas every day. I believe everyone can. The "trick" is to listen to and honor those ideas. Write them down. Draw them. Edison said something like, "The best way to have a great idea is to have a lot of ideas."

Some of my books start as words, some as pictures, and sometimes (like with the book Leaves) the words and pictures come all at once. When an idea meets up with an emotional impetus–a need–a story is born. I believe a story has to need to be told. The way I tell stories is in the picture book format. It is one of my native languages. (After all, my parents and grandparents read to me very early on.)

HWM: Tell me about the snowflake you designed. What inspired you to design “The Mane Event”—I saw a picture of it on the Robert’s Snow website and it’s awesome. It reminds me of the Lion in the Wizard of Oz.
David: "The Mane Event" was inspired by the shape of the snowflake I was given. It was kind of the first impulse I had on viewing that shape. The mane seemed to be gathered in bunches, hence the bows. I imagined someone had tied the lion's mane in ribbons (while he was sleeping perhaps), and this was his first reaction on looking in the mirror.

HWM: Why did you get involved in Robert’s Snow? Have you created other snowflakes in the past?
David: This was my first time participating in Robert's Snow, mainly because I'd never heard of it before this year. It was a good chance to be part of a community of artists and help a good cause. It is all the more important to me because I lost someone close to me to cancer a few years ago.

HWM: What has been the biggest surprise of your career?
So far, that achieving a dream is only the beginning. There's always more work to do, more learning, more decisions to make. Enjoy the process!

HWM: If you could share any unique tip to aspiring illustrators/writers, what would it be?
David: Work, work, work! Don't wait for someone to invite you, pay you, or beg you. While you're waiting to hear about one manuscript, work on another. Welcome your ideas, be a good host to them. And always keep a sense of joy in what you do.

HWM: What was the best illustration/writing advice someone ever gave you?
My drawing teacher always said: Look at what you're drawing, not at the paper.

Hipwritermama's Curiosities:
HWM: Will you be posting more on your blog?
Sure, I plan to post news regularly on my blog. Sometimes I even post pages from my sketchbooks.

HWM: What makes you laugh?
Not a what, but a who: my wife. That's how I fell in love with her.

HWM: If you were a superhero, what powers would you want and why?
The power to know the truth no matter what distractions are around.

Thank you David!
Here are today's featured snowflakes:

Juli Kangas at Sam Riddleburger's blog
Ginger Nielson at Miss O's School Library
Margot Apple at Jo's Journal

For more information on the master schedule of the featured snowflakes, head on over to 7-Imp. Please think about bidding for a snowflake in the Robert's Snow auction for yourself or a loved one. Treat yourself to some creative goodness and help raise money to fight cancer. Come on, let's make this the year!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

An Interview with Lorie Ann Grover

I am pleased to welcome Lorie Ann Grover to my blog. Lorie Ann is the author of four books: Loose Threads, On Pointe, Hold Me Tight, and When Daddy Comes Home. For those of you who are familiar with readergirlz and frequent the group forums, you know this readergirlz diva encourages teens to empower themselves.

I've had the pleasure of reading On Pointe and Hold Me Tight. Both books are on my list of Strong Girl Role Models in Children's Literature. This was my thought on Hold Me Tight: Inspired by a true story, Hold Me Tight is an emotional story written in prose. I wanted to protect 12 year old Essie and her family from everything that was happening to them. First, Essie's dad leaves his pregnant wife and two children. Second, Essie's classmate Chris is kidnapped. Third, Mr. Paul, Essie's mom's friend, tries to touch Essie in an inappropriate manner. You cheer for Essie's mom, who believes her daughter rather than Mr. Paul. She throws his sorry butt out the door and gets the authorities involved. How's that for a strong mama? You cheer for Essie, who is a sweet girl who watches out for her brother and mother, worries about classmate Chris, speaks up for herself, finds ways to punish her dad, and has the strength to hold on to what she has.

Here's what I wrote about On Pointe: What do you get when you combine a free verse style novel with a hopeful teen who dreams and sacrifices for the love of ballet? Add a bit of competition, an ambitious family, and a grandfather who was right all along and you get a beautiful flowing novel, On Pointe...for more, read here.

And talk about awards. Loose Threads has been recognized as A Best Book for the Teen Age, New York Public Library; A Best Children's Book of 2002, Bank Street College of Education; A Washington State Book Award Finalist, 2003; A Top 10 Youth First Novel, Booklist; A Best of the Best, Edmonton Public Libraries, Canada; A Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee; New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age; Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year; Booklist Top Ten First Novel for Youth; Washington State Book Award Finalist; and Rhode Island Teen Book Award Finalist.

On Pointe has been awarded the Girls' Life Magazine Top Ten Summer Read; Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year; Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Finalist; A Kansas State Reading Circle Middle School Title; and A Missouri State Reading Circle Senior Title.

Hold Me Tight won the distinction of A VOYA Poetry Pick; and A Kansas State Reading Circle Middle School Title.

Wait until you read all about Lorie Ann. I'm sure you'll agree with me that she is one accomplished woman. Without further ado, I give you Lorie Ann Grover.
HWM: What made you realize you wanted to write children’s books? How did you get your “break” into children’s books?
Lorie Ann: After being in the Miami Ballet Company and growing too tall to continue to pursue my career, I refocused my energy on fine art. I attended the University of Miami and began a drawing major. However, I soon realized I felt thwarted with imagery only, and I really needed to write to fully communicate. I have a brother ten years younger than me, so my exposure and interest in picture books was still fairly fresh and current. Also, my job in college at South Dade Regional Library was to shelve about 800 children's books a day. You could say, children's lit has always been with me. It was a natural step to write and contribute to the field that I love.

HWM: You’ve written four books so far…do you have any current or future projects you can share with your fans?
Lorie Ann: I'm looking for an agent right now as I have 3 novels I'd like to place and a pile of board books. My work is getting ahead of me, and it would be great to have someone in my corner giving me a hand. Two novels are written in verse, and one is a fantasy in prose. One verse novel is about one of my best friend's daughters being struck by a truck in a crosswalk. The other is about my experience in Korea living among prostitutes, and the fantasy is about a woman's self worth and religious persecution.

HWM: How did you get started in writing in verse? What do you enjoy about writing in free verse? What advice do you have for those people who have difficulty working within the tight structure of this format?
Lorie Ann: I actually started by writing picture books. Loose Threads was first sold as a picture book. The project fell through when my editor left publishing. I resubmitted the work to Emma Dryden at Margaret K. McElderry Books. She was the one who suggested I expand the picture book into a verse novel. She suspected I had a lot more to say. She was right!

I love the tightness of verse. Emma says my entries are like photographs. I enjoy capturing intense emotion and surrounding it with white space. I have the kind of mind that sees the large picture and breaks it down to the minute.

If verse doesn't come naturally, write prose first. If you want to experiment, take a paragraph of your prose and then divide it into verse. Look for natural breaks, rhythms, and points you'd like to emphasize. Think of it as shaping a sculpture. There's no wrong. This is your own heartbeat creating shapes. Then, read the final verse structure aloud. Is anything gained? If so, try more. If not, it was an interesting exercise.

HWM: Are your novels all inspired by real life situations? When did you know you had the right ending for your books?
Lorie Ann: My novels are based heavily on my life. I am the main characters. Many of my family members carry their own names. When I see someone reading my work, my stomach lurches as if they are reading my journal.

I really don't touch the keyboard until I know my ending. I need to have my landing in sight through the entire process. It feels safe to me.

HWM: Who was the toughest character to write about?
Lorie Ann: I'd have to say the man who molested me in Hold Me Tight. I'd shake a bit whenever I had to even revise that scene.

HWM: Which book, if any, would you change if you had the chance, and why?
Lorie Ann: I wouldn't change any of my novels. I think of them as a representation of who I was at that point. I do look at my illustrations and think I'd like to move a line or change a color. But again, I try to have peace that this was what I saw at the time. Any thoughts or new ideas go into new works.

HWM: Do you outline or free form?
Lorie Ann: I jot points at the start. More like rocks across a stream that I'll leap to with the shore in sight Not a formal outline. I can't just free form or I'd be lost in an ocean.

HWM: Where do you like to write?
Lorie Ann: I'm kind of like a cat. I choose my spots and then change them: the couch, my office, the rocking chair, my bed.

HWM: What is your writing process or ritual?
Lorie Ann:
My process is: when everyone's quiet, I write! Really. I homeschool my daughter. (I'm down to teaching one now. Our oldest I finished and is in college.) I work with readergirlz, and maintain our household. When I get everything done, and the laundry's not calling either, I announce to everyone, "I'm writing. Do not interrupt me unless you are bleeding or on fire." That works.

HWM: I understand you also illustrate books. What medium do you work in?
Lorie Ann:
I do illustrate. It gives me a chance to exercise another part of my mind. I love the elephants in When Daddy Comes Home. And the cover. I feel I caught the joy of father and child. Or elephant and otter. :~) I work in oil pastel, gouache, and pencil.

HWM: How long does it take you to write the first draft?
Lorie Ann: That varies according to what is going on in my life. I had cancer this summer and was in complete isolation for a week. I knocked out about 80% of a first draft. Usually it takes several months.

HWM: What has been the biggest challenge of your writing career and how did you tackle it?
Lorie Ann: The biggest challenge was probably persevering through the six years of rejection. I think ballet training came to my aid. Every day you plie. Over and over. Every day you sit at the computer and write again.

HWM: What has been the biggest surprise of your writing career?
Lorie Ann: The biggest surprise has been becoming a readergirlz diva. I never imagined myself teaming up with Justina Chen Headley, Dia Calhoun, and Janet Lee Carey to really create change. It's been a wonderful extension of my writing and given me awesome contact with readers. Empowering them to read, reflect, and reach out has been extremely fulfilling.

HWM: If you could share any unique writing tip to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Lorie Ann: I'd say read all genres and do writing exercises to mimic them. If I hadn't tried verse, my voice might not have found a way out. I really think finding the specific format is the key.

HWM: What was the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
Lorie Ann: Janet Wong gave me a little yellow cushy chair that says, "Butt in the Chair." Awesome. I believe it was Katherine Paterson who said revisions are your chance to turn spilled milk into ice cream. It's helped me treasure the revision process.

Hipwritermama's Curiosities:

HWM: The readergirlz divas have been busy with the 31 Flavorite Authors. How did this evolve?
Lorie Ann: Since we saw our community thriving, we thought there might be a way to use what we had created to support YALSA's Teen Read Week to encourage literacy. Justina brainstormed the idea to feature one author every night in October. 31 Flavorites was born.

HWM: What’s next for the readergirlz divas?
Lorie Ann: The divas are in the final stretch of 31 and brainstorming a project for the holidays and a fabulous one for spring. We are doing select appearances across the country as well. Justina is launching her second novel, Girl Overboard, and Dia is launching The Return of Light, a Christmas Tale. Janet is psyched about her novel Wenny Has Wings being made into a movie in Japan. She has to shop for a dress to wear to the premiere. And as I said, I'm hunting for an agent, and currently revising a verse novel with a house. While looking at a few more cancer treatments.

HWM: How long have you been homeschooling your children? What made you decide to homeschool? What are the challenges and joys of homeschooling?
Lorie Ann: I homeschooled my oldest daughter from 3-15. She started college at 16. I believe we are on the same track for my younger daughter. We decided to homeschool because both girls began to read so early. I just started teaching them, and pretty soon, we were off track with the school system in terms of age. I remember my oldest wasn't going to be able to start kindergarten until age 6. There was no way that girl was going to wait!

The challenge is to teach self-motivation. The child has no one in sight to brush against, compete with, or follow the class example. All of that has to be raised up in the individual.

Social experiences are actually what most people are concerned about. My oldest participated in the band at school for 8 years and became the first homeschooled drum major in the public high school. My youngest participates in choir at the middle school and enjoys it very much.

The joy includes teaching your child to read. It's hard work but the greatest moment. And then seeing them devour information they are interested in is a blast. There's so much more time; my oldest studied from college Marine Biology books at 14, and my youngest has worked her way through college Cultural Anthropology books. They have time to seek and discover their passions.

HWM: If you found a way to go back to your teen years as one of your characters, what would you do differently?
Lorie Ann: Since my characters are me, the question is what would I do differently. I'd make friends. I lost so much trust when my father left my family, I became very internal. It would have been so much easier if I had found friends like I have now. Everyone needs a circle of divas!

HWM: What makes you laugh?
Lorie Ann: Definitely my brothers. We all tend to fall on the floor when they are around. I do, also, laugh at myself--a lot.

HWM: If you were a superhero, what powers would you want and why?
Lorie Ann: You ask that of someone with the last name of Grover? Super Grover! Warm, blue, and fuzzy with a heart to help. Even if he has trouble with his landings. He can fly!

Thank you, Lorie Ann! Best of luck with everything...

Where to find more info on Lorie Ann Grover:
Lorie Ann's website (for information on her books and her beautiful artwork)
excerpt from Loose Threads
excerpt from On Pointe
excerpt from Hold Me Tight
Edited to add: I just found out that Lorie Ann's book, Hold Me Tight, Loose Threads and On Pointe are nearly sold out. They may be available in the future as a print by demand. That makes me so sad. These books are helping teens deal with issues they may not necessarily feel comfortable talking about. Look at the response from Lorie Ann's Chat on readergirlz! Hopefully, these books will come out in paperback.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Writing Exercise Entries

I wrote a post on Saturday about exploring different writing styles. Five brave souls decided to join me in this exercise. So, Sassy Lucy, Alkelda the Gleeful, Becky C., Christine M. and M. Thompson--since you were kind enough to share your talents, send your snail mail address to my e-mail address: hipwritermama at comcast dot net, and I'll send you a paperback copy of Gail Carson Levine's Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly. Edited to add: I forgot to mention, this book is geared to help young writers (Grade 5 and up) find their voice. I haven't read the book yet, but my feeling is that Gail Carson Levine knows how to identify what is important for young people. With that said, I think this book will probably help adult writers discover the right voice to appeal to the young.

Please note: these entries are the property of the authors. If any of you go on to write a manuscript from your entry...good luck!

Sassy Lucy:
Beneath the gnarly oak tree Christina and Tarabeth nestled as tightly as they could together. Once again their parents were arguing over everything and anything, and they could no longer take it, so they had sought shelter beneath the tree that had once held their childhood treehaven.

Elizabeth glanced towards the back of their old brick house, wishing they could go in. "Tarabeth," Elizabeth chattered, "do you see that small door over there?"
Tarabeth too noticed a glint of metal in the sun, she had never seen that before.
Slowly the girls crawled across the yard to the house. There, unbeknownst them before they found a silver finished door just waiting to be opened.


Alkelda the Gleeful:
Kate and Moon-Pie found a dusty door. The door was behind the couch in Aunt Libby’s library. “I will have to crawl through the doorway,” Kate said. “You are short enough to walk through the door. Then I can see what is behind the door.”

“No,” Moon-Pie said. “I do not want to go.”

“We will have fun,” Kate said. “This is a secret passage. We will find gold. We will find shiny stones. We will find books with magic spells.”

“No,” Moon-Pie said. “We will find monsters. We will find meat-eating dinosaurs. We will find spiders.”

“Some spiders are nice,” Kate said. “Besides, we are prepared. I have a flashlight. You have silly putty. We are both brave. We will have the adventure of our lives.”


Becky C.:
The sisters ran past the shaking trees then crept along the path, looking for the light that would show them back to the passage. It was getting dark, and the wildlife of the forest behind them were starting to get restless.

"Quick!" Mary said, pulling Rita through the bushes. "Let's rest here. Keep quiet and look around. Let's see if we can figure out where we are."


Christine M.:
There couldn’t possibly be a more boring way to spend a beautiful fall day, Shelby thought to herself as she trudged up the basement stairs in her aunt’s house with yet one more box for Goodwill. Couldn’t her parents have chosen a rainy day to do this particular chore?

“Thanks, Shelby,” her mom said as she deposited the box in the driveway. “Can you help Kaylee in the cold room?”

Shelby shrugged. What was she supposed to say? No? Of course she would help her sister. When Shelby got to the cold room, Kaylee was surrounded by piles of linens.

“Oh – I’m glad you’re here. I don’t know if any of this stuff is considered good or not.” Kaylee said, and held up a finely embroidered handkerchief.

“That looks good. But who uses handkerchief’s anymore?” Shelby said and sat beside her younger sister.

“Of course it’s good.”

Both girls jumped at the unexpected voice behind them. Shelby, heart beating fast, turned slowly to see who could possibly be behind them, since the only door to the room was in front of them.

“I embroidered those myself.” It was a girl, not much older than Shelby, wearing very old fashioned long skirts.

“Who are you?” Shelby asked.

“Where did you come from?” Kaylee said at the same time.

“I’m Rita. I came from here – but sometime else. Want to come with me?” She beckoned with one finger, a slight smile on her face.

Anything was better than sorting out old handkerchiefs and napkins. Shelby and Kaylee nodded.

“Then follow me.”

And they followed her behind a shelf and back around – right back to where they had been. The room was the same room – but everything was different. There were herbs hanging from the ceiling and strings of onions, and there was a barrel of potatoes and a barrel of apples.

“Where are we?” Kaylee asked.

“Right where you were,” Rita answered.

“Then when are we,” Shelby asked.

Rita just grinned. “That is the question, isn’t it,” she answered.


M. Thompson:
Cree-aa-k! Ann and Hope jumped.

"What was that?" Hope said.

"I don't know," Ann said, "let's go check."

The sisters started to walk up the stairs to the attic. Ann noticed a glimmer of light near the top stair that floated towards them. She nudged Hope.

The light shimmered then faded in front of them. Hope put out her hands to try to catch the last of the light. Her right hand caught on something solid. She pulled on it and a door opened into the staircase.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Robert's Snow:Week Two

If you have a moment, check out this wonderful slideshow of some of the snowflakes for the Robert's Snow Auction. Thanks to Sheri of Goading the Pen for creating this slideshow.

Here's the schedule for Week 2, which starts on Monday. Thank you Jen Robinson for compiling this list. You can find links to the posts themselves, and any last-minute updates, each morning at 7-Imp. Jules and Eisha have also set up a special page at 7-Imp containing a comprehensive list of links to the profiles posted so far. Also not to be missed is Kris Bordessa's compilation of snowflake-related contests around the blogosphere over at Paradise Found.

Monday, October 22

Tuesday, October 23

Wednesday, October 24

Thursday, October 25

Friday, October 26

Saturday, October 27

Sunday, October 28

Please take time out to visit all of these blogs, and read about these fabulous illustrators. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to feature all the illustrators, but you will be able to see everyone's snowflakes at theRobert's Snow auction. Each snowflake makes a unique gift (for yourself or for someone else), and supports an important cause.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Writing Tip: Practice Different Writing Styles

I saw this exercise over at The Longstockings, and thought it would be interesting to try out. Of course I can't find the exact post now, but it was along the gist of experimenting with writing the first sentence of a story in different genres...which may lead to many more.

I'll make this a variation from the exercise I read about. How about if we write a few sentences from any point of the story. Beginning, middle or end. Your choice.

Let's try writing about this storyline:
Two sisters discover a secret passage in their aunt's house.

So here are the categories I chose:
Easy Reader
MG/YA Fantasy/Adventure
MG/YA Historical Fiction
Edgy YA

Keep in mind, the lines don't have to be perfect. This is an exercise to see if you can find a voice out of your comfort zone. You may find you're intrigued by a different genre once you try this.

Historical Fiction is totally out of my comfort zone. So here's my try at it:
Lady Smythe smoothed out imaginary wrinkles from her crisp crinoline skirts. She walked over to the fireplace and ran her fingers along the edge of the mantel. Click. The fireplace groaned open to reveal a long hallway. Elizabeth gasped from her hiding place.

Here are the rules again: Write a few sentences from any point of the story. Beginning, middle or end. Your choice. The sentences don't have to be perfect. Mine certainly aren't. I'll post your creations and give away a paperback copy of Gail Carson Levine's book, Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly. Edited to add: I realized I forgot to put in a deadline. How about I'll make this a weekend wandering. Deadline will be Monday morning, October 22nd, 8am EST.

Anyone want to play?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Living with Food Allergies

If you're a regular reader, you know my middle child has severe food allergies. It has been an exhausting effort, at times, to keep up a positive outlook on this. I often think if she had been diagnosed with a medical condition that sounded more impressive, it would be easier for people to feel compassion.

Don't get me wrong. Most people are kind and do understand. It's just those times, when I hear grumblings from parents who are ticked off their child can't eat their favorite snack in school or bring in birthday cupcakes to the classroom because of those kids with food allergies. Or when I see the flash of annoyance streak across a person's face when I ask about the ingredients in a food or inquire about cross-contamination. Or when people who know about my child's severe food allergies get upset with me because I don't go to their homes. What they don't get, even though I explain it to them, is I don't go to their homes because they always have every dangerous food allergen in every possible form cooking, baking, frying all around my child. My child ends up needing medication to relieve the itchiness, hives and asthma.

All these little actions, even though I know aren't meant to be malicious in anyway, render me weak and anxious, hopeless of a normal life for my child. And when I think about a post I read back in April, I am sickened. I weep for the difficulty and bullying my child may experience as she grows older. To think this is all because of FOOD!

You know I'm all about self-confidence, and right now, my incredible child is a tower of strength. There is no doubt in my mind that she will be tested over the years and need all her courage and strength to overcome negative attitudes.

I urge you to take five minutes to watch these sweet children talk about their food allergies. Watch their beautiful faces. Look in their eyes. Listen to what they have to say. Please. It would mean the world to me. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Day Two of Robert's Snow Illustrator Highlights

Today is Day Two of the Robert's Snow Illustrator Highlights. Go over and visit these blogs to find out more about today's featured snowflakes.

Selina Alko at Brooklyn Arden
Scott Bakal at Wild Rose Reader
Alexandra Boiger at Paradise Found
Paige Keiser at Your Neighborhood Librarian
Janet Stevens at The Miss Rumphius Effect

Remember, you can go over to the Robert's Snow auction and bid on snowflakes starting November 19th to support a very important cause. Thank you.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Inspiration Monday from Abraham Lincoln

My husband is a big fan of Abraham Lincoln. He can still recite the Gettysburg Address from memory, which I find amazing.

My husband has this cute little book, about 2 inches by 3 inches with a few selections of Abraham Lincoln's writings. I found four year old with this in her possession and thought it would be a good idea to rescue it. Of course I needed to look through it, and found this letter. I hope you are as inspired by this as I was when I read it.

Letter to George Latham
Springfield, Ills.,
July 22, 1860

My dear George,

I have scarcely felt greater pain in my life than on learning yesterday from Bob's letter, that you had failed to enter Harvard University. And yet there is very little in it, if you will allow no feeling of discouragement to seize, and prey upon you. It is a certain truth, that you can enter, and graduate in Harvard University; and having made the attempt, you must succeed in it. 'Must' is the word.

I know not how to aid you, save in the assurance of one of mature age, and much severe experience, that you can not fail, if you resolutely determine, that you will not....

...Again I say let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.

With more than a common interest I subscribe myself
Very truly your friend,
A. Lincoln

Read the entire letter here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Robert's Snow: Week One Illustrator Highlights Schedule

On September 13th, Jules posted a Call to Bloggers to help spread the word about the snowflake auction for Robert's Snow. Bloggers from all around offered to help highlight the talented illustrators who designed these eye-catching snowflakes. Elaine Magliaro opened doors, Jules organized everything, and the rest, shall we say, is history.

Jules organized around 65 bloggers to highlight over 150 illustrators in the hopes people will go to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Robert's Snow site, bid on the snowflakes, and raise money to help fight cancer. I have an amazing interview with David Ezra Stein scheduled to post Friday, October 26th.

Most of us have probably been touched by cancer's reach, in one way or another. Maybe a family member, a friend, a co-worker. I was diagnosed with melanoma in my late twenties. Thankfully, it was in the early stages, so I only needed two surgeries to make sure it was all out. Wouldn't it be so incredible if all cancer patients could hear these magic words, "We got it all out!" or "We have a cure!" Let's help make this happen.

Please go and find out about all these talented illustrators and their snowflakes. I'm sure you'll find one that captures your heart.

Here is this week's schedule for the illustrator highlights. Thank you, Jen, for putting this schedule together.

Monday, October 15

  • Randy Cecil at ChatRabbit

  • Michelle Chang at The Longstockings

  • Kevin Hawkes at Cynthia Lord's Journal

  • Barbara Lehman at The Excelsior File

  • Grace Lin at In the Pages

  • Tuesday, October 16th

  • Selina Alko at Brooklyn Arden

  • Scott Bakal at Wild Rose Reader

  • Alexandra Boiger at Paradise Found

  • Paige Keiser at Your Neighborhood Librarian

  • Janet Stevens at The Miss Rumphius Effect

  • Wednesday, October 17

  • Rick Chrustowski at laurasalas

  • Diane DeGroat at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup

  • Ilene Richard at Something Different Every Day

  • Brie Spangler at Lectitans

  • Don Tate at The Silver Lining

  • Thursday, October 18

  • Brooke Dyer at Bookshelves of Doom

  • D.B. Johnson at Lessons from the Tortoise

  • Erin Eitter Kono at Sam Riddleburger

  • Sherry Rogers at A Life in Books

  • Jennifer Thermes at Through the Studio Door

  • Friday, October 19

  • Graeme Base at Just One More Book

  • Denise Fleming at MotherReader

  • Jeff Mack at AmoXcalli

  • Jeff Newman at A Year of Reading

  • Ruth Sanderson at Book Moot

  • Saturday, October 20

  • Linas Alsenas at A Wrung Sponge

  • Theresa Brandon at The Shady Glade

  • Karen Katz at Whimsy Books

  • Judy Schachner at Kate's Book Blog

  • Sally Vitsky at Shelf Elf: read, write, rave

  • Sunday, October 21

  • Matthew Cordell at Just Like the Nut

  • Maxwell Eaton III at Books and Other Thoughts

  • Roz Fulcher at Goading the Pen

  • Susie Jin at sruble's world

  • Susan Mitchell at Check It Out

  • Please take time out to visit all of these blogs, and read about these fabulous illustrators. And, if you're so inclined, think about bidding for a snowflake in the Robert's Snow auction. Each snowflake makes a unique gift (for yourself or for someone else), and supports an important cause.

    Friday, October 12, 2007

    Poetry Friday: For the Young who Want To

    I've been focusing on revisions this week and just realized I've missed reading my favorite blogs and even posting regularly on my blog. There are so many things I want to do and it seems not quite enough time to do it. Things have kind have fallen by the wayside with my obsession to finish my current project before Thanksgiving. I'm not sure why I gave myself that deadline, but it sounded good to me.

    Anyway, here's a poem for the young--or anyone for that matter--who want to:

    For the young who want to
    by Marge Piercy

    Talent is what they say
    you have after the novel
    is published and favorably
    reviewed. Beforehand what
    you have is a tedious
    delusion, a hobby like knitting.

    Work is what you have done
    after the play is produced
    and the audience claps.
    Before that friends keep asking
    when you are planning to go
    out and get a job.

    Genius is what they know you
    had after the third volume
    of remarkable poems. Earlier
    they accuse you of withdrawing,
    ask why you don’t have a baby,
    call you a bum.
    For the rest of the poem

    Poetry Friday is over at Two Writing Teachers this week. Go on over and stay awhile.

    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    HELP: How Do You Handle Homework in Your Household?

    This is for all you folk who have two or more schoolage children who have daily homework after school. How do you handle it in your household? After school? After dinner?

    What about kids who are involved with sports or other outside activities? Do you find it's difficult for them to get their homework done? How you work this out?

    How about if you have younger children who need attention...how do you help your older ones with their homework when a little one wants you to play a game of hide and seek?

    Okay, any advice from all you organized and experienced parents would be greatly appreciated. Comment away. Please.

    Tuesday, October 9, 2007

    31 Flavorite Authors For Teens, Week Two

    I can't believe I've missed posting about this one. The readergirlz divas and YALSA will be hosting 31 Flavorite Authors for the 31 days in October -- all in honor of Teen Read Week. Join in the Chats with a new author every night over at readergirlz MySpace Group Forum @ 5pm PDT/ 8pm EDT.

    Here is this week's schedule:
    October 7th Ellen Hopkins
    October 8th Justina Chen Headley
    October 9th Chris Crutcher
    October 10th Ann Brashares
    October 11th Sarah Mlynowski
    October 12th Cecil Castellucci
    October 13th Kirby Larson


    Here is the entire schedule for October:
    Week One
    October 1st: Meg Cabot
    October 2nd: Tiffany Trent
    October 3rd: Brent Hartinger
    October 4th: Lorie Ann Grover
    October 5th: K.L. Going
    October 6th: Nikki Grimes

    Week Two
    October 7th: Ellen Hopkins
    October 8th: Justina Chen Headley
    October 9th: Chris Crutcher
    October 10th: Ann Brashares
    October 11th: Sarah Mlynowski
    October 12th: Cecil Castellucci
    October 13th: Kirby Larson

    Week Three
    October 14th: Tanya Lee Stone
    October 15th: John Green
    October 16th: Sara Zarr
    October 17th: Deb Caletti
    October 18th: Rachel Cohn
    October 19th: Kirsten Miller
    October 20th: Mitali Perkins

    Week Four
    October 21st: Sonya Sones
    October 22nd: Lisa Yee
    October 23rd: Carolyn Mackler
    October 24th: E. Lockhart
    October 25th: Janet Lee Carey
    October 26th: Gaby Triana
    October 27th: Lauren Myracle

    Week Five
    October 28th: Holly Black
    October 29th: Cynthia Leitich Smith
    October 30th: Dia Calhoun
    October 31st: Stephenie Meyer (Special time: 9 PM PST/MIDNIGHT EST)

    Saturday, October 6, 2007

    A Great Ending...

    I just finished reading the final book of Harry Potter's incredible adventures. All I can say is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is perhaps the best ending to a series of books I have ever read. Ever. I was getting worried there with Book 4. That was somewhat painful to read. But, J.K. Rowling got it together with Books 5 and 6. And Book 7...what an amazing finish.

    Boys and girls are going to love, love, love this series. The Harry Potter books are classics and will surely be much loved for years to come.

    Now I must go and dispose of all these tissues.

    Friday, October 5, 2007

    Poetry Friday: A Mug, Some Shakespeare and A Smile

    It all started with a few spelling errors in a marketing proof I received from an advertising company. I corrected it, sent it back, then got it back later with some more errors. This went on a couple more times. I said a few choice words. All I needed was a black pointed hat to accompany my foul mood. Thankfully, things got straightened out. But, it was pretty painful.

    I'm a Spelling Queen. I kid you not. While I have to fiddle around at times with grammar and punctuation, spelling is one of those things that just comes naturally to me. Forget about spell check. You want to know how to spell something, call me. Everyone else I know does. Seriously.

    So it was quite the pleasant surprise when I found a square cardboard box outside my front door yesterday afternoon. Remember when Sara Lewis Holmes had a Poetry Friday Giveaway? I won! The amazing thing was that Sara chose my number then tried out a random number generator. Both results came up with my number. Luck or Fate? Hmmm. Here's a picture of the cool mug from poets.org.

    Now here's the other side of the mug. Isn't it fun? Doesn't it make you smile? The poets featured on the mug are Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Third grader was intrigued by this mug and had lots of questions about the poets. Sara, thank you so much for this wonderful mug. This really made my day.

    I remembered this great piece from Shakespeare's Macbeth and read it out loud to my daughter. She loved it. In celebration of October, my earlier witchy mood, a cool mug and Fate...

    The Three Witches
    by William Shakespeare

    Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and caldron bubble.
    Fillet of a fenny snake,
    In the caldron boil and bake;
    Eye of newt and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
    Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
    Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
    Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and caldron bubble.
    Cool it with a baboon's blood,
    Then the charm is firm and good.

    Emily from Whimsy Books is hosting Poetry Friday today. She shares a sweet, original poem called Turtling. Go check it out and all the other Poetry Friday submissions.

    Thursday, October 4, 2007

    30 Day Challenge Winners!

    Oh. Yes. Winners. I decided to give away not just one...but three little prizes. Just because I feel like it. Here's the moment you've all been waiting for...
    M. Thompson, Liz Garton Scanlon and Alkelda the Gleeful...
    Drop an e-mail to me with your address and I'll send you a surprise!

    Thank you, everyone, for playing along with me and keeping up with the 30 Day Challenge. I hope this was helpful for all of you. Good luck with your continued progress toward your goals.

    Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    30 Day Challenge Final Check In!

    It's time for the final check in for the 30 Day Challenge. Comment below by 11:59 pm EST to be entered for a surprise!

    I have to say, I had a tough time getting motivated these past couple of weeks to write everyday. Life kind of blindsided me with too many things. My creative ability had been somewhat stifled in my writing and my blogging.

    My youngest celebrated a birthday. She's been giving Spiderman some quite a bit of competition in the Cling-On category--this child summons up all her incredible holding powers on my leg when we're walking into her preschool. My middle child is on oral prednisone to clear out the gunk in her lungs and her eczema encrusted body. My eldest is fluctuating between the needs of an eight year old and demands of a teenager. She has also had a hard time staying asleep these past couple of weeks and has been waking me up at 3 a.m. to keep her company. And that in itself, is almost enough to do me in.

    Not that I'm complaining and all. All these puzzle pieces I need to figure out and put together to make everything right again is totally okay. That's what I do best. However, it has been leeching away at my writing time.

    So here's what I did. I brought my laptop to my little one's school. That way the forty five minutes spent at her school, is balanced with some writing time in the peace of my car. I've also taken to writing notes in a little book I carry with me while I'm waiting in the doctor's office, or waiting in the car line to pick up the kids, or am running on a schedule that's completely out of whack.

    I was able to write four days last week. One hour of total brilliance, the others, well, we'll have to see. But, I've also decided that I did pretty well for having a week or two from a place I really don't want to go back to for awhile.

    So, how did you do? Remember to let me know in the comments here or over here by 11:59 pm EST to be entered for a surprise! The prize winner will be announced tomorrow!

    Nominate your Favorite 2007 MG/YA Non-Fiction Title for The Cybils

    Nominations for The 2007 Cybils began yesterday.
    Here are the basic rules:

    1. The book must be published in 2007;
    2. Only one book per category;
    3. Click on a category and read the description;
    4. Click the Comments button and read through the titles;
    5. If your favorite book isn't listed, type in the author and title;
    6. Hit the Post button, and your favorite title is entered! Easy, right?
    7. Nominations close Wednesday, November 21st.

    I'm thrilled to be on the nominating panel for the MG/YA Non-Fiction Committee. We need your help to find some great books. Stop on by and nominate your favorite 2007 Non-Fiction book! Here is the description as posted in The Cybils blog:

    Middle Grade and Young Adult Nonfiction covers a wide swath of territory: from history, biography and science to sports, astronomy and dinosaurs. Homeschooling parents are using single-subject nonfiction books to supplement or replace textbooks. Teachers and librarians are recommending nonfiction titles to expand upon classroom subjects and to pique the interest of kids passionate about particular topics. And kids of all ages are seeking out books that unwrap the mysteries of the world around them. The MG/YA nonfiction committee is seeking the very best titles in this wonderful and diverse arena.

    --Jen Robinson, organizer

    Come on, go on over to The Cybils blog to nominate your favorite 2007 MG/YA Non-Fiction title. You know you want to. No need to be shy.

    Monday, October 1, 2007

    30 Day Final Check in on Wednesday, October 3rd!

    Here's a reminder for all you great folk who are following along in the 30 Day Challenge with me. The final check in will be on the 30th day...Wednesday, October 3rd. That's only two days away! Keep going. You're almost there! Can you see it? You can so do this. Check in by Wednesday, October 3rd, 11:59 pm EST for your name to be entered for a prize. The winner will be announced on October 4th. What are you waiting for? Go!