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, December 31, 2008

Start Off The New Year With Some Inspiration

Now, this is what I'm talking about! Thanks to Lorie Ann Grover for sharing this fun, inspirational video so we can start off the New Year right.  How many movies can you name in this video?

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Project 4 Awesome

I'm a little late to the game here, but have you seen all the amazing Project 4 Awesome YouTube videos out there?  If you're looking for a special charity to donate your efforts for the new year, watch these videos.  

Thank you, Sarah for this info!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Inspiration Monday: Getting Ready for the New Year

I've often wondered what it was that kept people moving toward their dreams when obstacles fell in their way. Sometimes, these rocks are just too massive and downright overwhelming, sucking up every bit of energy from one's soul. It's enough to make one want to give up and decide it obviously wasn't meant to be. 

And it's rather unfortunate.

Because if everyone did this, we wouldn't have most of the things we use on a daily basis that we take so much for granted. Almost everything our hands have touched, the knowledge we have soaked in, the history we have inherited, have come from someone else's blood, sweat and tears. There is always someone, somewhere, who had that boulder thrown in their path, and decided to find ways around it, rather than to stop and retreat.

Have you ever had that mountain grow in your path towards your dream? 

Maybe your family needs you. Or you've been getting too distracted from your day job but need to work more hours to pay those bills. Maybe your house looks like it will take an army to clean it. Or you've been sick. Or your children have been sick. Or you take care of an elderly parent.  Or you've overcommitted yourself to volunteer projects. Or to something at work to prove to your boss you're perfectly capable. Or you only have so many hours in a day and you can't find a minute for your dream. Perhaps it's your family life.  Your spouse feels neglected. Your children are acting up because they want your attention.  Your friends are mad you don't chat or meet up for coffee anymore.  

Are you feeling overwhelmed, right about now? Unsure of what to do?  Wonder how you're going to reach your dream when life just won't cooperate?  

You've got responsibilities and commitments and there isn't any room for fairy dust sprinkles and light-up-the-sky type of dreams.  Maybe you're relieved or resentful because whenever you work on making your dream a reality, you don't feel the enthusiasm you used to have. Because nobody believes in you. Or maybe your family and friends are your biggest supporters and you worry about disappointing them.  Maybe you're afraid. Of what will happen if you fail. Or if you succeed. Do you see how this list of stones can grow and grow into an impenetrable mountain?

Whew!  I'm exhausted just thinking of these situations and I know I've only written a small portion of what people are going through.

I'll be the first one to admit that I've had days, even weeks where I've been frozen in place. Worried about every little detail. Overwhelmed by lack of time. Spending time fulfilling my commitments. Afraid to make a move. 

But it's always the wondering and the thrill of my dream that gets me back into action. The What If's. What if I can prove to all the naysayers that I can do it? What if someone likes my work? What if this makes it all the worthwhile? 

Plus I think of the people who truly fought for their dreams--true heroics and courage needed to stand up and fight for their visions. 

This is what helps me find creative ways around my obstacles. It makes my dream feel more achievable, when I know others before me have suffered and accomplished so much, for beliefs and dreams far greater than mine. 

Just a few more days until the New Year...  

The way I see it (because I've justified it to myself), the 2008 slate is erased and we have a chance for a new beginning in 2009.  There is so much I wanted to get done this year, in terms of PB, and while I'm a little disappointed I didn't reach my goal, I'm off to start my quest once more in 2009.  

Can't get through this mountain? Okay, how about around it or over it.  

One step at a time. One step at a time.

You can do it!  I know you can.

Who's in for a 2009 New Year's Challenge?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Writing Confession #3

When I am involved in a story, I enter what my husband calls THE ZONE.  

My children can fight and scream, dishes can pile up, clutter can fall around me, and I wouldn't notice.  Because THE ZONE is all consuming thought and emotion rushing out onto my keyboard.  If I lose my concentration, I fear the words will all disappear.

When I'm in THE ZONE, it's hard for me to balance writing with keeping my family well-cared for...so they know they are number one in my life.  I've realized that I can do both if I write when everyone is asleep.  So, I am a night-owl.

Unless, I find an opening...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Writing Confession #2

I'm a revision addict.

I am constantly changing my WIP.  Or, for that matter, anything I write.  Not sure whether it has to do with my insecurity that what I write is pure dribble. Or whether 

I wonder if I'll know when to stop I've finished PB.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Writing Confession

Details are really important to me.  

I've interrupted writing sprees to research the little things so I can construct realistic scenes of places I've never been, traditions I've never practiced, clothing and accessories I've never worn.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Countdown Begins...

I'm cleaning, cooking and baking like a mad woman since I'm expecting around twenty people over for Christmas Eve dinner.  

The kids are asleep.  

And I'm enjoying the quiet before the storm.

Wishing you all a joyous holiday season, filled with love, laughter and happiness!  Enjoy your families, take time to relax, and spread the holiday cheer!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chocolate, Chocolate Everywhere

Looking for something easy to make for the holidays?  

Try making some chocolate bark and chocolate covered pretzels. Talk about easy. And when you arrange these chocolate pieces in a small box or cellophane bag with a festive ribbon, you've got an impressive gift to bring to friends, family and neighbors.

I usually make three kinds of chocolate bark and chocolate covered pretzels. White chocolate, milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate. Here's how to do it.

NOTE: First, as you all know, my middle child has a bunch of food allergies, two being dairy and nuts. So I make the semi-sweet chocolate goodies first. Just for her. She LOVES the semi-sweet chocolate covered pretzels the best.

If you have a loved one with food allergies, make sure the "safe" ingredients and "uncontaminated" cooking pans and utensils are kept separate from the rest of the food and cooking supplies. This is absolutely critical in my household. You'll be able to find semi-sweet chocolate, pretzel rods, jimmies, and some candies that are not manufactured near nuts or dairy. You may have to call the manufacturer directly to find out this information, if it is not specifically detailed on the food packaging.

White chocolate and milk chocolate contain dairy and may be manufactured near nuts. Semi-sweet chocolate may be manufactured near nuts and dairy. If you have a food allergic family member or friend, USE EXTREME CAUTION when choosing the chocolate and candy for these recipes. Check every ingredient carefully.

Chocolate Bark
2 bags white chocolate chips
2 bags milk chocolate chips (if you can't find milk chocolate chips, then melt white chocolate chips and semi-sweet chocolate chips together until you get the milk chocolate flavor you like)
2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
Crushed peppermint and/or spearmint hard candies or candy canes

Melt the chocolate chips over the lowest heat possible in separate pots (white chocolate in one pot, milk chocolate in a second pot, semi-sweet chocolate in a third pot). Stir each pot of chocolate chips until the chips have all melted. Line three cookie sheets with wax paper. Spread the melted white chocolate in one pan, melted milk chocolate in the second pan, melted semi-sweet chocolate in the third pan. Spread the chocolate to less than 1/2 inch thickness.

Quickly shake the crushed peppermints/spearmints or candy canes over the chocolate and press down. If you use the peppermint/spearmint combination over the white chocolate, you'll have a pretty red/green/white candy that's perfect for Christmas.

If you have any leftover chocolate, drizzle the white chocolate on top of the milk chocolate, drizzle milk chocolate on top of the white chocolate...get the picture? Place the chocolate someplace cool to harden--your refrigerator, your porch, etc.  

However, be careful.  Chocolate is sensitive to temperatures--if the chocolate gets too hot, humid or cold, white bloom will appear on the surface.

Once the chocolate bark has hardened, break off pieces and store in an airtight container. This makes plenty to share with loved ones. Enjoy!

Chocolate Covered Pretzels
1/2 bag white chocolate chips
1/2 bag milk chocolate chips
1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 bags of Rod pretzel sticks
Colorful jimmies, sprinkles, colored sugars, mini chocolate chips, crushed candy canes, crushed toffee, crushed candy bars, mini marshmallows and anything else you'd like to try

Melt the chocolate chips in three separate pots over the lowest possible heat. Stir until the chocolate chips have melted. Line three cookie sheets with wax paper.

Take one pretzel rod and dip it into the chocolate. Use a spoon to distribute the chocolate evenly over the pretzel. Quickly cover the chocolate covered pretzel with any of the yummy toppings and then put on the wax paper lined cookie sheet. Take a spoon and drizzle chocolate on top of the toppings. Continue with the rest of the pretzels.

Place the cookie sheets somewhere cool until the chocolate hardens. These are amazing. The crunch, salt and sweet together is total, total joy.

Enjoy your holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

What Are Your Favorite Holiday Foods?

Let the comments begin.  That is, if anyone is out there...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Honest Scrap Award

Becky Levine nominated me for the Honest Scrap Award.   Thanks, Becky!  By the way, if you haven't visited her writing blog: Moving Forward on the Writing Path, go do so.  Becky offers helpful tips for writers.  

But, I digress.  You're probably wondering about the Honest Scrap Award.  According to Christy's Creative Space, here is the meaning of the Scrap Award
"Scrap means left over, fragments, discarded material. Many times truth and honesty are discarded material, considered fragments and left over. People like us need to tell it like it is, and let the scraps fall where they will. There are 2 guidelines for receiving this award. One, you are to list 10 honest things about yourself. Make them interesting, even if you have to dig deep. Two, present the award to 7 other bloggers."
I'm not the most interesting person.  I had to dig deep for the "I've been 16'd", for things I'd admit to in public.  But, what are a few more?  Buckle up and get ready to find out ten more things about me...
1.  I miss the type of days where I can snuggle up on the sofa and read books, uninterrupted, all day long.  It's difficult to do this sort of thing with children in the house, so whenever this happens, I savor every word.

2.  My girls and I have major giggle fests.  I'm talking about the kind where you laugh so hard your stomach hurts and when you finally stop, one word, one look, will set it off again.  It is the best kind of silly.

4.  One of the things I regret is not knowing how to reach out to a friend when her father passed away.  I think we were in fifth grade.  Death freaked me out and I never knew what to say or act to comfort her.  For that, I am so sorry.  

5.  When I was in elementary school, I won a Worry Wart Award.  I still excel at it.

6. I haven't had a full night's sleep since my first child was born ten years ago.

7. I have difficulty writing letters to friends and family because I always end up revising them.  And putting them away.

8. Writing is hard work. It sometimes takes me days to write the "perfect" sentence.  Which makes me feel inadequate.

9. I act out scenes and talk to myself when I write.  I'm sure it makes for amusing conversations for anyone who happens to see me.

10.  I've kept an inspirational quote journal since I was a teenager.  I still have it.
I'm going to nominate all of you for the Honest Scrap Award.  Just because I'd love to know more about you.  I know things are busy with the holidays, so if you're game for this, let me know in the comments and I'll go and read your post.

Hope you're enjoying the weekend!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Poetry Friday: Incantation by Czeslaw Milosz

Jen Robinson celebrated her third blogiversary with a fantastic carnival.  Go over and read it!  It is packed with great posts from around the blogosphere.

Today, I celebrate my second blogiversary!  And what better way than with some poetry?  Here is a poem I fell in love with after reading it over at Big A little a, awhile ago.

By Czeslaw Milosz

Human reason is beautiful and invincible.
No bars, no barbed wire, no pulping of books,
No sentence of banishment can prevail against it.
It establishes the universal ideas in language,
And guides our hand so we write Truth and Justice
With capital letters, lie and oppression with small.
It puts what should be above things as they are,
Is an enemy of despair and a friend of hope.
To read the rest of the poem

[Edited to Add]: We're supposed to have a huge snow storm today.  It was announced yesterday afternoon that the schools will close at noon and my husband's office party will be cancelled (our one night out a year!). I have to admit, I was halfway hoping for a snow day.  My fourth grader and I were studying for today's math and spelling test, and it was a struggle.  The new math ways are so different from the way I learned to do it, so long ago.  Frustration all around.  If she only had one more day to study.  But it's beautiful outside, right now.  Sigh.   

Time to hunker down and get some work done while the kids are in school.  

What are you going to get done today?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Finding Space to Create

I was inspired by Beth Kephart's beautiful writing area to post my creative working space.  There's also a photo of Patty Palmer's office, one of my critique buddies.  I know I've seen more photos of other writing spaces out there, such as P.J. Hoover's (another critique buddy, who by the way has a great interview up on Blog Talk Radio), but couldn't find the posts.  

I do most of my writing in my dining room (see above picture).  We don't have an eat-in-kitchen, so we eat in the dining room every day.  It's the sunniest room in the house and I love how the plants thrive here.  I had to take eight shots of this room, before I could get one inside photo with a decent light exposure.  And please, no comments on how the rug is too small for the room or why don't I have any pictures on the wall. They're on the list of things I'll get to, one of these days.  I'd also like to paint out the woodwork a crisp white, but this is on my one day list.

My coolest plant is the 100-year-old potted clover. I joke about the age, but it is probably almost 70! My mother-in-law received this plant from her mother, when she left her house, for good luck. Now that my husband and I are guardians of this plant, you better be sure we're taking care to make sure this plant flourishes. 

A good work space is important for me to be able to collect my thoughts and create. Where else am I going to be able to pace around the room and work out the details of dialogue or plot? Or stare out the window and dream a little before typing away on my keyboard?

Where do you write?

Meg Cabot Live Chat with readergirlz Tonight at 9pm Eastern/6pm Pacific

Question:  What's going to be fun, cheery and packed with interesting information?  

Answer:  Meg Cabot's Live Chat at the readergirlz group forum!  9pm Eastern/6pm Pacific

The chat will run for an hour and Meg will talk about her work!  

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Writing Inspiration: Visualize Your Goal

Visualize your goal. Keep it front and center. Tell some trusted friends and family about your dream. Print your goal on beautiful paper, frame it and hang it somewhere you will see it everyday. Write a letter about your dreams and mail it to yourself. Put it on your screensaver on your computer. 

Do everything possible to keep your goal in the forefront of your mind at all times.

Believe in it.

Live it.

Breathe it.

And if you dare...Look yourself in the eye in the mirror and tell yourself what you're gonna it. Corny. I know. But you have to believe it, see the play by play moves, and get your arms around the nitty gritty details to keep your eye on the pie. 

This will help you will search for another way when you bump into a closed door. Or brainstorm for a different way to get your idea heard. So you can recognize when you need to revise things a bit. And. So you will keep your head up high while you are on your Great Adventure. No matter what. 


You have an amazing idea. You are smart enough. You are talented enough.

Just visualize your goal. See all the little steps to get to the big picture.  Work through all the sweat and tears. 

You can do it. I believe you can.

Now get to work!

Book Giveaway Winners

Thank you, everyone, for sharing your favorite holiday memories.  They are lovely.

I'd like to celebrate the holidays in style and have decided to give away three surprise book packages for my Book Giveaway.

The winners are Solvang Sherrie, Nowheymama, and Beth.

Congratulations!  Send me your snail mail address (United States address only) to hipwritermama@comcast.net and be sure to put in the Subject line: Book Giveaway.  Please contact me by Saturday, December 20th to be eligible for the prize.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Look Fear in the Eye and Get to Work

Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.
- Dorothy Thompson

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.

Has anyone told you lately that you're good enough, smart enough, clever enough?  

If not, I will.  

You have the right combination of genetic codes to do whatever it is you want to do.  You are smart, capable, talented and filled with potential.  

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  Throw out those negative thoughts that slow you down.  No need to have that in your way.

Instead, show yourself what you are capable of.  Prove to yourself that you can.  

Will you let the fear in and dominate your whole existence or will you totally kick it to the curb?  Are you going to follow your dream?  Or will you always wonder?

You decide.

Now get to work.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Inspiration Monday: Time to Hunker Down

One-and-a-half weeks left before winter break and the kids will be home, home, home for the holidays.  There will be little time for writing or plotting or shopping or wrapping, so I've got to keep focused for the next nine days.  

I have to admit, I've been distracted with life stuff these past few weeks.  Nothing I can't get through.  Especially, since I don't want to use this as an excuse for not moving towards my dream of becoming a published author.

I'm so excited about how PB is progressing and can't wait to make it a reality.  It's time to hunker down and work on the finishing touches.

What about you?  What are you working on?

Friday, December 12, 2008

I've been 16'd

Becky Levine 16'd me last week on FaceBook, and I figured I'd post this on FaceBook and on my blog.

I wasn't sure that I'd find 16 interesting facts about myself (that I'd be willing to share with the public), but I've come up with a list. In case you're interested, these facts reflect my mood this gray day (which is helpful to a particular scene I'm working on in my historical novel right now), so be forewarned.

Before I forget, here are the rules:
Once you’ve been tagged, you have to write a note with 16 random things, shortcomings, facts, habits or goals about you. At the end choose 16 people to be tagged, listing their names and why you chose them. Tag the person who tagged you. And, finally, if you're tagged, please, no pressure on this...feel free to ignore the tag.

Here are 16 things about me:
1. I am fascinated by all things medical.

2. I love watching the medical shows on the Discovery Channel, but would never make a good doctor.

3. I also would never make a good news anchor.

4. Even though I was a newscaster at my college radio news station and loved every minute of it.

5. I cry when I hear sad things.  Which would be embarrassing if I were a newscaster or doctor.

6. When I was 28, I noticed a strange mole on my foot and brought it to the attention of my dermatologist.

7. He told me I had nothing to worry about, since the mole was small and I didn't fall into a risk category. I insisted the mole didn't look right. He referred me to a surgeon.

8. I watched the surgeon take the mole off my foot. I wanted to see a real surgery. It was cool.

9. I found out I had melanoma right before I had to go to my husband's (boyfriend at the time) father's wake. It was devastating.

10. I'm a firm believer that you need to go through major trauma with a significant other to determine whether you have a future together. My husband is a rock.

11. I also believe in "love" at first sight. When I first met my husband, there was magic. Even though he ticked me off.

12. The surgeon had to take more skin off and once he was done stitching me up, my foot was twisted around. That made me queasy.

13. My surgeon taught me how to "collapse" with the crutches for sympathy. I used his method quite a bit with my boyfriend (now husband). It worked. Every time.

14. I missed my calling as an actress, but am perfectly happy acting out stories for my children.

15. My parents named me after the actress, Vivien Leigh.

16. My parents forced me to  I've watched Gone With the Wind a gazillion times when I was a teen, that I think of Scarlett O'Hara's cheesy line, "Tomorrow is another day," whenever I'm frustrated with my writing.

Okay, I'm going to tag anyone who wants to follow along. Just let me know so I can read and comment on your 16 Things! 

Tag, you're it!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Book Giveaway Contest

In celebration of the holidays and to thank all my loyal readers, I'm going to give away surprise book packages.  All you have to do is comment away on your favorite holiday memory.  

No snail mail addresses or other private info in the comments.  And sorry, but because of the shipping costs, U.S. destinations only.

Deadline is Monday, December 15th at 12 noon EST.  

Let the comments begin.

Books that are Fit to Print

How did I miss this one?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Humorous Book Ideas for the Elementary School Child

This has been quite a week of worry, waiting, and relief.  

And it's only Wednesday.
Thankfully, my middle daughter, in all her growing up, distracted me from all the stresses of life.  She just turned eight-years-old and in a flurry of hopeful news, I picked up the girls from school, brought their dolls and surprised them with a trip to the American Girl store, which just opened in my area.

My daughter had begged for an American Girl doll birthday party with  twenty of her closest friends (slight exaggeration, here).  When I had looked into it, it was much more than I was willing to spend (scroll to the bottom of the linked page to see price).  I convinced her that we could have a lovely doll party at home (this Sunday!) and she agreed.  Of course, I felt guilty, hence the surprise trip to the store.    

Did you know they have a salon for the dolls, offering hairstyling and ear piercing?  A bistro where the girls and their dolls can eat together?  Dolls, accessories and clothing displayed on two floors?  It is a posh haven for girls who love their dolls.  There were no signs of lagging retail sales here, where parents were lined up at the cash registers to purchase bags of expensive doll stuff.

I am so grateful my girls behaved in the store, and didn't whine at all the times I said, "No."  They enjoyed the moment and loved looking at all the doll goodness without getting jealous of all the other girls with their huge bags.  Middle child chose an ice skating outfit and skates for her doll, eldest chose a book, little one wanted a hairbrush.  This was a big moment, and of course, I caved in so their dolls could get pierced ears.  (Believe me, I was halfway tempted to just bring the dolls home and drill holes into the ears myself, but with my luck, something disastrous would happen.  This is probably best left to the professionals.)

All I can say, is my daughter's birthday party is going to be delightful.  My daughter's friends can bring either their favorite doll or stuffed animal and we are going to do them up, with hairstyles, make necklaces or collars, and have a nice tea party. 

With the type of week I'm having, humor is sorely needed, and for that, I know I can always rely on any one of my children's favorite books.  By the way, if you're looking for a holiday book gift for an elementary child, these would be laugh-out-loud reads.  

Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park (If you can find the audiobooks narrated by Lana Quintal, you are in for a treat!)

Here are some reader suggestions:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Five on a Friday: Books on My Mind

Looking for books to give to a special pre-teen or teen in your life?  I'll be posting my book recommendations throughout the month with a MotherReader twist (though I have to say, MotherReader has 84 book/gift combinations posted as of today, so you must go and check out her fantastic ideas).  

Here are my Friday Five, in no particular order:

1.  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins:  include a canteen or stainless steel water bottle and a copy of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. 

2.  Undercover by Beth Kephart: include a beautiful journal, fountain pen and dictionary/thesaurus.  Or ice skates, hat, scarf and gloves.

3. Graceling by Kristin Cashore: include with self-defense classes.

4.  The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt: include with a book on Shakespeare, a New York Yankees baseball cap (though if you're so inclined, a Boston Red Sox baseball cap would do nicely) and good pair of running shoes.

5.  Shug by Jenny Han: include with friendship bracelet kit, camera, scrapbook and a book on self-esteem for girls.

Here are some reader suggestions:

M. Thompson recommends:

Sunday, November 30, 2008

rgz:A Popularity Discussion

This month, readergirlz is featuring the book, How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot.  In light of this new topic of the month, Little Willow  gathered the readergirlz divas, advisors and postergirlz to share our thoughts on popularity.

Here's my contribution to the discussion:

I will never forget my brushes with popularity during my high school years -- from the time one of the wrestling jocks had a major crush on me (!) in my freshman year, to when one of the most popular girls in my junior year became a true friend, to when a group of senior girls looked at me with a whole new set of eyes. All fascinating experiences for a girl who was not popular, who didn't always fit in.

I was one of those fortunate teens who could mingle with almost any group, but only in the fringes. To be in the core center of a group required an effort, a true belief that one belonged. I was a consummate rebel and unwilling to jump through hoops. Perhaps I was scared, or maybe I just didn't want to commit. It's funny, I'm really not sure now.

But I do know, looking back, that I always wanted to be accepted for who I was, not for what I represented. I hated being pigeon-holed as the Asian, the smart kid, the first chair violinist. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the people who were most likely to see me for who I was, were the teens I thought were the least likely to.

This knowledge has been invaluable over the years and has shaped how I interact with people. There are people who will defy the definition of what it means to be popular, what it means to be beautiful, or exceptional. Yes, there are those who will always play the popularity card to the hilt, and be the epitome of every teen angst movie out there, but there are also the people out there who yearn to be seen for themselves, who believe in letting others shine, of letting people have their moment, and being true.

What are your observations about high school popularity?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Poetry Friday: Colors Passing Through Us by Marge Piercy

Colors passing through us
By Marge Piercy

Purple as tulips in May, mauve
into lush velvet, purple
as the stain blackberries leave
on the lips, on the hands,
the purple of ripe grapes
sunlit and warm as flesh.

Every day I will give you a color,
like a new flower in a bud vase
on your desk. Every day
I will paint you, as women
color each other with henna
on hands and on feet.

Red as henna, as cinnamon,
as coals after the fire is banked,
the cardinal in the feeder,
the roses tumbling on the arbor
their weight bending the wood
the red of the syrup I make from petals.

Orange as the perfumed fruit
hanging their globes on the glossy tree,
orange as pumpkins in the field,
orange as butterflyweed and the monarchs
who come to eat it, orange as my
cat running lithe through the high grass.

Click here to read the rest of the poem

Lisa Chellman is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup

rgz Blog-o-Hunt for Native American Heritage Month!

It's time for another rgz blog-o-hunt for Native American Heritage month!

The rules: Find the answers to the questions below and email your responses to readergirlz@gmail.com with the subject line "rgz blog-o-hunt" by November 30th. The first 25 correct entries will win rgz buttons and bookmarks!

Cynthia Leitich Smith sent these questions:

1. Sherman Alexie wrote the screenplay for a movie that was a huge hit at the 1998 Sundance festival. What was it called?

2. What is Sherman's recent award-winning YA novel that shares the life of a Native American male teen?

3. Where does Joseph Bruchac live?

4. Joy Harjo and Cynthia Leitich Smith are enrolled members of the same Nation. What is the name of the tribe?

5. What will Richard Van Camp's next novel be called?

6. In addition to Moccasin Thunder, featuring Native authors, Lori M. Carlson also edited a YA anthology highlighting Latino voices. What was it called?

Hint: These great blogs will help you find some answers:


Good luck, readergirlz!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with plenty of good laughs, thoughtful conversation, mouth-watering food, and mutual appreciation.

I am grateful for all of you, for taking the time to read my posts, for revealing your kindnesses and acute observations over the past year.  

Thank you, everyone!  See you Friday!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Inspiration Monday: Crankin' Out the Words, the 5K Way

No time for slouching today.  It's Maniacal Monday!  I only have today and tomorrow to write since the kids will be home from school for the Thanksgiving holiday.  So, 5k words today, it is.  

Anyone else in?  Keep checking in the comments here or over at Holly's for some encouragement!  

Wahoo!  Here are some of the people who are in!
M. Thompson

Good luck!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Every Soul a Star Book Giveaway Winner

Thank you, everyone, for sharing your special star-gazing memories.  They are special, and it was a privilege to read them.

Well, it's time to draw the name to see who'll win a copy of Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass.  Drumroll.......

Meggy!  You're the winner!  Send me your snail mail address to my e-mail: hipwritermama @ comcast dot net, and I will be sure to forward it on.

Thank you to Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group) for giving away a copy of Every Soul a Star.

WBBT Interviews: A Recap

I love finding out about talented authors and their books, and the WBBT is a great way to do so.  I have been honored to participate in this tour, and thank my guests and their publishers, for donating books for the book giveaways:

If you haven't had a chance to read all the interviews, please find the schedule below, so you can catch up at your leisure.  Chasing Ray's Master List, details wonderful quotes from each interview.

Monday, November 17th

Lewis Buzbee at Chasing Ray
Louis Sachar at Fuse Number 8
Laurel Snyder at Miss Erin
Courtney Summers at Bildungsroman
Elizabeth Wein at Finding Wonderland
Susan Kuklin at The YA YA YAs

Tuesday, November 18th
Ellen Dalow at Chasing Ray
Tony DiTerlizzi at Miss Erin
Melissa Walker at HipWriterMama
Luisa Plaja at Bildungsroman
DM Cornish at Finding Wonderland
LJ Smith at The YA YA YAs
Kathleen Duey at Bookshelves of Doom

Wednesday, November 19th
Ellen Klages at Fuse Number 8
Emily Jenkins at Writing and Ruminating
Ally Carter at Miss Erin
Mark Peter Hughes at HipWriterMama
Sarah Darer Littman at Bildungsroman
MT Anderson at Finding Wonderland
Mitali Perkins at Mother Reader
Christine Marciniak with A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Thursday, November 20th
Martin Millar at Chasing Ray
John Green at Writing and Ruminating
Beth Kephart at HipWriterMama
Emily Ecton at Bildungsroman
John David Anderson at Finding Wonderland
Brandon Mull at The YA YA YAs
Lisa Papademetriou at Mother Reader

Friday, November 21st
Mayra Lazara Dole at Chasing Ray
Francis O'Roark Dowell at Fuse Number 8
J. Patrick Lewis at Writing and Ruminating
Wendy Mass at HipWriterMama
Lisa Ann Sandell at Bildungsroman
Caroline Hickey/Sara Lewis Holmes at Mother Reader
A.S. King at Bookshelves of Doom
Emily Wing Smith at Interactive Reader

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Undercover Book Giveaway Winner!

Thank you, everyone, for your sharing your most gratifying plot twists.  It's always fun to see what people like reading.

I wanted to let you know who the winner is for Undercover by Beth Kephart.  Drumroll, please.  

Kelly Fineman!  You're the winner!  Send me your snail mail address to my e-mail: hipwritermama @ comcast dot net, and I will be sure you receive the book.

Thank you to Harper Teen for giving away a copy of Undercover.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Poetry Friday: Poppies by Mary Oliver

You know it's cold when the water bottle in your car is practically frozen by morning.  Shiver. 

Here's a poem to bring in some spring, hope and happiness.  Stay warm and have a great weekend!

by Mary Oliver

The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn't a place
in this world that doesn't

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.

But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it's done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.

WBBT: Self-Discovery with Wendy Mass and a Book Giveaway

I am pleased to welcome Wendy Mass to my blog. I've been a fan of her work, particularly of Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. If you haven't read it yet, you really need to. It is perhaps one of my favorite MG books that I've read this year. My husband did and couldn't wait to discuss it. And that is saying something.

Wendy has written both fiction and non-fiction for children. Her first fiction book, A Mango Shaped Space, won the ALA Schneider Family Book Award, New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age designation, Peoples' Choice Award, Great Lakes Book Award and Michigan State award.

Wendy has taken her love of research from the non-fiction world, and used it to create some wonderful fiction for young readers. Check out this educational guide that can be used for some of her books.

Every Soul a Star, Wendy's most recent book, combines three unique voices, self-discovery, unexpected friendships with the life-changing power of the solar eclipse.


Hachette Book Group has donated a copy of Wendy's most recent book, Every Soul a Star, for a Book Giveaway Contest! Details are at the end of the interview.

Without further ado, I give you Wendy Mass...

HWM: You’ve had what some people would consider a “glamorous” career in the entertainment industry. What made you want to write books for teens? How did you get your “break” into getting published?
Wendy Mass: LOL at glamorous. Although there was that one time I was an extra in Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5. That was pretty glam. I got to wear a sweaty Freddy Krugar mask, stick my head out of a plastic tree, and moan. Now every time I’m hiking I’m sure a face is going to pop out of a tree. I did have some fun Hollywood jobs though—working for a casting agent, literary agents, film producers, and getting story credit for an episode of the TV show Monk. I was told by one big mover and shaker that I was “too nice” for the entertainment biz. I think the bottom line is that to make it out there, you have to really, really want it more than anything in the world. And what I really wanted more than anything was to write books for kids and teenagers. It’s my small way of paying homage to the books that were so important to me when I was growing up.

As for breaking into publishing, it took a decade of trying. I pitched and sold my first short story with a huge piece of spinach in my teeth, so I’m convinced the editor just said yes so she wouldn’t have to keep staring at it. At least when Little Brown & Company bought my first book—A Mango-Shaped Space—I didn’t have to worry about their motives!

HWM: I never realized until I did some research, that you’ve written a number of non-fiction books for children/teens. What do you consider makes a successful non-fiction book? Do you miss writing non-fiction?
Wendy Mass: I loved writing the nonfiction books, and for a while I would alternate fiction and non. Basically I chose topics that I was eager to learn more about, since I knew I’d be researching the topic for months. Writing about Stonehenge got me a pass inside the inner circle of rocks, and writing a book about Halloween got me, well, lots of candy! Writing a biography of children’s book authors led to my first meeting with Judy Blume. Some kids want to meet rock stars or movie stars, but to an aspiring children’s book writer, she’s the person you want to meet. It took years until I got up the nerve to approach her, and of course she’s wonderful and lovely and encouraging.

I think what makes a good nonfiction book is one that doesn’t feel dry--where the author’s passion for the topic shows through and excites the reader, too. I’ve stopped writing the nonfiction books for now, but have kept up the practice of writing about topics that I’m curious to learn more about. With A Mango-Shaped Space it was synesthesia, and with Every Soul a Star it’s astronomy.

HWM:Your fiction books are wonderful. If you had to choose, which ones are your favorites and why?
Wendy Mass: Writing each book was such a different experience, depending on what was going on in my life at the time, or how crazy the deadline was, or how freaked out I got halfway through because the characters were taking the book somewhere I didn’t expect. A Mango-Shaped Space is the closest to my heart because it was my first. Leap Day was the most fun to write and spilled out onto the page very quickly. I learned the most while writing Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, and it was also the hardest because the topic was so, well, meaning of life-ish. With Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall, I wrote it while so sleep deprived after the twins were born that I look at it now and don’t even remember writing huge parts of it. It’s kinda fun to pick up your own book and get to experience it almost the same way a reader would.

HWM: I loved Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. Did you have difficulty writing from a boy’s POV? What did you do to keep Jeremy’s voice authentic?
Wendy Mass: I started Jeremy Fink soon after finishing Leap Day, where I had experimented with a lot of different character’s points of view. I found that I really enjoyed writing from the male POV, and that’s why I chose to do it for Jeremy. I also liked the idea of writing something that might attract boys as well as girls. I was lucky enough to have a chatty 12-year-old boy as a neighbor. He used to take these long walks through the neighborhood, alone, just thinking about life. I gave him the first few chapters and asked him if it felt like a real boy’s voice. His only response was, “What’s in the box?” so I figured I didn’t need to worry. :o)

HWM: You have a wonderful ability to bring your characters to life through emotion and humor. Which is easier for you to write--the humor or the emotion?
Wendy Mass: I think if I’ve done my job by plotting the book well enough, then that stuff will just grow naturally out of what the character needs to feel at that moment. If I have to concentrate on being funny then it doesn’t work. And for the more emotional scenes, if it doesn’t make me cry while I’m writing it, I start over!

HWM: Every Soul a Star was just released this month. What did you do to celebrate?
Wendy Mass: Yikes! I forgot to celebrate! Is it too late?

HWM: Every Soul a Star is written from three points of view. This must have been a challenge! How did you decide on these three characters? Did you know right away you were going to write the book from 3 POV’s?
Wendy Mass: When I first proposed the book to my editor, the whole story was in only one voice—the character who became Jack. But when I sat down to write it, I just kept thinking that there were so many different ways to tell this story. So I basically started at the end—with the solar eclipse—and thought about what would bring different people to be standing in this remote spot at this unique point in history? Then I came up with three characters—the one who lived there, the one who didn’t want to be there, and the one who found himself there at the last minute. It was definitely a challenge, but I kept a big chart that showed what each character was doing in each chapter, making sure their stories kept pace with each other, and that their storylines could each stand on its own.

HWM: Who was the hardest POV to write? Easiest POV?
Wendy Mass: Honestly I enjoyed writing all of them equally. I would look forward to returning to each one in turn, like a friend I hadn’t seen in 20 pages. They were all so different, so none really felt harder than another.

HWM: One of the minor characters in the book has food allergies. What inspired this?
Wendy Mass: I knew I wanted a scene where one of the main characters—Jack—would at first mess up, but would wind up coming through in the end. I thought for a while that the character who Jack has to help would have an allergic reaction to a bee, but wound up doing the food since it’s so prevalent these days and having the right medicine at arms’ reach is so important.

HWM: Your books are empowering for teens. How long do you research different topics to create your characters and their areas of expertise?
Wendy Mass: I love researching things, so I spend a ton of time doing that before the actual writing. Probably too much time! Once I’ve exhausted written material, I go out in the world to experience the topic as much as I can. With A Mango-Shaped Space I traveled the country attending meetings and lectures about synesthesia, and for Every Soul a Star I visited planetariums, took a class in stargazing, bought a telescope I can’t figure out how to use, and saw Saturn at a nearby observatory. Even after all that, I still give sections of each book to experts in the different fields before I hand it in.

HWM: I love the plotting in your books. On your website, you kindly share an essay on your outlining strategies. Have you ever veered from this method and just written on the fly?
Wendy Mass: For some reason when I was writing Jeremy Fink I used it only loosely, to do the main outline. As a result, I definitely had a harder time writing the book. I think for some people having the book mapped out ahead of time sounds like it takes the creativity out of it, but for me it’s the opposite. Not worrying about the plotting frees me up to focus on the writing itself.

HWM: I understand from your blog that you’re writing a new book called The Candymaker’s Son. Are you able to tell us anything about it? Are you enjoying the research of candy?
Wendy Mass: I’m a huge candy person. My editor, Alvina Ling, is too. But she has it under control by only eating candy once a year on her birthday. I aspire to once a day! The Candymaker’s Son is about a boy whose parents own and run a candy factory, so I learned a lot about how all to make all different kinds of candy—where the ingredients come from, how the machines work, all that. The book, while not a fantasy, is sort of fantastical, if that makes any sense. And any book that sends me to Hershey Park in the name of research is one worth writing!

HWM: What do you like writing the most: the beginning, middle or end of the story? How long does it take for you to figure out the end?
Wendy Mass: The end. I always write the last scene before I start the book, and that helps keep me on track in terms of where my character has to go. It’s the beginning that I struggle with. Where’s the best place to start a story? The day that’s different? The day before the day that’s different? Ugh. I must write that first chapter 100 times before settling on one.

HWM: What is your writing routine?
Wendy Mass: I’ve heard that word “routine” before, but it seems to have fallen out of my dictionary when the babies were born. Sigh. Now I’m lucky if I can get in a few hours a day. I used to wear a special writing hat and I’d spread small objects around my computer that related to each book. Now I’m lucky if I can find my desk at all. As each deadline approaches, my house gets messier and messier. But in a way, having less time forces me to focus so hard when I do get to write, that I wind up doing fewer drafts.

HWM: What was the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
Wendy Mass: “Write the books you’d want to read.” – Ray Bradbury. Although I’d do anything Ray Bradbury told me to. The worst advice probably came from my dad. He expended a lot of energy over the years trying to convince me to get a “real job,” you know, one with dental and a retirement plan and a weekly paycheck. It took till my sixth book was published for him to stop. Although I may prefer it to his new crusade, which is to storm into bookstores demanding they stock my books. When I begged him not to do this, he said, and I quote, “Look, the only way anyone is going to know about your books is if they stumble across them on the shelves. You’re not James Patterson.” He means well. I think.

HipWriterMama's Curiosities

HWM: What is your most memorable fan moment?
Wendy Mass: Well, one of the top ones didn’t even happen directly to me. My dad was on an airplane once next to a 13-year-old girl reading one of my books. She didn’t believe him when he told her he was my father. I know that experience made him really happy. I’d say the really special moments keep coming—starting almost six years ago with my first letter from a girl with synesthesia who found A Mango-Shaped Space and how she finally felt understood, to just yesterday, when a teacher told me his class had done an assignment where the parents handed in a special object for their child to be put in the child’s “box”, like in Jeremy Fink. Then when they finished reading the book they all opened their boxes and found the objects and the explanations. The teacher said how it brought them all to tears. Being a part of something like that, even indirectly, is such an incredible blessing.

HWM: If you found a way to go back to your teen years as one of your characters, who would it be and why?
Wendy Mass: That’s a tough one! It would be fun to be Bree (from Every Soul a Star) just for a day, because it would be a kick to be totally beautiful and popular and confident. Otherwise, I’d say Ally, from the same book. I’d love to feel as at home in nature as she does. And she’s just so open and easy-going and curious about the world.

HWM: What makes you laugh?
Wendy Mass: Here’s what made me laugh today: When my two year old announced, upon eating his snack, “It’s not edamame, it’s edadaddy.” The Thanksgiving episode of Friends with Brad Pitt on it. Reminiscing with an old high school friend about climbing out the first floor window of our history class and bringing back a pizza without the teacher noticing. Good times, good times.

HWM: If you were a superhero, what powers would you want and why?
Wendy Mass: I’d like the power to turn back time one hour. It would be enough time to undo something really bad happening, but not too long that it would mess up too many other things. I actually think about this a lot! I’m a big time travel geek. Do let me know if you can arrange this. :o)

HWM: Thank you, Wendy!
Wendy: Thank you!


Other Places to Find Wendy:


Hachette Book Group has donated a copy of Every Soul a Star for a Book Giveaway Contest! Listen to this podcast of Wendy reading a selection from Every Soul a Star.

If you'd like a chance to win the book, write about your favorite memory having to do with stars in the comments section.

The deadline for this contest is Saturday, November 22nd at 11pm, EST. The winner will be announced on Sunday, November 23rd.

Good luck!