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!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

readergirlz Summer Sizzle Party on Friday, June 27th!!!

Join us for the readergirlz Summer Sizzle online party, at 6 pm Pacific and 9 pm Eastern on Friday, June 27th. We're celebrating all things summer!

Wait until you hear about all the giveaways... 
1. Copies of TWISTED by Laurie Halse Anderson. 

2. One winner will receive 4 signed books (including HOW TO BE BAD. ) by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle.

3. AVALON HIGH, CORONATION graphic novels by Meg Cabot and AIRHEAD t shirts.

4. Copies of THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary E. Pearson.

It is going to be an awesome Summer Sizzle Party.  Stop by, comment away and enjoy the great conversation!  See you there!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Inspiration Monday Quotes

But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it's better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you're fighting for.
-Paulo Coelho

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.
-Robert F. Kennedy

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
-Theodore Roosevelt

Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
-Thomas Edison

Today's a new day.  
Pick yourself up and work towards your dream.  
You Can Do It!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Farewell to School and Awesome Teacher Gifts

Today is the last day of school for my children.  The year has passed so quickly and it seems strange to think I will have a second grader and a fourth grader in school this fall.  Gulp.  

My children had their end-of-the-school-year parties in their classrooms yesterday.  It seems the class gifts for both of my school-age children had the personal touch this year.   My first grader's class drew pictures of themselves on fabric squares and one of the mothers put the pieces together and sewed them up into a class quilt for the teacher.  It was really quite lovely.  

I was the room mother for my third grader's class and had the students meet me after school on two different days last week to write thank you notes and put together a scrapbook page for their teacher and assistant teacher.  Talk about glue everywhere, children arguing about who got what piece of decorative paper, missing pictures, shredded paper, and scissors in the wrong child's hands. I forgot to mention the panic.  On my part.  You see, I've never had so many children together for an art project.  It was rather unnerving.

And scrapbooking?  I figured it would be easy.  I mean how hard is it to cut and paste paper and pictures together?  Er, a lot more work than I ever imagined.  Talk about another five hours after the children finished their pages.  But, I managed to assemble two scrapbooks--one for the teacher and one for the assistant teacher.  And they turned out Beautiful, with a capital B.

I arranged the class picture on the front page, the incredible Our Deepest Fear poem on the second page, and the children's pages followed in alphabetical order.  All the children's names and 2008 were written on each of the pages in marker, and then highlighted in silver.  The final page had inspirational teacher quotes with a thank you from the entire class.  The families also chipped in to purchase gift cards so the teachers could treat themselves to a little something.  

If ever you need an idea for a teacher gift next year, I would recommend a thank you scrapbook from the children.  To watch the teachers open up the scrapbooks, faces glowing, eyes bright from reading all the children's notes...it was a gift for the children and for me.  

Now to work on scrapbooks for my children...

Writing Tip: Ira Glass on Storytelling

Farida sent me this YouTube video. Ira Glass, of "This American Life" talks about how to build a story. This is # 3 of his videos--I believe there are 4 so far. You'll be able to see the links to them at the end of this video. Even though Ira Glass is a radio guy, what he talks about still hold true for any art form. It's good stuff. Thank you, Farida!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Writing Tips and Interview with Daphne Grab

I am pleased to welcome Daphne Grab, debut author of Alive and Well in Prague, New York to my blog.  Alive and Well in Prague, New York was just released at the beginning of this month.

In the interest of full disclosure, it's probably best to reveal I love her blog, The Longstockings, that she shares with her seven critique buddies.  They offer up writing advice, general publishing information, and share their writing concerns on their blog.  So it should be no surprise that Daphne offers up some great writing advice in her interview!  Daphne is also a member of Class of 2k8--she'll be featured on their blog this week, so go check it out!

Here's the synopsis from the front cover flap of Alive and Well in Prague, New York: Matisse Osgood is a New York City girl through and through. She buys her clothes at Andy's Cheapies, watches indie films at the Angelika, and wouldn't be caught dead on a hayride. But when her father gets sick and Matisse's parents decide to leave Manhattan for a small town in upstate New York, her perfect world crumbles. As Matisse trudges through life in Prague, she dreams of waking up in her apartment on West 78th Street with a father who's well enough to walk with her in Central Park and a mother who doesn't pretend that everything is okay. When rumors surround Matisse at school and her father's symptoms worsen, Matisse realizes that the friends she's making in Prague are the kind you can count on. They help Matisse find the strength to reach out to her father, who may not be as far from her as she thought. And one particular farm boy shows Matisse that country living is a lot more magical than she ever imagined.


You know how I'm not into giving away anything about the story.  But, I will tell you I enjoyed reading this book.  If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know my sister has a debilitating illness.  I can tell you from first hand experience that chronic illness shatters the family life in so many ways.  While it would be difficult to encompass all the emotional turbulence in one book (and I'm not too sure teens would want to read about all the darkness, anyway), Daphne does a good job capturing Matisse's vulnerabilities, heartbreak and struggles to accept her father's illness and her new life.  This is a story with heart, great characters, and a sassy voice.  Go and read this!

Without further ado, I give you Daphne Grab...

HWM: What made you realize you wanted to write children’s books?
Daphne: Two things coming together: first, long after I’d left my teen years I was still reading teen books, hiding the covers when I read on the subway since I felt like a thirty-something- year-old woman should be reading adult books. And second, I’d always wanted to be a writer but I could never think of a story to write. Then one day I got a catalog from the New School about their MFA program and I saw that they had a concentration in creative writing for children. Bells went off as two things came together and I knew that that was what I wanted to do. And one of the greatest things about being part of the kidlit community is that I now feel proud to read teen and MG books, and I hold the covers high when I read them on the subway!

HWM: I understand your dad inspired your book, Alive and Well in Prague, New York. What difficulties did you have (if any) writing this book, and how did you stay focused on Matisse’s story?
Daphne: My dad had ALS which has certain similarities to Parkinson’s, but is different enough that I didn’t get caught in writing my own story but was able to write Matisse’s. That said, I definitely drew on my own feelings of what it was like to have a sick parent who I knew would not get better. It’s such a profound and life changing experience and there are moments of fun and goodness mixed in with the sadness of knowing time is limited. I wanted the book to show that and also to show the struggle to accept things that are really hard, but it was important to me that it not be my own story, so I made sure Matisse and her circumstances were very different from my own. That freed me up to make it hers.

HWM: How did you celebrate the release of your book?
Daphne: I had a book party! It was at the Bank Street Bookstore and I had such a wonderful time- friends and family came, my kids ran around talking to everyone (they are three and a half), my awesome agent came and my wonderful editor introduced my reading. And of course my NYC writer friends, including the local Longstockings came. It was such a neat night.

HWM: It’s difficult for people to understand degenerative illnesses. You captured the family crisis so well in your book. What do you hope teens will get after reading your book?
Daphne: My hope would be that it is an empowering read, the kind of thing that affirms people being true to themselves. I’d be pleased if it if also offered comfort to teens facing different kinds of obstacles in their lives. So often people feel alone when struggling with something and I love the thought that this book might help some readers feel less alone.

HWM: I love Matisse’s voice. When did you know you had the right voice for her?
Daphne: Her voice came to me right away, which doesn’t always happen but which made it easier to write. I think I imagined her as really different from me as a teen— confident and outspoken, where as I was a bit shy and very concerned about what other people thought of me. I wanted her to be different so that I’d be sure to keep the story hers and not slip into making it mine. It was fun to write someone so sassy and self assured!

HWM: I understand you’ve just sold your second book. Congratulations! What inspired this story?
Daphne: Well, I am a huge football fan and my husband most decidedly isn’t. A few years ago we were driving home from a vacation, the kids were sleeping in the back and I was talking his ear off about football training camp which had just started. Finally he said, “you should write a book about being a football fan.” I knew he was hoping I’d channel some of my football talk into a book but the idea took root and I came up with the story of HALFTIME. My writing group and agent helped me get it into shape to sell and I’ll start edits on it this summer.

HWM: What other projects are you working on?
Daphne: I’m currently working on a rough draft of what I hope will be my next teen book.

HWM: What do you like writing the most: the beginning, middle or end? Why?
Daphne: Hmm, that’s a tough call between beginning and end. In the beginning things are fun and fresh and you don’t have to worry about making everything fit together just yet. In the end it’s exciting because it’s all coming together. It’s the middle that’s tough for me, keeping up the tension, making sure you’ve seeded things so they make sense. That’s where I am with my WIP and I’m so glad I have this interview to do instead of trying to make headway with that!

HWM: What has been the biggest challenge of your writing career and how did you tackle it?
Daphne: Recognizing that critique is a helpful tool. When I first started workshop classes at the New School I was devastated by critique. I remember the first time I shared pages a girl in the class (not a Longstocking) said, “I read these pages and thought, so what?” I felt like she’d slapped me, and perhaps that was a bit harsh. But what she was saying was that my book was starting too slow and there wasn’t anything to root for yet, both things I needed to work on. Now when I hear critique it can sting but I am always thinking about how I can use it to make my story stronger.

[HWM's Note: Probably one of the hardest things to do is to take out scenes...This was one of Daphne's favorite scenes...and it was cut from the book!]

HWM: What has been the biggest surprise of your writing career?
Daphne: How amazing and supportive the kidlit world is! It would be so easy for people to be cliquey or competitive and for the most part it feels like one big love fest of people celebrating kids books.

HWM: I read in Sea Heidi's interview with you about the importance of finding the right fit with an agent.  What are some things you think writers should consider before signing up with an agent?
Daphne: When you get that first offer from an agent it's so thrilling that it kind of sweeps you off your feet. That first time for me I was so happy someone really liked my work and wanted to represent it that I didn't think about the fact that I'd be setting up a long term relationship with this person. 

Entrusting someone with your career is a really big deal- this is the person who will advise you and be your champion, and you want to be on the same page, wanting the same things and agreeing on how to best get them. In some ways it's like a marriage and while you just need a conversation or two to decide who's a fit, you want to be sure to have that conversation and get a good feel for this person's thoughts on your career. 

Have questions ready and take note of the communication between the two of you. If things like fast email responses are important to you (they are to me) then ask about it. Think about the little details as well as the big picture stuff. If more than one agent wants you (which is often the case) don't be scared to take the time to talk to everyone and ask people to wait a few days while you figure things out. Most agents will understand and want you to make the choice that is best for you. I love my agent now and am so happy that with my second agent search I took the time to find just the right person for me.

HWM: What was the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
Daphne: To write the story you have and not try to write what you think will sell or what you think other people want to see. Just write the story you want to write.


HipWriterMama's Curiosities:
HWM: I love The Longstockings blog. What is your favorite post from the blog?
Daphne: Coe had a spoof on HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON that really cracked me up.

HWM: Do you have any plans to start your own blog?
Daphne: I love sharing a blog with the ladies of the Longstockings and at this point it fills the blogging need in my life. But never say never!

HWM: If you found a way to go back to your teen years as one of your characters, who would it be and why?
Daphne: I’d love to be Matisse and bring some of that sass into my high school life!

HWM: What makes you laugh?
Daphne: My kids crack me up everyday. Three year olds just have the funniest perspective on life!

Thank you Daphne!

Other Places to Find Daphne:
Cut Scene from Alive and Well in Prague, New York This is one of Daphne's favorite scenes...and she had to cut it from the book!

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Horn Book, An Honor, and a Newsletter

I am honored.  My blog is mentioned, among some others that you may know, in The Horn Book's May/June 2008 issue of Web Watching with Rachel.      

Did you know The Horn Book has an electronic newsletter, called Notes from the Horn Book? If you're interested in discovering new books for your child or teen, learning about authors and illustrators, and researching recommended books and resources, check out the latest issue.  You can subscribe to this free newsletter by clicking the Sign Up buttons on the newsletter.  Enjoy!

Debut Author Interview Tomorrow!

Hint: Her book was just released at the beginning of this month.

Hint:  Her book covers a hard-to-talk about subject.

Hint:  Her book will provide comfort and empowerment to teens.  

Hint:  She is part of two well-known blogs--one with other debut authors and another with her critique pals.  

Come back tomorrow and see what this debut author has to say about the critique process, her writing and her hopes for teens who read her book.

Care to venture a guess?   

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Harry Potter's Hero's Journey

Suzanne pointed out in this introductory post about The Hero's Journey, the Harry Potter books follow this plotting method.  And so they do.  

If you'd like to learn more about Harry's journey, you can read thisthis and this.  

Writing Tip: Introduction to The Hero's Journey

It's all her fault.  Yup.  PJ Hoover.  PJ is one of my critique buddies. She happened to mention The Hero's Journey, when I shared my plotting outline method.  She even went so far as to share her plot structure.  And because I  enjoy her writing so much, I decided to try this method.  

Of course I had to find out whether there was a YouTube video of The Hero's Journey...and guess what I found?  A video of Christopher Vogler, creator of The Writer's Journey for screenwriters, describing The Hero's Journey for the movie, The Matrix.  I haven't watched this movie, so if you've seen it, let me know if you liked it.  In any event, if you want a quick synopsis of The Hero's Journey, watch this.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Inspiration Monday: J.K. Rowling's Commencement Address at Harvard

"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default."
-J.K. Rowling, 2008 Commencement Address 

"We do not need magic to transform the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have power to imagine better."
-J.K. Rowling, 2008 Commencement Address 


J.K. Rowling delivered her Commencement Address, The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination, to Harvard University's Class of 2008 last Thursday. I live about a half hour from Harvard, and for a moment, thought of going to the campus to see if I could find a place to listen to her speak.  But four-year-olds and speeches do not mix well.

According to The New York Observer, J.K. Rowling was the fifth female commencement speaker since 1950.  Can you believe this?

Some graduates complained because they wanted a prominent leader at the commencement ceremonies.  They scoffed at the idea a children's book writer could deliver a suitable message for the future distinguished leaders of the world.  Hurray for the ten-year-old who said, "That was a terrible thing to say! They're just a bunch of Muggles!"

Go here for to read the text and see the video of J.K. Rowling's inspirational commencement address.  And see whether you believe this message was appropriate for a prestigious university, who could have any world class leader deliver the commencement address.  Then go out and make a difference in the world.  

Thanks to Robin Brande, I remembered I needed to post about this!

Me Too

Check out Kelly's post, I'm With Them.  Oh, yeah.  Me too.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sexism Sells--But We're Not Buying It

Check out this YouTube video.  If you're outraged, click here to sign The Women's Media Center's petition campaign against sexism in the national news outlets.  Otherwise, carry on.

Thank you, readergirlz, for sharing this one.

Edited to Add:  Also related...I just found this post from a New York Times Opinion blog. Check out all the comments.

I Wave the White Flag...

If there could be an award for world's fewest pages read for Mother Readers' 48 Hour Book Challenge, I'd probably win.  14 pages of Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock.  That's it.  Sigh.

I have tons of excuses: soccer game, the overwhelming heat, kid's activities, the heat, family time, did I mention the heat?

Go over here to find out how people did in the challenge.  Definitely better than I did.  

Friday, June 6, 2008

Revision Quotes

"Writing is rewriting.  A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with the first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing."
-Richard North Patterson

"What I had to face, the very bitter lesson that everyone who wants to write has got to learn, was that a thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish."
-Thomas Wolfe

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Movies: National Treasure: I Heart Nicolas Cage

A couple weekends ago, I watched the movies National Treasure and National Treasure 2: The Book of Secrets with my eldest daughter.  I'm not sure who enjoyed the movies more, me or her, but all I've got to say...these movies make history cool for kids.  There's action, witty comments, there are secrets to be revealed, and of course, there is Nicolas Cage.    

I have to say, these movies kind of reminded me of the Indiana Jones movies, which I adored when I was younger.  Or maybe it was Harrison Ford I adored.    

In any event, if you haven't watched the National Treasure movies yet, check out the movie trailers below.  Enjoy!   

National Treasure 1

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets