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

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


Monday, September 29, 2008

Celebrate Your Freedom to Read: Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week
Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This year, 2008, marks BBW's 27th anniversary (September 27 through October 4).

BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.

BBW is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, National Association of College Stores, and is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.
 [This is from the ALA's site]

I found this excellent YouTube video over at Blogher.  Here are the 100 most banned and challenged books from 1990 - 2000.  See any beloved books?  Award-winning books?  

Go now and celebrate your Freedom to Read. 
Read a banned book.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Writing Tip: Fleshing out Character Motivation, Part I

When I was in college, I loved hanging out in front of the main student center and getting in some face time.  Sure there were other places to hang out, the fish bowl over at Uris Library, the different college quads or Libe Slope, but Willard Straight Hall was the place to be if you wanted to check out fraternity/sorority activities, protests, meet friends for lunch, people watch or just hang until your next class and find something of substance.    

Of course I'd go to the Straight at about the same time each day, so I'd usually get to observe the same people who were on a similar "hang out" schedule as I was. One of my favorite things to do was to make up stories about different people who caught me eye.  I'd wonder why they were in such a good mood one day.  Sad another.  Angry another.  And so it went on.  Some I became friends with if I was brave enough to start a conversation.  Others I admired from a distance or felt sorry for.  Or was glad I didn't know.

I've always been fascinated with the emotions and motivations of people and this, combined with my love of books and the time spent hanging out in front of the Straight helped shape my ideas of what made interesting, complex people on paper.  Now, I find myself lucky if I have time to watch a movie or television show.  Because rather than days and months of observing people, through the magic of cameras, we can have the self-gratification of watching how people react and act in a half-hour tv show, a one-hour tv series or reality based show, or a two-hour movie. Characters have never been so interesting and it is fascinating to see what makes them tick and how they show their emotions.   

All this careful observation helps me shape my characters when I'm writing, for I don't want a character in name only.  As you all know, that's boring.  I want a character that lives and breathes and makes the reader want to love him or hate her or be her friend or want to be him.  And while I don't want it to take forever when reading a book to know whether I want to know more about a character, as a writer, I need to be respectful about the time and patience that is required to create a character and make them believable.

As I've mentioned before, one of my critique buddies, PJ Hoover, shared an awesome plotting exercise which included character motivations.  Character motivations and plotting are so closely tied in together, that when you have a moment, I urge you to try this exercise.  I'm not a huge fan of writing exercises since I'd rather be in the forefront and focus on what I have to write, but I'm telling you, this exercise will save you tons of time.

In part of this exercise, you need to write out what the character needs, desires/motivations and weaknesses are.  Once you have it clear on paper what these are, every time you write a scene, you can make sure these three things drive every decision and conflict so it ensures the believability of your character and what needs to be done to create growth in your character.

Some people may disagree with me, but I'm a big believer that a lot of these character needs, desires/motivations and weaknesses come from the character's background--their family, friends, religion (if any), race, gender.  Understand the background, the backstory, because this is where the writer can add depth to the character.  Is your character one who will shrug off what was ingrained in him/her as a child and create a new future or one who will fall in line with what is expected?  Will your character believe they deserve better, sink in the muck or stay status quo? 

It doesn't mean all of the backstory needs to show up in your book.  

But, as a writer, you need to know and understand your character's backstory so you can create the evolution of your character's personality, motivations, weaknesses, and emotions. If you need to make sure certain things about your character are believable, it's probably a good place to put in a little backstory. Note the key word is little.  

Put the backstory in as a paragraph or two.  The reader doesn't need to know it all and most likely the reader won't want to know about the character's past until they care about the present.    

The easiest way to add in backstory is with a casual reference inserted into a paragraph. Another way writers add in backstory is by adding a few paragraphs or a lengthy exposition to pique the reader's interest.  Then, there is the flashback.  Since there are people more knowledgeable than I am about these sorts of things, I'll lead you to Through the Tollbooth's post of the best way to write a flashback.

Remember, if you want to create a complex character, delve into your character's backstory, to see how the needs, desires/motivations and weaknesses developed.  Use this to help plan your character's growth in your book.

Do you have any other suggestions?

Now, get back to work.

This is the third post in my Character Development series.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

National Book Festival, September 27th in Washington, D.C.

I am so jealous of people who live in the Washington, D.C. area.  The 2008 National Book Festival will take place Saturday, September 27th, right in the National Mall.

Now in its eighth year, this free event, featuring over 70 award-winning authors, is sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by First Lady Laura Bush.  The Festival will take place rain or shine Saturday, September 27th 2008 from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at The National Mall (Between 3rd and 7th Streets) in Washington, D.C.  Additional details on the festival are housed here: http://www.loc.gov/bookfest.

Authors, illustrators and poets will interact with festival-goers at seven themed pavilions such as the Children pavilion. 

In addition to the DC festivities, the Library is offering a variety of ways for people around the country to participate in the event online:
  • The National Book Festival Young Readers’ Online Toolkit, features information about National Book Festival authors who write for children and teens, podcasts of their readings, teaching tools and activities for kids. This resource shows educators, parents and children how they can host their own book festival.
  • Online chats hosted by washingtonpost.com featuring a select group of Festival authors. These live text-based discussions will take place throughout September leading up to the Festival at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/liveonline/, where participants can submit questions and comments any time before or during the live chat.
  • Podcasts, also available on iTunes, featuring interviews with some of the award-winning authors participating in the 2008 National Book Festival.
For additional details about participating authors, illustrators and poets please visit, www.loc.gov/bookfest.  

And if you have a chance to attend the festival, please blog about it, so the rest of us can live vicariously through your experience!  Thank you!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

2008 Cybils Non-Fiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Committee

It's official!  I'm returning to the Cybils Non-Fiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Committee, and looking forward to discovering all the great non-fiction books out there published in 2008.  

Nominations for your favorite books start October 1st over at the Cybils blog. Be sure to cast your vote!

Writing Tip: Building a World of Characters

It's been awhile since my first post in my character development series -- what with summer vacation, the start of school and kid stuff. Now that I'm somewhat organized, it's time to get back into the swing of the nitty gritty details of writing.  

I'm ready to get back to work.

Are you?

Last time, I wrote about creating character names and how it can lead to building your character's personalities. Today, I'm backtracking and writing about building your world of characters.  Kind of an important thing to do when you're starting a manuscript.

So, without further ado, let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.  

How does one go about creating a world of characters for a book?  

You probably have a plot written out.  And you might already have all your characters lined up. But I'd like to ask you two questions:  
  1. Do you have the right protagonist?  
  2. Do you have the best characters that will help you tell your story?  

There are many ways to tell a story and many variations of characters that can play in the story. But only the right combination is going to interest the agent, the editors of the publishing house, your readers.

Whether a writer chooses to keep the characters to a minimum, or employ a significant number of characters so a list or key must be provided at the beginning of the book for the reader to refer to, the writer still needs to decide who will be the protagonist and who will have the supporting roles.  When you think about it, any character could be a protagonist and depending on who he/she is, your story will change, to reflect their world view.  However, even if this is true, it doesn't mean any character is the right character for the protagonist of the story you want to tell.  


Oh, yes.  There were a couple times I chose the wrong protagonist for a manuscript.  And I was fortunate to discover it in the first draft stage, when a supporting character's personality burst forth with so much color, it was clear he/she needed to be rewritten as the protagonist.  My work became stronger for the change because I listened to what my characters had to say.  

Do not be afraid to change your characters around.  It will only make your work stronger.

An important thing to think about when choosing your protagonist is whether he/she will grow/change and go through an emotional arc or whether he/she is going to stay the same, because sometimes, people just don't change.

For the emotional arc or journey to work, the reader needs to believe the character is capable of change.  We need to see the character's experiences and be able to follow along in their path to growth or destruction.  Will this character become a better person or will he/she spiral down to the depths of despair?  The emotional arc should be realistic and show gradual change--not one day the protagonist is a geek and the next moment he's basking in the glow of popularity.  Most successful books show an emotional arc, because it is an excellent way of creating tension.

If you choose your protagonist to stay constant to reflect the reality that people don't always change, there needs to be a way to make sure the reader is engaged, whether in a great sidekick, a unique narrator's POV and intriguing plot.  Because to read 250+ pages of the same thing, is...well, boring.

Now that you know if your protagonist will change or remain constant, it's time to figure out who else gets written in.  Some things to think about:
  1. Is there is enough of a difference between characters, ie: dialogue, personalities, needs, wants
  2. How do your characters know each other? Is it realistic?  
  3. Consider your scenes and make sure all the logical characters are there, otherwise the reader will go, huh?

Many writers use a character worksheet or write out a bio of their key characters so they have something to work with to create a believable character with dialogue, intrigue, motivations and plotting.  I'm more of a write-out-a-page-about-my-character type of gal, since I like experimenting with dialogue and voice up front.  

Key things I think about for my YA characters:
  • Name
  • Nicknames
  • Age
  • Grade
  • Physical Appearance
  • How do they feel about their looks?
  • Family background
  • Where do they live?
  • Who lives with them?
  • Job (if any)
  • How do they feel about their parents?
  • How do they feel about their siblings?
  • Best friend
  • Enemy
  • Likes
  • Dislikes
  • What motivates them?
  • Do they have any secrets?
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Interesting/Strange Habits
  • What is the best thing that ever happened to them?
  • The worst thing?
  • What problems do they face?
  • What are they willing to do for others?
  • What are they not willing to do?
  • Add more as you see fit for the character...

What do you like to ask of your characters?

This is the second post in my Character Development series.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Five on a Friday: Sunday Edition

This has been a tough week, with what I thought was slim pickin's of the good stuff.  But, life is full of joy, if you only know where to look, and as my dad told me during a tough time when I was in my teens, "There is always a rainbow after a storm..."
  1. My youngest is now FIVE!!!  I look at this miracle of a child and am blessed.  

  2. My other two blessings, her older sisters, helped organize a spontaneous birthday party for five-year-old and four of her little friends at our house.  This is the first friend birthday party she's ever had and she had a blast.  Her sisters helped with the different stations--painting bat masks, face painting, balloon animals (thank goodness for YouTube and good instructions), and a singing/dance area.  A good time was had by all.

  3. I decided I needed a break this week and took time to take care of my family.  I played with the kids.  Did lots of cooking and baking for loved ones.  Visited with family and friends. 

  4. I didn't write this week.  No 1,000 words-a-day and it was strangely liberating.  It actually gave me time to think about different scenarios that could lead to one crucial scene and I started writing again today.  

  5. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson:  First of all, the cover is simply stunning and perfect for this book.  Then there is the premise...How far would you go to save someone you love?  Finally, there is the read, which unlayered psychological, physical and philosophical questions that made me finish this book in one gulp.  Go read this book and give all your loved ones hugs and kisses.

Hope you're all enjoying your weekend!

Monday, September 15, 2008

National Book Festival Press Release

Library of Congress Adds New Authors to Eighth Annual National Book Festival; Free Podcasts Invite Nationwide Participation in Celebration of Reading

The Library of Congress has added new famed authors to the award-wining lineup for the 2008 National Book Festival. Free downloadable podcasts, available on iTunes and the Library's Web site, as well as other interactive features, bring the magic of the National Book Festival to booklovers nationwide.

Washington, DC (PRWEB) August 13, 2008 -- The Library of Congress has added several new authors to the award-winning lineup for the 2008 National Book Festival, which will be held on the National Mall from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sept. 27.

Among the some 70 celebrated authors who will be participating in this year's event are early-childhood experts Ellen Birnbaum and Nancy Schulman, Michael Dobbs -- award-winning foreign correspondent for The Washington Post -- New York Times best-selling author Julie Morgenstern, and veteran journalist Cathy Scott.

There have also been several additions to the popular Poetry pavilion, including Michael Lind, Molly Peacock, Jill Allyn Rosser and the recently announced new Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan.

The introduction of new downloadable author podcasts, which are available free of charge through the Library's Web site or on iTunes, makes it possible for booklovers around the country to participate in the event. Interviews capturing their latest works and inspiration are available with Warren Brown, Joseph Bruchac, Sharon M. Draper, Arthur Frommer and Pauline Frommer, Jan Brett, Jon Scieszka, R.L. Stine and Kay Ryan. More podcasts with festival authors, illustrators and poets will be uploaded in the coming weeks.

Other interactive features include event Webcasts, which will be made available this year and have been archived from previous festivals. The Library also will soon launch an updated version of the Young Readers' Online Toolkit to bring the festival into libraries, schools and homes across the country.

You can find out more about this year's National Book Festival, interactive features, and the full list of participating authors, illustrators and poets by visiting www.loc.gov/bookfest.

Don't forget to download and display the 2008 National Book Festival Poster in your home, school, local library and community (right click image to save to your desktop or print).

SPECIAL NOTE: The Library has created a Web site for members of the media to download background materials, high-resolution images, video and audio sound bites, b-roll and other audiovisual resources, as well as to request interviews with participating authors. This information can be accessed via the Press Registration link. This release will be updated periodically.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Five on a Friday

  1. The weather here has been fantastic most of this week.  We've been outside most of the time, storing up on sun and warmth as the crisp fall nights are upon us.  But it has been a good week, tough at times, but positive.  And for that, I am grateful.

  2. 1,000 words a day has never looked so good.  I've made progress on PB and worked on revisions for TSOF.  I've set a deadline of October 30th to be done with PB.  I want this done before the holidays, because I've got another story begging to be told.

  3. Can you say chocolate cake? I surprised my family with two desserts this week.  I used to love to bake.  Cheesecakes, decadent cookies, rich cakes...you name it, I baked it.  But once my middle child was diagnosed with her food allergies, the baking went on the back burner.  I figured it was time to bring some fun into our dessert options, especially, since I've introduced whole wheat pasta and other healthy food items into our daily menu.  I made this amazing vegan chocolate cake, jam thumbprint cookies, and an apple crisp--the kids were thrilled.  You don't miss the eggs and butter!  I didn't think of taking pictures of these sweet morsels, but I will next week.  Youngest has a birthday very soon!

  4. My house looks like a hurricane blew threw it.  Boxes, clothes, shoes, papers are strewn everywhere right now since I'm in the midst of a major decluttering project.  Project Declutter. Of my whole house.  So far, I've managed to clean out a hall closet, give away bags and bags of toys and clothes to a couple of charities that picked up the items this week, and create a huge mess in each room.  I shall remain positive about this and hope I get some semblance of order by next week.  When we have little one's birthday party.  Gulp.

  5. I've been visiting my children's classes during the week and it's been so awesome to hear my children's friends calling out to me, waving and running up to hug me. Even fourth grader's friends.  

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Thousand Words a Day

A thousand words a day.  At least.  

Every day.  

That was my goal.  And I'm sticking to it.  

For the most part.

I didn't do any on Sunday, but I've made up the difference.  What I've liked about this little routine is the discipline, the progress, the sense of accomplishment, the routine.  

Every day, I'm one step closer to saying my manuscript is finished.  And that makes me happy.
What are you doing to get closer to your goal?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I've Started Up a New Blog: The Rebel Queen

I've thought about this for awhile, and finally decided to start up a new blog.  When you have a moment, stop by The Rebel Queen.  It's all about finding ways to keep our children empowered, confident and courageous, so they can find their way, when they become teenagers.  It's also about living with food allergies and finding a way to co-exist.

I'll be still writing over here, but focusing on writing and children's books.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Five on a Friday: It's Goal Setting Time!

One of my critique buddies, Patty Palmer, likes to start her "New Year" in September, when the kids start school, and there is a fresh start to everything. 

I really like this idea.  Last September, I started up a 30 Day Challenge to to get back on track after a relaxing summer.  I hoped to put a call out for the 30 Day Challenge this fall, but I need to focus on some family things.  But, there's nothing like setting goals, and I figure, my Five on a Friday post would be a great place to post my goals.  Nothing like keeping accountable!  

  1. This will be the Year of Eating Well.  It's time to revamp my family's eating habits so we think of food as healthy and fun.  Food is such an emotional topic over in my household because of my middle daughter's food allergies.  It's been exhausting, juggling to find foods everyone in my family will eat while trying to help my kids feel "normal" in this food-centric world.  I'm tired of all the "How come we can't eat blankety blank blank like other people?"  

    Add the fun quotient to our daily palate.  I've researched tons of recipes, and now that I finally have a stove, it's time to experiment and see what brings a smile to everyone's faces.

  2. I've been inspired by Melissa Walker's Live Chat at readergirlz.  She writes at least 1,000 every day when she's on deadline.  I need to act like I'm on deadline.  

    Write at least 1,000 words every day.  

  3. Becky Levine posted a Writing Thought from Rick Riordan.  You know all those great chapter titles?  If Rick Riordan can't think of a funny or crazy chapter title, he rewrites the ENTIRE chapter!  

     Do not to fall so much in love with a chapter.  Be willing to cut out and revise, but save in case it can be used in another life form.  Remember, it's the little details that make the whole.  

  4. One of my critique buddies, P. J. Hoover, shared this great plot exercise, and our critique group has been working on it all week.  Talk about being able to hone in and sharpen focus on what a manuscript needs (or maybe...done...just right!)--conflict, motivation, character strengths/weaknesses--all great stuff for revisions!  I'll be the first person to say that I'm not a fan of writing exercises, but this one is a must do.  It is really good.  

    :  Work on this exercise for all manuscripts.

  5. My children have grown so much over this summer, and I'm realizing that before I know it, they'll want to spend more time with their friends rather than family.  I'm being a little selfish here, but I want to enjoy being with my children without life stuff getting in the way.  

    Do at least one fun and spontaneous thing with family every week.  

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

readergirlz Chat with Melissa Walker Tonight!!

Chat with Melissa Walker LIVE tonight at the readergirlz forum!  We'll be talking about body image, Melissa Walker's Violet series (Violet on the Runway, Violet by Design, and Violet in Private), plus more!   

The chat is from 6 - 7 PM Pacific Time/ 9 - 10PM Eastern Time.

Come on and join us at readergirlz TONIGHT!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

readergirlz, September 2008: Good Enough by Paula Yoo

The new issue of readergirlz is out! This month is all about Tolerance.  Check out the featured book, Good Enough by Paula Yoo. Here's a sneak peek:

Patti's parents expect nothing less than the best from their Korean-American daughter. Everything she does affects her chances of getting into an Ivy League school. So winning assistant concertmaster in her All-State violin competition and earning less than 2300 on her SATs is simply not good enough.

But Patti's discovering that there's more to life than the Ivy League. To start with, there's Cute Trumpet Guy. He's funny, he's talented, and he looks exactly like the lead singer of Patti's favorite band. Then, of course, there's her love of the violin. Not to mention cool rock concerts. And anyway, what if Patti doesn't want to go to HarvardYalePrinceton after all?

Here's the readergirlz & postergirlz roundtable discussion of Good Enough...In case you're curious about my opinion on academic pressure for teens, check out the roundtable discussion.

Have a discussion about the book at the readergirlz forum (sample questions):
  • What did you think of the book? 
  • Is Patti's family anything like yours? 
  • Do you (or did you) feel pressure to get good grades and get into a good college? 
  • Our hour-long chat with Paula Yoo will be on Thursday, September 18th starting at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST at the readergirlz forum.

Recommended Reads:
The readergirlz divas and the postergirlz advisory council recommend the following books in addition to and alongside this month's featured title:

Luna by Julie Anne Peters
Secondhand World by Katherine Min
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan
What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci

The Official SAT Study Guide by The College Board

So, come on, and join us at the readergirlz forum!

First Day of School Blues

My two oldest children started school today.  I couldn't wait, since the last few weeks were somewhat tortuous, with all the bickering and whatnot.  

I hope they like their teachers, have good friends in their class and enjoy school. Oh, I hope this is a good year.

The girls have only been in school a couple hours, and the house seems too quiet.  

Much.  Too. Quiet.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Five on a Friday: Labor Day Version

  1. My family and I went on vacation in Cape Cod.  There's nothing like the incredible views, salt air, and relaxation by the water.

  2. We went into Boston on Thursday for my middle daughter's appointment with her allergist.  She needed some dreaded bloodwork for her food allergies and immunology readings.  When it was her turn in the lab, I let her sit on my lap while she had her blood drawn.  My heart pounded when I felt her slump in my arms.  There is nothing so freaking frightening as when the words, "CODE BLUE" are shouted out because of your child.  We spent almost four hours in a triage room while the fine doctors monitored my daughter's heart and lungs. The good news is the emergency response over at the Boston Children's Hospital is beyond superb and most importantly, my daughter is fine--turns out she hyperventilated and fainted.  She was admitted into the ER since she was shaking, so they wanted to check if she had a seizure...which she didn't.   I think about 30 new grey hairs popped out since then... 

  3. Said daughter rode her bike and ran on the beach the next day because she had to prove to me she was okay.  I sweated it out and kept my mouth shut.  

  4. Eldest daughter created a salad she dubbed her "famous salad."  Baby spinach, strawberries and a sweet vinaigrette.  She mentioned she'd like to add feta cheese on it next time.  Delicious!

  5. My critique group assigned a one sentence plot premise for our manuscripts.  How can one sentence be such hard work?  But, I've come up with a couple, that I've just submitted to my group.  Cross fingers and toes!   

Hope you all had a great Labor Day Weekend!  Enjoy the week!