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, January 31, 2008

Oh, My!

Check out the final count for Nathan Bransford's Surprisingly Essential First Page Challenge. All I can say, is he is one brave man. Good luck to Nathan, Holly (his co-judge) and all the contestants.

Come Over to the Finish Line!

Congratulations for finishing the 2008 New Year's 30 Day Challenge! How do you feel? Are you all limbered up and ready to take on 2008 with new enthusiasm? Ready to see your dreams all the way through? Toying with redefining your goals? Inspired by new ideas?

I'm so glad you all joined me in my Challenge. You've all be wonderful sharing your progress and encouragements to one another; it has been awesome. I know I've been pleased with what I've accomplished so far. I've got tons of research, a solid plot line (so far), six chapters of a good beginning, an intriguing outline, and the ending to my story. I also found out I got into a day program of a SCBWI writing retreat, and I'm thrilled...my first writing retreat! Okay, a day program since the actual writing retreat was all booked (lesson to learn here--The early bird gets the worm), but still! I'm on a roll, and I hope to finish up the first draft soon.

What are you waiting for? Comment away and let me know how you did in this 2008 New Year's 30 Day Challenge. For the sake of keeping things simple for me, I'll only enter the names of Challengers who comment by 11:00 pm EST today for a drawing of the surprise Challenge Prize. Tempting, isn't it?

And again, congratulations, everyone, for taking yourself seriously and being true to what you love! Check in tomorrow to find out who won the Challenge Prize!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Real Deal on Dinner Preparation

Are any of you familiar with 30 Minute Meals?  You're supposed to be able to make a delicious meal from start to finish in 30 minutes. This show ticks me off.  Now that my husband is aware of this concept, he seems to think that I should be able to cook perfect dinners in 30 minutes. All the time.  Yeah, like I want to stress out over making dinner. Please. It's painful enough already having to worry about food allergies and who will eat what and who is bothering who and...

So now I'm curious, how long does it take you to make dinner?  Am I crazy that it takes me almost an hour to make dinner, when I add in the prep time and interruptions from children? Or can one really make a tasty 30 minute meal without freaking multi-tasking or throwing a frozen dinner in the oven?

How long does it take you to make dinner? Please click one of the bubbles on the poll, so I can figure out whether I have a leg to stand on in my debate with my husband. Thank you.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Nathan Bransford is a Brave Man

Look at Nathan Bransford's new contest. The Surprisingly Essential First Page Challenge. Deadline is Wednesday at 5:00pm Pacific Time. This Challenge has been up for only a few hours and there are already 52 comments...of which most are first page entries. At this rate, odds are there'll be over 600 entries by Wednesday. Maybe even close to 1,000. [Edited to add: It might not be so bad. As of 5:25pm Tuesday, January 29th, there are 346 comments. Although I'm sure there will be alot of entries coming in the last hour.] Good luck to Nathan, Holly (his co-judge) and all the contestants.

In any case, this will be an excellent study of what works and doesn't work for first pages. What say you?

Inspiration Monday: Visualize Your Goal and Check In

I was inspired by Liz Garton Scanlon's post, The Exercise of Writing: Metaphor Olympics and Sara Lewis Holme's post, The Exercise of Writing: Playing the Game, last week. While I'm not the most athletic individual, I can appreciate the beauty of sport as well as the inspiration from determined and focused athletes. It is a wonder and a honor to watch an athlete so into their visualization, so into their moment, they are unaware of anyone else around them.

Don't know of what I write? See it in action for yourself. Watch any sport--track, figure skating, hockey, swimming, basketball, tennis, gymnastics, football, baseball, or anything else you enjoy. Then do yourself a favor and look at the athletes.

Look into any athlete's face and see what is emanating deep from their soul. It's easy to see who wants the medal, the trophy, the win. It shines all over their face, in the intensity of their eyes, in the focus of their attention, the determination of every movement, in every breath. Unfortunately, it's also easy to see the athlete who lost their momentum and for a few seconds, lost their visualization. All it takes is that split second of uncertainty, and the edge is gone.

I posted before on how important it is to visualize your goal. Liz and Sara's week of posts and Big Round 'em Up List remind me even more, how vital visualization is to our goals and dreams. Oh, yeah. Gotta add something of cinematic proportions to encourage the worthiness of all the pain and sweat of our efforts and hard work. I remember reading somewhere on how determined athletes visualize their wins, so much they go through the play-by-play motion. When they train. When they walk around on their errands. They live it. They breathe it. They dream it. Every precious second is accounted for in their memory. Their muscles are committed to every movement, their brains are focused.

These athletes have lived the win every day for as long as they remember. They have trained hard for this dream. Every inch of their being knows the sweet sense of the win. They can feel the weight of the trophy, the embrace of the medal around their neck. They can see and hear the crowds cheering from the sidelines, shouting out their names. There is no doubt in their minds--by the end of the day, they are going to have that medal or that trophy in hand.

So, for this Inspiration Monday...Visualize your goal. Keep it front and center. Work hard. Then work harder. Visualize your end results. You gotta believe it, get your arms around the nitty gritty details you need to work through to reach your goal, and see the play-by-play moves. You've got to want it so much you live your dream while you train. And then train harder. Live it and breathe it. See it and believe it.

Because. You have an amazing idea. You are smart enough. You are talented enough. You can work it and bring it on. Visualize your goal. See the little steps you need to take and the minute details of what you visualize when you've captured your dream. You can do it. I believe you can.

Which leads me to how I did this week in the 2008 New Year's 30 Day Challenge. Last week, I gathered up the comments from my awesome on-line critique group, and revised the first three chapters of my WIP. Which led me to revising my next few chapters. So, technically, while I didn't really add many words, I'm happy with my progress. I've got six chapters that I'm almost done fiddling with. Plus I've worked out more on the plot line and character development. And I know my ending! Hopefully, this will make the rest of the manuscript easier to write.

How did you all do? Remember to leave a comment to be considered for the prize. If you have trouble leaving a comment, then send me an e-mail (hipwritermama at comcast dot net) with your progress. We are almost done! The finish line is approaching...The final check-in is this Thursday, January 31st by 11pm EST. See you at the finish line!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Poetry Friday: I am the Wallpaper and Haiku Therapy

You know the SCWBI Writer's Retreat one day program I applied to? Mark Peter Hughes, author of I am the Wallpaper and Lemonade Mouth will be one of the presenters. I hadn't read any of his books, and thought it would be a good idea to check them out. For research purposes, you know. And, boy, am I ever so glad I did.

Last night, I read I am the Wallpaper, the debut novel of Mark Peter Hughes, which incidentally was a finalist in the Delacorte Press Young Adult Novel Competition.

I was reminded of a book that I read last year, that I absolutely loved. It stood out in my mind because it was wonderful pre-teen/teen coming-of-age story. That book was Shug by Jenny Han.

Well, let me introduce you to another wonderful coming-of-age story and a book I would recommend for my Great Books for Girls list. I am the Wallpaper.

Of course, by now, you're wondering, and what does this have to do with Poetry Friday? This is too good to keep quiet for long, so let me just tell you that thirteen-year-old Floey Packer feels like she's barely noticed, like wallpaper, especially when her older sister, the Amazing Lillian is around. Life takes an interesting turn for Floey when she meets fifteen-year-old Calvin, who is into Zen and poetry, at her sister's wedding.

When Floey tries to find out about where she can find Calvin on the web, she also does a little research on Zen and haiku. From the start she's hooked and writes haiku every once in awhile as therapy in her journals. Below is one of the haiku poems Floey wrote to celebrate the new her. And check out the haiku poem Calvin wrote for her. Ah, to have a poem like that written for me!

out of the cold air
a tiny ray of sunlight
come in, meet my soul

-Floey Packer, age 13
from I am the Wallpaper by Mark Peter Hughes

bright and wild like fire
suddenly she steps forward
out of gray nothing

- Calvin, age 15
from I am the Wallpaper by Mark Peter Hughes

I am the Wallpaper isn't all about haiku. In fact, it is only sprinkled throughout. But it gives Floey an outlet to express herself when she needs to unleash some emotion. And if you want to read some more haiku, Mark has a page on his website called, haiku me, baby, where the best of the haikus submitted to his contest are posted.

I am the Wallpaper alternates between Floey's narrative and her journal entries detailing her determination to peel off her wallpaper image now that the Amazing Lillian is no longer around. Floey unleashes the more fabulous version of herself, but finds attention may not always be what it seems. You've simply got to read this book to find out what happens.

Mark Peter Hughes did a wonderful job writing from the POV of a thirteen-year-old girl. He captured the angst, the horrors, the humor, the crush obsessions and the pacts of friends that I remember from my teenage days. How did he do that?

I hope there are openings in this writing program...I would love to hear his presentation.

I am the Wallpaper

by Mark Peter Hughes
Delacorte Press
Published 2005

Mentor Texts is hosting Poetry Friday today. Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Neat Way to Think About Character Development

Jane Austen was pure genius when it came to creating interesting men in her books. And if you doubt this, check out The Men of Austen. Thank you, Laini, for posting about this bit of fun research.

In Which I Finally Did It...

I mailed out a check yesterday for my first writing retreat.  Since the weekend was booked, I applied for one of the day programs.  Hope there are still openings!

It's funny.  As much as I've been writing, the act of signing up for the writing program made me feel like a writer with serious intentions.  And that makes me very happy.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My Thoughts Exactly...

about today's writing.  

Edited to add:  If you feel like me, or even if you don't and just want to gain some writing momentum, go and read Liz and Sara's posts on writing using sports metaphors.  These are great!  

Show Some Respect for No Name-Calling Week

Did you know that this week is No Name-Calling Week? I found out about this special week from Little Willow.

No Name-Calling Week was inspired by a book, THE MISFITS by James Howe. According to the No Name-Calling Week website, this project "seeks to focus national attention on the problem of name-calling in schools, and to provide students and educators with the tools and inspiration to launch an on-going dialogue about ways to eliminate name-calling in their communities."

The website provides lesson plans for elementary school age and middle school age children, as well as tips for planning an outreach program in the schools. These are great materials to have handy throughout the school year to teach children about bullying.

If you're interested in some book suggestions for your teens, you've got to check out Little Willow's Tough Issues for Teens Booklist. It is simply impressive.

And if you want some solid non-fiction reads to help your elementary age to high school age child deal with cliques and bullying, you'll want to go here and here.

YALSA Songwriting Contest for Teens

I found out about this cool songwriting contest from Little Willow.

LW writes: "The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is having a songwriting contest! Students between the ages of 12 and 18 may enter individually or in groups of two, three, or four people. Songs are to be between one and half minutes and three minutes long and should "promote libraries and the many technological resources they offer. The deadline is Saturday, March 8th, 2008. Learn more at the YALSA website."

Gather up all your talented teen buddies and check out this contest!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Edge of the Forest

The new edition of The Edge of the Forest is up! If you're interested in contributing to the March or April issue, contact Kelly over at Big A little a.

Teens & Kids F&SF Conventions

Have you heard about this? Julie Holderman and Tamora Pierce want to start up a Fantasy & Science Fiction Convention, just for the KidLit world. Thanks, Zee Says for spreading the word.

Writing Tip: Use this Amusing Book Meme as a Writing Exercise

Chris from The Simple and the Ordinary tagged me for a book meme that is so easy and fun.

Here are the rules:
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

I picked up a bunch of books and read the assigned sentences and came up with an idea. I thought it would interesting to take it up a notch and devise a writing exercise from this book meme.

"What?" you say.

Oh, yeah, baby. Watch and learn.

Okay, so here's what I've done. I've selected three books with sentences that piqued my interest. I'll post the sentences, and then, if you dare, read a passage you like and write.

What emotion are you feeling? What do you see or hear when you read these passages? Can you see an idea shaping up in your mind of scene, a plot, a story? I'd love it if you shared your writing in the comments, but if you're shy, just write in the privacy of your journal. The important thing is to have fun with this writing exercise and see where your imagination takes you.


Gentle's Holler by Kerry Madden
Page 123
Fifth sentence: "My daughter was as smart as a whip."

"She had promise. So much promise. She could have married anyone, Tom Weems, you know. Anyone." -- Okay, I took liberties in adding the fourth sentence, but can you blame me?


Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Page 123

Fifth sentence: "Templeton's eyes were blazing."

"Is this true?" he asked. "Is this appetizing yarn of yours true? I like high living, and what you say tempts me."


Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Page 123, I took liberties with this one and used the first complete sentence rather than the fifth sentence.

First sentence: "I felt a strange relief at hearing that someone besides me had been treated monstrously by Hatsumomo."

"She can't bear to have rivals," Mameha went on. "That's the reason she treats you as she does."

"Surely Hatsumomo doesn't see me as a rival, ma'am," I said.


Go, have fun with this exercise and write!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Inspiration Monday: Time for Reflection and a Quick Check

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 too bad.

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 and you have 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 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. Does your spouse feel neglected? What about your children? Or when you work on making your dream a reality, you can't feel the enthusiasm you used to have. Because nobody believes in you. Or maybe they 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 something huge?

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 fight for their dreams. 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. Can't go through this one? Okay, how about around it or over it. One step at a time. One step at a time.

Which leads me to how I did this week in the 2008 New Year's 30 Day Challenge. Last week, although I did alot of research, I didn't get much writing done. This week, I found my research paid off, and I was able to write and define a couple of characters to my satisfaction. All this with one sick child who threw up all over my kitchen floor which really needed some cleaning, organizing math volunteers for my third grader's class, and my birthday. So I even had a clean kitchen! And that makes me happy.

How did you all do? Remember to leave a comment to be considered for the prize. If you have trouble leaving a comment, then send me an e-mail with your progress. Best of luck with your progress this week!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

J.K. Rowling will be Harvard's Commencement Speaker

How I wish I knew someone at Harvard. June 5, 2008 will surely be a spell-binding time on Harvard's campus. While I would love to hear J.K. Rowling speak, and I'm sure she'll have an impressive speech prepared, I'm curious what Harvard students think about this choice when they could have a distinguished political dignitary or business tycoon pass their words of wisdom.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Writing Tip: Know When it's Time to Change Your Story

"There are some books which refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn't because the book is not there and worth being written -- it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself."

- Mark Twain

I had been struggling with a manuscript, TSOF, for over a year. I really love the first third of the manuscript, but the rest kind of limps along, sometimes working well, other times leaving me with a huge, "What the?" I dropped this project for a bit since I've been inspired by my historical fiction WIP, but now I've had some time away, I've gotten a new perspective about TSOF.

The progression of this manuscript has been interesting, as my critique buddies could attest to. TSOF was originally narrated in third person, and it really didn't work well. A couple rewrites later, I played around with the narration of different characters, and voila! The winning narrator was my protagonist, Michael, who I dearly love. Part of the reason is he is inspired by my nephew, Michael, who passed away a few years ago. Lest you think I'm going to get all weepy, fear not. The main reason I adore my character is he is all the bits of boyhood I like--a creative problem solving, curious, loyal, thoughtful teen with a flair for adventure.

My problem has been this...I was trying to write this manuscript as a fantasy adventure, and the more I've been working on revisions, the more I'm sure it doesn't work as a whole. All the sweat hours put in. And. Nothing.

Which is why reading Mark Twain's quote is so apropo. It gives me a bit of solace and great advice that only the right story will tell itself. So, back to the drawing board. I'm going to keep positive since the first third of the manuscript is staying. It's just the rest that needs to be majorly scrapped.

So, how are you doing with your writing?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Books To Read in 2008

Now that January is underway, I thought I'd share some of the books I'm looking forward to reading this year. These are written out in no particular order, just as they come to mind.

Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

Kimchi and Calamari by Rose Kent

Secondhand World by Katherine Min

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes

Tamar by Mal Peet

The Emerald Tablet by P.J. Hoover

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Alive and Well in Prague, New York by Daphne Grab

Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller

Keep in mind that these books are just a sample of what I have to look forward to this year. The beauty of my To Be Read bookstack is that it never ceases to end. Each new day offers the promise of tempting book titles I'll discover and want to read. And that to me is pure heaven.

Curious what books other bloggers are planning to read? For other book lists, go on over and visit Colleen Mondor. She's got a nice summary of book lists from other bloggers, some which are linked below:


Bookshelves of Doom

Chasing Ray

Finding Wonderland

Fuse #8

Interactive Reader

Jen Robinson

Miss Erin

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Writing and Ruminating

The YA YA YA's

Go follow these links for other promising reads.

I'd like to end my book list by linking to the new authors in the Class of 2k8, where I'm sure I will find wonderful reads.

Here's to great reading!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Inspiration Monday: Check In for the 2008 New Year's 30 Day Challenge!

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.
-Samuel Johnson

Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

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

The second week of the 2008 New Year's 30 Day Challenge is now over. I'd like to say congratulations to everyone who is working on this Challenge and completed this second week. I know it's hard work, and your momentum may have changed a bit since we've all started. Think of it, we're now at the half-way point. Keep on going, we're all on this journey together, and it will be great to hear all your happy stories!

This past week was definitely challenging for me. I found I needed to do more research to get a better understanding of the political and historical world of my heroine's nineteenth century life. Historical fiction has been quite the undertaking. I thought historical fiction would be easier to write than historical non-fiction, since I could stray from the facts. But I've found myself fascinated and much too persnickety about all the interesting details, that the outlining and figuring out how to put in backstory without being too much of a dull history lesson dominated my time, rather than writing my intended words. Even though I worked daily on my progress, I was disappointed in myself, since I was short on my written goal. But, today starts another week, and another chance to climb up that mountain that is my goal.

There's one thing I want to assure you. If you happen to miss a day or two, it's okay. Remember, we're focusing on building a regular work habit so we can reach our goals. Just join back in and focus on your end goal. Your dream. The short term goal you're working toward is our next check-in day, Monday, January 21st.

The long term goal is something you will benefit from for the duration of your life, if you want. This is something that will help you get to your dream. So keep at it. Pick up if you miss a day or two. Start back in. Remember, consistency is key to making this an automatic part of your life. You can totally do it!

Comment below and let me know how you're doing. If you want some extra support, leave your link in Mr. Linky so people can stop by. Remember...only those who leave comments will be considered for the prize!

Now get back to work! Good luck!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Writing Questions: Invasion of Privacy, When is it Considered Bad Form?

On Thursday, I posted about the Meanest Mom in the World. Yesterday, I posted about how I'm trying to catch up with technology. One of the things I was curious about, was the appeal of IMing. Check out the comments about it.

Today, this leads me to a totally different question. I've wondered about this one for awhile and am now going to put it out there to see what you all think. Put your teenager hat on, your parent hat on, your arguing for the sake of arguing hat on, your how could you hat on, or whatever you want to. I'd really be curious to hear it all, for the sake of research.

Here's the scene:
Mom finds out from reading her sixth grader's IM messages from her cell phone, that her daughter-A, has a boyfriend. A's boyfriend-M, wants A to go over to his house after school during one of the early dismissals. M writes to A, "Nobody else will be home."

Here's the problem:
Mom snooped. Plain and simple. But, her daughter, A, might be going to boyfriend's empty house, doing who know's what.

More on Problem:
When I was growing up, teenagers had diaries, journals, letters or notes that any Mom around the world could be able able to read if they dared to violate their child's trust to find out what was going on.

Today's teen doesn't need a simple lock on their diary anymore. Nowadays, teens have at their fingertips an assortment of technologically savvy tricks to get around Mom and Dad. There are passwords. There are spycams. Secret identities on the web. And more that I haven't mentioned and probably don't know about.

I can only imagine, teens will find more interesting ways to hide secrets from their parents as the technology advances.

Here are the questions:
1. Is this bit of invasion of privacy considered bad form?
2. Why?
3. If not, when is the invasion of privacy considered going over the line?
4. How should Mom deal with A, so the trust isn't completely broken off?
5. What will A do to hide things from Mom in the future?

Put your teenager hat on, your parent hat on, your arguing for the sake of arguing hat on, your how could you hat on, or whatever you want to. I'd really be curious to hear it all, for the sake of research. (Edited to add: I have a scene in a manuscript I've had difficulty trying to figure out the outcome. So I'd so appreciate your help on this one.) No judgements will be made here. All I ask is to keep this conversation respectful. Thank you!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Poetry Friday: Youth and Age

I've been feeling my age lately. It doesn't help that my birthday is coming up next week. And while I'm happy my third grader is figuring out how to memorize her four times table for math, it doesn't help that one of her memorization tricks is using my upcoming age for one of the answers. My husband helped her with that little trick. Though, in his defense, I was the one who started this...I used his age for another times four problem. Nothing like some quick thinking to make one feel humble.

What I'm finally beginning to realize, is how behind the times I've gotten with all the technology out there at our fingertips. I used to be the one who was in the know, waxing poetic about the virtues of newest technological discovery. And now, I find myself feeling a little disconnected from all that technology has to offer.

I was recently introduced to GoogleTalk, a way of Instant Messaging (IM), and while it was cool, I felt a bit awkward. Yes, it was good to be able to communicate quickly via IM, but what I missed was the interpersonal connection I get from talking to someone face-to-face or over the phone. I can see how someone is feeling or hear it in the voice, and I can't get that with the IM. Isn't it funny that I prefer regular e-mail to IM? Please tell me, if you know the answer to this, what is it that I don't get about IMing that teens find so addictive?

And technology isn't the only thing I've found myself feeling out of date with. How about music or fashion? Sigh. Edited to Add: If you have a moment, I'd love your help. Please stop by and read my Writing Question: Invasion of Privacy...When is it Considered Bad Form? and leave your comments.

So I offer up Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem Youth and Age for today's Poetry Friday.

Youth and Age
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Verse, a breeze mid blossoms straying,
Where Hope clung feeding, like a bee—
Both were mine! Life went a-maying
With Nature, Hope, and Poesy,
When I was young!

When I was young?—Ah, woful When!
Ah! for the change 'twixt Now and Then!
This breathing house not built with hands,
This body that does me grievous wrong,
O'er aery cliffs and glittering sands,
How lightly then it flashed along:—
Like those trim skiffs, unknown of yore,
On winding lakes and rivers wide,
That ask no aid of sail or oar,
That fear no spite of wind or tide!
Nought cared this body for wind or weather
When Youth and I lived in't together.

Flowers are lovely; Love is flower-like;
Friendship is a sheltering tree;
O! the joys, that came down shower-like,
Of Friendship, Love, and Liberty,
Ere I was old!
Ere I was old? Ah woful Ere,
Which tells me, Youth's no longer here!
O Youth! for years so many and sweet,
'Tis known, that Thou and I were one,
I'll think it but a fond conceit—
It cannot be that Thou art gone!

Thy vesper-bell hath not yet toll'd:—
And thou wert aye a masker bold!
What strange disguise hast now put on,
To make believe, that thou are gone?
I see these locks in silvery slips,
This drooping gait, this altered size:
But Spring-tide blossoms on thy lips,
And tears take sunshine from thine eyes!
Life is but thought: so think I will
That Youth and I are house-mates still.

Dew-drops are the gems of morning,
But the tears of mournful eve!
Where no hope is, life's a warning
That only serves to make us grieve,
When we are old:
That only serves to make us grieve
With oft and tedious taking-leave,
Like some poor nigh-related guest,
That may not rudely be dismist;
Yet hath outstay'd his welcome while,
And tells the jest without the smile.

The Book Mine Set is hosting Poetry Friday today. Have a great weekend, Everyone!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

You're the Meanest Mom in the World!

Have you ever called your Mom, or have your children ever called you the Meanest Mom in the World? I never would have dared saying that to my Mother, but sad to say, I have earned the title more than a few times.

If you haven't read this yet, check out the lastest news about a lesson a Mean Mom wanted to teach her teenage son.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Public Service Announcement: How Do You Find Out About Emergencies in Your Town?

Early yesterday evening, right in the middle of my dinner preparations, my husband called me in a panic.

"Don't use the water. There's a water emergency! Most of the town doesn't have water and if anyone does, it'll be all brown. Plus who knows if the water is even safe to drink now."

He was surprised we had water and there was no discoloration. Of course he said he'd come home with a few gallons of water. I love water. It's my beverage of choice. And I was getting pretty disgusted imagining all the vile bacteria that was floating around my body. Especially getting worried about whether it would harm my children. And wondering how much of the stuff was now in the food I prepared.

Nothing like thinking about these things after reading Susan Beth Pfeffer's arc, The Dead and the Gone, due to be released in June 2008. I think this will be her 75th book. The Dead and the Gone, incidentally was a good read. It explored how a family handles an apocalyptic event when food is a luxury, help is almost non-existent, money has no value, and people have to depend on one another if they want to survive. I didn't find this book depressing, because I could see the courage and hope throughout the book. All I can say is reading this book made me think about life in a whole new way.

When my husband got home, he was commenting on the unusual numbers of people who were in the store to buy water. Our conversation finally got around to how he found out about this. And would you believe, I was surprised. We've lived in this town for over twelve years and I never paid attention to this. My bad.

My town has a wonderful system where calls are made to all the town phone numbers in the event of a town-wide emergency. Even e-mails are sent out. Our home number is unlisted, so I never got a call. But my husband received the call on his cell phone.

All I had to do was go on-line to my town's website to register our home number, my cell phone number and e-mail with the town. Easy enough it took less than five minutes to ensure I'll be in the know in the event of an emergency.

I urge all of you, to check with your local town hall so you can find out how town-wide emergencies are handled in your area. Be prepared. Thus ends this public service announcement.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Writing Tip: Make a Great First Impression

Let's face it. Good impressions are important. Some people may claim it's superficial and unfair. Isn't it what's inside that counts anyway? To a certain extent, yes. It is what is inside that counts. But to get to the inner core, there has to be a certain something that makes someone want to take a second look. And that's reality, whether we're talking about making friends, getting a job interview, or getting someone wowed by your manuscript.

And I cringe when I say this one, because I'm a rebel at heart. But to a certain extent, good impressions are all about conformity while at the same time allowing your individual stamp to shine through. Now all you rebellious independent beings out there, please don't all grumble at me here. I'll give you your moment to shine.

Think about it. Why do people go off and get themselves all dressed up before going to a party or attending an all important job interview or meeting? Why do people study up on a topic before meeting their professor or approaching someone to invest in their business? Why do people agonize on how to write their resume or query letter? Say it all with me...to make a good impression.

Now making a good impression doesn't always clinch the deal. This is where the rebel lovers everywhere can have their moment of triumph...that's why it's important to show a little of yourself to make yourself memorable. Within reason, of course. I had to add that caveat just so you know I'm not talking about body parts or underwear here.

What is it that's going to create a good impression in the beginning of your manuscript? I've got three of my top picks for what I think will help you create a strong beginning. Now keep in mind, this is my personal opinion, based on all the books I've read and enjoyed. By no means am I an expert in this sort of thing. If you like, you're more than welcome to add other things in the comments section.

1. A great hook: For me, this could be through a great opening line or prologue, interesting characters, the setting, instant conflict or emotion that draws me in and makes me want to read on.

2. An Interesting and Compelling Voice: It doesn't matter whether I love or hate the protagonist. That's actually part of what will make me want to read on. What is their personality and their inner conflict, why are they likeable or not, what is the tone of their voice and does it grab my attention.

3. A Teaser: Some people have all the luck on understanding the nuances of proper teasing. Because it's all about showing just a little, a little bit at a time, to give the reader an idea of what's to come. Do it wrong, and the reader is just going to get frustrated and give up. But do it right, and you're gonna have the reader hanging around until the very end.

Before you go off and study your favorite books or the beginning of your manuscript, what do you think makes a great first impression in the beginning of a novel?

Jen Robinson, Guest Expert for PBS Parents Q&A Site

Respected kidlit blogger Jen Robinson is the guest expert for the PBS Parents Q&A site for the month of January.

Jen writes, "If you have a moment, please click through and check it out. I'll be responding to comments and questions about children's books and encouraging reading, and I'm really hoping that people will HAVE comments to which I can respond."

Congratulations, Jen! This is so well-deserved!

Okay, what are you waiting for? Go on, and ask Jen some good questions.

Having the Last Word

Think you're having a bad day? Embrace what life has to offer you and read the last post of a brave U.S. soldier who was killed in action on January 3, 2008. It's got a touch of funny, lots of insight, and is just plain beautiful. May God be with him and his loved ones.

Unless you have a heart of lead, you're gonna need some tissues.

Thank you, Sara Lewis Holmes for sharing this moving post.

The Finalists for the Cybils Award

The finalists for the Cybils Award were announced yesterday. Now it's up to the Judging Committees to select the winners. The winners for each of the categories will be announced on February 14th.

As you may all remember, I was on Jen Robinson's Nominating Committee for the MG/YA Nonfiction Books. Here are the finalists.

It was great working with fellow bloggers--Becky (Farm School at Home), Susan Thomsen (Chicken Spaghetti), Mindy (Propernoun), and KT Horning (Worth the Trip)--to finalize the list.

National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

I'm a little late to the announcement of this, but, just in case you didn't know it yet, Jon Scieszka has been named the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

Jen Robinson has a couple good posts about this, here and here.

Congratulations, Jon! Good luck with this new role.

Monday, January 7, 2008

I'm a Postergirlz!

It's official. I'm the new postergirlz for readergirlz. How cool is this? I join Little Willow, Jen Robinson, Miss Erin, Alexia, and Jackie in this cool advisory council for readergirlz.

Want to join in the great conversations about YA literature? All you have to do is go over here.

First Check In for 2008 New Year's 30 Day Challenge

So, how did you do? Hopefully you all had success in your first five days of the 30 Day Challenge.

I worked on my WIP everyday, though I used one of the days for research and compiling notes rather than actual writing. The rest of the days were spent with outlining and writing. I did find myself getting discouraged when I tabulated the word count the first couple times I wrote. They were less than the 500 I had as my goal. But after I did the word count last night, I was pleased. If I averaged everything out, I met my 500 word a day mark. Nothing like a little justification, isn't there?

So, now's the time for you to share your progress in the Challenge. Leave a comment and let me know how you did this past week. Remember, I need a comment from you detailing your progress each check-in day for you to be considered for the grand prize. I do have Mr. Linky up...if you'd like to leave a link so people can stop by and encourage you, go for it!

The next check-in date is next Monday, January 14th.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Poetry Friday: My Blank is Bigger than Your Blank...

I was wondering when my kids would hear something like this from one of their friends. Last year, my best friend from college told me horror stories and I was shocked.

"No way," I said. "There is no way kids say this type of stuff."

"Believe it and weep," said my best friend. Her son, who goes to a private school, had it thrown in his face a few times in fifth grade. The boys would wear their shields of pride, spouting tales of glory on whose parents made more money, who had a better car, and who had better toys.

"I'm sure it's because Son is in a private school," I said. My friend smirked.

"Believe what you'd like to, but I'm telling you, it's going to happen. Whether someone says it to your kids or whether your kids say it to someone else," she said.

Right, I thought. Not on my watch.

I've spent so much time making sure the kids felt pride in who they are and understood what it meant to respect other people. I've taught the kids that material objects didn't define who they are or who others are. And I was so sure this was enough.

But, third grader came home the other day in tears. Her good friend has been teasing her about how her parents make more money than my husband and I do. Obviously. Because...

"I live in a bigger house than you do," says my daughter's friend. "Not only that, but my parents buy me more expensive things than your parents do. There is no way they could afford to buy you a blankety blank."

Fill in the words for blankety blank. It really doesn't matter what the item was. All that mattered to me, was the look on my daughter's face. A mix of rage that a friend would put down her parents, with a bit of doubt that maybe we didn't have as much as her friend.

Maybe her friend's family has more than my husband and I do. Maybe they don't. But I'm not a keeping up with the Jones' type of gal. Not that there's anything wrong with it, if you're into that sort of thing. I just don't want my children to spend their life haunted by this social type of pressure. There are plenty of other things they'll have to deal with in life. Ultimately, I'd like to impart to my children how their soul defines who they are more than anything else. All I can say is, this will certainly be an interesting journey.

I recently discovered this poem, There Was a Child Went Forth by Walt Whitman. And it is perfect for my theory that a child learns from what he or she is exposed to.

There Was a Child Went Forth
by Walt Whitman

There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs and the sow's pink-faint litter, and the mare's foal and the cow's calf,
And the noisy brood of the barnyard or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there, and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads, all became part of him.

The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him,
Winter-grain sprouts and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover'd with blossoms and the fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road,
And the old drunkard staggering home from the outhouse of the tavern whence he had lately risen,
And the schoolmistress that pass'd on her way to the school,
And the friendly boys that pass'd, and the quarrelsome boys,
And the tidy and fresh-cheek'd girls, and the barefoot negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country wherever he went.

His own parents, he that had father'd him and she that had conceiv'd
him in her womb and birth'd him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that,
They gave him afterward every day, they became part of him.

Click here to read the rest of this poem

Birthday girls, Franki and Mary Lee over at A Year of Reading are hosting Poetry Friday today.

The Promise of Courage

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."
- Mary Anne Radmacher

I am so happy. Twenty people signed up for the 2008 New Year's 30 Day Challenge. And there may be more people out there, who are going to follow along, gathering inspiration from this Challenge and all the Challengers' Goals.
17. Susan
19. Char O'Brien
20. Debbie

I'd like to congratulate every one of you. For taking stock of your dreams, and taking action to make things happen. Go forth and do what you love. Look fear in the eye, take yourself seriously, honor yourself, and stay persistent. And most of all, have courage. Courage, my friends, is what will help you get up and work it when the days are tough. It's what is going to help you get to the next day.

Best of luck in this Challenge! Now...go for it!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2008 New Year's 30 Day Challenge Starts Today!

I'm psyched. We're going to start the 2008 New Year's 30 Day Challenge today. Nothing like starting off the New Year with optimism and purpose to start a new habit that will give us the strength and the ability to do things no matter what. It's these small steps that will get us determined and motivated to get to the big steps. And I want to help you get there.

I was trying to figure out what I'd like to do in this next 30 days. At first it was finishing up my revisions on one of my manuscripts and sending it off on the 30th day, but then I got a little nervous of the pressure I'd put on myself to make everything perfect in 30 days. And then stressed over the potential mistakes I might not catch because of the rush. So, I decided getting a manuscript out would not be Challenge material.

What I'll do instead is to write at least 500 words everyday on my new WIP, since this new project is singing my name. If I complete the first draft by the end of the 30 days, I will be thrilled. In case you'd like to follow my progress on this project, you can check out the word meter I put on my sidebar. Ack! Nothing like putting it out there.

Okay, now to the good stuff. I really hope you'll join me in this 30 Day Challenge. It's always more fun when other people are motivated and encouraged to go on an adventure. So, here are the rules...

2008 New Year's 30 Day Challenge Rules:
1. The Challenge starts today! Write a quick comment below. Tell me what new habit you'd like to work on. This can be as short as one sentence or as long as you'd like. If you already wrote your comment in Monday's post, consider yourself entered.

2. If you're going the distance for this 30 Day Challenge, it's important to check in every week via comment with a very quick report on your progress. I find accountability works wonders to keep me on track. So I'm hoping it will do the same for you. Only those who are accountable to their goals and report in every week will be considered for the grand prize.

The 6 dates to check in are:
Today, Wednesday, January 2nd (first day of challenge): Be specific on what you'd like to do to work on your new habit.
Monday, January 7th
Monday, January 14th
Monday, January 21st
Monday, January 28th
Thursday, January 31st by 11:00 PM EST

3. The winner will be announced on Friday, February 1, 2008.

Edited to Add: I thought it might be good idea to link to the blogs or websites of everyone who is determined to complete this 30 Day Challenge. That way, you can stop by and leave a comment, if possible, as encouragement. Nothing like a little support to help make it through a tough day. If you've already committed to this Challenge, I've added your blog or website I could find for you to Mr. Linky.

For anyone new to this 30 Day Challenge, please leave a comment with your Challenge intentions and the link to your blog/website to Mr. Linky. Let's encourage and support one another!

Okay, I hope you're ready to join in and have some fun. Ready. Set. Go! Comment away.

Welcome to Class of 2k8!

You've all heard of the Class of 2k7. Now that the New Year is here, please welcome the new first time YA/MG authors of the Class of 2k8! It's so fun to recognize names of bloggers I've recently discovered in the new class list. The best part is I've found two of my blog buddies in this new group: Daphne Grab and P.J. Hoover.

Daphne is one of the fabulous eight in The Longstockings. Her book, Alive and Well in Prague, NY is due to be released in May 2008. Just look at her new book cover. Isn't it lovely?

Tricia (P.J.) of Roots in Myth, is one of my incredible on-line critique buddies. I've been lucky enough to read her work, and am pleased to let you know her book, The Emerald Tablet, is due to be released in October 2008. Want to know something cool? The Emerald Tablet is the first book of the Forgotten Worlds trilogy. Way to go, Tricia!

Go on over and check out the Class of 2k8's new blog and website. You'll find a list of all the class members, their books, and fun happenings.

Here are two books due to be released this month!
Lisa Schroeder's I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME

Congratulations, Class 2k8! Enjoy the ride!