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

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


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Five Sentence Writing Contest Ends Today at 11pm, EST

Today's the last day of my Five Sentence Writing Contest.  The winning prize is a first chapter critique.  How does that sound?

Here are the rules:
1. The writing prompt used will be from the following sentences from Charlotte's Web.
"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."
2. 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 characters, a time period, a scene, a plot, a story?

3. Write at least five sentences in the Comments section. If you'd like to write more, go for it, but the judging will be based only on the first five sentences.  NOTE: Your writing is your property.  Also, agonizing over perfect sentences is not allowed.  The main thing is, from your five sentences, have you created enough interest for someone to want to read more? Just think, this may be a good start for your next manuscript.

4. If you'd like to offer up constructive critiques of other entries, even mine, please do so. Mean spirited comments will be deleted.

5. The contest ends today, April 30th at 11:00 pm, EST.

6. I will post entries in my blog tomorrow, May 1st and all of you get to be a judge.

8. The Winning Prize is a critique (by me) on the first chapter of your manuscript.

Put on your creative hat and play!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

Share Your Good News!

It's time to toot your own horn!  Stop by and share your good news!

Writing Contest in a Fun Meme, Critique Prize

I was tagged while I was on vacation. Not by one, but by two of my pals for fun memes. Barbara Johansen Newman tagged me for a book meme. PJ Hoover tagged me for a writing meme.

I have to admit, I'm a bit lazy right now. I pulled out a meme I did earlier this year (via Chris), in the hopes it would satisfy both memes. In the original post, I highlighted three books I've enjoyed reading: Gentle's Holler by Kerry Madden, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, and Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I thought these books had interesting 5th - 8th sentences on page 123--perfect to twist from a meme to a writing prompt.

I'm a little stressed because the book I chose to use as a writing prompt is a total classic--so be kind. I selected this author primarily because he's no longer living and can't be offended by my mishmash of his work. Also, I graduated from the same university he did, so I'm hoping some of his genius will one day rub off on me. It's nice to dream, isn't it?

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.

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."

Okay, here I go. Please note, I've changed Templeton from a rat, to a man. And I do like this enough that I intend on revising this for a manuscript at some point.

Isabelle never dreamed it would be this easy to trap the elusive Templeton. She watched Templeton's face, greased with greed, swallowing the news he would receive a monthly allowance from her father's estate. She clenched her hands.

"This is no yarn," Isabelle said, "and it would do you well to decide quickly. My father was not a patient man when alive; nor is he in death. His will gives you until tonight to make your decision."

I thought it would be fun to try this writing prompt in a writing contest. Since I still have a few prize packages that need to go out in the mail, I thought I'd offer up a different sort of prize. How about a critique of the first chapter of your manuscript?

Here are the rules:
1. Contest starts today and ends Wednesday, April 30th at 11:00pm, EST.

2. The writing prompt used will be from the following sentences from Charlotte's Web

"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."

3. 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 characters, a time period, a scene, a plot, a story?

4. Write at least five sentences in the Comments section. If you'd like to write more, go for it, but the judging will be based only on the first five sentences.  NOTE: Your writing is your property. Edited to Add: Also, agonizing over perfect sentences is not allowed. The main thing is, from your five sentences, have you created enough interest for someone to want to read more? Just think, this may be a good start for your next manuscript.

5. If you'd like to offer up constructive critiques of other entries, even mine, please do so. Mean spirited comments will be deleted.

6. Again, the contest will end on Wednesday, April 30th at 11:00 pm, EST.

7. I will post entries in my blog on Thursday, May 1st and will let you all be a judge.

8. The Winning Prize is a critique (by me) on the first chapter of your manuscript.


Let the entries begin. (Please, somebody join in!)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fairy Godsisters, Ink Create Magic

Check out this incredible act of generosity and kindness. If you've been wishing for a fairy godmother to cast a magic spell to send you to the 2008 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, August 1st- 4th, here's your chance to prove yourself worthy.

Submit a 250 word double-spaced essay describing what you hope to accomplish by attending this year’s summer conference to the wonderful Fairy Godsisters, Ink by May 15th: fairygodsistersink@yahoo.com

Fusion Stories Press Release


website: www.fusionstories.com
email: mitali.perkins@verizon.net

FUSION STORIES: New Novels For Young Readers To
Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May 2008)

Newton, MA, April 2, 2008 
Ten new contemporary novels by Asian Americans aren't traditional tales set in Asia nor stories about coming to America for the first time. They're written by authors who understand two-time Newbery Honor Book author Lawrence Yep's (Dragonwings and Dragon's Gate) removal of the ethnic qualifier before his vocation. "I think of myself principally as a writer," Yep told the International Reading Association's The Dragon Lode. "I often write about my experiences as a Chinese American, but I've also written about faraway worlds. Writing is a special way of seeing."

Without a doubt, an Asian American vision has moved into the mainstream of the children's literary world. In 1994, only 65 of the 5,500 children's books published featured Asian American authors. Last year, that number doubled. Some of these have become national bestsellers that are guaranteed a place on bookshelves for years to come. Linda Sue Park (A Single Shard) and Cynthia Kadohata (Kira Kira) each won the prestigious Newbery Medal, while Allen Say (Grandfather's Journey) took home a Caldecott Prize. An Na (A Step From Heaven) won the Printz, an award for young adult novels, and Gene Luen Yang garnered a National Book Award for his graphic novel, American Born Chinese.

In 2008, a wave of middle grade novels (ages 7-11) written by Asian Americans is already catching the attention of readers, teachers, librarians, and parents and not just within multicultural circles. Children's literature experts are calling Grace Lin's Year of the Rat (sequel to the popular Year of the Dog) a 'classic in the making' along the lines of Besty-Tacy. Janet Wong's forthcoming novel Minn and Jake's Almost Terrible Summer explores the joys of vacation and friendship, with Jake divulging that he's a "quarpa," or one-quarter Korean. Winner of the Sid Fleischman humor award, author Lisa Yee makes kids (and adults) laugh out loud with bestselling stories like Millicent Min: Girl Genius and her newest title, Good Luck, Ivy. When it comes to books like these, as Newbery winner Linda Sue Park told author Cynthia Leitich Smith (Tantalize) during an on-line chat: "At last it seems we're getting ready to go to stories where a person's ethnicity is a part but not the sum of them."

New releases for teens, too, aren't mainly immigrant stories or traditional tales retold. These YA novels deal with universal themes such as a straight-A teen struggling with a cheating scandal at her school (She's So Money by Cherry Cheva), a promising athlete coping with a snowboarding injury (Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley), and a Pakistani-born blogger whose father is about to become President (First Daughter: White House Rules by Mitali Perkins). An Na's The Fold, a novel about a teen considering plastic surgery to change the shape of her eyelids, speaks to all who long to be beautiful, and art-loving teens far and wide will connect with Joyce Lee Wong's novel-in-verse Seeing Emily. Paula Yoo, a one-time writer for People magazine and television hits like The West Wing, fuses her pop culture savvy and love of music in Good Enough, a novel about a violinist in rebellion. Her brother, David Yoo, connected with hormone-crazed nerds of every race in his funny novel, Girls For Breakfast and is offering his fans the forthcoming Stop Me if You've Heard This One Before.

Founder of readergirlz, a literacy initiative for teens, award-winning author Justina Chen Headley notes that these books are relished by readers from many different backgrounds. "There are a ton of interesting cultural trends that make it cool to read about Asian American characters," she says. "Take manga and anime, for instance. Or Gwen Stefani's harujuku girls. Mainstream, popular celebrities from actors to athletes are Asian American, and this is filtering into YA and middle grade novels."

Dr. Sylvia Vardell, Ph.D., a professor at the School of Library and Information Services at Texas Woman's University, isn't surprised either by the growing appetite for books featuring protagonists of every race: "Most kids live with ethnic and cultural diversity everyday. It just makes sense that books for teens would reflect this too."

These stories continue to resonate with Asian American readers as well. Lisa Yee remembers the frustration of not finding many books about American girls like her. "When I grew up, there was no fiction featuring contemporary Asian Americans, unless of course the book was about the struggle of immigrants," she says. Thanks to exciting changes in children's book publishing, it's a different world for today's young readers of every cultural heritage with many choices when it comes to novels.

This year's Asian Pacific American Heritage Month begins May 1, 2008, and ten authors are banding together to offer FUSION STORIES(www.fusionstories.com), a menu of delectable next-gen hot-off-the-press novels for middle readers and young adults. FUSION STORIES' critically acclaimed authors so far include Cherry Cheva (Los Angeles, CA), Justina Chen Headley (Seattle, WA), Grace Lin (Boston, MA), An Na (Montpelier, VT), Mitali Perkins (Boston, MA), Janet Wong (Princeton, NJ), Joyce Lee Wong (Los Angeles, CA), Lisa Yee (South Pasadena, CA), David Yoo (Boston, MA), and Paula Yoo (Los Angeles, CA).

FUSION STORIES aims to be a helpful resource for parents, educators, and young readers, so if you know of a novel that (1) is for middle readers or teens, (2) was published in 2007-2008 by a traditional publishing house, (3) features an Asian American protagonist, and (4) is set primarily in contemporary America, please send a .jpg of the cover, a .jpg of the author, one or two reviews, and a brief description of the novel to mitali.perkins@verizon.net. FUSION STORIES would be delighted to add titles and authors to the site.

A press kit package (available at FUSION STORIES, www.fusionstories.com) includes downloads, bios of FUSION STORIES authors, information on their books, and conversations with experts about Asian American literature for young readers. For more information, review copies, or interview requests with any of the authors, please contact mitali.perkins@verizon.net.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Vacation, Writing and Research

Since the kids are on spring vacation this week, my husband and I thought this would be a fine time to visit Virginia. His sister and her husband live just outside Washington, D.C., and we couldn't wait to check out all the touristy things in the city. Like the Smithosonian--see the awesome picture of the SpaceLab?

We decided to drive to Virginia, from Massachusetts. What better way to introduce the children to a small part of our country by driving through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and a tiny part of Virginia? Are you laughing? A little bit?

On Saturday, about an hour after we should have left, we started our adventure. Even with the "Are we there yet's" and the bathroom stops, my husband and I remained optimistic, thanks to beautiful weather and promising calculations from modern GPS technology, that we would make the trip to Virginia in about eight and a half hours. We neglected to factor in the New York and New Jersey traffic.

Once we got past all the bumper to bumper traffic, the endless whines from the children every one of us, and a few pitstops for a respite from the cramped space, my thoughts meandered over to my writing. I've reached a pivotal scene in my historical novel, and the pacing is a little off. Nothing to lose sleep over, but irritating, nonetheless.

It occurred to me that the pacing of a story is a journey. For me, anyway, when I start a new manuscript, words flow easily and I'm one with the story. But inevitably, as time goes on, there are frequent stand still moments where I'm not sure how I'm going to get the story from Point A to Point B. But, when I study the story and then write again, a word at a time, the story regains life and I fly along.

The best part of the remainder of the car drive was I managed to plot out the next few chapters. I've had a few days to outline this, and test drive a few sentences. Now, I'm raring to go write this next section.

Okay, back to the trip. Once we arrived in Virginia, we hung out and decided we'd take the train into D.C. the next day and visit the Smithsonian. Wouldn't you know it, it poured the next day. But we weren't deterred from our mission.  Plus, the kids were determined to ride the train. We arrived in D.C. and walked around The National Mall.

There was this cool Earth Day celebration in the Mall. Unfortunately, with all the downpours, there wasn't a huge Earth Day turnout. But it was perfect for all the college students and young people who danced to the music and listened to the speakers. Ahhh...to be young again...

But, I digress.  Most of the people ended up waiting in lines to get out of the rain and into the Smithsonian Museums.   These museums are awesome. Did you know that it's free to go into all the incredible museums? I could spend days exploring every museum and filling my brain with cool facts. However, since the kids were with us, we focused on speed museum hopping.

The kids loved almost everything we saw--the space ships, the dinosaurs, the mummies, the butterfly garden, the Ice Age, the sculpture garden...the list goes on. They were just a bit tired of the rain. So was I.  There's only so much wet clothing one can take.  

My discomfort was soon erased when I discovered a small exhibit of historical artifacts important to my story.  Nothing like some research when you least expect it.    

The rain continued into the next day, so we just hung out.  My brother-in-law brought out this 500 piece puzzle, and we spent a good few hours working on it.  I love puzzles.   

On Tuesday, we decided to go to the National Zoo, which is part of the Smithsonian. Entrance is free; you just pay for parking.  This place is huge so wear good walking shoes/sneakers.  You also have to plan out your restroom breaks well, if you have young children.  The restrooms are far away when you have a little one who decides she's got to go.  

After our third trip to the restroom, my four-year-old decided she had it with all the walking and looking at the animals.  She decided it was more fun picking up all the cherry blossoms that fell on the ground.  Until, she spied some animals that she wanted to watch, more than anything.  
The prairie dogs. A member of the rodent family. Isn't the little guy cute? He'd peek out of his burrow, a few times for show, and then finally come out. These prairie dogs are a blast to watch. Every once in awhile, they jump up, paws in the air, and cheer.  They actually "yip," but they really look like they're cheering.  

We ended up sitting by the prairie dogs, watching them "yip" for about an hour, until the rest of the family came back.  My youngest and I had a great time.  We had ice cream, did some facetime, and were amused at the group of teenagers who cheered whenever the prairie dogs cheered. 

Isn't it great when simple things make people happy?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Survived...

an eleven hour drive with three children, who were more interested in creating noise than taking naps. But, we had a great vacation. Details later, once I unclog my brain.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Support Teen Reading: Operation Teen Book Drop is Tomorrow!

Get ready....Tomorrow is Operation Teen Book Drop!

Operation TBD

YALSA and readergirlz are partners in Operation Teen Book Drop (TBD). To celebrate April 17th, 2008, Support Teen Literature Day, we've organized a massive, coordinated release of 10,000 publisher-donated YA books into the top pediatric hospitals across the country!

We invite you to celebrate Support Teen Lit Day with us. Donate one of your own books to your community, then join our amazing online book bash, The TBD Post-Op Party, the night of April 17th.

If you're a author and would like to donate your book, download this bookplate

If you're like to donate a favorite novel, download this bookplate.

If you're looking for suggestions on where to drop off books, Little Willow compiled a list of wonderful places:
Public Library
- Teen fiction section
- Circulation desk (if allowed)
- Reference desk (if allowed)
- Book sale area

- Library
- Cafeteria
- Quad or meeting area
- Student Lounge

- Public bus
- School bus
- Subway
- Train
- Bus stop

Indoor / Outdoor
- Coffeehouses and cafes
- Performance areas
-- Theatres
-- Music hotspots
- Public parks
-- Skate parks
-- Dog parks
-- School parks
- Playgrounds

- Hospitals
- Foster care facilities
- Boys and Girls Clubs
- YMCAs and community centers
- Girl Scouts / Boy Scouts

I'm putting together my books and scoping out good locations today!  What books are you planning on donating?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Inspiration Monday: Share Your Good News

I've been a bit overwhelmed this past week and need some good news to get me motivated. Nothing like having to finish up taxes when your manuscript, a new idea, and a busted stove are calling your name.  And the last thing you want to do is go through old receipts and financial records.  This year, I vow to organize as everything comes in.  Really.  

Does anyone have any good news?  Anyone?  Please share!  

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Frogs and Evolution

When I was a kid, I used to hang out near this teeny, tiny, trickle of a pond in the spring, that dried out by the heat of summer.  All the neighborhood children gathered here to watch the tadpoles hatch.  Even though I hated touching the slippery creatures, I loved watching them turn from tadpoles into frogs.  

Since I've had children, the frog evolved into a telling of fairy tales.  Until now. 

Did you know that scientists study frogs and other amphibians because they are so sensitive to changes in the environment? The effects of toxins and overall pollution show up on these little critters long before the effects show up in humans. And since frogs live near streams and other small water sources that are usually fed from larger bodies of water that people use, it only follows the ill effects will eventually show up in humans.

What I found interesting over the past couple of days:
1.  A lungless frog has been found in Indonesia in fast moving streams that are rich in oxygen  Since the frogs moved from a polluted river to the fast moving streams, their lungs made them too buoyant and they were swept away.  The frogs eventually evolved so they became lungless and breathed through their skin.  For more information, go to CNN's article.

Not too worried since it's half a world away?  
2.  Hermadophrite frogs--frogs with both male and female organs--have been found in the United States.  Researchers believe a common herbicide used on lawns, gardens and agriculture, eventually ends up in the water, causing the abnormalities in the frogs.  For more information, go to this New York Times article.  

3. What is scary is abnormalities were discovered years ago...(via The Boston Globe)

In case you're curious about the scary wildlife I had to contend with this morning...a deer tick on a third person in my family.  This time, the little bugger had embedded itself halfway in the back of my nine-year-old's neck, and required a trip to the doctor's office.  

Isn't it maddening the environmental toxins, which we created all in the name of progress, are harming the frogs and will eventually harm us, while these disgusting ticks will probably thrive because they'll probably become resistant to everything?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Poetry Friday: A Crown of Sonnets

Have you read this yet?  Cutting a Swath: A Crown Sonnet by Sara Lewis Holmes, Laura Purdie Salas, Tricia Stohr-Hunt, Liz Garton Scanlon, Tanita S. Davis, Andromeda Jazmon and Kelly Fineman.  

It is edgy, majestic, and beautiful.  I bow down to all of you!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Inspiration In Honor of Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch--professor at Carnegie Mellon University, founder of the Alice Project, author of The Last Lecture--has inspired millions and made people believe anything is possible.   

Please make the time, 76 minutes to be exact, to watch the Last Lecture of Randy Pausch, Professor of Carnegie Mellon University.  I know, it's a lot of time.  But, even start with 10 minutes. You will see life in a whole new way.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Alice Project...Helping Girls Learn to Program in a 3D Environment

This is so cool.  Randy Pausch, Professor of Carnegie Mellon University started The Alice Project at Carnegie Mellon University to help teen girls learn to program.  All in a 3D programming environment so teens can learn how to create animation to tell a story or play an interactive game while learning introductory computing.  

You can download versions for middle school and high school/college levels here.  Upcoming characters will be from The Sims 2.

Edited to add:  If you want to get the inspiration of a lifetime, check out Randy Pausch's Last Lecture.  It's 76 minutes and worth every minute.  His book, based on his lecture, was released yesterday, The Last Lecture: A Love Story for Your Life.

Edited to add:  Thank you, NPR News: The Bryant Park Project for linking to this post, here and here.  I am honored.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Does Anyone Have Any Good News to Share?

Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”
-Anne Frank

Go for it. Share your good news!

MotherReader's Third Annual 48 Hour Challenge

MotherReader is at it again... June 6th – 8th.  Get your books ready!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sarah Dessen: Lock and Key Contest

Oh, so pretty! Check out Sarah Dessen's Lock and Key contest.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

In Which My Stove Blows Up

My husband motioned for me to follow him into the kitchen this morning. Hmmm. Perhaps a nice cup of tea? A home-cooked breakfast to tempt the palate and make up for our dinner prep disagreement? Oh, how I wish.

"Um, did you hear the boom from the stove?" he asked. He stood a few feet away from the stove.

"What do you mean, a boom?" I moved closer in, and he waved for me to stop.

"No! Don't go any closer! There was a boom from the back burner," he said. "I put on the stove and there was this loud noise. If you don't believe me, then I'll turn the stove back on, and you can hear it." He stopped a foot away from the electric range and turned a knob quick, before scooting back a few feet.

Now clearly, after thinking about this, it may not have been the wisest thing to do, what with kids peering in, to find out what all the excitement was about. But we were groggy eyed and in need for a nice hot cup of tea.

But. Nothing happened. There was nary a sound from the old stove and husband looked disappointed but relieved he'd get his tea after all. The girls left and started getting ready for school. I got all the lunches packed and gathered up all the homework folders

Then. BOOM!

I ran into the kitchen and expected some sort of fire or pieces ripped out of the stove or something, with the loud noise. But, there was nothing. I turned off the stove real quick and was thankful we emerged unscathed.

Husband looked at me and smirked, "See! Now did you hear that?" Of course, I pointed out I wouldn't be able to cook until we bought a new stove.

"What are we going to eat?" he said. This is going to be so fun, milking the no cooking thing. Though secretly, I have to admit, I'd rather be cooking than looking for a new stove. Ugh.

Now, this stove is over 20 years old. When my husband and I bought this house a couple years ago, we went from a tiny updated house with new gas appliances to a fixer-upper, last updated in the early 1980's, with mustard yellow electric appliances and formica countertops/backsplash. I hoped to avoid buying new kitchen appliances until we were ready to fix up the kitchen, because I was holding out for something cool to reflect my modern sensibilities.

Who am I kidding. I hate shopping for appliances, actually, shopping for anything home related, and avoid it like the plague. There are too many choices and if something is well made, it usually costs a fortune.

Please help me! Does anyone have any good recommendations for electric ranges?

Updated to Add: The picture to the side gives you a cool picture of what my range looks like. The double oven on top and the range are all one piece.  Isn't it pretty? 

Now modernize the range by ten to twenty years and cover it all in dijon mustard, and you've got an idea of what my range looks like.  

My husband gave me some news this afternoon. Because our range has a hood built into it, we'll need a new hood in addition to the range. Then, he wondered what the wall behind this range looks like. Would it still be the formica backsplash or would it be a big hole for the venting system? We're both too afraid to pull this monstrosity out to see.

Any guesses what we'll find?