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!


Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sneak Peek at Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Entertainment Weekly gets the scoop.  Stephenie Meyer reveals part of the first chapter of Breaking Dawn (Book Four in the Twilight series), due to be released August 2, 2008.  

So, who do you prefer...Edward or Jacob?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Poetry Friday: Most Sweet It Is

Most Sweet It Is
by William Wordsworth

Most sweet it is with unuplifted eyes
To pace the ground, if path be there or none,
While a fair region round the traveller lies
Which he forbears again to look upon;
Pleased rather with some soft ideal scene,
The work of Fancy, or some happy tone
Of meditation, slipping in between
The beauty coming and the beauty gone.
If Thought and Love desert us, from that day
Let us break off all commerce with the Muse:
With Thought and Love companions of our way,
Whate'er the senses take or may refuse,
The Mind's internal heaven shall shed her dews
Of inspiration on the humblest lay.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

It appears that Miley Cyrus aka Hannah Montana is a hot commodity.  According to the LA Times, if a photographer can get a picture of her first kiss, it'll be worth $30,000 - $150,000. 

Okay, so millions of young girls and teens love her music and need to know everything about her. But...am I the only one who thinks this is seriously wrong?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

2nd Annual KidLit Bloggers Conference

It's time to think about the 2nd Annual Kidlit Bloggers Conference!

It Hurts...

"Mom, you know when I move my foot like this?"  Child twists foot in strange angle.


"It hurts when I do that."  

"Er...Well don't do it."

Clearly, I'm not the most sympathetic mom.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Inspiration Monday on a Tuesday: Randy Pausch: Live Well, Find Your Passion, Follow Your Dreams

Three of my nephews graduated from college over the past couple of weeks.  Besides the fact it makes me feel old, it also makes me nostalgic for my college days where it was easier to believe that I could accomplish anything.

Enter Randy Pausch: professor at Carnegie Mellon University, founder of the Alice Project, author of The Last Lecture, and all-around incredible person.  

This man can make you believe that anything is possible.  

This post is dedicated to my nephews: B., L. and S.  
May you believe in yourself and find what you love.  

Randy Pausch's 2008 Commencement Speech for Carnegie Mellon University (6 minutes):

If you'd like to see Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, here it is (76 minutes):

Thursday, May 22, 2008

In Which There's a Haircut and Tears

I made my third grader cry today. And I only have Clementine to blame. Okay, fine. I blame myself.

We went to the library today, and the Clementine audiobook was available. My daughter likes to read books while she listens to the audiobooks. It helps her process the words and focus on what's going on in the story. Especially when the actor/actress reading the audiobook is good.

In the first chapter of the book, there's a haircut mishap. Combine art, something stuck on hair, scissors, and friends...and there can only be trouble. You'd think this would be enough to deter my child from thinking about her hair. Let alone wondering whether she'd look good if I cut a couple inches from her hair. But, no.

My daughter persisted and I gave in. Yes, I admit. It was a momentary lapse in judgement.

Her hair looks really nice. There are pretty layers that flip up and her hair looks healthy and thick. But. It's too short. Edited to Add: See her pretty hair?

There were tears. And shouts I ruined her life. And it brought me back to when I was nine-years-old and my mom had cut my hair too short.

My daughter finally quieted down when her sisters admired her hair and wanted haircuts like hers. They saved me...big time.

readergirlz Live Chat with Shannon Hale tonight at 9pm EST, 6pm PDT

Join the readergirlz Live Chat with Shannon Hale tonight!  9pm EST, 6pm PDT.  This is the time to be asking Shannon your questions on her creative process, her books or writing tips.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

SBBT 2008: Inspiration, Evolution and Robin Brande

I am so pleased to welcome Robin Brande, author of Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature, here on my blog. To tell you the truth, I should probably tell you I'm a frequent visitor of Robin's blog and think of her as a blog friend. How can I resist when she offers up clever and insightful observations and her peeps stop by to engage in laugh out loud discussions? She's the ultimate hostess--offering up encouragement, bits of fancy, soul-searching questions and helpful tips.

I should also admit that I loved Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature. So much that after I read the book, I had to hunt down the audiobook so I could listen to the sentence structure and the pacing. And I'm not saying that just because I like Robin. The writer in me made me do it. If I find a book I really like, I get the audiobook to listen in and study the writing further.

Check out the first five sentences of her book...

I knew today would be ugly. When you’re single-handedly responsible for getting your church, your pastor, and every one of your former friends and their parents sued for millions of dollars, you expect to make some enemies. Fine.

It’s just that I hoped my first day of school—of high school, thank you, which I’ve only been looking forward to my entire life—might turn out to be at least slightly better than eating live bugs. But I guess I was wrong.
I bet you're curious now, aren't you? Aren't you wondering, just a little, on what a ninth grade girl did to make so many people unhappy? Well, I'm not going to give it up--no spoilers here. However, I will tell you Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature is one smart book that will give you food for thought on evolution vs. spirituality, individuality versus conformity, betrayal, hope, and integrity.

Check out the awards: Fall 2007 Book Sense Children’s Pick, September 2007 Borders Original Voices, 2008 List of the Amelia Bloomer Project, ALA (American Library Association) and YALSA Best Books for Young Adults in 2008, ALA (American Library Association) and YALSA 2008 Selected AudioBooks, and the Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2008.

Wait until you read Robin's interview. You're going to love what she has to say. Without further ado, here's Robin!


HWM: Robin, before you wrote books, you were an attorney. What made you realize you wanted to write books for teens?
Robin: I always wanted to be a writer, from the time I was about 10, but I was just too chicken to pursue it. I wrote stories and plays all through school, but then when the moment came and I graduated from college with an English degree--then what? Since I had to be entirely self-supporting, I figured law school was a reasonable next step. I was a trial lawyer for several years, until the time came when I felt like I was actually going to throw up on the way to work every morning. (Is this too much information? Too late now.)

Luckily I had a husband who was against me vomiting in the car, and so when I told him it was time to quit and start my own business, he agreed. I ran my own company for a while, then 9/11 happened. And, like many people, I had the revelation that life was too short and precious to spend it doing anything other than what you felt passionate about. So I shut down the business and finally did what I'd always meant to do.

And why novels for teens? Because I enjoy hanging out with that age group--love hearing their opinions, love watching how they work out the nuances of who they are and where they belong. Plus my own high school experiences are still so much with me--I'm sure a lot of us feel that way, for better or worse. When I write novels I'm basically writing them for the 15-year-old girl I was.

HWM: What inspired you to write Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature? How did the title come about?
Robin: I grew up in a fundamentalist church much like Mena's, and I, too, reached a point one day when what I was learning about science conflicted absolutely with what I'd learned in church. I had to find a way to reconcile my strong religious beliefs with all that new-found--and entirely logical (not to mention exciting)--information. Since the book came out I've heard from many, many people who had that same conflict. So far everyone seems pretty happy with Mena's solution to the problem.

Plus, like Mena, I was kicked out of my church right before high school. But that's a whole other story . . .

And as for the title, I originally called it "The Theory of Evolution." The publisher felt that sound too text-booky, so we came up with something we thought sounded a little more fun. I've always loved the phrase "freak of nature"--now I can freely wear t-shirts that say that.

HWM: Why did you decide to prolong telling the reason why Mena was banned from her church and hated by her former friends?
Robin: To torture my readers. Plain and simple.

HWM: Who was the toughest character to write about?
Robin: Ugh, definitely Mena's parents. I still have very little sympathy for them. I'm happy to say they were not based on my own parents. Mostly.

HWM: I was impressed with how you were able to inject both poignant and amusing scenes in your book. Which do you find harder to write and why?
Robin: I'm a sucker for both of those in books and movies. I love a good laugh, but I'm just as happy to sit there and bawl my eyes out. So it just feels natural to me to alternate between drama and comedy in my stories.

What's weird is that when I first started writing this book, it was completely different--so sad and depressing, involving death and survivor's guilt and all these other serious themes. But while I was writing that version, my sweet old yellow Lab died, and that was just too much misery on top of writing a depressing book. So I put the manuscript aside for a few weeks, did nothing but watch Lord of the Rings on DVD (which is why Casey in the book is such an expert), and then went on a backpacking trip for a few weeks. By the time I came back, I knew the book I should write instead, and here we are!

HWM: Have you had any religious groups contact you about your book and object to how you've portrayed the church in Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature?
Robin: I haven't heard from any religious groups, but have gotten many great e-mails from religious people. I'm happy to say the response has been nothing but positive. One of the best things about all the touring and appearances I've done across the country in the past year is all the great conversations I've gotten to have with people about faith and science. It's a topic so many of us are interested in--and one that some people still haven't made their minds up about yet. I'm happy if my book has helped anyone think through their own beliefs.

HWM: What is your favorite fan story?
Robin: I've met so many great people! But I guess my favorite event has to be the middle school in Ft. Worth, Texas. There were about 60 kids, they'd all read the book, and among them were Catholics, Muslims, Baptists, atheists--what a combo! We had a very spirited discussion about religion and science, and then they gave me the best gift: an advance copy of my novel, with their handwritten notes in the margins throughout, telling me which were their favorite scenes and why. So I have this great treasure now, a book filled with notes like, "I loved this part!" and "I hate how mean her parents are here!" and things like that. I wish I could have that for every one of my books from now on.

HWM: Do you outline or free form?
Robin: Totally free form. If I knew what was going to happen in a novel, I'd be too bored to write it. There's nothing better than making myself laugh or cry as I'm typing. I'm the first reader of my own work, and I love to be surprised.

HWM: Where do you like to write?
Robin: I have an office with the two best views: In one direction my garden, and in the other my couch where the dogs sleep all day. I can't imagine a happier setting.

HWM: You've been working on a few writing projects. What can you share about them?
Robin: I'm so happy to be overworked! Seriously--it feels so good to get back to writing after a year of traveling and doing a lot of other things except writing. So this year I'm making up for it by turning out three new YA projects. The first is a novel whose title is in flux, so I can't help you there, but it's about a girl who makes herself her own science project. And because I believe in the method acting version of writing, I, too, am putting myself through that same science experiment. It's been . . .interesting.

The other two are novels I've been researching for a long time and working on here and there. It's finally time to finish them both. I can't say too much about them, but I will tell you that the research involves being hypnotized, learning to horseback ride, taking archery lessons, practicing martial arts, and hanging out with people who have died. Sound intriguing?

HWM: What is your writing process or ritual?
Robin: I spend a LOT of time mulling over an idea and reading tons about it and doing hands-on research before I ever sit down to write a word. But then when I feel my brain is fit to explode, I get started and write hard and fast. I like to write a first draft all the way through before going back and fixing anything. Like I said, I'm always my first reader, so I don't want to have to wait too long to find out what happens! I've written a first draft in as little as two and a half weeks, but that was insane. A more comfortable pace for me is about five or six weeks for a first draft.

Then I let it rest a little, I go watch some movies for a few weeks, then come back and do about a month's worth of revisions. I try to get it all done in about three to four months (again, not counting the research and mulling phase, which could last six months or more). I often have several ideas going at once, and do a bunch of different research for each one, then decide which one gets to be written first.

Somehow the math works out to me generally writing two books a year.

HWM: What has been the biggest challenge of your writing career and how did you tackle it?
Robin: Last year I LOST MY MIND. Maybe I'm not supposed to admit that, but it might be useful for some other writers to know, so I'll be honest about it. My book came out in August, but the publicity for it began back in February. I was touring, giving interviews, going on TV and radio and doing all these exciting things I'd always dreamed about, and I really let them turn my head. I couldn't sit still long enough to write anything new, which is why I spent so much time on the blog all year long, chatting it up with all of you--and I had such a great time I actually ended up organizing a conference for all of us in October last year.

All of it was fun and amazing, but it was also completely diverting. And, ultimately, exhausting. By the time November rolled around, and I'd just spent six weeks in a row being out of town part of every single week, I was beyond my limit. I holed up (with the 15 extra pounds I'd gained from being on the road so much, I might add) and just decompressed for about a month and a half. And then I finally found my brain again, and was able to work on a book.

I'm so grateful for the experience, and especially grateful for all the wonderful people I met (including at the Kidlitosphere Conference!), but now I realize how easy it is to lose sight of what you really want to do with your writing life. I can't be away that much and write books. I can't blog that much and write books. Maybe other people can, but I personally can't.

I need lots and lots of quiet and downtime, and even though all the other stuff is what you think of as the glamorous writing life--the travel, the attention, the interaction, etc.--it's really not what I got into this for.

My greatest pleasure is in making up a story I love. That's where I need to focus my time and energy. But I didn't know that until I saw what the other life was like.

HWM: What has been the biggest surprise of your writing career?
Robin: There are SO many wildly creative people out there--other writers, illustrators, editors, producers, publicists, librarians, booksellers, teachers--the list goes on. One of the best things my writing career has given me is an excuse to talk to all these bright, talented, fascinating people. I love working in collaboration with them, love understanding how their minds work, love learning as much as I have in this past year. What a blast!

HWM: If you could share any unique writing tip to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Robin: Here are my three best pieces of advice, passed on from those who have taught me:

--Fast writing is good writing. Write your stories in one steady stream--don't stop to fix that first sentence a million times, to rewrite those first three chapters for months on end--get your story out now, and fiddle with it later. We're natural storytellers, and we need to give ourselves the pleasure of telling our stories straight through. Trust that you know what you want to say. Write it beginning, middle, and end, and do it now. Which leads to tip #2:

--Finish your work. So many people can begin novels, but can't finish them. Be a finisher. Every time you finish a new novel, it builds your confidence that I can begin and finish the next one. Which leads to tip #3:

--Once you finish your work, mail it off, start on the next one. Don't just sit around waiting to hear what will happen to the last one. I wasted more years than I care to admit waiting to sell my first novel. It wasn't until I started writing more than one a year and getting them in the mail that things started to shake loose for me.

HWM: Why do you blog and when will you be back to regular blogging?
Robin: I blog because I love to play with everyone who shows up there! And that then makes it addictive! Which is why I've had to go cold-turkey for a while so I can get some books out--otherwise I know I'd be right back in there, spending most of my day seeing what y'all have to say. It's your own faults for being so brilliant and fun.

HWM: What's your favorite post?
Robin: The one that was an accident. It wasn't even a post--it was just this blank entry my computer wouldn't let me delete. So I asked people not to read it, and instead everyone came over and turned it into this big party. And that, if you must know, is what eventually led to me throwing the First Annual Kidlitosphere Conference in Chicago last fall. Funny how these things evolve.

HWM: If you found a way to go back to your teen years, what would you do differently?
Robin: Aaaaack! So many things! But mostly not worry so much--I worried about EVERYTHING. This time I would just chillax and actually enjoy my life. It was so much more fun--and carefree--than I realized. Hm, I wonder if I'll be looking back on this time in my life one day and thinking the same thing? Better chillax right now, too.

HWM: What makes you laugh?
Robin: The sweet, silly, foolish things we humans do. I love how embarrassed we get, how over-the-top we can be when we're all hyped up about something--I just love the human race to pieces, and can't think of anything more fun to watch. And I really appreciate smart, funny people who are funny in a kind or self-deprecating kind of way. I'm not into mean funny. Although I'll admit I laughed way too hard at Borat.

HWM: If you were a superhero, what powers would you want and why?
Robin: Love this! I would need to be invisible, be able to fly, and be able to talk to and understand animals. That would pretty much take care of it.

Thank you, Robin!

Some Places to find Robin:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Beauty and the Tween

I saw this on Good Morning America today and I'm in shock.  It appears the good ole days of tweens hanging out and doing their own nails is gone.  Now the girls, even as young as 6 and 7, go to beauty salons and spas for chemical treatments and massages to help them relax.  Edited to Add:  Chris made a calm observation--perhaps it's a daughter/mother bonding thing? 

Still...am I missing something?

SBBT 2008 Starts Today!

The Summer Blog Blast Tour begins today with the following interviews.  Hope you enjoy!

Adam Rex at Fuse Number 8
David Almond at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast
R.L. Lafevers at Finding Wonderland
Dave Schwartz at Shaken & Stirred
Elizabeth Scott at Bookshelves of Doom
Laurie Halse Anderson at Writing & Ruminating
Susan Beth Pfeffer at InteractiveReader

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Summer Blog Blast Tour Starts Monday!

The Summer Blog Blast Tour 2008 starts Monday.  Get ready for an awesome week of author interviews.  I'm so happy...Robin Brande will be here on Tuesday!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Poetry Friday: Shakespeare, Sonnet LIII (Sonnet 53)

I love Shakespeare.  He is a total master of the written word.  This particular sonnet fascinates me.  I've wondered who this love was--was this love deceitful and then forgiven? Was this love the epitome of all perfection and he couldn't believe how lucky he was to have such a love grace his life?  Was the love's constant heart/loyalty what made her beautiful?  

What story do you think this sonnet tells?

What is your substance, whereof are you made,
That millions of strange shadows on you tend?
Since every one hath, every one, one shade,
And you, but one, can every shadow lend.
Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit
Is poorly imitated after you;
On Helen's cheek all art of beauty set,
And you in Grecian tires are painted new.
Speak of the spring and foison of the year:
The one doth shadow of your beauty show,
The other as your bounty doth appear;
And you in every bless├Ęd shape we know.
In all external grace you have some part,
But you like none, none you, for constant heart.

Poetry Friday is over at Two Writing Teachers

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The HWM Intensive Summer School Advice Needed

I had a meeting with my third grader's teacher yesterday.  Third grader's strength is science, social studies and writing time--her descriptives are beautiful.  But her weakness is in math and reading fluency/comprehension.  She's a hard worker and is beginning to get discouraged because first grader, through the process of osmosis, has the nerve to find math and reading easy.   

Instead of a relaxing summer, my children will be enrolled in the HWM Intensive Summer School.  Of course I'll need to change my bad habits... How I'm going to get three children, of varying abilities to pay attention and learn, freaks me out.  And these are my own children.

Some of my amazing Cybils panel members gave me suggestions for developing math skills, and one of these days I'll get around to posting this helpful information.  And if anyone has any great math suggestions for multiplication/division help, that would be great!

But for the reading? How do I keep this challenging without having third grader bummed out with sound tapping, and all the other phonics techniques she thinks are babyish?  Anyone? Bueller?

Some Things About Me Meme

I've been tagged for a meme by Two Writing Teachers. I just found out Elaine tagged me too!  Ack! You know what happens when I do memes...I always end up changing the rules...

Here are the original rules:
1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What were you doing ten years ago?
I had a real job, making real money, and had crazy ideas of leaving the consulting world because I was expecting Child #1.

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order):
It's a half-day of school today, so I've been working up a storm.  Six girls are coming over to play.  So far, I've:
1. Washed dishes my fairy godmother forgot to clean up.
2. Went to the grocery store for lunch stuff and snacks.
3. Went to the library to find some movies in case all hopes of nine girls getting along fails. Borrowed The Golden Compass and Alvin and the Chipmunks.
4. Three loads of laundry.  Yuck.
5. Cleaned bathrooms.  Yuck.  Yuck.  Yuck.

What are some snacks you enjoy?  
I'm not really a snack person, though if I ever broke down, I'd go the salty, savory route.  The foods I enjoy are:
1.  Sushi
2. Creative salads
3. Eggplant parmesan

What would you do if you were a billionaire?
1. Build the perfect home for my family.  I've thought often of what I would love, and this is what I'd have...4 bedrooms, 5 baths (I decided I've had it with the girls fighting over the bathroom), office/cave for Husband, office/library for myself, a big open study room for the kids that would be off the family room with lots of shelves and cabinets to keep things organized, an open hang-out room so the kids will want to invite their friends and I can keep an eye on everyone (I'm thinking ahead to the teenage years...), a gourmet kitchen where my personal chef can create culinary masterpieces, an airy first floor bedroom suite for my sister, and beautiful gardens I can putter around in.

2. Put together educational and travel funds for the kids.  I'd never let them know we had all this money, since I don't want them to depend on or expect that money will make them happy. Although they'd probably figure out we were comfortable because of my dream house...sigh...

3. Open and fund a group home for young disabled adults who want to maintain their independence and live with vibrant people, but need daily assistance and medical help.

4.  Open and fund a camp for food allergic kids to teach them empowerment and have fun in a safe environment.

5.  Fund research to find the cure for food allergies and dermatomyositis.  

6.  An endless supply of office and craft supplies.  

What are three of your bad habits?
Would you believe I don't have any?  Heh, heh.  Okay, here goes.
1. I'm a procrastinator...
2. But once I get going, I become obsessed with details...
3. I become so focused, I forget about things like making dinner or I might burn dinner and four other people in my household gnash their teeth because they have to fend for themselves.

What are five places where you have lived?
Seoul, Korea 
2 towns in New York
3 towns in Massachusetts

What are five jobs you have had?
Here are just some of my college jobs I've had...
1. Ice cream scooper 
2. College tour guide
3. Switchboard operator 
4. Laundress 
5. Athletic public affairs department assistant
6. College radio station news broadcaster  

I tag anyone who wants to play.  Let me know so I can be sure to visit!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Food Allergies, Awareness and Gratitude

This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week and I'd like to take a moment to thank the people at Daughter's school, who have been incredible this school year...


To Mr. K.--cowboy principal,
When I first met you, I nicknamed you our cowboy principal because you're more concerned with what's best for the students, rather than the politics.  While our school has strong guidelines for handling food allergies, you reinforced how important it was to uphold.  No exceptions.  No how.  You cannot imagine the peace of mind that gives me. Thank you. 


To Ms. H. and Mrs. E.--teacher extraordinaires,
Daughter adores the both of you and will miss you terribly when she moves on to second grade.  Words cannot express my appreciation for the care and consideration you have had for Daughter.  I've noticed the things you do for Daughter...You act immediately when Daughter looks uncomfortable.  You make sure the children wash their hands after their snacks and lunch.  If Daughter's eczema flares at school, you've made efforts to isolate the problem and work out a solution.  You've helped keep my child safe and for that I will always be grateful. Thank you.  


To Mrs. G.--most amazing school nurse,
I cannot thank you enough for your kindness and care of my daughter this school year.  For most parents, first grade is a walk in the park.  Even though there's fast learning, first grade should still be fun and carefree.  But for me, every day has been stressful, wondering how Daughter fared with snack and lunch time.  Crazy, isn't it?  But, Daughter's food allergies make life a challenge and even though she's confident, it doesn't calm the recent development of her fears.

As you know, I fell apart when Daughter came to me a few weeks ago and said, "I could die if I eat the wrong food." She is finally aware of the dangerous reality certain foods pose to her, and it is heartbreaking.  

Why?  Because food ingredients are difficult to monitor and people won't always be so understanding.  Because one wrong move could cause a devastating situation.  Because I am her parent and I'm supposed to be able to protect her.  And in this one area, I'm at the mercy of every single person who has contact with my child.  And that puts me on edge.        

You were so kind listening to my concerns about this.  You emphasized how Daughter should feel safe in school and told me you would do everything to help her.  Do you know what your words meant to me?  You are simply a godsend.  Thank you. 

Monday, May 12, 2008

Inspiration Monday: What I Learned from Rick Riordan

Saturday was such an awesome day. My nine-year-old daughter came with me to Rick Riordan's talk and book signing for his book, The Battle of the Labyrinth, in a nearby town. The Wellesley Booksmith, an independent bookstore, hosted this incredible event.  I knew there would be a crowd, and wasn't sure if my daughter would have the staying power to last the entire time--but she did!

Especially after I read this...Jen had a post on her blog about Rick's The Battle of the Labyrinth book launch. I commented how I wasn't sure whether daughter would last, and Rick's wife commented on how their children didn't last the whole time!

I'm impressed my daughter was willing to wait two hours and fifteen minutes to meet Rick Riordan--okay, there was great entertainment by Radio Disney for most of this time, but still--she was so pumped up after his presentation, she wanted her books signed.

It was downright inspiring to see children enthusiastic about reading, and I was so glad my reluctant reader could see this for herself. I am convinced children who love the Percy Jackson series see Rick Riordan as a god--their shouts, cheers and love for the world Rick Riordan created rocked the house.

If you ever have a chance to hear Rick Riordan speak, go. Rick is the first author I've ever had a chance to hear speak, and wow! He really knows how to deliver an inspirational message to the kids. Rick is funny, he gets the kids to think, and most importantly, he is kind and respectful to the kids. You can tell he's grateful the kids adore his books and that he loves what he does.

Rick divided his presentation into three main parts. He first talked about how the idea for the Percy Jackson stories came about. Here's the basic scoop: one of his sons has ADHD and dyslexia and loved Greek mythology. Rick told him all the myths, but his son wanted more. That's when he made up Percy Jackson. His son loved Percy Jackson's story so much, he urged Rick to write the book. Isn't his son awesome?

Rick then did a Q&A session--two cool things from this session are down below. The boys asked most of the questions. For the final piece of the presentation, he offered up Battle of the Labyrinth t-shirts as prizes for kids who could answer questions about the Greek mythology and his books.

The kids went wild! They climbed over people to get to the aisles. They jumped up and down, waving their hands all around, shrieking out to get Rick's attention. Can you imagine this is all over a t-shirt for a book?

What I also found impressive is he's on a multi-city book tour, and must be exhausted, but you'd never know it. His presentation was fresh, upbeat, and interactive. Kids were jumping out of their seats, shouting out, laughing and clapping during his talk. Who knew reading could be so cool?

If you don't know this already, the Percy Jackson series is fantastic. It's a perfect MG read for kids who enjoy fast paced adventures and Greek mythology. What is awesome is reluctant readers and children with learning disabilities will enjoy reading these books. There's great empowerment and fantastic heroes/villians packaged in a smart, funny, action packed, entertaining, fast read.

Two interesting things we found out during the Q&A session:

1. It takes Rick about a year to write each book. Book Five, the conclusion of Percy Jackson's story, is scheduled to be released next year. But fear not, Rick is planning to write more books on the next generation of demi-gods from Camp Half-Blood.

2. The kids screamed when they found out there will be a movie of The Lightning Thief. The writers have written the second script and Chris Columbus, the director of the first two Harry Potter films, will direct The Lightning Thief. No actors have been cast yet, but the movie is scheduled to be released in November 2009.

I learned so much from Rick Riordan. He really knows how inspire children to feel powerful. It was such a privilege to be in the thick of it all and to watch the children get this pumped up about reading. The fact this man loves what he does is evident in his actions. He was kind, encouraging and respectful to his fans. And he interacted with the fans--joking around with them, encouraging their curiousity, and feeding their enthusiasm.

As I mentioned earlier, my daughter and I waited two hours and fifteen minutes to meet Rick Riordan and get our books signed. I stressed, trying to think of something half-way intelligent to say, once it was our turn to join the book signing line. But when we got closer, I noticed Rick looked tired, and any thoughts of engaging him in small talk flew right out my mind.

There was a group of four boys who won The Battle of the Labyrinth t-shirts right in front of us. They wanted Rick to sign their shirts and pose for pictures with them. He did it all, in a gracious manner, without trying to hurry them along. I was simply in awe with this man's behavior towards his fans. Tired or not, the fans were the priority.

By the time it was our turn to meet Rick, I was tongue-tied. Rick Riordan smiled, asked my daughter if she had any questions about his book, and signed our books.

My daughter talked about Rick Riordan and the Percy Jackson stories all weekend. Thank you, Rick Riordan, for creating a series that inspires kids--most especially reluctant readers--to want to read.

Friday, May 9, 2008

In the Know: Gas Prices

You know it's bad when you drive around town, gas meter hovering empty, and you still hesitate to buy gas.  Just in case the prices go down the next day. 

If you'd like to search out the cheapest place around your town for gas, here's a link I discovered last year. If you're the type who likes to compare prices, here's another link for your peace of mind. Just type in your zip code, and you'll get a listing of nearby gas stations with their most recently reported prices. 

Writing Tip: Character Motivations

What is it about school talent show auditions that will get even the quietest of children to stand on stage and belt out a show tune?   Or a group of "cool" boys to collaborate on a comedic skit. 

This is the second year I attended the talent show auditions of my children's school. Overall, it's a great program and the teachers will throw out any of the children if there is any irreverent behavior.  It's wonderful watching the children clap and shout out encouragements to one another, no matter what.  I hate to say this, but it's also fascinating to watch the undercurrents of competition and conflict during the auditions.  This is a talent show after all.  And not all talents are created alike.

There's always the over-enthusiastic parent, who hopes their child is the next Hannah Montana.  The girl who is a fantastic singer who chooses singing partners who aren't as good.  There's the in-fighting, the tears, the shame, the panic attacks.  All because of the end goal: getting into the talent show.

What is so wonderful about having real-life exposure to a "big" event like this, is that if you're a writer, it gives you a camera view of how people really act and react in a conflict-driven environment.  And it helps give insight to character motivations, which is important to your plot.  Even though character motivation is a part of what makes the reader interested in your story, it's what helps give your work substance. 

I spend so much time analyzing my characters, getting to know who they are.  I enjoy character development and discovering their psychological motivations.  Just like people, our characters need to have goals and the motivation to reach them.  Otherwise, there is no depth to them and they would be boring to read about.

These are the questions I think about, as I develop my character motivations:
  1. What drives a character to do what they do--what is it they need? 
  2. What are they trying to achieve? 
  3. How much time do they have to get this done? 
  4. What happens when something gets in their way?

What helps you define your character motivations?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Writing Tip: More on Plotting

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of plot outlines.  Writers were kind to leave comments on their plotting methods.  And guess what?

One of my critique group members, PJ Hoover is sharing!!  Go here to check out PJ's website and to get her character worksheet and plot structure downloads.  PJ, you rock!

Incidentally, PJ has a MG science fiction novel, The Emerald Tablet, due to be released in October 2008--just in time for my eldest child's birthday month!

Cool Books: The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963

You know you're in for a great read when you start laughing out loud in the pediatrician's waiting room and your eldest daughter starts inching away from you. And you're only on Chapter One.

The book? The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis.

Go read it. I'll post a review when I finish this.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Writing Tip: Plotting Your Novel

Yesterday, I wrote an Inspiration Monday post about breaking goals into manageable chunks.  If you're a writer, this also applies to writing your novel, in the form of plotting.  Kelly, this one's for you--you wanted to know if I'd share my goals.  And here goes one.  I need to finish the plotting for my historical novel.   

When I first came up with the idea for this manuscript, I started with the research.  I knew absolutely nothing about the time period, the people, the place, the clothing--you name it, I had to research it.  The more information I discovered, the more I wanted to write.  My protagonist begged me to tell her story, and I became her scribe.  

The manuscript underwent a huge change in the beginning stages--it went from first person to third person--thanks to the wisdom of my incredible critique group.  I have to admit, writing this manuscript in first person was much easier.  I also didn't worry about the plot so much.  I had a basic idea of what I wanted to happen in the story. I knew the ending, so I wrote towards the ending.  

Now, the story is in third person and it's added a multitude of layers I want to reveal. The only way I'll be able to keep it straight is if I have a plot outline I can refer to.  I do have a light outline I can refer to, but it's not enough.  My story has gotten too complex that I'm worried I won't tie up all the loose ends.  Remember how I mentioned earlier about breaking goals down into manageable chunks?  Now it's time to do break down my plot into manageable chunks to make sure it works. 

Not every writer is into outlines, and truly, you need to do what best helps you write.  But there are different variations on how people outline.  Some writers use plotting boards.  I've also read about writers using index cards, timelines or even spreadsheets.  I'm more of an old-fashioned outline sort of gal.  It probably goes back to my middle school days where the outline was ingrained in my mind as the only way to map out a paper.  But one of these days, I'd love to try a different method.  

Keep in mind, a good plot has a few ingredients that help make it a success: characters the reader can care about and identify with, engaging dialogue, interesting conflicts or obstacles, good sub-plots, the enticing pivotal moment, and the all-important wrapping up the loose ends.  

A solid plot outline will help you keep on track with keeping the story going.  You'll be able to see the beginning, middle and end of the story more clearly with the outline.  And the outline gives the writer hope that the story works and can be finished, since it's broken down into little steps. 

Want to deviate from your outline?  Want to add something new to your outline?  No worries.  It's your story.  The only thing I'd urge you to do is make sure you review your outline to see if you need to make changes elsewhere to reflect the new development(s).  Hopefully, this will save you from any loose ends.

In case you're interested in what the outline should like, the outline below will give you a basic idea of what I do.  Mine go in much more detail, but this will give you a starting point.  I'm not sure if the spaces will line up correctly in Blogger, so if it doesn't, remember to indent for every new thing you're adding to a scene, to the sub-plot, etc.

I:  Chapter One
   A. Scene 1
       1. Characters
          a. Name A
             1.  description
             2.  mood
             3.  wants
             4.  relationship to Name B
           b. Name B
              1. description
              2.  mood
              3.  wants
              4. relationship to Name A
       2. Place
       3. What happens?
  B.  Scene 2 
You can make this outline as detailed as you like--in fact, I highly recommend it.  Make sure you indent for every new sub-plot, helpful ideas to create your scene, relationships you want to highlight, and all details you want to fit in different chapters.  The more layers you add to the outline, the easier it will be to write your novel.  This outline will help you keep track of your various storylines and get you writing towards your goal.  

It's time for me to put in the final touches to my plot outline.  How do you plot?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Inspiration Monday: Take One Step at a Time

It's been a few weeks since I wrote a real Inspiration Monday post.  I've been busy, as all of us are, and a little overwhelmed with projects I wanted to or needed to do.  But, it's time for me to get back on track and focus on my goals--the big one, as most of you know, is to be a published children's book author.

I have three manuscripts in various stages of revisions, and one I'm working on as a first draft. You may wonder why I don't just finish one manuscript and then go on to the next.  Which would totally make sense.  And sometimes, I wonder myself.  But this isn't about second guessing myself and my work.  It's about creating structure (which I shudder at), so I can take one step at a time to get to my goal, and be confident I'm going in the right direction.  

I've worked out my To Do List and dates for what I'd like to accomplish with each of these manuscripts, into manageable chunks.  My hope is this will help me focus on each step rather than being consumed with the Big Picture of a published book.    

Be easy on yourself and make your goal attainable.  Rather than being overwhelmed with your huge project, what can you do to break your goal into manageable chunks?


Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Twilight Video Clip for a Rainy Day

It's been raining here for the past couple of days, and it's enough to make me weep. However, if you're a vampire, this would be a perfect day. Yes, I've got Twilight on my brain.

I was checking out Stephenie Meyer's site, and viewed these MTV video clips of the filming of the Twilight movie. Wow. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical about the look of some of the actors and actresses chosen for the film, but then, how do you portray the most beautiful of vampires that humans are drawn to?

When you have a chance, check out these video clips. You'll see how they film some of stunts and be amused about the fight between Twilight and Harry Potter.

Have a great day.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Announcing the Winner of the Five Sentence Contest

The voting ballot is now closed. 
Thank you for voting!

Contestant #4, Tom, you're the winner! Your prize is a first chapter critique. e-mail me at hipwritermama at comcast dot net and send me your first chapter. I'll e-mail your critique back to you over the weekend.


A big thank you to everyone who participated in this: Tom, M. Thompson, Sam Riddleburger, Beth, Chris, and Caryn. This was such a close race. You did good.

readergirlz hosts Shannon Hale in May!

Here's the May issue of readergirlz, featuring Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days.  Join us over at the readergirlz forum for wonderful discussions. 

Poetry Friday: Let Each Man Remember

Let Each Man Remember
by Josephine Jacobsen

There is a terrible hour in the early morning
When men awake and look on the day that brings
The hateful adventure, approaching with no less certainty
Than the light that grows, the untroubled bird that sings.

It does not matter what we have to consider,
Whether the difficult word, or the surgeon’s knife,
The last silver goblet to pawn, or the fatal letter,
Or the prospect of going on with a particular life.

The point is, they rise; always they seem to have risen
(They always will rise, I suppose) by courage alone.
Somehow, by this or by that, they engender courage,
Courage bred in flesh that is sick to the bone.

Each in his fashion, they compass their set intent
To rout the reluctant sword from the gripping sheath,
By thinking, perhaps, upon the Blessed Sacrament,
Or perhaps by coffee, or perhaps by gritted teeth.

It is indisputable that some turn solemn or savage,
While others have found it serves them best to be glib,
When they inwardly lean and listen, listen for courage,
That bitter and curious thing beneath the rib.

Read the rest of the poem here

And read the entries for the most intriguing five sentence over here! The voting ballot is now closed.

Kelly hosts today's Poetry Friday. Go read her wonderful original poem in honor of her graduating seniors as well as other inspiring poems.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Vote for Your Favorite Five Sentence Entry

Edited to Add: I just changed the date on this post since I made an error in the voting deadline. I wrote the post yesterday evening, ready to post today, but forgot to change the post date--which messed up the voting date on the ballots below. I'm so sorry, contestants!

May 2, 2008
The voting ballot is now closed. Thank you for voting!

Contestant #4, Tom, you're the winner! Your prize is a first chapter critique. e-mail me at hipwritermama at comcast dot net and send me your first chapter. I'll e-mail your critique back to you over the weekend.

A big thank you to everyone who participated in this: Tom, M. Thompson, Sam Riddleburger, Beth, Chris, and Caryn. You did good.
Thank you to everyone who stopped by and entered my first writing contest. I thought people would appreciate the winning prize of a first chapter critique by moi. Six contestants submitted a five sentence entry, based on a writing prompt below from the wonderful Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. And you get to decide who the winner will be!
"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."

Here are the six entries. Thank you to everyone who participated in this: Tom, M. Thompson, Sam Riddleburger, Beth, Chris, and Caryn. I didn't put their names on their entry, so you can judge the entry as "purely" as possible. I even mixed up the names that I listed, so they don't match the entries below.

The voting "booth" is below the entries. Voting ends tonight at 11pm, EST. Please vote for the entry that intrigues you enough to want to read more. And if you have any kind words for the contestants, bring them on!

Let the voting begin! Good luck!

Contestant 1:

Templeton limped towards me. His cane thunked with every step. I kept close eye on the cane. Templeton was known to use it if provoked.

"Templeton," I said, "Have I ever led you astray? The announcement was made this morning. Lord Shackleton is holding a contest for his daughter's hand in marriage."

Contestant 2:
O’Shaughnessy tapped a cigarette on the table before lighting it. He looked around to make sure that no one else was near. “Believe me, it’s true. It’s better than the Midas touch. There are risks though.”

Templeton gave an exaggerated shrug. “What’s life without risks?”

Contestant 3:
Templeton rubbed his hands together. His beady eyes flickered, watching my every move. I carried a ruby goblet, filled with a magic elixir.

"Come now," I said, "drink from this cup and you will soon see the riches before you." Templeton shook his head.

Contestant 4:
I gasped. Marlowe clasped his hand around my mouth and pulled me further in the shadows.

"Shhh! If the Sinster Five realize we're here, we're sure to be sent to the gallows," Marlowe said, "We need to find out why they need Templeton on their side."

Contestant 5:
He paused.

"But..." His eyes grazed over to the window, and the stormy sky outside. "On the other hand, eternal life may not be what I need. Perhaps..."

I grabbed his arm, jerked his attention back to me. "This, THIS is what you need!"

Templeton was already shaking his head. "Why do you want me to do this so much? Perhaps this is what YOU need."

Contestant 6:
"Aw, Temp, it aint high living at all. I'm exhausted and bored and I'm sick of seeing my picture in the paper."

"Then don't go back, Brit, stay here."

"No, they'll never let me go."

And, I'll never let you go either, thought Templeton, although somewhere deeper down he knew she was already gone.