Saturday, August 20, 2016

WRITING WITH ROSIE

Two-time Newbery Honor winner, Patricia Reilly Giff, has written a simple and entertaining guide on the how to write fiction. She breaks the topic down into easy-to-understand steps, providing examples for each one.

The book is written for kids, kids who want to write but might not know how to put their ideas and thoughts into story form. Giff breaks down the process in these steps (these are chapter headings):
* First, You Take a Person
* Put Him In a Place
* Give Him a Problem
* Make Him Move - (action)
* Make Him Talk - (add dialogue)
* Juggling - (how to keep the action, dialogue and description all going at the same time)
* Make Him Worry about the Problem
* And the Problem Gets Worse and Worse - (keep adding obstacles)
And in the End...you solve the problem
And Now... Begin on Page One (rewriting)

After each step, Giff shows kids how she did it in chapters titled Can You See How I Did It? Then, she encourages kids to do the same, by adding chapters titled Your Turn.

She finishes off the book with a couple of chapters about what do after you've finished your first book. She recommends that you do a lot more reading and then start writing another book!

Obviously, this book is written for kids. But, it wouldn't hurt adult writers to take a look at the book. Maybe they'll find some inspiration just by reading through the chapters.


BTW, the title comes from Giff's attempts to write while living with Rosie, her 70-pound golden retriever.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Prodigal Summer

Author Barbara Kingsolver tells the stories of three residents of Zebulon County in Kentucky: Deanna Wolfe, a wildlife biologist who works for the National Forestry Service and prefers to spend her time high on Walker Mountain, rather than in town; Lusa Maluf Landowski, a "city" girl who came from Lexington and married Cole Widener, a life-long member of Zebulon County; and Garnett Walker, another life-long resident of the county who has lived as a widower for the past eight years. Their lives are intertwined, although they don't all really realize it. Each has their own particular story to tell, but their stories are meshed with those of the other characters.

This is a love story (or stories, if you will). It's also a story about friendship, and trust and betrayal, and new beginnings, and so many other things. While telling her stories, Kingsolver seamlessly weaves in lots of information about insects, and cattle, and coyotes, and habitats, and evolution, and biology, as the characters are all educated people who share their knowledge with others. You can learn a lot about many subjects just from reading this book.

Kingsolver certainly has a way with words. Her language is lyrical and poetic and just plain fun to read. I want to write like her when I grow up!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Map of the Sky

Sometimes I get the feeling I keep reading the same book over and over again. The titles change, the characters' names change, the settings change, and even the authors change, but the themes and plots just seem to repeat themselves.

Not so this time. Author Felix J. Palma has spun a tale that is different from any other I've ever read. He's managed to combine history and science fiction into a story like no other. This one features real-life past author H. G. Wells, who wrote both THE TIME MACHINE and WAR OF THE WORLDS. Palma has combined the two stories, putting Wells front and center of the action, being involved in historical actions as well as fictional ones.

It's a story that mixes the idea of a Martian invasion with time travel. It should interest science fiction, as well as historical fiction buffs.

PS: It's the second book in a three-part series. I haven't read the first book, THE MAP OF TIME, so I want to do that now, and then read the last book of the series, THE MAP OF CHAOS.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

THE COTTAGE IN THE WOODS

So, you think you know the story of GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS. Think again. It's not at all what you would expect.

Every once in a while a book comes along that leaves a lasting positive impression. THE COTTAGE IN THE WOODS is such a book. While its main theme is the story behind the story of Goldilocks and the bears (why Goldilocks was in their house, what happened to her after she was found in Baby Bear's bed, and what was really happening in the Enchanted Forest where the Bear family lived), the book is packed with so much more.

I was given the opportunity to read and review this book, and I'm glad I did. Before I started reading it, though, I thought it would just be a fluffed-up story of the three bears, entertaining but with no real substance. But, I was wrong. According to author Katherine Coville, there was much more going on in the house than what the reader learns in the children's fairy tale. 

For instance, the bears were called the Vaughn's. They had a young cub, named Teddy, who was looked after by Nurse. Ursula comes to the house to be Teddy's governess. She is the narrator of the story and she tells the tale from her perspective, making the story public many years after the fact. Not only does the reader learn the “real” story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears (in addition to many other things, the reader learns Goldilocks is not the little blond-headed girl’s real name), the reader is taught lessons about love, jealousy, prejudice, justice and faith.

Coville tells a familiar tale with a lot of unexpected twists. She includes characters from other well-known fairy tales and nursery rhymes who live in the Enchanted Forest. She writes with wit, humor and a healthy dose of truth. As the blurb on the book says, “Filled with bold twists and turns, this is a beautiful coming-of-age story wrapped in a tale both well-loved and wholly unexpected.” 

I couldn't have said it better myself. Do yourself a favor and read the "real" story of Goldilocks and those three bears.
 

Monday, October 27, 2014

SUSANNA HILL'S 4TH ANNUAL HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST - My Entry



Once again, it's time for Susanna Hill's Annual Halloweensie Contest. I've entered a couple of her other contests, but this is the first time I've tried my hand at writing one for Halloween. She always has some tough guidelines to follow. This time around the story (told in prose or poetic form) had to include the words pumpkin, creak and broomstick, AND it had to be 100 words of less. Yikes!

Here's my entry. After you've read it, I would appreciate it if you would leave a comment. Also, please go back to Susanna's blog and click on the links for the other entries. Thanks!

TILLY'S NEW BROOMSTICK

Tilly sighed when she picked up her broomstick. It creaked and groaned every time she flew. “I need a new one, but I’m broke. What else can I use?”

She tried a curtain rod from the window. Too flimsy.

She found a board in the garage. Too heavy and too splintery. Ouch!

Would her snow shovel, propped beside the pumpkin work? It did but the shovel end made it too hard to guide.

Tilly cut that off. With a bit of string, she tied some straw to the handle.

“Perfect,” she said. “Now I’m ready for Halloween.”


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

HUMOROUS BOOKS ABOUT PARENTING

If you need a dose of humor, I have a suggestion for you. Well, actually, I have two suggestions. Both are books, both are written about parenting, and both are written by fathers. Their take on parenthood is very amusing.

The first book I recommend is THIS IS RIDICULOUS, THIS IS AMAZING: Parenthood in 71 Lists by Jason Good. Jason breaks down his parenting insights into list form. He has compiled 71 lists dealing with such topics as “Games You Can Play While Lying Down”; “Taking a Bath with Your Child”; and “How to Threaten Your Children Effectively”. His take on things is wild and wacky and endlessly entertaining.

The other book is called CONFESSIONS OF THE WORLD’S BEST FATHER by Dave Engledow. Instead of lists, he presents his topics in picture form. He documents the first few years of his daughter’s life with pictures and short narratives to go with them. He starts with Day 1 and ends with Day 918. No, there are not 918 photos as he skips many days between photos. All his photos show him with his daughter Alice Bee, and each photo includes his trusty coffee mug, a gift from his wife, that says WORLD’S BEST FATHER on it. The pics are absolutely hilarious as are his tongue-in-cheek narratives that go along with them.

Although these books aren't "how-to" books about writing, they can be viewed as instructional in terms of presenting similar information in very different forms and doing so with a great big dose of humor.

Do yourself a favor and take a moment to peruse these books. You’ll be glad you did. Warning: You might need a warped sense of humor to truly enjoy them!

Monday, July 14, 2014

CHILDREN'S BOOK PUBLISHERS OPEN TO UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS



It can be tough getting a children's book published these days. Many publishers accept manuscript submissions only through agents. If you don't have an agent, you can't submit to them.

But, fear not. If you have a children's story that you feel is ready for publication, and you don't have an agent to represent you, I have good news. Mandy Yates, from the Children's Book Academy has posted a great list of publishers who are accepting unsolicited manuscripts. The list includes such publishers as Boyds Mills Press, Clarion, and Putnam.

Before you submit, though, remember to do your homework. Make sure your manuscript fits the needs and wants of the publisher you're sending it to.

Good luck!