Friday, February 26, 2010

Fire Petal Book Auction

Reading the fabulous blog of Young Adult author Sara Zarr, I learned that there is an amazing auction going on.
 Fire Petal books is an up-and-coming independent bookstore in Utah and the auction is a fund-raiser. (Having just visited a Borders at our local mall with it's aisles littered with ripped up books and not a clerk in sight made me realize all the more how much I value and need my local bookstore havens- Vromans and La Canada Flintridge Books).

So, in an effort to help an indie bookstore on the rise (and pick up a great book or writerly opportunity to meet an editor, author or agent) check out this site.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Great Links- Writing for BOYS!

I really wanted to be able to follow through on my promise to do a great middle grade book review every Monday, but Mondays are coming so fast!

So in lieu of a new Freshly Brewed Monday Book Recommendation today, I am going to give you something different, something fun, something, well easier for me to do...

But you are going to LOVE it, I promise!

If you are a writer (especially for boys!)....
I went to a fantastic Writer to Writer Event at the Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada Flintridge. (Yeah, the one the semi-truck drive thru last year coming down Angeles Crest Hwy) Yikes! Catherine Linka plans these amazing opportunities for aspiring writers to hear agents, authors and editors speak on really inspiring topics.

The store is all fixed and is really one of the very best independent book stores in the San Gabriel Valley, if not LA proper, so you should stop by if you can.

So here's the scoop/link- Another blogger wrote this fantastic post about the event given by Michael Reisman and Ben Esch I attended on Superbowl Sunday regarding writing for boys. Every wonderful detail is here and all you have to do is click on the above!

Simon Bloom, the Gravity Keeper by Michael Reisman

Sophomore Undercover by Ben Esch

I haven't read either book. The Gravity Keeper is a middle-grade book (8-12) and Sophmore Undercover is Young Adult (13 and up). I have heard The Gravity Keeper is great for any science-minded, adventure-seeker reader/middle-grader and that Sophmore Undercover is strong in its off-beat humor. I hope to read and review The Gravity Keeper very soon.

Really whether you write for boys or not, this post is for you because we all need our boy characters to ring true, so click and enjoy!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Raise Your Hand If You Love Betsy Bird!

The Double Life of Betsy Bird-

Raise your hand if you love Betsy Bird. (For those of you not fully-entrenched in childrens' literature, if that was said at anything kid-litish- the whole room is standing, cheering, holding up their lighters, doing the wave, you get the idea...) All children's literature fans NEED to know about Betsy Bird. I've referenced her in previous posts and she is the well-deserved recipient of this spot-light article!

Read on! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Freshly-Brewed Monday Book Recommendation #7- Operation Redwood

Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French

I was initally drawn to this book because I thought it might have some similarities to the middle-grade manuscript I am working on. Mine is a botanical adventure/mystery of sorts with a multi-cultural cast of characters and Operation Redwood is well, a botanical adventure/mystery of sorts with a multi-cultural cast of characters!

But, as is often the case, two people do not write the same book and the similarities pretty much start and end in the one sentence I described above. After I got over my fear that the books might be too similar (which happened on page one), I thoroughly enjoyed this fun and exciting book. The setting spanned from San Francisco to the Redwood Forests to a quiet homeschooling kitchen and lots of places in between. I loved it's strong sense of place and the voice of all three of the mystery-solving team: Julian, Danny and Robin.

Twelve year old Julian intercepts a hostile email sent to his Uncle Sibley and thus begins his place in the middle of the fight to save some of the oldest trees in the world. Along with his loyal and hilarious friend Danny, Julian joins forces with people he has never met, travels to places he's never been and sleeps in a tree all to stand up for what he believes in. This is a great book for any 9-12 year-old, boy or girl, who loves realistic adventure/mystery and it has the added take-away of fascinating information regarding deforestation and the Redwoods. 

Can you imagine a treehouse in this beast of a tree? The setting  imagery in my mind, as I read the forest scenes, reminded me of how it felt to read Bridge to Terabithia for the first time. I felt like I was right there with Jess and Leslie, swinging on ropes in our own private hideaway forest. This book is really special and I hope you all read it!

And to boot, can't you just see how great this book would be as part of a late elementary/middle school curriculum on the environment, forests, science, history, you could weave it into basically anything!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Listmania: Go Ahead and Click, it's FUN

Do you like lists? I used to LOVE them. When I was single I would make them and leave them on little slips of paper all over the apartment:

1. Get nails done
2. Call X to plan lunch
3. Call Y to plan when to go to beach on Sat.

Those were the days! Now that I'm a housebound mommy and my lists are longer than my arm and beyond boring, I decided to not even make them anymore. I'm over the whole list thing. I'm not sure when I stopped but the sky's not falling so I guess everything's OK. That means sometimes I forget to do things, but so be it. Anyway, someone told me lists are great on blogs, so I am going to resurrect my old love of lists and try to incorporate it here! (spoiler alert: this list is not bookish, I'm just warming up to lists again and decided to color outside the lines of my usual blog fare)

I was a child of the 80's and I have a brother who is exactly one year older than me. When we were tweenagers (altho no one knew what that meant back then) music videos were born. I'll never forget watching MTV for the first time. My brother knew every band and when the name of the band and song would pop up in the lower left he would give me a few details about said band and we would sit mesmorized.

The first video I remember was Oliver's Army by Elvis Costello. We thought it was breathtaking. I have since learned that MTV aired for the first time on August 1, 1981, and that Oliver's Army was shown on that first day. It would be just like my brother to know that was the day of MTV's launching and I'm pretty sure that summer day was when I first saw this. It is so beautifully 1981 that I just had to show it to you:

Did you see Elvis dialing the phone by making his finger go in small circles??? Yikes!

These days I don't get to watch many videos; however, because two can still qualify as a list, I am going to give you THE BEST VIDEOS OF 2009 according to me. Please keep in mind, I am an aspiring writer who sits at home in t-shirts and sweats and writes all day/mother of 3 who no longer watches MTV. Therefore, these videos found me, through whatever channels and I LOVE THEM, In fact, I love them so much I am going to bestow them with award titles.

also known as the *best-be-boppy-stick-in-your-head-fun-summer-song* video

Don't you LOVE it? Go ahead, listen to it again while you brush your teeth, or scrub the sink, it just makes everything more fun! It has a little Traveling Wilburys thing going on, right? By the way, I didn't do the talking bubbles, they were just annoyingly there.

AND NOW, drumroll........

also known as the *sheer adorableness factor* video

If you haven't seen 500 Days of Summer yet, you may not thoroughly appreciate this. I loved these characters in the movie and wanted more. And here they is, all set to this catchy little tune by *She & Him.*

Aren't lists fun???

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fuse #8 Top 100 Middle Grade Book Poll

I was thrilled when Betsy Bird, librarian and Fuse #8 blogger, asked her readers to vote for their top ten (in order) middle grade books of all time. I dutifully cast my votes and received a very nice email back thanking me. (I almost printed the email, it felt a bit like a celebrity autograph!)

Middle grade was when so many of us fell down into the rabbit hole of reading and many of us have never climbed back out. I couldn't wait to see the picks! So far Betsy has listed books 81-100.

But this is much more than a list, dear friends. In true Betsy Bird form, she has over-delivered and I am over the moon! If you haven't checked out this list, what are you waiting for? Not only does Betsy give us background on the authors, a synopsis of the book and insights into the characters, Betsy also provides us with copies of every cover ever published.
Today's post has books 81-85. Who knew that #85 On The Banks Of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder has had 6 different covers! Way to go Half-Pint! Which one did you read? Was this one your favorite? This is the cover I had and I loved it. Remember the *dugout* house? I was so jealous. Why didn't Ma and the girls properly appreciate the dugout? Why did Pa have to buy all those building supplies on credit for a two-story regular old boring house when they had a perfectly good dugout? And it is when Nellie Oleson came on the scene, the ultimate prarie foe. I don't remember disliking her in the book as much as I did on the TV show. I am looking forward to seeing which 80 are in still to be revealed! Thanks Betsy!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Freshly-Brewed Monday Book Recommendation #6!- The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis

A Small Adventure is a wonderful thing.

"Mom, where are our set-up army guys?"

The set-up army guys aren't really all army guys. They are mostly army guys (some green and some tan), with a few civil war soldiers (some blue some gray) and a couple of yellow and red Native American Indians. The cowboys are gone. And all the guys are tiny, plastic and their feet melt into a small puddle that helps them stand steady, sort of.

My three boys, sometimes with a friend or two, strategically place all the set-up guys throughout a dry dirt path that winds its way through a massive amount of ivy in our backyard. Once everyone agrees that all the set-up guys are in the right place- in the creek-bed, on a flat rock, under a droopy leaf, the faucet gets cranked on and the hose introduces a whole new element into the game. Sometimes it's a slow drip, sometimes its more torrential but it's always fun and they never tire of it.  

 The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis is about finding something to do. Something different, something unusual, something that makes today special. Popeye lives a slow-paced life in Fayette, North Carolina with his Grandma Velma who "he needed not to crack up because no one else was very good at taking care of things. Not his father who lived in Chatanooga and sold smoke-damaged rugs out of the back of a pick-up truck. Not his mother who came and went but never told anbody where she came from or where she went to. And definitely not Uncle Dooley, who lived in a rusty trailer in the backyard and sometimes worked at the meatpacking plant and sometimes sold aluminum siding and sometimes watched TV all day."

When a Holiday Rambler, filled with a boisterous excitable family, gets stuck in the mud while cruising through town, Popeye meets his new friend, Elvis. The two decide that what they need is a small adventure, and soon the boys come upon boats made out of paper yoo-hoo cartons floating down a creek with hidden messages tucked inside. The boys must figure out what the notes mean, who is sending them and they must do it fast, before the Holiday Rambler is out of the mud and Elvis's family rolls on out of Fayette.

The simplicity of Barbara O'Connor's writing is refreshing and clean. This is a great little new book that feels like classic. In my opinion, that is a hard find for an early chapter book that appeals to boys. A hidden little perk are the vocabulary words Popeye's Grandma Velma is memorizing: cajole, divert and connive just to name a few.

My 9 yr. old and 6 yr. old both loved it as a read-aloud. Plenty to giggle about with a touch a mystery. It might even inspire you to set out on a small adventure of you own, something that might even be more fun than the army set-up guys!   

Friday, February 5, 2010

In Which Neil Gaiman reads me a bedtime story

He did! He really did! My husband was sitting next to me and so were hundreds of other people at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus, but last night Neil Gaiman read excerpts of The Graveyard Book to me! The show started at 8 and ended around 10 and I am often asleep by then so it was like an honest-to-goodness bedtime story!

Wow!! Thanks Neil!!! It's nice to be read to for once. Could we do that again sometime?

He also read a bit of something new he's working on- a piece about horror and English Seaside Hotels. It was not-surprisingly amazing and creepy and funny and very Neil Gaiman.

Hooked already? I know, right?  

Jason and I agreed that our favorite was an excerpt about a story of a crippled boy, a bear, a fox and an eagle, entitled Odd and the Frost Giants, that he wrote as a "world book." What is a world book you ask? Neil explained that world books are part of a charitable initiative in the UK and Ireland focused on providing children with the experience of going into a bookstore, choosing and purchasing a book. The organization responsible for this chooses authors and asks them to write a children's book, no longer than 100 pages. The authors receive no payment for these books and the publisher publishes them at no cost. Each school-age child is given 2 tokens. Each world book costs 1 token and children go crazy picking out their two new books. Children in the UK and Ireland love this time of year, when the new world books are issued, and its easy to understand why when Neil Gaiman represents the caliber of authors to pen these books. 

The last half hour was a Q & A. My favorite quote of the night was in response to a question. Someone asked Neil if he outlines or just starts writing and keeps writing until he's done. He said, without a doubt, he just writes. He said he realized that "to some that seems like jumping out of a plane and then knitting your parachute on the way down" but that's how he's always done it and that's what works best.

Being a parachute-knitter myself, I loved that answer!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Beta Readers!

I'm going to indulge the writer-me and tell a little bit about my journey. My middle grade novel first draft is complete. I guess I should call it a first draft. But in reality I have combed over the entire 225 pages at least 7 or eight times. Re-configuring things, moving scenes to and fro, turning narrative portions into dialogue and just generally obsessing.

What's weird about this process is that one day I can read the whole manuscript in one sitting and go, "That was amazing! Some agent/editor is going to LOVE this. Maybe? Right?" And then the very next day, I can read a few pages and go, "That is so ridiculously bad I can't believe I even call myself a writer!" It is a lonely, head-spinning way to spend your days.

That is until you get to the beta reader phase. What is a beta reader you ask? A beta reader is the first humanoid, other than yourself, who gets to read your stuff. And boy, is it weird to serve yourself up on a platter. Just like that. Here I am. All my best thoughts, efforts, words strung together as sentences, sentences strung together as scenes, scenes strung together as chapters and chapters strung together as if a cohesive plot really lives in those pages. I love to world build and create something out of nothing, but what if its a heap of dung beetle stew?

So that's where I am.

My manuscript is out there- with Beta #1 and Beta #2, who shall remain nameless. I am eternally grateful that they exist on this planet simultaneous to my existence because handing over my book felt ok and safe, but I'm waiting on pins and needles to get the book back!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Magic for Haiti!

I am one proud Mama today. After watching a bit of the Haiti telethon and the different musicians who were performing, my oldest son said, "I could do something like that, I could perform magic for Haiti." That night, by bedtime, "Magic for Haiti' had moved from a little idea to a fully-fleshed out plan. My nine-year old would perform the magic, my six-year old would be in charge or refreshments and my four year old would cheer for one brother and help the other one by eating.

We picked Partners in Health (PIH) because $.92 of each dollar goes to immediate relief efforts. PIH already had hundreds of staff in Haiti and 12 hospitals that were unaffected by the earthquake. We made flyers and if we had looked over the PIH website more carefully, could have used their evite system. But the handmade orange paper ones were fun too.

We also used the PIH thank you notes and posters to decorate the backyard.

The turn-out was incredible- neighbors, friends, family filled the backyard and the Magic Show was perfect! Two buddies from school joined the Main Magician on the stage and added a few fun tricks to the mix and all the tricks brought oohs and aahs from the enthusiastic crowd! At the end we raised $515.75- and as my boys like to point out... But what does that equal, Mom? That equals 1719 hot meals, 171 warm blankets or 51 medical kits!

The next morning my magician woke up and said, "Mom, tell me when there's another disaster and we can do another show, OK?"


That's my boy. THANK YOU EVERYBODY!!!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Freshly-Brewed Monday Book Recommendation #5!- Melonhead

This has nothing at all to do with the book, but it's funny, right?

Melonhead? Get it?

Here's the Real Melonhead!

Melonhead by Katy Kelly

This book is silly. Silly, Silly Silly. I knew it made me giggle as I read it to my three boys but when my husband wanted in on the action and took over at Chapter 14, I could not believe the joyous squeals and yeehs of glee coming from their bedroom. Laughter is good for the soul and we all need more of it. Introducing Melonhead.

Melonhead, starring Adam Melon, is a spin-off from Katy Kelly's popular series about Lucy Rose. Nine-year old Melonhead and his friend Sam have a way of finding trouble and the book jumps right in. Melonhead's foot is stuck in a tree and he must be rescued by firefighters and eventually a cherry-picker with the "jaws of life." Adam has a goofy sense of humor that permeates the book and all his relationships. This book will likely appeal to kids who enjoy Stink and Fudge and other books in the "troublemaker" vein. The only comment I have that is less than positive is that the boys always seemed to have pockets full of name-brand candy and cereal. It just didn't seem necessary to mention the sugar fuel and the name brands. But that is a very small drawback for an otherwise funny, silly, feel-good type book.  

I also loved that it was set in Washington D.C. and there are several very interesting supporting characters.