Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ode to a Literary Friend

     Maurice Sendak passed away today at the age of 83.
     I never met Mr. Sendak, but like so many throughout the world, I thought of him not only as a literary genius but as a friend.
     Although he's known best for Where The Wild Things Are and Little Bear, my personal favorite is In The Night Kitchen.  There was something about watching Mickey playing the night kitchen of his dreams, swimming in milk, wearing his bread-crust suit and pot hat that sparked my imagination more than any other book that was read to me during that time.
     "I'm in the milk and the milk's in me...I'm Mickey!"
     In the mid-1990's I had the opportunity to hear him speak in San Francisco.  At the time I had just uncovered my dream of becoming a children's author.  Seeing one of my most beloved authors was a complete thrill - that and meeting Steven Kellogg (who gave me the best advice I have ever received...but that a story for another time).
     Admittedly, I don't remember a thing about the talk he gave, other than it was about his most recent book and that he came off as being very curmudgeonly in his manner...but I didn't care.  It helped solidify what I already knew.
     I wanted to write...and write for children.
     Over the years I have read Mr. Sendak's books to my 3 children and encouraged my students to read them as well.  However, it wasn't until this past school year that his work has taken on a deeper meaning for me.
     At the beginning of the year, a parent graciously donated a box of books.  After the teachers went through, I took the opportunity to take a look and found, in perfect condition, the book, Pierre: a cautionary tale in five chapters and a prologue.
     I vaguely remembered the book, and decided to take it.  If you're not familiar with it, the prologue is this:
There once was a boy named Pierre 
who only would say, "I don't care!"
Read his story, my friend,
for you'll find at the end
that a suitable moral lies there.
     The story is about a little boy who, quite frankly, doesn't care about anybody or anything.  I won't give away the rest of the story, but needless to say the moral of the story (CARE) made me think.  Think about what our children are going through in life.  The world is such a different place than it was when I was growing up.  I've been worrying about how kids these days seem more apathetic...slowly turning into a generation of Tiggers (it's all about me!).  But in the past 3 weeks, I've seen, first-hand that is not at all true.
     Nearly a month ago, a tragic event befell our school community.  What I found most fascinating and heartening, was that the kids (especially my daughter's Jr. high friends) rallied to help a girl who unexpectedly lost her mom.  And a community has come together to help the family with bake sales, dine-and-donate nights, etc.  I realized that in fact, our kids, in addition to our community, does care...and always has.
     Ironically today, on the date of Mr. Sendak's death, our community also said goodbye to this beloved mother and teacher.
     When I first read Pierre after all these years, I thought it should be required that all parents read it to their children.  But now, even though I still believe it's a great book to read, I understand that the moral is alive and very well.
     Rest in Peace, Mr. Sendak and Mrs. Conover.  You will both be missed!

Monday, May 7, 2012


     I've tried so many different ways to keep up with this blog...doing different tags for the week (WOW, BRW, etc.) but my life has become so crazy and convoluted that I've decided the only way I can successfully do this is by talking about my process only.
     I'll still throw in a WOW or a new book review every now and then, but for the most part I'm saving this space for my writing life and what affects it. It may get messy sometimes, but if you stick with me, I promise I'll be nothing if not honest and hopefully entertaining. To those of you who have been following me in the past, thank you!
     I hope my new format will keep up...wish me luck!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

It's back again....WOW!

When I was writing this blog more regularly, my Friday's were dedicated for WOW (Word of the Week). Finding a word, defining it, and applying it to what's going on in my life and work. Well, it's back again, although I'll be alternating between Friday and Saturdays when I post the new one.

In case you've not seen WOW before, I generally take it from the marquee of the elementary school I work at. Except during the summer...for obvious reasons.

So without further ado, the WOW for this week is...Acute.

Acute: adj.
- Having a sharp tip or point.
- Keenly perceptive of discerning.
- Reacting readily to stimuli: sensitive.
- Of great importance or consequence.
- Extremely sharp or severe; intense.

It never ceases to amaze me how the WOW posted applies to my life in some specific way. For the word acute, it's the part of the definition that states - Extremely sharp or severe; intense.

If you read Monday's post, you have a taste of what I'm talking about.

It's been, personally, an acutely frustrating week (which has ended with me losing my voice). I'm dealing with not only personal stuff, but the knowledge that I had two magazine manuscripts rejected about a week ago, I'm back at work at my day job, and I've been sick...again...for the third time in one and a half months. I'm never this sick...

However, the great thing about WOW is there's a new one next week and that means a better week is just a word away.

Have a great weekend. :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New BRW (Book review Wednesday)!

BRW #2 - The Future of Us by: Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

For this week's BRW, I decided to take a walk on the YA side of things. YA is generally where my kidlit taste tend toward since that's what I mostly write. However, this was the first novel (I'm sorry to say) I've read with the dual-author approach, but I'm glad to say it won't be the last.

I must fully disclose here that I am I huge fan of both Jay Asher (Thirteen Reason's Why) and Carolyn Mackler (The Earth, My Butt, and other Big Round Things & Tangled) and I had been following with bated breath both of their Facebook pages in anticipation of the book's release.

I am happy to say, the book far surpassed my expectations!

Not only did I enjoy the book's premise (about 2 teenagers in 1996 who unwittingly discover Facebook and use it as almost a time-travel portal of sorts), but the way Carolyn and Jay's voices blend as Emma and Josh makes you forget that these are fictional characters. It made me wonder why I haven't taken the time to read other novels like it (Let It Snow, Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, etc.) I will certainly be correcting that one...soon...

Here's the book's trailer:

The subject matter is fairly tame and I would have no problem letting my 13 year old read it. In fact I've already told her she can borrow it.

Needless to say, I finished the book within 48 hours and highly recommend it! If you have questions, feel free to comment.

Until next week....Enjoy! :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why I write...even when I don't want to.

I post a Quote of the Week every Monday on my Facebook page and the one I posted tonight was this...

"We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same." ~ Carlos Castaneda

Those of you who know me well know that I believe everything happens for a reason. Thankfully a friend of mine posted this just when I needed it the most.

The past three months have been very stressful for me for a variety of reasons. But, my writing (and my characters) have helped me get through the bulk of it. However, the past month in particular has been rocky. Just when I got through one crisis with one part of my family, another one reared it's ugly head. I'm still dealing with that situation right now, and let me tell you...it's been a dark couple of days.

Tonight I was feeling low...hitting a place I have heard about, but haven't really been to until recently. I knew I wasn't going to be working on Cat, or any of my other stories, but I hid away at one of my local Starbucks for half an hour with my writing notebook just in case.

My journaling is sporadic at best (as proven by my blogging skills). I was never one of those people who grew up using a journal as an outlet. Hell, I had a hard enough time keeping a diary. But occasionally I need to, and this was one of those times. At first I wrote all the woe-is-me crap I had been feeling. Wallowing is not a luxury I can afford with six other people living in my house. Once I got all the dark stuff out, I pulled up my Facebook on my phone and found a friend had posted the quote above.

And that was what I needed to hear.

I flipped to the next page and started writing out all the ways I could deal with the situation I'm facing, and you know what? I had filled out the same amount of space on each page...had spent the same amount of time on writing out the bad feelings vs. the possible solutions. But the way I felt after writing each of them was drastically different.

So I can honestly say I will always write, whether I want to or not, because in some way it helps me. Regardless of it's about Cat dealing with curve ball, Sophia figuring out how juggle Nathan and Mac, Hope fighting for her life...

Or me learning how to live mine.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Now staring......Book Review Wednesdays!

When I originally started this blog two years ago, I had planned on having one day's blog dedicated to reviewing kidlit books (both present and past - because there's just too many good books out there). Of course, it somehow got lost in my shuffle, but I have had the great fortune this school year to have some extra reading time.

So introducing...BOOK REVIEW Wednesday!

I'm so excited to be doing this! I will commenting on all forms of kidlit (picture books, middle grade, young adult, etc.) and like I mentioned both past and present. If you find a book in the library and are curious about it...please let me know, I just may have read it. ;)

BRW #1 - I Want My Hat Back by: Jon Klassen

My first BRW book is a picture book because, let's face it, we all start with picture books. They are the books that fill our memories the most from when we are wee little ones. I know for me it was In The Night Kitchen and Clifford the Big Red Dog. For my kids it was Rolie Polie Olie, Goodnight Moon, and The Grouchy Ladybug.

I'm sure for future generations, I Want My Hat Back will also be on that list.

I enjoy all kinds of picture books, but I have a soft spot for funny ones. On occasion, I pick up picture books on a whim when I'm visiting my local indie bookstore, but rarely does one make me laugh out loud. In fact, I hadn't had that happen since I'd read Martha Speaks some 15 years ago. But, I Want My Hat Back changed that...and I'm so happy it did!

Here's the book trailer I found... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYYQW_uCdzM

What made me laugh the most about this book was the punchline-type twist at the end that both myself and my 13 year-old daughter loved. It is definitely a book that transcends the ages and would be just as much fun for a 40 year-old than it would be for a 4 year-old.

Let me know what you think and ENJOY!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bye bye 2011....HELLO 2012!

Yes...I realize it's been nearly six months since I've posted on here. This morning I sat with my new "goal's journal" and wrote down the goals I will work on accomplishing this year. One of those goals (as it was for 2011) is to post as least twice a week. We'll see how that works out...

2011 was a very interesting year to say the least. Both in good and bad...personally and professionally. But because I talk mostly shop on this blog, I'll be sticking with my kidlit news.

I wasn't sure how many of my goals I would complete, especially since I had some lofty ones (like getting both of my finished novels sold, HA!). However the smaller ones I did get accomplished have all laid the ground-work for the larger ones I didn't. At least, not yet. ;)

So here are my high points for 2011...

1. Reviewing all my picture book manuscripts and deciding to revise a couple of them into short stories. One of them is now being considered by Sparkle Magazine, and my revision of another is being held at 2 other magazines. Hopefully I'll get some answers this month.

2. Sending CAT to LA for the SCBWI summer conference. It was critiqued by a wonderful editor from Dial. Although it was overwhelming and intense getting all the info of her critique at the time, a HUGE amount of inspiration came to me after the conference to make it better! I have basically been ripping the novel apart, and haven't finished yet. But, the editor would like to see it when I'm finished with my revisions! YAY!

3. Getting involved with the SCBWI Oakland conference that happened in October. I decided to take over one of the major volunteer posts with another gal and had an AMAZING time! Not just because I got a good critique for my other novel with a different editor (which launched me into doing a third set of revisions, ending with me submitting it to 2 editors and an agent who I met in Oakland) but simply because I was in a situation of meeting and visiting established professionals in my field, talking about books and publishing. For 26 hours, I was in heaven...and I still haven't come down off the high.

4. Meeting numerous authors who came through our local indie bookstore (Copperfield's Books)...and making Ally Condie laugh when my daughter and I were giving each other a hard time while she was signing our books.

Thankfully these good times helped me overlook the rejections I received over the year and the unexpected passing of my Grandma in September. But what I have taken away from 2011 is the belief that I am almost there...and that my patience has and will continue to pay off.

I just have to keep believing....