Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Harry Potter cookies

The reason I did not get any writing done tonight...

I run a Harry Potter club after school, and tomorrow is our last meeting of the year.
The HP logo and the snakes were the hardest.

My brother suggested I do a Gryffindor lion in red icing...  Ummm.  NO.

PS- I listened to A Very Potter Musical while creating these cookies.  If you don't know what that is, your life is not complete and you're not a true Potter fan.  Click below.

A Very Potter Musical Act 1 Part 1

You're welcome.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Stop fighting! You're supposed to get along!

If you're not a writer, this blog post may make you think I'm mentally insane.  I'm not.  Trust me.  Just sometimes when you're writing, your characters have a mind of their own.

Yesterday was Sunday, and ideally that should be a day where I get a huge chunk of writing done.  I didn't.  Word count grand total was a pathetic 252 words.  I was very frustrated and later mad at myself.

My best writing troubleshooting always occurs while driving (I'd just drive around for no reason when I have writer's troubles but gas prices being as they are... that's not a feasible solution).  So today while driving home from school, I realized what my issue was yesterday.

I'd encountered a problem that I hadn't encountered before.  According to my plot, I needed two characters to work together to help another character in need.  When I put these two alpha females in the same room together for the first time... they soooo did not want to work together.  Instead the scene turned into the equivalent of a cat fight, leaving me shocked and frustrated.  While I've had characters act, speak, and behave in a way I hadn't anticipated, I've never been writing and then had two characters not get along like this.  And I couldn't think of a way to "mediate their situation."

Today while driving, I realized I could have solved this problem or at least still added to my word count (instead of just giving up and doing grad school reading).

I could have :
     A. Brainstormed areas of common ground between the characters to give them a solid reason to work together.
     B. Brainstormed a character that could act as mediator.
     C. At least chosen a different scene to work on that day to get SOMETHING done.

So while I did get a lot of grad school reading done and while that was a productive use of time, I still regret not getting more writing done yesterday.  But at least I've learned from my frustration.  In the future, brainstorming about character relationships might be just as necessary as creating a character bio.  Lesson learned.

Now let's see if I can knock out 1,000 words tonight to make up for it...

UPDATE... Later that night...

Switched projects.  Was insanely inspired.  Brainstormed a great deal, and wrote 765 words.  Wanted to keep writing... but the clock read 11pm, and I really can't afford to get sick AGAIN this school year.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gaithersburg Book Festival

Today I attended the 2nd annual Gaithersburg Book Festival.


We had gorgeous weather and it is held in a really pretty area in Olde Towne Gaithersburg.  It was just as well organized as the National Book Festival in DC with labeled tents, books for sale/signing, food, and detailed colored programs.

The first speaking event was a panel discussion titled "There's a Children's Book in Me--How Do I Get it Published?"  The five authors on the panel were very knowledgeable, and I enjoyed listening to them speak about their own personal writing experiences.  They gave out a useful little flyer with commonly asked questions about children's publishing.

I knew most of the information at this discussion already, but it was nice to reaffirm that I'm doing all the right things, such as joining SCBWI, writing every day, conferences, critiques, staying well-read in my genre, etc.  Not to mention getting my MFA in Children's Literature.

I ended up buying two of the author's books because they appealed to my interests.  I bought Jennifer Allison's Gilda Joyce series for middle grade readers.  It's a mystery series about a girl who is a psychic investigator that looks like something I would have LOVED as a young girl.  It will be perfect easy reading when I'm done with all my grad school texts.  Jennifer had some good advice about revision, and she also spoke about how she's learned a lot from teaching and listening to her students.  I really identified with a lot of what she spoke about.  Check out the author's website below.


I also bought Pamela Ehrenberg's book Tillmon County Fire.  The book tells the story of a hate crime in a rural community through several different characters.  Definitely sounds interesting, and I'm always looking for books that give me insight on how to write from multiple points-of-view.  Pamela also spoke about how she teaches classes at The Writer's Center in Bethesda.  Once I'm done grad school, this would be a great resource nearby to keep me motivated and writing!  Information about her books and The Writer's Center can be found on her website:


Another author I really enjoyed listening to is Wendy Shang.  Her first book The Great Wall of Lucy Wu just came out and I loved the excerpts so much that I had to buy it.  I can't do the summary justice, so here is a summary from Wendy Shang's website:
Lucy Wu, aspiring basketball star and interior designer, is on the verge of having the best year of her life. She's ready to rule the school as a sixth grader and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister. In an instant, though, her plans are shattered when she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother's sister, is coming to visit for several months -- and is staying in Lucy's room. Lucy's vision of a perfect year begins to crumble, and in its place come an unwelcome roommate, foiled birthday plans, and Chinese school with the awful Talent Chang.

Her plans are ruined -- or are they? Like the Chinese saying goes: Events that appear to be good or bad luck often turn out to be quite the opposite, and Lucy finds that while she may not get the "perfect" year she had in mind, she can create something even better.

Wendy was an excellent public speaker (not all the authors today were...), and I connected with a lot of things she said.  She brought up joining SCBWI (I just did!) and applying for grants (I need to do that!).  She also spoke about describing sensory details and how scents and textures can bring a scene to life.  I'm confident Wendy has a long career ahead of her as a children's writer.  I bought her book and can't wait to read it!  Check out her website:


I also heard the following authors:

Newbery Winner, Clare Vanderpool, author of Moon Over Manifest
National Book Award Winner, Kathryn Erskine, author of Mockingbird
Alison Hart, American Girl author
Dominique Paul, author of The Possibility of Fireflies
Alan Orloff, adult mystery author

And finally, two pictures of the event:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Awesome Book Previews for Fall

If you click on the link below, you'll find the editors of Scholastic speaking about their upcoming book releases this fall.  It's pretty awesome to pair editor's faces with names as well as hearing what they get excited about in a book.

I'm also going to be adding several books to my to-read list!

Thanks to author, Maggie Stiefvater, who shared this link.


(I have only watched the YA segment so far.  You can watch the whole thing or pick and age/segment to watch.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Word Count Wednesday

As part of my resolution to make time for writing, I said I would be posting my word count once a week so that you could wag your finger at me if I wasn't living up to my promises.

Since I set my goals this Monday, and I wanted to write 1,000 words per day five times a week... a reasonable number of words to have achieved in 2 days would be somewhere around the 2,000 word mark.

And drumroll...

I wrote: 1848 words

Not too shabby.  It's tougher than I thought to get in 1,000 words a day.  It takes me a good chunk of time to get rolling, but hopefully getting into a rhythm will help.

And a little writerly tip I learned from author, Scott Westerfeld:

You can use the website www.wordle.net to check your writing for repetitive/overused words.
Wordle generates "word clouds" or a graphic based on word frequency.  Copy and paste your text, click create, and voila!  Here's a sample one that I created using the text in the ball and balcony scenes of Romeo and Juliet:

Any word that is big was used A LOT.  Small words were not used often.  So character names will probably be big, but other less critical words shouldn't be.

So if I pasted my first chapter into Wordle... A word like say... "dimpled" should not be very big.  It would mean I overused the word dimpled when describing my character... Which I totally didn't overuse...  *cough cough*  And my critique partner totally didn't catch me using "dimpled smile" over and over...

Sorry Bonnie... I'll try to remember to Wordle my draft before sending it to you next time.

I wonder what words would show up in a Wordle of Twilight?
Tousled Hair?
Golden Eyes?

I have a feeling Stephenie Meyer doesn't know this little Wordle trick...

Wordles are totally fun to play with even if you aren't writing!  Check it out!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

If I could make it happen... I would

If you want to write children's literature, you should join SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators).  They send you all kinds of awesome newsletters and info about the world of children's publishing.  You can join even if you aren't a published author.

I joined this year after a recommendation from one of my grad school professors, and have been really impressed with everything they've sent me.

They also hold two BIG conferences each year.  The summer conference is in Los Angeles.  The winter conference is in New York City.

Just to show you what caliber of speakers are at these conferences, here are the keynote speakers for the Summer 2011 conference: Laurie Halse Anderson, Libba Bray,  Bruce Coville, John Green, Norton Juster, Donna Jo Napoli, Mary Pope Osborne, Gary Paulsen, Jerry Pinkney, Jon Scieszka and David Small

Yeah.  They're all kind of a big deal.

Downside: The conference is expensive.  Registration is $425 for SCBWI members and $525 for non-members.  That's just registration... there's also airfare, hotel...

And then there's this optional extra day of workshops you can sign up for (for another $200).  I was curious what kind of workshops they offered, so I opened their cute little flyer... and see...

One workshop is taught by Arthur A. Levine.
The editor who did Harry Potter.
Arthur A. Levine
Arthur A. Levine
Arthur A. Levine

O. M. G.

The workshop was already sold out.
Not that I would have the $1,000 dollars it would cost to fly out to LA and go to this thing.
Especially not after the $8,000 worth of grad classes this summer.

But if I could make that class happen... if I could take a class with the guy who published Harry Potter... I would.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Scheduling Writing Time

I am terribly guilty of not holding myself accountable to any sort of writing schedule.

Let's get the excuses out of the way:

  • Lesson planning
  • Grading papers
  • Laundry
  • Cleaning
  • Quick run to Target (1 hour later...)
  • Naptime (3 hours later...)
  • Must read *amazing* book
  • Must read grad school book
  • Check Facebook (1 hour later...)
  • Check Goodreads (1 hour later...)
  • Read fabulous author blogs about being fabulous author (1 hour later...)
  • Watch bizarre/pointless/hysterical YouTube video(s)....
  • Watch stupid TV shows I don't even care about

Now, that's done.  If I really want to BE a writer.  If writing is IMPORTANT to me.  I need to make time for it.

So, I'm a teacher.  And what do teachers do to help students be accountable for their work?  We report on their progress, set goals, and offer incentives.

I'm going to do the same.

Report Progress:

  • Daily: I will record my daily word count on a calendar on my desk.
  • Weekly: (Inspired by Bonnie at http://abackwardsstory.blogspot.com/) I am going to post my weekly word count on Wednesdays.  You may wag your finger at me if I disappoint you.

Set Goals:

  • Short Term Goal: To write 1,000 words 5 days a week
  • Long Term Goal: To have a finished 1st draft of a novel by August 15th.


  • Daily: I get a sticker on my calendar!
  • Weekly: If I achieve my short term goal (1g x 5 days) then I get to buy a bouquet of fresh flowers to go in the vase on my writing desk.
  • BIG Incentive: ??? I have to think on this.

Yippee!  Stickers!
I love fresh flowers!  So pretty!

That's my plan.  I'm also trying to get in writer mode for grad school.  I'm taking two creative classes and really want to push myself this summer and do well.

Do you think my plan will work?