Monday, October 5, 2015

Books from my Childhood

I've been reading the Harry Potter series to my kids, and it's been awesome. And not just because I can get them to do their chores with the promise of reading another chapter. They've loved it!

But doing so has really brought back memories of my childhood. Curled up on the floor or in my bed, listening to my mom read stories to us. I even remember staying home sick from high school (HIGH SCHOOL !!!), and laying on the couch listening to her read to me. She has been a long-time lover of children's literature, and I directly attribute my obsession with it to her.

-----> This is me way back then, so you can better imagine me sitting on my mom's lap, listening to stories.---->

There weren't nearly as many choices back then, but what there was, she found them. I wanted to mention a few, because not only have all of these amazing books have influenced who I am, but these authors were the pioneers that made what I'm doing even possible.

As a little kid, my mom read picture books to us. A few stand out in my memory as ones we made her and my dad read over and over and over. THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK by Jon Stone was the BEST.

Fear of the unknown was a real thing for me back then. (Okay, it still is.) I remember hating to go downstairs on my own, because WHO KNEW what might come out of that big pot-belled wood-burning stove down there??? And it was dark. And it smelled funny. And the carpet had this crazy brown and orange pattern that could start spinning and might HYPNOTIZE me, and what would I do then???

Point being, I got Grover. I understood! I sympathized with his fears. But I still laughed every time we turned that page, and the story got messier and messier, and the pages got rattier and rattier (both figuratively and literally because we read that book so much). I LOVED being part of the story. It was all so real. Even though of course I knew it wasn't.

And I don't want to ruin the ending for any of you who might not have read it (and if so, watch out for the Goodreads link above . . . they aren't so careful), but this book made me braver. It helped me step up my courage, and you know what? I dared go downstairs on my own (okay, maybe not at night, but baby steps, people). I dared press forward into the unknown. Because lets face it. Life is full of A LOT of unknown. This book was a real part of my childhood. One that influenced me big time. So thank you, Jon Stone for writing it! Thank you, Sesame Street Creators for making such a great character!

And I realize this is all going to take more space than one blog post can handle, so I'll just have to blog about this again. In the mean time, tell me about a book that influenced your childhood. I'd love to hear!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Fancy Nancy Festivities (a fancy word for "parties")

I was first introduced to Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor almost 6 years ago when I discovered the original book on display in the library. Even though I was never a Fancy Nancy, I thought it was brilliant! My daughter was an infant at the time, but I read it to her (and my boys who also thought it was very fun).

And who knew that my daughter would turn out to be the fanciest of Nancies?

So when my local library threw a Fancy Nancy party, I was all over that. And so was my daughter.

We RSVP'd, and my daughter dressed up in her fanciest clothes. She even borrowed a hat from our neighbor.

At the party we decorated tiaras.

We ate cookies and punch.

We listened to Fancy Nancy books.

And when it was over, we decided that we simply must throw a Fancy Nancy party of our own. The plans are in the works.

What I love about this book is that it encourages individualism, and that it finds a sneaky and fun way to introduce new vocabulary. Kids are tricked into learning! It doesn't get much better than that. ;)

How about you? Who is one of your favorite characters from a book?

Monday, September 14, 2015

The End of Summer

Summer is officially over. The kids are back in school, the weather is cooling down, the summer frenzy is ending and the school one is beginning.
I planned so many times what I wanted to say on my "I'm back!!" blog post, but I'm not nearly as organized as I like to think I am. And whenever I tried to focus, the rush of it all filled my brain.

So the rush is what you get. Because so much happened this summer. SO MUCH! (and honestly, this is the abridged version):

Life Stuff:

  • Moved to Oregon

  • Entered my first ever county fair (with my awesome cinnamon twists)
  • Won 2nd prize in the county fair (I thought this deserved its own bullet point)
  • Made hand-shaken ice-cream with my kids (4th annual, baby!)
  • Canned actual fruit (the lids sealed and everything!)
  • Attended my first-ever crawdad cook-out (yep, they just lay it all out on the table)
  • Painted a painting (can you tell which one's mine?)
  • Spent time with family

Book Stuff:
This Summer has been such a learning curve. I won't prattle on just yet about all the things I learned, but hopefully in the future.

In the mean time, what awesome things did you do this summer?

Monday, June 8, 2015

My Crazy in Pictures

The last few months have been full of crazy. Or I could use other adjectives like exciting. Fun. Adventure. Sports. Play. Work. Celebration. Food. Art. Writing. Culture. Bonding. Homecomings.

Lots of good things. But LOTS of things. I'll be going off-line for a bit since we will be moving in a couple of weeks. But for your viewing pleasure, my crazy (and by crazy, I mean awesome) life in pictures:

This might have been one of my favorite parts of the trip.
Ile de on bikes!

Oh wait! I mean THIS was my favorite part. Tartelette aux fraises!

I could have stayed here forever. So peaceful!

You can't go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower.

Or the Mona Lisa.
(Do I look exhausted??? Yeah, it was the end of a full day of travel and site-seeing. I was EXHAUSTED. All-caps are needed to fully capture the feeling.)

And Versaille. (Though it wasn't my favorite. Don't hate me!)

My 11-yo and I took the stairs to get to Sacré Coeur.
Yep. We are that awesome.

And Crèpes. Need I say more?

Home never felt so good!

Because I got to watch my soccer star!

And play with my crazy, pink-loving Girlie.
And yes! This is me making my book deal all official. Release date is Spring 2016!!
I hope you all have a great summer! I'll be back as soon as I get my world organized in my new place.

Monday, June 1, 2015

In Which I Gush About Librarians

I LOVE our local library. And more importantly, my kids love our local library. My sons aren't shy about asking the wonderful librarians for help, and my daughter knows right where to go to find the cool computer with kid-friendly games (which are, of course, all educational).

One of our favorite things is the summer program. The nationwide theme this year is:

Every Hero has a story

 To add to the fun, our library made this awesome photo background (complete with cape and mask) for our photographing pleasure.

And see that kid right there? My second grade graduate? This reading program has fueled his love for reading. All year he's been meh about it. Reading wasn't horrible for him, but it was something he did when we made him.

But since the summer reading program started, he's been determined to get in the minutes to earn those books and prizes . . . he's a different child. He just finished Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein.

And before that it was all three of the Case File 13 books by J. Scott Savage. And he's now dying to write to Mr. Savage who is now his favorite. (My reluctant reader as a favorite author!)

Obviously I love the summer reading program as an author. How great that kids are reading!

But I love it even more as a mom. I just want to thank all you librarians out there who work so hard to encourage a love of reading. Who put awesome books on display, and make going to the library a treat. Thank you for sharing your passion. Thank you for making it fun. Thank you for opening doors upon doors of opportunity and adventure to my children, because that's what reading does.

Is anyone else out there participating in their library's summer reading program?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Gems from LDStorymakers Conference

Last weekend I went to LDStorymakers writing conference. I went with a critique partner and I got to meet my agent which was pretty awesome (!!!). And I should totally have a picture of this momentous occasion, but I don't. I'm like the worst ever at remembering to take pictures. In fact, I didn't even take one picture during the whole conference. I know, right??? I guess I was just too busy soaking in all the writerly Karma of the place. :)

The thing I love best about writing conferences is that they help me remember why I love writing in the first place. And they help me remember all those things that make my writing better.

I don't want to re-hash everything I learned because one, that would be boring, and two, that would be copyright infringement. However, I did want to share a couple of gems.

FIRST: You may laugh at this one, but I said a big AMEN!  Peggy Eddleman gave a class on getting your writing mojo back. One point she made is that as writers, we seem to think we earn the writer's badge by missing sleep. We stay up late. Work off of two hours sleep. And somehow this is a bragging point. Well it's not. WE NEED SLEEP TO FUNCTION. Obviously everyone is different and we all need different amounts of sleep. But skipping sleep is not doing ourselves any favors!

So, don't be afraid to go to bed on-time to get a full night's sleep. Then you will be refreshed and ready to tackle a new day and fresh ideas. [And no, we won't talk about the irony of the fact that I am staying up late to write this.]

SECOND: I attended a class by Chad Morris and Brandon Mull about the 3 parts that make an awesome story idea. While there was lots of good stuff, the gem I got was that every trouble needs a payoff. That may sound obvious. But I needed the reminder. I can't just make my characters go through hard things and expect my readers to enjoy that. There has to be a moment that makes it all worth it. Both to the character and the reader.

And THIRD: This one came from a class on Description by Sarah Eden. We talked about all kinds of things, but one piece of advice that stuck out was this: Never interrupt your own story! Well, duh. Except I do this! Description should be organic, and if it disrupts the flow, then you've done it wrong.

I know. None of this stuff is new and exciting. But amazingly, what I need from conferences is not new and exciting info. What I need is a reminder (preferably in a not boring way) of all the things I know, but have forgotten.

When's the last time you went to a conference? And what do you get out of them?

Monday, May 18, 2015

When Fortunes Come True

My family and I really like Chinese food. Our favorite part (okay, maybe tied with eating all the yummy food) is opening our fortune cookies.

I always get the best fortune.

Seriously. Like, even my kids want my fortune.

I'm just lucky that way.

Here is my latest.

*All your hard work will soon pay off*

So to understand how great this fortune is, you need to know why we were eating Chinese.

Why, you ask?  Because I'd just spent a week packing and cleaning to get our house ready to sell--solid days of doing nothing but that--and I didn't want to dirty my newly immaculate kitchen.

As you can imagine, I was thrilled with this fortune! Because who wants to do a bunch of hard work and not have it pay off, right?

And happy for me, this fortune cookie really was all-knowing. Our house sold, and we are feeling all kinds of relieved.

The thing is, since that time, I've had an epiphany. This fortune came true not because of some omniscient cookie. This fortune came true because hard work ALWAYS pays off.

It just doesn't always pay off in the way we would like.

For example:
Remember that manuscript you wrote and edited, then finally tucked away in a drawer? Remember that laundry you folded that your toddler then unfolded? Remember that bed you made that you then unmade later that SAME DAY??

Every one of those situations included pay-off. Think of the practice and skills that were gained in writing that manuscript. Think of the work ethic your toddler gained by watching your example. Think of the peace that made-up bed exuded in your room all day long (and peace exuding is totally a thing).

Hard work always pays off.

So don't you go fearing that your efforts will be a waste. They won't. Even if you don't get what you want, they. are. not. wasted.

Peace out and work on my friends.