Wednesday, November 19, 2014

PiBoIdMo Ain't Over Yet!

It is November 19th. There are 11 more days left in the month. And I have 26 ideas so far in my PiBoIdMo list.

I can come up with 4 more ideas this month. No problem.

I am, therefore, amending my personal PiBoIdMo goal to 40 ideas. That's 14 more ideas in the next 11 days. No problem.

Maybe I'll even go beyond that.

And when November's over? What then?

I think I'll take December to sit back and relax and enjoy the Christmas season. Maybe I'll work on that picture book project I started in October. Maybe I'll write a rough draft or two from the ideas on my list.

But there will be no pressure.

Unless I get editorial feedback. Like on that one manuscript that Corey and I sent to that one editor...

Friday, November 07, 2014

Why We Need Disability in Fiction

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
Out of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper
Petey, by Ben Mikaelsen
Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry
Dangerous, by Shannon Hale
The Schwa was Here, by Neal Shusterman

All of these books have one thing in common: characters with disabilities. In some cases it is the driving force of the story. In others, the disability plays a role, but it isn't the main point. But in all of these books a specific truth surfaces: a person's disability--no matter how severe--does not diminish his or her value as a person.

In Petey and Out of My Mind, we learn that a person can lead a life with meaning despite not having the ability to walk, speak, or even control their own muscles.

In Wonder, we learn that a person's facial deformity doesn't define them, and that the suffering caused by such a disability doesn't make life less worth living.

In Gathering Blue, the main character proves that her life is valuable despite having a twisted leg that hinders her ability to walk.

In Dangerous, the heroine doesn't let her missing arm prevent her from saving the world.

And in The Schwa was Here, the main character befriends a blind girl, who doesn't let her lack of vision define who she is.

This is an important issue in the world today because people--especially kids--need to understand the humanity of those with disabilities and be able to empathize with them. But also, there seems to be a growing number of people who see the severely disabled as a drain on society, or who see their lives as so tragic as to not be worth living. Consider the amount of abortions performed because of disability and the rising acceptance of euthenasia and assisted suicide. Do these statistics reflect the value we place on life? Do they show that a person is worth more than his or her disability?

Sadly, I believe the answer is no. We live in a world where a parent, judge, caretaker or doctor can legally decide when someone's life is no longer worth living. We live in a world where "compassion" is displayed in the form of ending someone's life, whether before birth or after. But do we really want to head down a road that will lead us to a place like the community in The Giver, where the weak, unwanted, and elderly are humanely "released" from society?

The books I've listed here, and others like them, have a powerful message for their readers. Every person has a place in this world. Every life, no matter how painful or difficult, can be a full life that has a profound impact on the world around it. The severely disabled baby that lives for only a few hours after birth. The brain-damaged boy who never learns to walk or speak. The young woman with Down's Syndrome who smiles at everyone she meets. They are why we need books about people with disabilities, to show our children that all life is valuable and beautiful and worthy of protection.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Moosey Monday: A MOOSE acrostic


Meandering across the meadow, this
Oversized mammal,
Oblivious to the camera,
Steps, stops, looks,
Eats. Repeats.


This poem was inspired by this video of a moose in the wild.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

How To Win NaNoWriMo In 12 Easy Steps

So. November is nearly upon is. The NaNoWriMo challenge looms ahead. Or maybe for you it lies ahead, beckoning to you like a wooded path glowing in the autumn light. Either way, it's just about here. Are you ready?

I am not accepting the challenge this year, at least not officially. I have a little middle grade verse novel that I will be working on, but I've already started it, and it would never be so long as 50,000 words. So my plan for November, besides PiBoIdMo, is to make steady progress on my little novel, with my goal being to finish the draft by the end of the month.

BUT! I did NaNoWriMo last year. And I won! So I thought I would share how I did it, in the hopes that it will help you crazy WriMo-ers to accomplish your goal, tackle the beast, cross the finish line, whatever metaphor you like.

So, how did I win NaNoWriMo last year? By following these 12 easy steps:

1. I had an IDEA. More specifically, I had an idea I was excited to write. This might sound like crazy talk, but having an idea you are excited about just might be the best motivation you can ask for.

Got your idea? Okay, move on to step two!

2. I planned ahead. This is important, as you need to have at least some inkling of who your characters are (beyond just their name and goal) and where you want your story to go. So, do an outline if that's your thing. Write a list of characters and their traits/goals/personalities. What I did was jot down a bit about my characters, and then I wrote a little blurb about my story. Kind of like the type of thing you'll find on a jacket flap. I also had to do a little research on the phases of the moon. Do a little planning, or do a lot. But do some!

Now that you have your idea, and you've planned appropriately, you are ready to start writing!

WAIT! Only start writing if it is 12:01 a.m. or later on November 1st. Got it?

Okay, go!

3. I kept a schedule. I wrote at least 3 hours every day M-F, and as often as I could during the weekends. Admittedly, working 3 solid hours of writing into my day wasn't too hard to do, as I do not have a "day job." But as any wife and mother knows, the demands of children, home and hubby can be very time-consuming. Plus, I was directing a Christmas play at church and hosting Thanksgiving dinner and an out-of-town guest. But whatever your schedule is like, if you want to write 50,000 words in November, you have to make time to write. Simple as that.

4. I followed @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter and enthusiastically joined in on the fun and craziness of five or ten or thirty-minute sprint sessions. I highly recommend doing this as a way to keep yourself motivated and have a lot of fun with fellow WriMo-ers. You might be amazed at how many words you can write in 5 minutes of sprinty madness!

5. I did NOT edit. Okay... I resisted editing as much as possible. Editing is a time sucker. RESIST!

6. I kept notes. Because I am not an outliner, one thing I did was keep little notes of what was happening in my story as I progressed. It was kind of an outline-as-you-go idea. Jotting down a line or two of summary at the end of each chapter only takes a moment, and you will thank yourself when revising/editing time comes around.

7. I wrote in the margins. I jotted down thoughts or questions that occurred to me as I wrote. Usually this was because something happened as I was writing that I hadn't seen coming: a new character would appear, or a thought regarding a character's motivation would jump out at me, or a question about an earlier incident would pop into my brain. Other times I had only a general idea of what would happen next, so I summarized it and moved on. I wrote these down in the margins of my composition notebook (or by adding a comment in Word once I moved to the computer) so that they would be there for me when I went back to revise.

8. I wrote out of order. This was probably the hardest thing for me, but in the end, I think it was the biggest reason for my success last year. I wrote down scenes as they came to me, with little regard for where they would happen in the story. This helped me keep my word count growing if I ever felt stuck.

9. I took advantage of dialogue. I wrote a lot of long, boring discussion scenes. If I wasn't quite sure how to proceed, my characters would have long discussions (or sometimes inner monologues) about their current predicament and what to do about it. This not only added to my word count, but also helped me work out some of the story's issues as I progressed.

10. I accepted that my family would be annoyed. I sat at the computer during movie nights. I let my kids fend for themselves on Saturday mornings. I stayed up late. But it was only for one month. And my family was very supportive. My kids are all teenagers, so it wasn't as much of a challenge as it might be for someone with tots. But again, these little changes make a world of difference.

11. I did not allow myself to get discouraged. Remember that out-of-town guest I mentioned before? As if hosting Thanksgiving wasn't enough of a demand on my time, having my cousin visiting from Minnesota was a major drag on my writing. I lost about three days, but I picked up where I left off and kept going! No matter how far behind you get, KEEP GOING.

12. I made a super-human last ditch effort. On November 30, 2013 I found myself about 8,000 words behind. I can't tell you how daunting it was to have those 8,000 words darkening my dreams of NaNoWriMo success. But somehow I managed. I wrote through the day and into the night, and at about 11:45 p.m. on November 30, I surpassed the 50,000 word mark with a final tally of 50,033 words of a brand new, very mess YA fantasy novel.

Okay, so maybe these steps weren't easy. But they worked for me. And maybe they will work for you too!

I wish you the best of luck, crazy WriMo-ers.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Beauty of Fall

On Sunday afternoon my family and I went for a hike in the woods, eager to enjoy one of the last warm days of the year and soak in some of the vibrant fall before the burnished beauty fades. It was a little too warm, to be honest, but the colors were awe-inspiring. We hiked up the trail littered with fall confetti, clutching our walking sticks, all the way to the little suspension bridge that's part of Backwoods Trail No. 2. That bridge alone makes the trek worth it.

It was a beautiful day, and I'd like to share a little glimpse of it with you:

Glowing golden in the afternoon sunlight.

















The Suspension Bridge

















Daughter #2's boots. Look at all those reds!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ten Reasons PiBoIdMo is a Good Idea

Each year in November, while novelists all over the world are furiously trying to write 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo, children's book author Tara Lazar hosts Picture Book Idea Month (or PiBoIdMo). The goal is simple: come up with 30 new picture book ideas in 30 days. An idea can be as basic as a title, or as complicated as a plot summary. But the point is to grab hold of each idea as soon as it strikes so that you have a go-to list for possible projects.

Picture Book Idea Month is a good idea for any picture book author, even those who've been around for a while. And here's why:

1. Purposely seeking out new ideas, rather than waiting for inspiration to strike, changes your perspective (thinking outside the box and all that).  

2. Brainstorming helps get creative juices flowing.

3. Filling a notebook (or a few pages of one) with ideas helps you feel productive, especially during writing slumps.

4. PiBoIdMo gives you an excuse to read more picture books.

5. Lists are fun!

6. Old PiBoIdMo lists can be excellent sources for renewed inspiration (don't throw them out!).

7. It will help you let go of the need to be perfect. Every idea counts, no matter how flawed or incomplete it is!

8. You might stumble across that gem of an idea that will lead to a book deal.

9. Networking with lots of other creative, supportive children's book authors.

10. The chance to win prizes! Really, what more reason do you need than that?

I'll be participating in PiBoIdMo again this year. How about you?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Moosey Monday: Cover Reveal!

And here it is! The picture book cover you have all been waiting for!






















Is it not the cutest thing you've seen all day?