Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Where I've Been, Where I'm Going

Last week I dragged my husband and son on a road trip through Nebraska for my first official research trip. We traveled the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, stopping at museums along the way, and ended up at Scotts Bluff National Monument, an area of stunningly beautiful rugged bluffs in western Nebraska.

From there we drove southeast, enjoying the scenery of rugged hillsides, then east along Interstate 80, stopping at various state parks and recreation areas along the way.

This literal journey is part of a figurative journey I have been on for the past several months, researching and planning for a historical verse novel I am going to write this year, as well as a modern fairy tale retelling. Both set in Nebraska, and both for middle grade readers.

I came home from this trip with a wealth of information and inspiration, as well as two new books, a dozen postcards, lots of notes, and over a hundred photos on my iPhone. There is nothing now to stop me from writing that historical fiction verse novel besides my own fear of trying something new.

Like the pioneers that settled Nebraska well over a century ago, I will forge ahead, using their strength, resilience, and determination as my fuel.

Here I go!


Thursday, July 19, 2018

The 100 Day Project...and Beyond!

If you've been following me long enough, you know that I love art and that I've dabbled a bit in illustration in the past. I've even had a few illustrations appear alongside my writing in children's magazines over the years. However, I've never really had the guts to truly pursue illustration as part of my career in children's literature. I've told myself that it's because, no matter how skilled an artist I am, those skills don't translate well to illustration.

But the truth is, I've just been a big chicken. 

Something happened recently that changed that. Over the last few months I participated in a creative challenge on Instragram called The 100 Day Project, during which I illustrated one poem a day for 100 days straight. It was a way for me to get outside my comfort zone and begin to test my skills as an illustrator.

Admittedly, there were a few flops. And some days I barely had ten minutes in which to create and share my illustration for the day. But overall, I felt it was a big success, mainly because, at the end of the 100 days, I was less afraid to try.

My goal is to transform "less afraid" into boldness. There is no reason that my art can't be something more than a creative hobby. Does that mean you will one day see written and illustrated by Rebecca J. Gomez on the cover of a book? I don't know. But one thing is certain: that will never happen if I don't take the first steps.


Click here to see all 100 illustrations

So, what's next for me? I'm taking it slow, but I've already given myself another challenge. The other day I took a pile of blank cards and divided it into two stacks. On one stack of cards I wrote down various character types. On the other I wrote down various activities. At least once a week I plan to pull a card from each stack and then draw a picture of the result. The first time I did this the result was "toad" and "holding a balloon." Here is the resulting illustration:


I think he turned out pretty great! 

How have you challenged yourself to get outside your comfort zone lately?


Saturday, June 30, 2018

Tangled Wool: A Read, Discuss, Do! craft and activity

THE SHEEP WHO HATCHED AN EGG is a charming book by author/illustrator Gemma Merino. When Lola's extraordinary, soft wool all gets cut off, she patiently waits for it to grow back. But once it does, it is a fluffy, tangled mess! Lola doesn't want to do anything but hide until one day something that had been hiding in her wool helps her realize that her wool doesn't have to be sleek and smooth (or "pretty") to be extraordinary. THE SHEEP WHO HATCHED AN EGG is a sweet friendship story with a subtle lesson about vanity. The text is fun, and the somewhat abstract, sketchy illustrations are a colorful delight.


READ: THE SHEEP WHO HATCHED AN EGG by Gemma Merino

DISCUSS: Why do you think Lola's wool got so fluffy and tangled? Has your hair ever been as tangled as Lola's? What did you do about it?

DO: Create your own tangled-wool sheep! 

You will need:
Sheep image 
Paper 
Glue
Scissors
Yarn or string in any color
Crayons (optional)

Directions: Print the sheep image (or draw your own). Cover the wooly sections of the sheep with a generous amount of glue, avoiding the arms, legs and face. Cut a long section of yarn and arrange it in tangled swirls over the glued areas of the body. Use a shorter section for the head. Press the yarn down into the glue and let it dry. Color the arms, legs, and face once the glue is dried if you like.

Optional motor skills activity: With your index finger, begin at one end of the yarn and follow the loops until you reach the other end.


Saturday, June 09, 2018

WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? Anniversary GIVEAWAY!

Today, June 9, is Moose's birthday! That is, it is the 3rd anniversary of the release of my very first picture book, WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?! To celebrate, I am giving away a signed copy of the book! To enter, simply fill out the form below. To be eligible for a BONUS entry, subscribe to my newsletter (only confirmed subscribers are eligible, so be sure to complete your subscription)!

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Top Ten Ways to Generate Story Ideas


A question authors get asked more than they can count is: Where do you get your ideas?

For me, the simple answer is that I get them from my brain. But the inspiration for those ideas often comes from outside my brain, and sometimes it takes a lot of effort to get my brain to do that part of its job. My favorite ideas often come to me by accident, but during times of idea drought, I've got to help my brain along. After all, it's not good for an author to have no ideas!

So here are my top ten ways to generate story ideas:

1. Reading. Ideas may strike while reading other people's stories. This is okay as long as your story is unique on its own.

2. Watching movies. Like reading, but more visual. And louder.

3. Lists. Think of a subject and start listing everything that comes to mind. It can be anything. Winter, pets, gross things to eat for lunch!

4. People watching. People are interesting creatures. Everyone around you could potentially spark a story idea if you're really paying attention.

5. Brainstorming. This is similar to writing a list, but instead of a subject, for me this usually begins with a "what if" question.

6. Listening to people. People say funny or inspirational things. They ask questions. They complain. There are story ideas in those words!

7. Observing nature. Nature is fascinating. It's important to slow down and pay attention, and have a notebook handy!

8. Play time.  Climb a jungle gym, get dizzy on a tire swing, or play duck-duck-goose with some kids. Taking the time to play means taking advantage of serious idea-generating power.

9. Other creative pursuits. Sometimes being passive is productive for the writer's brain. Getting out of writing mode to give your brain a chance to shift gears could be just the thing you need to stumble onto surprise inspiration.

10. Writing prompts. I don't use writing prompts often, but they can be a fun way to get your brain going, or get it moving in a different direction.


All of these methods have worked for me over the years. I'd love to hear about idea-generating methods that have worked for you!


Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Crocodile Smile: A Read, Discuss, Do! craft

I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE by Denette Fretz and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic is a picture book about a young meerkat who is envious of the other zoo animals' unique traits. But after a jaunt through the zoo (with a harried zoo-keeper following after him), he learns to accept himself just the way God made him! This book is charming, funny, and a pleasure to read aloud. And it's perfect for fostering discussions about self-acceptance.


READ: I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE by Denette Fretz

DISCUSS: The crocodile has an impressive smile. It may be his best feature! What is your best feature? Have you ever wished you could change something about yourself?

DO: Make your own crocodile smile!

You will need:

  • Paper plate
  • Green and pink tempura paint (or markers)
  • Paint brush
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Large wiggly eye
  • Brass fastener 


Directions:

Cut the paper plate in half. Cut a curved section out of the round side of each plate half. Cut a simple zig-zag into the straight side of each paper plate half.

Paint (or color) both sides green. While the paint dries, cut triangles out of the cut-out pieces of the
plate for teeth. Glue the teeth onto the white side of the zig-zagged edge, leaving a few inches on the end tooth free! Be sure to put the teeth on the correct end! The best way to be sure you do this right is to lay both pieces white-side-up with their zig-zagged edges facing each other as you glue.


Overlap the jaw and punch a hole through both plate sections. Secure it with a brass fastener. Glue on the eye and give the crocodile a nostril with pink paint or marker! (If you don't have a wiggly eye, you can draw or paint an eye instead!)

Now you have your own crocodile smile! Be careful. Those teeth are sharp!




Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Five Verse Novels I Read in April, and What I Thought of Them

National Poetry Month has come to an end.

I didn't do much on the blog for Poetry Month this year, but I did set goals for myself personally. Those goals were: read 5 new verse novels and write 10 new poems.

Did I make it? Yes! Admittedly, I wrote two of the poems today after realizing that I was only up to eight. But that counts!

I'm not prepared to share any of the poems I wrote in the past thirty days, but I'm always happy to share about books I read! Here are the 5 verse novels I read this month, along with some quick thoughts about each one:














TO STAY ALIVE: MARY ANN GRAVES AND THE TRAGIC JOURNEY OF THE DONNER PARTY by Skila Brown

This book was engaging, beautifully written, and a bit horrifying at times. Highly recommended! See my full review here.














RONIT & JAMIL by Pamela L. Laskin

I was disappointed in this book, primarily because it was hard to follow and I felt that the romance was poorly developed. It has some beautiful language and form poetry, but it just didn't work for me as a novel.














I DON'T WANT TO BE CRAZY by Samantha Schutz

This book was a little different in that it was a memoir. I found the verse format to be effective and the writing to be engaging, though the book ended a bit too abruptly.














ONE by Sarah Crossan

This is a beautifully written and heartbreaking story about conjoined twins. Loved it!














YOU CAN FLY: THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN by Carol Boston Weatherford

This is a quick read that is both engaging and inspiring. It's a bit different in that it is historical, and it's told in 2nd person.


Did you read any verse novels or write any poems this month? I'd love to hear about it!