Monday, October 31, 2011

KidLit Quote of the Week #5: Halloween Edition

I thought about quoting the full tale (it's in the public domain, after all) because the entire thing is such a gorgeous example of the art of atmospheric writing — but time- and space-saving heads prevailed. So now I give you the final paragraph in Washington Irving's supernatural masterpiece The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

 "The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of these matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means; and it is a favorite story often told about the neighborhood round the winter evening fire. The bridge became more than ever an object of superstitious awe; and that may be the reason why the road has been altered of late years, so as to approach the church by the border of the millpond. The schoolhouse being deserted soon fell to decay, and was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue — and the plowboy, loitering homeward of a still summer evening, has often fancied his voice at a distance, chanting a melancholy psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

PiBoIdMo 2011!

Look sharp, notepads, Post-its, napkins, keyboards, and recording devices. November is right around the corner. 

Picture Book Idea Month 2011 starts this Tuesday!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Go Purple! Or, "Go, Purple!" — Honoring Spirit Day

You may be aware that October is National Bullying Prevention Month — and today marks the second annual Spirit Day, for which supporters are asked to wear purple (social-network avatar-tinting works, too!) to honor the memory of any child who felt they had to take his/her own life in order to end the pain and suffering s/he experienced as a victim of bullying. Acknowledging the young lives lost is a pretty powerful reason to "go purple" and just stop and think about what you can do to help the situation.

Of course the most powerful tool we have to fight bullying is education. Teaching children and adults about the problem, how to handle the problem, and — when possible — how to prevent the problem is essential to making a dent in it. There are many fine organizations dedicated to addressing the issue (I am partial to this one) and many educators and parents out there doing their part. But the issue is so pervasive that it can seem too big to tackle.

One no-brainer thing you can do to help educate a child, or even yourself, about the effects of bullying? Give or read — or give AND read! — a book written for kids that highlights the topic! Children can learn so much from both novels featuring realistic bullying situations and nonfiction books that offer strategies for dealing with the issue. Positive books about friendship also help kids internalize what to look for and accept (or not) in peer-to-peer relationships.

Some titles I recommend to read, share, and discuss:

Blubber by Judy Blume

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories, edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones

Frenemies: Dealing with Friend Drama by L. L. Owens (Yes, this is mine; and, no, this is not why I blogged today. I added it to the list because I realized it truly is relevant to it — and the cover is purple-purple-purple.)

Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord

Letters to a Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope by Olivia Gardner, Emily Buder, and Sarah Buder

The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake

Speak by Laura Halse Anderson

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead 

Why Is Everybody Always Picking on Me? A Guide to Handling Bullies by Terrence Webster-Doyle

Now. Let's hear it for the kids Spirit Day helps us remember. Let's resolve to help the kids still with us.

What can we do? Give them a book. Start a conversation. Let them know we're here if they want to talk. Step in and help them when they need us to. Lead by example. Don't be a bully. Step up and say something when we see bullying. Go purple if we feel like it. And remember to shout (or just think really hard), "Go, Purple!"

Friday, October 14, 2011

KidLit Quote of the Week #4

"Who's big fat bright idea was it to do a weekly quote feature on this blog?"
Lisa L. Owens

That's funny, right?

I'm around. Handling some pressing workaday deadlines and spending spare moments prepping for a writers retreat I'm attending in a few short weeks.

Also: The holidays seem to be here already. I know because I just ordered some Christmas lights and have urgently realized I need to book my holiday travel plans A-sap.

And: Work on the big site-blog merger continues!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

KidLit Quote of the Week #3

As I continue working on my YA historical novel, this quote speaks to me:

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."

I've been in full-on flow several times with this book, writing down a path I didn't mean to take — a luxury I don't normally indulge in during write-for-hire work. (NO time in that process for anything but 1-2-3 get it done.) And often I worry as I go that I will have to completely scrap whatever detour passage I've written.

This is not in the outline, I tell myself. It doesn't fit in and I shouldn't be writing this knowing I'll delete it later. Or worse, I realize, Aackk, this is better than what I'd planned and now I'll have to reshape everything else (deleting other baby passages) to accommodate it.

It's so tempting to think of text swaths you change or cut as mistakes. But one of the most important thing I've tried to internalize in surrendering to the "vomit draft" process this year is that whatever you're writing — good crap, bad crap, ugly crap, crap-crap — the THING is *that* you are writing. The rest will take care of itself if you let it (aka doing more writing + careful revising).

It can be hard to look at a first draft and especially to show parts of it even to the most supportive of readers without wanting to shake everyone (read in this case: wanting to shake myself) until you know they know this is your early writing, that you intend to get it all "right" during revisions. But once you do it, the looking at it turns into one of the most satisfying steps — with the fixing-it part probably more more fun than anything else.

So, while I see and agree with Adams's POV, I do take issue with calling anything (or any part of anything) you create a mistake. There are no creative mistakes, people!

Is it a mistake to add too many stems to the vase? No. You can't tell exactly how many flowers fit just so until you throw some into the arrangement and step back for a look-see. You can't determine the perfect way to display the ready-made art you bought until you slap a few configurations onto the wall and take a few distanced ganders. You can't make a satisfying pot of soup without tasting and reseasoning . . .

And you can't really craft your story until you write what wants to come out and let all the pieces show you — by being on point, off track, or seamlessly fitted — what to pitch and what to keep.

Now, off I go to write some stuff I might just end up trashing later. (And, reminder note to self: You will trash it, and you will like it.)