Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kids Book Club--ANY WHICH WALL by Laurel Snyder

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a book club that my daughter wanted to start--here's the link.  We had an organizational meeting, and the book was chosen (ANY WHICH WALL by Laurel Snyder). Yesterday, the girls met to discuss the book.


The girls spent a few minutes talking about their favorite parts of the book and drawing pictures of their favorite characters. Then we headed out to start the adventure. My friend hosted and had a brilliant idea to incorporate the theme of the book into the meeting. I give her ALL the credit for this awesome idea--the girls loved it.

If you've read the book, you know that four kids discover a magic key that fits into a lock in a wall in the middle of a field. My friend wrote very clever rhymes that led the girls on a scavenger hunt to find a magic key for each of them. Oh my gosh, it was all I could do not to join in the hunt!

Aren't those keys cool?


So...to start a book club for kids: #1, have them pick a good book. #2, have the kids read said book. #3, pick a cool prop from the book. #4, have a creative friend come up with a cool game--or have the kids come up with one. Oh, and also have her take pictures since you left your camera at home.

Easy Peasy!

One last word: Thanks to Laurel Snyder for writing such a cool book, full of every day magic.

***

Update: One of the coolest things about the children's writing community it being able to interact with fellow writers and occasionally (::fangirl squee::) favorite authors. I emailed Laurel Snyder about our little bookclub and had a lovely conversation with her on twitter. Today, she referenced this blog when she posted about how cool it is to be a children's writer.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Adding Turkey to your Manuscript

Yesterday when I got home, this wild turkey was walking down my street.

I live on a quarter acre. In a neighborhood of quarter acres. We do have conservation land WAAAYY across two streets. But wildlife beyond squirrels and chipmunks is unusual. Seeing a turkey was a surprise.

And now we get to my point.

You know when you're writing something and it's just not coming together? Maybe you're missing something? Sometimes you've got to add a turkey to your MS. Adding an element of surprise to your manuscript is key to creating something unique and special. Add a Turkey. And it might just kick start your day.

(You know I don't mean *literally* a turkey, right? I mean, that would be unusual. But any element of surprise can be your turkey.) Okay, yeah, you got that. Just makin' sure.




Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Making New Friends

I love being a part of the Children's Lit community--last night in Burlington, MA over 25 writers and illustrators, as well as one agent and an editor, gathered to network, share personal stories, and make friends. As some of you know, this started as a sort of experiment last February when I decided I wanted to go to a Writers Meet Up close to home--there wasn't one, so I threw it myself. This was the third event and the mostly successful as far as numbers.

It was great to see some old friends, and make some new ones. If you missed it, we'll be having another one in September. Date and location to be announced.

If you're not in our area, consider planning your own event! "If you build it, they will come!"
Alicia Gregoire, Ansha Kotyk, and Julia Bourque

Lyndy Mullaly-Hunt and Greg Fishbone

Susan Carlton, Marianne Knowles, and Ron Seifer

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kid Lit Meet Up

Networking is important. And can be fun too. Make new friends, and meet like minded people.

I know we writers tend to be a little nervous away from our keyboards, but if you're in the greater Boston/Eastern/Central Massachusetts area, we'll be meeting at Paparazzi in Burlington, MA at 7:30 on June 21. I'd love to see you there! Ping me @KristineAsselin or krisasselin (at) yahoo (dot) com. Anyone interested in children's books is welcome--writers, illustrators, bloggers, librarians, agents, editors, anyone!

I'm working on putting together a schedule so people can plan ahead. Stay tuned for that. And let me know if you have any suggestion for locations.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Clearing the Brain

Amazingly I had the whole day yesterday to write. Scary. Really, scary. Because I'm very good at procrastinating (for very good reasons) my writing. And being faced with a full day of writing sometimes scares me.

I knew I had a work-for-hire project to finish. I got that out of the way first.

And then I dived into an amorphous WIP that's been on my mind lately. I'm trying to listen to the characters. Trying to figure out what they're telling me. My biggest writing challenge is plotting. Once I know where I'm going, things unfold pretty well. Getting over that plotting hump is a bear (anyone with me?)

My goal was to write 500 words. Pretty easy, right. I wanted something attainable. After I hit 500, I decided to go for a walk. Slapped on the earbuds and my sunglasses and walked around my neighborhood. And all of a sudden, the characters were screaming at me! I had to stop and type some notes on my phone (yea, my phone) cause I was worried I'd forget!

When I came home, almost 1000 words just poured out. But the narrative I wrote is in 1st person. The rest of the WIP is in third. I always write in third. So what's up with that?

How do you clear your brain? And what do you do when your brain does something unexpected?

***

Don't forget the Kid Lit Social on Tuesday. If you're in the greater Boston/Eastern/Central Massachusetts area, we'll be meeting at Paparazzi in Burlington, MA at 7:30 on June 21. I'd love to see you there! Ping me @KristineAsselin or krisasselin (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer Reading for Kids

This is my friend Jeremiah's dog Pablo. Pablo loves to read. For this picture, he took 3rd place out of 17 AND he gets his name in a book of his choice and an engraved nameplate in the book forever.

I wonder what book he'll choose?

Just thought I'd share something for fun as we're getting ready to start the summer reading program. We've got one at our local library, but we also do the Barnes and Noble summer reading program, where kids can earn free books by reading. This summer, we'll also be participating in the Heifer Project's Read to Feed program.

During Read to Feed, children (individually or as a group) get sponsors for each book they read during a time frame set by his or her Read to Feed leader. At the end of the program, the group pools its funds and donates them to Heifer International to help Heifer assist millions of families around the world feed their families and reach self-reliance through the gifts of livestock and training.

Happy Reading!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nonfiction Monday

It's nonfiction Monday on the Capstone Blog. Check it out and read how a couple of nonfiction authors (like me!) got their start.

Have a good Monday!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Kid Lit Lovers in New England

Well, that's broad, isn't it?

I started out with Central Massachusetts. But we're moving a bit east this time. And last time, someone from Connecticut drove up. And we're not that far from Southern New Hampshire. So if you're in the area, and you love children's book (read them, write them, illustrate them, represent them, publish them, etc.) please feel free to join us at the Paparazzi in Burlington, Massachusetts on Tuesday, June 21 at 7:30 p.m.

If you can let know me you're coming, that would be great--@KristineAsselin. We'd like to have an approximate count, but feel free to just show up if that works better for you.

When: Tuesday, June 21, 2011. 7:30 p.m.
Where: Paparazzi, Burlington, MA. 
 Who: Anyone interested in Children's Books--authors, illustrators, librarians, booksellers, Agents, Editors, Readers...you get the idea.
If you're interested and/or have any ideas for location, please let me know!

Hope to see you there!

Andrew Gold

One of my favorite singer-songwriters, Andrew Gold, passed away early this week. He was only 59.My sister and I discovered his music in the mid-1980s. We knew his top 40 stuff from the radio, but he had a wealth of beautiful songs. Here's one of his most famous:



RIP Andy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

YA Rocks: My Fave Responses to the WSJ Article

I write YA. And a little bit of nonfiction, middle grade, picture books...yeah, well, I write lots of stuff. I read too. I've always read. A lot. One of my earliest memories is visiting the library on vacation at my grandparents house and hauling back an armload of books for the week.

I wasn't a kid who read dark stuff. But I knew kids who did. As a teen, I tended toward John Jakes' NORTH AND SOUTH, rather than FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC like my peers.

Ok, so I was a weird kid who liked history. And I guess NORTH AND SOUTH is dark in a different way. :)

Anyway, my parents never ever ever told me what I could or couldn't read. I self censored. I remember being in a friend's bedroom as a 15-year-old and picking up Judy Blume's FOREVER and being fascinated. And horrified. Could I have brought it home to read? Sure, I don't think my mom wouldn't have been bothered by it at all--actually she probably wouldn't have known. But it wasn't something I was comfortable with.

And I think that still stands true with kids today. They're going to read YA (dark or light) or they're not. They're going to read Adult Science Fiction. Or Historical Fiction. Or Steampunk. Or Graphic novels. Isn't reading what it's all about? I mean, wouldn't we rather our children explore an issue in depth in a book than stare at some vapid teen melodrama? (not that vapid teen melodramas are bad, I'm just saying.)

Being on the periphery of the writing industry, I'm always interested in what's going on. I don't always feel like I'm qualified to weigh in on issues, but as a YA writer hoping to be published, I read the Wall Street Journal article about the supposed sad state of young adult fiction.

The only thing I could think when I finished was, "this lady hasn't been reading enough YA." Sure there are dark books out there (and there should be), but there are also loads of cool paranormal, dystopian, contemporary romance, and comedies. Action adventure, mystery, and tons more coming out every day! The author of the article clearly didn't talk to any booksellers, librarians, or authors. Or even teenagers.

These are my favorite responses to the WSJ article:

Andrew Smith's Open Letter to lauren myracle, jackie morse kessler, and cheryl rainfield aka the axis of evil.

The YA Five - open letter to a frightened mother of a bookless teen.

Laurie Halse Anderson's Stuck Between Rage and Compassion

Hey WSJ, YA Fiction is Just Fine

Caissie St. Onge on the LA Review of Books blog

Jaime Adoff--YA Saves Misses the Boat

And if you haven't check out the #YASaves hashtag on twitter. And for a laugh, check out #YAKills.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Interview with author, Josie Cameron

Josephine Cameron has a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame. She has recorded four CDs and her song “Long Track Blues” was recently included in the New York Times bestseller, Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat. Josephine has been writing, performing, and teaching for the past 10 years.

Kris: Thanks to Josie Cameron for joining me on my blog today! Josie and I met at the recent NESCBWI conference. To start with, Josie, can you tell us a bit about your book?

Josie: My book is called Kevin Koslowski, Guitar Zero. Here's the pitch:
Fourth-grader Kevin Koslowski is tired of living in his older brother's rock-star shadow. He's had it with being shut out of Neil's band rehearsals and being treated like a germ in his own house. Determined to prove to the world that he is not just Neilsbrother Koslowski, Kevin starts his own band and plans to win the Three Lakes Elementary School variety show competition. But Kevin can't play an instrument. He can't sing. He doesn't even listen to music. His out-of-character search for the spotlight creates one disaster after another and ultimately drives away his brother, his parents, his classmates, and his best friend. If he wants to make things right, Kevin will have to learn how to be a rock star in his own way.
Kris: I love that it’s about a fourth grader—it sounds hysterical! I can’t wait to read it! Can you share where you are in the process?

Josie: My agent and I are working on getting it out on submission. Hooray!

Kris: You are agented by the fabulous Chris Richman, can you tell us a bit about your agent search?

Josie: You're right, Chris Richman *is* fabulous, and I'm so excited to be working with him! My agent search was pretty targeted and methodical. I spent about a year doing research on agents who specialize in middle grade fiction, and came up with a short list of agents (less than 20) who seemed like they would be a particularly good fit for my style. (Anyone who was into music or humor at least got a second glance.) Then I sent out queries a few at a time. All that preliminary research was well worth it--I had quite a few full requests and found myself in the lucky (but slightly terrifying) position of having to choose between two offers. Querytracker.net was an organizational lifesaver, and websites like http://caseylmccormick.blogspot.com and Verla Kay's Blueboards were great jumping-off points. When people ask me how I got out of the slushpile, my answer is always: RESEARCH!

Kris: Multiple agents interested! What an awesome problem to have! It sounds like you did everything right—those are some great resources! What has it been like to work with an agent over the past few months?

Josie: From a practical standpoint, it's a huge relief to let someone else deal with the logistics of submission. I don't miss checking my email a hundred times a day with butterflies in my stomach! From a personal standpoint, I love working with Chris. He's got a great sense of humor and an eye for story that has helped me improve my book by leaps and bounds. He also gets a gold star for being super organized and communicative.

Kris: Hmm. I have an agent, and I STILL check my email a hundred times a day. ::notes to self, can stop checking email so often:: When did you start writing seriously?

Josie: Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. I used to have a yellow writing desk where I would make books out of my dad's old office paperwork. [note: see Josie's yellow desk to the left.]
I got my hands on Writer's Market when I was 11 and started submitting stories to every magazine that would take work from kids. One day, I got a "bill" in the mail for $75 from a magazine I had submitted to. I was horrified. I hadn't meant to order anything, I just wanted them to print my story! Where was I going to get $75? In agony, I brought the bill to my dad, swearing up and down that I would find a way to pay him back. My dad took one look at the paper, threw his head back, and laughed. It wasn't a bill after all. It was a check! From that moment on, I knew someday I'd be a real author.

Kris: What an awesome story—and how motivating for a kid! Heck, most adults I know would be motivated by getting a check for $75 for their writing! I know you are a musician and teacher, how does that impact your writing?

Josie: Music and teaching inform my writing in more ways than I probably realize. Music reminds me to be efficient with sound and rhythm in my writing. My students keep me well grounded in my subject matter. In fact, the idea for Kevin Koslowski, Guitar Zero came from the variety show fever that all my music students seem to get each spring.

Kris: Do you have a regular writing process?

Josie: I am constantly revising my writing process. I'm one of those people who is compelled to reevaluate, restructure, reinvent. Right now, I'm trying out small but frequent bouts of writing. I'm also testing out Scrivener and working to build a more structured outline for my WIP.

Kris: Ooh, I’ve heard about Scrivener, you’ll have to report back and let us know how it works for you.

For Fun:

Kris: What’s your favorite movie?

Josie: Philadelphia Story. Brilliant dialogue plus Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart. Does it get any better?

Kris: Favorite pop song?

Josie: I don't listen to a lot of pop music, but I have a *very* soft spot in my heart for anything by Phil Collins.

Kris: Do you write with music on or off?

Josie: Off, I pay way too much attention to music.

Kris: Pantser or Plotter?

Josie: Pantser, but trying to retrain myself to be a Plotter.

 
Thanks so much, Josie, for joining me today! I wish you the best of luck with the book! Come back again when it sells and we’ll have a party! For more on Josie, visit her blog at www.pleasecomeflying.com.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Social Media

Maybe you've seen this book trailer for Socialnomics by Erik Qualman. I was in a workshop on Friday on Social Media and the presenter showed it. I haven't read the book, but the trailer floored me.



How well do YOU do social media?

The video gets a little cut off--here's the link if you'd prefer: Social Media Revolution.

Friday, June 3, 2011

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French KissAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets √Čtienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.
As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

***
I've seriously been hearing good things about this book since it came out. But I wasn't expecting to LOVE it the way I did. It's just a good, sweet, young adult romance. Filled with teen angst and first love. Good (nice) characters, cute (nice) boys, and real friends--there were some mean girls too, but it felt real. No car crashes, no crazy twists. Sound like it could have been boring, right? NO! Stephanie does a great job getting inside Anna's head--I loved her. I want to be her friend. I don't normally reread books, but this one almost makes me want to start over at page one.

Oh yeah, and I want my YA novel to be on the shelf next to this one. I want my YA novel to be this book's BFF.



View all my reviews

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Unintentional Beginnings

So yesterday I had a fabulous lunch with a good writer friend. We talked about writing, our kids, our lives. In some ways it felt incredibly decadent. Maybe because she made me an awesome gourmet salad and served me iced cappuccino.

On the way home, I passed a truck driven by a very old friend. Someone I haven't talked to in ages. Someone I miss a lot. I briefly thought about turning around to follow, but thought better of it. I came home and wrote these words on Twitter:

I saw a ghost today. Driving a white pickup truck. It made me cry.

I wasn't expecting the following comment by @KevinTCraig in reply: "Great beginning for a novel!!! Just sayin' :-)" (Thanks, Kevin!)

I wasn't thinking about writing the beginning of a novel. I was just emoting. And now I'm thinking.

How do you get new ideas? And more importantly, what do you do once you get one?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

School Photo Day

KB over at Keenie Beanie initiated SCHOOL PHOTO DAY for blogs. And I decided, it sounded like fun.

Any way, here's my senior picture. :)


And four years later, my college graduation picture. Not sure why I didn't smile. 


That was the closest thing to "big hair" that I ever had. And I was totally blind--but too vain to wear my glasses.  All in all, though, the college one looks a lot like I do now. Anyone want to take a guess how long ago it was?

:)