Archive for August 2010

Giant Picks

August 31, 2010

“Unemployment is capitalism’s way of getting you to plant a garden.”  — Orson Scott Card

It’s official. I am living with the Jolly Green Giant–also known as the obsessive gardener. The obsession has gotten worse. Take a look at the size of tomatoes the green giant brings into the house.

Two and one-quarter pounds!

It takes a week to eat just one.

What do you do with a bumper crop of tomatoes? Besides giving them to anyone who will take them, there’s always tomato juice, tomato sauce, tomato soup, fried tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, broiled tomatoes, tomato salad, and tomato potatoes. You name it. We’ve had it. We’re oozing with lycopene!

 More giants: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (Puffin, 2007), The Giant Cabbage: An Alaska Folktale by Cherie B. Stihler (Sasquatch Books/Paws IV Children’s Books, 2003), The Giant Carrot by Jan Peck (Dial; 1st edition, 1998)

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Hot Air

August 27, 2010

I was at meetings all day yesterday. There was a lot of hot air blowing around.

More hot air:  Hot Air:  The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride by Marjorie Priceman (Atheneum/Anne Schwartz Books, 2005)

Thoughts on Journaling

August 24, 2010

What is journaling? Should you do it? Why? Why not?

Simply put, journaling is writing. It’s a way to organize your thoughts and express your feelings. A journal is your personal property. It’s a place where you can feel free to write from your heart, gain insight into your soul, and generate “aha moments.”

Journaling can also be healing. It’s a way to capture your life’s experiences, reflect upon them, and work through problems.

Writers keep journals for many of these reasons.  They also use journals to write down things they’ve observed or special words and expressions they’ve heard. A journal can be a creative outlet and a great resource when it comes to writer’s block.  

No time for journaling? You can try my way. It’s not the traditional way, but it still gives me a means to express myself. I always have a pen and paper handy, and when something strikes me, I seize the moment–or I should say I seize the pen and paper–and jot down thoughts, ideas, expressions, and feelings. I keep my writings in a file folder. It’s not as neat as a journal, but it works for me.

There are no set rules for journaling. No one is going to tell you what you can and can’t write. Should you do it? Why not give it a try. Do what feels right for you, and see what happens.

Five Simple Reasons to Belong to a Critique Group

August 20, 2010

“Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.” ─ Isaac Asimov

If you’re a serious writer–especially if you’re a newcomer to the profession–becoming a member of a critique group is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Below are five simple reasons why you should search out a critique group that is a perfect fit for you.

 1. Writing is a lonely business. A critique group offers you the opportunity to interact and socialize with other writers.

 2.  You can exchange writing ideas and talk about publishing houses, editors, agents, and marketing.

3.  You get feedback to help improve and polish your manuscript before you send it to a publisher.

4.  You learn to become more critical of your own writing and enhance your writing skills. 

5.  You have a great support group during the ups and downs of your writing career.

The members of my critique group write picture books, poems, and chapter books. Some of us have been published and some have not, but everyone is a valuable asset to our group. We encourage and support one another in our writing careers and in our personal lives. For me, it’s been a very positive experience. We laugh together. We cry together. And sometimes we get rowdy. (We had to move our group from the library to a coffee shop.) I’m happy to say the members of my group are not only talented writers, but they are also my friends.

For information on children’s writing and critique groups go to:  www.scbwi.org

Wish Me a Rainbow

August 17, 2010

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” ─ Gilbert K. Chesterton

Some people are storm watchers. Some people are tornado chasers. I am a rainbow stalker. I’m not a fan of thunderstorms, but the potential prize that may appear in the aftermath of a storm is worth the wait.

As soon as I see a ray of sunshine after a rain shower, I’m out there searching the sky, waiting for nature’s colorful creation. For me, rainbows are a sign of luck. Once I spot one, I get to make a wish, and if it’s a double rainbow, I’m a Lucky Lady times two.

Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz got me hooked on rainbows. I was sure if I wished hard enough, I could fly over the rainbow and end up in a wondrous land. Now that I’m older, I know that’s not going to happen, but it doesn’t stop me from stalking rainbows and making wishes. 

Last Saturday was a double rainbow day! I heard a neighbor say to his son, “Let’s go look for the end and see if there’s a pot of gold.” I like that man!

Rainbows may not have a pot of gold at the end, but for me, rainbows are wishes painted across the sky. So wish me a rainbow, and I’ll wish you one, too!

Check this out:  Over the Rainbow performed by Judy Collins (Peter Yarrow Books, An Imprint of Charlesbridge Har/Com edition, March 2010)

Bloodsuckers

August 13, 2010

“Even a mosquito doesn’t get a slap on the back until it starts to work.” — Austin O’Malley

They’re red-blooded Americans born and bred right in our own backyards. They like to whine and dine–on you. I’m talking mosquitoes. Bothersome mosquitoes. Blood-sucking mosquitoes. Exasperating mosquitoes.

 Mosquitoes are like a fraternity. They hang out together. But unlike most fraternities, the female members are allowed to haze. They pick their victims and strike. They delight in their succulent attacks. During Happy Hour, the cocktail du jour is the Bloody Mary, Tom, Dick, or Harry. Those vicious biters are the original vampires, sucking blood from innocent bystanders. They have their own Twilight Series!    

Another one bites the dust!

Be on the lookout. Beware of the whiners and diners. Wear long sleeve shirts, long pants, and insect repellent. And the next time you see one, give it a slap on the back for me!

What’s the buzz?  Mosquito Bite by Alexandra Siy (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2006),  Mr. Mosquito Put on His Tuxedo by Barbara Olenyik Morrow (Holiday House, 2009),  Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema (Turtleback, 1978)

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

August 10, 2010

Geniuses are like thunderstorms. They go against the wind, terrify people, cleanse the air. ─ Soren Kierkegaard

For the past few nights we’ve been flashed, crashed, and poured upon. That crack of thunder that wakes me from a deep sleep is unsettling. I’m not one for fierce rainstorms–especially when there’s lots of lightning.

When my daughter was small, she felt the same way. After the first loud boom, she would appear in our bedroom, clutching her stuffed Jenny doll with a look of fear in her eyes. We’d make a little bed for her on the floor next to us and tuck her in tightly. Then we’d watch the lightning light up the room and listen to the thunder until it finally faded away. For years, that was our thunderstorm ritual. Then one stormy night she didn’t appear. I found her sleeping soundly in her room, holding her Jenny doll. I went back to our bedroom where my husband was snoring, and I was left to watch the lightning and wait for the thunder to disappear all by myself.        

Young and old sometimes need reassurance during noisy thunderstorms. I have two books I like to share when this happens. One is The Storm Book in which a boy and his mother talk about the storm as it passes over country, city, and seashore. At the end, there is a delightful surprise. It’s a Caldecott Honor book written by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham. The other book is Thunder Cake written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco. In this story, Grandma helps her granddaughter conquer her fear of the coming storm by having her gather ingredients to bake a cake.

There is also another book about a rainstorm which I haven’t had a chance to read yet. It’s called Waiting Out the Storm by JoAnn Early Macken and illustrated by Susan Gaber. It received a starred review from Booklist, and I’m betting it’s a winner.

My daughter is no longer afraid of thunderstorms. In fact, she loves them. When I asked her why, she said, “You feel the force of nature. It’s the anticipation and excitement of what that storm will bring. It’s always different…”

The next time we have one of those fierce thunderstorms I’m calling her to tuck me in tightly and stay with me until the thunder fades away.


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