Monday, December 19, 2011

A Holiday Gift to You

By the time you read this post I'll be in Spain visiting my daughter, Lori. I'm going to take a break from blogging and will be back again next year with an interview with debut novelist Augusta Scattergood, more book reviews, and hopefully some thoughts and pictures of Barcelona, Granada, or Gibraltar!

Meanwhile, here are two videos to click on and enjoy during this holiday season:

And from Alaska:

Best wishes to all of you, my faithful readers!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Write 2 Ignite News

The annual Write 2 Ignite conference registration is now live. Click here to get updated information on the speakers, registration, and how to receive a manuscript critique. 

Jean Hall graciously asked me if I would give one of the keynote addresses and lead two workshops. Click here for a preview of my keynote speech, Humility in the Marketplace. Here is a listing of all the workshops

Mark your calendars for March 16-17, 2012. I hope you plan to join us for an outstanding time of learning about writing and fellowship with other Christian writers. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Crossing the Wire

Assault rifles, a wild puma, extreme cold, excessive heat, starvation, dehydration, a capture by the Border Patrol and deportation, hundreds of miles of deserts, drug-smuggling thieves, extortioners, a rattlesnake bite-- Crossing the Wire by Will Hobbs has all this and more. Girl and boy middle schoolers will be rooting for 15-year-old Victor Flores as he struggles against unbelievable odds to secure one thing: money for his Mexican mother to keep their family goats and chickens. 

I would encourage teachers to use this coming-of-age book as a good example of creating a character who faces both internal conflicts (wanting to be the man in the house since his father's death), and external conflicts (see the opening sentence of this blog!). Victor's desire to help his mother propels this book forward; this is a good example of a plot-driven story

But undoubtably this book will also open readers' eyes to why illegals attempt a dangerous border crossing. Although statistics indicate that arrests at the Mexican border have diminished,   the U.S. is still in the midst of many emigration issues and border controversies. This novel, published in 2006, is well-written, timely and in parts, poetic. Consider this line:

"Sorrow sings also when it runs too deep to cry."

Read this book. You won't forget it. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book Wish Contest

I received this today from Teresa Fannin, SCBWI-Carolina's regional advisor. I thought it was worth passing along; please note that the contest is open to adults and teens. 

Win a literary agent or acclaimed author's feedback on your unpublished manuscript for young adult or middle grade readers. This rare opportunity is being offered to the six winners of an essay contest recently announced by the literacy charity Book Wish Foundation. See for full details.

You could win a manuscript critique from:

Laura Langlie, literary agent for Meg Cabot
Nancy Gallt, literary agent for Jeanne DuPrau
Brenda Bowen, literary agent and editor of Karen Hesse's Newbery Medal winner Out of the Dust
Ann M. Martin, winner of the Newbery Honor for A Corner of the Universe
Francisco X. Stork, winner of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for The Last Summer of the Death Warriors
Cynthia Voigt, winner of the Newbery Medal for Dicey's Song and the Newbery Honor for A Solitary Blue

All that separates you from this prize is a 500-word essay about a short story in Book Wish Foundation's new anthology, What You Wish For. Essays are due Feb. 1, 2012 and winners will be announced around Mar. 1, 2012. If you win, you will have six months to submit the first 50 pages of your manuscript for critique (which means you can enter the contest even if you haven't finished, or started, your manuscript). You can even enter multiple times, with essays about more than one of the contest stories, for a chance to win up to six critiques.

If you dream of being a published author, this is an opportunity you should not miss. To enter, follow the instructions at


The contest requires responding to one of the stories in the anthology What you Wish For. According to the Book Wish Foundation website, "The stories were contributed for free by their authors so we could use the book's proceeds to develop libraries in Darfuri refugee camps."

plan to enter, how about you?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Guest Blog: A Fresh Perspective by Judy Beglau

Judy, hard at work on her new laptop computer. 
I met Judy at a Highlights Writers Workshop two years ago. When I saw on Facebook that she was attending an editing workshop with Stephen Roxburgh, I asked her to be my guest blogger. I hope you enjoy these reflections on her experience.

Writing is a solitary pursuit, no doubt about it. We sit alone with our thoughts, tapping away at a keyboard for hours on end. And when we have finished our story, we turn away from our quiet effort and risk a “show and tell.” We let others in. A critique group, a generous friend, a family member. And sometimes, we take our words to a workshop where we lay our printed offspring bare to strangers.

At the beginning of November I took my newly completed YA fantasy novel to an editing workshop run by the Highlights Foundation in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. It was a three day editing workshop led by editor and publisher Stephen Roxburgh, who I met at a Highlights Workshop in Chautauqua, NY.

There were six of us writers and Stephen. Our time was divided between group sessions and one-on-one meetings. The group sessions were informative, as Stephen is a very good teacher. He led us through the nitty-gritty of plot development, explaining the difference between plot and story. He taught us about writing revisions. About the difference between copy editing and re-visioning our work. About the difference between “fiddling” with the book and examining the big issues. I had a feeling as he was leading this group session that many of the warning signs Stephen mentioned in the class pertained to my book. I was not in error.

It was quite amazing that a publisher like Stephen Roxburgh would take the time to read six novels before he arrived then take us through our works in detail. Labor intensive and time consuming, it is an effort that results in something many authors never, never get from an expert: personal attention to every aspect of a novel.

I would love to say my novel was so good I had no revising to do and I could just get on with the sequel. But I got something more valuable: I got direction in revising my story. I got kudos for the good aspects and blunt force trauma to the weak parts. And the strangest thing, the part I can’t explain to anyone, is the fact that I am happy to keep the three pages out of two hundred plus that will be included in my revision.  I am happy to be starting over with a clearer vision of exactly what matters in my story. I am not starting from scratch. I am starting from inspiration. 

Judy Beglau lives half the year in Austin, TX and half in the mountains of New Mexico. She started out writing children's musicals, and now is writing picture books, a young adult novel, and write-for-hire projects for Augsburg Fortress Press including hymns and adult devotionals.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What Drives You as a Writer?

"What motivates you as a writer?" my pastor, Rob McCurley, recently asked me. "Are you fascinated with the characters? Do you like delving into the plot? Playing with the words?" His questions got me thinking.  

Image courtesy of Google images
As a child I enjoyed putting together jigsaw puzzles. On many levels, writing Half-Truths is like assembling one huge puzzle. I visit neighborhoods, bike along streets, and talk to people--all the time thinking about what life in Charlotte, NC was like in 1950. I imagine local readers discovering history hidden under the sidewalks which they walk on.  As Harold Underdown said when I worked with him at an Highlights Writers Workshop, this setting creates the backdrop of my story. It's fun to dream up a story that didn't really take place here, but could have

Here's an example. Two months ago I discovered the location of an African American slave cemetery from the 19th century. No tombstones remain, but it is a short walk from the Barnes & Noble store where my writer's group meets. The cemetery itself will probably not be in my book, but its location contributes to my understanding of local history.

St. Lloyd's Presbyterian Church Cemetery
courtesy of Historic Landmarks Commission

Puzzle pieces come together through my interviews with"experts"--folks who lived in Charlotte during this time period. This city is a lot larger now than it was in 1950, but there are still people who are connected to one another and to this time period. One interviewee's mother served as help in another interviewee's home. Another interviewee's grandfather was the founder of the local Coca Cola company and became the prototype for the grandfather in my story. When I interviewed his grandson I discovered that he used to be a dental patient of my husband's. 

Image courtesy of Google images
A third interviewee was a nurse in Good Samaritan Hospital- a place which will play a key role at the end of my story.  It served the African American community for many years before it was torn down. Now, the ground on which it stood shakes with the vibrations of the Panther's football team--the Bank of America stadium was built on that land. Here is a video about the transition from hospital to stadium: 

The characters in my story are more puzzle pieces.   I enjoy creating their genealogies, back stories, motivations, and relationships with one another.  Two months ago an editor challenged me to write this story from both protagonists' points of view. As I dig into what both a white and black teenage girl experienced at that time period, the bigger picture of my story emerges. 

If I happen to write a sentence which delights me or if I find an image, verb, or noun that sparkles, these are more pieces for the puzzle. Last week I wrote:  Lillie knew Grandma needed her help. She just wished that the help wasn’t her. I didn't plan on playing on the word "help," it just appeared on the screen. 

Finally, I imagine that the border of this puzzle is the over-arching theme of speaking the truth. Both Kate and Lillie, my main characters, will face their own half-truths as well as the deeper deceptions which pervade their families.  
Image courtesy of Google images
Making all those pieces fit together really excites me. Thanks Rob, for asking. 
Image courtesy of Google images

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dangerous Skies

As part of my research for Half-Truths, I am reading as many books as I can which probe the relationships between African Americans and whites. By now I am less surprised by stories of segregation and prejudice in the 20th century, but Dangerous Skies is an exception. Readers may be shocked that this story takes place in 1991--just twenty short years ago.

At twelve years of age, the friendship between Buck Smith and Tunes Smith developed since infancy. They grew up together along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay where their families' lives intertwined. "[Tune's] daddy, Kneebone, was manager of my father's farm, like his father and his father's father before him, all the way back to the time when they were freed from slavery, which was how they first came to work the Smith land." (p. 6)

The two were highly respected fish finders, but the summer that they were to turn thirteen the watermen not only asked where the fish were biting, but where Buck and Tunes had been together. "I didn't think much about it at first, but before long all the looks and questions were getting on my nerves." (p.9) Buck says, foreshadowing the book's main conflict.

When Buck and Tunes discover a dead body floating in shallow water, events unfold which baffle and anger Buck. As he doggedly tries to discover who killed him, Buck has to face his own lies as well as long-standing alliances within the white community which breed condemnation for Tunes. 

The publisher recommends this book for readers from 8-12. I disagree. There are references to forced sexual intimacy between Tunes and a white man. Although these are written in a very subtle manner, I recommend this book for upper middle grade students and higher. 

Prejudice, deceit, hypocrisy, love, and loyalty-- this book has it all. But a book set in 1991--is that historical fiction or not? What do you think?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

FLUSH: An Example of What Every Book Should Include

I can't help myself. Whenever I read a book I'm always analyzing how the author pulls it off. How does he or she weave together the different elements needed to produce an engaging book for young readers? 

My recent read, FLUSH by Carl Hiaasen, is a great example of this type of book. It has:

A great beginning that hooks the reader

The deputy told me to empty my pockets: two quarters, a penny, a stick of bubble gum, and a roll of grip tape for my skateboard. It was pitiful.
  "Go on inside. He's waiting for you," the deputy said.
   My dad was sitting alone at a bare metal table. He looked pretty good, all things considered. He wasn't even handcuffed.
    "Happy Father's Day," I said.
(I dare you not to want to read more after that!)

Memorable characters
Paine Underwood- who is jailed for trying to prevent a floating casino from dumping raw sewage into the Florida Keys.
Noah Underwood- his son who supports his dad's crusade--even when his father gives up on it himself. (his name really fits him!)
Abbey Underwood- Noah's tough younger sister who has a very mean bite. 
Donna Underwood- who is tired of her husband Paine's crusades. She vacillates between understanding him and thinking he is a selfish jerk who she should divorce.

Antagonists that readers love to hate

Dusty Muleman- the greedy, scrupulous casino operator (his name fits him too).
Jasper Jr. Muleman- Dusty's bully son and Noah's #1 enemy.

Interesting Minor Characters

Shelley- a bartender with an attitude, guts, and her own axe to grind against Dusty.
Grandpa Bobby- a mistaken pirate with a wild past.


You name it, this book has it. Man vs. nature; man vs. man; man vs. self; man vs. a machine. It's all here.

A great ending where the main character solves the problem
For that you'll have to read the book.

And I'm going to help you do that by giving away a copy of this book!

Here are the rules to enter:

1. You have to be between 11-15 to win.
2. You have to follow this blog.
3. You have to leave a comment with your email address AND Facebook, Twitter, or email this post to one friend (or have a significant adult in your life post it on Facebook or Twitter. That works too.)

If you're already a follower--get going! If you're not a follower, sign up now! Contest is up November 7th.

If you don't fall into that age category you can:

1. Tell your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or student(s) to enter.
2. Hop over to Joyce Hostetter's and my latest issue of Talking Story where we have 3 other giveaways going on right now. No age restrictions apply! 

Happy Reading...and oh yes, don't forget to FLUSH!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Navigating My Blog

If you are new to this blog, you might not notice the tabs on top of the blog posts. If you click on "Half-Truths" you'll find past posts which document my progress in writing my historical novel. 

Click on "Writing Workshops" for a list of my writing workshops. I can tailor workshops to meet your students' needs.

Click on "Teaching the Story" to find out more information about my book and for some free reproducibles.

Click on "Talking Story" and you'll find a brief description of the newsletter which I publish bimonthly with Joyce Hostetter and directions on how to subscribe. 

I appreciate all of you who receive my blog notifications via e-mail and who follow this blog. Every once in awhile I sponsor giveaways for followers only. Follow now, and look for another giveaway soon!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Multi-Racial Read #7: The Color of Love

Sometimes there are books that speak for themselves. The Color of Love an autobiography of Gene Creek, "a blue-collar son of the South" is one of these. Gene's life-journey is noteworthy for one significant reason: in the Jim Crow South his mother, rejected by her alcoholic husband, fell in love with a black man. This book is the story that documents the life-changing events which then Gene experienced.

Gene recreated his family history as best as possible. Here are some excerpts:

Advice which he received from his maternal grandmother when Gene admitted to hating his father:
"Mean he is," Grandma said. "But you shouldn't hate him for it. People who hate other people are miserable people. There's enough hate in this world already, honey, especially here in the South. White people hate the colored and the colored hate the black." p. 127

When his mother revealed her love:
"You could have knocked me over with a feather. It was 1961; we lived in...the heart of Dixie. I knew to the southern man there was no greater sin than race mixing. The prevailing views of most white southerners concerning blacks where not news to me. I knew that the majority of the white world--including my father--considered blacks less than human." p. 145

"To me it boiled down to one simple issue: mama loved me, I loved her, and she loved this man [Tuck]. I'd heard it said in church. 'You have to walk it like you talk it.'... 'If you love this man and he loves you, then the color of his skin doesn't matter,' I said to Mama." p. 148

Reflecting on his anxieties the first visit to Tuck's house:
"On the night of my first visit with Tuck, I was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs...A black man with a white woman and a white boy? Where could we go together that wouldn't trigger threats and admonishments and probable violence? We couldn't eat at a downtown restaurant or shop at the department store or stroll in the park together." p. 157

When white teenagers were harassing Tuck and his mother:
"'Don't worry, Tuck said. 'They can't do anything to us as long as we're in the car.' Somehow he remained calm. It occurred to me that this was nothing new to him. Getting cussed and chased by white men was just a way of life for most black men in the South." p. 164

A talk with Tuck:
"Tuck and I talked while Mama made supper. 'You know, I love America. I fought for this country during World War II. When we were fighting against the Nazis, I figured that we were fighting for freedom. We believed that we when we came back home we'd be treated as equals. But that didn't happen. In fact, in some ways it got worse. We couldn't even wear our uniforms in public when we got back. When I was discharged in 1946 the people at Fort Bragg told us not to leave the base in our uniforms because blacks were being beaten and stripped of their medals and even the buttons on their coats." p. 168

At the hearing when Gene was taken away from his mother after his step-brother, Randy, was born:
"What choice did she have? Had she admitted the truth--that Tuck was the Negro father of her son--she would be confessing to a felony according to North Carolina's anti-miscegenation laws. And if she was convicted of a felony, she and Tuck faced prison, and what would happen to Randy and me?" p. 209

Gene, Tuck, and Randy, 1962


This true story may seem unbelievable to those who are younger than I am. To be honest, as a person who grew up during this time period in the North, I also shook my head many times in disbelief. Gene's mother and Tuck were married in 1979--six years after North Carolina repealed the anti-miscegenation law. By then, I had graduated from college with no clue how one day I would be touched by this story. 

Gene concludes the book with his honest confession:

"While writing this book, I did gain understanding, and with it came forgiveness, but I have not forgotten. The facts are this will remain a part of my life, as long as there is life. I'm not sure complete healing is attainable. I don't think I will ever forget, and I'm not sure I should." p. 258

I, for one, am glad you didn't, Gene.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Guest Blogger: Joy Rancatore on "The Book Whisperer"

Social media like Facebook enable you to become reacquainted with people you haven't seen or heard from in years. That was the case with Joy Rancatore, who I first knew when she was a young girl growing up in South Carolina. We connected a few years ago and I discovered that she's now a mother of two little ones, a writer, photographer, and homeschool mother.  

She recently posted this review on Goodreads and gave me permission to share it with you.

May I just say I would LOVE to meet Donalyn Miller, hang out with her at a local coffee shop and enjoy letting a latte grow cold as we discuss our love of books and share recommendations back and forth. Her conversational tone in The Book Whisperer made me feel as though I was having a discussion with a best friend. Many of her memories of growing up with her nose in a book conjured up flashbacks of my own childhood and brought smiles to my face and an occasional laugh.

If all teachers were like Donalyn Miller, I would stop homeschooling my children today! She encourages other teachers and administrators to allow children to read--freely and a lot--in order to make them book readers for life and, as an added bonus, do better on required standardized testing. Why is her opinion not more widely adopted as truth when, clearly, her methods work? I have known for years the road to success for everyone--whether they are a "natural" reader or not--is paved with hardcovers, paperbacks and e-books. In order to understand life, learn about the world around us and gather facts and skills necessary to everyday life, we MUST read! And, as Miller says, reading shouldn't be a school thing; it should be a life thing. I lost my passion for reading in high school and college amidst all the required reading and class-shared novels. It took me several years to rediscover the joys of reading for pleasure and purpose and, often, both at once!

While I am an advocate for the great need of better training in grammar and punctuation in schools, I agree with Miller that simply reading good literature serves as invaluable examples. I would love to find out more about how she approaches teaching these things or if that falls into another teacher’s block.

I jotted down several wonderful quotes from this book. Here is my favorite: "Reading changes your life. Reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten, taking travelers around the world and through time. Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education. Through characters--the saints and sinners, real or imagined--reading shows you how to be a better human being." 18

I do have to include my opinion on the book as a whole. I thought Miller's content was outstanding and well-presented; however, I was disappointed to discover grammar and punctuation errors throughout the book. Also, the placement of some of the pull out materials and the references to them were confusing.

The Book Whisperer is a must-read for teachers, parents, school administrators and readers.

Joy grew up with a book in one hand and a pen in the other.
She presently lives in Slidell, La. 
Thank you Joy, for sharing this review.  The Book Whisperer reinforces my motto, "If you want to write, read!" 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

COMFORT: A Book Trailer that Will Leave You in Tears

I am so proud of Joyce Hostetter and her daughter Wendy Davis. 

Joyce, the author of BLUE and COMFORT, asked Wendy to create book trailers for both books. I shared the one for BLUE here. (If you haven't viewed it yet, do this first!) Now, watch the trailer posted below. Than mosey on over to Joyce's blog where you can enter to win this pair of books. 

Just don't forget the Kleenex.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Do You Know a North Carolina Poet?

Joy Acey, a prolific children's poet, recommended this mentoring opportunity for a North Carolina poet. If you know of a middle school, high school, college, or adult poet who might qualify, please forward this information. 

Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series

The 2011-2012 Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for Eastern North Carolina is Michael White, who teaches in the Creative Writing Program at UNC-Wilmington. Dr. White will mentor a student poet at the middle school, high school, and college level as well as an adult student poet not affiliated with a college or university. Guidelines and application form for the student poet positions may be found at:

Applications, due by November 1, 2011, should be sent to Coordinator of the GCDP Series for the Eastern Region: Dr. Rebecca Godwin, Department of English and Modern Languages, Barton College, Box 5000, Wilson, NC 27893.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In Which I Take My Own Advice

If you have taken a writing class with me, than you have heard me extol the virtues of the red pencil as your best friend. One of the themes of Teaching the Story is that revision happens on many levels. Writers must be ready to delete their "word treasures," rewrite  sentences, add or remove paragraphs, and sometimes condense pages and pages into one paragraph. There are times when a writer finishes a piece, only to realize that what she has completed isn't exactly what she wanted to say and must begin again. In addition, one change often necessitates changes in the entire work. 

I created the "Writing-Revising Cycle" to reflect this dynamic. Feel free to download this file and use it as your own reminder or use it with your students. 

As it turns out, I find myself in the middle of this writing/revising process with my own work-in-progress, Half-Truths. Having completed the first draft at the end of last year, I have been editing it chapter by chapter. Aware that some writers totally rewrite their work in the second draft, I was thinking I could avoid that step.

I was wrong.

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently attended the SCBWI-Carolinas conference. I was fortunate to have ten pages of my manuscript critiqued by Mary Cate Castellani. Her feedback was both encouraging and heart-stopping. She liked my writing and the voice of my two characters. But since the story's main characters are of different races, she thought it would be a more marketable work if I re-wrote it from the viewpoints of each character using alternating chapters.  

I had never thought of that. 

After feeling both shock and denial (I lost track of how many times I said to my writer friends, "I can't believe I have to start all over again!"), I began to re-plot my story.

Since I needed to "see" the entire story, I used white and striped note cards to show the alternating chapters. I laid it out on my dining room table. This is what I ended up with:

Having gone through the "Writing-Revising Cycle" many times, I'm now back at the beginning. But believe it or not, my dread has been replaced with excitement and energy. I agree with Ms. Castellani. I think my book will be far richer as a result.

Now, if you'll excuse me, Chapter 1 is waiting for me. 

Meanwhile, I'd love to hear from you. Where are you in the writing-revising cycle?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

8 Takeaways and 1 Giveaway

I thought I'd share some of what I learned this past weekend at the SCBWI-Carolinas conference. 

1. I'm not as close to having a finished manuscript as I'd thought (more on this in a future blog).

Mary Cate Castelanni
2. From Mary Cate Castellani, editor at Walker Books: A book's definition of either Middle Grade vs. Young Adult is determined by where it will be shelved in Barnes & Noble and the age of the protagonist (13 and up is YA). 

3. Also form Mary Cate: An editor may like your work, but if she can't sell it to her acquisitions committee, she'll pass on it. 

4. From several editors and agents: "Write fresh" is a nice way of saying "Get rid of cliches." 

5. From Lucy Cummins, art director at Simon and Schuster: "If you're going to write from two points of view, there has to be a reason for it." (more on this in the upcoming blog.) 

6. From Marietta Zacker, agent with Nancy Galtt Literary Agency: Writing and revising take time. It is like stirring a cup of hot milk until it reaches the right temperature. Be patient. 

Marietta Zacker

7. From John Bemis: Consider what will transform your character. Use this. 
John Bemis
8. From Kathleen Volcjak, the conference book seller: I have lots more to learn about the tapestry of North Carolina history.


Last but not least, I had my copy of Windblowne signed by Stephen Messer and the winner of my giveaway contest is....

Emily, please contact me at with your mailing address--and this book will be on the way to you!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Windblowne Giveaway!

Kites with personalities? Evil kites that hunt and maim and a beloved kite that guides, protects, and leads a boy to discover his talents and destiny?

wbcoversmallOnly a man who grew up flying kites in Maine and Arizona would conceive of a book in which kites fly between worlds and are harbingers of good and evil.

Windblowne incorporates the innocence and fantasies of every kite-flying child who stands on the crest of a hill and wonders where his kite might take him--but packs in worlds of meaning and nuance.

Upper elementary and middle school boys and girls will enjoy this fantasy about Oliver who lives in the world of Windblowne. In a community in which building and flying kites is prized, Oliver is a misfit.

Despite desperate attempts, his kites fail and his peers ridicule him. But Oliver has an uncanny ability to listen to the winds' moans, cries, and whispers that blow through the massive oaks populating his world. In addition, he possesses a keen sense of observation by which he creates internal navigational maps. These abilities remain unappreciated until the end of the book when he realizes the truth of his Great-uncle Gilbert's words, "Your talents lay elsewhere." Embracing his gifts enables him to accomplish far more than any of his peers.

Messer clearly layers the perennial struggle of good vs. evil into this story. When Oliver is unwittingly taken to another Windblowne world, he meets two characters which are counterparts to people he knows -himself and his great-uncle. If I were using this novel in a classroom, I would probe students to consider the nature of these anti-heroes/alter egos. Resultant discussions could focus on how good and evil are present in all characters--both fictional and real.

This summer, our Talking Story issue was on Multiple Intelligences/Different Learning Styles. As I worked on it I thought about the many different ways in which students learn and use their abilities. I recommend Windblowne as a book that will help students who grapple with embracing their own unique learning style and gifts.

Kites with personalities? You bet. It will be a long time before I forget a crimson kite which nods, trembles, and fights for truth and justice.

I guarantee. You'll never see a kite in the same way again.


I am giving away an autographed copy of Windblowne! Here's the deal:

1. You have to be between 10-16 years of age to win this. (Parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles-- pass this along!)

2. You have to become a new follower of my blog or share this on Facebook or Twitter. (Do more than one, and I'll enter your name twice!)

3. Leave me a comment and I'll enter your name. Drawing is on 9/27/11. Hope you win!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Author Illustrators

At our recent SCBWI critique meeting, aspiring picture book author, Dorothy Price mentioned she had read on Rebecca Sherman's Writer House profile and on Teresa Kietlinski's profile for Prospect Agency that each were looking for individuals who could both write and draw. 
I wondered if this was a new trend,  so I asked Harold Underdown and Tracey Adams, of Adams Literary to weigh in on the subject. Although they responded separately, their answers were in agreement.

Harold responded first. "I don't think this is new, though this isn't the first time I've heard this recently. Agents like to work with illustrators who can write--that way they don't have to split the royalties with an author. To say this is a new trend is like saying it's a new trend that agents are looking for potential bestsellers."

Tracey explained further. "It's not a new trend. One large factor is that an author/artist brings the same commission as a novel writer who earns a 10% royalty, whereas a picture book author and the artist share that 10%, so the commission is based on 5% instead of 10% - a huge difference. Another author/artist bonus is that we often wait YEARS for the publisher to find the perfect artist for our author's text. But at Adams Literary we know that it is a VERY rare gift indeed to be able to write AND illustrate! Most of our clients are one or the other. If someone we love can do both, it's like getting the cherry on top!"
When I commented that it's hard to stay on top of all the industry trends, Harold responded, "Then don't keep up with them! Writing your best work is what you ALWAYS have to do."

With that advice ringing in my ears, I turn back to my manuscript. 

How about you? Are you writing your best work?

Friday, September 9, 2011

BLUE's News

Several writers I know are reposting previous book reviews as a part of Random Acts of Publicity Week.  Since Joyce Hostetter's book trailer came out today celebrating the new cover of her book, I figure this was an opportune time to republish my review of BLUE and share Joyce's book trailer. 

This review is from July, 2007. In the four years since I met Joyce, we have co-taught at NCCAT, NWRESA, NCAIS, and NCRA; are co-publishing Talking Story, but best of all, have become good friends. The Lord blessed me tremendously when He brought her into my life!

My review is followed by the trailer, made by Joyce's talented daughter, Wendy Hostetter Davis. To top it all off, Joyce has a giveaway  on her blog that you don't want to miss!

In addition to meeting educators at the Mid-South conference, I also met Joyce Hostetter, the author of Blue (Calkins Creek Books, 2006). This award-winning novel is set in Hickory, NC in 1944 and the story is well-shown through the eyes and heart of 13-year-old Ann Fay Honeycutt. Whether she likes it or not, the end of World War II and the polio epidemic impact Ann's life and leaves her a young woman who has faced heartache and pain—in her family and in her own body. These changes, along with how she overcomes entrenched family prejudices against African Americans, make this novel an excellent read for students in grades 5-8. I also recommend this book to my fellow writers. I am writing historical fiction that takes place in Charlotte during the 50's and it is inspiring (and educational!) to read other books in the same genre. (Boyds Mill Press, 2006)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Or, if You Prefer Food & Travel Writing....

Yesterday I posted information about my writing classes. Here are other writing classes in the Charlotte, NC area focusing on book publishing, food writing and travel writing. Classes start Sept. 13 and 20, Oct. 11 and are led by author/teacher Jodi Helmer. 

Pre-registration is required for all classes; email to register.

Travel Writing: Write Your Way Around the World (four sessions)
When: 7 to 9 p.m. September 13, 20, 27 and October 4
Where: The Last Word, 230 East W.T. Harris Blvd., Suite B11 (Behind Walgreens on the corner of WT Harris and Hwy 29), Charlotte, NC Cost: $125
Travel writing is a job most people dream about – learn how to make that dream come true. This class will help new writers learn how to develop ideas, approach editors, write articles and (of course) travel the world for free. In-class exercises, homework and thoughtful critiques will help you hone your writing skills and get one step closer to getting published.
Coffee & Critiques/Questions (four sessions)
When: 10 a.m. to noon September 15, October 13, November 17 and December 15
Where: Charlotte area, exact location TBA
Cost: $150 for all four sessions; $50 for a single session (pre-registration required)
Spend the morning building the confidence, skills and information you need to achieve publishing success. In monthly sessions, I’ll critique queries, help brainstorm the best markets for your ideas, answer questions about the publishing process or provide an old fashioned kick in the pants to help you reach your goals. These sessions are designed for those with some publishing experience/knowledge.
Book Publishing: Go from Idea to Author (four sessions)
When: 10 a.m. to noon September 20, 27, October 4, 11
Where: The Warehouse Performing Arts Center, 9216-A Westmoreland Rd., Cornelius, NC
Cost: $125
You’ve dreamed of writing a book but have no idea how turn your idea into a published book available on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. During this four-week class, you’ll learn how to tailor a book idea so it’s irresistible to agents and publishers, craft a successful book proposal and determine whether to work with an agent (and how to find one). The class will also cover the basics of self-publishing and book marketing.
Food Writing: Eat Your Words (three sessions)
When: 7 to 9 p.m. October 11, 18 and 25
Where: The Last Word, 230 East W.T. Harris Blvd., Suite B11 (Behind Walgreens on the corner of WT Harris and Hwy 29), Charlotte, NC
Cost: $95
Food nurtures and sustains us; it also serves as the backdrop for some of our favorite memories. Learn how to turn your love of food into published articles and essays. Whether you want to write a memoir based on family recipes, cover trends in urban agriculture or become a successful restaurant reviewer and recipe developer, this class will provide the ingredients you need to succeed.

About the instructor:

Professional writer Jodi Helmer is the author of three books, including Moon Handbooks' guide to Charlotte, as well as hundreds of magazine articles for publications includingWomen's HealthShapeFamily Circle, and Backpacker
When she's not writing, Jodi loves to share her knowledge of the writing business with others, through classes and one-on-one coaching. Students who have taken Jodi's classes have been published in regional and national magazines and books, including Natural HealthEatingWell,  and Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Learn more at

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