Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Metaphors, Life Changes, and of course, a Giveaway!

Congratulations to Gretchen Griffith who won the audio CD of The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill on last week's blog.

After twenty-eight years, next week my husband Creighton and I will be loading a truck and moving to the eastern part of North Carolina to be closer to children and grandchildren.  This post is full of  nostalgia, memories, and family. But before it ends, I promise a literary connection too. 

6764 Benning Wood Drive
In this home we celebrated birthdays,
Lindsey Baldwin Kasten
circa 1987

Lisa Baldwin Edgar
circa 1995

And had our family picture taken on the porch.

Circa 1992

We welcomed son's-in-laws, grand-dogs,
Circa 2005
and grandchildren.
Circa 2009
With Ebby and Caitlin
We licked homemade strawberry jam from a century-old pot,
Margaret & Henry Federlin
Circa 2005

And baked cookies,
Lisa and Grandma Federlin
Rachel Federlin, 2012
With my sister,
Barbara Federlin, 2012
more than a few times.

We played poker,

and prayed with friends.
With Beth Schulz, circa 1990.

Our home hosted a few writing retreats,
With Donna Earnhardt, Rebecca Petruck, & Joyce Hostetter
and was the construction site for new dental office cabinets.
"During" with
Robert Toupal

Several friends--even those who aren't writers--have waxed poetic about our move.  "You're just ending one chapter and starting a new one." 

And of course, they're right. 

But I'm not the only one who is facing changes.

One of my closest writing buddies, Linda Phillips, is celebrating a new chapter in her life. 
Working on CRAZY at a
Baldwin Writing Retreat

She is on her first book tour in Oregon, celebrating the debut of her YA novel-in-verse, CRAZY.
Linda recently celebrated her launch
at the Oregon Institute of Technology
Linda and I have been friends ever since Fran Davis, a former Regional Advisor of SCBWI-Carolinas, told us that we would work well together as co-chairs of the conference in Charlotte. 

Fifteen years later, I'm celebrating the new chapters in each of our lives by giving away a copy of CRAZY.

There you have it. Book Metaphors, Life Changes. And a Giveaway!
Faced any life changes recently or in the past? Leave me a comment by 8 AM on October 30 and tell me about it. Share this in your social media of choice and I'll enter your name twice. Don't forget to tell me what you did and leave your email address if I don't have it. 


Monday, October 20, 2014

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill AND a Giveaway!

Congratulations to Ann Eisenstein, a fellow SCBWI-Carolinas writers, who won an autographed copy of Sheri Levy's novel, Seven Days to Goodbye. Thanks to all of you who entered. Here is another book to try and win!

At a recent SCBWI-Carolinas conference, I took an informative workshop with Emma Dryden on world building. First, Emma instructed us to write three tenets that govern the fictional world and/or society in which our character lives. Second, she asked us to write three tenets that govern our protagonist's personal world. 

As I considered how I would review the most recent book I listened to, The Spy Catchers of Maple HillI thought how the historical setting played such an integral role in this story.  Applying what I learned in Emma Dryden's workshop, here are some of the tenets which govern the protagonist's, Hazel Kaplantsy, world: 

First of all, the bigger world in which Hazel lives in is governed by the facts that:

1. In 1954, Communism is a very real threat. 
2. Fall out shelters and air raid drills are necessary.
3. Senator McCarthy has a right to search for spies in Hazel's small New England town of Maple Hill.

Second, these three tenets govern her personal world:

1. Maple Hill is a sleepy, boring town that Hazel will leave as soon she grows up.
2. It's normal to grow up living and playing in a cemetery.
3. Hazel's best friend has just moved away and most probably her next best friend will leave her too.
These tenets are the framework upon which Megan Blakemore has built Hazel's dream of showing the world that she is as good a detective as Nancy Drew.  But while Hazel is always ready to find evidence that supports her pre-formed conclusions, her new friend Samuel is the voice of reason suggesting that she might not always correctly interpret the facts. 

The backdrop of the McCarthy era forms a perfect canvas for this upper elementary book for girls. When Hazel's favorite librarian warns her that it is a dangerous thing when a "whisper becomes a rumor and a rumor becomes a fact" she is speaking truth not only about the McCarthy investigation at a local factory, but also to Hazel herself. Hazel's moment of truth comes when she realizes that her erroneous accusations are just as hurtful as the smashed window in her favorite Chinese restaurant. 

For more information on deep world building, check out Emma Dryden's blog. As a bonus, here are two worksheets on world building from Brenda Windberg of Free Expressions Seminars.

I'm giving away a copy of the audio CD of this entertaining and informative book. To enter, please leave me a comment before 9 AM on Friday, October 24. If you want a second chance, become a new follower or share this on your social media of choice and let me know what you did. Be sure I have your email address too!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Seven Days to Goodbye--And a Giveaway!

What do you get when you mix together a week at Edisto Island with your best friend, connecting to guys for the first time in your life, meeting a young autistic boy who falls in love with your service dog, and the thrill of protecting a loggerhead turtle's nest? You get the ingredients for Sheri Levy's debut novel, Seven Days to Goodbye

Faithful blog readers will remember that I blogged about Sheri's path to publication last spring. Today I'm pleased to review this book for middle school girls and offer it as a giveaway.

Trina, the 13-year-old protagonist has been training her service dog, Sydney, for a year. Her beach vacation doubles as a fun time introducing her Australian Shepherd to the ocean but it is bittersweet; Trina knows it will end by returning him to his kennel for his final training. This heart-tug theme is woven through out the book as Trina wrestles with knowing that her job is over and wondering if she could ever take on training another puppy.

In this sweet coming of age story readers will sympathize with Trina as she tries to figure out how to gain more independence from her parents; how to relate to a best friend who is quickly smitten by Peyton, a guy they meet in the beach; and how to talk to Chase, Peyton's brother--who just might be interested in her.

For me, one of the most touching parts of this book is Trina's interaction with Logan, Chase and Peyton's autistic seven-year-old brother. Together Trina and Sydney are able to relate to Logan in such a way that helps him begin to communicate better. Here is an excerpt from their first meeting on the beach:
I called to Logan.
He did a one-sided skip toward me.
"Do you want to practice calling Sydney?"
He nodded and his eyes rose for a moment.
"Say, 'Sydney…Come.'"
Logan clapped and bounced.
I patted his shoulder and said, "Stand. Don't move. Then Sydney can listen."
After a couple more hops, his hands grabbed his shorts and squeezed. He gulped short breaths of air and then shouted, "Syd-ney." He started to clap and then put his hands back on his shorts and said, "Come."
Sydney raced to Logan.
I said, "Good boy, Sydney."
Logan's eyes caught mine before he bowed his head.
I finished saying, "Logan, you did great."
Logan held a treat in front of Syd's face. "Good doggie. Good Syd-ney."
I tingled inside. This was a perfect example of Sydney's talent. I stretched taller, seeing the happiness in Logan's face. "Can I hug you, Logan?" (p.69)
Sheri's background in teaching children with special needs as well as her own experience with rescue dogs is infused into this book. If you are interested in receiving a gently read autographed copy, including an opportunity to download a free e-book version, please leave me a comment by 8 PM on October 16th. If I don't have your contact information, make sure you leave that too. U.S. addresses only. 





Monday, October 6, 2014

Gifts from John Bemis- Part III And a GIVEAWAY!

In the final post of this series, John Claude Bemis shares the last five points from his talk at the Table Rock Writers retreat on “What Creative People Can Learn from Observing Children. Directions for how to win an autographed copy of The Prince Who Fell From the Sky follow this post. If you missed the first five points, you can find them here.
Sixth, from the moment a baby starts exploring his world, his job is to learn. Kids’ daily “work” is going to school. This implies a position of humility as they listen to their teachers impart knowledge, facts, and wisdom. 
"I know there's a way these scissors
are supposed to work!"
Libbie Kasten, 18 months

The same goes for writers. No matter how knowledgeable you think you are about the craft, there’s always more to learn. Be a humble, patient, attentive student as you continue to grow your craft.
Seventh, kids operate from a gut-level. Sometimes the information daily flooding our brains from the news, Internet, and media can impede our decision making process. Whereas it might take us awhile to gather our thoughts, children often sit down at a blank piece of paper and begin to draw or create immediately. They listen to their intuition
"A masterpiece!"
Ebby Clark when she was 4
Everyone has an opinion about art. Sometimes writers get stuck trying to figure out if their idea is worthwhile or not. John reminded us that, “if you trust your instincts, you can create more purely.”

There is a time to critically evaluate your work, to tweak and re-evaluate it. It’s called revision. But, when you’re creating a new work, “shoot from the hip. Operate from your gut. Don’t over think—create from your intuitive imaginative place!”

Eighth, kids laugh. In fact, they laugh more than 300 times a day whereas adults laugh less than 20 times. Laughter decreases stress hormones, improves blood glucose levels, improves blood pressure, circulation, and oxygen intake, and releases endorphins. Think about laughter as a way to increase your productivity.
Mason & Libbie
laughing it up!
For children, laughter is part of their play.  Adults should make more time to visit with friends and laugh, relax, and have fun. This gets your right brain working, rather than the logical left side. John suggested that, “If you’ve hit that creative wall and can’t get back to a productive place, call up a funny friend, and find a way to laugh.  It’ll relax you and you’ll be surprised how quickly a solution to your problem pops out ‘Eureka!’”

Ninth, kids operate in the moment. Think about a child who is intensely interested in a bug on a sidewalk. That child is being mindful. “The act of being mindful is a place where you are sharply in tuned to the present moment,” John said.  Toddlers don’t think about consequences when they scribble on the wall.  But they are enjoying the moment!
"Isn't this what you're supposed to do with ink pads?"
Mason, 3-years-old
As writers, thinking too much about the future stifles our actions in the present.  For example, if you’re constantly worrying about whether your current story will get picked up by a publisher or how reviewers will respond to it, you can get into a “very negative head space.” John suggested that writers be “present to the journey, not the destination,” focusing on each word, page, and scene.  

Tenth, kids embrace and enjoy the absurd. They are delighted by James flying away in a giant peach with a crew of insects and Alice’s wacky adventures in Wonderland. Their brains don’t say, “That could never happen,” instead they love being surprised by the unexpected.

“When we hear something that strikes our brain as ‘wrong’ or ‘off’ or ‘weird’, we start to reassess our assumptions,” John noted. “A cognitive shift occurs as we try to make sense of the absurdity.” He advised writers to embrace the absurd, the strange, AND the weird, in order to get your brain in a more creative place.

In conclusion John encouraged all writers to take a few tips from the most creative people on the planet – kids! In the process, “you’ll be productive and make new discoveries about yourself and your craft.”
I appreciate John allowing me to use the material from his talk on my blog. I hope you'll visit his website and check out all of his marvelous books!
If you would like to receive an autographed copy of this book, please leave me a comment along with your contact information. (Sorry! United States only.) Drawing will be held after 8PM on Thursday, October 9. 

THE NIGHT WAR: A MG Historical Novel Review

  By now you should have received an email from my new website about my review of THE NIGHT WAR by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. (It'll com...