Thursday, December 18, 2014

Jumpstart Your Writing in 2015 by Caroline Starr Rose

I have nothing to share about writing that is earth-shattering. What you’ll read here you probably already know. But like it is with all important things in our lives, it doesn’t hurt to hear certain things more than once. Here goes:

Read widely
Often writers are told to be well-versed in their genre. This is excellent advice, but reading shouldn’t end there. Picking up books in genres other than your own brings freshness to your writing and strengthens what you ultimately create. This nourishes you as a reader, too.

Study craft
None of us ever arrives. Our writing will improve if we continue to read craft blogs and books and take advantage of classes, critique groups, or conferences. Here are a few books I’ve read recently, am working on now, or plan to pick up this next year:

The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction -- James Alexander Thom
Writing the Breakout Novel -- Donald Mass
Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them -- Francine Prose
Writing Irresistible Kidlit -- Mary Kole

Take time away from writing
Make sure you are doing things outside of writing. Now that I write full-time, it’s very easy to stay detached from the rest of the world. Make an effort to engage your surroundings, whether that means tuning in to nature as you walk the dog or making a point to get involved in a new activity.

Play with words
I find first drafts terrifying. One way I ease in is to tell myself I’m simply experimenting with language. Give yourself permission to approach writing playfully, whether you’re working on a “real” piece or simply collecting words that pique your interest. Enjoy the rhythm of words, poke at meaning, stretch old metaphors into something new. Your writing will benefit from it.

Avoid the comparison game
This is probably one of the hardest bits of advice to follow but one of the most beneficial to your writerly well-being. There are so many ways to get sucked into comparing, from measuring the number of blog followers you have against a friend’s to tracking the amount of time it took others to secure agents. It’s easy to think once you’ve “arrived” with a book deal, these worries fall away, but they don’t: there will be friends with bigger deals, with more push from their publishers, or better reviews and general buzz. Envy finds us at every level.

Choose to see your writing journey as yours alone. It’s not something anyone can do for you; there’s no way your experience will mirror another’s. Just like we all have something unique to contribute to the literary world, we all will go through different struggles and triumphs.

The only thing you will get out of the comparison game is disappointment.

And to negate everything I’ve said earlier...give yourself permission
In a world where instant information is available at all times and opinions are everywhere, you’re bound to come across conflicting advice on how to draft, edit, revise, submit -- do anything in relation to writing. For some of us, this becomes paralyzing; even if your approach works, you might worry that you’re not doing things right.

Give yourself permission to write in a way that works for you, whether that means writing daily or just on the weekends, editing as you go or waiting until your first draft is done. Though some advice seems to dictate otherwise, there’s no right way to write. Give yourself permission to alter the way you write if what you’re doing now isn’t working. Your patterns, needs, and abilities could change from manuscript to manuscript. Or they might not. And that’s okay.

Want to write to the market? Go for it. Want to try a story that can’t be categorized? Give it a try. You have permission to do as you wish with your writing. While there is no promise of success with this approach, there’s tremendous liberation in letting go of the “rules” we’ve absorbed consciously and subconsciously.

You’ve got a new year ahead of you. How will this affect your writing?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pup and Pokey: Seth Kantner’s newest book (by Paul Greci)

I read and totally enjoyed the first two of Alaskan author Seth Kanter’s books: Ordinary Wolves (2005 Milkweed Press), and Shopping for Porcupine (2008 Milkweed Press). So, when Seth came out with another book this year, I couldn’t resist; I bought it and read it, and loved it!

Pup and Pokey is Kantner's first book for young readers.

Cover copy:

A boisterous wolf pup and an awkward young porcupine are unlikely allies in this tale of friendship set on Alaska's tundra. The two grow up as neighbors, but only through helping each other escape from a trapper do they learn what it means truly to be friends.

Gently inspired by the fable of "The Lion and the Mouse," "Pup and Pokey” teaches young readers about living in the wilderness and the sometimes unexpected connections that arise in our lives. "Pup and Pokey" is the first children's book from acclaimed Alaska author Seth Kantner. With Kantner's storytelling and Beth Hill's original illustrations, "Pup and Pokey "is a touching outdoor adventure story.

ISBN-10: 1602232415
ISBN-13: 9781602232419
Published: University of Alaska Press, 09/01/2014
Pages: 48
Language: English

Recommended Reading Level Minimum Age: 4
Maximum Age: 8
Minimum Grade Level: P
Maximum Grade Level: 3rd Grade

Pup and Pokey would make a great read aloud book in both school and home settings as well as being good for independent reading. Even though the publisher-recommended reading- (ages 4 to 8) and grade-levels (up to 3rd) are on the young side I think this book would hold the interest and generate lively discussion with older readers as well.

A little bit more about Seth (taken from his website):

He's worked as a fisherman, trapper, gardener, mechanic, igloo builder and adjunct professor. His writings and photographs have appeared in Outside, Alaska Geographic, the New York Times, Prairie Schooner, and in other magazines, literary journals and anthologies. He's a former columnist for the Anchorage Daily News and presently writes a bi-monthly dispatch on climate change in the Arctic for Orion magazine. He was born and raised in northern Alaska and his art reflects his love for this land and the animals who live on it, and his belief in the importance of wildness left wild.

Personally, I heard Seth speak at a conference several years ago and then afterwards spoke to him for a few minutes about writing and publishing. He’s a genuine person with a great love for wild places, which totally shines through his fiction and nonfiction. I’ll probably read every book he comes out with in the years to come.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Stocking Must for Young MG Readers by Shannon O'Donnell

The Unicorns Secret Series
by Kathleen Duey

Moonsilver (Ready-For-Chapters) Moonsilver

Heart Trilby has no family. She lives a hard and lonely life in the dusty village of Ash Grove -- until she finds a scarred, skinny mare in the forest. Against the wishes of her guardian, mean-spirited Simon Pratt, Heart adopts the mare and names her Avamir. Heart is thrilled when she realizes Avamir is in foal. But when the colt is born weak and disfigured, Simon decides to sell Heart's beloved horses to be slaughtered by the town's soapmaker. Can Heart find a way to protect them -- and the only love she has ever known?

I have shared this series with each of my three children, and each of them loved it. Even though it is probably more girl than boy book, there is a strong boy character that my sons loved. The first time I read these books was when my almost-18-year-old was only six. We bought the first three at a school book fair and read them aloud together. 

While it is marketed as a "Ready-for-Chapters" title, the vocabulary is often more challenging than that, and I recommend it as a wonderful series through at least 7th grade, especially for horse or unicorn loving readers.

There are eight titles in this series, and each of them is a true delight to read. They have even been given updated, redesigned covers, which are beautiful and more appealing to today's kids. If you have any young MG readers to buy for, I HIGHLY recommend this title!


The Mountains of the Moon (The Unicorn's Secret, #4)The Sunset Gates

Monday, December 15, 2014

Wrangling the Mayhem - Survey Time! by: Marissa Burt

Photo Credit: Kevin Wen from Wikimedia
So I'm a checklist kind of person. I'm the one with the super-pack of postits in her shopping cart. The one who wishes google calendar wasn't so efficient, because she misses picking out an annual planner. The one who always liked those pens with the different tabs that you could click on the end? You know, so you could write multi-colored titles and bullet-points?

And as we come to the close of 2014, my organizational impulse kicked in to gear, and I thought it might be nice to hear from some of you readers. If you'd be so kind, I'd love it if you clicked through the very short survey below so we can learn what kind of posts would you like to see more of or maybe even what you've found to be a bit of a yawn. And if you haven't yet introduced yourself, please jump in and leave a comment - maybe with your favorite middle-grade read from this year? Or, if that's too difficult a choice, perhaps your favorite office supply? ;)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

PM’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Books for Lovers of Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Paranormal

Chris here, with the fourth (and final) part of the Project Mayhem holiday shopping guide – Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Paranormal! Earlier posts covered Books for Fantasy Lovers (alternate worlds), HistoricalFiction, and Adventure Novels. Celebrate our Project Mayhem books – order a copy for your favorite middle grade reader, or for yourself! The links are to the author’s website or blog; if you want to buy, it might be faster to go to your favorite online retailer and paste in the name, or ask your local bookstore to order the book.

Eden Unger Bowditch’s The Young Inventors Guild series - The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black: In 1903, five truly brilliant young inventors, the children of the world’s most important scientists, went about their lives and their work as they always had. But all that changed the day the men in black arrived….

An amazing story about the wonders of science and the still greater wonders of friendship, The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Mysterious Men in Black, the first book of the Young Inventors Guild trilogy, is a truly original novel. Young readers will forever treasure Eden Unger Bowditch’s funny, inventive, poignant, and wonderfully fun fiction debut.

See also: Book 2, The Ravens of Solemano

James Mihaley’s You Can’t Have My Planet, But Take My Brother, Please: Thirteen-year-old Giles is the last person anyone would expect to save the planet. He’s not as charming as his little sister, and not as brainy as his goody-goody older brother. But when Giles witnesses an alien realtor showing Earth to possible new tenants, he knows he’d better do something. With the help of an alien “attorney” and the maddest scientist in middle-grade fiction, Giles just might save humans from eviction from Earth. Let’s hope so. The alternatives are . . . not so hospitable.

James Mihaley’s You Can’t Have My Planet is “Imaginative” (Publishers Weekly) and “Action-packed” (BCCB).

Kell Andrews’s Deadwood: Seventh-grader Martin Cruz hates his rotten new town, Lower Brynwood, but with his mom fighting a war in Afghanistan, he has no other choice but to live with his crazy aunt. Then he gets a message from a tree telling him it’s cursed—and so is he…. Now the Spirit Tree is dying, and the other trees in the park are toppling around it like dominoes. The town is plagued with unexplainable accidents and people begin to fade, drained of life. Martin must team up with a know-it-all soccer star, Hannah Vaughan, if he has any chance of breaking the curse. If they fail to save the Spirit Tree, it could mean the destruction of Lower Brynwood and a permanent case of bad luck.

Dianne K. Salerni’s The Eighth Day: When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it’s the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he’s really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people—like Jax and Riley—are Transitioners, able to live in all eight days, while others, including Evangeline, the elusive teenage girl who’s been hiding in the house next door, exist only on this special day. And there’s a reason Evangeline’s hiding. She is a descendant of the powerful wizard Merlin, and there is a group of people who wish to use her in order to destroy the normal seven-day world and all who live in it.

Chris Eboch’s Haunted Series
The Ghost on the Stairs: Jon doesn’t believe in ghosts. Not even if his mother does, and married a man who researches ghost sightings for his own TV show. Not even when they travel with the show, and visit “haunted” places. But his younger sister Tania claims she can see the ghosts. Deciding to believe her is just the first challenge. Softhearted Tania wants to help the ghosts. First the siblings have to find out what happened to keep each ghost trapped in this world. Then they have to help the ghosts move on—sometimes by letting them take over Tania’s body. All this while dealing with their overprotective mother, a stepfather who’d want to exploit Tania’s gift, and a changing assortment of human troublemakers.

Also in the series:
The Riverboat Phantom
The Knight in the Shadows
The Ghost Miner’s Treasure

Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include The Genie’s Gift; a middle eastern fantasy, The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. In The Ghost Miner’s Treasure, a brother and sister help a ghostly miner find his long-lost mine. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.