The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Friday, December 2, 2016

Writing Winners, the Best Brownies, and Back-of-the-Book Blurb Friday #37

      I have a class full of winners... in so many ways.

      Seventeen out of my twenty-two students made their 5,000-word goal on Wednesday. They were incredibly proud. The other five have until Monday (I gave everybody some extra time) to finish up.

      I asked, "How many thought I was crazy when I said you had a 5,000-word goal?" (Everyone raised their hands.) "How many thought it was impossible?" (Again, they all raised their hands.) "How many are so proud of what you've done?" (A sea of hands went up.)

      Next week is the fun. We'll print up the stories and put them into several binders, so the kids can read their peers' work...

      While I'm writing this, I'm letting some brownies cool. Tomorrow after school is a work get-together, and these brownies are always a hit... and so easy.

  • 4 giant milk chocolate candy bars (I use Choceur brand ones from Aldi's. They're each 5.29 oz.
  • 1 family-size brownie mix (a mix that fills a 9 x 13 pan)
Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper. Spray non-stick spray on it. Line the bottom of the pan with the chocolate bars (You might have to cut some of them up to make sure the whole bottom is covered. No bare bottoms allowed!) Make the brownie mix as directed, then pour it over the candy bars. Bake according to the mix. Cut into small squares (they're rich) and watch them disappear.

And now onto book blurb business...
  • Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your book.
  • You choose the genre. A horror novel--Cujo the Sequel? A doggone sweet tale? You pick.
  • Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Lisa Ricard Claro was the original creator of this project  and this past summer, her third novel Love to Win debuted. Now she's working on her fourth novel. Check out her website. 
  • Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post. 
  • Link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is easy. You don't have to buy him a drink or anything. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is.
  • Check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.
  • And have fun with it. Think of it as a way to take a break from the truly important writing you do... like a bit of a warm-up.

      Here is the book cover and my blurb:





Bartimer the Baller

Bartimer loves his balls.
Tennis balls. Rubber balls. Basketballs that bounced into his yard, much to the dismay of the kids next door… Bartimer loves them all.
Unfortunately, his obsession gets him into a world of trouble with his owners. He punctured an exercise balance ball in his eagerness to embrace all things round. He decimated the baby’s nasal syringe.
They’re tired of the dog constantly pawing at them when he’s ready to play. Ping pong balls. Softballs. Golf balls. None of them are safe with Bartimer around. His family’s so fed up, they decide to sell him.
But then a company contacts the family. They want Bartimer to be their spokesperson. They want his drooly mug splashed all over the city.
What is the product this mutt might be hawking? And will his family keep this future commercial star for their very own? (144 words)



And for those who like to work ahead, here's the photo for next week:




Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Retreat into Writing

        A couple of weeks ago I went on a writing retreat. Actually, I led a writing retreat, which made me a bit nervous. You see, I've gone to some exceptional writing retreats, so I know what they look like when they're good... and I wanted this one to be good, too.

        After getting some feedback, I'm already planning the next one. In the meantime, I'll share what we did, what worked and what didn't:




  • Pick a place that has some comfy seating. Writers sit a lot. Sometimes they want to sit at a table/desk and write. Other times, they need to gather together in a small group and chat about their writing. Our meeting area didn't have very comfortable seating--this was the best there was. Everything else about this place was perfect, so I guess I'll be driving a Winnebago full of overstuffed chairs to the next retreat...


  • Have some writer "stuff" for everyone to read... if they're interested. I heard about this article about rejection from Claudia. It's a doozy. I also included some calls for submissions for short stories, flash fiction, and educational journals.


  • Include some fun goodies. In each bag there was: a bottle of water ('cause if you drink a lot, you have to pee a lot, which means you're taking short, frequent breaks from your writing--good for your bones and good for your creative juices), a small notebook, some chocolate (do I need to explain the rationale for that?), some nuts ('cause writing is tough work and protein always comes in handy) and other things.


  • Have a scheduled "social hour" in the evening where everyone can munch and hydrate and let loose--a time when writers can talk about anything. Writing can be stressful. Taking a break to bond and chat with fellow writers is beneficial. (And if you're wondering about those empty wine bottles in the background, umm... I think the previous group left those behind.)
          Yeah, that's what happened.

  • Find out--ahead of time--what everyone wants in regards to the schedule. I found out after the retreat was over that although 8 of the 10 writers lovedlovedloved the wide-open schedule, 2 of them would have appreciated some activities/prompts. Next time, I'll set up a some optional writing exercises--away from the rest of the group--so writers can get some writerly nudges, if that's what they want/need.
How about you? Have you been to a writing retreat? If so, what worked for you and what didn't?

Friday, November 25, 2016

NoNoNaNo... Radar... and Back-of-the-Book-Blurb #36


          Well, there's five more days left in November, and my NaNoWriMo is a few words over 20,000. I'm not sure how many words I have left to get down on paper--not 30,000, because it's a children's book, and I have more than half of the story told--but I don't imagine I'll have the first draft done by November 30th.

          However, I have 20,000 more words down than if I had not done NaNoWriMo. The challenge, along with my students and some writer friends nudging me, has gotten me this far.

          Thanks.

          Today, I'll be at Half-Price Books in University City all day. From 9-1 there will be another Love a Golden dog. From 1 on (til closing) there will be the bookstore's unofficial mascot:

                            
Radar, begging for money and attention

And now onto book blurb business...
  • Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your book.
  • You choose the genre. A frothy romance? (Ugh.) A tall tale? A coffee table book on statues? You choose the genre.
  • Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Lisa Ricard Claro was the original creator of this project  and this past summer, her third novel Love to Win debuted. Now she's working on her fourth novel. Check out her website. She's full of upbeat news, helpful tips, and she even has an editing company for those writers who need to get their manuscript into shape.
  • Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post. 
  • Link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is easy. You don't have to buy him a drink or anything. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is.
  • Check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.
  • And have fun with it. Think of it as a way to take a break from the truly important writing you do... like a bit of a warm-up.

      Here is the book cover and my blurb:


The Battle Against Bad Manners

Veronica Barrister-Monstrosity was an ordinary woman once. She was tolerant. She overlooked things. She made excuses for the rudeness of others.
But when a man took a last drag off a cigarette, blew out the smoke and then tossed the butt right in front of the Target door, Veronica snapped.
Picking up the disgusting bit of trash, she followed the butt-dropper up and down the aisles and when no one else was in the vicinity, she hissed, “You dropped something outside,” and mashed it into his face.
From then on, she was known as Super BM. She took care of the excrement of society in a no-nonsense manner. People who felt entitled to several parking spots--she left nasty notes. People who wouldn’t return her greeting? Super BM would unleash a tirade.
All that came to an end with an encounter with one man… one single, solitary man. (147 words)


And for those folks who'd like to work ahead, instead of seat-of-the-pantsers like I am, here is the photo for next week:





Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Nathan? Emily? Who's Next?

      It's strange days for me lately, writer-wise.

      This was my MOD when it came to bigger projects (AKA manuscripts):

  • Write something that spoke to me/healed me
       First it was a "bridge" book about a stray dog. I still haven't given up on that one... But it's gathering dust. Next was a novel that's gone through several transformations. I have a fearless beta reader wading through it. And the third one, it's... well, I'll get to it in a moment.
  • Convince myself that it wasn't marketable/appealing. For the first one, I might be right. The judges haven't spoken yet on the second one. And this third one is not finished.
  • Channel the character. I was a stray, desperate for love. I was a woman bent on revenge and desperate to find peace (which was easy to channel, 'cause that was me). Channeling a young boy in 1921, which seems the most satisfying and is coming the easiest.  
      In the past, I've had mostly just myself pushing the work forward when it comes to the bigger projects. My writing critique groups were encouraging, and offered to read the middle project/manuscript, but I'm not sure it's anything more than a hot mess, so I'm keeping the horrified people ("OMG, do you believe this drivel?") to a minimum.

     These days, however, I have 22 students who are nosey and curious and over-the-shoulder sneak-readers. Actually, they don't even try to be stealthy about it. They're bold, these kids.

        Nathan--one of my students--asks on a regular basis--"What's your word count?"  He's kept me informed on what's going on with his NaNo project.

        Emily is another student of mine. Yesterday, she had finished with her 5,000+ word story, and was busy inhaling yet another book. Sitting next to me, her eyes strayed from the book she was reading off my monitor.  No quick glances. Nothing sneaky. She was reading my NaNo (which is soooo far behind) and unfortunately, it was smack in the middle of the story.

      Her eyes--amazingly big and expressive--spoke volumes. She was into the story. She was hooked.

       Without taking the time to think too hard on it, I printed up a copy, and tossed half of it to her. "Is this for me?" she asked. I told her she needs to keep it at school, and when she's finished with that section, she can have the next section... and hopefully by then, I will have the final third written, at least in its first draft version. (But probably not... Emily is a rapid reader and I'm wading through some tough-to-find research right now.)

       It makes sense. I'm writing this book for students in the 5th or 6th grade, and Emily's a sixth grader...

         Last night I cooked at the Ronald McDonald House. (If you have one in your area, consider making a meal for the families. It's lots of fun.) A writing friend, Tracy (who made a scrumptious veggie lasagna), gave me an ARC (advance reading copy) she got from the NCTE conference (National Council of Teachers of English). And wonder of wonders, it's a YA novel about the same event I'm writing about. (However, it's a story told from a totally different perspective, so I'm going to wait until my first draft is finished before I treat myself to it. It's called Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham.) 

       Yes, Cathy Hall--Tracy got lots of free books and she even thought of me! 

       So Nathan, Emily, my other 19 students, Shay, Tracy... and many more--I'm getting a lot of help/prodding/encouragement.



       And for that, I'm grateful.

      What are you most grateful for? Rested minds want to know...


    

Friday, November 18, 2016

Writerly Camaraderie, Back-of-the-Book Blurb # 35 and the True Story of Hansie


         Last night I was part of an authors' event. There were 80 or so writers there, each one eager to talk about (and sell) their books.
          I got to see and chat with her Mary Horner. Mary's one of the newest writers at WOW. Check out the site--if you haven't already--and be on the look-out for Mary's posts. They're always thought-provoking and helpful.
          I got to ride and chat with Linda O'Connell. Linda is a magnet for the quirky/the strange/the "characters"... and last night was no exception. However, she's always able to make the most of any situation and see the positive in a heap of not-so-positive. And I got the chance to hang out with Donna Volkenannt and Pat Wahler. While we chatted, I got some tidbits about some publishers, heard about an book event and got rejuvenated by hearing what they were working on.

       And now onto back-of-the-book blurb fun:


  • Look at the photo below. That is the cover of your book.
  • You choose the genre. A frothy romance? (Ugh.) A tall tale? A coffee table book on statues? You choose the genre.
  • Write an enticing blurb--150 words or less. (The title doesn't count in the word count.) Lisa Ricard Claro was the original creator of this project  and this past summer, her third novel Love to Win debuted. Now she's working on her fourth novel. Check out her website. She's always upbeat and always helpful.
  • Include your blurb in a blog post. Include a link to this post. 
  • Link your post to Mr. Linky. Mr. Linky is easy. You don't have to buy him a drink or anything. If you've never done it, you'll be impressed with how simple he is.
  • Check out the other blurb(s). It's interesting to see the different directions writers take, given the same photo.
  • And have fun with it. Think of it as a way to take a break from the truly important writing you do... like a bit of a warm-up.

      Here is the book cover and my blurb (as silly as it is):





The Last Bite of Gunter


When Gunter was a puppy, his family put up with his pee puddles.His mine-fields of poo piles. His chewing. His constant yapping.
But once the pup passed by his second birthday, his family said, “Enough is enough!” When they’d step into a pond of urine or a fecal pile of not-fun, they’d shout. Seeing another chair leg being whittled away by Gunter’s teeth made them scream.
Gunter’s family had enough of Gunter. They’d tried dog trainers, they’d gotten him on Ceasar Milan’s show and even the Dog Whisperer had to admit, “This is my first failure.”
Finally, the family decided the “scared straight” method. They nestled Gunter into a hoagie bun… and told him, “If you don’t straighten up, you’re going to be tonight’s entree.”
Will Gunter learn some house manners? Or is he destined to go from a bad dog to a hot dog? (146 words)


The true story of Hansie: The above photo took me back to when I was 10 or 11. My best friend was Gwen McKenna. Her family had a dachshund named Hansie. Hansie was quite an unusual dog. He once came back from wandering the neighborhood with a perfectly-baked turkey leg in his mouth. Did someone feel sorry for him and give it to him? We never knew.
One Halloween, Gwen and I dressed Hansie up as a hot dog. We put him between the top and bottom of a loaf of French bread. (I think we gently tied them onto him.) Hansie was great sport. When Gwen and I were younger, we'd put girly doll clothes on him and walk him around in a stroller. Being a hot dog was --I imagine--much less embarrassing for poor Hans...

And for those writers who like to think ahead, here's the photo for next week:


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

WOW! Triple UhOh! and Uh Huh

         First, the great news. (Just like good critique, I'll sandwich something not-so-good between a couple of positives.)

         I've been accepted as one of the new WOW writers over at The Muffin. The process was grueling. I was sent out into the desert for five days, survived on my own urine and the few desert rats I could catch, and--the final challenge--then I had to write about the experience.

        I'll be joining local authors Margo Dill and Sue Bradford Edwards, along with other bloggers around the country. I'm quite excited.

         And now for the not-great-stuff, the part I'm calling Uh Oh to the Third Power

1) I usually post on Tuesdays but I left for work at 6 yesterday morning and didn't get home until 10 last night. It wasn't possible to post yesterday. 

2) Why was it such a long day yesterday? I had a meeting after school, then physical therapy (for my torn meniscus... have I whined lately?), and then my school had a town meeting (because there is a plan to close at the end of the school year). The meeting was held at the church, and was heated. The pews were full and the people were full of passion... and hurt.

3) My NaNo is almost at 13,776 (but who's counting) and it should be 26,000 and some change. That means I'm only half a loser. Actually, I'm feeling good about what I'm writing, I shared it at a writing retreat I went to this weekend (and they gave me some constructive suggestions), and I'm shuffling forward at a slow pace.

          But at least I'm moving forward. So I feel like a writing winner.

         And will I be at the author event tomorrow evening at the Spencer Road Library? Uh huh. It's from 6-8, and if you come, you can mingle with over a hundred local authors.

         And while I'm thinking about how worn out I am right now, I'm planning my weekend. (I have lots of papers to grade.) What are your plans this weekend? Envious minds want to know...