Friday, November 21, 2014

FORBIDDEN Book Launch

Friday, November 21 was the book launch at Bookworks in Albuquerque, NM for FORBIDDEN by my good friend Kimberley Griffiths Little.

The evening started with a belly dancing demonstration. Then everyone in the audience was invited to get up and learn some belly dancing moves.  It was quite a workout and now I know how to do snake arms!

Kimberley has been working on FORBIDDEN for ten years. I remember the story from its early beginnings when we frequently brainstormed plot ideas together. Although she has published many middle grade novels, this is her debut young adult novel, and it's part of a trilogy.

FORBIDDEN starts in 1759 B.C. with a belly dancing scene celebrating sixteen-year-old Jayden's betrothal to a young man named Horeb. It's not a good match because Horeb ends up having a violent disposition and a dark past. After a terrible tragedy, Jayden's family gets separated from the rest of their group and must make it to the Summer Lands on their own. That's when Jayden meets Kadesh, a dark and handsome stranger, and begins a forbidden romance.

Jayden's family is from the lineage of Ishmael. A little Bible history-- Ishmael was the first son of Abraham by his wife Sarah's handmaiden, Hagar. Ishmael (like his half brother Isaac) had twelve sons who were later known as the Twelve Princes. Jayden and her family are descendants of one of these princes.

Dancing figures prominently throughout the book. Every important occasion and life event is marked with dancing in the Bedouin culture of this era. The book is similar in many ways to THE RED TENT. Kimberley did extensive research which included a trip to the Middle East. Below is a photo of some of the souvenirs she brought back.

Congratulations Kim!  I'm glad you're part of my writer's journey.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dia De Los Muertos


Today was Dia de los Muertos and these are my photos from the 22nd annual Marigold Parade in the South Valley of Albuquerque, NM. Marigolds are the flower of the dead and they were decorating everything from hub caps to dog collars.


Dia de los Muertos is a much bigger holiday than Halloween in places with a strong Hispanic influence like Albuquerque, NM. In Mexico it's a National Holiday.


The festivities start with All Hallowed's Eve on October 31, followed by All  Saints Day on November 1,  and All Souls Day (or Day of the Dead) on November 2. For interesting insights on the differences between the three dates check out this article.


The hood of the car below is decorated with an altar honoring dead family members.


The parade ended at the Westside Park and Community Center where vendors set up tents and food trucks lined the parking lot. There were two stages for performers and more altars inside the Community Center to honor the departed.


These type of experiences are part of what makes me glad I live in such an interesting and diverse city.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

SCBWI Handsprings 2014


On 10/25/14 the New Mexico Branch of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) held our 2014 conference in Albuquerque. Our faculty included the following: Julie Bliven - an editor with Charlesbridge, Patti Ann Harris - an art director for Scholastic, Liza Baker - an editor at Scholastic, and agent Sara Megibow.

Liza Baker and Patti Ann Harris recently moved from Little Brown to Scholastic. Although they spoke very fondly of their experiences at LB, they were excited to be working in a new department at Scholastic focusing on books for kids ages birth to 5. They have worked closely together for the last eighteen years and even referred to each other as Sony and Cher. They will oversee the Cartwheel and Orchard imprints and are looking for books with playful language that invites young children into the book experience.

Liza Baker did a breakout session on Perennial Themes in Board Books and Picture Books which included a discussion on holidays and bedtime stories among many other topics. She  strongly suggested taking ideas and combing them and gave the example of Jane Yolen's How Do Dinosaurs Say I'M MAD? Yolen artfully combines the theme of dinosaurs with the need to give kids a vehicle to talk about their emotions.

Julie Blivens conducted a breakout session on Voice in Middle Grade Fiction. She looked at several Newbery winners and the characteristics she saw in those books. In discussing how voice should illuminate a central theme, she suggested that authors ask themselves, "What is the idea I want readers to have linger with them after they close the book."

Other highlights of the conference was a Children's Book Trivia game on Friday night along with a book launch by local authors with new titles. Saturday included a First Pages Critique where the professional panel gave feedback on first pages submitted by several conference attendees.

Thanks to our Regional Advisory, Linda Tripp, our Assistant Regional Advisory, Caroline Starr Rose, and all of the volunteers who helped make this conference possible. It was another great Handsprings Event. I can't wait for the next one.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ALWAYS OCTOBER with Bruce Coville


left to right (Jen McVeity, Chris Eboch, Bruce Coville, Millie Little, Carolee Dean  (me), and Kimberley Griffiths Little)
October first I had dinner with Bruce Coville, Jen McVeity, and a host of SCBWI friends. It was the perfect start to October, one of my all time favorite months. We then followed Bruce to Bookworks on Rio Grande where he was promoting his new book, Always October, the world where monsters come from.  Bruce said he always wanted to write the perfect book to read on Halloween and now he believes he's done it.


"October is the month when magic stalks the world. The light comes in sideways," said Bruce. "October is the best of all possible months, when it seems anything can happen."

It's certainly a magical month in Albuquerque, New Mexico with our International Balloon Fiesta and the aroma of roasting green chiles in the air.



Bruce also talked about the newly released Amber Brown Horses Around and his friendship with the late Paula Danziger, creator of the Amber Brown series. He described how years ago they kept each other on track with their writing goals by calling and asking  if the other had finished their three pages for the day. Three pages was the goal. He was quick to say they didn't have to be good pages, they just had to exist.

Bruce was approached by the publisher, Putnam, to write the new Amber Brown book and decided the only way he could pull it off was if he worked on the project with Elizabeth Levy, another long time friend of Paula's.

Rather than reading from either of these books, Bruce performed a one-man reenactment from the first chapter of one of his earlier novels, The Monster's Ring. The audience at Bookworks was captivated by his storytelling skills. He said this is the way he opens all of his school visits.

Wow! What a treat for kids.


Bruce told us about a quote by author Paul O'Neill that he likes to keep on his wall for inspiration. "Always grab the reader by the throat in the first paragraph, sink your thumbs into his windpipe with the second paragraph, then shove him against the wall and hold him there until the tag line."

Bruce ended the evening with a list of weird writing tips.

1.  Marry rich - For most of us, including Bruce, it was already too late for that tip, but he received the advice from Natalie Babbitt, author of Tuck Everlasting, so he thought it was worth sharing.
2.  Take acting lessons - The actor's tools are the writer's tools.  An actor's job is to enter a character and that is also the writer's job. Acting lessons are part of the reason Bruce is such a great storyteller.
3.  Take singing lessons- This trains you to use your voice properly so you don't strain it.
4.  Don't take yourself too seriously.  Take the art seriously, but not yourself.
5.  Scare yourself - You should always be working on the edge. If you get too comfortable doing what you're doing, you can become artistically dead.  No jump, no wings!

Bruce was accompanied to Albuquerque by Australian author, Jen McVeity, whose Seven Steps to Writing Success is transforming education in the Land Down Under.  They were meeting our former SCBWI regional advisor, Chris Eboch, for a hiking adventure in Southern New Mexico.

It was truly a magical October night!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

SUMMER AUTHOR BLITZ


As part of the Summer Author Blitz going on over at Book Boost PR I will be doing a Q&A over at BOOKS WITH A TOUCH OF ADVICE on Wednesday, July 23.

JESSICA COKER is the winner of the free book giveaway.  Jessica, please send your  mailing address to my Email so I can send you a book.



Saturday, July 5, 2014

What Kind of Writer Are You- Plotter or Plodder?




I've been told there are two types of writers, those who plot out every detail of their story before they begin, and those who plod along, letting their characters take them where they will. I believe I'm a hybrid of these two extremes.

What kind of writer are you?

A story is a journey. Therefore, to figure out what kind of writer you are, it might be helpful to consider how you travel when you are on a real life road trip. Ask yourself a few simple questions.

1. Are you the sort of person who makes plans weeks in advance, or do you tend to hop in your car on a whim and start driving, content with wherever the road takes you?

2. Do you make reservations with or without a cancellation option? If you book a hotel and pay for it ahead of time with no way to back out without losing all your money, you may be a Plotter. If you don't book the room until you are sitting in the parking lot looking at the Holiday Inn Express sign, you may be a Plodder. If you make reservations with a cancellation option, you are probably a hybrid.

3. How do you pack? Do you check the weather channel for the five day forecast of your destination city and then plan your clothing accordingly or do you toss a few essentials into a duffle bag and hope to buy whatever else you need when you arrive wherever you happen to land?

4.  Do you type out your entire itinerary and send it to family and friends ahead of time so they will always know where to find you or do you expect them to stay informed of your activities through your Facebook and Instagram posts?

There is no right or wrong way to plan a road trip and there is no right or wrong way to plan a story. It is helpful, though, to know what kind of writer you are and NOT try to squeeze yourself into the mold of what someone else says is the best way to navigate the writer's journey. 

If you do that, you may leave people confused when they see your Instagram pictures from the Disneyland Light Parade when the itinerary you sent them clearly states you were planning to spend the night at the KOA Campground in Bakersfield. Know thyself. Everything else leads to confusion.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

PART ONE - FREE WRITING WORKSHOP




I am posting the short version for the first lesson of my free writing workshop on my blog site. If you are interested in receiving the rest of the series, please sign up HERE. If you have previously signed up for the workshop and you do not receive Lesson One via email today, please contact me. 

The series will last for four weeks, there is no homework other than what you decide to complete, and the structure is designed so you may move at your own pace. 

It is summer after all!

So... if you are climbing the Swiss Alps you may do the lessons on your phone or tablet or save them until you come down from the mountain.

OVERVIEW 

Part One - Learn the twelve steps of the Secret Language of Stories and apply the plot analysis to books and movies.

Part Two - Create a 2-3 page plot outline for your own original novel, screenplay, short story or picture book using the structure of The Secret Language of Stories. 

Part Three - Use your plot outline to get started writing your own original story.

Part Four - Make a road map for completing your journey.   

LET'S GET STARTED...


Part One - The 12 Steps of THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF STORIES

1) Learn about the structure of The Secret Language of Stories.
2) Study my plot analyses for one or more of the following:

     A. Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves (A        non-fiction picture book by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson.)
     B. City of Bones (A young adult novel by Cassandra Clare).
     C.  I Am Legend (a 2007 film starring Will Smith based loosely on a      1954 Novel by Richard Matheson of the same Title.)
     D. Romeo and Juliet (a play by William Shakespeare).

3) Create a notebook with dividers for each of the 12 steps, or you may create a computer file. One page per section is enough to suffice for now.
4) Begin filling in each section with examples from books, movies, and plays. This list will continue throughout the four weeks and hopefully beyond. Don't feel like you need to completely analyze one entire book or movie. That might be a stretch if you're just getting started.

That's it! Simple, right?

If you would like to continue receiving Parts 2-4 of this series and you have not already done so, remember to sign up HERE

If you have comments or questions, I would love to receive them at my email.