Friday

Happy Harry Potter Day

There are so many holidays in July: Independence Day, Buried Editor Birthday, Harry Potter Day. Harry Potter Day is special though because you have to dress in costume and go wait in long lines at midnight. I'm dressed in my Gryfindor uniform about to leave for work. We will (optimistically) be closing at 2 AM. My sister was apparently sorted into Slytherin, and my husband, after dying his hair, will be metamorphosing into Snape. Even my mother-in-law is getting in on the act and dressing like a witch. No muggles in my household.

Happy Potter Day all. See you next week. (Tomorrow I have to work again, and Sunday is dedicated to reading the book.)

Monday

Contest Winner

Well, you folks weren't exactly banging down the door to enter the contest. Apparently 500 words is a little longer then most people want to do. I had a bit more response when I just wanted 50 word stuff. However, despite my fear that no one would enter, I had not only entries, but a winner. (Drum roll, please.) And here it is:

THE THANKSGIVING PARADE

By James Danielson

Sirens blared in the distance. I looked down the street. “The first fire truck is still a couple of blocks away, Poppi.”

My great-grandfather shifted in his wheelchair as I returned to his side. “There weren’t fire trucks leading the parade they had for me when I came to America.”

“They had a parade for you?”

He chuckled. “Well, that’s what my mother told me. In a way, she was right. It was for me and the quarter of a million New Yorkers who came.”

“Why did they really have it?”

“They called it a Christmas Parade, but it celebrated Thanksgiving. A lot of Americans are home watching this year’s version on television right now.”

I looked down the street. “It’s so much more fun to be at our parade, even though we have to wear coats and gloves. Still over a block away. Looks like there’s a convertible in front of the fire engines.”

Poppi leaned toward me. “I was about your age when I saw that first parade. Talk about excitement. It was late November, 1924. I had just traveled to this country on a ship called the Stoockholm.”

The speakers on the judging stand squawked behind us.

I turned back and bent down to hear Poppi over the blaring sirens.

“I’d never seen anything like it! Bands and floats and elephants and bears passed right in front of us.”

“Elephant and bear balloons?” I asked.

“No, real animals from the zoo. The first giant helium balloons came a couple of years later.”

I looked up as the convertible stopped in front of us. The sirens fell silent, replaced by Mayor Johnson’s voice on the loudspeaker.

“Fifty years ago Sven Nelson, better known in our town as ‘Poppi’, suggested that Greenville should have a Thanksgiving Parade. We’ve had one every year since. This year, we would like to name his great-grandson Dan Nelson the Grand Marshal, in his honor. “

The mayor worked his way down to me, pinned a badge on my coat and handed me a scepter. I felt ten feet tall.

“Congratulations, Dan,” said the Mayor. “Now if you could hop into the Grand Marshal’s car, we can officially begin.”

My chest pounded as I glanced over at Poppi.

A huge grin crossed his face. “Go!” he said.

The crowd cheered as I jogged to the car, climbed in and sat on the ledge behind the back seat. I held the scepter high in one hand and waved with the other. By the end of the parade, I had smiled so much my face ached, but I would have gladly gone further.

When my family sat down for dinner, the smell of turkey and dressing made my mouth water. I reached for a roll.

“Dan,” said Poppi, “it’s tradition for us all to say what we’re thankful for before we can eat. I think you should go first this year.”

“That’s easy, Poppi! I’m thankful for parades and that you stayed in America.”

I liked that the story went somewhere, even in only 500 words, and that the child both gets to feel lucky (like the prompt said) and that he shows growth in the from of appreciation. Great work, Jim!

Saturday

Plotting your Pacing

I am always up for time-killing activities on the web, and Becky over at Book Reports has found one that is actually useful. This little site, Xtimeline.com lets you create a timeline for a project. You could use this for scheduling your baby’s developmental milestones, or as Becky points out, you could use it to timeline your story’s plot. I know that in my thesis, there are instances where time doesn’t match up because I’ve forgotten how long I’ve said things have happened. I plan to use this nifty system to chart my thesis. You could use it for your books too. If you want to see how others have used the site for fictional works, look at the Star Trek History or the Harry Potter one.

Friday

Superstitions

Today, for those of you who haven't noticed, is Friday, the thirteenth of July. For the superstitious, this is a day of ill omen and bad luck. Those of us with black cats should scrupulously avoid them, and ladders are a no-no. I can't think of any movies opening today, and I bet it's not coincidence that Harry Potter doesn't release this week.

I think that we should take back the thirteenth. For a writing prompt this weekend, think of the luckiest thing that could happen to a kid, and then write a 500 word story. And I mean a complete story with beginning, middle, and end, plot and a little character development. It's hard to write a story this short, but it's fun in that "It's a Challenge!" kind of way. Email your stories to me by the end of Sunday, and I'll pick my favorite and post it sometime Monday and send that person a free copy of Summer Shorts.

Write on, man. Write on.

Thursday

Happy Buried Editor's Birthday

Well, that time of year has roled around again. Yes, that's right, it's that national holiday, the Buried Editor's Birthday. The schools have nicely given children the day off, and although there were no parades or fireworks like on my cousin's birthday (July 4), I'm sure that will be remedied in the future.

So, I hope you had a wonderful day.

Wednesday

Tip of the Week 7/11/07

Tip of the Week: Find inspiration from the world around you.

Now every writer in the world already knows this. You can get ideas fom someone's passing comment, from the shape a cloud makes in the sky, or from the latest documentary on the History Channel. (Personally, I favor the Discovery Science Channel for ideas.) And these are great ways to get the story started. But you don't have to stop there. Once the book is written, see how others went about getting published. Be inspired by their tales. Now, approaching agents and editors is not the time to get all creative. There's established protocols for that. After your book is being published, though, it's a great time to think of all sorts of new promotional activities. Look and see what others are doing and be inspired by their ideas. Try it a new way. Like you did with your writing, use new and inventive takes on old conventions. And your new creations, both in writing and in your promotions, will then inspire us all.

Tuesday

Write, read, write, read some more

Good writers are good readers. I don't mean you should read three books a day. I understand that is not normal behavior. What I do mean is that you should be reading books in your genre and even some books outside of it.

"Why?" you ask.

Because reading others people's work is how we learn to write. Oh, yes, we have to do some of that pesky writing ourselves or we get out of practice. I am a case in point. But reading is how we learn the conventions of our genres. When we read we see what people are doing right. We learn about pacing, liking unlikeable characters, character development, plot structure. And what's best is that we learn it in an enjoyable manner. It's a lot more fun to read a book with excellent pacing like Twilight than it is to have someone explain how pacing works. And even reading bad books can be useful. We see how NOT to do things. (And bad published books give us hope. If that piece of **** can get published, then there's no way my epic won't someday be picked up.)

And that, dear friends, is why folks like me and all the other well-meaning people in the blogshpere keep urging bookslists on you. These are the books we think you should read -- some for fun, some for their art, and some because they'll help your writing.

And in this spirit, I thought we could start making a booklist of great books that exemplify some writing skill. In the comments section, nominate a book and tell what writing skill it shows off. It can be something as simple as excellent humor or lyrical language to something more complex like plot twists. I'll compile a list from the nominations.

I'll start with my above example:

Twilight by Stephanie Meyers - pacing

Summer Shorts is Branching Out

So, it turns out there are now places where a book can have its own page on a social networking site. I got Summer Shorts one on bebo.com for Summer Shorts. My only complaint is that right now you can't list it as a children's book. I had to put it in general fiction. The cool thing is that now your books can have their own blogs, pictures, fans, everything. I like the fact that I can add all the authors once they've become one of my friends. It's all very exciting.

To see the Official Summer Shorts Page click here.

Monday

Reemerging at Last

I am finally rejoining the blog world again after my long absence. I can't say that I got just a whole lot done during my month of self-imposed exile -- I mostly just slept. But I have reemerged into the daylight and am ready to start discussing kids' books and writing with you again.

And in an effort to alleviate my guilt (or bribe my way back into your hearts, you can pick), I come bearing gifts. Specifically free screensavers. I'm learning to work with flash animation, and I felt one of the easiest things to do would be to put together some free screensavers. Since Greg Fishbone's book From the Desk of Septina Nash: The Penguins of Doom came out this weekend, I thought I'd make some screensavers to commemorate the occassion. Unfortunately, of the 5 I made, only 3 work. So, you will not be able to download the one where Septina bounces off the walls in a straight jacket. It looked like this:







I was particularly proud of it. Alas. However, go to this here page to get Septina screensavers of your very own. Oh, and as a bonus, I included a screensaver for Judy Gregerson's book, Bad Girls Club.

Coming soon: screensavers for Book of Nonsense, Emerald Tablet, and everyone's favorite ferret, Fergus

Oh, and as always, I do love feedback. Let me know which one is your favorite. Around my house (meaning me and my husband), we favor the raining penguins on white. The actual screensaver is much less chaotic than the thumbnail.