Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Thing About Leftovers -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“I like to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.”  
~ Stephen King ~`

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
HERE you will find a character name generator. This could save a lot of time. 

Writers Helping Writers has a terrific post HERE on finding story holes. Check it out. 

Sandra Havriluk has a guest post on Fiction University HERE on using the five senses in your writing. It’s worth a read. 

Something very weird is going on with spacing this week. Please just ignore the wonky spacing and forgive the distraction!

Last week, I promised a gently-read copy of Dinosaur Dictionary for Kids by Bob Korpella. This week's winner is Greg Pattridge. Congratulations, Greg! If you don't know him, Greg is a Colorado middle-grade writer and teacher who blogs twice a week (I can hardly get one post done each week) at Always in the Middle and reviews middle-grade books and sometimes has giveaways. You can check out his blog HERE. Greg, I will get the book out to you this week. For the rest of you, stay tuned. I have another great giveaway this week.

Through my work for the San Francisco Book Review, I manage to get a lot of really great middle-grade novels to read. This week I'd like to tell you about The Thing About Leftovers by C. C. Payne. It's a terrific book that just came out in July. Here is the 5 -star review I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review.

Fizzy is 12 years old, not an easy age, and after her parents divorce, she and Mom move to a new town — a town where she has no friends, the wrong clothes, and hateful teachers. Dad gets remarried, and he and his wife start a new family. Then Mom is marrying Keene, and they want kids. Fizzy just isn’t enough of a family. She doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere and is just a leftover. When Keene moves in everything changes. Fizzy no longer gets to cook—her real passion—can’t leave any of her stuff out, and doesn’t even get to watch TV with Mom. But Fizzy tries to be perfect and not bother anyone. The only things that keep her going are her new friends, Miyoko and Zach, her Aunt Liz, and her desire to win a cooking contest. 
Author C. C. Payne has written a perfect story for middle-graders. It hits a lot of
C. C. Payne
things kids worry about most. The voice of Fizzy in this first-person narrative is pitch perfect. This may capture the experience of children of divorce better than any book out there and deserves readership beyond a middle-grade audience. A winner! 
                                                   I have a gently-read hardback for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Dinosaur Dictionary for Kids -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
Just because it cracked me up. “A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator, the smaller the fraction.” 
~ Leo Tolstoy, novelist and philosopher ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Adventures in YA Publishing is reposting a good post HERE with 40 Questions to Help You NAIL Your Manuscript. 

Steven Pressfield has a very useful post HERE that reminds us of the importance of the Hero Cycle in our writing. 

The Editor’s Blog has a spectacular two part posting HERE and HERE on Going Deep with Point of View. 

Last week, I promised a copy of Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko to one of you. This week's winner is Nancy! Congratulations on getting your house ready to sell. I know how hard that is! I will get your book out to you this week. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. For the rest of you, I have a fun book to offer again this week, so keep reading.

This week, I am featuring a book about dinosaurs. I mean, who does't love dinosaurs? I do. I know whenever I get a chance to review a dinosaur book, I grab it. This one did not disappoint. It is the Dinosaur Dictionary for Kids by Bob Korpella. Here is the review I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review.

Probably nothing in the world fascinates kids as much as dinosaurs. There are plenty of books out there, but this may be one of the best to come along in quite a while. This should become the go-to book for middle-grade readers and above who have an interest in dinosaurs. After an excellent introduction with a note on using the dictionary and basic terms of the Mesozoic Era, it is neatly laid out in three major sections — Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous. Each section covers the dinosaurs in that period with an illustration, short write-up, name properly spelled with the pronunciation, when it lived, size, weight, where it lived, and what it ate. Interesting sidebars are scattered throughout, and each section has a period-specific article. But what else lived in the Mesozoic Era? Lots of things, and another section shows the fish, birds, bugs, and more with the same kinds of details. An article on how the dinosaurs became extinct is followed by an activities section, bibliography, and index. The
Bob Korpella
writing is snappy and the information fun and fascinating. Kids will love this book and will wear it out reading it over and over. A winner!

I have a gently-read paperback for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Chasing Secrets -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists
of writing or thinking about writing.  
~ Eugene Ionesco ~
Gifts for My Writer Friends:
The post HERE from the Teaching Authors blog on female protagonists is FASCINATING and should be read by everyone who writes for young people. 

The devil is in the details and Anne R. Allen has a great post HERE on how to create memorable characters with interesting details. Check it out. 

I found this link on Fiction University, so it has to be good, eh? It is on my favorite topic — cutting words from a manuscript that is too long, and it has lots of good tips. Click HERE to check it out. 

Last week, I offered a slightly used paperback copy of Ida B by Katherine Hannigan to one of you. This week's winner is Carol Baldwin of the famous Carol Baldwin's Blog which you can find HERE. Carol is a North Carolina writer who works with author Joyce Moyer Hostetter on the wonderful newsletter for parents and teachers called Talking Story. See the latest issue HERE. Congratulations, Carol! I will get your book out to you this week. Please read on. I have another giveaway.

So here I am again a bit late to the party. Nearly a year ago I read and reviewed a wonderful historical novel by Gennifer Choldenko, and somehow I never got around to featuring it here. It's terrific. The book is Chasing Secrets and here is the review I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review.


Lizzie Kennedy, thirteen years old, lives with her doctor father and older brother, Billy, in San Francisco. It is 1900 and the world is changing. Billy is saving to buy a horseless carriage and disappearing at night and coming home hurt. Lizzie has trouble making friends at the snobby finishing school her aunt insists she attend. Lizzie wants to go to medical school, not marry and raise a family, but science is not an acceptable path for a young lady. Rumors begin to fly about the plague being in San Francisco, and Jing, a favorite and most loyal servant of the Kennedy’s, disappears, and strange noises in the attic lead Lizzie to an astonishing discovery and further mysteries to solve.

“Papa is in the hall, talking to them in his soothing 
voice, but the bigger girl has a wild look in her eyes.
She won’t stop long enough to hear him. I can’t
understand a word, but her message is clear.”


Any writer who wishes to learn how to engage a reader from the first page
Gennifer  Choldenko
would do well to read this riveting historical novel by Gennifer Choldenko. The subject matter is fascinating, the characters well-drawn, the conflicts believable and compelling, and the writing is mesmerizing. Any reader who likes historical fiction and mysteries will love this book. The story is complex and completely satisfying. Though marketed to the middle-grade crowd, this deserves  to have a much larger audience.

I have a gently-read hardback for one of you. To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Ida B -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
"One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell
myself that I’m going to do my five or ten pages no matter what, and that
I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost
nothing — writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further
behind than if I took the day off."
~ Lawrence Block ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Writer’s Digest sent me a post HERE by Robert Lee Brewer with good tips from copywriting that will help you with your novel. A l. ot of good reminders in this one. 

Kristin Lamb always entertains and edifies. HERE you will find a great post on dialogue. Enjoy! 

While at the poetry workshop at Highlights, one of the attendees spoke at length the first evening at dinner about how poets and all writers have to “put in the work.” He talked about how Jane Yolen writes a poem every day — every single day. Her stuff doesn’t just happen. She puts in the work. I found Steven Pressfield’s blog post HERE a very similar message. It’s important for us to remember that that is how it happens. 

And speaking of the poetry workshop, it was wonderful. David L. Harrison is very possibly the nicest person on the planet, and he led a wonderful workshop with plenty of stellar speakers. It was a very good workshop, group, and kickstart for me (I hope). I can't recommend the Highlights Foundation Workshops enough. They really know how to take care of their attendees and make sure they have the best experience possible. On first glance, they seem expensive, but when you realize housing and meals (spectacular meals!) and transportation to and from just about any airport in the area are included, it's really very reasonable. Click HERE to get more information. 

My daughter Maggie and I completed our cross country tour with no problems. I had a wonderful couple of days with her in NYC after the workshop. We rode the Staten Island Ferry (it's free!) on a gorgeous day and followed that up with a Broadway show and late dinner. Perfect day. The show we saw is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night. This is the most amazing play I think I have ever seen. So different! Wonderful performances and a terrific script. See it if you ever get a chance. But now I'm home and it is time for me to get back to work, starting with a review and giveaway here.

I took a passel of books with me on our road trip, but I didn't get nearly as much reading done as I thought I would. Maggie introduced me to Radiolab, a wonderful show that is on NPR. She had a bunch of podcasts on her phone, and we listened to all she had along the way. If you are not familiar with Radiolab, click HERE to listen to my favorite. I now have 142 podcasts of Radiolab on my computer. All I need is time. Anyway, one of the few books I took along on the trip that I actually found time to read is an oldie (published 2006), but a real goodie. It is Ida B...and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan.   Isn't that a great title? I had never read it before and, since there may be a few others who missed it, here is my review.

Ida B. Applewood is a smart cookie and perfectly happy in her everyday life, but then she has to start school where the teacher refuses to call her by her real name, and the teacher has rigid rules about the silliest things, and Ida B can't be outside when she wants to. She is miserable until her parents decide to homeschool her. Then she can be where she wants with her friends the trees and the babbling brook and where her imagination thrives. After four years, her mother gets cancer and has to have treatments that make her sick and weak. Then the worst happens. Even though her parents had promised she would never have to go back to regular school, she will have to. And they need to sell part of their property with some of Ida B's favorite trees to strangers. Ida B reacts in typical, selfish-child fashion and creates some real problems for herself, her parents, and even for some others. 

I really like this book a lot. The voice of Ida B (the story is in first person PoV) is
Katherine Hannigan
pitch perfect and the story is more about learning to deal with disappointment and learning how to forgive than it is about dealing with an ill parent, which, frankly, would have been pretty predictable. The writing is terrific and the voice of Ida B is still rattling around in my head. If you missed this one, please try to find time to get to it. It's a very quick read, but worth your time. My copy isn't as gently-read as usual since it travelled to the east coast and back, but it's in good shape and I will give it to one of you.

To win, all you need do is have a US address, be a subscriber or follower, and tell me that in a comment you leave on this post. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. If you would like extra chances, please spread the word by posting the link on a Tweet, blog post, Facebook, or any other way you like. Let me know what you have done in your comment, and I will put in extra chances for you for each that you do.

Don't forget to check out Shannon Messenger's wonderful blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

More #MGGetsReal and a Fabulous GIVEAWAY!!!

Thought for the Day:
“All the best ideas come out of the process; 
they come out of the work itself.” 
~ Chuck Close, painter ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
My blogging buddy Greg Pattridge from Always in the Middle was kind enough to forward a link all about writing body language. He found useful and so do I, so I will pass it along. You can find Greg’s blog HERE and the useful link HERE.

We have all heard that one can’t be a real writer if one doesn’t write every day. Read another view HERE

Kristen Lamb has faced some personal problems, as have I, this year, and she has a great post HERE about ways to get your mojo back after going through such problems.

My daughter Maggie and I finished our cross country journey on Friday and arrived at The Barn, home of the Highlights Foundation's incredible workshops. I will be spending the next few days with David L. Harrison and a small group of other writers and editors working on the process of writing poetry. I thought the Thought for the Day was a good reminder of something we all need to remember as we write. 

Since I am still traveling, Shannon Wiersbitzky is stepping in with more wonderful information on middle-grade books that take on tough topics. Enjoy! And please leave a comment so Shannon knows I really do have readers. 


The group of authors working on #MGGetsReal also have a GIVEAWAY of all five of the Get Real books. Don't miss this chance. Click HERE to find out all about it. Take it away, Shannon!

Hello again The Write Stuff readers! We didn’t do too much damage last week (I took care of the pizza boxes and soda cans) so let’s give it another go! 

We were chatting about how myself and four other authors have created #MGGetsReal in an effort to get books about real (and sometimes tough) topics into the hands of kids. There are so many topics kids need to hear about today. And books continue to be a terrific way to deal with those topics. 

Now and then we hear of books being banned because the subjects are deemed inappropriate. We’ve also heard about authors being “disinvited” to schools because their novels deal with a topic the school feels unprepared to talk about. 

Hmm. My guess is that the kids wouldn’t feel the same way. Kids tend to lean into differences or unknowns, to walk right over and ask questions. For some reason, as we age, we increasingly shy away from this same behavior. We shush the conversation and try to move along. 

But we shouldn’t. Books help kids understand themselves. Understand others. Understand the world around them and all the tough and complicated topics that includes. 

This week, the five of us want to recommend another five books that fit in #MGGetsReal. And we welcome you to share more. Leveraging Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or whatever social channel you prefer, share book titles with the tag #MGGetsReal. Together we can create a growing list for teachers, librarians, and parents. 

From Kerry Cerra comes a book with a compelling take on bullying. According to Kerry, “I've never read anything like it and when I talk about it during my school visits it is, hands down, the #1 book that most kids jot down the title of.”

CALL ME HOPE by Gretchen Olsen. 

A bully is ruining eleven-year-old Hope's life, and she doesn't know what to do. She can't even go to her mother for help, because the bully is her mother.

Kathy Burkinshaw recommends a 2016 debut Author, Melanie Conklin, and her novel COUNTING THYME, which tackles cancer and the subject of experimental drugs. 

When eleven-year-old Thyme Owen’s little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.

Shannon Hitchcock picked the book MARY MAE AND THE GOSPEL TRUTH by Sandra Dutton. 

Ten-year-old Mary Mae loves Sunday school and studying fossils. Trouble is her mama believes God created the earth in six days, only six thousand years ago. 

Shannon says, “Over the course of the story, Mary Mae learns that her love of science doesn't mean she can't believe in a higher power. Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth is not only a heartwarming story, it serves as a mirror for children raised in fundamental Christian homes. I can't think of another Middle Grade novel that tackles faith and science without disparaging either one.” 

From Joyce Hostetter comes EMPTY PLACES by Kathy Cannon Wiechman. 

Adabel’s mom is dead and her father is a temperamental alcoholic. 

“I believe lots of readers will relate to the story of children largely depending on each other for emotional and physical survival. Set in KY coal mine country during The Great Depression.” 

I picked a title that deals with race relations. After all the television clips in recent months my youngest son asked me, “Why are some people so afraid of others without even knowing them?” It is a great question. One that can be applied to so many topics, race, religion, nationality, disability, and the list goes on. 

I suggested we read ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. 

Rashad is just trying to buy a bag of chips at the local corner store when things spin terribly out of control. He is beaten and arrested, accused of shoplifting, and everyone in town begins picking sides. 

This book was eye-opening to me. It highlights how the same incident can be viewed so many different ways. And it makes real for readers how complicated it can be to know what to do in this type of situation. Not only for Rashad, but for those who saw it happen. 

If you know a book on a tough topic that would fit the #MGGetsReal mission, share it with us! Add it to our Facebook page. And wherever you are on social media, join the conversation. Just use #MGGetsReal. It’s as easy as that. 

Thanks so much for having us! We look forward to connecting with you.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Visit from Shannon Wiersbitzky

Thought for the Day:
“Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us.”  
~ Paul Theroux ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Getting the details right is so important. HERE are some good resources and tips from Marianne Knowles at Writers’ Rumpus to help you out. 

Janice Hardy always has important posts. This is no exception. HERE she talks about three words that will kill your manuscript. 

Stasia Ward Kehoe has a helpful post HERE on Adventures in YA Publishing. It is Four Essential Elements for your First Five Pages. 

My daughter Maggie and I are on a cross-country trip and in Colorado visiting family right now, so the lovely and talented Shannon Wiersbitzky, author extraordinaire, is sitting in for me for two weeks. Take it away, Shannon!

#MGGetsReal

Shannon Wiersbitzky
Hello to all The Write Stuff readers! I’m thrilled to be here both this week and next while Rosi is on holiday. I feel like Mom has left for the weekend and now its my job to ensure that everyone behaves and nothing gets broken. 

I want you to think about a book. A specific book. You probably read it when you were a child. The very first one that shook you to the core or stopped you in your tracks. 

Why did it move you? 

My guess is that it did one of these things: 
  • you found yourself (at last!) in one of the characters, it spoke to your reality
  • it discussed a topic you’d never seen in a book
  • it opened your eyes to something that you’d never thought about before
  • it dealt with a topic that was considered taboo for kids

For me, that book was Z FOR ZACHARIAH by Robert C. O’Brien. I remember a teacher in elementary school reading it aloud. And I remember sitting spellbound on the carpet. It was a story about nuclear war and a young girl who believes she may be the last person alive. 

Over the years, I’ve tried to piece together why the story was so powerful to me. When I was a little girl, US and Russian relations were often high tension. The possibility of nuclear war was discussed on the news. I certainly would have seen it and been aware of the topic. Perhaps my parents expressed worry in their own conversations. 

The thing is, I don’t ever remember anyone actually talking about what it might mean for me. But the book did. And in the story, that meant real situations of life and death. 

As adults, we sometimes shy away from introducing kids to books like this. I’m not sure why. We want children to hold onto their innocence I suppose. To live in the world of happily ever after, even as they’re coping with much tougher topics in school, in their families, their communities, or even trying to make sense of what they see on television. 



Kids live in a complicated world. And they aren’t ignorant of that fact. Yes, give them magic and fantasy, but also give them more. Kids need books that deal with a wide variety of “real” subjects. Which is why myself and four other authors have started a movement. #MGGetsReal aims to highlight books for middle graders that deal with these tough topics. 

My own book, WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER, deals with Alzheimer’s.  
After her adopted grandpa, Old Red, is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, thirteen year old Delia takes it upon herself to save his memories, and includes the entire town in the process.

The other books being highlighted in #MGGetsReal include:

JUST A DROP OF WATER by Kerry O’Malley Cerra
A tale of two boys; one Christian, one Muslim, and how their friendship is tested in the wake of September 11.

THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM by Kathleen Burkinshaw
The story of Yuriko's life--a 12 year old girl--during the last year of WWII in Hiroshima. A family secret is revealed right before her world ignites and becomes a shadow of what it had been.

RUBY LEE AND ME by Shannon Hitchcock
Sarah Beth’s new sixth-grade teacher at Shady Creek is the first African American teacher at their all-white school. But she just may be the exact person to help Sarah answer all her questions. 

COMFORT by Joyce Moyer Hostetter
When Ann Fay returns home from the polio hospital, she assumes life will get back to normal. But Daddy is different since the war and everything is falling apart. 

We invite you to join us. 
On any social media using #MGGetsReal

Share with teachers and librarians you know. Read. Write Reviews. And speak up! Share books that you believe fit our mission. 

We look forward to connecting with you! 

P. S. from Rosi -- If you are not familiar with Shannon's wonderful books, I reviewed them HERE and HERE.