Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Special Edition -- Picture books

Thought for the Day:
 “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and
the thought has found words.” 
~Robert Frost~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:

Showing vs. Telling is always something to watch for in your writing. Janice Hardy has another great post HERE on that topic with links to more great posts. It will take a bit of time to get through all of it, but it’s well worth it. 

I love words. Most of we writers do. Sometimes our love of words can create problematic purple prose. HERE is a post by K. M. Weiland that can help you with that. 

I have have attended three writer’s conferences this year. I really, really want to find a writer’s retreat to attend sometime this fall/winter. The article HERE takes a look at the pros and cons of retreats, conferences, and workshops. Maybe it will help you decide on what works for you. 

I don't talk about picture books on my blog very often, but I read massive numbers of them, and I have written several picture book manuscripts that still need polish and homes. I think the picture book is an incredible art form, a form that is extremely difficult to create, to do well, and to bring to market. I am always in awe of people who manage to do it. I have some friends who have made that leap recently, and I want to tell you about their wonderful works. I'm a little tardy on one, right on time with one, and early on the last, but with holiday shopping coming up, these are all good to keep in mind.


Grandma's Tiny House by JaNay Brown-Wood is an absolutely enchanting rhyming picture book about about the wondrous things that happen when a large, extended family gathers for some time together. As in most families, there is usually one house that is the natural gathering place. In the case of this family, it is Grandma's tiny little house, and this is a very large family. Everyone shows up with food to make this family feast just right, but soon the house is bulging at the seams. It takes one bright little grandchild to come up with a solution. While all this is going on, young listeners will be learning counting lessons without ever being aware teaching is going on. They will only be aware of a fun story and charming illustrations by Priscilla Burris.


Elizabeth Varadan has just had her first picture book published. Dragonella is a bright and funny story about a little dragon who is attending a new school. Of course she is hoping to fit in with the ogres, trolls, and others, but Dragonella is the only one who breathes fire, and she is young and still not quite in control of those pesky flames. Needless this to say, it's hard to make friends when you have flames shooting out of your mouth when you laugh. She is feeling pretty left out when a special treat for the class is about to be lost, and the only one who can save the day turns out to be Dragonella. Brian Belanger's cute illustrations just add to the fun of this sweet book about friendship.










You will have to wait until January to get your hands on the third picture book I will talk about, but it will be worth the wait. Can I Touch Your Hair? by Irene Latham and Charles Waters is a book of the most amazing poems that shine a light on the different experience children have in school when race affects them.  Irene Latham is white and Charles Waters is black. Each is firmly in touch with her and his inner child and both are incredible poets. The poems of classroom and playground experiences are rich, profound, and exquisite. Not one page, not one line, not one word disappoints in this amazing book. Illustrations by Sean Qualls and Selena Alko complement these terrific poems of friendship, race, and the uncertainty of being a child.

I don't have a giveaway for this post. There are certain books I just can't give away! But I hope you will choose some of these as gifts for others and gifts for yourselves. Every one of these is a real keeper and, if you are a picture book writer, you can learn a great deal about the craft by having these in your life.

It's not too late to leave a comment on Sunday's post to enter the giveaway for Ashes to Asheville. Click HERE to do so. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ashes to Asheville -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:

“Inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes 
into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day 
give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.” 
~ Brenda Ueland ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:
MentalFloss has a post HERE that will give you 38 Word Usage Mistakes Even Smart People Make. There were a couple on the list I know I’ve used incorrectly a time or two. 

Choosing the correct point of view is pretty critical to the success of your story. HERE K. M. Weiland gives you some great hints to find the right point of view. 

Writers in the Storm has a good post HERE to help you manage your chapters. 

I took my exchange student, Amandine, to Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park this weekend. It has been years since I have visited these wonderful places, and it was a treat to see them through the eyes of someone who had never been there before. As we were driving out of Sequoia, a California Black Bear ran alongside our car for several hundred feet. It was a real thrill to see him up close. In Yosemite, we saw several mule deer and lots of small animals. Amandine was obsessed with Yosemite and declared it was just not fair that there is nothing like it in Belgium. We sure are lucky to live in such a wonderful place.

Last week I offered a gently-read ARC of Jabber-Walking by Juan Filipe Herrera to one of my readers. The winner this week is our temporary host of MMGM, Greg Pattridge. Congratulations, Greg! To keep up on MMGM and to read wonderful book reviews, hop on over to Greg's fabulous blog, Always in the Middle. Don't miss an episode. It's so good. HERE is the link. Greg, I will get your book out to you this week. For the rest of you, please keep reading for another terrific giveaway.

I read about a book a couple months ago called Ashes to Asheville by Sarah Dooley that sounded really good, so I requested a copy from the Seattle Book Review and was not disappointed. Here is the review I wrote for them. 

Fella lost so much when Mama Lacy died. It was bad enough to lose her mother, but to be separated from her sister, Zany, and her other mother, Mama Shannon, as well was so hard. But living with her grandmother had its upside. She had a nice room and wanted for nothing — except the rest of her family. When Zany shows up one night insisting Mama Lacy’s wishes must be respected and her ashes spread in Asheville, the two girls find themselves on an amazing journey. These two girls, four years apart in age, agree on very little as they work their way toward Asheville. They have little money, the urn of ashes is stolen along with Zany’s purse, they have grandmother’s dog along, and they have no map. It’s complicated.


Author Sarah Dooley has written a heart-rending story of the time before there
Sarah Dooley
were protections for same-sex couples and their families and how the lack of those protections could rip families apart and steal so much from those left behind. The characters are compelling and, for the most part, believable and the writing strong. The story is an important reminder of why the new laws are so important.


I have a gently-read hardback for of this 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 Greg Pattridge's blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways. He has graciously agreed to take over temporarily for Shannon Messenger while she is running around promoting her latest book. Thanks, Greg, and good luck, Shannon!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Jabber-Walking -- Review and Giveaway

Thought for the Day:
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” 
~ Henry Ford ~
Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Steven Pressfield always has something important to say. The post HERE on resistance is no exception.  

I recently came through the mother of all writer blocks, and I have a critique partner who has been having that problem lately. Sure wish I had had the post HERE from Ramey Channell guest posting on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University a couple years ago. 

Having trouble coming up with ideas? Anne R. Allen’s post HERE will help you with that. 

My trip to New York was fabulous. The opening of Maggie's show, Red Roses
Green Gold, was amazing. It was an invitation-only event, and I really wished I had facial-recognition software on my phone. There were lots of people from the music and theatre industries, and I was sure if I had a better memory, I would have recognized a whole lot of people. I did recognize Edie Falco in the audience, but that was all my poor brain could manage. The cast was incredible -- eight terrific singers who all played multiple instruments. Maggie plays eight instruments -- piano, accordion, stand-up bass, electric bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin,  and box drum. And she got a nice photo in the NYTimes on-line review. You can check it out HERE. And a little interview with her HERE that has a really funny story in it. 

Last time I wrote, I offered a gently-read paperback copy of Welcome to Wonderland Home Sweet Home by Chris Grabenstein. I mistyped. It's a hardback copy! Anyway, the winner this time is Natalie Aguirre. Congratulations, Natalie! If you don't know Natalie, she is a writer and runs the exceptional blog, Literary Rambles. Check it out HERE. There is so much good stuff there. Don't miss it. Natalie, I will get your book out to you soon. For the rest of you, another book, another giveaway.


I occasionally get emails from publishing companies offering me books for review. I'm pretty picky about what I accept, but when I saw one written by Juan Felipe Herrera, the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2015-2017, I thought I had better check it out. The book is Jabber-Walking and it is unlike any other book I've seen. It is a middle-grade book that seems designed to help kids open up their minds, to allow their thoughts to flow freely onto the page, and start them on the road to writing poetry. Basically the idea is to walk around, notebook in hand, and free-write about all the many things that might stimulate their creative side. Mr. Herrera seems to have an unusual fascination with blue cheese, and he often refers to Jabber-Walkers as Burrito-Heads. He has a strange sense of humor, but one that I think the younger set will really appreciate. There are funny sketches throughout the book and a tremendous use of type as graphics, if that makes sense. You will know what I mean if you get a gander at the book. I must admit, I had some problems picturing kids in cities walking around writing in
Juan Felipe Herrera
notebooks. Yikes! There is traffic and curbs and dog poop and other things in the city that, to me, seem to require watching where one is going, but that's just me. And there is a frenetic quality to the writing that made it hard for me to read (I actually got a headache), but I am not the target audience, and I imagine kids might well just eat this up. 


I have a gently-read ARC for of this 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 Greg Pattridge's blog HERE for many more Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday reviews and giveaways. He has graciously agreed to take over temporarily for Shannon Messenger while she is running around promoting her latest book. Thanks, Greg, and good luck, Shannon!