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1. That Beta Reader Business

Back in the Dark Ages, when I was getting started writing, I never heard anything about beta readers. I barely heard about critique groups. But everyone seems to have BRs these days, and, since I like to maintain the mind of a beginner, I decided I wanted some, too. So when I finally finished a draft of a piece of scifi flash fiction that I'd worked on for the better part of a month, maybe more, I contacted a couple of family members who are science fiction readers and asked them to act as my beta readers. I even used the term, thinking it would make what I was asking them to do sound very professional and technical. Here's what happened:

Beta Reader 1 told me that no one would know what two words in the first sentence meant. I was able to fix that. Evidently the other 898 words were golden.

Beta Reader 2 didn't have time to read the story. I think he might have been afraid to.

I find the whole beta reading thing awkward. Remember all those times people asked you to read something they wrote and it was dreadful and then what were you supposed to do? Yeah, now you're the one asking someone to do the reading, and the people you're asking want to run for their lives. Maybe your writing is as wonderful as you think it is, but your potential beta vict--readers don't know that. Because I like to maintain the mind of a beginner, I'm open to the possibility that maybe I'm wrong.

Additionally, critiquing writing is an acquired skill. The ground isn't thick with trained beta readers.

So this wasn't a particularly successful experience. However, I met with a critique group in August, and I'll be going back in October. Things are looking positive with that, and after a couple more meetings, I'll report on my progress.


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2. 3 Crucial Reasons to Attend Your Next Family Reunion

by Sally Matheny
Smushy Kisses at Family Reunions

     Is there cringing, wincing, and gnashing of teeth at just the thought of a family reunion? Perhaps you had an agonizing experience as a child. Some crinkled stranger planted smushy kisses on your cheek. Then, pulling you away from your mother, the stranger weaved you through a chattering sea of unfamiliar faces. Finally, she anchored in front of another foreign body and the torture began.

     “This is your mother’s great aunt’s, second cousin, Bertha, who first married Joe Schmitt, who was a tire salesman, but then he died, and about ten years ago she married John Brown, who manufactures straight pins in Detroit and he just so happens to be your dad’s podiatrist's first cousin! How about that?”

Excruciating. But you’re an adult now and here are three crucial reasons why you need to attend your next family reunion.


Remember

     When multiple generations gather, there will always be times of remembering special moments from the past. Births, school days, weddings, funerals. While certain memories will mean more to some than others will, this is your heritage.
     Even if you’re attending your spouse’s family reunion, you can learn a great deal. Maybe listening to your mother-in-law’s childhood memories will give you a better understanding of why his family celebrates Christmas the way they do. What annoyed you in the past, you may perceive differently now.

Too often, an unforgiving spirit
is a person's only legacy.
     Pausing to reflect on the past brings joy, knowledge, and healing. Perhaps the reason many people resist a family reunion is due to a past hurt.   
     Aunt Bertha said or did something she shouldn’t have five, ten, or fifty years ago and for whatever reason people chose to hold onto that strife rather than letting it go. Bitterness was chosen over forgiveness. Pain over joy. Too often, an unforgiving spirit is a person’s only legacy.
     What healing might take place if you go to your next family reunion?


Record

     If there’s emotional or physical healing in the family, record it! Everybody has a story. A family reunion is a wonderful time to record those stories. Make a scrapbook or journal. Better yet, make a video.
     Are there any veterans willing to share their experiences? Those who survived a war can instill fresh perspectives on freedom.
     Who survived an accident or a disease? A problem at work or their first day of high school? Survivors bring strength and hope to the family.

Survivors bring strength and hope to the family.
    Ask the older ones to recall interesting tidbits about the family’s ancestry.
     Even recording opinions on current events will be an interesting piece of history for the next generation.
     No family reunion will ever be the same. The dynamics change. People come and go, jobs vary, and events alter our lives.
     So often, we never submerge past the friendly greetings. Families need to go deeper conveying their life experiences. They inspire us and we can encourage them to keep pressing onward. Everybody has a story that can affect others. You need to share your story.


Recount

     If nothing else, family members need to recount God’s blessings to the next generation. How have you seen God working in your life and the lives of others?

     Describe times when God answered your prayers, when he brought healing, and when your needs were met.

    Share experiences where your faith was tested and God was glorified. Consider the value others could glean from lessons you learned through setbacks and poor decisions.

     If you carve out time for your next family reunion, and share the love of Christ, what eternal rewards are possible? It is not within our power to fathom how God can use us. He is quite capable of making transformations we never thought possible.

 

…which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
 so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
 Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands.
Psalm 78:5b-7 (NIV)


     Is it time for a family reunion?

Live out your faith at the next family reunion!
     Reflect on what’s worth remembering, and what things are best left in the past.
     Record family stories to share for generations to come. Recount God’s blessings and faithfulness.

     It’s quite possible, family reunions will have a quirk or two. With a large gathering of imperfect humans, we’ll experience occasional flawed moments. For some, showing love to family is more difficult than it is to friends. God freely offers His assistance with that. He’s the master demonstrator of mind-boggling grace.  
     If you truly believe you’ll attend a perfect, glorious, and joyful heavenly reunion one day, then live it out at your next family reunion.




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3. The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman



THE GARDEN OF LETTERS sounds wonderful.  I have this book but have not been able to read it yet.
________________________________

Alyson Richman’s previous novel The Lost Wife dazzled on national bestseller lists and was praised by author John Lescroart as being “the Sophie’s Choice of this generation.”
_________________________________


Praise for The Garden of Letters

“The Garden of Letters demonstrates artistry of the highest order. Lyrical and compelling, Alyson Richman’s novel of a cellist coming of age in wartime Italy is as layered as a symphony. Exquisite.”

Erika Robuck, author of Fallen Beauty

“Lyrical and rich…filled with beauty and tragedy, romance and heartbreak.”


Jillian Cantor, author of Margot

“Bottom line: you should read The Garden of Letters.”


Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us
________________________________


Best-selling author Alyson Richman has received both national and international praise for her work, including 15 language translations and honorable nominations such as the Book Sense Notable Pick in 2006. Following the success of her first three novels, Richman’s latest book, The Lost Wife, was critically acclaimed, chosen as a Jewish Book Council selection and winning the Long Island Reads Pick in 2012, praised by booksellers, bloggers, and media all around the country.

Now, Alyson Richman explores the life of a young musician swept into the Italian Resistance during World War II in THE GARDEN OF LETTERS (Berkley Trade Paperback; September 2, 2014; $16.00).

Accompanying readers back to the tumultuous times of the 1940’s, THE GARDEN OF LETTERS follows Elodie Bertolotti, a young cello prodigy. When Mussolini’s Fascist regime strikes her family, Elodie is drawn into the burgeoning resistance movement by Luca, a young and impassioned bookseller, and as the occupation looms she discovers that her unique musical talents, and her courage, have the power to save lives.

But forced to escape to the small coastal village of Portofino, Elodie is scared and alone as she steps of the boat.  Fortunately, she is rescued by Angelo Rosselli, a young doctor shackled to guilt and haunted by his past. Attempting to escape her own tragedies, Elodie uses her musical talent to mount her courage and help others who suffer in the same way. In doing so, Elodie reawakens a spirit in Angelo he thought he’d lost, which ignites a spark between the two that changes the course of their lives forever.

THE GARDEN OF LETTERS is an incredible story of love, courage, and the power of the human spirit to find hope against the backdrop of war.

Alyson Richman is the bestselling author of The Mask Carver’s Son, The Rhythm of Memory, The Last Van Gogh, and The Lost Wife.

THE GARDEN OF LETTERS
by Alyson Richman
Berkley Trade Paperback
On-sale: September 2, 2014
$16; ISBN: 978-0425266250


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4. Nominations Now Open for 28 Days Later!

28dayslogo

Happy Labor Day! 

As today is the day our nation has set aside for celebrating the myriad social and economic contributions of our American labor force (which all too often tends to go unlauded the rest of the year), it is more than fitting that we’ve chosen today to open up nominations for 28 Days Later-2015!

28 Days Later is The Brown Bookshelf’s flagship initiative, a month-long showcase of the best in Picture Books, Early Readers, Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult novels written and illustrated by African Americans. Each day in February, we will profile a different children’s/young adult author or illustrator, hard-working African American artists who we’ve identified as creators of quality literature for young people!

The nominations we seek should be for authors, illustrators, or books that meet the following criteria:

*New Children’s or Young Adult book releases

*Children’s or Young Adult books that have “flown under the radar”

*African-American authors or illustrators

*Titles published by a traditional publisher for the trade market.

 

Nominations will be accepted beginning today, September 1, through October 31, 2014. To nominate an author or illustrator, simply post a comment here, or email us at email@thebrownbookshelf.com. Feel free to nominate as many individuals (or books) as you like!

Note: To avoid nominating individuals who have already been honored, please check out our previous honorees at the following links:

28 DAYS LATER – 2014

28 DAYS LATER – 2013

28 DAYS LATER – 2012

28 DAYS LATER – 2010

28 DAYS LATER – 2009

 

Thanks in advance for your participation in this year’s campaign. We can’t wait to see who you nominate!


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5. Two Awards and Apologies for the Long Silence

Inspiring Blogger Award from
Julia Hones

Liebster Award from Sandra Cox
See below the info that comes with
the Inspiring Blogger Award















First the apologies for not blogging. 
1.) I've been busy working on my mystery. My goal is to finish this draft by mid-September. There's 24-25 chapters in mind, and I'm on chapter 17 so far. 
2.) We've had company and made a couple of out-of-town trips to visit folks we hadn't seen for a long time, due to travels. 
And 3.) We are getting ready for another long trip to Spain and Portugal. (I haven't even finished blogging about the last trip, but that's how it goes sometimes. Oh, the stories I'd like to tell!)

Meanwhile, two very nice blog friends gave me awards that you can see at the top of this page and read about below. Thank you so much, ladies!

Julia Hones gave me the Inspiring Blogger Award, which I find quite an honor. Julia has a marvelous blog called My Writing Life that I love to read and find inspiring in its own right, and you will too, so do check it out. She's also had many short stories and poems published and is the poetry editor of Southern Pacific Review

As a recipient of the award, I'm supposed to reveal 7 things about myself and then pass the award on to others whose blogs I find inspiring. Hmm. 7 reveals . . . Okay, here we go.

1. In my junior year in college, after finals, I let a girlfriend talk me into bleaching my hair blonde. (She was bleaching her hair, and we were hyper from finals, so I thought, "Why not?") Because I have a lot of red in my hair, it went red instead of blonde. Because I have a few freckles, everyone who met me as a redhead thought I really was a redhead -- to the point that when I got tired of it and decided to dye it back to dark brown, I was told, "No, don't do that, it won't look natural."

2. My favorite dessert is a cookie. Forget pies, cakes, and rich creamy custards. Give me a cookie. Any cookie, although I like sugar, shortbread, oatmeal, or peanutbutter the best.

3. I am a crossword puzzle nut. I love the New York Times crossword puzzle. I can't always finish it (Fridays and Saturdays), but I usually start the day with it. For one thing, it wakes me up and gets the wheels turning for writing later in the day.

4. My husband and I met through a cat named Meathead. That is a ve-r-r-r-y long story, that only some of our friends know and would take up too much space here. But we have very fond feelings for our feline cat-alyst from long ago.

5. I used to write everything in longhand first, but the computer has spoiled me. Cut and paste is so convenient. Even so, I miss that feeling of connection between pen or pencil and heart, and I still write my poetry first in longhand.

6. This is probably a horrible confession for an author to make, particularly one who writes children's books, but . . . I never liked The Wind in the Willows. I know, I know, one of the world's great classics. What's wrong with me! But I never could get into it, no matter how many times I tried. 

7. I loved Edith Nesbit and Edgar Eavers, though. And they stand the test of time. I re-read a couple of their books recently and still found them so funny.

And now the nominees:
1. Keith Wynne has a truly inspiring blog called Musings of an Unapologetic Dreamer . He'll also send a little blurb via email called Thought of the Day, if you sign up for it at his site. I bookmark nearly everyone of these blurbs, as they are quite pithy and inspiring.

2. Catherine Ensley is an author of inspirational romance novels and is writing a four-part series. On her blog she "shares her thoughts on country life, simple living, adventure, reading, writing and faith that transforms." I think you will find it very enjoyable. 

3. Victoria Lindstrom's Writ of Whimsy blog is rich with Middle Grage book reviews, poetry tidbits, thoughts on writing, and a section I love, "Whimsical Word of the Week." Check out her site; it's great fun.

4. Lynda Young has a wonderful blog called W.I.P. It: an Author's Journey in which she addresses many issues for writers with insights and reminders that are so helpful to all of us on this common journey. 

5. Check out Carol Riggs, a published YA author with a personable writing style. Her blog, Artzicarol Ramblings, is full of writing tips, YA book reviews, and shares of her own personal journey with agents and publishers. 

6. Renee Hand's The Crypto-Capers Review is a children's book review blog as well as a platform for her radio show, Stories from Unknown Authors. Renee also writes winning interactive mysteries. How cool is that? Check out her site, and you may find yourself being interviewed if you've written a children's book.

7. Mark Noce has a rather eclectic blog, sharing news about his flash fiction publications, gardening, music he likes, and news about other writers. It's always a feel-good experience to read one of his posts. 

On to the Liebster Award, which Sandra Cox kindly gave to me. Sandra's blog is called, not surprisingly, Sandra's Blog  . Sandra is a prolific blogger as well as a prolific author. Spend a little time at her site. Her pictures will make you smile. Meanwhile, the Liebster Award is given to bloggers with less than 200 followers, ferreting out blogs you think are worthy of more followers. (Thank you, Sandra!) The rules for accepting the award are to share 11 random facts about myself, answer 11 questions posed by the blogger who nominated me, nominate 11 bloggers who qualify, and pose 11 questions to them. Happily, Sandra modified the rules, asking 6 questions, and nominating 5 newbies. So I am following her lead:

The questions she asked:
1. If you were an animal, what would you be? Probably a dog. I love animals, but dogs have a special place in my heart. They are so loving and loyal.
2. What is your favorite genre? That's a hard one. Mysteries and historical novels are about equal.
3. When reading, do you prefer paper or a hand held device? Paper, for sure!
4. What's your favorite vacation spot? Galicia, Spain. 
5. What's your favorite charity? Another hard one. We contribute to a number. I suppose Southern Poverty Law Center, a remarkable organization that goes after hate groups in this country and prosecutes hate crimes.
6. If given the choice, where would you live? Right where we live now. As a runner up, Galicia would be next, but we are quite happy where we are.

Okay, my nominees are:
Richard Hughes at Writing and Living by Richard P. Hughes , is an eclectic blogger, sharing thoughts about writing, art, life in general, publishing issues. Right now he's running an interesting series of interviews with other bloggers, called, "Where I Live and Why I Like It.

Rosi Hollinbeck at The Write Stuff reviews children's books, interviews authors, and does a wonderful job of culling and sharing links to help writers in every sphere of writing. I always look forward to her posts, and you will too.

Kenda Turner at Words and Such post book reviews, interviews, and shares rich thoughts about the writer's journey. Always a good read.

Loretta Proctor at Books and Other Things blogs about books, art, and music, "and all things creative and beautiful." Her current post is about Seamus Heaney, one of my favorite poets.

Jeanmarie Anaya's delightful blog, Jeanmarie Anaya is definitely worth your while. Humorous, pithy, eloquent. She writes about a number of writing issues, and wrote a lovely tribute to Robin Williams. 

And here are my six questions for these worthy recipients:
1. Where is your favorite place to read a book?
2. When beginning a new W.I.P., do you write by hand or wordprocess?
3. What are three of your favorite books? 
4. If you could be a character in a novel you've read, who would you be?
5. Which author, living or dead, do you wish you had the opportunity to meet?
6. When did you begin to write for yourself (as opposed to doing early homework assignments)?

And that's it, folks. I look forward to your comments, (feel free to answer any of the questions I posed for the nominees), and I do hope you check out the blogs in both sections of this post.

Ciao for now . . .

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6. Witness Transformation

Her self-talk is brutal about how she never follows through on her writing goals, shakes her head at how many vacation days she's taken for the express purpose of writing the entire time only to veg in front of the television telling herself all sorts of loser stories about herself to herself, sinking deeper into despair and the impossibility of her situation.


That's all backstory. Her inciting incident in this scenario in her life is when she signs up with me. In the next few months, she shows me all of who she currently is -- her baseline data as it relates to this story at this time in her life.

The sacrifices she makes to afford to work with me does nothing to spur her to be accountable to herself. During many of the two-week periods between checking in with me, she does no writing at all. When she does write, she shows up session after session, ashamed of not writing more, not being good enough, not knowing how to write well enough. Drowning in excuses, her pattern emerges.

Rather than give her what she seems to be waiting for -- confirmation that yes indeed, she is a mess, a failure, unworthy -- instead I offer strategies to bridge the way from where she quakes on one side of the rapids to the calm meadow of acceptance on the other side. She keeps paying my fee and wanting to talk at the conceptual level. I keep dragging her out of her fears and into the concrete here-and-now, brainstorming one scene after another and reminding her again and again about the treasures waiting in her story -- she has a couple of fantastic elements that make for a rocking concept.

The moment she crosses over into the exotic world of being a true writer -- writing -- and leaves behind the pretender and talker about being a writer is the day she shuts off the cable to her house and removes the television. We both know the darkness this exotic new world she's entering represents to her and what awaits her. The resistance doesn't magically disappear, though it can by taking full responsibility for our choices. After a smooth month or two, her schedule changes, forcing her to write at home rather than in the safety of a crowded coffee shop. One of her beloved cats dies. The other beloved clings to her.

She's a sponge for any and all advice and support I offer her. She wants this. She wants to write this story from beginning to end. And somewhere even deeper, I hear her desperate cry to heal the festering wound she's been picking at all her writing life, perhaps her entire life.

I ask her to write in every room of the house (lots of resistance to her writing room) and keep a record of how long she writes in each space and how she feels writing there. Unexpectedly, she stumbles upon an exact right spot. When she compares her progress writing at that spot to all others, she understands that she actually likes to write there.

As fiercely as she longs to dabble in the safety of the beginning of her story, now, in her exact right writing space with concrete scene ideas, she writes into the exotic world of her story. The story and major characters begin to enliven her. As she grows stronger, her negative self-talk fades. Excitement and energy for her story build. Her own personal transformation begins.

Yes, a crisis likely awaits her. Still she's gaining the strength and beliefs and self-knowledge needed not to be felled by whatever comes as she writes deeper and deeper into her story.

A climax also await -- I have every faith in her (and in each of us) that if she wants it, she will triumph and in the end hold in her hands a completed novel from beginning to end with a plot.

Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.


PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises

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7. got the right shoe? what’s left?

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Agent shopping can be daunting. But recently, and who knows how, I connected agent-shopping with shoe-shopping, and the process is taking on new meaning (and making me want a new pair of pumps).

Here’s how I pair my shoe and agent preferences . . .

Must match. Having one fabulous flat isn’t so fab, is it? Sure, it looks pretty and fits like a dream, but unless I’m leaving a ball in a hurry, going half shoeless is no way to go. And just like shoes, I want to be paired with an agent whose genre preferences and approach match my own.

Must be the right fit. This is a biggie, isn’t it? I may have written the most charming picture book or witty MG novel, but if it  doesn’t “click” with an agent, it just doesn’t. Agents are people with tastes and personalities just like anyone else. An agent needs to be flipped over my work in order to be its best champion. Much as I’d like to, I can’t cram my size 10 dogs into a pair of six 6 mules. I can’t, and wouldn’t want to, force an agent-client relationship either.

Must compliment what’s already in my wardrobe. I wouldn’t pick a pair of chartreuse polka dot flats that only go with one outfit. Ideally, I want an agent who can embrace all of my ambitions and not just one part of my writerly “wardrobe.” (It absolutely can work on a one-genre basis, but it’s not the best option.)

Must be supportive. Oui. Oui. I know. It makes me sound like I’ve become what the French call a woman of a “certain age,” but I want shoes that not only look stylish, but feel comfy too. And while I don’t think an agent has to be my best ever friend, I do want someone who can support not only my project in progress, but encourage me as an author as well.

Must receive good reviews. This is a deal breaker category for me. I sometimes buy shoes online, but I never, ever click “Complete Order” until I’ve read customer reviews. I work in marketing and I know that while the description may be beguiling–and hopefully accurate–it doesn’t tell the whole story. I want to hear from those who have walked in those shoes. It’s no different with agents. Whenever possible, I talk with current clients of the agent–politely and discreetly of course–about their experience before I send click “Send” on that shiny query letter.

Must be able to go the distance. Nothing’s worse than trudging half-way across a mall or reaching the half-mile on a hike and realizing I wore the wrong shoes. I want shoes that offer the right fit and support so that I can feel comfortable and confident. As far as agents go, I want someone who would be there for me for the long haul too.

Here’s wishing all of us in search of an agent a perfect pairing soon (and yes, maybe some new sling-backs too).

Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world. ~ Marilyn Monroe


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8. ये कैसा रिश्ता

क्या किया एक कवि ने आज तक,
अपनी कविता के लिए,
क्या कभी उसने साथ मे,
दो पल भी मुस्कुरा कर है जिए, 

बस लिखता रहा,
अपना गम और बातें,
और वो भोली सी सरिता,
बहती रही, बिता अपनी दिन और रातें, 

क्या मिला उस मासूम को,
बन के एक दर्द का ज़रिया,
क्योकि दर्द तो दर्द ही रहा,
ना बदला उसका नज़रिया,

कमाता रहा वो शोहरत,
और श्रोताओ की तालिया,
पर उस दीवानी को,
ना दे पाया खुद से - दो बालिया,

अपने आक्रोश और जोश का,
सारी दुनिया मे डंका बजाया,
पर उस मासूम प्रेमिका को,
कभी उसने पास ना बुलाया,

बस करता रहा इस्तेमाल,
ऐश्वर्य और अभिमान के लिए,
उस दुल्हन के शृंगार को,
ज़ालिम ने दो पल भी ना दिए,

क्या फ़र्क हुआ फिर,
इंसान और कवि में,
कविता तो बस जलती रही,
प्रकाश मे इस अंधे रवि के |

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9. Watch for it: Be a Changemaker


 
“We've had the civil rights movement and the women's movement—now it's time for the youth movement. Today, youth everywhere are rising up, building new organizations, and creating the changes they want to see in their communities and around the world. Be a Changemaker gives readers the tools and confidence they need to affect real change.”
“BE A CHANGEMAKER is a how-to guide for young social entrepreneurs who want to effect social change in their communities and around the world. Equal parts instruction and inspiration, the book will include tools and tips, exercises, and profiles of teens who’ve already been there, done that.”

Laurie Ann Thompson  swings by readergirlz today to chat with readergirlz cofounder, Janet Lee Carey abouther new book.

 

JLC - Welcome Laurie! It’s good to have you’re here. Tell us what inspired you to write this book.

LAT - I was that kid who wanted desperately to save the world, but I had no idea where to start or even that I actually could. I didn’t come to discover my own power until I was in my 30s, and I didn’t think anyone should have to wait that long! In fact, I believe the world needs everyone to start making their own changes much sooner than that. I wrote Be a Changemaker to inspire teens as well as give them the tools they need to start creating the changes they care about—right now.

JLC - What can readergirlz learn from these committed teens? 


LAT - I hope they can start to see themselves in the various profiles included in Be a Changemaker. I interviewed young people from age 9 through young adults, from across the United States and around the world, and from a variety of racial and economic backgrounds. If they can do it, readergirlz can, too!


JLC – I agree! Anything else you’d like to add about the book?


LAT - In addition to the inspirational profiles of young people who have already created change, Be a Changemaker is loaded with practical advice, templates, examples, anecdotes, and resources to help readergirlz jump right in and start making their change.


JLC – Can you share some excerpts? 


 
“How many times have you complained about something but done nothing to fix it? Or noticed something and thought, Someone should do something about that? We all have those thoughts sometimes. And it’s okay, because none of us can solve every problem we encounter. But guess what . . . you’re someone. And when you set your mind to it, you absolutely can do something that matters.”
 (Chapter 1)

“‘Even though I can’t [completely] stop poverty, war, or rainforest destruction,’ Change the World Kids co-founder Phebe Myers says, ‘I’m a changemaker.’ As their motto goes, ‘No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.’” (Chapter 15)

Change the World Kids 

“’Don’t hesitate because you feel like you have to have the whole model or long-term vision figured out and on a massive scale,’ says Jackie Rotman. ‘You can start small. Just start!’ She adds that after almost eight years of steady work, Everybody Dance Now! has achieved things she never even envisioned when she began the project.” (Chapter 17)
Everybody Dance Now
 
JLC Anything else?
LAT I’d like to invite readergirlz to come and participate in the Q&A section on the Be-a-Changemakerwebsite where we’re hoping to have an ongoing conversation between young changemakers at various stages in their journeys. Even if you’re just thinking about it, and you’re at the brainstorming stage about what you’d like to do, we would welcome your ideas.
JLC Thanks for this book highlighting innovative teen changemakers, Laurie. May their example inspire a wave of teen outreach worldwide.
Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters   
By Laurie Ann Thompson
Simon Pulse/Beyond Words, 9/14

 

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10. Patch of Wild

In the middle of the city,
In the middle of the street,
There are buds in bloom
Where the crossroads meet.

Someone plopped some soil
And some wildflower seed
But with city soot,
Nothing’s guaranteed.

Yet those blossoms bloomed,
Never mind the threats
And those flowers look
Good as Nature gets.

Which just proves the point –
That you really can’t
Know who’ll flourish where –
Be it man or plant.

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11. Agent Building List


Leon Husock, associate agent at L. Perkins Agency is looking for middle grade and young adult authors.

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/agent-looking-to-build-list-6/

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12. REVISITING AND RE-VISIONING A MANUSCRIPT – Dianne Hofmeyr

More than two years ago I finished the first draft of my 9th novel and handed three chapters over to my agent. She hated it. Picked holes in just about every paragraph. Didn’t think my characters were convincing. Thought some of my research was suspect. And generally couldn’t find anything good to say about it. I put up all sorts of arguments for it being a first draft etc etc but after she had torn it apart, the thought of fixing it was just too daunting. So the story was buried.

I knew it was a good idea and once I could stand back from all the criticism, I felt there was a kernel there that still needed to be told. But I was far too demoralized to dig deep and find the right way of telling it. After a couple of years of being involved with picture books, I recently took it out again. My son, who has had some success with an 'about to be published' first novel and a film deal, asked the burning question: what is the story about?

I rambled on and on. I was floundering.

There was the problem! I had no idea. I couldn’t be succinct enough to say what my story was about. So if I couldn’t sell my story to my agent, or even my own son, how was I going to whet the appetite of an editor or more importantly readers out there?

Anyone who listens to a premise, must be able to see the entire book unfolding in his mind. A premise has few words but must hit hard. It has to be emotionally intriguing. It has to mean something to the person hearing the idea for the first time. But it's not just a tool to use to sell a story to an editor, it's for the writer to keep crystalised in his head as he works. The little nugget from which all else springs. Nicola Morgan has written reams about writing premises but I had somehow fallen into the lazy trap of thinking because I write organically (pantster???), my premise could be equally organic.

Wrong! Basically a premise needs a compelling hero, a compelling bad guy and a compelling need or goal we as humans can identify with. Put this in a single sentence or at the most two and make it compelling enough to capture a stranger’s attention and to keep the writer focused on the kernel of the story.

What is the story about? My son’s question drew me up sharp. I couldn’t tell him in a few succinct sentences. But the moment I began to formulate and define the premise, like magic, the conflicts were brought more sharply into focus, my protagonist gained stature and I could make the bad guy just a bit more out of reach of my hero’s ability to defeat him.

So writing a good premise is a great step in the right direction. Ask yourself is this story about someone:
I can identify with
I can learn from
I have a compelling reason to follow
I believe deserves to win
Has weaknesses that are overcome in the end (the hero's arc)
Has stakes that are primal and ring true?

Now as I’m picking up on my story again, I’m visualizing a short and hugely dramatic first image and then I’m going into the beats of the story like they do in film-scripts. What is the right way to pace this story? I’m even writing out index cards and am putting them up on a cork-board. And having read Lori Don’s recent blogpost on ABBA where he writes: I know that I’m just discovering the story, not finding the perfect way of telling it first time around. And I know that it takes a lot of work to make that original mess of scribbled ideas into a book, I’ve realized that keeping track of the beats in a story is far easier if you’ve already written the first draft. Heaven forbid I would ever have to work out the beats in a story I hadn’t drafted first.

Now after the premise and that riveting first image and the initial set-up of time, place and characters, what is the catalyst? The moment of no turning back? Crossing the threshold? The door of no return? Should I go? Dare I go? I’m talking about me… not my hero! And for those of you who recognise some of the above – yes, I have read Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and yes I think both he, my son and my agent have hopefully saved my manuscript.

And finally as an aside, I don’t believe my research is suspect – my notebooks are full of distracting and time-wasting detail that help me 'play' and doodle my way through the story. 




www.diannehofmeyr.com
twitter: @dihofmeyr
Dianne Hofmeyr's most recent picture book Zeraffa Giraffa published by Frances Lincoln, is illustrated by Jane Ray and has been translated into 6 languages other than English. Her previous picture book The Name of the Tree is Bojabi, also published by Frances Lincoln and illustrated by Piet Grobler, was nominated for the 2014 Kate Greenaway.

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13. When drafting a short story, at what point in the plot should the story’s central problem be introduced?

Question: When drafting a short story, at what point in the plot should the story’s central problem be introduced? Answer: It really doesn't matter, as

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14. Ten Tips to Juice Up Your Protagonist

Most writers know every story needs a protagonist with a problem, but your MC also needs to be interesting, compelling, and sympathetic to keep the readers wanting more. We want our characters to jump off the page and grab our readers by the throat. Plus, we want our readers to remember and think about our characters and our story long after they close our book.

Here are ten ways to make your protagonist do just that: 

 

1.  MC has a problem that needs to be solved

Make sure your protagonist is the one with the problem and no one else can solve this problem (or solve it as well as he or she can. The MC has to be central to the entire issue.

2.  MC has the ability to act

Don’t let your protagonists go around just reacting to things when they happen. Your MC should make things happen and move the story along through his or her choices and actions. A protagonist who knows what she wants and makes the story happen is a far more compelling character than one who sits around and waits for the story to happen. Make sure your protagonist is more than just someone in the middle of a mess.

If this is not happening in your book, you need to adjust your story in order to get your protagonist in a position where they can affect the change.

3.  MC needs reasons to act

You can always give your MC something to do, but they need to have good reasons for their actions or your story will start to stretch credibility as to why they would get involved in something that clearly don’t care about. If you want to have your protagonist risk their life or happiness, make sure it’s for a reason readers will understand. NOTE: This is where a critique group comes in handy.

4.  MC needs a compelling quality

Like I said in the beginning, we want to make our MC interesting. Maybe they’re funny, smart or twisted. Maybe your MC has an unusual talent, skill, or quark. Whatever you choose, there needs to be a quality that makes a reader want to know more. Most times the thing that is compelling is also contradictory, making the reader want to know how these two things work together, thus hooking the reader.

5.  MC has something to lose

Just having a reason to act isn’t enough, so think about having your MC lose something that matters. This is a powerful motivating tool that will enable you to force your protagonist to do what he normally wouldn’t. You can have them take risks they would never take if there are consequences hanging over their head. This will make readers worry that your MC might suffer those consequences and lose what matters most to him.

6.  MC should have something to gain

An important aspect of the story’s stakes that’s sometimes forgotten or not thought through well enough is giving the MC something to gain. Readers want to see a protagonist rewarded for all their hard work and sacrifice, and a reason for your protagonist to keep going when everything says give up.

7.  Give Your MC the capacity to change

The sole of the story is character growth. It’s what turns it from a series of plot scenes to a tale worth writing. Giving your protagonist the ability to learn from his experiences and become a better (though not always) person will deepen your story. Your MC shouldn’t be the same person as they were when the story began.

8.  MC needs an interesting flaw

It is the flaws that make your MC interesting. Flaws let you show character growth and give your protagonist a way to improve themselves. Maybe your MC knows about this flaw and is actively trying to fix it, or perhaps he or she hasn’t a clue and change is being forced upon them. This flaw could be the very thing that allows your MC to survive and overcome the problems. Of course, it could also be the cause of the entire mess.

9.  MC has a secret

You don’t want your MC to be predictable – boring. A good way to keep your protagonist interesting is to have your MC hide something. Readers will wonder what that secret is and how it affects the story. Having your protagonist be a little cryptic, will keep your readers dying to find out.

10. MC needs someone or something interesting trying to stop him

Don’t forget that your protagonist needs an antagonist standing against him. The stronger the antagonist is that goes up against your MC, the more tension, suspense and victory you will provide for the reader. Give the reader a villain they will love to hate. The payoff will be keeping your readers turning the pages and reading into the wee hours of the morning.

Do you have another tips for juicing up your characters? We’d love to hear it.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, How to, list, Process, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Juice Up Your Protagonist, Ten character Writing Tips, Writing compelling characters

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15. One of my favorite things in Sylvia Plath’s diaries are the entries that swing from “I...

One of my favorite things in Sylvia Plath’s diaries are the entries that swing from “I need to start having people over for dinner more often! What a pleasure to cook for people!” to “I need to stop having people over for dinner all the time, they’re assholes and I need more time to write.” (Loose paraphrase!)

I think of this whenever I get in a burst of sociability.

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16. the news worth telling

I had 30,000-plus images stored in my computer, and the old Apple wasn't going to take it much longer. And so, for the past four hours I've sat here whittling those images down.

Reviewing a photo log is like reviewing a life, in miniature. Yesterday I might not have been able to tell you, as assuredly as I can now, that my photo obsessions (which may also be my life obsessions) can be divided rather readily into: family and friends, unusual (to me) places, portraits of children, my house in every season, dancers, and Chanticleer garden.

It seems that there is not that much more to me than this: I love those I love, I love to find and explore the new, I find peace in the sheltered quiet of this world, young people thrill me, dance is magic. I don't tend to photograph my vast collection of books. But I love the books too, of course.

The other day I was actually thinking about this question—the me of me. My son had called and had told me his news—the adventures he'd been having, the conversations, the outtings with friends, his river at night, his city from a rooftop club. And then he stopped and asked what I'd been up to lately, and I stumbled. I find this question a perennial stumper. What's new? What's up? It's a rare day when I have something meaningful to say.

Because most of what is new with me is what goes on inside my head. I read a great book. I had this idea. I was fighting with a sentence. I was lying down and looking up and I remembered my grandmother. Or I remembered Uncle Danny's laugh. Or I thought about a meal I once had and tried to resurrect the recipe. Or—oh, I know—I was thinking of painting the bathroom. On a good day I can tell you about a movie I've seen or opine over "Orange is the New Black" or mention that I've been to Adamstown and bought a pair of 19th century baby shoes. Or maybe I'll say (if I sense that there is time) that I lucked into a Hamburg hamburger festival, and that will be it: my news. A sentence or two, and I'm done.

What's new? Every time I'm asked I feel the Tedium of Beth coming on.

What is the life news worth telling? At my old age I'm still figuring it out.

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17. How do you make the face look the same from panel to panel?

I get asked questions occasionally about the process of making comics. I’ve passed this particular question on to a handful of the people I’ve interviewed for them to answer, and I’ll post up more as they come in.

How do you make the faces look the same from panel to panel?

I remember this being a big concern of mine when I started drawing comics, and I get asked this pretty frequently. Probably more of a concern that actually telling a story if I’m honest. I think this is a question that gets asked a lot because it is so apparent when the characters don’t look consistent. Here’s how John Allison, Viv Schwarz, Glyn Dillon and Sarah Glidden tackled this topic...
Well how do we? Go read.

And then subscribe to Dan's podcast, it rocks.

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18. Shades of Love (Cromorna)


Touches our soul,
So pure love,
A beautiful goal,
Naughty love,

Creator of smile,
Touchy love,
That makes us agile,
 Restless love,

Falling tears of joy,
Binding Love,
A harmless decoy 
Love and love.

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19. An Interview with Author Marlena Zapf: Part II

I’m happy to re-introduce picture book author Marlena Zapf to you today. Last week Marlena talked with me about the writing and publication process for her debut picture book Underpants Dance. Today we’re going to focus our discussion on movement -- the movement in the book, Marlena’s background in dance, and how she uses yoga and movement for her author visits!


Welcome back, Marlena! I love how you left a lot of room for illustrations in Underpants Dance, especially when Lily is dancing in her room. “First she did this. Then she did this. Then she went round and round like this. Then she said, “TA-DA!” At these places in the book, were the illustrations by Lynne Avril what you envisioned, or a total surprise?

I feel so fortunate that Lynne agreed to illustrate Underpants Dance. She brings Lily’s spirit to life so perfectly. I believe that picture books are a dialogue between text and illustration, and so I deliberately left room for Lynne to do her thing. I only gave my editor a few notes about what I wanted (like the Toulouse-Lautrec in the museum scene) and trusted the rest. I was expecting Lynne to come up with new things, so I wasn’t incredibly surprised by the illustrations in general.


What did surprise me was that when I received the cover illustration of Lily, it looked strikingly like a dance photo of myself that had been taken that very same week. I will add that Lynne had NEVER seen a picture of me.


Your website also includes some other great photos of you either dancing or wearing that really cool tutu. Do you have a background in dance? 

I’ve always danced for fun, but I never studied dance until I was an adult. (My mother decided to save me from repeating her own unpleasant childhood experience with ballet by signing me up for Girl Scouts instead. I think I would have preferred dance class.) Perhaps it’s for this reason that people often tell me my dance has a childlike quality. I have fun, dance with abandon, and don’t care what anyone thinks of me.

As an adult, I’ve studied a bunch of different kinds of dance, and continue to take new classes when I can. I do something called contact improvisation, which is done with partners or groups, and plays consciously with the physics of gravity and momentum, as well as human connection — it’s a great metaphor for how we move through life and relationships. I’m also part of a community in New England that hosts what are sometimes called “barefoot” or “ecstatic” dances. Really what that means is you take off your shoes and dance however you want. For me, it’s a moving meditation.

School visits are such a big part of marketing picture books these days. How do you present your book to children, teachers, and school librarians? (A little birdie told me that it might involve movement.)

Lily’s story is really about self-expression, so I encourage kids to express themselves through activities that accompany the reading. And I don’t just stand there and tell the kids what to do. I engage with them. I’m certified to teach kids’ yoga and movement, so I use some of those techniques to help kids focus and then have fun with them after the reading.

If the children are sitting on the floor, I like to spread out colorful Yoga Dots, which I learned about from Rosemary Clough. You can buy them or make them out of old yoga mats. (Kids love to pick out their favorite color.) They serve a dual purpose. They give kids focus and a place to sit for the portion of the presentation for which they need to stay still(ish). Afterward, you can use them to play games in which the kids step, dance, jump, and move on or around the dots. This way, kids get their wiggles out, but the dots provide a focus that keeps things contained so that the “wild rumpus” doesn’t turn into utter mayhem. (Teachers are not fans of mayhem.)

Here’s a simple example. Set the dots around the space and play music or sing a song while kids move aroundthe dots. You might encourage them to move at a certain speed or with a specific movement. When the music or song stops, kids jump on a dot and assume their favorite shape or yoga pose. Repeat!

Wow. I didn’t realize you were certified to teach kids’ yoga and movement, too. You are very multi-talented! It’s been a pleasure learning more about Underpants Dance and how you incorporate yoga and movement into your author visits. Thank you, Marlena! 

In case you missed Part I of my interview with Marlena, you can check it out here. You can also learn more about Marlena on her website at www.marlenazapf.com!

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20. Never say obsolete

School and public libraries across the country are being cut back or worse.

We see the reports almost daily, like this one from NPR and this Indiegogo project started by two kids who want a library in their school.

I’ve heard people comment that “I don’t need no lie-berry ‘cuz I can find everything I need on my smartphone.” Except, perhaps, the proper pronunciation of the word li-BRARY.

It saddens me that professionals once revered and honored (in the case of librarians) have become luxuries to cut from budgets, and necessary public services (in the case of libraries) are considered expendable.

Rod Serling penned an episode of The Twilight Zone which aired in 1961, The Obsolete Man, about a day when librarians would be considered obsolete, expendable, unnecessary.

It’s fifty years later, and look where we are.

It’s up to us — writers, readers, those who care about public access to information and the quality of life for our communities and our nation — to support our libraries and our librarians.

Learning, and equal access to information, should never be considered obsolete.

 

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21. Window Flowers

2014-089-01

Window Flowers | I am growing several plants right now a geranium, a pineapple, and a dwarf blueberry bush. I am having a difficult time deciding if they should be inside or out. Inside is too easy for them and outside is too harsh (It isn’t the heat it is the hail). So in and out they go and at least they are still alive.

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22. That Moment

Sad face.
That moment you find out somebody you truly care about went off the deep end because of a tragic circumstance. And it pretty much ruined their entire life. When you wish you had been there for them, but they are far away and you didn't even know they were struggling because they fell off the face of the earth. I need to keep better tabs on some of my "babies".

The one I speak of in particular- please keep them in prayer. Definitely needed... Read the rest of this post

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23. Arise!


Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Selah.

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24. Review – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

After only reading Cloud Atlas I was already in awe of David Mitchell so I dove straight into his new novel at the first available opportunity. And once again was swept away by the storytelling, the language and the imagination. The book has been described as “his most Cloud Atlas-y novel since the global phenom Cloud Atlas” and I […]

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25. Giveaway: Silvern by Christina Farley (International)

 

Silvern

by Christina Farley
Release date: Sept. 23, 2014

 

About the Book

Jae Hwa Lee is ready to forget about immortals and move on with her life. Until Kud, god of darkness, sends an assassin to kill her.
 
Jae escapes with the knowledge that Kud is seeking the lost White Tiger Orb, and joins forces with a legendary organization, the Guardians of Shinshi, to find the orb before Kud can steal it and discover what it’s capable of. Jae knows she’ll need her friends for this fight, but they have problems of their own: her best friend Michelle doesn’t yet fully understand the dangers of the Spirit World; boyfriend Marc is spending more and more time away from her, training to become a Guardian of Shinshi; and Marc hates the fellow trainee assigned to help them: the oddly riveting— and absurdly handsome—Kang-dae. They set out together on a harrowing journey that will take Jae into the darkest corners of the Spirit World and the real world.

But Kud is a stronger and more devious god than Jae ever imagined. Jae is soon painfully reminded that by making an enemy of Kud, she has placed her closest friends in danger, and must decide how much she can bear to sacrifice to defeat one of the most powerful immortals in all of Korea.

 


 

A Message from the Author

"In just a few short weeks, SILVERN, the sequel to GILDED will be released! I am so excited about this new adventure that Jae Hwa takes as she embarks into the deepest, darkest corners of Korea. In this book, you’ll see many of the same characters from Gilded, as well as meet new ones. You’ll also be introduced to new Korean myths as mythological creatures. I can’t wait to share this next book with YABC readers, which is why I’m thrilled to share that my publisher will be giving away 20 advanced Kindle copies of Silvern!"

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_cf.jpg

 

About the Author

It all began when I was nine, curled under my covers, listening to my father read Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. That’s where the beauty and power of storytelling came to life for me. I was so inspired that I started a writing group in 4th grade. All my friends came over and we’d write stories and share them. When I was ten, I submitted my first short story to a magazine. It was rejected. I thought I was a terrible writer. I put writing aside and decided to become a teacher.

It was after teaching and traveling internationally for ten years that I decided to tackle my bucket list. ‘Write a book’ happened to be on it. I wrote that book. It was awful, just as I suspected it’d be. But a very strange thing happened. I realized I liked writing. Finally I’d found that outlet to share all the crazy, wild stories floating in my head.

I was hooked. I wrote and wrote. Finally, I snagged a fabulous agent, Jeff Ourvan. He submited GILDED to publishers and found a home for it with my wonderful editor, Miriam Juskowicz at Skyscape/Amazon Children’s.

Website | Twitter | YouTube | Facebook | Tumblr | Goodreads | Instagram
 

 

Giveaway Details

TWENTY winners will receive a kindle copy of Silvern. International.

Entering is simple, just fill out the entry form below. Winners will be announced on this site and in our monthly newsletter (sign up now!) within 30 days after the giveaway ends.

During each giveaway, we ask entrants a question pertaining to the book. Here is the question they'll be answering in the comments below for extra entries:

What do you think of the cover and synopsis? Have you read the other book in this series?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 


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