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What is it that makes a “page-turner”? What indefinable, shivery quality does a book possess that makes you unable to put it down?
On a personal, subjective level, that “it” quality differs from reader to reader. But I would argue that on an objective, craft-oriented level, all page-turners have one quality in common: narrative tension.
What is narrative tension? I personally define it as the unbearable need to know what happens next. Some of the best works of commercial fiction are rife with narrative tension, which I believe contributes to their commercial status. For works in the thriller or suspense category, pinpointing the source of narrative tension is relatively easy: Whodunnit? Will the protagonist survive? Will s/he save the day? But what about books that fall outside that genre?
Any book, regardless of genre, can have narrative tension. How? When the stakes are clearly defined, but their outcome is left uncertain. For example, let us discuss Harry Potter. Earlier books in the series were finely crafted middle-grade mysteries within a fantasy framework (The Prisoner of Azkaban is one of the finest examples of a mystery, full stop), but as the books progressed, they still retained narrative tension. How? Because we know the stakes (Harry must defeat Voldemort) and are unsure of the outcome (how he will do it). But each book itself also contained micro-environments of narrative tension: how will the Trio get out of their scrapes this time? or when will Ron and Hermione finally get together? In my opinion, all of these elements combined contributed to the series’ popularity; so many of my fondest memories from high school are me sitting with a circle of friends on the terrace during lunch, passionately discussing and speculating what would happen in the next book. Tension breeds anticipation, and commercial works like Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Da Vinci Code, The Lovely Bones et al are examples of how that can drive success.
So how to craft narrative tension in our own work? By posing story questions. I’ve mentioned story questions before, and I think they are fundamental to crafting a book you don’t want to put down. Most often, the story question can be boiled down to What does the protagonist stand to lose?–on both an intimate and a broader scale. What does the protagonist stand to lose if s/he _____ in this scene and how does that contribute to what s/he stands to lose overall?
Any time the reader is left wondering or asking questions, narrative tension is created, which leads to anticipation and unease, for which the only solution is to read on. There are many ways to leave the reader wondering: by ending all the chapters on cliffhangers (The Da Vinci Code), by slowly layering secrets and deceptions that are begging to be answered by the book’s end, (Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn), by calling into question whether or not a killer will be brought to justice (The Lovely Bones), etc.
Is there a trick to writing commercial fiction? Personally, I don’t think so. But I think you’ll find that most bestselling books are masters of walking the high wire of tension, whether the book is literary or YA or romance.
What do you guys think? Do you think narrative tension is a thing? Let us know in the comments below!
S. Jae-Jones (called JJ) is a writer, artist, and adrenaline junkie. Before moving down to grits country, she was an editor at St. Martin’s Press in New York City, where she read and acquired YA. When not obsessing over books, she can be found rock climbing, skydiving, or taking her dog on ridiculously long hikes. A southern California native, she now lives in North Carolina with her doctor Bear, a stuffed baby harp seal named White-Harp, and a husky-dog called Bentley. Other places to find JJ include Twitter, Tumblr, and her blog.
Artie’s children’s book Living Green: A Turtle’s Quest for a Cleaner Planet began being published as a 5 part series in February, and will run through June in Jabberblabber Magazine. Based in Memphis, Tennessee, Jabberblabber is a print and online Earth Friendly magazine for kids available at all Walgreens in the Tri State area, as well as various other locations throughout the Mid-South. To read part 2/5 in the March issue, please click on the illustration below. The story is on page 4. For those of who missed part 1 in February’s issue, both part 1 and part 2 are in March’s issue on page 29.
The Southern Newspapers Publishers Association is publishing and offering several of Artie’s children’s stories to newspapers across the United States. The latest is his story titled Larkin Wyley’s Paleontology Adventure. To read the stories, please click on the illustration below.
Use of any of the content on this website without permission is prohibited by federal law
The Stories Julian Tells is the first book in an ongoing series about brothers Julian and Hughie, and their neighbor Gloria. This is an early chapter book, for readers who have acquired some fluency but aren’t ready to tackle longer books yet. The chapters are fairly short, there’s lots of conversation, the plot is easy to follow, and there is a clear central character.
What do you think of Ann Cameron’s writing? Is the story engaging enough for children who are still struggling a bit with reading? And how do you feel about a white author writing a book in which all the characters are African American?
I’ve been querying agents, including yourself, and I’m just not getting any requests for my manuscript. I’ve been reading your blog and it has really helped, but how do I know if the problem is my query, my manuscript, or if I wrote something that no one finds interesting?
I would appreciate any advice you could provide.
Also, I’m just glad I called you Ms. Reid, instead of Ms. Janet, like I did with Mr. Sherman Brooks.
I’m hoping that got a laugh….
Sincerely, Clueless Author
It got a laugh from me, but I delight in tormenting Mr. Sherman, particularly now that he's outside of my throwing range.
Your question is the cris de couer of writers everywhere, and I'm actually heartened to hear you ask. The people that never ask that question are the ones who are generally terrible writers and never going to get better cause they think they're amazing and what's wrong with me that I don't see it.
As for the answer to your question:
Assume nothing from the response/lack of response to queries. I say no to things that are good and publishable every day of the week and about 15 times most Saturday nights in the Chum Bucket.
There are some terrific resources for writers at AbsoluteWrite.com, particularly the place where you can critique other people's work, and once you've hit a certain number, your own work can be critiqued. AW is not the place to start in boldly. Lurk on the forums for awhile and get to know how things work. There are some very helpful people there (mostly) and the moderators are VERY good at their job. A writing conference can help too, and there are some good ones that aren't expensive. (CrimeBake!) If you can invest in yourself by attending one, make sure you do one of the dreaded pitch sessions, but DO NOT PITCH. Bring your query and your pages and ASK the agent what you've asked here. You'd be surprised how often some very simple fixes can mean a big difference.
I wrote a blog post in January on "under-appreciated pleasures." In it I focused on the pleasure of rolling over in bed, something my sister was temporarily unable to do because of shoulder surgery. I also offered up an ode of gratitude for the pleasure of walking briskly, a pleasure denied my mother at the end of her life. I pledged to enjoy these simple pleasures with heightened awareness, pleasures we tend to notice most when we're no longer able to experience them.
I wrote a blog post in February called "the last happy day," in which I vowed to notice every happy day as I was living it, because we never know when terrible tragedy might strike us. What if we had lived our last happy day and hadn't failed to savor it?
Obviously I was writing with a sense of impending doom, wouldn't you say?
Tuesday I was heading out for my usual walk with my friend Rowan, this time accompanied by little dog Tank. I stopped to get the mail and then dashed back the few steps to my house to drop it off before continuing on my way. I tripped. I fell, wrenching my foot. Deciding the injury was nothing, I proceeded to walk for an hour with Rowan and Tank, and then walked around campus all day on Wednesday. But by Thursday, when the foot was still so bruised and swollen, I decided to have it checked out at urgent care. As I have a high-deductible insurance plan, I knew I'd have to pay around $300 for the visit. But it was worth $300 to me for the reassurance that nothing was wrong, after all.
Diagnosis: a broken fifth metatarsal bone in my right foot.
No need for surgery, no bulky uncomfortable cast. But no weight-bearing on that foot for 4-6 weeks. No weight bearing AT ALL.
Okay. At least I can truly say that I appreciated weight-bearingness while I had it. Every single walk I took with Rowan we spent half the time marveling at how fortunate we were to be able to live in such a beautiful place, with such beautiful walking-conducive weather, with both of us in excellent walking-facilitating health. I did notice these things every single day.
Now I'm going to have to notice other things for a while. How lucky I am to have a desk chair with wheels on it. How lucky I am not to live alone. How lucky I am to have enough money to be able to order a little rental scooter-thing for $35 a week, as it's already exceedingly obvious that I will never be able to master crutches (given that I can't even walk to my mailbox without breaking my foot). How sweet it is today simply to have canceled or rescheduled everything I had to do at the university, so I can spend this whole rainy/snowy day at home hopping from desk to couch to bed, maybe even getting some writing and editing work done. Or maybe just taking it easy, for once. Why not?
It's going to be hard to sustain cheerful gratitude for 4-6 weeks, especially with no guarantee that I'll be fully healed at the end of that time period. I have two big trips between now and then: my annual trip to the children's literature festival in Warrensburg, Missouri (no walking with the other authors to look at the cows this year!) and a week of school visits in Michigan over spring break (I guess I'll have to roar into the gym on my scooter and then give my presentation while perched on a stool). How will I manage at the airports? How will I manage everything in my busy life that needs to be managed?
Well, I'm not the first person in the history of the world with a broken foot. I'm not even the first or second or third person in my circle of friends. As I head into Act III of my life, falls may become more common (though the first thing I plan to do upon recovery from this one is some balance training, as this is my third major fall in six months).
So I might as well work as hard as I can at practicing cheerful gratitude. Occasions for making use of it are unlikely to be few.
The Joey Pigza books are hugely popular with upper elementary kids. Joey Pigza is the first of the series and while it’s not spelled out, I think it’s pretty obvious that Joey has ADHD.
I like sharing this book with teachers because they tend to look at the situations so differently from the way Joey’s contemporaries — the real target audience — would. As you react to this book, it’s important to allow yourself to read it as two different people: you as a critical adult who is allowed to be horrified by the adults in the book (and maybe a little sympathetic, too?) AND as a child who is Joey’s age. If you allow yourself to read this through your student’s eyes, do you find that your reaction to the book changes?
Thank you to Nick and his right-hand man/producer Dan Sugrue for the opportunity to broadcast my search to 38 states plus Canada. So far it hasn’t yielded any leads, but I was happy to hear that listeners loved the idea.Add a Comment
On 11 September 2013, an unusually long and bright impact flash was observed on the Moon. Its peak luminosity was equivalent to a stellar magnitude of around 2.9.
What happened? A meteorite with a mass of around 400 kg hit the lunar surface at a speed of over 61,000 kilometres per hour.
Rocks often collide with the lunar surface at high speed (tens of thousands of kilometres per hour) and are instantaneously vaporised at the impact site. This gives rise to a thermal glow that can be detected by telescopes from Earth as short duration flashes. These flashes, in general, last just a fraction of a second.
The extraordinary flash in September was recorded from Spain by two telescopes operating in the framework of the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS). These devices were aimed to the same area in the night side of the Moon. With a duration of over eight seconds, this is the brightest and longest confirmed impact flash ever recorded on the Moon.
Our calculations show that the impact, which took place at 20:07 GMT, created a new crater with a diameter of around 40 meters in Mare Nubium. This rock had a size raging between 0.6 and 1.4 metres. The impact energy was equivalent to over 15 tons of TNT under the assumption of a luminous efficiency of 0.002 (the fraction of kinetic energy converted into visible radiation as a consequence of the hypervelocity impact).
The detection of impact flashes is one of the techniques suitable to analyze the flux of incoming bodies to the Earth. One of the characteristics of the lunar impacts monitoring technique is that it is not possible to unambiguously associate an impact flash with a given meteoroid stream. Nevertheless, our analysis shows that the most likely scenario is that the impactor had a sporadic origin (i.e., was not associated to any known meteoroid stream). From the analysis of this event we have learnt that that one metre-sized objects may strike our planet about ten times as often as previously thought.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society is one of the world’s leading primary research journals in astronomy and astrophysics, as well as one of the longest established. It publishes the results of original research in astronomy and astrophysics, both observational and theoretical.
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There's an old rule that animators keep in mind: "Put it where you can see it."
It's true for illustrators, too. When you're designing a picture, the parts of the pose that are important to the story should be in clear view, while the less important parts can be concealed.
For this illustration in Dinotopia: The World Beneath, I wanted to show Arthur Denison helping a young Giganotosaurus free his foot, which was trapped between some fallen logs. While I was planning the picture, I thought about what things I needed to show to explain what was going on: Arthur's face and hand, the dinosaur's face and the tip of his tail, his ankle, and the logs.
I didn't need to show the dinosaur's hands, Arthur's feet, or the details of plants on the ground, so those parts could be hidden or blurred. The greenish brown background tone helps to disguise unimportant edges at the bottom of the picture.
Because Arthur's face was especially important, I contrived a lot of lines to radiate out from it, a compositional technique called "spokewheeling."
Louise Erdrich’s historical novel The Birchbark House is the first in a series, each book following a child from a different generation in an Ojibwa community.
Often, books for children contain a central character who is about the same age as the book’s readers. The Birchbark House would be a tough read for most children who are Omakayas’s age. There are beautiful descriptive passages that young readers tend to gloss over, and difficult vocabulary, including some Ojibwe words. For these reasons, it works best when read aloud to those younger grades — as Robin Smith discusses in her article.
What did you think of this book? And what about reading aloud in school? For those of you who are teachers, do you? And what books have you found that work best?
Today I join colleagues at the Arkansas State Library Children's Services Workshop in Little Rock. I'm sharing presentations on Unprogramming, Stealth Programming and Dynamic Partnerships (including Schools!) and many of the programs I refer to can be found on these Pinterest boards. My Arkansas friends are also sharing ideas on science, makerspaces, and 1000 Books Before Kindergarten and sharing weather that is far more spring-like than anything I expect to see for some weeks home in Wisconsin. What could be better? If you don't do Pinterest, below are links to some of the resources that are described in today's workshop.
And while I'm on presentations and workshops, I want to encourage everyone to read this vital post at Storytime Underground by Amy Koester about your own power to share your good work with each other. I am a working librarian like you who does just that. So keep on standing up, sharing ideas and feeling your power!
The poem "Wild Geese" may be the most generous poem ever written. I have read it dozens of times. But not until this morning did I search for a recording of the poem—for the image or sound of Mary Oliver reading the words herself. I find this quiet recording stunning.
This week in addition to our three chapter books, we are reading two articles.
The first is Robin Smith’s piece about her road to becoming a second grade teacher who loves LOVES books, and how she shares them with her classes: “Teaching New Readers to Love Books” from the September/October 2003 Horn Book Magazine.
The second is an interview with Jack Gantos that sheds some light on how he came to write the Joey Pigza books: “An Interview with Jack Gantos” from Embracing the Child website.
(If you would like to read more by Robin Smith or about Jack Gantos, there’s is plenty on the Horn Book website. Just follow the links.)
Tell us what you think of these articles in the comments below.
It's been a long while since I OIKed, and usually OIKing happens on Tuesdays, but this week we have a Friday Overheard in Kindergarten moment. Actually we have more than one! It's very important to maintain a sense of humor when the weeks are so irregular (our school system has not had a complete week of school since DECEMBER) and when the children are so irregular surprising. Here are gems from yesterday which are evidence, I like to think, of children learning what I'm teaching:
K.MD.A.1Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object: "Miss Jenson, have you lost waist?"
4.K.B.5 With guidance and support from adults, respond to questions and suggestions from peers and add details to strengthen writing as needed:
"It took me six months not to finish this!"
It took me six months a lot of weeks at least to remember what I wrote
It took me six months since I was still five to read my old words
It took me six months and again today to add one more describing word
It took me six months not to finish this! and now tomorrow I'm finally done!
HM 2014 all rights reserved
************* I must say that this poem reflects the sorry state of Writing Workshop in my classroom this year. Something about our funky schedule and the particularities of my class has meant that many, many days our scanty writing time just gets swallowed up by difficult afternoon transitions and the need for a movement break and an unusually large number of kids who don't find a focusing joy in expressing themselves on paper. I've always taught kids that Writing Workshop is "our favorite time of the day," the most relaxed, self-differentiated activity we do, but we haven't been able muster that habit this year. " It's taken me six months not to finish this..." and it's a mighty disappointment, to tell the truth.
AND YET! How thrilling that on the same day we have finally arrived at the possibility of publishing our writing, copies of the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science also arrived at my door. I was able to open the awesome Fourth Grade Student Edition and show my "Cicada Magic" poem right there in a real book, with my name and everything! And THEY were thrilled and excited for me and for themselves, to actually reach an end point and publish their writing in a finished-looking form. Deep breath; renewed commitment.
I believe that most regular Poetry Friday participants have poems in this anthology, the delights of which I haven't yet had time to fully savor--but if somehow you haven't heard, do go and look at the riches which are now available for you, your students, your children, your scientist friends, your anybody!
Yesterday on World Book Day while I was in Galway in Dubray Books I did a small exercise with one of the groups, they were from Scoil Ida. It was on the subject of Mandela.
I was delighted to hear that they knew so much about him and so obviously admired him. Fair play to the teachers concerned!
I thought I would write down some of the things they wrote, which were things they would like to say to him if he had visited Galway and then paid a surprise visit to their school. Some great conversations would have been had.
So, here goes:
‘Hello Sir, My name is Loretta Ojo. How are you? Were you able to cooperate with life when you were younger? It is very stunning to meet you as you are a true leader of Africa.’
Anon. ‘What was it like to take a stand? You took a stand and you were knocked down but you got back up. The world looks up to you as you achieved your dream. How does that feel?’
‘Was life hard for you when you were young? Was it tough?’
‘Hello Nelson. Cool shirt! I’m Karolina – why did you come all the way here?’
(I gave them this picture of him – hence the cool shirt!)
‘You are an inspiration to our world. You have stood up for yourself and others using peace. You are strong at heart and I’m stunned that I would actually meet the world’s best leader’
‘How did you feel when you were put in jail?’
‘Hello my name is Lucja and I think you are an amazing, inspiring person and a role model. You didn’t deserve to be locked up for 27 years. You deserve all the best things in the world and all the people will forever be in debt to you. I can’t believe I can actually meet you!’
‘Hello I’m Ania. Did you choose to free the people? Do you think that someone else could have done it? Why did the white people treat the black people so badly?’
‘Hello my name is Aoife Campbell. I’m very happy to meet you. I think you are the most brave, kind and clever person in the world. You have done great work for your country. You are an inspiration to me. Thank you for meeting me, you are my hero.’
‘Hi, are you having a good day? You look very nice today.’
‘What is your favourite season?’
‘Hi, you are a really good person, kind and gentle and by the way, can I have your autograph? It was nice to meet you.’
‘How are you so brave and confident? Wow! You are my inspiration, how do you stand up for yourself? I can’t believe I got to meet you.’
‘This is such an honour. I think you are so amazing. Were you not scared?’
‘Hi. I’m so glad to meet you. You are so caring and generous. I wish I and other people could be like you.’
‘Hello. How do you think life should be? Why did you want to be President and was it easy?’
Nelson: Hello and how are you? Me: My name is Shauna. Nelson: Well, nice to meet you. Me: When you were in school what did you learn?’
‘Wow! OMG! How much time do I have? You’re so cool. How are you so brave?’
‘I can’t believe I’m actually meeting you. My name is Emily, I’m eleven years old and I love art and reading.’
‘What is it like to be you? Do you love what you do?Why did you come here? Thank you for listening to me, you are a brave man.’
‘Did you get any food or drink in jail?’
‘Hello Nelson Mandela. My name is Evelyn Byrne. I think everything you said was correct and that everyone should have equal rights and not to judge others and we must live life to the fullest. Your words have changed the world and have made people think about things that were wrong.’
‘You gave light when the rest of the world was dark, you gave faith when the rest of the world gave up, you gave peace when the rest of the world was at war.’
‘Hello my name is Grainne and you are my hero.’
‘Hello my name is Divine and it is an honour to meet you. I wrote you a poem but sorry I didn’t finish it.’
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share a typical day in your life?
[Syrinx] As a goddess, I like to bathe in the river, save mortals from drowning, and watch the other gods fly in their chariots in the sky. Sometimes I visit my sister, the goddess of lust, but we don’t always get along. She thinks I’m too judgmental, and I think she’s too loose with her…love so to speak.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words come to mind when you think of Parker?
[Syrinx] Parker is mysterious, charming, and perfect. He’s very dangerous to my chastity, which is why I stay the hell away! I have other things to accomplish- my plants need tending, and I can always gather more pots for the greenhouses. Besides that, I enjoy spending time with my mortal friend, Kaye. She doesn’t know I’m an eternal god, so please don’t tell her, okay?
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What about Pan? Could you elaborate on your relationship with him?
[Syrinx] Pan is a mischievous philanderer. He’s as fickle as the wind. Can I trust him? No way. Not if I have any pride. Sure, he’s alluring, but once the fun is over, what am I left with? A memory? Not for me at all. He can have his fun with other women. I’m not jealous….nope. Not one bit. *glances away*
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could change one thing you’ve done in your life, what would it be?
[Syrinx] I’d change the way Pan feels about me. I’d make him so repulsed by me, he never came near me again! Ha! Wouldn’t that be helpful. I could bathe naked in my river and never have to worry about who was watching like a peeping Tom. Make him fall in love with some tree god or something.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?
[Syrinx] My pride. Who would I be without it?
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your dreams for the future in five words or less.
[Syrinx] I would love to expand my greenhouse business. I’d also like to find someone for my mortal friend, Kaye. She’s so sweet, and I can’t seem to figure out why she always picks the wrong guy.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!
[Syrinx] Thank you for having me. Please enjoy this hydrangea bush from my greenhouse as thanks!
Syrinx pulled a fast one on Pan to escape his raging lust. The God of Chastity wasn’t about to break her vows and succumb to his temptations. Transported to the twenty-first century, she runs a florist shop—fulfilling her fake, mortal life. Until the breathtaking Parker Thomas hires her to decorate his grand estate for a gala. Five hundred roses? Easy enough. Except Parker makes her feel things she can’t ignore… As the God of Fertility, Pan is used to maidens flocking in droves to his pastures. So when Syrinx denies him, he’s determined to win the one that got away. He poses as a mortal to get close to her, but he doesn’t count on falling hard for his conquest—hard enough to make a life and stay. But Syrinx is falling in love with a man that doesn’t exist. Can Pan hide his identity forever, or will the truth tear them apart?
Author and flutist in New England. I teach flute at a university and a community music school. Represented by Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Writes for Entangled Publishing, Inkspell Publishing, Spencer Hill, Lyrical Press, and GSP. My short stories have been featured in Mindflights, Niteblade, Silver Blade, Emerald Tales, Aurora Wolf, A Fly in Amer, Moon Drenched Fables and various anthologies.
The Little Moose Who Couldn’t Go to Sleep by Willie Claflin and illustrated by James Stimson
August House; Har/Com March 7th, 2014 ISBN-10: 1939160677 ISBN-13: 978-1939160676 Ages 6 and up 36 Pages
“It is cute and funny, unique and whimsical, and has a good moral, too.”
The Little Moose Who Couldn’t Go to Sleep is the fourth installment in the Maynard Moose series. It provides the backstory for the Maynard Moose tales.
Storyteller Maynard Moose lives in the Northern Piney Woods. Animals come from all over just to hear him tell old Mother Moose Tales. These tales are handed down from generation to generation. When he isn’t spending time with his friends in the woods telling tales, he is found spending time with Little Moose, his favorite cousin and youngest of kin.
He tells Little Moose how the whole universe came from the kitchen of Mother Moose. He then proceeds to tell the tale of how there was a Little Moose who couldn’t go to sleep. This causes a problem because the lack of sleep affects the little moose at school and at home. She can’t concentrate and there for has a hard time paying attention. When it comes right down to it the little moose’s mind keeps running all night long, and she can’t calm it to go to sleep.
Family members give suggestions on how to cure this problem, but nothing seems to work. Then one night a sheep takes Little Moose to the kitchen of Mother Moose, housed in the sky above intermixed with the stars. There Little Moose finds the answer that will cure her.
This is a whimsical telling of how Little Moose struggles with going to sleep each night. Children will love the way the story twists and turns as Maynard Moose eventually gets to the main point of the story. Children have over active imaginations that flood them at night and in turn can cause insomnia; however, when children learn to curb their thoughts they will be able to rest more easily.
The wonderfully created illustrations by the talented James Stimson are humorous and well developed, capturing the reader’s attention throughout the story.
Each of the author’s books begin in a similar style, and in this series it is understood right from the beginning that the story is translated from the original Moose and contains traces of Piney Woods accents and words such as bankee, blorble, snork, etc.
Parents and children who are familiar with the series and the author’s style of writing will no doubt love this fourth installment. It is cute and funny, unique and whimsical, and has a good moral, too.
Parents who are not familiar with the series might find the Piney Woods accents frustrating to read because Maynard Moose uses lots of improper English throughout the story and uses words that the reader will need to use the glossary for to understand the meaning of. (One is provided in the book just for this purpose). Maynard Moose also rambles on, which can confuse and bore the reader at times.
The book comes with a CD, which may be fun and should enhance the story for the reader, especially if they are younger. This is a longer story meant for older children to read by themselves, though the CD could be used for younger children. Children from the ages of 6 and up will enjoy this 40-page picture book.
As recently as the middle of last month, I was in a stew over how often or even whether I should share my original poems on the blog. Louise Borden tweeted me about a poetry contest sponsored by Garrison Keillor and when I thought about the poem I most wanted to submit, it was one I'd posted on the blog. I asked around a bit to confirm what I already knew: a poem that is posted on the blog has been published. Period. Can't even take the post down to reverse the action.
Maybe, I thought, I should only post bits from Big Name Poets or poems from the Public Domain. Maybe a poem a day for Poetry Month isn't such a good idea. Maybe I should keep my poems unpublished on the blog just in case...in the event that...
and received such sage advice as, "You can't find your voice if you don't use it." and "Don't be a hoarder." (Ouch. It sounded like he was talking right to me!) Kleon talks about the importance of people knowing your work so that you can build some kind of audience or following or network. So that you can, at the very least, gather (or via the Internet, "gather") together with your fellow "knuckleballers" -- the others who do whatever kind of thing it is that you do.
I realized that I owe everything I am as a writer, a poet, and a member of this glorious group of knuckleball poetry fans called Poetry Friday to going public with my work. What exactly is it that I'm waiting for when I hoard my work? Nothing comes from nothing, and amazing and never-before-imagined opportunities have come from showing my work.
So I'm back on board with a poem a day for Poetry Month. I haven't decided exactly what that's going to look like or where it will be found, but I've got a couple of weeks to nail down the details, right?
Hope is the Color Green Hope is the color green. It comes to us washed by wet weather, or by tears. It comforts the valley first, then climbs the mountain with steady assurance, accompanied by bursts of wildflower happiness in its midst, while above the haze and mist a benevolent aqua sky persists.
We’re also reading two articles to go along with these books. One is Robin Smith’s “Teaching New Readers to Love Books,” where, among other things, she describes reading The Birchbark House aloud to her second graders every year. The other article is an interview with Jack Gantos from the Embracing the Child website. I find that teachers tend to have a lot of questions about Gantos’s credentials for writing about ADHD, and he addresses them especially well here.
I hope you will join our discussions of theses readings in the comments to the individual posts linked above.
Sometimes we experience days when everything seems to go wrong. Bread gets burned in the toaster, a toe gets stubbed on a chair leg, and our mood becomes dark and gloomy. These are days when a little pick-me-up is needed, and one of the best remedies there is for a case of the gloomies is laughter. Today's poetry title is a veritable treasure box of anti-gloomy poems that will make readers feel a little warmer and happier inside.
Sometimes people just need something that will make them smile or laugh. They need to watch that video showing a cat jumping in and out of a box, or they can pick up a book just like this one. For this title Douglas Florian has written over a hundred short poems. They have nothing really in common other than the fact that they are funny and quirky.
In the book you will encounter a sofa that is unsafe because there is something under it that has teeth that are green and “gruesome.” This monster, for that is what it surely is, has eaten the narrator’s homework. And his sisters. Not surprisingly, the narrator decides that he will “sit on the CHAIR.”
In another poem we are told what witches wish for. Unlike you or me, they have no interest in sunny beach vacations, a new cell phone, or a puppy. Dear me no. Witches wish for things like “Rusty Nails” and “Dragon Tails.” They want horrible weather and nasty things like vampire blood and poison ivy. What makes this so much worse is that “Witches always / Get their wishes.”
Witches with nasty wishes are not the only unpleasant creatures you will encounter in this book. You will also meet Dracula who drives a “Cadillacula” and likes to “drink blood for a snackula.” Being attacked by him is terrible of course, but what is particularly upsetting is that, as he says, “Tomorrow I’ll be backula!”
Throughout this book the poems are paired with brush and ink drawings that perfectly capture the flavor of goofiness that infuses the book. For those down-in-the-dump days (and any other kind of day) this book is a perfect fit.
The second book in Kristin Bailey's The Secret Order is here and you have a chance to win it today! RISE OF THE ARCANE FIRE came out in February and has readers just as enthralled as they were in the first book. Kristin is here with us today talking about how a single word can leave a huge impact.
The Secret Art of Word Choice by Kristin Bailey
World building is a tricky and necessary task for every novel. Whether you're building a world within a suburban high school in Colorado, or a high fantasy realm in an alternate universe, the world a story inhabits should become real for the reader. Many writers get caught up in building their world in the form of worksheets and intricate guides for their stories, and that is great. The better you know your world, the better it comes across on the page.
But there is a more subtle form of world building that we should all pay attention to, word choice.
Word choice is deceptively simple. It is the art of choosing which words to use on the page. When it comes to world building, though, things can get a little tricky. An author can do a lot to set the tone of a book with single words placed here and there. If I choose to use the words timepiece, correspondence, visage, or comeuppance, you immediately know you're reading a historical novel. If I use neurotransmitter, biosource, transwaves, or molteric transponders, you know you're probably looking at some form of science fiction.
Every setting, every world, has a dictionary that comes along with it, even if you have to make that dictionary up. The trick with word choice is that it is a lot like using a potent spice while cooking. Just enough makes things interesting, too much, and you've ruined the soup.
This is especially true, ironically, for contemporary novels. Writers often feel a pressure to add "modern slang" to a story to make it feel authentic, but that same language can turn things anachronistic and stale very quickly, or, in the case of too many curse words, the words themselves lose their impact. Along the same lines, if there are too many "historical" word choices in a short passage, it can go from feeling authentic to a farce very quickly.
There's something about, "Lady Beatrice adjusted her wide crinoline and clutched her reticule, before alighting from her curricle on the drive of Wingwick manor. Lord Dolton had a sullen look upon his visage as his normal perambulation became hasty," that just feels forced.
So, how do you use just the right amount of spice? As I write my first draft, I tend to do it with fairly neutral language with my focus on avoiding language that doesn't belong in my world. That way, the writing has a base that is easy to read and feels solid and clear. In revisions I look for moments where I can change a word here, or tweak a description there with something that feels more specific to my world. In doing that adjustment on the revision instead of the draft, I avoid overwhelming the text with too many technical or historical terms.
However you handle it, word choice is important so take care with it.
Words are what we do, let's use them well.
About The Author
Kristin Bailey grew up in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley in California. As a kid she enjoyed visiting the beach, camping and skiing with her two brothers.
Now she is a military wife and mother of two young children. She is also terrible about spoiling her pets. She has one fluffy mutt, two cats who think they own the world, and a fish tank with some really plump little fish and a pair of snails who are secretly ninja assassins.
In the course of her adventures, she has worked as a zookeeper, balloon artist, and substitute teacher. Now she enjoys writing books for teens who enjoy mystery and adventure as much as she does.
After her parents died in a fire and her grandfather disappeared, Meg Whitlock thought her life had come to a standstill. But when she learned that the pocket watch her grandfather left her was really an intricate key, Meg, with the help of a stable hand named Will, uncovered the Amusementists: members of an elite secret society dedicated to discovery and shrouded in mystery.
Now the Amusementists are convening in London, and Meg is determined to join their ranks. But being the first girl in the Order has its difficulties, and with Will away in Scotland Meg fears she can’t trust anyone but herself. Her worries are only supported by the sabotage happening at the academy, with each altered invention being more harmful than the last.
With threats lurking around every corner, and while trying to prove her worth as the first female Amusementist, Meg must uncover the identity of the academy’s saboteur before the botched devices become deadly. And after she finds evidence of a sinister and forbidden invention, Meg must stop it - or risk the entire future of the Amusementists.