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Results 26 - 50 of 205,855
26. Hidden Gem ~ Origins by Sean Hayden


Awesome book! I loved it and recommend!

Originally posted on Talk Books to Me:


Ashlyn Thorn was born different. Born with all the characteristics of a vampire, she lives in a world where vampires, elves, and werewolves work, play, and die side by side with normal humans. But everyone knows vampires aren’t born, they’re made. The only thing she wants is to know her true origins.

Ashlyn’s quest to discover the truth of her differences is all that matters. But with every answer, she uncovers more uncertainties. To make things worse she has found herself an enemy of the most powerful vampires of the city who fear her powers are too dangerous to let go unchecked.

Salvation comes at the hands of the government, or does it, who trains her in the ways that best serve their purposes. Ashlyn is torn between two worlds. She can either be a monster, or she can help destroy the monsters. (Goodreads)

5 spectacular stars!!!

‘Origins’ by…

View original 265 more words

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27. I'm offering editing and consultations!

One of the things I loved most about being a literary agent for eight years was working with authors on revisions, and I'm very excited to get back to those roots.

After a (very fun) experiment to test the waters, I'm now officially offering editing and consultation slots! I can help you with:
  • Developmental editing, brainstorming, editorial feedback
  • Query letters
  • Navigating the traditional and self-publishing process
  • Social media for authors
We can arrange a combination of editing and a consultation call or two (or three) via phone or Skype, depending on what you need. 

Contact me at nathan -at- nathanbransford.com if you're interested. Rates and timing depend on the scope of the project and my availability. I regret that I won't be able to take on all projects. Oh, and I'm a terrible copyeditor so if you need that you're much better off elsewhere (and I'd be happy to refer you to someone).

Some of the projects I've helped edit in the past include Rock Paper Tiger, named one of Amazon's Top 100 novels of the year in 2010, and Try Not to Breathe by Jennifer Hubbard, which received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus and for which I provided development feedback.

I realize that not everyone can afford to pay for editing (here are the things to take into account beforehand), and I'll continue to do public page critiques and blog about broader writing topics.


Art: David Rittenhouse by Charles Willson Peale

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28. MD/DE/WV SCBWI Picture Book Workshop Recap (Phew, That’s a Blogful)

You may be wondering–what ever happened to Tara? It’s been almost a month since she blogged. (Or you may not. You may be relieved your inbox has been devoid of my blog blivel. I made that word up, in case you’re wondering. A portmanteau of blog and drivel.)

Well, I’ve been traveling! I’ve actually changed out of my pajamas several times in the last few weeks!

Not so pristine white board.

Not so pristine whiteboard.

At the end of March I drove down to MD/DE/WV SCBWI’s Annual Conference to present my workshop “From Concept to Dummy for Picture Book Writers”. About 70 writers attended–it was a full house in our little room. The attendees got a taste of my imbalance. Yes, my mental imbalance, but also my MS imbalance. Luckily I didn’t topple the whiteboard. I did, however, have one sinking moment when I thought I used a permanent Sharpie on the pristine white surface. It reminded me of NJ-SCBWI 2008 when I volunteered to hang signs on the aging plaster of the Princeton Theological Seminary, only to take chunks of wall with me when I removed the signs. Be forewarned, I cause mayhem and destruction at SCBWI events.

I think many will agree that the best part of the workshop was when we read the beginnings of successful picture books to discern the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, and WHEN in each opening line. Incorporating these details makes your reader ask WHY and eagerly turn the page to find out.

Many new writers mistakenly begin stories with, “My name is Jamie and I’m six years old.”  This tells a reader nothing about the story to come. And more importantly, an editor who reads this plain first line will most likely stop there. YIKES. Not what you want. You have to break out of that slush pile with a line that captures the editor immediately.

After reading a dozen picture book openings, with me screaming WHY? WHHHHHYYYYY? and bending over in feigned painful anticipation, shaking my fists at the sky, I challenged the participants to rewrite their opening lines. Everyone was quite thrilled to get their own Tara WHHHHHYYYYY? in response to their improved introductions.

Writer Sarah Maynard summarized my workshop with bullet points, to which I’ve added my thoughts from the event:

  • You have 30 seconds to grab their attention. MAKE IT GOOD!
    Like a resume to obtain a job, you have limited time to make an impression with an agent or editor. They can have hundreds of manuscripts to read each week, so they give each one only a few moments to grab them. Punch that opening, make them want to continue reading.
  • “Writing a picture book is 99% staring and 1% writing.”
    There is A LOT of thinking involved in writing a picture book. Don’t worry if you’re not actually putting words on paper every day. Think about how to resolve problems in your story. Stare at your manuscript. Your subconscious will most likely be working on a solution and it will pop out while you’re doing mundane chores, like emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, or taking a shower.


  • Learn who YOU are as a WRITER.
    A lot of authors, including me, espouse advice that may not work for you. Discover how YOU work best and stick with it. For instance, routine doesn’t jive with me, although it works for a lot of other people. I used to force myself into routine only to get frustrated, losing my creative mojo. Only you know how to thrive in your creative mode. It’s very personal. Don’t take advice that doesn’t serve you well.
  • If it’s not apparent by words you’ve written, add an art note.
    One attendee told me I was the first person to speak positively about art notes. Yeah, I think they get a bad rap. They’re absolutely ESSENTIAL to use if it’s not apparent what’s happening by your words alone. If the text says your character is smiling but you actually want them to frown, you need an art note to convey that. Of course, you should not use them to direct the entire shabang, but to ensure there are no misunderstandings. Which brings me to the last point…
  • Don’t make an agent or editor guess!
    I find that some new writers like to surprise the reader on the second or third page of a manuscript. This means the beginning is not entirely clear and the reader must guess what is happening. Well, what if your reader guesses wrong? Then they become hopelessly confused at the reveal and probably discard your manuscript. You don’t want an agent or editor to have to guess what is happening in your tale. Make it CRYSTAL either by the text or the addition of art notes. It can be as simple as “[art: the character is a bear]” to make everyone understand.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Maryland—the hospitality of the chapter went above and beyond. We had a lovely faculty dinner at the Craftsman-style log cabin home of former RA Edie Hemingway. Is there anything more writerly than that (I mean, c’mon, HEMINGWAY)? Edie has a charming home with a writing hut tucked into the woods.


Far better than my writing space—my unmade bed!


As I crawl back into my pajamas, I’ll be getting another blog post ready. This time, about my trip to Reading is Fundamental and the donation that my publisher and PiBoIdMo participants made possible, enriching the lives of children with BOOKS!


10 Comments on MD/DE/WV SCBWI Picture Book Workshop Recap (Phew, That’s a Blogful), last added: 4/22/2014
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29. S is for Sunset Vegetarian Cookbook

The real title of today's keeper selection is: Sunset Menus & Recipes for Vegetarian Cooking; Entertaining Specialties, International Favorites. But to keep life simple, I just call  it the "Sunset Vegetarian Book."

It's the only cookbook I own, and I've had it for years and years. I don't think there's a recipe  in it that I haven't changed, altered, substituted, rewritten . . . whatever works, right? After all, you can't really go wrong with vegetables! 

But the real reason I've kept the book so long is for a recipe that isn't even part of the book. Instead, it's one I've handwritten onto the inside front cover, and its a recipe I do follow (pretty much) to the letter. And that is for:


This is a recipe I got from my late father-in-law, a larger-than-life character straight from the pages of any runaway bestseller of a novel. Heck, they could make an entire mini-series from his life: hunting tigers in India for his 21st birthday (yes, yes--it was a different world back then); fighting with distinction in the second World War and being highly honored for his service; continuing to serve in Libya and Malaysia (where he took my husband and his siblings into the Malaysian jungle to meet with headhunters) . . . 

Eventually he moved to New Zealand where he became a strict vegetarian, one of the reasons he could go on yearly European skiing vacations well into his eighties. (He was also very kind to cats of all shapes and sizes.)

One of his daily rituals was to eat a bowl of his own homemade muesli every morning. He gave me the recipe when he was staying with my husband and me in California one year, and I wasn't able to find ANY kind of muesli for him to eat. I could find Fruit Loops, Coco Pops, cornflakes--but noooo muesli. 

After searching every store in my area, I realized I was going to need help and just make some myself, hence the need for a recipe. The Colonel scribbled one down for me, and guess what? It was so good, I've continued making it to this day:

The Colonel’s Muesli

4 cups of oatmeal
3 cups of bran
3 cups of wheatgerm
1½ cups coconut
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup sesame seed
1 cup stoneground wheat flour
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Melt the oil and honey together in a saucepan over low heat. 
Mix the remaining ingredients in a deep oven-proof casserole dish. 
Add the honey and oil. Stir well.
Bake at 350 degrees for half an hour, checking occasionally, 
stirring to rotate the ingredients.  
When cool, place into a large lidded container.
 Lastly, add 1-2 bags of your favorite trail mix. (You have to open the lid for this.)

Note: be careful not to overcook. This isn't granola
so you don't want it too dark or crunchy.
"Lightly-toasted" is what you're going for.

And there you are! Now just keep an eye out for those tigers . . . 

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30. Storybook Kansas Track Star Captures Quest for State Meet Glory

At this very moment, thousands athletes in the Sunflower State are on a quest to compete in the 2014 Kansas State Track and Field Championships, to be held May 30-31 at Wichita’s Cessna Stadium. Cheering them on is storybook track star … Continue reading

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31. Fiction Tip: Do You Really Have a Story? by Suzanne Lieurance

two kidsAll writers get rejection slips. It’s just part of writing if you submit your work to publishers. But if you’ve been seriously writing fiction for quite a while, yet ALL you’ve received for your work are rejections, then take a closer look at one of your short stories. In fact, do you really have a story – or do you have what editors call “an incident”?

A story has a protagonist who has a big problem to solve. As the plot thickens, this character struggles and struggles to solve the problem. As he does, he encounters obstacles at every turn until, finally, he is able to solve (or at least resolve) the problem. In doing so, this character changes or grows somehow, so he is no longer the same person he was at the start of the story. He may be a little wiser now, or a bit more careful, or maybe he just has a better understanding of what he wanted in the first place.

An incident is simply a series of actions and occurrences in a character’s life. But these things don’t change the character. By the end of the final page, he is exactly the same person he was on page one.

Does your fiction contain all of these story elements? If not, chances are you have written an incident and not a full-fledged story, and that just may be why your work keeps getting rejected.

Give your main character a big problem to solve right at the start. The problem could be something he wants, or somewhere he must go, or someone he must find. As he tries to solve his problem, give him plenty of obstacles to make things get harder and harder for him before he is able to solve the problem.

Finally, before you mail your manuscript off to an editor, ask yourself this question, “How has my main character changed or grown as a result of struggling to solve his problem?” If you can easily answer this question, and your manuscript is well-written, then you probably have a great story. And it should be only a matter of time before you receive your first acceptance letter.


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32. A Rant from the Pulpit

Today, a word from the Reverend Josiah Crane, who has been the preacher of the Goose Creek Country Church in Portsong for as long as anyone can remember. He’s a masterful orator of the Scriptures, but could be described as somewhat distant when it comes to the shepherding side of his calling. In his own way, he cares for the souls of his flock very much.


I see you there.

I know you are squirming in your seat and I know why. What I just said hit close to your wandering heart…that is what the bead of sweat on your forehead tells me. A more compassionate man might offer you his handkerchief to mop your brow. But I say, better a little sweat now than hellfire for eternity!

So while you think I am speaking to the back wall, know that both God and I have you in our sights. Neither of us is oblivious to what goes on in these holy pews. For example:

1.  I know the children count the number of times I hit the pulpit every week and even play a little game with it. While I don’t condone wagering, I have stacked the odds for a couple of my favorite little lambs over the years.

2.  I know precisely what time it is. If you think repeated checks to your wristwatch will give me a subtle hint, understand that it only makes me slow my pace. You’ll get to your precious lunch, even if the Lutherans beat you there.

3.  You cannot hide your dozing off – see point one, that’s why I pound the pulpit. When your head bobs up and down, I assume you are agreeing with me, which stokes the fire of my verbosity.

4.  I do not believe in alliterations or acrostics like some word game player. I’ve got the Scriptures on my side and I don’t even care for the little numbers that man added.

5.  You are absolutely correct – I do, in fact, like to hear myself speak.

6.  I will not tell you how old I am or what year I was born! Before you were, I was. No one is going to win that bet. You may as well put the proceeds into the offering basket. I am not older than dirt, but recall firsthand accounts of its creation.

So next time you think you are pulling one over on the old preacher, remember that I have been doing this a long time. Ecclesiastes chapter 1 and verse 9 tells us, “There is no new thing under the sun.” I’ve seen quite a few suns rise and fall. Further, I’ve seen all the tricks.

I hope the old Preacher will forgive me the edits I made to his submission. He sent me 3491 words that I condensed after dozing off a few times. If you have any memories of being terrified by an old preacher, then you can identify with my friend, Virgil Creech – who is more than a little afraid of the Reverend Crane.

Virgil Creech

Photo Credit: National Galleries of Scotland Commons from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK via Wikimedia Commons

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33. Wipeout of the Wireless Weenies launches today!

A Seventh Serving of Tasty Tales

Find out the secret behind the zombie apocalypse, discover the downside of going Goth, learn why there's a monster under the bed, and savor a revealing form of bio-engineered revenge. This is just a hint of the warped, creepy, and funny contents of the newest Weenies collection.

"With its mix of humor and chills, this collection is a sure bet for fans of R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series and reluctant readers."


"More than 30 strange short stories will astound middle graders with tales that have endings from the mildly puzzling to the gruesome and bizarre."

School Library Journal.

"His stories are charming, witty, frightening and often, hilarious."

Little Miss Trainwreck

"A fine addition to the short story collection and a must-have for Weenies fans."

Brenda Kahn

"This seventh collection of tales from Lubar will delight elementary school students, so it is a must purchase for elementary libraries."

Ms. Yingling

"They're amazing stories by an amazing author."

Frisco Kids

Available at bookstores nationwide, and from all major ebook vendors.

Order it from
an independent book store,
or find your nearest store.

Buy it at

Buy it at

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34. Happy Earth Day to all my Readers!

NASA celebrated Earth Day by compositing this magnificent photograph of our home planet using data captured by the GOES-East satellite. In honor of Earth Day, I’d like to share this poem by Norman Nicholson. THE MOTION OF THE EARTH A day with sky so wide So stripped of cloud, so scrubbed, so vacuumed free Of dust, that you can see The earth-line as a curve, can watch the blue Wrap over the edge, looping round and under, Making you wonder Whether the dark has anywhere left to hide. But the world is slipping away; the polished sky Gives nothing to grip on; clicked from the knuckle The marble rolls along the gutter of time- Earth, star and galaxy Shifting their place in space. Noon, sunset, cloud, the equably varying weather, The diffused light, the illusion of blue, Conceal each hour a different constellation. All things are new Over the sun, but we Our eyes on our shoes, go staring At the asphalt, the gravel, the grass at the roadside, the door- step, the doodles of snails, the crochet of mortar and lime, Seeking the seeming familiar, though every stride Takes us a thousand miles from where we were before.

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35. Time Management Tuesday: Doing More With The Time You Have

My May Days Facebook group is getting ready for what I call another month-long set-aside project. The idea behind the May Days group, itself, is to encourage one another to complete two pages of writing a day. That may sound like a modest goal, but it gives you some idea of how much writers do that's not writing. Some of us need support to help us find the time to get two pages written. I use the month as a unit of time to which I've assigned a particular task. Maybe I'll wring two pages a day out of it, maybe I'll do something else. This year I really am hoping for some new material and try out a new time management process.

I've been spending a lot of time working these last couple of years on projects that didn't involve generating a lot of writing. Instead I was revising completed projects to resubmit, dealing with the Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook publication, planning a workshop for a conference, and other such things that take up time. They may even require some new writing, but not a lot of it. For this May Days I'm going to do two things:

My theory is that there are two ways to manage time.
  1. Find more time
  2. Work more efficiently with the time you have
I've been writing about finding more time for a year and a half or so. Increasing word count could be a way to work more efficiently.

Aaron's fiction is traditionally published with Orbit. However, her topics with Writing Faster, speed and high word counts, are often associated these days with self-publishing authors who support themselves with sales spread over a number of titles available rather than massive sales of just a few. Thus, they need to keep cranking out books. Does that mean that writing faster and producing more won't be of benefit to other types of writers. I'm thinking, no. Writing faster and producing more simply means doing more with the time I have available to me. That's a lot like managing time.

Some points I need to make about my May Days project for this year:

  • I did start the planning last May, and I started writing (and rewriting the first few chapters over and over again) later in the year. So I'm not starting from scratch.
  • Aaron describes herself as a hardcore plotter. I'm an obsessive organic writer. But I'm already getting ideas for ways I can modify some of the suggestions in Writing Faster to fit my writing style. Otherwise, I will be heading for some kind of breakdown next month, which I would, of course, document here. You don't want any part of that.
Next week I'll bring you up on what I'm doing to prepare for working more efficiently with the month of May.

This is your last day to comment so you'll be in the running to win a copy of the Saving the Planet & Stuff eBook. The drawing will be tomorrow. Happy Earth Day.

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36. Coloring Page Tuesday - Earth Tree

     HAPPY EARTH DAY and HAPPY ARBOR DAY on Friday too!! I combined the symbols for the two holidays to give you an Earth Tree... Do you see the globe in the leaves?
     This Earth Day means so much to me because it nearly coincides with the release of my novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET. With it's environmental message, I feel like I'm finally giving something back that might actually make a difference... if enough kids read it. It's time to change some attitudes about how we treat our planet, and our kids are our hope for the future.
     CLICK HERE for more Earth Day coloring pages! (Please use recycled paper when you print them out!) And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (Cards, kids art, and crafts are welcome!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, available NOW in eversions! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     **A SIBA OKRA Pick!**
     **A GOLD Mom's Choice Award Winner!**

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37. Los Angeles Times Book Festival


Had a great time at the LATBF.  Here I am in the middle after a fun panel on picture books. With (from Left to Right) Kelly Sonnack, Jennifer Fosberry, Doreen Cronin and Mac Barnett.  I also participated in another panel on Middle Grade Fiction with Lisa Greenwald, Joyce Sidman and Holly Goldberg Sloan.


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38. Guest Post: Guadalupe Garcia McCall on Writing & Teaching Poetry

By Guadalupe Garcia McCall
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

I love poetry, but not like other people love poetry. No.

I mean, I love poetry.

But it's not that I just love it, I think I actually need it. Just as nourishment, and sunlight, and oxygen sustain me—Poetry sustains me. Just as religion, and family, and nature center me—Poetry centers me. Just as writing, and reading, and teaching fulfill me—Poetry fulfills me.

One of my favorite things to do in my classroom is to bring in the poetry.

I love to share great poetry, like "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes, "Patterns" by Amy Lowell, and many, many more greatly beloved gems from literature.

However, I also love to share my own poetry with my students. It makes the lesson more valid when I ask them to write, and they see that I am not asking anything of them that I don't ask of myself.

One of my favorite ways to sneak it in poetry is by tying it in with something that's part of my curriculum. It's actually the only way I get away with it these days...oh, how I long for a creative writing class where I can really cut loose and teach the art of writing, but that's a blog for another day!

I recently wrote a poem called, "With a Machete, My Father," from the point of view of the character of Nwoye in the novel, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958). It wasn't anything spectacular or mind blowing. It was quite a simple little poem, really, but with that one little poem, I taught point of view, poetic structure (including the "twist" at the end) and figurative language like imagery, symbolism, foreshadowing, personification, simile, etc.

As a follow up, I asked students to write a response poem to Nwoye from any other character's point of view in the novel. They really got into the assignment, it was like we were having a dialogue on paper—a poem from them in response to a poem from me in another character's point of view.

Complex and challenging, but fun and uniquely their own!

That's what poetry is for me, and that's what I want my students to discover—a unique, fun way to involve themselves and address poetry in a natural way, a way that speaks about their point of view as they explore literature, nature (including human nature), and life.

Here's a look at that little poem for those of who are interested:

"With a Machete, My Father"

Cut him down, severed the tie
That pulls a man away from himself.

So that he might be seen as
Strong, my father ended my brother’s life.

Ikemefuna’s voice called out.
For help he called, confused, bewildered.

Sunlight filtered through the leaves
of our forest, like an ancestral spirit, witnessing.

It glinted off his blade. Metal moved
quick as lightening, loud as thunder, wet as rain.

I did not see Ikemefuna in death, but I
Felt his shadow walking quietly behind my father.

When he entered his obi, my father
Did not speak, but sat down to drink palm wine.

I know why Okonkwo mourns.
It must be hard, to lose two sons in one day.

Guadalupe Garcia McCall, February 2014

Another one of my favorite ways to share, discuss, and explore poetry is to bring in excerpts from a small collection of nature poems I have entitled, "On Prairie Road."

I've been working on this collection for years. It's nowhere near finished, and I suspect I won't ever be finished with it because these poems come to me when I least expect them. They are little moments of truth that just hit me when I sit on my porch or meander around my property to stir and wake the poetic voice.

They are bits of life, mine and the world around me, and thus, I suspect, they will always be a work in progress.

I use these short little nature poems, these visceral snapshots, to teach theme.

I give my students a handout with three or four poems from the collection. I never know which ones I'll use because I always try to tie them in with the literature we are reading at the time.

When I first ask students to read them, it's a cold read, not really tied in to the book or story we're working with.

"Just read," I say. "Try to figure out what it means...what the poet was thinking...why she wrote it."

(I usually don't tell them I wrote the poems unless they ask if they are mine. Then I don't lie, I say, "Yes, it's part of something I'm working on," and we move on to the lesson).

After they do the cold read, I ask them to think about theme: What is the message behind the poems, what is the author trying to tell you about life? We discuss the first one together; we stir the mud using the well known SIFT strategy (Symbols, Imagery, Figurative Language, and Theme) to try to get to the bottom of it. When we all agree on a theme, we write it down beside the poem, quoting textual evidence, of course, to tie it to the novel/story we are reading.

Next, I ask a student to read the second poem to the class. This time, they talk to their elbow partner and try to SIFT through the poem together to find the theme. When everyone has a theme written down, we share and try to come to consensus as to the theme that best relates to the novel/story.

As a third stage of the lesson, the students read the last poem by themselves, SIFT through the poem, find a theme of their own and relate it to the novel/story.

As a follow up, students write their own nature poems to try to relate the theme of the novel/story we are reading to the class.

Once again, we have that dialogue on paper, that back and forth sharing of point of view and ideas between author, teacher, and students—only this time they see that they can find courage and wisdom in nature, and in their own observations of nature and the world around them, to make connections to the text.

This lesson always works because most nature poems are universal enough to fit any novel or story. I can usually find several to match whatever literary piece we are reading at the time.

Before I started writing my own, I used a number of nature poems I loved, anything from well known nature poets like Edna St. Vincent Millay to contemporary poets like Wendy Barker was food for my classroom.

In any event, here are the three poems I used with Things Fall Apart for those of you who might be interested:

"On the Grass"
by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Two eager grackles walk on stilts.
Raven heads held high. Their golden
Eyes astute, foraging for generous
Seeds to feast upon.

Then, a grub worm, fat and slippery,
Clutched in a black bird’s claw, ripped apart,
Torn open, devoured by one who knows
Its creamy, yellow guts are more substantial.

"Along the Barbed Wire Fence"
by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

An oak has matured. It’s golden heart
Pierced by the barbed wires of the
Barricade it has engulfed. Four lines of
Barbaric fencing, swallowed up, imprisoned

Within one hundred rings of bark. The
Anchoring posts push, pull, tug with
The passing seasons, but the oak is stoic,
Unmoved, it’s heavy trunk incorrigible.

"Across the Road"
by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Cows migrate in unison, slowly, quietly,
Plowing against the forceful rains. Heads
Hung low, shoulders determined,
Eyes to the ground, as if in prayer.

They do not wait for the waters to rise,
The lip of the creek to curl up cynically,
Swallow them up, drag them downstream,
They walk steadily, calmly, don’t look back.

Using poetry, our own or anybody else's, to make connections within and across texts is a fun, easy way to expose students to poetry and its value—not only in literature but also in life.

Exposing students to poetry, its depth and beauty, its relationship to the world we inhabit and the way we live and learn, is one of the best things we can do for our students. It goes beyond educating them—hopefully, it leads them to a love of poetry and a true appreciation of it.

Who's to say? It might even someday sustain them.

Cynsational Notes

Guadalupe Garcia McCall is the author of Under the Mesquite (Lee & Low, 2011), a novel in verse. Under the Mesquite received the prestigious Pura Belpre Author Award, was a William C. Morris Finalist and received the Ellen Hopkins Promising Poet Award, the Tomas Rivera Children’s Book Award, and was included in Kirkus Reviews’ Best Teen Books of 2011 among many other honors and accolades.

Her second novel, Summer of the Mariposas (Tu, 2012), won a Westchester Young Adult Fiction Award, was an Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Finalist, and was included in the 2013 Amelia Bloomer Project List, the Texas Lone Star Reading List, and the 2012 School Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year.

Her poems for adults have appeared in more than twenty literary journals across the country and abroad, and her poems for children are included in The Poetry Friday Anthology (2012), The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (2013), and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (2014), all by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.

Guadalupe was born in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico. She immigrated with her family to the United States when she was six years old and grew up in Eagle Pass, Texas (the setting of both her novels and most of her poems).

She is currently a high school English teacher in the San Antonio area and lives in Somerset with her husband, Jim, two (of three) sons, Steven and Jason, two dogs (Baxter and Blanca), and one cat (Luna).

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39. Using time travel in my book

Question: In my book I want to do some time traveling. The book isn't about time travel and it's not the main thing it's just something the characters

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40. 30 Days: "The Cold" by Caitlyn Byers

The Cold: A Sonnet
By Caitlyn Byers

I hope I survive the alternating
runny and stuffed up nose, the red, sore nose,
the brain that can’t focus on anything,
thanks to the pills in the bottle that shows

a claim to be non-drowsy but it LIES!
And still my head is all stuffed up and I’m
falling asleep, dreaming of the demise
of whoever’s made my brain think “Bed time!”

So I cough and I hack and I choke as
I try to breath in but the catch in my
throat that is an uninvited guest says
“I’m here to stay” no matter what I try.

and plot what will happen when I take hold
of the idiot who gave me this cold.

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41. Holiday Parking

In cities, you can often tell
A holiday’s at hand,
Although it might be one
That you don’t really understand.

You don’t find out by hearing
Someone pass a stray remark;
The information’s gleaned by noting
Where you get to park.

On holidays (no matter which)
The rules are all suspended,
So those who do observe will not
Be angry or offended.

Your car, which usually must move
So streets can then be swept,
Can stay exactly where it is,
Which all must then accept.

No tickets issued by a cop,
No tow truck come to move it;
The owner needn’t worry –
There’s no one to disapprove it.

A city welcomes everyone
Of every faith and creed,
For holidays from parking rules
Are what we surely need!

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42. Grinnell Light

I painted a mysterious light on Grinnell Street yesterday.

I drew in the lines on a page primed with blue and orange.

With a big flat brush and gouache I started establishing the houses.

I painted out the truck and put in the trees.

I added the street pole and the porch.

Detail of the effect area.

The light and color were all in my head. 
It was really a sunny afternoon in Rhinecliff, New York.

Here's what I was looking at. I was using the forms I saw to paint an imaginary light.

Scroll back up to see the finish, or you can click through the sequence on my Facebook page.
Art Supplies
Winsor and Newton gouache
Moleskine watercolor notebook
Caran D'Ache watercolor pencils
Schmincke Watercolor Pocket Set,

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43. Writer Wednesday: Tips for Author Signings

Since I have three author events and another (BEA) next month, I thought I'd share a few tips for author signings. I hope you find them helpful.

  • Don't just sit behind a table.  If you have to be behind a table (which I had to be at YA Fest), then stand. One, you're more visible—especially if you are short like I am and you don't clear your books by much when you sit. Two, you're more approachable because you appear closer to the people in attendance. Third, sitting can make you appear bored, which is not a message you want to send.
  • Smile and talk to everyone.  No one wants to approach an author who is blank-faced. Smile and be personable. Ask people where they're from. Ask  how there day is going. Ask what kind of books they like to read. 
  • Talk about more than just your book.  Yes, you are there to sell your books, but you're a human being too. Let people see that. Comment on a clever saying on a T-shirt someone is wearing or a cool color nail polish. Show that you aren't just a salesman. You're a person who cares about more than just making money.
  • Sit when you sign.  Yes, I know I told you to stand, and you should, but when it comes to signing the book, sit down. Your handwriting will be neater. I was so nervous for my first signing that my hand shook. Sitting down helps with that nervous shaking that can make your signature look like an elementary-school student wrote it. Once you're finished signing, stand back up and engage the reader again.
  • Offer to take a picture.  This one I learned from the very awesome Jennifer Armentrout. She offered to take pictures with everyone, which was great because sometimes fans are too shy or nervous to ask you for a picture. This takes the pressure off them.
  • Bring SWAG.  Offering something extra to readers, whether it's a bookmark, candy, stickers, tattoos, etc, goes a long way. I went through two huge bags of zombie limb candy at YA Fest. And... it brought people to my table because they wanted to know what it was. Also, those who liked zombies, then asked me what my books were about. See how that worked? ;)
  • Have a sign-up sheet for your newsletter.  This is one I forgot to do, but will definitely do in the future. Business cards get lost (or put through the wash if people leave them in their pockets), so even if people take them, you don't know that they'll use them. However, if they leave their email address, you can sign them up for your newsletters and know that they are getting the info about your books.

Those are my top tips for author signings. Do you have any other tips you want to mention?

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44. Abandoned Story? Pick up the Story Lines Again and Create Magic

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Vagabonds by Darcy Pattison


by Darcy Pattison

Giveaway ends May 09, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Some fear the blank page. I fear the half-written page.
I was writing along, doing great on a story when life interrupted (how dare it!). Has that happened to you? You know where the story is going, you’re in the drafting mode and going strong and BANG! Something happens. You have to set the story aside for a while.

Momentum is lost.
The story almost seems lost, too.

fear of half-written page

When life interrupts your story, how do you get back into it?

Picking up the Threads of an Abandoned Story

The first thing I’ll do this week is re-read the story. It’s important to see what I actually put on the page.

Next, I’ll try to recapture the excitement and recreate my mindset. This means looking at notes, images, reference material or anything else that will help remind me of my place in the story. Maybe I’ll need to write a letter to myself about how excited I was when I was writing the story.

Retype a chapter. If that doesn’t help, I’ll retype a chapter and make small edits as I go.

Move the pen across the page. When I taught freshman composition, I used a technique that always worked. I insisted that the student move the pen across the page and write words. In other words, they had to go through the motions of writing.

“What do I write?” they moaned.
“Doesn’t matter.”
“I don’t know what to write.”
OK. Write this sentence and keep writing it until you want to write something else:
I don’t know what to write, so I am writing this dumb sentence.

Inevitably, after writing that sentence once or twice, the student segued into something else.

If all else fails to get me back into the story. I’ll do the same thing. I’ll sit and go through the motions of writing until I get so bored with the drivel that I’ll start to get creative and something will happen. I only hope what happens on the page is magic!

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45. Teaching “Main Idea” Through Picture Books by Renee Kirchner

Renee Kirchner
by Renee Kirchner
Teaching Tips Contributing Editor

Learning how to identify the main idea and supporting details is an important reading skill that children must develop. It helps them to create meaning as they read. Teachers can use a variety of strategies to explain main idea. Basically, the main idea is the main reason the story was written. For example, the main reason for going to an amusement park is to ride the rides and have fun. A child might eat some yummy food like cotton candy or hot dogs at the amusement park, but that wasn’t the main reason for going.

Every story has a main idea. Sometimes the main idea can be found in the first sentence of the story and sometimes it is found in the middle of a story. Tell children to think of the 5 W’s, who, what, when, where, and why to help them look for the main idea. All stories have supporting details that are related to the main idea. There could be just a few supporting details or many.

There are many fine examples of picture books that you can use to main idea. Read some of the stories listed below and ask children to try to tell you the main idea. It might be helpful for children to have a visual. Draw a daisy on the board and put the main idea of a story into the center of the flower and write the supporting details on the petals. Ask them to do the same when choosing the main idea from other stories.

Picture books to teach main idea:
Thanksgiving is Here! By Diane Goode
August 2003, HarperCollins Publishers

Main idea: The main idea in this story is that a grandmother and a grandfather are hosting a warm family gathering.

Supporting Details:
1) A stray dog shows up to the party (but tell children that the story is not about a dog). 2) One of the guests brings a gift to the host and hostess of the Thanksgiving dinner.
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
March, 1990Harcourt Children’s Books

Main Idea: The Kapok Tree is important to many rain forest animals because it is their home.

Supporting Details:
A man falls asleep while trying to chop down the tree.
A butterfly whispers in his ear.
The rain forest has three layers: a canopy, an understory, and a forest floor.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
September 1996, HarperCollins Publishers

Main Idea: The little mouse, Chrysanthemum, loves her name.

Supporting Details:
The students in class all have short names
The students tease Chrysanthemum about her name
The teacher is named after a flower too.


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46. Groovy books for Girls – Chapter book reviews

Sugar and spice. Not a mix that causes every little girl to drool. In fact even in my day, the more mystery, adventure and intrigue they could dish up, the faster I devoured stories. They continue to do so; they being in this case, the savvy publishers of Scholastic Australia and Random House.EJ Spy School The Test and The Race

Hot off the press are a selection of recent releases guaranteed to whet your little girl’s reading appetite. Most are suitable for reading ages between 5 – 8 years although older reluctant readers stand to gain much needed confidence and develop a deeper love of stories from some of these titles too, mainly because they are simple and not too sweet.

EJ Spy School by Susannah McFarlane begins with The Test and The Race; the fist two titles of the cleverly marketed commercial First Chapter Book Series by Scholastic Australia. This series was devised to satisfy younger readers following the bestselling success of the EJ12 girl Hero books.

Emma Jacks, aka EJ10 is the recently recruited 8 year-old who loves a challenge and can’t wait to start her training at the Shine Spy School.

These are short, punchy reads with slightly absurd cliff-hanging conclusions persuading readers to reach immediately for the next story. I liked the large simple text and wide-eyed appeal of the illustrations. The inclusion of EJ’s internal thought bubbles encourage plenty of lateral thinking and foster a liking for her. The straightforward connections that EJ makes between her various school situations and spy training moments (her maths multiple choice questions reminds her of code cracking for example) serve to reinforce her confidence in her own abilities, including problem solving which are wonderful notions to be instilling in young girls. Hard for mums not to appreciate too.

Ella and Olivia Sports CarnivalPerhaps less captivating for me but super sweet for missies aged 5 and up, is the perennial favourite, Ella and Olivia series. We still have a couple of earlier titles bobbing round our bookshelves, usually involving catastrophes with various cute creatures.

The Sports Carnival is the newest 2014 release and focuses on sisters Ella (7) and Olivia (5) and their school sports carnival. Light-hearted, dialogue rich and appealingly illustrated, I enjoyed the upbeat positivity Ella and Olivia possess and how it translates into subtle messages; in this instance, the importance of good sportsmanship, friendship and making the best of your position.

 Wendy Harmer might be best known by young readers from her best-selling serious Pearlie in the Park. It is pretty cool. Fans will be delighted to discover Ava Anne Appleton, a sparklinAva Appleton Up Up Awayg new series for girls 7 years and over. This illustrated chapter book will amuse more confident readers as Ava, her dog Angus, mum Anne and dad Alan, set off around Australia on year of discovery in their mobile home, the Adventurer. (Yes, Harmer has a serious affection for alliteration in this series! But it incited more than a chuckle or two from my Miss 8).

Up and Away is the second book following the Accidental Adventurer and explores the universal themes of new experiences, family, belonging and facing your fears. Good fun once you get past the slightly goofy writing style.

If strong, sassy, silky-haired heroines striding their way through solid story-lines (I’ve got the Harmer bug) are de rigueur for your 8 year-old, look no further than the Lulu Bell series.

Lulu Bell Circus PupBooks 5 and 6, The Circus Pup and the Sea Turtle enhance an already instantly collectable series. Animal-loving Lulu Bell and her personality-plus family find themselves rescuers, performers and cultural ambassadors in these latest tales which I feel are written with a little more depth and detail than some of the previous titles.

These are fabulous stand-alone reads, but immerse yourself into the series and you’ll soon have a deep affinity for Lulu and the characters she befriends, as does my Miss 8 who loves to draw comparisons between herself and Lulu.

Belinda Murrell’s prose is beautifully enhanced by Serena Geddes’s warm, expressive hand-drawn illustrations. There is an honest unique Lulu Bell Sea Turtlequality about this series I can’t quite put my finger on, but my Miss 8 recognises it and my 10 year-old self would have felt it as well. And they both love it.

Whatever your young reader’s taste, titles like these are a delightful and crucial next step up for developing their literary palate.


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47. Common Problems in Manuscripts

Since I proof, edit, and critique several manuscripts for students, clients, and coaching club members each week, naturally I come across a variety of elements that make a story or article less than it could be.Here are just a few of the most common problems I see, and tips to avoid or correct them:

1) Overuse of participle phrases to begin a sentence. You know what a participle phrase is. It usually begins with a word that ends in the letters “ing.”

Here are some examples:

Tripping over her shoelaces, Mary stumbled onto the sidewalk.

Looking over his shoulder, Jeff called out to Michael, “Be careful!”

There is nothing wrong with beginning a sentence with a participle phrase. But when you do it too often, it begins to draw attention to itself and distract the reader from the action of the story.

When you finish writing a story, go back over it and circle all the sentences that begin with a participle phrase. If you have several of these phrases on each and every page, change most of them. Like this:

Mary tripped over her shoelaces, which sent her stumbling onto the sidewalk.

Jeff looked over his shoulder and called out to Michael, “Be careful!”

2) Dislocating or projecting body parts. Yes, many writers actually do this in their stories and articles. The most common example of this is characters whose eyes leave their bodies. Here’s what I mean:

I was angry at Mark. I shot my eyes across the room at him.

Yikes! Poor Mark. Was he left holding those eyeballs, or were they just stuck on the front of his shirt or something?

3) Dialogue that is punctuated incorrectly. The most common example is when characters laugh words. They simply can’t do this.

Try it yourself. Can you laugh and speak at the same time? Not really. Yet, when you use a comma to separate the dialogue tag from the dialogue itself, you are indicating the words were laughed. Here’s an example:

“You are such a comedian,” Mary laughed.

To avoid this mistake, simply use a period after the dialogue, creating two separate sentences. Like this:

“You are such a comedian.” Mary laughed.

It’s easy to avoid these common mistakes once you’re aware of them.

Happy writing!

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48. MTN in UAE (United Arab Emirates)

After graduating college, I lived in New York City, which to a guy who grew up in small-town Connecticut felt exotic, almost mythic. If only I would have known then that one day I’d be setting up shop for two weeks in the United Arab Emirates.

In late December, I was invited to the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival and gladly immediately accepted. I recommended author friends and the festival invited three of them, two of whom (Peter Brown and Meghan McCarthy) accepted. I also managed to set up author visits at eight schools (five in Abu Dhabi, three in Dubai) for the surrounding days.

Then I packed sunscreen, slept lying down on a plane for the first time (no, not on the floor), and landed amidst a fantastic cultural experience.

Among the tidbits I have learned so far:

  • The United Arab Emirates consists of seven emirates, of which I will see three (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah), and as an entity, it’s only a little over 40 years old.
  • The school week is Sunday to Thursday.
  • There is virtually no crime. Most locals are wealthy and 70% of the population is from other countries. Those who are here as laborers would get deported if they broke the law, so they don’t. I ran at night along a long, sometimes dark path along the water. It was lovely.
  • As many know, some Arab women in public wear covering to varying degrees. Laborers who’ve come from other countries are typically men who leave behind their wives. Therefore, some Westerners with exposed shoulders or legs stand out to laborers and report discomfort at their “male gaze”; however, because of bullet #3 above (if not their own morals), laborers do nothing more than look.
  • Abu Dhabi is home to what I was told is the world’s only 7-star hotel. Apparently there are others but this one (resembling a palace) is a stunner.
  • Little fruit grows in the UAE and some report that the imported fruit loses its taste in transit.

 Pristine Corniche Beach, Abu Dhabi. Only minutes by foot from my hotel.

An entrance to the beach. Note the unusual blue brick.

 Every beach could use a library.

After the beach library and the banner promoting reading, 
a third writing-related sign near my hotel.

 The two crosswalk signs are not synchronized.

My first school visit in UAE was the wonderfully welcoming 
American Community School of Abu Dhabi, 
where I was greeted by a larger-than-life banner 
and spoke to six dynamic groups over two days.

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49. Longform stories from Storybird

I have loved the idea of Storybird ever since I first heard of it. If you haven't, it's essentially a site where illustrators could contribute a number of images, whatever they liked, and users (mostly kids and students) would get on and write their own stories using those illustrations. That, in and of itself, was a big hit with educators.

Then, Storybird made it possible for you to create printed versions of the stories you made (the illustrators receiving a certain royalty) which was also cool.

Now, the good folk at Storybird are introducing a whole new concept—not just to their site, but to the publishing world in general—longform books.

I happen to be fortunate enough to participate in their initial go of it, and have been working on illustrating a fun YA mystery by Eliza Osborn called "The Mystery of Dogwood Cross."

Four chapters are up now, with more to come!

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50. My tweets

  • Mon, 15:57: How I spent Easter: Recovering from food poisoning and vowing to never eat burritos again. I hope yours was much better! #HappyEaster

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