Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Do you buy too many books?

I thought I was the only one. Then I found this blog post, The Wonderful and Terrible Habit of Buying Too Many Books, by Gabe Habash that made me realize I am not as weird as I thought I was. I too have too many books on my shelves that I haven’t had time to read, but I still keep buying more. It’s an addiction, I think. You see, when I walk into a bookstore, my heart quickens and my pulse races. I almost salivate. You don’t need any more books, I tell myself. I justify that with, “I am just looking.” By the time I walk out, however, I have bought at least two or more books that will take up added space on my bookshelf. It’s the same at writers’ conferences. Except there’s a big difference. Those books I get autographed by some of my favorite authors. 

I am happy to report, however, that I do give out some of the books I’ve already read to students at the schools where I do visits. Not the autographed ones, of course. I give out numbers at the end of the presentation and then call them out. The students get to select a book from the box. In the meantime, I don’t think I’ll ever stop this strange quirk of mine. Are there any of you out there like me? 

Surprise is what keeps readers turning the pages and writers filling them up.” – James Howe

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tejas Star Award Reading List

What a nice surprise! I just found out that my book, The Battle of the Snow Cones, is on the top ten list of the 2012-2013 Tejas Star Book Award List. I am honored to be on the same list with some of my fellow authors. Good luck to all!

According to their website: “The Tejas Star Book Award was created by the Region One ESC Library Advisory Committee to promote reading in general and for readers to discover the cognitive and economic benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism. All the children of Texas will have the opportunity to select their favorite book from the Tejas Star list during the month of February 2012.”

Here’s a neat piece of information. Have you ever wondered what an author’s writing place looks like? Here’s your chance. The Millions blog post, “Where We Write,” shows the writing spaces of different authors, where they spend a lot of their time creating their stories, and where they are free from distraction and can focus on their work. You might be in for a surprise.    

 Hook: Aspect of the work that sets it apart from others and draws in the reader/viewer.” – Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

Monday, February 20, 2012

Word choice in writing

Funny coincidence. I just got back from the Austin SCBWI conference. It was a great one, as usual. One thing I kept hearing from editors and agents regarding manuscripts and query letters as well was:  (1) make your words count and (2) word choice. I get home and a recent Ingrid’s Notes blog post, “What’s Your Intent?” addressed the same subject. 

One agent at the conference said the following about query letters: Do not use empty words. Every word should bring up an image in the reader’s mind. Every word counts. Word choices are so important, not just in manuscripts but in query letters as well.

I like this word choice definition in on Wee Can Write: Using 6+1 Trait Writing Strategies with Renowned Children’s Literature blog

“Word choice is the use of rich, colorful, precise language that communicates not just in a functional way, but in a way that moves and enlightens the reader. In good descriptive writing, strong word choice paints pictures in the reader’s mind. In informational writing, strong word choice clarifies, explains, and expands ideas. In persuasive writing, strong word choice compels the reader to see things clearly and, sometimes to agree with the reader. Effective word choice is characterized not so much by exceptional vocabulary as by the ability to use everyday language naturally and in a fresh or unexpected way.”
Query: A letter that sells an idea to an editor or agent. Usually a query is brief (no more than one page) and uses attention-getting prose. – Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Authors' advice on writing novels

Here’s some excellent advice from six authors with several novels under their belt on how to write a novel. On the Hunger Mountain – the VCFA journal of the arts blog – you’ll find such statements as "You have nothing to lose and everything to gain if this is your mantra: revise, revise, revise,” by Connie May Fowler. Dani Shapiro writes: “Patience. Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a relationship you enter.” And author Thomas Christopher Greene writes: “Know the arc of the story before you begin, especially the climax. Then you can write toward it.” There’s more. Visit the blog and see for yourself.  


"Literary Term: Conflict: The problem in a story that triggers the action. There are five basic types of conflict: man vs man; man vs society; man vs himself; man vs nature; man vs fate." -- Reading Group Journal: Notes in the Margin

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

For Illustrators and Writers

Can one get inspiration from a picture? I know I did when I saw a photo in our local paper and created a story around it, which turned into a picture book, The Battle of the Snow Cones. In SM Ford’s article, “Writing to Pictures,” on the Institute of Children’s Literature blog, she writes about an assignment she got from a publisher to “… to take the existing spreads of illustrations and fix the text.” How awesome is that. Read her article to find out how she did it.

Speaking of illustrations, you might want to watch this four-minute mini-documentary ( by Author/Illustrator Chris Raschka, 2012 Caldecott Medalist, for the picture book, “A Ball for Daisy.” In the video, he shows the painting techniques he uses in creating his pictures. 

"Finish what you're writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it." -- Neil Gaiman

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Excellent Read

I just finished reading the 2012 Newbery Medal book, Dead End in Norfelt, by Jack Gantos. It was an excellent read. I really enjoyed it. You might want to listen to a five-minute mini-documentary provided by where Gantos talks about his love of journaling and writing. I am in the mood for reading so I also bought two of Richard Peck's books, The Teacher's Funeral, and The River Between Us. Of course, I recommend my friend Lupe's book, Under the Mesquite, which is written in verse and got the Pura Belpre Award.

Rio Grande Valley
Five Questions for Jane Yolen,” is also something you might want to read. The Horn Book blog post by Roger Sutton features an interview with Yolen about her book, Snow in Summer. According to the post, Yolen has over 300 titles to her name. Yikes! I have a lot of catching up to do. It was my pleasure to have met Ms. Yolen at a writer’s retreat a few years back. She was charming and supportive of all the aspiring writers there, including yours truly. 

"The only way to fail is to not write the book you care about." - Libba Bray (From Ingrid’s Notes blog).

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wordless picture books

Did you know that the 2012 Caldecott book is a wordless picture book? Amazing! A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka won the Caldecott for best illustrated story. Raschka already has another Caldecott under his belt—Hello, Goodbye Window won in 2006. But A Ball for Daisy was his first wordless picture book and Raschka said “…was a challenge … and went through many, many variations” in an NPR post.  Read the entire article on NPR’s blog. Pretty fascinating. 

School Visit
At the SCBWI-LA 2009 conference, which I attended, the Golden Kite Award was presented to Hyewon Yum for another wordless picture book, Last Night. It was a delightful illustrated story.

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island … and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.” – Walt Disney

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Great stuff on SCBWI Winter Conference

The SCBWI winter conference in New York was over just a few days ago. If you were not in attendance, here’s your chance to take a look at their official blog on the happenings that went on at the conference. From fabulous pictures of editors, agents, conferees, panels, etc., to videos of conferees talking about their experiences there, to great articles about the keynote speakers’ addresses, you won’t want to miss reading this post. 

While scrolling down through the blog, I saw where Regina Brooks, founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency, sponsors an annual writing contest. Here is your opportunity if you’ve been working or have finished a YA novel.

Sigh. Wish I had been there.

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him. – Maya Angelou