Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WANT TO WIN $100?





Adults hold writing contests all the time. But what about a kid who holds one for kids? Cool, huh? And what if you could win $100? Even better!

The contest involves writing an essay to answer one of two questions on one of these two books. So if you like to read and write, this may be the contest for you!

Check it out at : http://www.i-newswire.com/seventh-grader-jen-neville-launches/10773

And good luck!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

ESSAY CONTESTS FOR YOUNG NATURALISTS


Hey guys: If you are interested in both writing and science, check out this contest: http://www.amnh.org/nationalcenter/youngnaturalistawards/submit.html

Here you will be able to fulfill your love of experimentation and writing all in one place. Be sure to read the rules before starting your project (you must be in at least seventh grade to enter). Check out some of the essays that won last year. And most important, have a second pair of eyes review your submission before mailing it out.

Good Luck and may the best scientist or, uh, writer, win!

Friday, October 23, 2009

"IF THERE WAS AN ANSWER" CONTEST FOR YOUNG WRITERS


One of my very favorite books to use when talking about writing exercises is The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. These individual pictures with one line of text prompt the writer into creating a story from just that one line! And these pictures are so amazing, they sure can get you thinking! So if you're going to do the exercise anway, why not enter the writing contest on Chris Van Allsburg's site. Here is the address: http://www.chrisvanallsburg.com/writestory.html

If you win, your story will be posted on his site! How great would that be?

The picture for this contest is on the left and the first line reads: "If there was an answer, he'd find it there!" So get your pencils sharpened, your creative juices flowing and enter the contest!

Friday, October 16, 2009

WANT TO HAVE YOUR WORK IN THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF WRITING?



How would you like to have a piece of your writing preserve by the National Gallery of Writing? The National Council of Teachers is inviting everyone to contribute a piece of their work on October 20th - the National Day of Writing! Don't worry if you have something happening that day and can't find time at your computer to create your masterpiece. The National Gallery of Writing will be accepting contributions through June of next year. So get your butt in the chair and start letting those words flow! And when you're finished, go to http://galleryofwriting.org/contribute.php to join your work with others in the National Gallery of Writing!

Friday, October 2, 2009

WE HAVE A WINNER!


I just received the greatest email from a young writer. She had the courage to submit her work to some of the summer writing contests I listed on my blog and guess what? She is going to be published! She will have a poem in the Creative
Communications Young Writer's Anthology! Many congratulations to her!

And I hope this will inspire the rest of you young writers to keep on trying, keep on submitting and most importantly of all, keep on writing! Dreams do come true!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

WHAT BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN HAS TAUGHT ME


At the end of August, I took my oldest daughter to see the Boss in concert. Now, both my daughters have seen the singer who was the highlight of my college years.

As we watched this sixty-year-old man rock and roll, I realized that over the years Bruce had taught me two important lessons - as a writer and as a human being.

1. The human lesson is that life should be about passion. I have never seen Bruce give a concert where he didn't give his all and look as if he was enjoying himself to the fullest. As we all probably have to hold a job that pays the bills, why not search for a career that makes you rise most mornings excited about the day? Sure, Bruce has been lucky. But that luck came from hard work. And the hard work (because he loved what he was doing) probably didn't seem like hard work at all. He simply loved what he was doing and because of that love and dedication, he is good at it.

2. The second lesson I've learned from the Boss is that you have to dig deep when you're writing, and that the best images are the ones filled with emotion and soul. He is a master of taking a few words, linking them together and creating an image that makes you feel. Most poets write this way as their word choices are limited by form. But for writers of fiction, it is easy to create a piece of work that is littered with unnecessary words - words that clutter the story and cloud the emotion. So when you are revising, think hard about your every word choice and ask yourself, "Is this word necessary?" and "How can I make my reader feel what I am trying to relate?"

Following your passion and digging deep when you're writing - not bad lessons at all from a man who at sixty is still going strong!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

THE QUICKSAND IN NOVELS


"I have a great story, but I just can't seem to finish! In the middle, I get stuck!" I hear this all the time from students when I visit schools! But let me tell you a secret. . . . . . . .All authors have difficulty at one point or another while working on a story. Just like you, we get stuck!


So here are some things to do when you are at the point when you feel like you are caught in a sticky mire of sucking-you-under quicksand!

1. Go do something fun. Take in a movie. Read a book. Watch some TV. Visit with friends. Guess what? A writer's sub-conscious is still working while you are just hanging out. A lot of times after I've seen a movie, the way to continue my novel will have popped into my head. And I'll be ready to sit back down with my computer and my story.

2. Try outlining. Writing down on paper where you are headed can sometimes help you fill in all those gaps that are driving you crazy. (And you thought all those hours spent outlining with your teachers were a waste!)

3. And lastly, when your muse has fled, sometimes you will just have to just power through. Like a marathon runner who feels like giving up in the middle of the race, you may have to push through the difficult times. Sit down and just make yourself write. Set a word limit for yourself and then make yourself write until you've reached that goal. Don't worry if it's not perfect. You can always change it later. But the act of writing will sometimes help you get your muse back, and let you finish your story in triumph.

On a last note, my blog may be a bit inconsistent over the summer. I apologize but I will be spending time doing my own writing at a cabin by a lake without the benefit of the internet. I hope you all have an amazing summer!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

WHY THE CLOTHES DO, INDEED, MAKE THE MAN

I am sitting here this afternoon, writing to you in a sweaty shirt and yoga pants, having just taken a four mile walk around Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park. The day was glorious, and I feel great. But if I were a character in a book, just exactly would it say about me that this is what I am wearing? I guess you could surmise that I enjoy exercising. But that would be incorrect. I hate exercising! However, I do enjoy a good walk on a lovely day. If, as a writer, you wanted to express that, you might have your character wear a pair of sturdy shoes and a wide-brimmed hat - these items would far better describe someone who enjoys a good walk in the sunshine while not necessarily being an exercise freak.

Clothes are an important element in helping your reader gain insight to your character. Think about it. Can you imagine Pigpen in a pair of designer jeans? Likewise, would Christopher Robin look right in a tuxedo? So while you as a real person may change it up(no pun intended) when writing, your characters are not allowed that luxury. Everything they wear are clues to your reader as to what to expect: who your character is and what makes them tick.

So think carefully about how you want your character to come across to your reader. If you want your character to be graceful and charming, a pair of capris with holes in them would not be the best choice of clothing. If you want your character to appear old and crotchety, don't let them listen to music on an IPod. It just wouldn't make sense. In the world of writing, clothes (and accessories) do, indeed, make the man!

Monday, June 8, 2009

IF YOU ARE A WRITER, WHAT YOU HAVE IN COMMON WITH ALBERT EINSTEIN

When reading a great book, I sometimes sit back and wish I was as talented as the writer of that book. But over the years, I've learned an important secret - talent can only get you so far - the rest has to come from your heart. Staying upbeat and believing in yourself in the face of rejection is hard to do. So today, I thought I would share with you this fantastic video I found on the internet! I hope these inspirational people will help you in your quest to be a writer! I know they inspire me.
video

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

FOUR YEAR OLD GIRL WINS WRITING CONTEST


Okay, yes, I admit it. I'm kidding! But writing contests are great ways for young writers to get some publishing credits under their belt. And while you may not be four years old, you don't have to be that much older to participate.

So now that summer is coming around and school is out, get out that computer and start writing. Here are some great contests you can enter:

1. Creative Communications - offers poetry and essay contests. You can win a $50 savings bond and get published. Their site is: http://www.poeticpower.com/Contest.html And you can actually be
only seven!

2. The Young Voices Foundation is sponsoring a contest for a short story. Their site is http://www.youngvoicesfoundation.org/writingcontests.html.
The due date is July 31st so get cooking on those stories (no pun intended since all stories need to include a receipe of some sort) And make sure you read all the directions on how to submit. That is an important process for first-time writers!

3. Or for those age 14-18, try out this site: https://storyhighwayteens-com.netsolads.com/rules.aspx. They have some really cool prizes! You just have to join their website to participate!

So in between splashes in the pool and drinking lemonade, start creating and submitting. You could be an award winning author before the summer is over!









Tuesday, May 12, 2009

WHAT ANNE FRANK'S DIARY TEACHES YOUNG WRITERS

How many books have we read where the young protagonist's secrets in her diary are uncovered, causing her unbelievable angst at having her very private thoughts revealed to the world? It's a common theme, common enough to make most of us tremble and throw our diaries out the window.

But don't do it!!!!

Why? Why would you want to continue writing down your innermost thoughts and feelings and risk exposure???? Because those very thoughts and feelings are ones you will want to recall when you are an author later in life!

Time moves on. We grow. We change. What was important to us years ago, may not be of the same value and importance it once was. So what if down the road, you want to write books for children or even have a child as one of your characters in an adult novel? Writings in diaries or keeping journals provide windows into the child we were and the people who populated our world at that time. It is essential as a writer to be able to recall sights and smells, the joys and sorrows of younger years. Using your old diary or journal entries will allow you to tap into those memories and write about them with truth in your voice.

Anne Frank never expected her diary to be such a public piece of work. And yet how much did we as readers learn about her imprisonment in that small room, the fears and triumphs of hiding from the Nazis? This book was invaluable to generations of readers in understanding how real people dealt with the horrors of World War II.

Likewise for writers, these diaries will inform and remind you. So don't throw out those secret writings! Instead, continue to jot down everything you are feeling, seeing, tasting, smelling as you journey through these years, knowing that you are saving up little pebbles of recall for when you will need them as a writer.

But just to be safe - I would get a diary with a lock and key!!!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

WHY AUTHORS LOVE AWARDS


Tomorrow I will be going into Boston to a reception being held by the Boston Author's Club. The reason: QUEST has been named a highly recommended book by the Club! Of course I am thrilled. Having your book win an award is like watching your child perform on stage! You are so very, very proud.

But I got to thinking about why awards are so very special to writers. And I realized the answer was this - we write in a bubble.

What do I mean by that? I mean this -if you had a job where you went to work every day from 9-5, you would have a boss. That boss would give you a yearly performance report and let you know daily how you are doing. But we, as writers, don't get that kind of feedback.

Sure we get sales figures - twice a year! But they don't talk and tell us the subtle things we are doing that is helping us improve our job performance or making things worse. And we do hear from readers when we visit schools - but heck, what teacher is going to come up to you as an author when you have just entertained their students for an hour and tell you that your book stunk! And yes, our editors tell us what is wrong with the manuscript we just submitted, but once that book is out the door, no one comes back to let you know how you did in the wide world out there.

So awards thrill us. They let us know that the general public appreciates our work. They let us know that we are on the right track. They let us know that our job does have some meaning and that others, besides our editors, husbands, parents and agents, think so too.

So my advice for you young writers? Before you take that important step toward deciding you want to be a writer, think about this. How important is it to you to be told you are doing well? At school, can you do your work without worrying about the grade you will ultimately receive? Do you study for the love of it alone and because you want to do the best job you can regardless of the outcome? Are you proud of what you have done, even if no one else tells you that you are amazing? If you answered yes to these questions, good for you. Writing books just may be your intended field. If you answered no, then you might want to consider writing for a magazine or newspaper - someplace where you will have a boss and a performance report and someone giving you consistent feedback.

As for me, I love my bubble. But sometimes, I love leaving it to watch one of my books marched out on stage and paraded about and given that so, so satisfying award that lets me know my performance has been well-received.

Monday, April 27, 2009

WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE THOSE NASTY BOOK REPORTS!


While I was in Florida a few weeks ago, Natalie came up and handed me a book report she had written about THE SACRIFICE and which I have loaded here to reward her for doing what every kids considers a tedious project. (And Natalie I apologize about the small print - it was the biggest my blog would allow)

Reading her book report, I was reminded of all the ones I had to do when I was in school. Now, I didn't mind reading the book - reading was always the best part about having to do a book report. But the book report itself - AAARGH!!!!! Why did I have to spell it out for someone else why a book was good or bad? Come on!!! Just read the book yourself! It was like doing those stupid Geometry proofs. If a million other people had already proved it, I couldn't grasp why I had to go and prove it again!

But as I reflected on those pesky assignments, I realized that by having to put into words just what I may have liked or disliked about a book, I was honing my own writing skills. WHAT??????

It's true. In writing a book report, you are actually judging what you like and don't like in the writing itself. Take for example a book you read that you loved up until the very end, and then you felt it lost itself. Do you really think that a few months later, you would write a story or a book that had that same kind of ending? Of course not!!!! Or how about a book whose character you just couldn't relate to? By reading and critiquing the work, aren't you discovering how you would like to create your own characters?

Conversely, there are those books you loved. What did you love most about it? In making that decision and in analyzing what made you swoon when you read the book, you are setting rules and making decisions about how you want to evolve as a writer yourself.

So don't groan when you have to write a book report. See it as an exercise in telling your conscious and more importantly, your sub-conscious how you as a writer want your own work to read! Pick the book to pieces! It will make you and your own stories just that much stronger.

Monday, April 20, 2009

HOW TO MEET J.K. ROWLING (OR SOME OTHER AUTHOR)


I am always surprised when I visit schools that students think I have all the answers. But I will let you in on a little secret - authors are regular people! We do our laundry and pay our bills. We wake up one morning full of energy, and the next morning, we can barely open one eye. But if you are still interested in meeting an author and finding out what they may know about writing that you don't, here are some creative ways to go about doing just that!

1. FIND THEM ON FACEBOOK - There are tons of authors on facebook. Try "friending" them. Authors love to post - since we are alone in our offices all day. When we get stuck, we frequently turn to facebook to connect with others. Ask them questions on their wall. I bet they'll answer!

2. FOLLOW THEIR BLOG - You may not want to read all the stuff they write on their blogs, but some authors actually write some interesting tidbits about writing. Most think they are advising adult authors - but any advice given to an adult writer is bound to be helpful to those of you who are just learning the process.

3. START A BOOK CLUB AT YOUR SCHOOL - How in the world is this going to help? Well, a lot of times, authors will visit book clubs - especially if you have bought their book. You may not get JK Rowling to stop by, but then I don't really know JK Rowling and maybe she would think it was cool. I would start with some local authors who have written just a few books. Send an email through their website and see what they have to say. It is certainly worth a shot and you will have a lot of fun reading and sharing great books if nothing else comes of it.

4. START AN AFTER-SCHOOL CRITIQUE GROUP AT YOUR SCHOOL AND INVITE AN AUTHOR TO BE YOUR MENTOR - This would work best with a local author. Again, email them from their website, gather a group of kids who are serious writers and propose a once a month meeting, where you would read your work aloud and the writer would critique it. Each year, change writers - that way you can get lots of different perspectives. (And remember to buy the writers' books! That will help convince him/her)

So whether you want to get to know a writer close to home or far-away, there are ways to reach out. Go ahead, don't be afraid. Remember - we all pull on our pants the same way!

Monday, April 13, 2009

ABIGAIL SPEAKS OUT

I receive a lot of letters from kids who have read THE SACRIFICE. And over and over, I am asked the same thing, "What happened to Mama?" The answer lies in the Author's Section of the book. But because so many students want to know what happened to Abby, too, I have decided to resurrect her and do an interview. So for all you wondering readers out there, here goes:



Abby, it is nice to have you back here for a discussion of what happened to you and your family after that terrible period in 1692.

It's nice to be here in 2009 where witches are things no one believes in anymore, although I have heard that there is an increase in vampire obsession, which scares me.

In books only, Abby. Don't worry. But now, our readers are really curious. What happened to Mama after you saw her taken off to jail?

Of course, we were so worried about her. I knew how bad the conditions were and she wasn't that strong physically because she was carrying a baby. But somehow she managed to survive until her trial. Both Dorothy and I visited the prison often, taking food and warm blankets.

So what happened at her trial? Did she blame someone else as you and Dorothy did?

I have to say that I have never been more proud of Mama as I was that day. She stood in front of those judges and would not accuse anyone nor would she admit any guilt. Eveyone said she was a true lady. But alas, it wasn't enough. They found her guilty!

Don't tell me they hung her that day?

No. They agreed to wait until she had delivered my brother or sister.

Oh dear. And then did they hang her?

Well, we were all sure it was going to happen. The moments we saw Mama at the prison were horrible. And then, thankfully, and at the very last moment, the governor declared the witch trials invalid and the whole thing ended. Luckily, Mama escaped hanging. But so many others did not.

Do you remember the day Mama came home?

How could I forget? At last, we were safe and a family again. But we had lost Aunt Elizabeth, and I think we all realized then how short life can be and how fragile.
Mama made sure we celebrated all of life's good times after that. When we were together just laughing and talking, these were her favorite times. Mine, too.

And the baby Mama was carrying?

Oh, my brother Ammi Ruhamah.

That's an unusual name.

It means "My people have obtained mercy."
Mama chose it to remind herself that Ammi saved her.

My readers want to know what happened to you later?

(laughs) Oh, I grew up and met a wonderful man named Thomas Lamson. We moved to Ipswich where I had six children, four daughters and two sons. I named them Abigail, Thomas, Paul, Martha, Sarah and Elizabeth. They were quite a handful at times, very determined and willing to bend the rules. I don't know where they got that behavior from. (laughs again)

And Mama?

Mama was eventually pardoned and had her guilty verdict removed from the court records. She lived to be 78, a feisty old lady, who spoke up whenever she got the chance.

And Papa?

He lived until he was 81. For years, his demons plagued him, and I don't think the witch trials helped. But in his latter years, he calmed a great deal and his fears seemed to lessen. Fear can be helpful if it allows you to escape harm. But fear can also be so destructive, if one gives into it without reason.

Well Abigail, thanks for stopping by. Until next book . . .

Are you going to write another book about me? I'd like that!

We shall see, Abby. We shall see.

That ends my interview with my great-grandmother Abigail Faulkner. But what lesson is in there for you young writers? The lesson is this: Writers always know more about their characters than they may reveal in a book. So take the time to develop your characters before you launch into the writing process. I guarantee you, your book will be better because of it!




Friday, April 3, 2009

JEEPERS, CREEPERS, DID YOU HEAR THOSE PEEPERS?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKV5KsoDUQg So today, I am starting with a youtube video that you should listen to. (There is no video footage, just sound). If you are not from the northeast, you are probably going to wonder what the heck you are listening to. The noise on this video is made by baby frogs - commonly called peepers around these parts. And they are the first signs of spring we residents outside of Boston get (mainly because there is still snow on our lawns).

I love this sound! For me, it means spring is on its way and summer is not too far behind - days of reading, drinking iced tea and lemonade (one of my favorite drinks), jumping into an ice cold pool and throwing open my windows once more.

But as I was sitting outside in my hot tub last night and listening to these little guys singing their hearts out, I thought about how I had spent my day - at the State House - seeing the students who had won the MSLA bookmark contests, receive their awards. And I realized that in some ways, all new, young writers and illustrators are peepers. Like these little guys,
(seen here), you are all trying to have your voices heard, to be recognized for your talents.

So what lesson can these peppers give you?

The interesting thing is that while these peppers sing like this at night, they go still during the day. But if you listen very closely during the quiet of the afternoon, you will hear one or two who are still singing.

It's easy when the sun rises over the hilltop, exposing you to the dangers of the world, to go quiet. But the little peppers who keep on singing their song are just not able to do that. In spite of the fact that predators may take more notice of them, that they are putting themselves out there, they keep singing.

So, too, must you as young artists and writers keep persisting. It's easy when your day is over or summer is upon you, to put down the pen or brush. But it is the writer and the artist who is not swept up with the crowds, who keeps on working, who prevails. Sure, like the little peppers, you are exposing yourself to the dreaded letters of rejection. And yet, like those baby frogs, the only way to stand out from the rest is to be the one willing to risk it all. So go on! Send your work out! Risk the rejection letter! And if you do receive the dreaded declination, try again and again and again!

Like those persistent little peppers, let your song fly out into the world. Do it enough times and there will be someone out there somewhere who will pause in the sunshine of a lovely afternoon and think to themselves, "What an amazingly beautiful song"!

Monday, March 30, 2009

FOUR REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD SPEND A NIGHT WITH YOUR MOTHER


This past Friday night, I visited with a mother/daughter book group in Peabody, MA. They had been reading THE SACRIFICE and asked if I would like to join them for their meeting. Mother/daughter or Father/Son book groups were not around when my girls were little. I wish they had been. It was such a fun night!

The girls started with pizza and then, we all got down to discussing THE SACRIFICE. When the evening was over, I thought about why these groups are so great - and why if you are a reader, you should try and start one yourself.

FOUR REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD SPEND A NIGHT WITH YOUR MOTHER READING BOOKS (OR FATHER OR AUNT OR SISTER)

1. OKAY - THE OBVIOUS: YOU GET TO READ GREAT BOOKS. Book groups get suggestions from each other and from the readers in their group. You may love a book, and it is great to share it with others. On the other hand, you may not have heard about another book that is equally wonderful. Librarians can make suggestions on what to read. But isn't it better to hear about a book from your own friends - ones who share the same love of reading or interests that you do?

2. YOU GET TO EAT JUNK FOOD - Admit it. If you stayed home for the night, your mom would be serving broccoli and salmon. But no mom would dare to serve that at Book Group! Book Group nights are all about the pizza or some equally fabulous food! And if make-your-own sundaes or homemade brownies finish off the night, even better!

3. YOUR MOM MAY THINK SHE IS SPENDING TIME WITH YOU BUT YOU ARE ACTUALLY SPENDING TIME WITH YOUR FRIENDS - What better way to have an evening with a ton of your friends? Imagine this: "Hey mom, can I have twelve girls over for the night and could you make extra special food for them and clean up after us?" Not going to happen! But if you say, "Hey mom, can I have twelve girls over with their moms to discuss a book and have dinner?" Guess what? You've got a party!

4. AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, IT WILL MAKE YOUR MOTHER, FATHER, AUNT, WHOMEVER YOU INVITE VERY, VERY HAPPY. - I'll let you in on a little secret. There is nothing moms love better than spending time with their daughters. Same goes for fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents. On Saturday night, my college daughter brought six of her roommates home to spend the night. I was in heaven! If tomorrow was my last day on earth, I would want to spend it with my daughters. That said, your mom will love doing this with you. And as they say, when mommy's happy, everybody's happy! And it will make you feel great to do something for her - Trust me!

So go on! Start a mother/daughter, father/daughter, mother/son, grandmother/grandson whatever book group. You have nothing to lose and a party to gain!

Monday, March 23, 2009

I AM A WRITER! AN INTERVIEW WITH MARY, A YOUNG AND ASPIRING NEW AUTHOR!

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of visiting an elementary school out in Western Massachusetts. During my second presentation of the day, one young student was quick to inform me that she wanted to be a writer. What she didn't realize is that she already is a writer! Students so often think that being a writer means being published. But if you write, you are a writer now! In order to showcase this fact, I have decided to do a series of monthly interviews with young and aspiring WRITERS I meet on my travels. And so Mary will be the first of these monthly interviews.

Are you a student who is a writer now and wishes someday to be published? Follow me on my blog and contact me via my website: http://www.kathleenduble.com, and you may find yourself being interviewed, too!

Here is a picture of this young and refreshing writer along with our interview.

So Mary, why is it that you want to be a writer?

I think it is really fun to write, and my Mom and Dad think that I have some talent.

Do you see yourself as more of a novelist or a picture book writer?


Definitely a picture book writer. I like the stories in picture books and the illustrations.

How long have you been writing?


I've been writing for about a year and a half now, although I've been reading lots of books, too.

Who are your favorite authors?

Jan Brett for picture books, JK Rowling and Kathleen Benner Duble!

Well, thank you! That is quite a nice group of authors to be included in. So can you tell me a little bit about some of the things you've written?

I've just finished a picture book entitled MOUSE'S BIG PROBLEM. It is the story of a mouse who is planning a party at his house. Unfortunately, all his friends, like Bear and Tiger, are too big to fit inside his house.

That sounds like a terrific story. I can just see the illustrations, and I am dying to know how he solves his problem. When you're not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to run around outside, playing soccer or pretending to be an animal. I read and watch TV. My favorite show is SWEET LIFE ON DECK. I am in a play right now called THE THIRTEEN COLONIES. I also love vacations to the beach, playing cards, doing puzzles and finding sea glass.




Well, that's my interview with up and coming author, Mary. Tune in next month for my next featured artist. Until then, all you aspiring authors, keep on writing, and remember to tell everyone you meet, I AM A WRITER!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A FEW FUN FACTS ABOUT THE FRENCH REVOLUTION!


So I am in the middle of my new book, MADAME TUSSAUD'S APPRENTICE and decided I would share with you some very strange facts about life in France in 1789. Wait! You don't know who Madame Tussaud is? Well, buckle your seatbelts then because her life was one bumpy ride!

She started out as Maria Gershotlz. Her mother was a maid to a Dr. Philip Curtuis. Dr. Curtius made wax figures, mainly to show new physicians how to operate (doing this on real bodies was illegal in those day!) He took Maria under his wing and began to show her how to do this herself. Now fast forward . . . Dr. Curtius moves them all to France where the King becomes interested in his work. He invites Maria (who is now 20) out to show his granddaughter (Madame Elizabeth) how to make these wax figures. Fast forward again . . .

It is now 1789. Maria is 29, and the people of Paris are starving. What do you do when you're hungry, poor, and your rulers are living in a place like this . . .?
You have a revolution! What else?
So the people rebelled. Poor Maria! She was declared a Royalist (a bad thing to be when people are a bit angry with that crowd) She is arrested. Her head is shaved, and she is slated to lose that head to the guillotine. Don't know what a guillotine is . . . It is a nasty bit of equipment that you lay your head down on and then a blade come whizzing down and chops off that lovely head!

But wait . . . Remember - Maria has special skills! She can make wax figures, including heads! So the National Assembly decides they can use that skill of hers. (Remember - there were no newspapers in 1789). So the new leaders of the French nation offer Maria this deal: if you will make wax replicas of the heads we guillotine (chop off), we will let you go free. So what did Maria do? You'll have to read my novel to find out! Ha! Ha!

But in the meantime, here are some fun facts about the French court and the French revolution (and not all of them will make it into my book - unfortunately)

1. When the King and Queen were overthrown, the new leaders of France wanted everything to be different - including the calendar and the time. So they created a whole new calendar and a whole new way of telling time. They changed the days of the week from seven to ten. Each day was divided into ten hours. Each hour had 100 minutes and each minute had 100 seconds.
Confusing? You bet! If you go to France now, guess what? They tell time and have a calendar just like ours! So this revolutionary change did not last long.

2. The winter of 1789 was so cold, that the Marquise de Rambouillet had her servants sew her into a bearskin to keep her warm. (Of course the servants stood there shivering and sewing! And I don't even want to think about the bathroom solution!)

3. The King's breakfast before he went hunting consisted of four chops, a chicken, six eggs poached in meat juice, a cut of ham and a bottle and a half of champagne (how did he stay his up on his horse?)

4. The King's wife, Marie Antoinette, commonly dressed and bathed in front of forty people!

5. Balloonists were famous people at this time. The first hot air manned balloon ride was launched from the center of Paris in 1783, and people went crazy seeing someone fly for the very first time!

6. Before the revolution, bread cost more than a week's wages! (So how did you pay for everything else. You couldn't - hence the revolution)

7. Some middle class people, wanting to pretend that they had more than they did, set up libraries in their homes where they installed imitation book spines with no books behind them so they did not have to actually read them but could pretend they owned them. (Pretty weird!)

8. Marie Antoinette was considered such a woman of fashion, that once when she was at the opera, eight women were injured pushing others out of the way to see what she was wearing: three had their feet crushed, two had ribs broken and three had their arms dislocated. (Sounds like the Oscars)

9. Before the revolution, there were only two documents that could be printed without being first reviewed by the police. They were a wedding invitation and a funeral card.

10. The Parisians visited their hairdressers every day but only put on clean clothes once a month (Ewww!)

11. Profits from Madame Tussuad's Museum in London funded three great museums: The Victoria & Albert Museum, The Natural Hstory Museum and the Science Museum. This was not a bad legacy to leave behind.

So those are my fun French Revolutionary Facts. Hope you enjoy them!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

ON THE ISSUE OF JUDGING


So this past week, the group of us pictured to the left, (from top-hand left-side) myself, Lisa Greenleaf, Muriel Dubois, Ann Pernham (MSLA past president and director Region I), Jarrett Krosoczk, Mary Newell DePalma, Gerry Fegan (MSLA President Elect), Nancy Werlin and Diane Mayr were asked to judge the Massachusetts School Library Association's bookmark contest. Now, we, as humans make judgements every day: decisions like "yeah, I think I will eat my lunch directly from the crunchy peanut butter jar with a spoon" or "oh well, my overzealous washer has once more devoured a matching sock. I guess I'll throw its mate away." or in the case of my youngest daughter, "Never mind. She wears socks that don't match anyway, even when I buy her perfectly good ones in colors that are distinctly meant for each other." So who would have guessed that a simple bookmark judging contest would be so hard? But truly, it was. Each bookmark was so amazingly creative and so beautifully produced. It was incredibly difficult to make a choice, and yet that is what we had to do!

It made me realize that life is a lot about choices and judging and not all of it reflects truly on our abilities. For instance, my youngest daughter is now applying for colleges. She won't get into them all, of course. And when that happens, I, as a parent, will console her and remind her that she is still a wonderful kid with lots to offer, even if she does wear strange socks!

So why is it so hard for me to remember this when my own work gets rejected? Not every manuscript is for every editor - just as every book isn't for every reader. And what about those editors themselves? Imagine getting loads of submissions but only being able to push for and publish a few!

Just as I felt as I was looking at all those beautiful bookmarks and college admissions people must feel looking at thousands of applications, editors must frequently wish they didn't have to make a choice. They must sometimes agonize over which manuscript to take, and one will eventually be judged and rejected

So my advice this week to writers and illustrators, to myself and to all the kids who will soon get a college rejection or those students whose bookmarks weren't chosen: Rejection is not the end of the world or a definitive judgement on your abilities. Keep trying. Keep drawing and working and revising. Eventually somebody out there will choose you!

Now I will leave you with some of those wonderful MSLA bookmarks to enjoy:





























Monday, March 2, 2009

WHY WRITING IS A LOT LIKE HOCKEY


So this weekend, I attended three, yes, count them, three hockey games. I watched my daughter's team win their final game in a thrilling last second victory. I watched my daughter's high school boy's team get creamed in a game that I hope will spur them on in the championships they are headed to on Wednesday. And I watched my college daughter's team win a thriller against a team that was ahead of them in the standings.

So while I was watching all these hockey games, it occurred to me that hockey is actually a lot like writing. First, to be good at hockey, you have to practice. No big brainer there! But I remembered people asking me what I did when I first moved to Boston. When I told them I wrote, they asked me what I'd published. When I told them I wasn't published yet, they always gave me this sad, little smile. Isn't she cute? But what they didn't know was that I was working hard - perfecting my craft. Just like you will find a dedicated hockey player alone on the ice or on some local frozen pond when everyone else has gone home, I was working hard at getting better.

And yet to be in the game, you can't really go it alone. It takes teamwork in writing as much as in hockey. Even before you reach your goal, you will need coaches who are willing to look at your skills and tell you how to improve. My books would not be what they are today without my editor, my sales team, my writing group and my hockey-fanatic, manuscript-critic husband there to support me - giving me that assist, passing me that puck and cheering me on as I flew down the ice

Saturday afternoon, while I watched the Andover boys get penalty after penalty, I felt their pain. How often had I got rejected just when I thought my goal was in sight? How many times had I gone offsides, lost my way in a manuscript that needed just a little more tweaking, just a little deke to the left or to the right that would have made my story that much stronger, that much more publishable?

And those refs - the ones that control the game without any input from you? Well, I've had my fair share of book reviews I'd love to have argued about. But as with hockey, it is far, far better to let them do their job, thanking them for their hard work and dedication to the game whether you like their decision or not. For while you may get bad calls one day, the next game that same ref will hand give you a power play that might land your book on the best seller list.

And in the end, there is nothing sweeter than watching the puck hit the back of the net or seeing your book hit the shelves. So no matter where you are in the process, published or unpublished, remember you will lose some games and win others. But the joy of it all is in the game itself and the knowledge that there is always hope in the next season and the next book.