Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Thank you, everyone, who came by my blogoversary party. One of my selfish goals was to meet more people and I am so glad to have met some new bloggers and writers.

Those of you who've won: I'll be making a trip to the post office later this week. I hope you'll enjoy the books, and if you feel so inclined, let the authors know. The few times I've dropped authors a note about how I've enjoyed their books, they seemed happy to get the positive feedback.

Christine: you won yesterday's contest, a copy of Cynthia Lord's Rules.

I'll throw in an extra quote:
"Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swaps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it's yours."
— Ayn Rand

Let your fire burn, let your hero thrive, and go get 'em!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Free! Book! Contest! Last day!

This week has been fun. Thanks so much to everyone who's dropped by. The blog has been many things to me but the mostly, it's introduced me to a wonderful community. So thanks.

The contest yesterday was won by Corey! Just kidding. She's so sweet to feel bad for winning more than one book so I won't embarrass her any further. The REAL winner is Purple Clover! She wins two Newberry Honor/Winner books: The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes.

The quote today is by Mark Twain:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

The contest today:
You can either tell me which of the quotes I posted this week is your favorite, or share one of yours. Thanks.

Thanks for coming to my party!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Two more contests and free books

My time at the conference did what it was supposed to do: get me back into my chair to write, write, and write some more. So a very short post today.

Quote for the day:
"sometimes you don't need a goal in life, you don't need to know the big picture. you just need to know what you're going to do next!"
— Sophie Kinsella (The Undomestic Goddess)

I don't know exactly how I will get my book to where it needs to go, but I do know what I am going to do next: write one more scene, than another, and another.

Contest for today:
What is your next step for your writing? Finish so many words? Get your queries out? Finish your first draft? Revise so many pages? Let me know!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Home from conference

Corey: you won yesterday's contest, which includes the book from Friday and yesterday. The books are: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, a novel in free verse, in honor of Poetry Friday, and The No-No Boys by Teresa Funke, the second book in the series of Home-Front Heroes. Enjoy!

Ah, Sunday, ideally a day of rest. I am home from the conference, enjoying a bit of quietness and rest. Today's quote:

"Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it."
— Ray Bradbury

Today's contest: tell me your favorite way to unwind/de-stress/re-charge/rest, preferably something that doesn't require going to a spa.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hi from the PIkes Peak Writers Conference

Greetings from Colorado Springs, where the Pikes Peak Writers Conference is in full swing. The sessions so far have been really helpful. Last year, I arrived at the conference and dove into a Read and Critique Xtreme session (stand up to read one page, out loud, to be critiqued on the spot. In other words, the stuff of nightmares.) I am smarter this year and chose a much gentler critique session called 1-2-3: one page, two minutes, three panelists. The important thing was that someone else read my piece so I could retain my anonymity.

So, the quote for the day. Since I am here at the conference, the quote today will relate to community.

"Sometimes our flame goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being."
— Albert Schweitzer

And the contest is this: please visit one of the blogs on my blogroll and those of the kind people who follow this blog. This is an awesome community, filled with talented and generous people. Please go leave a comment if something strikes you, and then let me know whose blogs you visited and you will be entered into the drawing.

Speaking of the contest, I forgot to mention that the book Sherrie won yesterday was What the Moon Saw by Laura Resau, whose books are filled with tenderness and lyricism and beautiful relationships. She has quite a few books coming out soon. Find out more at her website.

Still speaking of contest: since nobody entered the contest yesterday, the winner of today's contest will get TWO books.

Good luck!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Poetry Day!

I am heading to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference later this morning, the prize for winning the short story category of the Pikes Peak Writers Contest. I am looking forward to seeing people I met last year as well as those I know from blogosphere.

So then, to the contests! The contest yesterday was won by Corey! She wins a copy of Dodger and Me by Jordan Sonnenblick, an urban teacher and novelist and whose writing, especially in Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pies, made me laugh while crying.

(For those interested in the state of education in this country, I found a video of him speaking from his experiences as a teacher. The subject can become political and heated very quickly and since this is not a political blog, I won't be hosting debates on the subject. Thanks for being understanding.)

And Sherrie, you've won the movie contest! The Margaret line is from a Emma Thompson- Kenneth Branaugh flick from the early nineties, Dead Again. I was hoping someone would include "party on, Garth!" which is, of course, from Wayne's World. :)

Corey and Sherrie, send me email with your addresses. Thanks.

Because of Poetry Friday, the quote today is a poem:

Roads Go Ever On

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journety new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet."
J.R.R. Tolkien

For more poetry, check out the roundup at Under The Covers.

Today's contest: in honor of Poetry Friday and National Poetry Month, please read/write/recite/sing/memorize/listen to a poem, then tell me what you've done by leaving a comment. If you compose a poem and want to share it, that would be fantabulous.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Day Two

The winner of the first contest held yesterday is: Rebecca!

She will receive one of my favorite middle grade novels, Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of A Tree by Lauren Tarshis. Rebecca, please send me a message on facebook or send me an email.


The quote for today is:

"Maybe everyone can live beyond what they're capable of."
— Markus Zusak (I Am the Messenger)

The contest for today is:

What was your favorite book / author when you were in elementary school?

Again, if you wish to expand on your answers, please do. I am always interested in the "whys."

Since nobody tried to guess the movie quotes from yesterday, I'll include that for today as well. So, if you know the movies, please leave a comment.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by yesterday. It's so cool to "meet" other book lovers and read their blogs. *wave* Hi, blogospere friends!

(Incidentally, the Blogger spellcheck thinks "blogosphere" should be "bloodsucker.") There, there's the silly party chatter.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Let the party begin

Welcome to my party! Remember, it lasts all week, so please come back again and often.

photo by jek in the box at Flikr

Everyday this week, I will post a quote that resonates with me in my writing journey. I'll start off today with:

If you only reach one person with your art, you will have succeeded.
---my mother.

I am sure this idea is not original to my mother, but when she said it to me in my first year in music school as I lamented the fact that only very few people came to the lunch-hour recital series that I performed in, it made a huge impact. My focus has shifted from music to writing, but the thought is still very much relevant.

And now the contest. Some rules:
  1. You may enter every day, but only once a day.
  2. Because I am a poor unpublished writer, I am limiting the contestants to those who live in the continental US so I don't go broke with postage.
  3. I want my parents and children to read this blog so it is rated G.
  4. Some days I may run two contests and if you fulfill the requirements for both contests, your name will be entered in both.
  5. Limit yourselves to two drinks at the party (note the poor unpublished author info above.)
  6. Any other rules I realize later that I need. (How's that for covering all my bases?)

Let the games begin!

photo by M3Li55@

Quick, give me a famous movie line.

Show me the money!

If you build it, they will come.

I'm not being ignored, am I?

The station is now the ultimate power in the universe.

I'd never hurt you, Margaret.

You talkin' to me?

Most people can spout off line after line of movie quotes. (Incidentally, the person who identifies all the movie quotes will be entered into a different book giveaway, and you may enter both contests if you wish.)

So, the contest is:

Quick, give me a memorable line from a book, any book, and remember to keep it G-rated. Tell me the book title, and if you choose, why that line is the first one that popped into your head.

Leave your answers in the comments section and make sure you leave me a way to contact you electronically.

Party on, Garth.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Getting ready for the party

Beginning tomorrow I will be celebrating my 1 year + 1 week + 1 day blog anniversary with a weeklong party. Please drop by for some virtual drinks,
smoked salmon, sushi, and dolmades.

[All right, I've gone slightly nuts over the beautiful food pictures by Geoff604 but don't they just look so enticing? ]

While you're here, check out the quote of the day and feel free to comment. And since I am certain anyone who reads this blog loves books, I will host book-giveaways every day. You can enter the contests every day. So, please come throughout the week, and bring friends.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Queries, queries, and yet more queires II

First there was QueryFail, then came AgentFail, events that touched tender spots in many people and stunned many others with their fury. If you wade through them (I only managed to read snippets) you may agree that we can learn from them if we can find a way to manage the negativity.

In comes Nathan Bransford, ever helpful and positive, with Agent for a Day. He invited readers to submit queries, 50 of which were randomly chosen and posted on his blog on Monday, April 13. His readers chimed in to comment on these queries and to choose the five queries that interested them.

There is still some negativity in the comments but if we ever wonder how our queries compare to the others, this is a fabulous opportunity to find out. I discovered that I couldn't read more than seven to ten queries at a time, and even then I skim, a lot. A few of them piqued my interest: voice, plot, possibilities. I plan to re read those to see if I can pinpoint just what attracted me to them.

You want more real-life examples, you say? Well, another uber-agent, Kristen Nelson, posts examples of the queries that caught her eye, with comments by her, as well as letters she sends to editors. Check them out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A year ago

I started this blog. Back in March, when I was thinking about this, I had some ideas about how I would celebrate my first anniversary. But today crept up on me and caught me unprepared. Things in my family and my writing are converging right now, demanding full attention.

So instead of celebrating today, I am starting the weeklong celebration on my One Year + One Week + One day Anniversary.

Please check back on April 22nd to find out more about contests and freebies and confetti!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Good is not good enough

Talk to someone pursuing a big goal:getting accepted into an Ivy league school, landing a contract with a record label, being hired as first horn by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and you'll hear how crazy difficult and competitive it is.

Getting my novels published feels as crazy difficult. I realize there are lots that are outside my control: the state of publishing industry, trends, the economy, so I concentrate on what writers are suppose to do, write: revise my first novel, draft scenes of my second, and jot down thoughts about my third. I am also doing what writers who want to be published do: send off queries and submissions. (Can we say roller-coaster emotional rides?)

A sensible sentence caught my attention this morning. It is from Tami Brown at the Through The Tollbooth blog. She says:

But your writing ... must be as good, and in most cases, better than writing you see in published books. Why? The authors of books in print already have relationships. You are new. It takes something extra to break through.

Not a thought that most people who consider encouraging, but strangely, it's encouraging me to keep plowing and polishing so my work will be better, hopefully better than good.

(It's pretty obvious that I was procrastinating. I should be writing, not reading blogs? But hey, every once in a while, those tactics do bring us back to what we're supposed to be doing.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Quick Reviews

Scat by Carl Hiaasen

Hiaasen's first foray into YA, Hoot, was an excellent book and a huge hit. Scat continues his tradition of writing about the eco-system in Florida. The usual elements are there: young and resourceful protagonists who are passionate about the environment; odd adults, a few of them sympathetic; greedy big corp guys; and endangered species. And great writing.

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher
A mark of a classic is that it feels current and timeless simultaneously. Can a book published in the early nineties be considered a classic by 2009? I believe it can in the current publishing landscape. And Sarah Byrnes is one in my opinion. The questions raised and arguments presented are honest. The characters feel authentic. And Mobe is the best. Nit pick: the bad guy is too despicable to be believable.

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas
Brilliant opening: A thief is a lot like a wizard. I have quick hands. And I can make things disappear. But then I stole the wizard's locus magicalicus and nearly disappeared myself forever. Nit pick: the age of the protag seems to make a leap in the middle, from 11 or 12 to about 15 or so.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
A glimpse into an intriguing world, that of the American Blue Bloods. But even within the exotic setting of a prep school, we see the same type of players at work. I admire the author's very sure hand in writing. Nit pick: Frankie's motivations aren't always clear. I am never sure if her plotting and actions are driven by revenge, or a desire to prove girl supremacy, or a way to keep her boyfriend, or simply because she can. This is a character I can't relate to very well even though her capers are interesting.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Just as imaginative as the first one. Nit pick: why would Ron seek out Lockhart after they've figured out how to get to the chamber? Percy as red herring is a bit obvious, but the real chamber of secrets opener is a surprise.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Raw, honest, haunting. Not a hint of the whiny, self-absorbed, and self-righteous teenage narrator in some YA books, especially those dealing with Issues. This narrator doesn't seek sympathy. She is struggling to understand not only the people around her but her own motivations. She lets us in on her journey, which can be difficult at times, but I'm glad to have gone along with her. It's be one to read again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Give me embarrassment any time!

Recently someone told me I was brave.

That took me completely by surprise. I've long resigned to the fact that I'm chicken about many things. When I read of courageous acts in books, I'm always filled with admiration and longing. I tell myself I need to overcome at least some of my fears, and have, in fact, taken a few baby-steps toward this goal.

But I know I am far from being brave. Which is why that statement gave me pause. After mulling over it, I realized that the reason I did that supposedly-brave thing is that I prefer embarrassment over regret.

I've sabotaged my own successes many times out of fear. Those events have gnawed at me over the years, giving me pangs of regret. I know how to deal with them more effectively now, but the intensity of these pangs haven't subsided.

In contrast to that, there have been times when I've subdued my fear enough to do something brave. Some of those times have resulted in embarrassing moments, a couple of them spectacularly so, like when I had a full-on brain freeze on my very first piano competition and couldn't continue beyond the first page of my Chopin Ballade and so I just stood up to bow--bow!!!--as the audience clapped politely to signal their relief I was about to leave the stage.

But the effects of the embarrassment, unlike those of regret, die off. Apparently, Time does heal, the pain of embarrassment at least.

This is a timely reminder, as I am sending off another round of submissions. I've received a few encouraging responses, but the rejections are coming in as well. But I know now that I can live better with having tried without succeeding, than not trying at all.

I wish you courage.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Mouse? What happened to the Dragon?

Some of you know that I am a fan of Jeff Stone's Five Ancestors series. I love the story, the main characters, the kung fu, and as a writer, I am extremely impressed by the opening of the first book in the series, Tiger.

The premise: four young and highly-trained martial arts masters are forced out of their temple home when one of their former brothers burnt it down and killed their master in search of a special scroll. Each book in the series is devoted to one of the young masters, whose style of martial arts is based on one of these animals: tiger, monkey, snake, crane, and dragon. If you look that covers of the books, you'll see the insignia of these five animals.

After devouring the first four books in the series, I eagerly awaited the fifth, which I had anticipated to be about the dragon and the last book in the series.

But that fifth book was Eagle, not dragon; and it wasn't the last book. So I grumbled a little, but accepted Eagle because the errant brother was originally trained in the eagle style kung fu even though he wants nothing more than to be a dragon.

At the library the other day, I saw the newest installment of this series, and not only is it still not the last book, its title is Mouse, a character who was introduced only in book 5! Can they create detours like that?

What am I to do? Can't not read it! So I grumbled: where is the kung fu? And why is the dragon scroll now so insignificant when it propelled the earlier books? And just where did that jade armor come from?

Mouse redeemed himself towards the end with some well-placed snot, an over-ambitious imitation of a kung-fu move, and lots of spunk.

All right, Jeff Stone, the next one had better be Dragon (an ad at the back of Mouse says it is but I"ll believe it when I see it) and there had better be more kung fu (not more violence though) and no more introduction of an extremely powerful and important artifact that was not mentioned before.

End of vent.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Poetry Friday

Welcome to the first Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month.

I have chosen a poem by Jack Gilbert for all my writing friends who work diligently at their craft everyday, steadily, and sometimes--who am I kidding--more often than not, are in a state of discouragement and disappointment, overwhelmed by the daunting task.

Take heart, fellow toilers! Heed Jack's words, that

courage is not the abnormal
Not the marvelous act

and that
It is the normal excellence, of long accomplishment.

Enjoy his poem, The Abnormal is Not Courage
(Instead of a poetry archive site, I've linked to a blog. This particular post includes two other poems by Gilbert and a couple of interesting first-hand stories by the blogger.)

Poetry Friday Roundup this week is at

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Call me Ish-a-geek

A new public library branch opened last weekend in my town. Now there are three public libraries within very reasonable driving distances from my house. I am so thrilled to live in a town that values books!

Here are some pictures of the new library:

The children's section
[Incidentally, I saw a friend there and she seemed amused that I had brought my camera to the library.]

Look whose book I found displayed prominently in the children's poetry section?

The book of yet another of my Poetry Friday cohorts!

Happy second day in the National Poetry Month. Just from the poem-a-day I have received in my email inbox, I'm learning so much more about different types of poetry (new one for me: language poetry) and poets. You can sign up for it too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

National Poetry Month

I know it's April Fool's day, but I'll leave the tricks and jokes to the pros. Instead, I'm focusing on the other big event of the day: the start of National Poetry Month.

At the website, you can find out how you can participate. Sign up for a poem a day. Read a poem to your child, your children's class, your mother. Write a haiku, a sonnet, a limerick.

Here are some other events taking place that you may want to check out:

If you love children's poetry, as I do, poet and professor Sylvia Vardell will be reviewing a children's poetry book a day. Anastasia Suen has collected school poems from students and will share them at Pencil Talk. Tricia at Miss Rumphius Effect will be posting her interviews with children's poets daily.

Read, enjoy, laugh, celebrate!