Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Who will tell these kids' stories?

The NY Times today features a brief but fascinating glimpse into the life of a child after they've been hit by a stray bullet.

I can't help thinking - how will this affect them as they get older? What kind of lives will they lead as they enter their teen years? Good grist for the writers mill, and food for thought about how one act of violence leaves ripples in the pond that never quite go away.

What makes a great kid's book

The Upstart Crow Agency blog has a great post up that features publisher Little, Brown's LIST OF ATTRIBUTES THAT MAKE A GOOD CHILDREN’S BOOK.

It's a great list to show you what makes a great kid's book, and a way to inspire yourself to make your book as good as possible.

Meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to Make Them Stop Reading

The ever-informative Guide to Literary Agents Blog had a great post recently from guest blogger Livia Blackburne called "7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Chapter."

All novelists should take a look-see, because we all fall prey to cliches, boring conventions, and lazy writing at times. I expected to find the "don't start with weather" dictum, since that's a common theme when you talk to agents and editors. But I was more surprised to see that some writers give readers Too Much Information (TMI), as in detailed descriptions of bodily functions or even surgery. Ew. My sympathies, agents!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

National Book Award YA Winner

Looks fascinating. Did you know that in 1955 a black teen girl refused to give up her seat to a a white person on the bus nine months BEFORE Rosa Parks? (Read more here.) Another example of how kids can make a difference in the world.

Am making notes for my to-read list...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Kids Can Make a Difference

When ten-year-old Will Phillips refused to stand up and pledge allegiance because he thinks we haven't lived up to the ideal of "liberty and justice for all" he really started something. Turns out Will thinks gays should be able to marry, and until they can, he won't take the Pledge.

As his father Jay Phillips says, "He felt that just because he's ten years old doesn't mean he doesn't have opinions, doesn't mean he doesn't have rights, and doesn't mean he can't make a difference."

Here's Will and his father on CNN:

What a smart, brave kid. The ten-year-old inside me loves the fact that one kid, taking a stand, can cause people to think about important issues like this one.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Childhood Memories

I loved Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Zoom when I was a kid, lo, many years ago. Thanks to YouTube I found my absolute favorite sketch from Zoom (below). For some reason, this song remains totally intact in my memory. It makes me wonder why kids latch onto certain songs or phrases or events and not to others. With the benefit of hindsight, the song presages much in my life. First, the song. (Note, the tallest girl in the cast here is named Nina. That always tickled me too!)

The protagonist here is, of course, the cat. I am a proud cat-owner, cat-saver, and cat-lover. (I love just about every other animal too!) Did my love of this song foreshadow the fact that my current work-in-progress features some very important cat elements?

Also, the song has a certain violence to it. I don't think they'd let kids sing something like this ("97 pieces of the man was all they found") on children's programming today. Can it be just a coincidence that I write about kick-ass protagonists and love to write action scenes? Yay, violence! (in fiction, that is.)

The cat here is also quite the underdog. Shot at, given away, sent to the moon - how could a little cat survive all that? Yet he does, he keeps coming back. It's a lesson for writers. Pile the woe onto your protagonist, put her in impossible situations and then have her get herself out of them. Let the cat that came back be your template.

(Side note: I can't help thinking this song inspired "Stray Cat Strut" by the Stray Cats. The attitude in it is very similar.)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Idea Alert!

People wonder where ideas come from, and I tell them that the ideas are the easy part. It's the writing that's hard.

That's why ideas are so fun! They seem to slip out of the ether into your brain. Sometimes it's a character that sparks it, or a scene arrives unasked before your mind's eye. Today I was listening to the radio during my lunch hour, listening to a story and I thought, "someone should write a novel or a screenplay about this."

Or maybe I should. For me the idea usually involves an underdog of some kind, facing terrible odds, huge conflict, in a setting I haven't quite seen before in quite this way. Stories of strong women inspire me, but I've also written two TV pilot scripts that feature male protagonists. But they are always strong, always full of internal conflict, facing huge external conflict. I love interesting historical settings too. I'm a big buff of Ancient Egypt and Tudor England and have written or contemplated writing all kinds of things set in those times.

So today I got a new idea. I'm very excited about it and no, I can't tell you what it is. It's too new, and it needs quiet, uninterrupted nurturing right now. But it just might become my next book.

But I really should finish my current book first!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

My First Five Pages

Rock. Just saying.

I reread them yesterday, and they kick butt. This is the new novel I'm talking about, the one only my faithful/fabulous crit partner Elisa Nader has read all of. (My classmates last spring read the beginning.) No, you can't read them yet. Sorry.

I rewrote some other bits of the beginning, but in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I must get back to finishing that first draft. I'm not doing NaNo this year because I was already at page 204 (!) on November 1, and the rules of NaNo say you must start a new book. But I'm all about the cranking out of words this month. So here's to you, NaNo writers. Write on!