Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Recuperative Reading

I've been laid low by a nasty upper respiratory infection. The good side of this is that I've had the chance to catch up on three wonderful middle grade novels, Avi's Poppy and Ereth, the hilarious Mississippi gambling Crows & Cards by Joseph Helgerson, and my favorite, Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry.

Let me warn you now, there are some spoilers here.
As usual, I like to figure out what makes a book work so well...
Avi is a master storyteller, and his use of multiple POV in Poppy and Ereth is phenomenal. He opens with Poppy and Rye, enjoying a cozy winter snooze together. Then he switches to Rye's POV as he forges out into the snow to write a lovely winter poem. Rye returns coughing. Next chapter Avi switches to Junior, the son. Junior is pounding on Ereth's door to inform him that Rye died.
Wow! Who kills off a main character in the second chapter? But Avi cushions the blow by pulling back and telling us the news through Junior's perspective. Amazing.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


As it snowzles outside my window this raw October day, I keep warm thinking about last night's meeting of the Story Spinners critique group. We talked about finding new ways to celebrate one another.
The Story Spinners always broke out the champagne when someone published, but we decided we also needed to celebrate rejection letters--hey we were brave enough to send that baby out, and we got a response.
That naturally flowed into celebrating submissions--five of us submitted something lately.
Most of all we celebrated the gifts each of us bring to group. Apparently I'm the mother/nurturer of Story Spinners. Sweet!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Women of the Golden State Launch and Negative Space

Last weekend I drove to New Hampshire for the Book Launch Brunch for Women of The Golden State. Apprentice Shop Book's ( publisher, Muriel Dubois, put out a delicious spread. I relished the chance to meet the other authors who worked on this project. They are an interesting bunch!

At my table Joyce Ray and her husband talked about their upcoming trip to Japan, volunteering with an organization that teaches sustainable farming techniques. Janet Buell shared information about her Time Traveler series of books on mummies, including the Ice Maidens of the Andes. I also had a chance to meet some of the folks who work behind the scenes at Apprentice Shop, like the all-important bookkeeper.

One of the best parts of the trip was driving up with Sarah Hemenway. She's an artist as well as a writer and provoked me into thinking of writing in new ways. Artists often draw the "negative space," but what is negative space in writing? Is it the subtext, the things hinted at but unsaid? Anyone have comments to add on this topic?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Humor scene?

Okay, ready or not, here's my answer to the humor challenge, feeble though it is. Somehow it seemed funnier when I first wrote it. Funny is hard!

Holly and Alex stood panting on the dock, watching the boat carrying their classmates get smaller in the distance.
“The ferry left without us. What will we do?” cried Holly.
“My scout leader says that in any survival situation, you should first take stock of your supplies.”
Holly rummaged in her backpack. “I have a camera, my water bottle, and half a smooshed peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
“At least we won’t go hungry,” said Alex. “I have my keys, a notebook, and a self-inflatable dinosaur.”
“A self-inflatable dinosaur! What on earth are you doing with that?”
“My dad gave it to me. He’s the IT guy at the Museum of Natural History.” Alex looked at the sky. “Storm’s coming. The dinosaur could provide shelter.”
“How big is that thing?”
Alex hefted his backpack on his shoulder. “I’ll show you. If I remember correctly, there’s an empty field at the end of this street.”
The two trudged past tourist shops and up a hill to a grassy space surrounding a lighthouse.
Alex took a large rubber rectangle out of his backpack and uncocked the self-inflating mechanism.
It hissed and whistled and wheezed as the dinosaur took shape. The head was as big as Holly’s bedroom. The neck looked like a tree trunk. The body was as big as a school bus.
“A tyrannosaurus!”
“Indeed,” said Alex. “Dad thought it was an appropriate choice for his son, Alex Rex.”
There was a sudden gust of wind from the sea. The dinosaur bucked.
“Don’t let it blow away!” cried Alex, wrapping his arms around its neck.
Holly grabbed a floppy foot.
They tumbled across the field, bounced over the trees, and came to a shuddering stop against a tall stone arch.
“The dinosaur’s head stuck in the entrance to the labyrinth at the top of the island,” announced Alex.
“A-mazing,” said Holly.