Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chicago Tribune Book Reviews

One of the people I had the pleasure to speak with at our recent SCBWI-Illinois conference (Prairie Writer's Day) was Mary Harris Russell who reviews children's books weekly for the Chicago Tribune. We discussed that they can be viewed online, but aren't always the easiest to find. In an effort to make her reviews easier to access, I intend to post a link weekly along with the titles reviewed. I hope you enjoy the reviews as much as I do!

(It's time to get back on task and make this a children's writing blog !)

Reviews for Saturday, Dec 27:

Christmas Farm By Mary Lyn Ray Ages 6-9

How to Heal a Broken Wing By Bob Graham Ages 5-8

Seabiscuit the Wonder Horse By Meghan McCarthy Ages 5-8

On a different subject thanks goes out to Gail at The Riant Writer for awarding me with the Butterfly Award which is now displayed on my blog.

In the spirit of the award, I would like to pass it along to two other people:

Tabitha Olson at Writer Musings, who offers reviews and a wealth of knowledge on the craft of writing.

Lisa Chellman at Under the Covers, who blogs from a librarian's perspective and treats us to wonderful poetry each Friday (very often original!)

The rules (as posted by Gail) are:

1. Put the logo on your blog.

2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.

3. Award up to 10 other blogs.

4. Add links to those blogs on yours.

5. Leave a message for your awardees on their blogs.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas things that make me laugh -- part 3

Here's my favorite.

Merry Christmas! (this blog was scheduled on 12/23....I'm not really blogging at 1AM Christmas)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas things that make me laugh -- part 2

I think the thing that makes this little guy soooo very cute/annoying is the fact that the sound is totally under the control of the puppeteer. I present #2 and wish you a Merry Cristmas Eve (although I'm actually snug in bed -- this is a scheduled blog):

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas things that make me laugh

Christmas time includes a vast array of toys, decorations and now even cards that make noise/music. I'm the guy who walks through the stores pressing the buttons and opening audio cards. I know -- some of you hate me, but for the rest of you here are my top three that reside at my house. Well actually here is #3 -- the other two will be auto posted the next two days, so come back and visit!

If they actually had gone again, it may have been #2.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ten Uses for Paper Clips

Our family hosted a Christmas party yesterday for our daughter, two sons, our two future daughter-in-laws and the daughter-in-law's families. My son the physics teacher and his fiance gave our daughter (who will student teach math next semester) a smorgasbord of teaching supplies. Each had a note taped to it. I share one of the notes:

Paperclips, binder clips, thumb tacks...allvery useful things that you probably know exactly what they could be used are 10 other uses for paper clips...

10. A book mark

9. Unclog glue

8. Rocket Engine Mount (ok, that's for physics teachers only)

7. Lottery Ticket scratcher

6. Pick desk drawer locks...(seriously, it works sometimes)

5. Stress Reliever (just bend away into any old shape!)

4. Guitar Pick

3. Chip clip

2. Christmas Ornament Holder

1. Make-your-own TV antenna!!! (well, until Feb 17th at least)

Other good things from the party:

Mark got a 10 x 10 U of Illinois tailgating gazebo and a propane crock pot (think chili). You might look him up if you're in Champaign-Urbana on a football gameday next fall.

We played a reindeer game:

Here are the reindeers created by the three teams. My son Jason on the right, his fiance Laurie on the left and Mark's future m-i-l in the center.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Peep Video

Let it never be said that this blog is not receptive to the wishes of its readers. Exactly ONE reader requested the peeps video. Exactly ZERO readers requested it never be posted. So..... here for the first public viewing..... described by my wife during first take "that's disgusting".... I present NUKED TRIPLET PEEPS.

Oh, and thanks to Carrie for taking the bait.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thing I'm Thankful For

There are a million things I have to be thankful for this year. Some are hugely obvious if you know me -- see my poetry post from Nov 7 and you'll know how thankful I am for my wife.

Here, however, is an eclectic list of other less obvious things:

  • I'm thankful we are going to my nephew's for dinner tomorrow leaving us time to go see a movie tonight. We saw 4 Christmases. At the Dad's house (Vince Vaughn's Dad), our cloth countdown calender was in the kitchen -- I think that means ours must be tacky and will be discarded.
  • I'm thankful my daughter (math major) is home from college for the week. She even shared a mathematician/bartender joke. Now that's a true college student's joke.
  • I'm thankful for the prize package I got from Lisa Yee's contest. In addition to a signed copy of So Totally Emily Ebers , I received peeps. A few were microwaved here (I took a video). The rest gave their lives to science in my son's physics class (he's the teacher).
  • I'm thankful for the children's writing community. Special thanks to editor Martha Mihalick (from Greenwillow Books) for a very thorough critique in conjunction with Prairie Writer's Day -- it was far more detailed than those I've received in the past and had some very useful points. (I'm sure she'll never see this, but I'm none less thankful).
  • You're thankful that I know when it's time to end what could be an endless list.



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pictures from Prairie Writer's Day

Last Saturday Illinois-SCBWI's Prairie Writer's Day. The day was fantastic! I share a few pictures.

Harold Underdown who spoke on the state of the industry with the his assistants "Mr. P" and the more upbeat "Mr. O".

Editor Martha Mihalick who spoke on "Character" (as in those in our books).

Editor Cheryl Klein spoke on "Plot".

Illinois SCBWI member and friend Carol Grannick spoke on "Learned Optimism" (right up Mr. O's alley). Jenny Meyerhoff assists with the signs.

Editor Carolyn Meckler spoke on "Voice".

Agent Jennifer Rofe spoke on "Revision".

Sharon Darrow, the Vermont College faculty chair for their MFA Children's and YA Writing, presented a wonderful teaching session.

Carolyn, Martha, Cheryl and Harold at the Mix 'n Mingle.

You can see more pics at Trina Sotira's blog (including one with me in it).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Candidate for Veep helps win Jim peep(s)

If you head on over to Lisa Yee's Blog you can find out the details. Don't panic at the heading -- "peep(s)" is not capitalized. The real Peep will still be safely in Lisa's custody.

I might add, thanks to Lisa for creating a special category of the contest so that I could win a prize (which included peeps).

Friday, November 7, 2008

Poetry Friday: Original from the distant past

I was reminded a couple weeks ago by my wife how I have been writing poetry for a long time. I probably gave her a strange look, so she went on to remind me of the verse I wrote while we were dating that ultimately was on the front of our wedding invitations. Had I not taken a 25 or 30 year rest from poetry writing, I could have quite a collection! I share my til now untitled verse (from memory):


by Jim Danielson

Sometimes feelings are hard to say
The words I know just can't convey
The warmth that comes from in my heart
So I repeat the words
(That say but just a part)
I love you more than yesterday
And tomorrow's just the start

Today's roundup is at: Check It Out

Friday, October 31, 2008

Poetry Friday - Halloween 2008 Edition

Well, it's probably a bit lame to post the same poem as last Halloween, but I will anyway since it was not part of Poetry Friday last year. The poem received honorable mention in an SCBWI online contest. Click on the link, select previous contest #8 and you can read the winning entries too.

by James Danielson

Don't cross my path on Halloween night
Or your right will turn left, and your left will turn right.
Your limbs will be sucked through your body in route
To turning your bones and your skin inside out.
Your eyeballs will dangle and bounce to and fro,
Occasionally hitting your liver or toe.
Even your thoughts will turn backwards a lot.
If you say the word TONS, you'll be covered with SNOT.
There's only one way to cancel this spell,
A bag full of candy, and all will be well.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week at Poetry for Children. Thank goes out to Sylvia for hosting!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lisa Yee's Contest

I'd like to point everyone over to Lisa Yee's blog to join in the fun of her Bodacious Book Title Contest.

It's fun! There are prizes! Mostly it's fun. (If I were really worried about the prizes would I be encouraging more compitition????)

You can enter as many times as you want. I have three entries -- two are already Newbery winners, the third just came out. Who knows. A year from now all three may be Newbery winners!

Now click on over, read the rules and join in.

Friday, October 24, 2008


While the rest of the writing world gears up for NaNoWriMo, I am on a personal quest I will call LoNoRevMo (LOcal NOvel REVision MOnth).

I have been treading water with my current revision so long I don't even want to admit it. Every time I think I've found the way to fix it, roadblocks pop up. A member of my face-to-face crit group told me months ago to switch my MS to first person. She liked my main character's voice (in a blog writen by the main character), so why not just write it first person. Sure, there's an issue to be dealt with, but basically I was too lazy to admit she was right. (JK we're about to see!)

I have a plan!

Phase #1: Use find replace to do as many mechanics changes as possible. These are not why we change to 1st person from 3rd, but seem necessary. (for example, "said Cammy" becomes "I said") Every "Cammy" will not become "I", but they can be gone through and change or find next can be clicked.

Phase #2: Proof the MS from changes in Phase #1 and make remaining mechanics changes.

Phase #3: (and this IS why we change to 1st person) Inject Cammy's voice and POV into the MS.

The schedule is:

Phases #1 and #2: Done by end of next weekend (Nov 2)

Phase #3: First revision done by end of November, which is LoNoRevMo.

I'll keep you posted!

LoNoRevMo started tonight.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Prairie Writer's Day IV

The 4th annual Prairie Writer's Day sponsered by Illinois-SCBWI is coming up this November 15th -- less than a month away! Here's the lineup:

Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine Books
Martha Mihalick of Greenwillow Books
Caroline Meckler of Wendy Lamb Books
Agent Jennifer Rofe of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Industry Consultant Harold Underdown
Author Sharon Darrow

I've spent the evening looking for their blogs and websites, and you'll notice a lot of "clickable" names above. Cheryl Klein actually blogged about PWD a couple days ago! Everyone else attending PWD has probably been visiting these sites for months, so.......time for me to catch up. (And in case you haven't, maybe the links will help out.)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Roadtrip -- Peoria via Champaign (and back again)

It was a great weekend! We had the pleasure of attending an awards banquet for the Illinois Council of Teacher's of Mathmatics where our daughter (a college senior) was awarded a scholarship. It's been a while. There was a flurry of banquets back in our kids high school days, but this is the first in a long time. It's not that there haven't been other scholarships in the interum -- just no banquets.

Here are a few random comments from the weekend:

1) The banquet was held at the Hotel Pere Marquet which is a very cool, old hotel in downtown Peoria. The list of past guests included US presidents, VPs and many celebrities. We stayed there last night and although our room was great (we reserved a room and got a junior suite!), I'm guessing the former Presidents had even nicer rooms. Since this is a writer's blog, I point out that the view out the window was the Peoria Public Library. Now that was my perspective. My wife looked a little different direction and saw the view of the river. My daughter I believe mentioned that the bars across the the street were probably frequented by her brother when he was attending Bradley University.

2) Go Illinois!!! (They just beat Indiana in a night football game 55-13). Which brings up why we had to have our daughter back by around Noon for the Block I tailgate. She's a big time U of I sports fan.

3) Back to the banquet. It was refreshing to see the dedication of math teachers in the ICTM. Thanks for Kelly's scholarship -- I foresee her as a future active member!

4) It was a new experience to have Kelly buy us a drink at the bar afterward. For the record -- yes, she is 21 and no, I couldn't convince the waitress to card me.

5) WooHoo! We have another banquet in less than a month for another scholarship. This one will be brunch. Go Kelly!! Scholarship, food -- life is good.

6) I went by the site of the Darcy Pattison revision retreat (Feb 27, 2009) this morning when we brought Kelly back -- I'm enrolled, excited and revising.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Super Saturday -- part 2

I've had multiple comments today on how the Kelly Herold program yesterday was informative and got the attendees really thinking about blogging. The ultimate example of the value of yesterday's talk, however, is Gail Piernas-Davenport's new blog. Be sure to check it out!

There are a lot of things I gained personally from the program, but I'll give you two things tonight.

1) I need to stop calling myself Jim D. I am Jim Danielson. Part of the reason we as writers blog is to know each other -- why should there be a mystery? In fact I maybe should be James Danielson since that's the name on my submissions. Maybe I'll start at Jim Danielson and work myself to James (or submit as Jim?).

2) Change the beginning of my MG novel again. Kelly was asked if kids blog. The answer is they prefer community type platforms such as facebook. My MC was blogging on page one -- oops! I figured out the change today and it's full speed ahead with revisions starting tomorrow.

Jim Danielson
(I'm changing the "Jim D" right after this post)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Super Saturday

While other Chicagoans where preparing for the Chicago Marathon tomorrow, I had the great honor to listen to a fantastic presentation by the Kidslitosphere's own Kelly Herold .

It was a small SCBWI program -- a dozen of us. Only three of us currently blog, but after listening to Kelly today, we might be up to four or five by now!

Here are a few pictures to share from the day:

Kim, Corie, Jenn, Gail and Kelly.

Kelly and my SCBWI Co-Network Rep Corie.

Heather, Kelly and April.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Poetry Friday original - Hummingbird

Poetry Friday is being hosted this week at Author Amok . Thanks to Laura for hosting!

A week ago last Sunday we had multiple hummingbird sightings in our yard (which was far, far nicer than flood water last Sunday).

I dug out a children's poem I wrote a few years ago, while staying at my sister's house during her battle with cancer -- it is a fond memory.


by James Danielson

Hummingbird, hummingbird
Beak black and long
If I could get close
Would your wings sing a song?

Hummingbird, hummingbird
Throat painted red
You spot a sweet meal
In my flowering bed.

Hummingbird, hummingbird
Back shines so green
Bees scare you away
I think they're so mean.

Hummingbird, hummingbird
High in the tree
You need more to eat
So come fly back by me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Keep your eyes open

Okay. If you saw this before, it somehow got out of sync and reverted to an incomplete version.

I deleted and started over.

I remember reading in Steven King's On Writing that story ideas come from everywhere and that we need to watch for them.

Here's my extension of that: Watch for details to add to your existing story. At dinner a few nights ago my future daughter-in-law broke open her fortune cookie: "You will learn the truth in time."

My current WIP has a MC who has Chinese food in Chapter 1. The book is a ghost mystery centering around a grandfather clock. Hmmm ....... are fortunes copyrighted???

Jim D

Monday, September 15, 2008


Flooded Street/Our Driveway

Overall, we got off a lot easier than many in the Chicago area. I just wanted to share a few pics from the front of our house.

The first is about 2PM Sunday. The second shows who actually enjoyed the flood (look for the ducks). The third is about 5PM as water receded. We are lucky. Many in the area are still severely flooded. We also avoided any flooding inside the house. Many roads are still closed and traffic is snarled beyond belief. Boy did I pick a good week to be at home on vacation (with not much of anywhere to go).
"Duck" Weather

Getting Back Toward Normal

Friday, September 12, 2008

Poetry Friday-Original

My original intent was to offer up a light and airy children's poem this week. Frustration with politics (and the news surrounding it) has sent me in a different direction.


by Jim Danielson

I sit on a bench
Waiting for the train
The sun glares through the warming house window
Begging me to wake up
My eyes open wider and I shiver
Is it from the cool morning air?
Or the cold thoughts that plague me?
The heater squeaks its way out of summer retirement
A blast of hot air
The chill remains
Political rhetoric echos through my head
I shiver again and turn on my brain's spam filter
No more talk of change where there is none
No more justification of war as God's mission
No more lipstick
Still there are rumbles
Cool wisps from those around me
Wisps of bias -- gender, race, religion
Distractions from economy, education and war
Distractions from our destination
The bell clangs as the train pulls into the station
The doors open and the conductor announces the route
I hear my stop and step aboard
Finally, I am warm.
Did you hear your stop?
Were you listening?

I post this with reluctance -- I've never written anything remotely political.

Next week I promise light and airy for balance -- I promise.

Thanks to Jennie at Biblio File for hosting this week!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Poetry Friday Crickets and Cicada

Cicada emerging from shell in our back yard.

As summer winds down, the sounds of crickets and cicada will soon be behind us. This week I offer two ancient poems.
They are credited to a Greek-speaking native of ancient Syria by the name of Meleager. More information can be found at the following site (where I found the poems):

The Cicada to the Cricket
O cricket, you who soothe my passion and provide the consolation of sleep;
O cricket, shrill-winged rustic Muse;
You natural imitator of the lyre, sing for me some poignant song
As you tap with your charming feet and strum your loquacious wings,
So as to relieve me from toilsome worry that completely deprives me of sleep
As, o cricket, you spin out a song that dispatches Eros.
Then I shall give you as gifts, first thing in the morning, an evergreen leek
Along with dewy droplets that I separate with my mouth.

The Cricket to the Cicada
O resonant cicada, drunk on dewy droplets.
You sing your rustic song that sounds in lonely places.
Perched with your saw-like limbs, high up among the leaves
You shrill forth the lyre's tune with your sun-darkened body.
But, dear friend, sound forth something new for the woodland nymphs,
A divertissement, chirping a tune for Pan as the song which you sing in your turn,
So that I, escaping from Eros, can catch some noon-time sleep
While reclining there under the shady plane tree.

Poetry Friday is being hosted at:

Thanks to Elaine Magliaro for hosting this week!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Haiku

Last week it was the olympics.

This week it's political conventions. I really don't want to get into political issues, but as a writer and a Scrabble player my mind tends to play with words and letter combinations.

Something happened today that triggered my brain. Here is the result. Read nothing more into it than the fact that I write and play Scrabble.

Sarah Plain and Tall
V.P. Candidate's Story?
Just swap two letters

For the record, I have no clue how tall Sarah Palin is.

It's kind of late to officially be part of Poetry Friday, so I'll just post it -- probably better off that way.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Poetry Friday Olympic Haiku

Since the 2008 Olympics have been keeping me up late watching swimming, beach volleyball and ahh yes....gymnastics, I've been napping more and writing less during my commutes to downtown Chicago.

Having said that, I offer the following silly haiku (17 sylables is a good representation of my output for the week).

Nastia wins gold
The all around champion
But Shawn is butter

If you didn't see this link earlier in the week at Big A, little a (or elsewhere), viewing it will help you understand.

Roundup is at Read, Imagine, Talk.

Jim Danielson

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Well, I finally made it to see the Dark Knight. I have to tell you it was wild to watch scene after scene filmed at my building (where I am employed). I walked through the bookcase elevator (that really wasn't an elevator). I was in the boardroom with the sound guy going over how we (the building) could shut off air while scenes were shot. I saw the lobby scene being shot where the DA turned himself in claiming to be Batman. I ate lunch a couple tables away from Christian Bale and Morgan Freeman. I don't claim to have done anything exciting, but I was there and had very minor involvment.

Do I recommend the movie -- not for younger kids.

Questions asked by the Joker such as "Why so serious?" and "would you like to see this pencil disappear?" (or something close to that), were quite dark humor in context.

It was just really exciting to finally see it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Villain or Olympian?

I realized today that one of the young Chinese Olympian girls has the name He Kexin. Hmmm.....

A bit weird since my current WIP has an evil villain ghost who is referred to as "He".

Okay, I admit it. I'm watching too much Olympics and not writing enough.

Jim D

Friday, July 25, 2008

Poetry Friday: Leigh Hunt and Original

Lisa Chellman had posted John Keats' fifteen minute sonnet earlier this month. Here is the sonnet by Leigh Hunt who was the other party in the contest:

To the Grasshopper and the Cricket
Leigh Hunt

Green little vaulter in the sunny grass,
Catching your heart up at the feel of June,
Sole voice that's heard amidst the lazy noon,
When even the bees lag at the summoning brass;
And you, warm little housekeeper, who class
With those who think the candles come too soon,
Loving the fire, and with your tricksome tune
Nick the glad silent moments as they pass;
Oh sweet and tiny cousins, that belong
One to the fields, the other to the hearth,
Both have your sunshine; both, though small, are strong
At your clear hearts; and both were sent on earth
To sing in thoughtful ears this natural song:
Indoors and out, summer and winter,--Mirth.

I did my own personal 15 minute poem earlier this week (and quite honestly since I thought about it 5 minutes before writing, make it 20). I'm amazed that Keats and Hunt could do these in 15 minutes. Not only are they roughly twice the length, but they're about 1000% more serious writing. On the positive -- my poem did give me a good jump-start for my novel revisions.

Anyhow, here's what I did with 15-20 minutes:


You know that red, octagonal sign
The word "STOP" on yours and mine

My wheels lock and yours roll through
That brake shop trip must be past due

Or perhaps your foot went numb
You hit the gas -- that thought was dumb

Ahh, you site the legal clause
It's acronymic: Slow To Optional Pause

Poetry Friday is hosted this week at:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

15 Minute Poetry Recharge

I've sometimes found it helpful to change writing projects once in a while to recharge the creative juices while I do revisions. The problem is that I then get distracted from the main task.

Here's the new solution. Speed poetry -- speed recharge -- 15 minutes and judging from today, it works (for me).

I sort of got the speed poetry idea from Lisa Chellman's Poetry Friday post of July 11 with a John Keats sonnet he wrote in a 15 minute contest. Well, I knew a sonnet was out of the question -- getting literary takes me toooooo much time. I can get a bit goofy, however, spontaneously. In roughly 15 minutes, half my AM commute, I had writen eight lines about........Stop Signs. (Pretty goofy subject.) That left 45 commuting minutes during which I made good progress and I think the charge will easily carry through tomorrow and beyond. 15 minute recharge every few days sounds good and goofy poems as a byproduct!

Jim D

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Batman, writing, life

On the eve of the release of THE DARK KNIGHT, I think back about a year when they were filming in the building where I work. I actually had important functions -- turning off fans before "action" and back on at "cut". So, when you watch scenes at my building, remember I helped eliminate some of the background noise. Seriously though, it is cool for me to watch the promo clip and pick out the multiple scenes whose sets I was at (not during filming).

Writing is progressing! I do keep revisiting the beginning, however, while I go through the rest. (Thanks Chris for your recent comments including "an old phonograph" -- the one I'm using is a bit different from your thoughts, but will work well. I own it and promise a picture.) On another note, my face-to-face group met Tuesday and someone suggested I might try 1st person. It was kind of a compliment because she liked the voice of my MC in blog entries I'm inserting, but............ As the story progresses, I don't see it working. I love 1st person and actually have another novel going 3rd to 1st. I'm trusting my instinct, and hoping its not just laziness.

Life: This past weekend a new grandpuppy (#2 son and fiancee got a lab puppy) and a new car (needed while old one still had a little value). Coolest part of the car -- it has sync -- you can talk to it! Tell it who to call, what song to play, etc.

Oh, and last but not least we found a room for our SCBWI-Illinois Southlands (south suburbs) program Saturday, Oct. 11 which I'm very excited about.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Poetry Friday Original: Blue Lake - July 5

An original poem based on our visit to our friends lake home on the 4th of July weekend.

BLUE LAKE - July 5,2008

by Jim Danielson

Still waters
Reflect the crisp image of a fisherman drifting by
His line hits the water
Breaking the early morning silence.

One P.M.
Choppy waters
Speedboats race by towing tubes with clinging children
Their shrieks of delight muffled by roaring engines.

Still waters
A barge silently settles mid-lake
Fountains of light explode from the deck and high in the air
They sound their own applause
As they view their reflections upon nature's mirror.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Computer Sigh of Relief

A sigh of relief went up in the south burbs of Chicagoland......the hard drive from our computer that died last Friday has been successfully transplanted into another computer. I even got the case back together correctly with NO extra pieces!

Yes, we had backup, but is it ever 100%? (Correct Answer: NO)

Anyhow, a reminder to everyone to backup often, more often and most often!


Friday, June 27, 2008

Poetry Friday Original: The Artist

A recent visit to the roof of the high rise office building where I'm employed inspired this poem. I was escorting a photographer retaking a section for a 360 degree panoramic shot. The day was beautiful.

Jim D.


Six-hundred-seventy feet above the ground
Trump's hammers ring
In contrast to the whisper of a gentle breeze
The artist readys his tripod
His camera
And waits for that perfect moment
That perfect light
He stands ready
Near the edge
Head cloaked like photographers of an age gone by
Preparing to record Chicago's skyline at this instant in time
Still he waits
A bird flys within inches
As oblivious to him as he is to it
Then, he emerges from the cape
A touch of the shutter
The stark metal and glass
The backdrop rippling blue water
His canvas is full
He sits for a moment
And inhales the joy of his conquest.

Roundup is at: Biblio File

Monday, June 23, 2008

Words in the Woods

I wasn't fortunate enough to attend the SCBWI-ILLINOIS sponsered retreat "Words in the Woods" featuring agent Barry Goldblatt, Holly Black, and editor Namrata Tripathi (Disney-Hyperion). I can, however, share a link to Trina Sotira's blog reporting on it.

Jim Danielson

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Poetry Friday Kubla Khan

In honor of the conection of Xanadu to PJ Hoover's book The Emerald Tablet, I offer up Kubl Khan for POETRY FRIDAY. (I had the good fortune to read the ARC -- the novel is due out in October. )

On a total nonpoetic note, does anyone beside me remember the movie Xanadu? I think it starred Olivia Newton John. Just curious and I don't recommend it (in fact I may be the only person who ever saw it).


By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree:

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground

With walls and towers were girdled round:

And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,

Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;

And here were forests ancient as the hills,

Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted

Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!

A savage place! as holy and enchanted

As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted

By woman wailing for her demon-lover!

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,

As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,

A mighty fountain momently was forced:

Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst

Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,

Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:

And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever

It flung up momently the sacred river.

Five miles meandering with a mazy motion

Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,

Then reached the caverns measureless to man,

And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:

And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far

Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure

Floated midway on the waves;

Where was heard the mingled measure

From the fountain and the caves.

It was a miracle of rare device,

A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer

In a vision once I saw:

It was an Abyssinian maid,

And on her dulcimer she played,

Singing of Mount Abora.

Could I revive within me

Her symphony and song,

To such a deep delight 'twould win me

That with music loud and long

I would build that dome in air,

That sunny dome! those caves of ice!

And all who heard should see them there,

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread,

For he on honey-dew hath fed

And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday Summary

It's been a busy week!

Let me start with my writing. I'm continuing work with adding blog entries to my MS. I took own advice and shortened the first entry a lot. It removes the feeling of info feeding and allows us to get to know the main character better. I think..... I will let it sit and then revisit it.

Item #2: S. E. Hinton at Printer's Row -- what I learned. S. E. Hinton is somewhat of an anomoly among YA writers. She wrote her first (and best known) novel while in high school. She now writes only for adults. She admits she does not read YA novels and has no interest in what is currently being writen in the YA market. In the opposite direction, she states the best prizes she receives are letters from young readers stating that her books convinced them to become readers.

So, the question is: Why did the Chicago Tribune award her this year's YA Book Prize. I think the answer is as simple as The Outsiders marked the beginning of the YA book genre as we know it. The Trib's award is designated to be for a work or body of works. Why not take a year to celebrate YA's beginning?

Now back to what I learned: I learned that as a writer we must always be true to our heart in what we write. Well, I kind of knew that, but let's say it was reinforced. S.E. Hinton was true to her writing in high school -- she got a D in creative writing while working on The Outsiders (assumedly because she was neglecting her class work). I salute the fact that she continues to write what her heart now dictates -- works for adults. I would be curious , however, what she'd think of the Stephanie Meyers books. Did I mention that S. E. Hinton has a vampire in one of her latest works?

Item #3: I picked up an autographed copy of Truck Stuck by Sallie Wolf to add to my collection for my future grandchildren. Did I mention that my twin sons both got engaged in the last month. (Grandkids still a few years away though).

Jim D

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Part of the revision process for my current WIP is breathing a little more "life" into the text.

Along those lines, I'm looking at the possibility of my main character becoming a blogger and including said text in my manuscript. The novel is writen in third person. Obviously, the blog would be in first.

Okay...confession time...I'm not the best read person writing MG fiction. (I'd love to read more, but it's a time balancing thing.)

So, my questions to the kidlitosphere: Do any of you know examples of third person MG novels which include daily blogs or diary entries of the main character? Also, is this just a bad idea that popped into my head on the commute to work this morning due to the early hour?

I did get some writing associated with the idea on paper, but I'd love to read examples in recent novels (if they exist).

Jim D

Friday, May 30, 2008


I know this is a poem and I know this is Friday, but this hardly qualifies as a "Poetry Friday" post.

A few weeks ago when Tricia got her pet turtle, I had writen this poem and she requested I share. I waited to share because it was actually submitted. In light of the fact it was not chosen, I'm sharing! No critiques please and be aware it's for very young kids.

Also, if you want to see a really good poem posted, visit Kelly Herold's blog (Big A, little a -- there's a link at the left).

Sea Turtles

Tiny turtles
Three by three,
Trudge through sand
Toward sunlit sea.

Tiny turtles
Two by two,
Tumble in
The waves so blue.

Tiny turtles
One by one,
Time to swim
Life has begun!

Jim D

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Okay. I try to limit my television watching, but my daughter is saying I "have" to get caught up with LOST by next January. "It has the best writing ever!"

Dad says, "As soon as I get caught up on my writing revisions." (I'm a writer -- when one thing is done there's another. Caught up doesn't exist, nor would I want it to.)

"But Dad, it will make you a better writer!"

Any LOST fans out there?

A little pictoral intro to my daughter in the form of a pic taken last week is at the top of this blog.
Jim D

Friday, May 16, 2008

Things I Did on My 3A B'Day

First of all, hexadecimal expression of my age worked better last year when I could claim being "39".

This morning I read part S E Hinton's The Outsiders on my train ride to work. She is receiving the Chicago Tribune's YA book prize this year and will speak at the Printer's Row book fair on June 7th. I've already reserved my free tickets. It's really interesting reading a popular YA book writen 40+ years ago. Much of the first chapter is Pony Boy describing his gang of friends one by one (in first person narritive). I don't picture that would happen today. I could be wrong. It's not that it bothers me -- rather I just think 2008 writing style is different. One thing I've also noticed is that her writing helps the reader to understand the era's lingo. For example, surrounding sentences make it clear when Pony says "the fuzz", surrounding text makes it clear Pony means the police. This helps make it clear to future readers who, unlike myself, did not grow up in the era. I like this -- it helps the book to remain more viable. I am getting old though --no reading on ride home -- forgot the book at work. I am enjoying the book and will report after June 7th on the presentation.

Dinner was Edwardo's Stuffed Spinich Pizza.

Presents included a new printer and a case of paper.

I did not win Mega Millions.

I did play Outburst and Dominoes.

I did have a GREAT day.

Jim D.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Simply the Best

First of all, Happy Mother's Day to all moms.

This morning both of our adult twin sons gave my wife cards. Both were musical. They were bought totally independently. Both were a perfect expression of how we all feel about her. And you probably guessed by now....they were identical (the cards).

When opened, they sang out, "Simply the best. She's better than all the rest...."

As for my writing: It was a week off for home projects -- back to writing revisions this coming week.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008


This was the first week of directing my writing energy strictly at revision of When the Clock Strikes Two. I'm on leave of absense from my wonderful online critique group in order to have the time to actually put all of their suggestions to use in my MS. did I do you ask?? I'll give myself a B- on progress. I made one pass of the first five chapters and expect to do two more before going on to chapter 6.

My writing goals are minimal for this week. I have a Thursday night "Coffee Shop" SCBWI meeting, a Saturday Network Rep meeting and I'm on a home project vacation this week. The main project -- ceiling cracks in the family room. The secondary project -- putting those cabinates I aquired to use in the laundry room. Don't feel too sorry for me. Thursday's set aside as a fun day with my wife. Anyhow, I'll be back on task with CS2 next week.

Jim D

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Double Tagged

Spring has sprung and the memes are on the loose!

I'll handle this one tonight (but won't try to tag anyone else since Tricia already tagged our whole Critique group):

1. Choose anyone of YOUR OWN manuscripts. It can be a picture book, MG novel, an adult novel... It makes no difference.
2. Turn to page 30 of your novel or page 3 if it is a PB
3. Find the 5th sentence.
4. Post the next 5 sentences of text.

1. When the Clock Strikes Two

3. 5th sentence: She gasped at the poem written on page three with a red marker.

4. Next 5 sentences:
When the clock strikes three
It’s your Aunt you will see
When the clock strikes two
You don’t want to know who
(Chapter 8 )
Cammy slapped at the snooze button on the clock radio.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Doctor Ted has arrived!

It's not every day I get a package in the mail with the return address from "Three Silly Chicks", in fact this past Tuesday is the only time it happened. I had the good fortune of winning an autographed copy of Andrea Beaty's picture book Doctor Ted in the Chick's latest contest! There was even a bonus gift -- a Dr. Ted prescription (for reading) pad.

Thanks go out to Andrea, Carolyn and Julia. A full review will follow, but if I were to do a one word review it would be "Funny!".

Jim Danielson

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Timing is Everything

Sometimes things just work out.

Last weekend my wife and son were talking about things that added value and functionality to a home and she said something to the effect of, "I'd love to fix up the laundry/storage side of the basement."

I responded, "Do you know how much is being thrown out for demolition work in my building. Let me see if there are any decent bottom cabinets left anywhere." The building I work for is clearing office space on a number of floors to be converted to hotel space. Sure enough, I found 15 feet of cabinets with counter top. I spent a couple hours after work this week splitting them into individual pieces and all Saturday morning making two trips downtown to pick them up. That's the other thing that worked out nice -- when my son bought a vehicle after graduation last year, he bought a pickup truck and helped moving them home. My other son also helped carry them down in the basement. Now mind you there will be additional paint, drywall and tile involved, but so far the only expense has been gas for the truck.

The area the cabinets were in is being demoed starting tonight. If the conversation originated today, it would have been too late.

Yep. Sometimes things just work out.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Welcome Natalie

I would like to welcome Natalie Rompella to the world of blogging by children's writers.

Natalie is a fellow Illinois-SCBWI member and, as you will see on her blog, attended the recent Richard Peck Retreat in Urbana. Stop by her blog to say "Hi!!!".

Jim D

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Thank You, World (a picture book reviewed)

It hasn't been often in my life that I've had the pleasure to listen to a picture book author and the picture book illustrator at the same program. Hmmm. Actually today might be the only time its occurred!

This morning I listened to the story behind the story for Thank You, World by Alice B. McGinty, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin.

Alice shared that the story was inspired a dozen years ago by a refreshing breeze by a swimming pool on a hot summer day. She went on to speak of rejections and her manuscript spending time alone in a drawer. Acceptance came in the midst of working on their backyard shed (roof I believe). The project was quickly forgotten in the excitement. Sharing her good news consequently brought on comments on the order of "We're really happy for you, but what is the black stuff that exploded all over you?". And then her book was turned over to Wendy...

(For the record, Alice tells the story better and since I wasn't taking notes, far more accurately.)

Wendy shared a lot of what went into her idea to incorporate pictures from eight countries for each thank you. One of the countries chosen was Saudi Arabia, which she had a lot of problems researching. The interesting thing she learned when talking to someone at the Saudi embassy when asking how to picture a swing in their country was that they have Six Flags type amusement parks! The other amazing thing is that the pictures in this book were all done in crayon. Wow! And after listening to her crayon art lesson, I think this household is in the market for a couple of large crayon assortments. (For the record #2, our youngest child will be 21 in a couple months.)

The review:

Thank You, World takes us on a walk through simple day to day things that bind children from diverse countries together. The pictures are all coded consistently by placement and border color. China, for example, is in the lower right hand corner of the second page (of each two page spread) and has a green border. This will help the young children reading the book to easily match pictures to countries. The concept is simple, yet so well thought out both in text and illustrations. I highly recommend this PB.

I would like to add, Thank You, World for writers like Alice and illustrators like Wendy.

Jim Danielson

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Back from Richard Peck Workshop

Well, I'm back from the Richard Peck Workshop in Urbana, Illinois.

I'm exhausted and exilerated at the same time -- or is that impossible?
Answer: I found the workshop magical, so anything is possible!

Rather than trying to write a complete report tonight I'll share a little, and promise a second installment. One of today's highlights was a reading this morning by Richard from his work in progress. If you're a fan of A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder, you'll be happy to know he's writing a third book with Grandma Dowdel. The reading was fantastic!

Prior to even knowing of the reading, Richard was presented a button calling for "Grandma Dowdel for President". He is pictured with Carol Grannick. (Richard neither confirmed or denied that Grandma Dowdel was considering entering the race.)

Richard with me at book signing time:

Esther Hershenhor (Illinois-SCBWI Regional Advisor), Peter Meyerhoff and Jenny Meyerhoff. Jenny is in the Class of 2k8. Her husband is also writing and possibly in the class of 2k?? ..............

I promise more pictures in the days to come!

Jim Danielson

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Richard Peck Countdown

This writer is heading for Urbana, Illinois for a fabulous sounding retreat. Right now I'm in "have I done everything I need to prepare" mode, but come Saturday it'll be time to give my writing skills a tuneup and to network with fellow Illinois writers ..... oh, and one from Texas. I promise to bring back pictures to post next Monday!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Thanks Barrie Summy!!!

Thanks go out to Barrie Summy for the copy of Slam by Nick Hornby that I won in her book giveaway. It arrived today!

If you don't know, Barrie is a member of the class of 2K8. Her debute novel I So Don't Do Mysteries will be out this December. I can't wait to read it!

Visit her at:


Friday, February 15, 2008

Thursday Night's Writing Exercise

Tricia asked me to share the writing exercise I used, so here it is:

I took it from the kickstart section of the SCBWI site (Kickstart #9):

There are ten opening sentences. Everybody picked one at random and wrote the rest of the opening paragraph (or in some cases two or three paragraphs). In case you're interested what I had to build from -- I had #3.

3. As Samantha gazed across the dance floor at Jason, her heart sank.

Wasn't exactly the genre I normally write, but that's probably a good thing for the exercise.

To continue the theme, everbody is to bring an exceptional opening paragraph from a published book.

All in all, I think the whole thing worked.

My favorite opening that someone selected was:
4. The hamster had lived in Mrs. Bottom's 3rd Grade Classroom for a year now and
only one person had heard him speak.

Happy Writing and thanks to the SCBWI site for last night's kickstart.

Jim D

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Good Luck Nnedi!

Local Illinois author and fellow SCBWI member Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu is nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the following catagory:

Outstanding Literary Work – Youth/Teens•

“Body Drama” – Nancy Redd (Penguin/Gotham)• “Center for Cartoon Studies Presents: Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow” – JamesSturm, Author; Rich Tommaso, Illustrator (Hyperion Books for Children/DisneyPublishing)• “Divine Confidential” – Jacquelin Thomas (Pocketbooks/Simon & Schuster)• “More Than Entertainers: An Inspirational Black Career Guide” – Charles B. Schooler,Author; Gary Young, Illustrator (Zenith Publishing)• “Shadow Speaker” – Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu (Hyperion Books for Children/DisneyPublishing)

Awards are on FOX tomorrow night. I don't know if this is a catagory awarded on the show or not, but its a fantastic honor and I wish her the best!!!

Also, Cybils are tomorrow. Good luck to Laura Ruby and others nominated. Also, thanks to Kelly Herold and the long list of others that make the Cybils possible!

Jim Danielson

EEEEEEEEEEEK!!! I need a writing exercise. HELP!

I just remembered I promised the SCBWI network group a writing exercise for tomorrow night and haven't looked for or dreamt one up.

I'm off to search the cyber children's writing world, but if you have a good one...............

There are typically 3 to 8 people who attend these monthly meetings.


Sunday, January 20, 2008


Okay, I've been memed by PJ Hoover (aka Tricia).

Here's the deal:

The rules are:
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

I'm set up on the desk in my daughter's room (parents reclaim space when kids are off at college). You don't mind do you Kelly???? See. I even asked her. Anyhow, I looked across at the bookshelf her and the first book I saw was: Calculus. I looked at the next shelf. Ahhh, Wicked sounds better.

So the boys took to swimming and rowing on the lake with the girls. Boq tried to fan in himself an interest in Shenshen or Pfannee, who certainly were coquettish enough. But they both seemed besotted with Avaric.

Well, don't remember that being in the stage production and its not that interesting. (just Boq). Let's try Calculus.

p123 Calculus

I can't type exponents -- oh well.

I'm going to refrain from tagging 5 more people. Sorry.

Jim D

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Writing Exercise - Tested

I'm happy to report the writing exercise went well on multiple levels:
  • Everyone participated and shared what they wrote.
  • The rest of us were able to guess the living thing and room in the majority of cases or at least come close.
  • One writer took the exercise to the next level and decided a ladybug wouldn't really know the names of furnature and took it upon herself to describe a four post bed --Bravo!
  • One writer commented that having a time limit showed the value of time limits to get that initial set of words down on paper.
  • Everyone had fun.
  • Everyone wants another writing exercise next month. (any good ideas???)

Two other notes:

Congrats to Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu whose novel The Shadow Speaker is a finalist for the NAACP Image Awards (to be presented Feb 14). Nnedi is an Illinois-SCBWI member. I might add she has a book signing this Sunday.

I also heard Jenny Meyerhoff's workshop on voice at the North Suburb meeting last night was fantastic. (I unfortunately wan't there.) Jenny is a member of the Class of 2k8.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Writing Exercise -- Untested

Well, since I promised a writing exercise for my SCBWI Network group, I came up with one in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep. Or possibly I was awake for two minutes and then literally dreamed it up. Regardless, I had it when I woke up this morning.

Here's the exercise:

Have everyone draw slips of paper from two "hats". One slip will be a room in a house (kitchen, living room, garage, basement, etc.) and the other slip the name of a living thing other than a person that might be in the house (dog, cat, house mouse, plant, ant, etc.).

Have everyone write a paragraph in first person as that living thing describing the room. The idea is to show who and where you are (not to tell).

I'll let you know after Thursday how it goes.

On another note, Barrie from the class of 2k8 has a great blog breaking down the genre of all 28 books and when they come out. The only disappointment I saw was that we have to wait until December to read Barrie's book which happens to be a MG mystery complete with a ghost. I'm actually this week getting feedback from my most fantastic online critique group of the final section of -- you guessed the genre -- a MG ghost mystery.

Come to think of it, I have to wait until September and October respectively for Jenny Meyerhoff's and PJ Hoover's books which is also quite a while.

Check out the list at

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Two Great Sources of Writing Information

As we begin the new year, we have probably all made resolutions to improve our writing, health and happiness. I offer two places to gather writing info and potentially help out with the writing improvement category.

The first is the Class of 2k8 site. The class of 2k8 is a group of authors who are having their first book's published during 2008. I spent time last weekend looking at book descriptions/publisher with the thought in mind "What books are being accepted from new authors and by what publishers?" Also, I might add, two authors with books coming out January 8 are:
Liz Gallagher (The Opposite of Invisible)
Lisa Schroeder (I Heart You You Haunt Me)).
The second is Illinois-SCBWI's online newsletter. It contains a lot of good articles -- and there's also the one I wrote for the edition just posted (my first article contributed). You can find it in the "Fly on the Wall" section.
Happy Writing in 2008!