Monday, October 4, 2010

Things Recently Learned about my WIP

I was reminded recently while attending a Heartsaver First Aid course for work that writing material can come from just about anywhere. The instructor told a true story about an auto accident/rescue attempt that wound up costing the rescuer's life. It fits so much better than him just being killed in the crash itself. Had you told me I would change the story based on something from that class, I probably would have just laughed.

The second thing I learned based on reading I did for the Anderson's YA Conference is that a lot of YA is told in multiple voices. I'm doing that now too!

The third thing I learned (today) is how excited I am about this WIP. Ghost story + YA + in verse + kind of aimed at guys (involves sports) + multiple voices = Jim Excited.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Anderson's YA -- Part 4 : The final chapter

Writing friends Michelle Sussman and Karly Kirkpatrick shopping for books.

A picture of the author that graced our table. (At one point, an Anderson's employee pointed out to David Levithan that the author chair reserved at our table was empty--he looked ever so briefly and headed toward the back of the room. In all fairness, there were more tables than authors.)

John Green, David Levithan, Sioban Vivian and Dana Reinhardt after "Contemporary Edge" breakout session.

Kenneth Oppel holding a copy of his book HALF BROTHER.

And a slide of the half brother.

A few tidbits:

John Green says "maybe when I get old I'll have to do the Richard Peck trick and write historical fiction."

David Levithan says "Our job as writers is to choose the exact right words to express our feelings."

Siobhan Vivian picked up the phrase " wild pack of Freshman slut La Crosstitudes" talking to a high school upper classman.

Pam Munoz Ryan said "momentum developes creativity" (refering to writing)

Blue Balliett wrote the ending of Chasing Vermeer on a piece of cardboard she pulled from her garbage can in the middle of the night. It turned out to be packaging cardboard from her son's boxers. He made her swear she'd never tell anyone. Hmmm... I wonder if she kept that promise.

When Lisa asked about interesting fan letters, Kenneth Oppel said something to this effect:

He got a letter about his Silverwings series which avoids using colors because it is about bats (which can see only in black and white). The young girl said you mention "yellow" on page 12. You said "an" instead of "and" on page 50. I've noted similar problems in C. S. Lewis' Lion, Witch and Wardrobe series. I wrote him too. He never wrote back or made the corrections because he's dead. Hopefully you can correct yours. Kenneth suspects she will someday be a copy editor.

I hope you've enjoyed my four part account of the conference!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Anderson's YA -- Part 3 : Multiple Author Tidbits

That's Charles Benoit after a "Contemporary Edge" breakout session talking to an audience member. His featured speech, by the way, was fantastic. He told the story of his mom always having a book when he was a child and encouraging him to come sit with her and read. At some point he realized she wasn't actually reading and questioned her. She replied that she needed glasses and couldn't afford glasses for both herself and her kids. When questioned why she always had a book: because she wanted to be a good influence. He also told other very funny "mom" stories. This was his first YA conference and he spoke of his book YOU which is in second person! Writing in second person would scare the crap out of me.

Simone Elkeles told another story about cover demands--she had to write a scene into RULES OF ATTRACTION for the scene of the guy and girl leaning out of car windows kissing (my last blog talked of Stephanie Hemphill's change for matching cover art). I have another note of Simone talking of cover art for another book showing a flat model representing a well endowed main character, but my notes are a bit vague. One of Simone's fears: Being seen in public (and recognized) when she's in the midst of an intense writing period and hasn't showered or washed her hair in days. One of my fears: That Simone will kill me for blogging that she said this.

Stacy Kade compares the banter between her two main characters to that on the old TV show "Moonlighting". I might add I read the first couple chapters of THE GHOST AND THE GOTH and loved the voice.

I still need to talk about friends I saw and which author graced my table. Oh, and John Green, David Levithan and Kenneth Oppel. But that will be another day or three.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Anderson's YA -- Part 2 : Stephanie Hemphill

One of the authors I was most looking forward to meeting at Anderson's YA Conference this year was Stephanie Hemphill. I have fallen in love with writing novels in verse and Stephanie writes in verse. I confess I haven't finished reading WICKED GIRLS, but only because I haven't had the time. I promise a review when I do finish reading it.

WICKED GIRLS is a historical fiction account of the Salem witch trial from the points of view of the young girl accusers.
A couple notes from her speaking at the "In My 'hood" breakout (local authors):
  • She describes her book as mean "mean girls crossed with 1692".
  • She removed a descriptive line about a character's blond ringlet curls because of the cover picture (straight hair which would not be common in 1692).
  • She grew up in the Naperville area and now splits time between Illinois and LA.

Two other note: I loved how she signed my copy (and not just because she called me a poet). Also, she will be doing a reading at Anderson's store in October.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Anderson's YA -- Part 1 : Andrea Cremer

Because there was just TOO much that happened at Anderson's YA Conference to include in a single blog... I decided to break it into smaller pieces over a number of days. The started with free ARCs at check-in. One was by Andrea Cremer who was one of the authors on the "New Voices" panel.
Now if you think I was excited about getting a free ARC of her book, check out how excited she was to have everyone get them!

A few brief notes from Andrea's comments in the breakout session:
  • She dreamt of writing novels and riding horses. She decided to spend a summer riding--until the first day a spooked horse crushed her foot. Since she spent the next weeks unable to apply weight to the foot, she wrote a novel. (For those who know how I spent last summer, yell at me for not working as hard as Andrea!)
  • She had two "practice novels before NIGHTSHADE.
  • NIGHTSHADE is not just another werewolf book -- The characters revel in the beauty wolves and the magic which surrounds their lives. (Andrea: I hope I expressed that correctly from my notes.)
  • Andrea writes a novel's first draft in about four weeks.
  • Andrea is a punctuation freak in the sense she loves to use commas, semi-colons, ellipses -- she's also a copy editor's nightmare. In spite of the fact that she is a full time college professor.

Next post: Stephanie Hemphill

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Poetry Friday -- Life

My poetry Friday original verse celebrates the birth of my first grandchild, Haily Ann.

A miricle
Where life rebounds
Finds new purposes
To move forward.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week at: The Miss Rumphius Effect
Thank you Tricia for hosting!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ghosts are complicated

Wow. It's been two months since my last blog. Not good.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending an Illinois-SCBWI program featuring 2010 Golden Kite winner Julia Durango. After the main program, a few of us lingered and continued talking about writing.

I can't remember the exact topics others were writing about, but they all seemed more important than ghosts. One of my writing insecurities is that my stories are pretty much just stories. They don't teach the reader about another historical era, or another culture or touch upon tough subjects like prejudice, drugs and so on.

When I expressed this, Julia disagreed. Three words of her response gave my subject matter credibility.

"Ghosts are complicated."

It took a while for that to sink in. I feel good about my ghosts, but realize they now need size 14 shoes to grow into.

What statements have you heard from other writers that really made an impact?

Friday, March 12, 2010

And the winner is.....

Kelly! See details in comments from the original contest posting.

Monday, March 8, 2010

9 facts and a lie contest prize package

So I promised to come up with a prize package. My decision -- the two ARCs pictured above.

I am, however, willing to try to find a substitute prize if the winner already has them.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

9 facts and a lie contest

Because of the great fun this game was at Tabatha's blog, I've decided to do it too. It's very simple -- I type out 9 facts and one lie about myself. Pick out the lie and in the comments tell what you think the lie is. On Friday, March 11 at 8PM I will randomly pick a winner from everyone who guessed correctly. If nobody gets it right, I'll draw a winner from everyone.

Now, as for the prize: It will be a choice of a book of your choice from a list to be posted say Monday (I promise some good choices).

Anyhow, the facts and lie:

1) I wrote the original computer program that shut off the lights at the IBM Building in Chicago It was written in Fortran and ran on an 1800 computer. (Think punch cards and removable disks the size of a large stuffed pizza.)

2) The first children's writing I did was a short chapter book titled "Kelly and the Mystery of the Ring". Well, I think the girl's name was Kelly. The "and the Mystery of the Ring" part is right. I wrote it for my daughter Kelly, who was an avid reader. She read it in about 20 minutes and said I should write more. It was never submitted anywhere and never will be.

3) Last June I was the victim of a sports injury. I ripped my Achilles tendon playing hopscotch with my niece. It required surgery and I spent a good part of the summer recovering enough to go back to work.

4) I have been to every presentation of the Chicago Tribune Young Adult Book Prize/Award. I thought the streak was ending this past year when tickets for Neil Gaiman "sold" out, but HB had 2 tickets and came to the rescue.

5) I am not a member of MENSA in spite of the fact that my wife has told me I'm brilliant. I seriously doubt I'd be eligible.

6) During the filming of the last Batman movie I had multiple conversations with someone who was nominated for an Academy Award for the film. I'd say the conversation helped him win, except he didn't.

7) After college, my senior year roommate apparently told his wife that she should cook things more like I cooked them. (Isn't it usually the guy's mom???) I heard this from a reliable source-- my ex-roommate's wife herself.

8) I almost didn't make it to my first SCBWI Southlands coffee shop meeting due to the worst snow fog I've ever seen. My wife had seen a blurb in the local paper about children's writers meeting that night. Since there was no indication it was a monthly thing, I may have never gotten involve had I not made it. I swear visibility on I-80 was about 10 feet! (If it was really 20 feet that doesn't make this a lie.)

9) On the subject of local papers: I received honorable mention in a Christmas story writing contest. Everyone was given the beginning of the story and then had to finish it. This was pre-SCBWI, but two of the people who entered eventually became SCBWI friends through coffee shop meetings. Neither of them won even honorable mention, but both are now published (and I am not). I think the reality is that they did win!

10) When my daughter was in high school, I embarrassed her on multiple occasions by singing a verse of a Santa rap song I made up. Jim the rapper -- hmmm -- pretty scary!

Now, if by chance you happen to know any of these are true, please don't pass that along in comments. Speculate, however, to your heart's content.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Poetry Friday Winter Olympic Haiku -- Original

It's only fair that since I did a Summer Olympics Haiku, that I do one for the Winter Games too. That is especially true since a "golden" opportunity presented itself this week. Ironically, it involves one of the people from my summer haiku.

Olympic Wisdom:
Nastia doesn't get mad
She just gets Evan

Thanks to Jone at Check It Out for hosting.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Poetry Friday Scrabble Challenge -- 2010

Well Jenn, Lisa and I are making the Scrabble challenge an annual event making this the second annual Scrabble poem Challenge. The idea is simple -- write a poem/verse at least 125 characters long, attach the Scrabble point value to each letter, add them up and divide by the number of letters. This gives you the average point value per letter in your poem. The highest average point value wins. (but there is no prize). By the way, titles are not in the letter count.

I don't feel confidant I have the winning poem -- not enough "PIZZAZZ" -- I am sure I had fun!


Jazzy thumb moves
Quick gym jog
My exercise

Tequila buzz
Glazed over eyes
Liquids quench

Greazy, sleazy
Pizza pie
Veg bedazzled za
Oh my!

Line by line scoring:

132/396 (total) Average letter score: 3.000000000000000

Hopefully Blogger doesn't mess up the formatting since I'm scheduling this for 3 AM (in honor of the 3.000000000000) and the 3 original participants. All are welcome to join the fun!

I'll add links to this post tomorrow.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Poetry Friday - Revisiting Poetry Challange

Last year on the first Friday in February Jenn, Lisa and I challanged each other to create poems with the highest average Scrabble point value per letter. We are making it an annual event and would welcome anyone and everyone to join the challange. I'm reposting my entry from last year to give you the idea. The one rule we've added is a minimum of 125 letters (which would have made my entry too short).

An HP Ditty

Wizardly quizzes
Quidditch game flights
Phoenix quilled wand
JK's dazzling delights

Average letter score (title not included): 2.8194 (203 points, 72 letters)

Links to last year's other entries: Jenn's entry

Lisa's entry

The 2010 Scrabble challange is next Friday (Feb. 5) for anyone interested.

This week Poetry Friday is hosted by Anastasia Suen. Thank you Anastasia!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

SCBWI-Illinois Jan Dundon/Mary Harris Russell Program

Jan Dundon and Mary Harris Russell
Today's presentation by Jan Dundon (Anderson's Bookshop) and Mary Harris Russell (Chicago Tribune children's book reviewer) was fantastic. I left feeling excited, enlightened and energized to write.
Both touched upon the ALA awards (to be announced Monday):
Mary Harris Russell predicts: Newbery to THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly; honors to WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead and CLAUDETTE COLVIN by Philip Hoose. Prinz to MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco X. Stork (and this is a book she really likes).

Anderson's Mock Newbery winner: 11 BIRTHDAYS by Wendy Mass
There were a couple books that Jan talked about that I'd really like to mention:
1) MIRROR MIRROR: A BOOK OF REVERSIBLE VERSE by Marilyn Singer, il Josee Masse (due out 3/4/2010) I can't even describe how the author can write a verse, presents the same lines in reverse order on the neighboring page and they both sound wonderful, with unique feeling. This is the book I wrote "WOW!" next to (instead of using a simple asteric).
2) 14 COWS FOR AMERICA by Carmen Agra Deedy w/ Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, il Thomas Gonzalez. True story that will touch deeply about a gift to our hurting nation following 9/11. The book is published by Peachtree. Web site:
3) ODD AND THE FROST GIANTS, Neil Gaiman, il Brett Helquist Jan called it a very different style book from Neil Gaiman. It is based on Norse mythology. That's enough to interest this writer since my own father was born in Sweden. Then add Mr. Gaiman's talent -- I want the book.