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A blog for kids (and their parents) who love books, words, and dreaming big...
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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Writer Waiting

Hmmm... sounds a little familiar.... :)


WRITER WAITING

Oh this shiny new computer --
There just isn't nothin' cuter.
It knows everything the world ever knew.
And with this great computer
I don't need no writin' tutor,
'Cause there ain't a single thing
that it can't do.
It can sort and it can spell,
It can punctuate as well.
It can find and file and underline and type.
It can edit and select,
It can copy and correct,
So I'll have a whole book written by tonight
(Just as soon as it can think of
what to write).

by Shel Silverstein,
from Falling Up, 1996

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Onomatopoeia

This week's word is onomatopoeia.  It is a noun that means "a word (or the formation of one) that sounds like what it describes".  It's a fun word to say (on-uh-mah-tuh-pee-uh), and words that are onomatopoeic are fun, too!  Here are a few that I can think of:

tick tock                                       

BANG!

                                     hiss

ROAR!                          

hiccup

                CRASH!

zip                           


What words can you think of that use onomatopoeia?



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Resources for writers...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net


"If you don't have the time to read,
you don't have the time (or the tools) to write."

~ Stephen King in On Writing


In the quote above, King is talking about reading novels and other books... lots and lots of them... for the sheer enjoyment of reading -- learning, as you go, about what makes some writing "good" and other writing "not-so-good" (or worse).  While I completely agree with him, I also believe there are a few reference books out there that can help provide writers with some of the tools they need.

First of all, every writer needs a good dictionary and thesaurus.  I own a Webster's Dictionary and a Roget's Thesaurus, both of which are now tattered from heavy use.  When I'm typing stories on the computer, however, I find it easier -- quicker -- to make use of the online site, Dictionary.com.  The site contains a dictionary and a thesaurus, plus it often provides fun tidbits about words.

Another book that I keep handy when I'm writing is one I received as a teenager, in an English class: Reference Handbook of Grammar & Usage by Scott, Foresman and Company, 1972.  It's not exciting reading, true.  It does provide easy-to-understand definitions and examples of correct grammar -- things like when to use "accept" instead of "except", and what someone means by a dangling participle.


I discovered this next book at the library last week, The Pen Commandments: A Guide for the Beginning Writer by Steven Frank, 2004.  I picked it up with an armful of other books about writing, expecting to just flip through it when I got back home.  Instead, I ended up reading the book cover to cover! 

A humorous book with chapters such as "Thou Shalt Honor Thy Reader", "Thou Shalt Not Waste Words" and "Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Prose", the book is geared toward teenagers.  Though I didn't necessarily learn anything new myself, it was good to be reminded of these important "commandments".   I believe the book would be a very useful read for any teens who are interested in writing, even those who merely want to improve their English assignments. 


A book familiar to many writers, young and old, is The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, 1935.  I received it from the Institute of Children's Literature as one of my texts for my correspondence course. It contains rules for punctuation and grammar, along with principles of composition and reminders about style.  This book is often considered a must-have for students and aspiring writers.


I started with Stephen King, and I'll end with him, too.  I have read his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000) half a dozen times, at least.  Even those who are not writer wannabes or fans of King's other works (like I am) may enjoy this one.  (A quick note: This book does contain some adult language.)

The first part of the book describes King's life, from his childhood to his rise to superstar author, all the while explaining how he learned to write. 

The next section of the book talks about the craft of writing. King provides what I've found to be meaningful advice about writing -- information on characters, plot, dialogue, etc. and then recommendations for revising, sharing your work with others, and sending it on to publishers. 

The final part of the book tells the story of the horrible car accident that almost killed King in 1999.  More importantly, it tells how King survived the tragedy, through the help of his doctors... and a little thing called writing.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A trip to the post office...

Can you guess what this is a photo of?


Yesterday I typed up four cover letters and then printed them out, along with four copies of the picture book manuscript I wrote earlier this month, Silly Sally McMally & Sam.  I put them in envelopes.  Then, this morning, I took a little trip over to the post office, mailing them off to four different book publishers.  If you wouldn't mind crossing your fingers for me, I'd sure appreciate it! :)

It's been awhile since I sent out a new story... about 15 years.  (I have sent a couple of new poems to magazines since then, and I've re-sent older stories that were rejected by other publishers several times... but no new stories till now.)

I was really excited when the idea for Silly Sally popped into my head, and I was really excited as I wrote it all out!  I was even excited when I re-read it, revised it, then re-read it again.  I think it's a good story, one I would pick out from the library or a bookstore shelf and read to my kiddos.  (I did read it to Ben, and, while he told me at the end that he loved it, I already kinda knew that from all of his giggling while I read.)

It's out in the world now.  I just have to sit back and wait to (hopefully) hear something back.  (Publishers rarely send rejection letters out nowadays, and only contact a writer if they are interested.)  That, and try to ignore all those doubts that start creeping in once a story's out of my hands....

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Because I want to write...

Photo courtesy of Public-Domain-Photos.com

"When I was seven, I said to my mother,
may I close my door?
And she said, yes,
but why do you want to close your door?
And I said because I want to think.
And when I was eleven,
I said to my mother,
may I lock my door?
And she said, yes,
but why do you want to lock your door?
And I said because I want to write. "

~ Dorothy West

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Old School"

A quick note to all the BookWyrms out there:  Just so you know, I do intend to talk about newer books one of these days.  I know there are many, many good ones out there!  For right now, though, I'm sticking to my childhood favorites. :) 

Also, to any male BookWyrms reading this... I will try my best to include books with boys as main characters in the future.  As for now, what can I say?  When I was a little girl, I liked reading about other little girls!

One genre that I've always enjoyed is historical fiction.  I love hearing about how the world worked "in the olden days", and trying to imagine myself living during those times. 

(On a related note, one of the things I liked best as a young girl was to play "school" -- much to my little sister's dismay.  But I always wanted it to be "old-fashioned school", set in a little one-room schoolhouse on the prairie.  My grandma, who had been a real teacher, gave me several old primers and also a clanging hand bell, so that I could call my pupils to school. :) )

Some of the books listed below were not considered historical fiction when they were written, but contemporary fiction.  Now, over a century later, I think it's safe to say they are historical!

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 1868...  This story takes place in New England, during the 1860's and the Civil War.  It describes the life of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, whose father is a chaplain in the Union Army. 

Not surprisingly, my favorite character was always Jo, the independent tomboy who loves to read and write.  I also loved (and identified with) Beth, who is quiet and shy.
I couldn't find my copy of this book
(I know it's around here somewhere!),
so I took a photo of this one at the library.

Even more than Little Women, however, I liked Little Men.  Also by Louisa May Alcott (1871), this book continues the story of Jo, who has married, borne two sons, and now runs a boys' school.  I liked hearing about the mischievous boys and the ways Jo and her husband manage them. 

There is also a third book in the series, Jo's Boys, but I don't remember enjoying it as much as the other two.


Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney, 1881... This story, presumably set in the latter 1800's, is about a widow, Mamsie, and her five children -- Ben, Polly, Joel, Davie, and Phronsie. 

The impoverished family, living in their "Little Brown House", always seems to make the best of their situation.  I admired the way they appreciated the few things they did have, and how the family members treasured each other so.  My favorite character was Polly, the eldest daughter.

Sidney later wrote 11 more books about the Peppers.  I remember reading a few of them, but always preferred this first one. 

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, 1908... This book takes place on Canada's Prince Edward Island in the 1870's.  I know I'm not the only girl who grew up loving Anne (with an "e"), the imaginative, smart, and lively orphan who comes to live at Green Gables!  I also enjoyed the continuation of the girl's tale in Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island.  There are six other books about Anne's life which I have not yet read.

While I enjoyed each of the books listed above, the historical novels that I loved best as a young girl were about life on the prairie.  The following are stories that I read over and over again, dozens of times!

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, 1936...  Partially based on the life of Brink's grandmother, this story is set in Wisconsin, during the 1860's.  Caddie is a brave, independent young girl who "runs wild" with her brothers and makes friends with Native Americans ~ I loved reading about her adventures!
I couldn't find my copy of this one, either.


The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1932 to 1943...  I was introduced to these stories when I was six, with the premiere of the television show, "Little House on the Prairie".  Our whole family would gather every week, to watch the latest episodes.  (Later on, my mom, my sister, and I would watch the reruns every day after school!) 

I was probably about eight when I received the entire set of books as an Easter gift:
  • Little House in the Big Woods
  • Farmer Boy,
  • Little House on the Prairie
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake
  • The Long Winter
  • Little Town on the Prairie, and
  • These Happy Golden Years

The books chronicle the life of the Ingalls family (Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace) starting in 1870 or so, as they moved from Wisconsin to Kansas to Minnesota, and, finally, to South Dakota.  The stories are partially based on the author's life, and the main character is Laura herself.  (The exception is Farmer Boy, which takes place in New York, and is based on the life of Wilder's husband, Almanzo.) 

I loved all 8 books, but my favorite was probably On the Banks of Plum Creek. In that one, the family lives in a little "dugout" home (and a cow gets stuck in their roof!).  It is also the part in the story where Laura and Mary begin school and meet that meanie, Nellie Oleson....


One last "life on the prairie" book that I loved as a young girl is one that's not nearly as well known as the books above:  The Children Who Stayed Alone by Bonnie Bess Worline, 1956. 

This story is about the Dawson family -- including Phoebe, Hartley, Tessie, Martha, Robbie, David, and Mary Ann.  Father has left for supplies, and then Mother goes to help a sick neighbor.  Phoebe is left in charge of the others for a few days... and then a blizzard strikes!  I remember being amazed by Phoebe's hard work and resourcefulness as she takes care of her siblings.


I'd love to hear from you other BookWyrms!  Have you read any of these books?  What did you think of them?  What are some of your favorite historical fiction novels?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Books can be dangerous...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net


"Books can be dangerous.  
The best ones should be labeled 
'This could change your life'." 
~Helen Exley


What books have changed your life? 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dillydally

My word for this week is dillydally.  An action word, or verb, it means "to waste time; dawdle" or "to postpone what you should be doing".


Hurry up -- we need to go!  Don't dillydally!


I think dillydally is a very silly word. :)  I used it several times last week, in a story I wrote about a very silly girl who loves to rhyme.  Can you guess what her name might be? 


(Hint: Part of it rhymes with dillydally.)*


I'd love to hear what silly... or not-so-silly... sentences you can come with, using the word dillydally!



*Her name is Silly Sally McMally.  Were you close?

Rhyme and reason

I have loved poetry for as long as I can remember -- the sounds, the rhythms, the way that poets communicate their ideas and stories so succinctly. 


Like many children, I was first introduced to poetry through nursery rhymes.  I remember my parents reading to me from this book when I was just three or four... over and over again:
The Brimful Book,
edited by Watty Piper,
illustrated by Eulalie, C.M. Burd,
G. & D. Haumann, 1939
It wasn't long before I could recite all of the rhymes myself!


(The Brimful Book is no longer in print -- I think my copy used to belong to my dad when he was a boy.  However, if anyone's interested, I did notice that you can still purchase used copies online. I'm guessing that you could find them at used book stores, as well.) 


As I'm sure you know, there are many, many other books of nursery rhymes available for children.  Most of them contain the same rhymes; the main difference between the books is in their illustrations.  Here are some of my favorite Mother Goose books:

My Very First Mother Goose, edited by Iona Opie,
illustrated by Rosemary Wells, 1996
(This book was so well-loved by my daughter Emmalie that I couldn't take a picture of the front cover -- it's been missing for years!)


Tomie's Little Mother Goose,
illustrated by Tomie dePaola, 1997
This one, a board book, has managed to last through three children and thousands of readings... and it's still in one piece!


Mary Engelbreit's Mother Goose,
illustrated by Mary Engelbreit, 2005
This one I bought for myself. :)  I love Mary Engelbreit's whimsical drawings, and think they are the perfect pictures to go along with nursery rhymes.


I also remember my parents reading me A Child's Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson, when I was quite young.  We owned several different copies, all with different illustrators.  Again, I believe this one first belonged to one of my parents:
A Child's Garden of Verses,
by Robert Louis Stevenson,
illustrated by Peter Mabie, 1945

When I was in elementary school, first grade or so, my mom bought this book of poetry for me.  I think she found it at a garage sale.  I do remember it was in good condition when she gave it to me.  You can see how much I've loved it and used it since!  (It's now missing its back cover and several index pages!)
Poems 
Children Will Sit Still For,
edited by
Beatrice Schenk de Regniers,
Eva Moore,
and Mary Michaels White, 1969

Another book that's crammed full of fun poems for elementary-age kids is this one:
The Random House 
Book of Poetry,
selected by Jack Prelutsky,
illustrated by Arnold Lobel, 1983
I bought it for my kids when Emm and Nick were young.  I've read many of the poems out loud to my kids, and have read the entire book to myself several times.  (So... you don't necessarily have to be in elementary school to enjoy it!)


I think I was in 5th grade when I discovered Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, in our school library.  I quickly became a HUGE fan... and I know I'm not the only one!  This is (mostly) humorous poetry that appeals to all age groups.   I now own several of Mr. Silverstein's books, poetry and otherwise.  Someday I'll write a post dedicated to his works. :)
Where the Sidewalk Ends, 1974,
and A Light in the Attic, 1981,
written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein

Besides poetry written specifically for kids, I also loved poems written more for adults.  I remember poring over Mom's copies of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (1955) and Best Loved Poems of the American People (selected by Hazel Felleman, 1936) when I was about ten.  I read some of the poems so many times... Dickinson's A Day and William Wordsworth's Daffodils, for instance... that I eventually knew them by heart.


Later on, teachers and friends introduced me to the works of other poets... e.e. cummings, Maya Angelou, Ogden Nash, Walt Whitman... the list goes on and on. 


I am always looking for new poetry to read (new to me, at least).  I'd love to hear -- what are some of your best-loved poems?  Who are some of your favorite poets?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When a cow laughs...

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

When a Cow Laughs

I was walking in the woods
On a lovely summer day
When ere I chanced to see
Two heifer cows at play.

They ran along the clover
And nibbled here and there
Then one nuzzled the other's ear
As if a joke to share.

It must have been a silly joke
That jarred her to her toes
For as I watched (and I lie not)
she laughed so hard...
That MILK ran out her nose!!!

by Thena Smith,
from Where's Thena? I Need a Poem About..., 2004


The arts

"The arts are not a way to make a living.
They are a very human way of making life more bearable.
Practicing an art,
no matter how well or badly,
is a way to make your soul grow,
for heaven's sake.
Sing in the shower.
Dance to the radio.
Tell stories.
Write a poem to a friend,
even a lousy poem.
Do it as well as you possibly can.
You will get an enormous reward.
You will have created something."

by Kurt Vonnegut
in A Man Without a Country, 2007

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summertime!

Photo courtesy of

It's official.  Summer is here!  Today is the summer solstice: the first day of summer and also the longest day of the year.  True, it's not really longer than any other day... still 24 hours from beginning to end... but we will have more daylight today than on any other day this year.  In honor of summertime, sunshine, and hot, lazy days... a silly poem:

Summer

When it's hot
I take my shoes off,
I take my shirt off,
I take my pants off,
I take my underwear off,
I take my whole body off,
and throw it
in the river.

by Frank Asch,
from The Random House 
Book of Poetry for Children, 1983

Monday, June 20, 2011

A lucky break

One day in 1995, while riding in the passenger seat of a car, I took out my next assignment for the Institute of Children's Literature course I'd enrolled in.  The Institute had provided me with a very useful resource, the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (edited by Alice Pope), a book that is updated yearly.  Part of my assignment was to look through the book, familiarize myself with it, and then find magazine listings that sounded interesting to me.


I started flipping through the book.  The name Babybug caught my eye, and I began reading its description, intrigued.  At that time, Babybug was brand-new, a magazine geared toward very young children (infants up to age 2).  The description mentioned that the editors were looking for fictional stories no longer than 25 words.  Twenty five words? How on earth could someone write a story in so few words?


I decided to give it a try.  After all, there were still several hours of our car trip left, and I had nothing better to do.  I wrote a little list of subjects I thought babies and toddlers might enjoy.  Then I picked one... bugs.  I made several attempts at writing the story in prose, but I kept reaching the word limit before I'd said very much.  Then I tried writing it like a short, rhyming poem, and finally came up with a story called "In My Yard".  And, it was only 24 words long! :)


When we returned home from our trip, I took a deep breath, typed up my little story, along with a cover letter, then mailed them both off to Babybug.  It was my very first submission to a publisher.  I was excited and nervous and hopeful, but also tried to stay realistic.  I knew that it's not an easy thing to get published.  What's more, I knew how rare it would be for an editor to accept my very first submission ever.


Imagine my surprise and complete joy when I received a letter from The Cricket Magazine Group a month later, saying that they wanted to publish MY story in Babybug!*  I felt giddy, and oh, so lucky, for weeks after that.  My big dream of becoming a children's author was beginning to come true!


I still had to wait... and wait... and wait some more before seeing my story in print, however.  Finally, in the May 1997 issue of Babybug, "In My Yard" was published!  I was so thrilled when my complimentary issues of the magazine arrived in my mailbox.  There, at last, were my words, my name, for everyone to read. I was excited, also, to see the illustrations that went along with my words, delightful pictures created by G. Brian Karas.


Since that first publication, Babybug has reprinted my story twice, in their April 2001 and May/June 2010 issues.  Both times I felt almost as excited and lucky as I did the first time around!

Covers for the May 1997 and May/June 2010 issues
(The April 2001 cover was the same as 1997's.)




In My Yard

Butterfly flutters by.
Ant can't.  She climbs a plant.
Bee is in the tree.
Snails are making trails.
Worm squirms.
Firefly lights the sky.

* Even though I was lucky enough to have my very first submission published, I have since tasted the bitterness of rejection letters more times than I can count.  I guess I can't be lucky all the time!  The important thing, though, is not to give up. :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What does a BookWyrm look like?

My daughter Emmalie loves to draw.  (And, I may be biased, but I think she's very good at it!)  She also loves dragons.  I was talking to her yesterday about my BookWyrms idea, and then asked her if she'd be willing to draw one for me.  She did, and here it is.  Isn't it amazing? :)
Created by Emmalie, June 2011

Happy Father's Day


My dad,
reading to my sister and me,
1975

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a Father* who read to me.

by Strickland Gillilan,
excerpt from the poem The Reading Mother
in Best Loved Poems of the American People, 1936
*the original poem says "Mother", of course!


Yes, I am a lucky, rich girl... my dad read to me all the time (and my mom did, too!).  He also used to make up stories to tell me at bedtime, usually tales about Henry and Matilda, two tiny people who he said lived in my ear with their family of children. :)  I hope that you are rich, too ~ that you've been lucky enough to have your father or your mother or a grandparent or someone special in your life read to you.

I was trying to think of an appropriate book to write about on Father's Day, and then it hit me.  There is a very special picture book that makes me smile every time I read it, one about the love between a father and his child.  It is a family favorite, one that we've read over and over and over again.  I've bought at least ten different copies of the book, giving them away to brand-new parents.  I firmly believe every little boy and girl should grow up hearing it and knowing that they are loved like that, too.

I believe the very best picture book to read... in celebration of Father's Day... or any other day, for that matter... is Guess How Much I Love You, written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram, 1994.



The entire book touches my heart ~ the charming pictures of Big and Little Nutbrown Hare, the sweet, sweet words, and... most especially... the last line of the book, "I love you right up to the moon -- and back."

One of my favorite quotes is also appropriate for Father's Day:

"Anyone can be a Father. 
It takes someone special to be a Dad."
(Author unknown)

Like I've said, I'm a rich and lucky girl.  I grew up with a wonderful, awesome, special dad.  He read to me, played with me, joked with me, listened to me, and always let me know how very much he loved me.  He is still the best dad ever.  He also has become a wonderful, awesome, special grandpa to my kids.

Happy Father's Day, Dad!  I love you!

Happy Father's Day, as well, to my husband George, and to all the other special dads out there! :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Celery



Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Celery, raw,
Develops the jaw,
But celery, stewed,
Is more quietly chewed.

by Ogden Nash

Fly away with fantasy

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

I've been thinking a lot about fantasy books lately, now that I've written one myself. Unlike my daughter, I do not read every single fantasy book that I can get my hands on, but I do enjoy flying away with fantasy every once in awhile, immersing myself in a magical world.


Some of my very favorite books when I was growing up were fantasies. Here are a few of them:
  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, 1900... I have to admit, my first experience with this story came at a very early age, watching the classic movie from 1939. When I got older and realized that my favorite movie was actually adapted from a book... and that, in fact, there were many other Oz books... I was thrilled! I read them all, several of the books more than once. I loved all the unusual characters and the colorful, whimsical land of Oz.  I think the thing that appealed to me most, however, was that the main character, Dorothy, was a young girl like me. I always wished that I could go on an adventure like hers!

  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1937... Once again, I was introduced to this story through a movie, an animated one made for tv in 1977. Our family enjoyed the movie so much that my mom bought a record* of it. My sister and I listened to that record so many times, we memorized all the lines. (To this day, my sister can do a wonderfully creepy impression of Gollum... "My precious!") A few years later I came across a copy of the book at my grandma's and immediately began reading it. The rich language, the riddle "contest" between Bilbo and Gollum, and the scary dragon Smaug have all stuck with me over the years.  *for my younger readers, a record is kind of like a CD

  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, 1950+... My aunt gave me the complete set of seven books when I was ten, and I instantly fell in love with the world of Narnia. My parents just happened to have a wardrobe in their bedroom at the time. I couldn't even tell you how many, many times I opened its door and reached my hand inside, ever so slowly, hoping with all my heart that I would find Narnia inside. (I'm sad to say, I've never found it. Yet.) Since that time, I have re-read all seven books more times than I can count... mostly to myself, but I've also read them aloud three times, first to a group of children I worked with, and then twice to my own kids. Some of my favorite characters include Lucy, Aslan, Reepicheep, and Puddleglum.

  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, 1962... When I was in elementary school, our class watched a short animated film based on this book one day. Though I wasn't impressed with the animation, the story intrigued me, and I checked the book out from the library. I loved the female protagonist, Meg, and little Charles Wallace, the strange planets they visited, and the good vs. evil theme. I liked it so much, I ended up buying myself a copy of the book, along with 2 of the sequels, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet, which I also enjoyed. One of these days, I need to read the other two books in the series....

  • The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, 1968... A friend gave me a copy of this book, and right away I was drawn into the story of the sad unicorn, searching for others of her kind. She was my favorite character (what young girl doesn't love a unicorn?), but I enjoyed the others as well ~ from the mean witch, Mommy Fortuna to the bumbling Shmendrick to the noble Prince Lir.

Have you read any of these fantasy books? I'd love to hear what you like or don't like about them....

Reverberate

Every once in awhile, I'll write a post about a word. Maybe because I think it's interesting. Maybe because it's fun to say. Maybe because I just learned the word and want to share it. You get the idea.


Today's word is reverberate. It is a verb, an action word, that means "to echo back".


If I shout into a cave, the sound will reverberate.


This is one of those words that is fun to say. It's been in my head, reverberating back and forth, ever since I used it in my novel to talk about the sound in a castle courtyard.


Can you make up a sentence using this word? Please share it with me, if you'd like!

Picture this

All right, fellow BookWyrms... let's get started talking about books!


There are so many wonderful books out there, for all different age groups. We'll get to the others, I promise, but I want to begin with picture books.


As I've mentioned before, I love to write short stories, hoping they will become picture books someday. But does it surprise you to hear that, even though I'm not a kid any more, I still love to read picture books?


I read them out loud to my son Ben all the time, but I'll let you in on a little secret... sometimes, when I'm all alone at the library or the book store, I read picture books to myself! :) I love the rhythm of the words, the conciseness of the stories, the illustrations... everything.


I had many favorite picture books when I was a little girl. As a mom, I've read many of those favorites to my own children, who also loved them. Here are just a few, classics that have stood the test of time, enjoyed by generations of kids and parents:
  • Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, 1938... Who doesn't giggle at the antics of those mischievous monkeys and the frustration of that poor peddler?
  • Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, 1939... I've always been drawn to the rhymes in this book. That and Madeline's independent spirit. :)
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, 1962... Beautiful pictures, beautiful prose, the joy of newly-fallen snow ~ this is one of my all-time favorite books.
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, 1963... A liberal dose of imagination, pictures of slightly scary, silly creatures, learning that you can be angry and still be loved... it's no wonder this is such a popular book!
  • Tikki Tikki Tembo retold by Arlene Mosel and illustrated by Blair Lent, 1968... Can you even imagine having a name like Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo?


Which of these books have you read? What do you like best (or least) about them? I'd love to hear from you.

A big dream: Children's author

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net
 I have always loved to write. When I was a little girl, I wrote stories and poems, skits, puppet show scripts, and silly song lyrics. As a teenager, I kept a journal and wrote in it almost every day. I wrote more poems and stories, and even wrote two plays ~ one was performed (for our parents) by my Girl Scout troop, some other friends, and me. (I'd written myself the lead part, of course!) The other play was more personal, and I kept it mostly to myself, only showing it to two or three good friends.


When I was in high school, a friend and I came up with some general ideas for a series of children's books, and some specific ideas for a movie script. I remember thinking at the time how cool it would be to actually write the books and get them published, or to see our movie on the big screen. But then the two of us got distracted by things like college and boyfriends, and we never set our ideas down on paper.


By 1995, I had my college degree in social work, I'd gotten married, and I worked with kids full-time at a family services agency. The urge to write was stronger than ever. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I really did want to become a published author someday, specifically a children's author. That was the year it became one of my big dreams.


There was only one problem. I had NO idea how to go about getting my work published. And then I came across an ad in a magazine, for the Institute of Children's Literature. The ad talked about the Institute's correspondence course (a class you take through the mail) ~ how the school taught its students to write for children and how to submit manuscripts to publishers. I decided to take the plunge and signed up! I'm very glad that I did. I learned so much!


During that time, I wrote several short stories, poems, and picture book manuscripts. I even had two short stories and a non-fiction article accepted for publication in magazines ~ I'll tell you about them sometime. One day, a cool idea for a longer book popped into my head, and I sketched out a rough outline for it.


Then it was 1996, and my daughter Emmalie was born. My life turned into hours of snuggling, feeding, changing diapers, and just being amazed by the new little human being in my arms. It's not that I forgot about my dream to become an author, but I did set my dream aside. I only intended to set it aside for a short time. Anyone who is a parent knows that time speeds up once you have kids, and before I knew it, that "short time" had turned into 13 years.


In the fall of 2009 when I was taking Ben, my youngest, to his first day of preschool, I realized that I was going to have 4 whole hours all to myself every week. To any kids reading this, that might not seem like a big deal, but trust me ~ it was. All of a sudden, the urge to write struck again.


I dusted off some of my old manuscripts, did some revising, and started mailing them off to publishers once more. I also took out that rough outline, decided that the idea really did have merit, and began writing my very first novel, a fantasy for middle grade readers. By the time Christmas rolled around, I'd written about 175 pages. I set it aside for the holidays, planning to get back to it the following month.


Can you guess what happened? I did not get back to my novel in January. Or in February. Or in March. In fact, I did not write one single thing (if you don't count Facebook statuses or posts on my family blog) for all of 2010. I still don't understand why I let that happen.


On New Year's Day 2011, I vowed to myself that this year, I would get back to writing AGAIN. By the end of January, I had finished the first draft of my novel, now almost 300 pages. I'm currently working on my third draft of it, and am hoping to start sending it to publishers later this summer. I wrote a fun new poem that I've sent to a few magazines. Then, just this week, I wrote a new picture book manuscript for the first time in 15 years!


And now I'm starting this blog. Among other things, I'm hoping that this will help keep me excited about writing and focused on my big dream....