Best Book of August

It’s the end of August and I’ve only finished reading two books! In my defense they were both very long, and I’m reading two others as well which I just haven’t finished.

So—drum roll, please—the best book I’ve read this month was Alison Croggon’s The Crow. I tell you, this series has me by the throat!

Although The Crow features a different set of protagonists from the previous two novels, I loved these characters just as much, and their story is gripping.

If you haven’t checked out Croggon’s “Books of Pelinor,” I recommend you get to it. Start with The Naming. You’ll be caught up with me in no time!

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Reading Response Exercise #51: Setting—Time, Place, Mood, and Art Materials!

Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, think about what you have read.

Get out some drawing paper and your crayons or colored pencils, watercolors or pastels. Now draw or paint a setting from the passage you just read. Play with colors, lines, and dimensions. Luxuriate in the pleasure of visual expression.

When you are done, strive to have produced a picture that not only looks like a place from your reading, but has the mood and feeling of the place as well.

I would love to see the result of your exercise. Please include the title and author of the book you are reading along with it. Someone else might just be inspired by your creation to read the book.

Play With Your Words #39: A Birthday Party for Someone you Love

Today is my oldest son Jeremiah’s birthday. Over the years he’s had a lot of fun birthday parties. Some of the most memorable included a big splash contest in my parents’ pool and a food fight in our back yard… (Deck the boughs with strands of pasta, tra-la-la-la-la tra-la-la-la.)

It’s fun to plan a party, be it a child’s, a grandchild’s, or my mother’s seventieth.

Think of someone you love and dream up a fantastic birthday bash you wish you could throw for them. Money, even reality, is no object. Write out the party like a scene from a novel. Include dialogue, setting, characters—guests and the guest of honor.

When you are done, share your party with your writing partners. Compliment  the strengths you see in each others’ writing. Particularly note vivid details and original thinking.

If you are working with a preschooler, ask him to choose a guest of honor he loves and tell you about the party he would give. Write down all she says.

When you are done, read back what he dictated, pointing to the words as you say them to reinforce the one-to-one-correspondence between the written and spoke word.

And please, share your parties as comment. Who knows what the next party I throw will look like with a little inspiration from you?

Agent Quest Part 3: A New Vision

Last week I was away at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference where I had lots of opportunities to take some excellent classes and pitch a few editors and agents. I made some good contacts, was invited by several agents and editors to send them my novel, The Swallow’s Spring. However, the most remarkable thing that happened was the new vision I gained for my writing career.

I have been a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and publishing in the field of juvenile fiction for over a decade. I like this little pond. I have many friends here. And so I have kept hoping that I could make The Swallow’s Spring fly as a young adult novel.

Now a part of me has been suspecting for some years, thus my involvement with Oregon Christian Writers, that perhaps The Swallow’s Spring is really a work of adult historical fantasy. After all, in the second book the heroine does get married and deals with issues of marriage and fidelity into the third and final novel. (I know, at this point a few of you readers are thinking, “Duh, Debby. That doesn’t sound like YA to me.”)

Consider me a little slow on the uptake, or more accurately—a chicken. I like my little SCBWI and OCW pools. The water is warm. They’re comfortable. There’s lots of other friendly fish. However, after talking to agents and authors over these past few weeks I have to finally admit the truth. I write fiction for grown ups. Yikes!

So, while I came home with submission invitations to follow up on, I also came home with a new mindset to absorb. And you know what? I think I like it. I’m actually feeling excited. I think I’m ready to stretch my wings. (And just to confirm it a whole new novel with a twenty-something protagonist downloaded itself while I was in the shower Sunday morning. How cool is that!)

So I admit it. The Swallow’s Spring  is a work of adult historical fantasy, and so are its sequels. So is Crown, the working title of the novel I am eager to get to revising this fall.

However, I still have a little YA in my pocket—Set in Stone, the other novel I shopped around is a young YA or older middle grade novel, and it got some invitations this month. And Sleeper—a novel I’ve got drafted and awaiting revision, and Lillianna—my intended NaNoWriMo project for this year are definitely YA’s.

This is exciting! I need to sit down and get writing.

Reading Response Exercise #50: Author! Author?

Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, think about what you have read.

How do you picture the author of this passage?

What is it about what you read that makes you picture him or her in this way?

For a little extra fun, look up your author in the library or on the internet. Was he or she anything like you expected?

Agent Quest Part 2

I am actually not writing this today. I’m writing it in advance because I am away at another writing event—the Oregon Christian Writers Conference.

This is a conference I have attended for several years now. It’s four days and three nights, with mornings devoted to a single two and a half hour coaching class, and afternoons passed in workshops. I’m really looking forward to my coaching class. It focuses on developing believable characters.

I will be pitching agents here as well, and I have an appointment set up for mentoring with Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press, who has worked in a variety of publishing houses and now specializes in speculative fiction. I am eager to talk to him about what I have done—retold folktales, written a middle grade fantasy novel, written a young adult, (or is it adult—as has been suggested by an agent from Willamette Writers) retelling of  medieval romance, drafted its sequels, and drafted a fantasy novel, and what I look forward to doing–drafting another fantasy novel during NaNoWriMo this November. I have found him to be an excellent writing instructor during past conferences and so look forward to hearing what he has to say.

So, read and write on all you readers and writers out there. I shall be sure to report on my experience next week.

Think About It…/Comprehension: Reading Response Exercise #49

We’re in the “dog days” of summer, when no one wants to do much because of the humidity and heat. It’s a great time to kick back and read with a tall glass of iced tea or lemonade on hand, ideally in a lounge chair or hammock in the shade. Mmm.

So let yourself. Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. When you are done, think about what you have read and fill in the blanks in the following sentence:

“This text makes me wonder about __________ because __________…”

That’s it. No writing today. Think about what you’ve read. Maybe discuss it with your best friend. Step inside for a Popsicle, and then return to your comfort place and read some more.

If you happen to have a pre-reader kicking around, bored, spread a picnic blanket on the grass. Gather appropriate drinks, snacks, and a stack of picture books, and enjoy them together.

Stay cool, and have fun!