Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What Skiing Taught Me About Writing

With the mounds of snow right outside my door, I've been doing a lot of cross country skiing lately. It's peaceful, shushing through the silent hills. There's no houses. No people. I do keep an eye out for cougars but usually only see mouse and rabbit tracks or an occasional coyote or deer trail.

The thing about cross country skiing is, if you want to go down hill, you have to go uphill. That's right, ski uphill. There's a slight downhill trail I take from my house but it's only a matter of time before I have to make my way back up again. It's hard work. Sometimes you slide backwards. Sometimes shoulders ache from all the pushing, your legs tire from the strain.

I started out skiing as a baby in a backpack my mom wore when she downhill skiied. (Yes, that sounds horrifyingly dangerous but I survived.) Anyhow, suffice it to say that I love going downhill so I'm willing to put the work in to get up that hill for a quick ride back down.

When I'm going uphill, I rarely look up at my destination. It's too steep. Too far. I'll tell myself that I'll never make it. If I keep my eyes on the path ahead of me and keep moving forward, little by little, I can surprise myself with how quickly I make it to my destination.

Cross country skiing is a lot like writing in a way. Writing a picture book is enough of a mountain to ski up. I find it overwhelming to think that I have to write around 50,000 words to complete this young adult novel I'm working on. Then there's the revising. The editing. I may as well try to ski up Mt. Everest.

Fortunately, cross country skiing has taught me something. If I just to keep my head down, worry about the next word, the next sentence ahead. If I just keep moving, I can get a lot further than I think.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Unread Takes a Vacation

Due to holidays and illnesses and that sort of thing, The Unread is going to take a December break but will return on January 20th. Woohoo!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Christmas List

Christmas books are so fun to read throughout the month of December. Kid's minds are already swirling with possibilities of what is and what could be. There are lots of great Christmas books to choose from. Here's are some of the ones I read over and over again every season:

MERRY CHRISTMAS, SPACE CASE by James Marshall. This book was published in 1986(Dial BFYR) and it's just as fun today as it ever was. Buddy McGee's friend from outer space is coming to visit for Christmas, but if Space Case doesn't get there in time things could get ugly with the spoiled rotten Goober twins from next door. I want to tell you my favorite part of this story but I don't want to give it away so you'll just have to read it yourself. Suffice it to say, my boys absolutely love this book!

AUNTIE CLAUS by Elise Primavera is a newer classic--geez, it was published in 1999(Harcourt, Inc.). Time has apparently whizzed by me with this one. I remember when it came out! Okay, enough about me getting old. So, if you don't know, Santa Claus has a fabulous sister who lives in New York. Every year she goes on a mysterious business trip from Halloween until Valentine's Day. Sophie decides she is going to find out exactly what sort of business Auntie Claus is in, so she sneaks into Auntie Claus' luggage. Sophie has quite an adventure in the North Pole and when she finally meets up with Auntie Claus again she is able to figure out the meaning of Christmas. Yes, those Kringle kids are a little bit spoiled.

I'm sure I don't even need to tell you about HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS by Dr. Seuss(Random House, 1957). I will tell you that the Grinch is pretty scary to my littlest person, and he really doesn't like that the Grinch is so mean to his dog. But since the Grinch redeems himself at the end, it's an emotional roller coaster my little one likes to ride.

SANTA'S FAVORITE STORY by Hisako Aoki and Ivan Gantschev (Neugebauer Press USA, 1982) is a sweet story about the reason for the season. The animals find Santa in the forest and when they are afraid there won't be a Christmas, Santa tells them the story of a child born long ago in Bethlehem. The animals realize they were silly to think that Christmas was only about presents and they all go to Santa's to help him get ready to deliver presents because Santa is reminded of how fun his job really is. The illustrations in this book are absolutely gorgeous!

SNOWMEN AT CHRISTMAS written by Caralyn Bueher, illustrated by Mark Bueher (Dial BFYR, 2005) is a fun story about snowmen sneaking off to have a spectacular Christmas party in the park on Christmas Eve. It's fun to imagine all the snowpeople in town getting together to have a party and Mark Bueher's illustrations really bring the snow party to life.

I've saved my favorite book for last. I find this book to be pretty much perfect. PETER CLAUS AND THE NAUGHTY LIST is written by Lawrence David and illustrated by Delphine Durand (Doubleday BFYR, 2001). Peter is Santa's kid and he is on the naughty list--again. He feels bad for all the kids on the naughty list because he knows how it feels to have no presents under the tree on Christmas morning, so he decides to do something about it. Peter sneaks out with the reindeer and collects all the naughty kids because he thinks Santa needs to find out why they did naughty things before he decides they get no presents. The reasons the kids share for being on the naughty list are humorous. The things they say they will do to make up for the naughty thing they did are sweet. The illustrations are quirky and adorable. And there are some great lines in this book including, "I don't remember being bad this year." The answer,"Nobody ever does." Peter manages to save Christmas for the naughty kids and himself while making his dad, Santa, quite proud. Like Santa says, "All people do naughty things once in a while. It can't be helped."

What are your favorite holiday books? I want to know so I can check them out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A New Adventure...

A class of third graders read my book, Chocolate, A Library Adventure, and wrote a sequel of their own. Isn't that cool! It's great to know that my book inspired kids to come up with stories of their own. Click here to see the newspaper article.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I took part in Tara Lazar's Picture Book Idea Month in November. The challenge was to come up with thirty picture book ideas in thirty days. Sure, I can come up with picture book ideas but many times... I ignore them. Hey, I'm busy. I have other books I'm writing. I don't have to write every idea down. (Yes, I have lots of excuses.)

But wait, writing as many ideas down as possible is a great idea! This month I took my notebook with me everywhere I went. Whenever and wherever an idea started to form, I wrote it down. I realized that I get a lot of ideas when I'm driving by myself in the car. These ideas usually get forgotten by the time I get home, but not this month. I stopped for every idea, got my notebook out, and wrote it down. (This is pretty easy for me since I live on a dirt road where I don't even have to pull over since there's nobody else around.)

So yeah, I came up with 32 picture book ideas. I'm sure most of them stink, but since I was just writing down snippets of story instead of trying to write an entire thing I didn't feel pressured. I was just in it for the ideas this month while I worked on my YA, and it was fun!

I also got another feature idea for my blog that I'll hopefully find the time to fit in in 2010, (as you may have noticed I've been neglecting this poor blog a bit lately. I've been putting all my spare time into my YA.) and two YA sequel idea outlines written up during all my idea pondering. I don't know that I'll ever need those, but it's nice to know that I can come up with some ideas to flesh out.

Picture Book Idea Month taught me that if I diligently keep a notebook with me at all times I can get more things written whether they be titles, ideas, pieces of conversation, names, or playlists for my characters. (Another added bonus of my PiBoIdMo dedication this year, my YA characters have playlists and I wrote down lots of conversation I came up with while in the car.)

So, HIP HIP HOORAY! for Tara Lazar and Picture Book Idea Month!