Thursday, June 30, 2011

Harry Potter (Book Thoughts)

I know. You're thinking, "She's a little late with this one."

I must confess, back in 1997, when my daughter, Amanda, came home with "Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone," I smiled and nodded at her. She finished the book in one weekend. When she told me I should read it, I told her I'd get around to it.

When "Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets" was released, Amanda HAD to have it. Of course, I bought it for her. I like to invest money in books whenever I can.

Amanda and her friends became obsessed with Harry Potter and everything about the magical world. They went to bookstores and waited on long lines for the midnight releases. They argued over which 'house' was the best, and about how cool it would be if Hogwarts was real. Amanda has read each Harry Potter book multiple times. Whenever a new book or movie came out, she would re-read the entire series, timing it perfectly for the new release.

At first, I thought it was all cute but honestly, after a while, the whole Harry Potter thing annoyed me. Don't ask me, "Why?" I don't know. Maybe I was envious. I was definitely impressed with JK Rowling's ability to capture millions of people around the world, but I just didn't want to read the books. I'm the type of person who never gives in to hype. I usually wait until the dust settles before sneaking in the back door and investigating what the craze is all about. You guessed it--I still haven't read any of the Twilight books or seen any of the movies. I'll get around to it, though.

In my defense, I saw the first five movies when they came out. OK, I'm lying. I waited until they were released on DVD. Did I love the movies? Absolutely! But I still hadn't read one word of the first book. I used the excuse that the movie would ruin my view of the book.

Amanda came home from the Marine Corps in December. Along with tons of stuff she had accumulated and somehow stored in her barracks room for the past four years, she also brought home three large boxes of books. Inside one of those boxes, was the complete boxed set of Harry Potter.

I finally gave in to her pleas and picked up the first book. I told myself reading the story would be great research for my children's writing education. I read it in two nights. I finished the second book two nights later and the third book took me only four nights. Now, I'm hooked. Heck, I even tweeted about 'Pottermore.'

So, what are my thoughts on what I've read? Well, I'm probably wrong about this. What do I know? JK Rowling has sold so many books, she couldn't write them fast enough for her fans. But, I'm going to be honest here and say I noticed some passive voice in the first three books and JK uses 'had had' a few times, which I find difficult to read. Don't get me wrong, I'm not being overly critical. I just noticed those few things. Did they take anything away from my Harry Potter experience? No, not at all. In fact, I can't explain it but, these little quirks made me feel more comfortable. I realized this amazing storyteller who has captured millions of children and adults around the world is actually a real person.

Now, fourteen years later, the last Harry Potter movie is coming soon to theatres. Amanda is already timing her series re-reading to coincide with the movie's release. She will probably attend the midnight show and I plan on going with her, with a much better understanding of the wizarding world, wishing I could attend Hogwarts.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Three Words

I read a magazine article recently that said, "Describe yourself in three words." I thought this topic would make a good blog post but choosing just three words proved to be quite difficult for me. I'm a true Gemini, so along with multiple moods, I also have many facets to my persona. I have good qualities but I also have less admirable ones. I also wear many hats in my daily life as a wife, mother, business owner, and writer. How could I possibly pick only three words?

As a writer, I am: creative, curious, and earnest.
As a business owner, I am: humble, honest, and very hopeful.
As a mother, I am: proud, understanding, and guiding.
As a wife, I am: patient, kind, and loving.

Sounds like I'm a great person, doesn't it? Ah, but mix in my bad qualities and I'm less than amazing.

I am self-conscious, lazy, inconsistent, impatient, and tend to be very controlling. I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones that immediately came to mind. I'm working on changing those bad qualities, but the transformation may take some time.

My goal is to describe myself as Patient, Positive, and Organized but for now I will be realistic and settle for: Ready Willing, and Able.

Are three words enough for you?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

I must admit, while writing up this blog post, I sang the title. So just like Julie Andrews, I decided to change the format from talking about some of my favorite things to singing about them. Sing along, you know the tune.

Survivor and fairies and warm suntan lotion.
Travel and coffee, the smell of the ocean.
Lobster with butter and Tiffany rings,
Reading about Europe and all of their Kings.

Shopping for new shoes and Chef Gordon Ramsay.
Watching Bugs Bunny and pink cotton candy.
Captain Jack Sparrow can make my heart sing,
Breezes in Autumn and tulips in Spring.

John Force and lightning and long three-day weekends.
Reading and writing and small newborn kittens.
Paper and pencils and dragonfly wings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When it's cold out,
Or I gain weight,
When my writing's bad.
I simply remember my favorite things
and then I don't feel so sad!

That was fun!  Now, it's your turn...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


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Sometimes, I love waking up early. The rest of the house is asleep and the new morning is full of promise. Morning sounds of chirping birds, brewing coffee, and a scratching pencil on crisp white paper. My mind floats freely, not yet cluttered with to-do lists.

Sometimes, I love late morning. Job tickets are printed, phone calls returned, parts ordered and the mechanics are busy working. A fresh cup of coffee in my hand accompanies the sound of a pencil scratching on crisp white paper. My mind flows freely with ideas that popped into my mind during the morning routine.

Sometimes, I love after dinner. My family is fed, leftovers tucked away in the fridge and dishes washed. The sounds of a Yankee game on television are a backdrop for a pencil scratching on crisp white paper. My mind flows freely with a new character I imagined while cooking.

Sometimes, I love late night. The rest of the house is asleep and day has been productive. Night sounds of light snoring, cat stalking, and a scratching pencil on crisp white paper. My mind flows freely, emptying emotions into poetry.

What's the best part of your day?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Market For You and Shameless Self-Promotion For Me

Each issue of Thematic Literary Magazine has a different theme. They made their debut last month with a "Mothers" issue.

"Thematic Literary Magazine has been created to help new and  amazing writers become professional authors.  Anyone who is familiar with the writing career path knows that being published is the only way to become established. We offer a friendly, competitive and helpful environment where writers can become professionals through hard work, networking and accomplishment."

I learned about them through Duotrope Digest's Weekly Wire e-mail and submitted one of my poems for their July issue. I'm ecstatic to say, they loved it! Exact word, I swear!

Now, Thematic does not offer compensation, but after almost a year of rejections, (I began to wonder if my prior acceptances were a fluke) their acceptance of my work was one of the highlights of my year and therefore, priceless to me.

Accepted contributors do receive one free copy of the issue their work appears but since Thematic supports emerging writers, I thought I would return the favor, and support them by buying a one-year subscription. Their subscription price was a small hardship for me this month (6 issues for $35) but I think of it as an investment. If they get enough subscribers, perhaps somewhere down the road, they may be financially able to offer compensation. And maybe, just maybe, another of my manuscripts may be accepted in the future. I can keep dreaming, can't I?

Anyway, I received my copy of their first issue and I love it! Exact words, I swear! The full-color magazine is printed on 31 thick glossy pages filled with short stories, poems, art, and photography. A beautiful magazine and I can't wait for their July issue. (Details to come...)

They now have a call for submissions for their September issue: Smitten. Stop by their site for details and why not follow them on Twitter?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Seven Things I've Learned

Although I've been an avid reader since grammar school, I'm convinced I lived under a rock my whole life.

Unlike so many of my writing friends, the writing bug bit me late in life. In 2008, I enrolled in the Children's Institute for Literature and I suddenly discovered a parallel universe filled with writers, agents, editors, and publishers.

I felt like an ostrich who pulled its head from the sand and realized a whole new world. I've only been writing for three years but I've learned so much so far.

Chuck Sambuchino's Editor's Blog Guide to Literary Agents does a recurring column asking writers for 7 things they've learned so far. Since I will probably never make Mr. Sambuchino's column, (no matter how much positive thinking I do,) I thought I would share 7 things of my own:

1. There are so many writers, both aspiring and published, and sometimes I get the feeling there are more writers than stars in the universe.

2. I've learned there are more children's writers than I could have ever imagined and most of them are trying to get a story in Highlights.

3. I haven't met a fellow writer yet who isn't helpful and considerate. Even the very successful ones!

4. Even though we are in a very competitive industry, most writers I know share markets.

5. There are so many stories that have already been written but there are still so many more that haven't been written yet.

6. I have more ideas than hours to write.

7. I will never stop learning new things.

What have you learned so far?

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Reading Writer

I've always been good at spelling. When I was in grammar school, whenever my teacher uttered the words, "Spelling Bee," my classmates cringed but I clapped my hands with glee. I even came in second place in my school's Spelling Bee when I was in 6th grade.

Needless to say, bad spelling is one of my pet peeves.

Grammar, on the other hand, is one of my biggest weaknesses. I'm constantly re-learning what I apparently never absorbed in my younger years. Passive voice is my Achilles heel but I'm trying.

I realize it's so much easier to find errors in other people's work than finding it in my own. (which is why I rely so heavily on my BWFF and my critique group.) I've looked back on blog posts and manuscripts and feel utter embarrassment when I notice an error.

So, late at night, when I hunker down on my sofa to read, it kind of irks me whenever I catch errors in a published book. Don't get me wrong, I'm not perfect by any means. Nor do I have any published novels. Heck, I can't even convince an agent to read three chapters but I would have thought that somewhere along the chain of people between the author and the printer the mistakes would have been spotted.

Are any of you bothered by spelling and grammar errors? Or am I just being anal?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Loch" by Paul Zindel (Book Thoughts)

Fifteen year old Loch, nicknamed after Scotland's famous sea creature, and his younger sister, Zaidee, accompany their father, Dr. Sam Perkins on a scientific expedition to a lake in Vermont.

After witnessing one of Lake Champlain's prehistoric creatures, thought to be a myth, devour one very unlucky photographer, the expedition crew starts the hunt with a thirst for blood. Unable to trust their father's loyalties, Loch and Zaidee enlist the help of Sarah, the wealthy expedition leader's teen daughter.

Loch must keep their own discovery in the lake a secret as he tries to convince his father the expeditions should not destroy the creatures.

This book has plenty of edge-of-your-seat excitement.

While searching the Juvenile fiction shelves, I came across Paul Zindel's, "Loch." The cover art sent shivers up my spine but led me to believe this book was geared toward boy readers. I honestly didn't think I would enjoy it but I was curious to see what appealed to young male readers.

I was immediately hooked by the action and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.