It’s the middle of summer (here in the Northern Hemisphere), and kids are out of school. As a middle school teacher, I have to say, this is my favorite time of year. Summer break is great for rebooting, refreshing, and relaxing. Personally, I could sit outside and read all day. However, I know that isn’t what my students are doing.
When we return at the end of summer, it takes weeks to get most students back into learning. Summer sucks that right clear. For many, not all. There’s one sure way to keep your child’s mind in that learning zone while still rebooting and relaxing. Read and write. Immerse them in words.
In the next two posts, I will give a few tips to parents and kids for revving up that lazy summer brain so the shock of school starting is more a jolt than a full on lightning strike.
Today’s post is for parents of children 11-14.
Before your child entered middle school, they might have been an avid reader, enjoyed regular library visits, didn’t mind writing that English essay now and again. Unfortunately, once adolescence is in full swing, even an enjoyable read by the pool can be a challenge.
Hormones can wreak havoc on a once quiet child. That’s what makes it a perfect time to introduce new genres and new learning tasks. Their minds are a mess, but they’re also hungry.
Here are five ways I keep my adolescent readers engaged and curious about words.
I’ve linked a few places to look for more ideas. Careful not to get lost in the rabbit hole that is Pinterest, but it’s a great place to find unique options for your tween/teen.
Good luck, and please share your adventures with us!!
That's my story, what's yours?
It’s the middle of NanoWriMo, which means the annual rant is playing in my head. You can’t schedule creativity.
No matter, every day, I find time to get to my keyboard or notebook and log in words. Like pouring flour in the bowl; the ingredients are ready, but the bake is not. Creating is a love-hate relationship. I love creating, but I hate the pressure.
Take this blog, for instance. When I started writing posts for my student writers about craft, I scheduled them weekly. That turned into a burden. I’m a mom and full-time teacher. Plus, I must carve out my own writing time. I tried to write bi-monthly. Then it was monthly. Now…
This is my first post in almost six months.
I felt guilty, but I checked that. Sure, you’re reading this. Thank you. I have about a hundred wonderfully devoted people who read these posts on a regular basis. I want them to be worth your while.
It’s not guilt I’m feeling. It’s that dumb perfection bug. If I’m going to have a blog, I must schedule posts as routine. That’s when I remembered: you can’t schedule creativity.
I don’t want to waste anyone’s time reading about my writing procrastination due to visits from the plumber, drama with my kids, or my ridiculous teaching workload. You don’t need that. You’ve got your own plumber/kids/work issues.
I feel ya.
So let’s make a pact. No scheduling creativity. Instead, let’s focus on scheduling practice. It’s easy to practice creative pursuits; they don’t need to be perfect.
Let’s revise that pact: No handcuffs to perfection. Break free. I give you permission. I give myself permission.
And, hey, I miss you guys. I like talking to you even if you don’t talk back. I know you’re out there, and that warms my heart.
Writing is lonely. Parenting can be lonely. Life can be lonely. Let’s be together. Let’s support each other and give ourselves permission to unscheduled creativity, break free from perfection, and to simply pursue our love of writing.
I’m going to finish my NanoWriMo novel this week. Fifty-thousand words. Some days, I write forty-two words. Today, I wrote 3,742. Who knew? Unscheduled creativity has a way of sneaking up on you. Today it was a kiss, other days, it’s a bite in the butt.
If you Nano, let's be writing buddies. Find me here.
Are you on Twitter? Let's connect about our craft. Follow me @thisgirlclimbs.
That's my story, what's yours?
When Celina Leviet escapes the brutal home invasion that kills her husband, she’s left with a bullet in her gut and vengeance in her heart. An alluring demon, Mekaisto, offers an irresistible deal—in exchange for her soul, he’ll let her live long enough to get her revenge, but she must hunt and kill the murderers herself.
After sealing the contract, Celina digs into her husband’s past for clues about his murder, and what she uncovers makes her question everything she thought she knew about him.
His company never existed.
His family history was a lie.
And he was involved with The Lumen, a shadowy religious order whose members know too much about demons. As the life she thought she knew crumbles around her, Mekaisto's charms become harder to resist. Forced to face a horrible truth, Celina struggles against her late husband’s betrayal and the dark seduction of the devil she knows.
Magali Fréchette's hot new eRead, MY SOUL TO GIVE, is bound to heat up your summer. Please meet this talented author.
"I’m passionate about writing, reading, photo manipulation artwork, animals, anime/manga, video games, the fandom world of TV shows and movies, and stuff like that. I’m a proud Ravenclaw: I’ve always been sorted into this house, but the recent Pottermore sorting placed me in Gryffindor―I don’t care since the Sorting Hat couldn’t consider my choice, so I identify with Ravenclaw, and that’s where I’ll remain!"
"I have two main hobbies: writing and creating book covers. I’m also a gamer (Diablo, Zelda, Final Fantasy), enjoy listening to music (and always singing along to Disney), have a passion for Japanese culture, and adore reading. I love anime/manga, Japanese Dramas and consider myself a proud fan of many different TV shows including Buffy, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Merlin, Game of Thrones, Outlander, etc."
"I wrote my first story when I was 12 years old (and we’ll never talk about that story), but started writing three years later. Since then, I always write, and this particular novel is my 19th story. It’s always been a dream to be a published author, and I can happily say I’ve reached that goal―I plan on continuing writing and publishing for the rest of my days. "
Learn more about Magali on her website, or visit her Facebook Page.
I met Magali through Twitter writing events and was drawn to her imaginative storylines.
You can find Magali's book, MY SOUL TO GIVE, on Goodreads.
ON THE ROAD TO MARTY MCFLY
66, 000 words
I admire my therapist’s evenly cuffed jeans as I comb and count rug fringe on her office floor. The rug’s a tangle of fringe that needs my attention—which is why I’m bent over it, combing each thread straight. Like that matters.
It does to me.
Mom’s idea to sign me up for therapy after the last six months of my life turned into a television reality show for closet organizers.
“How does that make you feel, Zinnia? The rug. Better? Is the…sizzling in your chest gone?” Lisa the Scribbler flips through pages then sets the pad down and folds her hands in her lap.
I shrug. “I guess.”
Today’s our fourth session in two months, and her office is still a mess. Papers pile on her desk; some in folders, some not.
“Like I said, if something eases your nerves, and no one’s getting hurt, go for it.” Lisa tucks a purple streak of hair behind her ear. What is she…twenty-five?
No diplomas on her wall, just weird posters.
I can’t stand the silence, so I blurt out the question I’ve been chewing on for two months: “Is it true anxiety’s passed down? I mean, my mom’s the least organized person I know, but…”
“What’s your dad like?”
The million dollar question. I swallow. “Never met him.”
“Oh.” She lifts her pad and scribbles. “Is he alive?”
God, I never even thought of that. Thanks, Lisa. “I don’t know. Mom keeps him a secret.”
“I see. Well, I’m sure she has a good reason for that.”
I'd love your feedback on this opening page. Please post your comments below or any questions or advice you have about writing.
This is my story, what's yours?
Winter usually means hibernation time for several animals, including me. I've notice that two seasons force me to retreat for weeks in my writing cave: summer and winter. I can't say why, but it's a pattern, so I'm going with it.
Shutting myself away to pen voices and verse allows me to shed the real world and build fictional ones. There are so many rules out here and news events that stifle my creative mind. The more I'm detached from what's actually happening, the more I can focus on worlds I wish were happening.
This new year, I started a new writing routine. It was painful at first, but I've managed to get it to normal. I set my alarm thirty minutes earlier during the work week. This gives me 30-40 minutes of silent writing time. At first, I was working on my projects, but I found that it took me almost that much time to warm up, so by the time I got to anything juicy, it was time to go to work.
Plan B: exercise.
On my shelf, I found a writing book I'd bought but never read. (Actually, I found a few, but I chose this one for now.) The book has become my morning Bible. It's chock full of great writing exercises that give my imagination the jump start it needs. As my work day moves along, the exercises continue to do their magic. By the end of the week, I've completed a handful of them, and Saturday morning, there's no writer's block. I'm ready to roll.
The book: NAMING THE WORLD edited by Bret Anthony Johnston
Inside: Johnston collected a variety of writing exercises from known and unknown writers and teachers. Each writer introduces his exercise. The book is divided into sections that focus on things like, Getting Started, Character, Plot, etc.
Here's one to get you going. If you like it, I'll be sharing more, but I highly recommend this book. It's saved my writing life.
The first exercise in the book comes from writer John Dufresne.
Start with a line: "Most things will never happen; this one will." It's a line taken from Philip Larkin ("with liberties).
Try it out, and see where it takes you. You might be surprised. Good luck!
That's my story, what's yours?
Before you continue, there isn't really an answer to this question.
No, that's not true. There is, but it'll be different for everyone. I've read so many articles by writers and editors claiming formulas to finding your story's best place to begin, but the truth is, you won't find it until you've written the end. Even then, you will need to go through several edits and revisions until you discover it beneath layers of pre-story.
So, if you do want one answer: write your story.
Below are several original openings to a stroy I'm working on. Each time I'd found a new opening, I was sure it was the right one. Then I'd edit and revise from that point only to discover a new place to start.
My current WIP is called STARS IN MY POCKET. It's a YA Dark Contemporary. Here's my current pitch: A teen believes he must replace his dad’s telescope if he’s to earn his dead parents’ forgiveness for the horrible thing he said when they died, but doing so puts his best friend in danger.
Here's how it went down for the first hundred.
A thorny bush wraps itself around our back railing like it owns the place. I used to believe the damn spiky she-devil stole my parents. I used to kick it, spit on it, yell at. Gran always says be careful around her. Her. Like the damn bush is alive. It is, I guess. It takes stuff. Its thorns grab hold, and if you go hunting underneath, you're bound to get hurt.
So of course when I finally fish my key from my back pocket and try to jam it into the doorknob, I drop it. Right into the bush.
"Damnbit!" I'm not exactly enunciating tonight. "Idiot."
What doesn't work: Too many female unknowns in first paragraph (bush, mother, grandmother). Flow is off.
What works: We are immediately pulled into the MC's world --anger, hurt, dysfunction.
Don't they know you can't see stars with ground lights on? Lame-ass skatepark. Those stupid street lamps have the park shut down for maintenance tonight, and I'm stuck dodging cars along the overpass with my dweeb of a guardian angel.
"Hey, Guy, watch it!" Jase grabs my shoulders and pushes me out of the path of a speeding semi, but I slip in its wake.
"Asshole!" I yell, flipping the driver the bird before I faceplant into a patch of dirt.
What doesn't work: Wrong place to start. We don't need the skatepark info first. That can wait.
What works: We are immediately pulled into the MC's world--anger, hurt, risk-taking. Dialogue sets tone and pulls reader into the scene. We meet MC and his pal, setting up friendship as a theme.
In fourteen days, I’ll make my sixth journey. Hah, “journey,” what a joke. It’s like a three-minute walk from my porch, but from where I stand right now that painful patch of dirt is as far away as Orion’s Belt.
Every year, for the past five years, I’ve trekked from my back yard to a patch of dirt in the town’s vacant wash land so I can leave my parents a gift. And every year I laugh at myself, this anonymous suburbanite who will do whatever it takes to see his dead parents one more time.
What doesn't work: The goal is unclear. Sarcasm isn't working. Why is he leaving gifts? How will they help him see his parents? Why does he need to see them--besides the obvious reason? Who is this kid, and why should we care about him?
What works: We are immediately pulled into the MC's world-- hurt, regret. Internal monologue sets MC's tone and allows us to feel his pain and inner turmoil. We are clear he misses his parents, that they're dead, and that he's trying to accomplish something by leaving gifts.
Round Four (and current contender:
In seven days, I’ll make my sixth pilgrimage to that painful patch of dirt where my parents died, hoping to see them one more time. It's a journey I've made every November for the past five years that's gone from hope to hopelessness. I mean, to be honest, I only call it a pilgrimage because I think it'll bring me peace.
It never does, and from where I stand tonight, that chance might be as far away as Orion’s Belt. In real life, it's a three-minute walk from my back porch that I take because the book I keep under my mattress says leaving my dead parents gifts will give me the chance to say I'm sorry.
What doesn't work: (my question for you)
What works: We are immediately pulled into the MC's world- hurt, regret, hopelessness, Internal monologue sets MC's tone and allows us to feel his inner turmoil: he misses his dead parents, and he's following some kind of legend or ritual in a book to help him earn their forgiveness.
Why this works best: We have a clear goal (earn parents' forgiveness), an obstacle (something magical needs to happen, and this is clearly an ordinary world), and sympathy (he's pained with regret for something). Finally, we have a reason to keep reading: will he achieve his goal? what will happen along the way?
What do you think? I'd love to hear which opening works and why. Please share your comments. Please also share your story's opening and why you think it does or doesn't start in the right spot.
That's my story, what's yours?
Everyone has favorites: double chocolate fudge, purple, David Bowie, Peru, that scene in Contact when Jodie Foster's character meets her dad on the beach in the moonlight (only it's not a beach).
Sometimes we know why we love a certain ice cream flavor--it reminds me of my dad. Sometimes we don't. My favorite color has varied since I was a little girl (pink) to high school (black) to now (cinnamon orange one day, deep purple another). One thing we know, what we love will change and grow throughout our lives.
For me, my list of favorite books changes from year to year...because I've read new books that must be on that list. (If you want to see more of my reviews, look here.)
I know that if I want to improve my writing, I need to read good books. There's a pile TBR on my nightstand, a collection in my Kindle, and a list on my phone. One day, I might even read them all, and my favorites list will be miles long!
Today, these are my top five favorites, plus a little reason why.
ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT'S ME, MARGARET by Judy Blume - read it in elementary school. Margaret asked all the questions I had about life, and she taught me how to be tough and caring.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen - read in high school. While my classmates groaned, I engaged in one-on-one conversations about the Bennett girls and their interests in marriage. Yes, I was that girl.
THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers - read it freshman year of college. Drove around to every used bookstore in Los Angeles, buying all of McCullers' books and devoured each one. This one introduced me to a different kind of love: that between the two men and that between Mick and her world.
LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - read it senior year of college. Marquez' sprinkling of magic in all of his stories transports me to another time and place. The colors in this story still live in my mind.
THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt - read it as an adult. Tartt's writing is equisite. I've loved all of her books (all three?), but this is my favorite because of how lovingly she wrote Theo's story. My heart ached for him, but I also shook my head at his unrequited love, his dangerous friendship, his wayward path. Then I got to cheer a little in the end. Beautiful.
I haven't finished THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir, but I'm halfway through it, and I'm sure it will be on my favorites list next. Why? Voice. I haven't seen the movie because I wanted to read the book first. I'm glad I waited. Wow. Again... Voice. This is a book I'm reading, laughing out loud, loving, but I'm also studying the writing (when I'm not lost in the story). Because he's nailed the voice of his MC so well, the technicalities in the story (I still don't have a clue what a Hab or MAV are entirely or how he can grow potatoes ) that are lost on me don't matter. This book is a classic. Mark Watney is a character to live as long as Sherlock Holmes or Holden Caufield. He's iconic.
What's your favorite book? What are you reading right now? Please share!
That's my story, what's yours?
I haven't blogged here in so long, I had to look up my website's password. Not good.
But, hey, I'm baaack!
How is everyone? More imortantly, what are ya'all writing?
I have been busy these past two months on two projects. One, a dark YA contemporary, STARS IN MY POCKETS. After some awesome edits via the incomparable Judi Lauren, I believe my story's truly alive. It's out in query-form to a few agents. Fingers crossed.
My second project was my NaNoWriMo2016. Yes, I won. Woohoo! But you can sense the lack of enthusiasm there, I'm sure. I didn't get a chance to plot the story before writing, so it's just a bunch of formless words on the page right now. More than 50,000 formless words, nonetheless. It's my first attempt at historical fantasy. Working title: JACKY INDIANA WEARS PURPLE POLISH. It's for the middle grade or younger young adult audiences.
Like my 2015 NaNo, this will sit for the next few months, marinating in its magical juices, until I return to it for major revision work.
Unlike bears who are preparing for their winter hibernation about now, I'm preparing to come out of my writing cave because this time of year always makes me want to connect more. So here I am, and I really did miss you all!
Right now, I'm revising my 2015 NaNo : MAGENTA WISE: PLASTIC WRAP. It's a young adult mystery--also my first attempt at this genre.
Although I spent all last summer plotting the story, after I finished it last November, I realized it wasn't what I'd expected. I revised it some, shared it with my critique partners and beta readers. Then I let it sit again while I worked on those above stories.
This week, I spent time at OneStopForWriters where I plotted it again. And let me just say, people, I love Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. If you don't know OneStop, get over there! These ladies have put together an amazing closet of tools to prep and preen your pretty baby and make her shine.
So, enough about me. Tell me what you're working on. If you use OneStop, I'd love to hear what sparkles the most for you.
That's my story, what's yours?