Sunday, August 31, 2014

Give-Away: The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher


"Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words." --Mark Twain

I think Mark Twain would like to have met debut author and talented writer Jessica Lawson. He would see that she has a way with words, picked a lot of right ones and crossed out the wrong--and did it all while telling Becky Thatcher's story!

I am pleased to give a shout-out for Jessica, someone I "met" (not in real time yet, but that would be fun, too) when I started blogging, and her newly-released MG novel, The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, July 1, 2014).

The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher promises to be, well, a great adventure!

From Goodreads: "In 1860, eleven-year-old Becky Thatcher is the new girl in town, determined to have adventures like she promised her brother Jon before he died. With her Mama frozen in grief and her Daddy busy as town judge, Becky spends much of her time on her own, getting into mischief. Before long, she joins the boys at school in a bet to steal from the Widow Douglas, and Becky convinces her new best friend, Amy Lawrence, to join her.

"Becky decides that she and Amy need a bag of dirt from a bad man's grave as protection for entering the Widow's house, so they sneak out to the cemetery at midnight, where they witness the thieving Pritchard brothers digging up a coffin. Determined to keep her family safe (and to avoid getting in trouble), Becky makes Amy promise not to tell anyone what they saw.

"When their silence inadvertently results in the Widow Douglas being accused of the graverobbery, Becky concocts a plan to clear the Widow's name. If she pulls it off, she might just get her Mama to notice her again and fulfill her promise to Jon in a most unexpected way...if that tattle-tale Tom Sawyer will quit following her around."

There's some great buzz about The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher going around in blogland, along a number of great author interviews that give insight into the heart of the book and how it came to be. Some of the things I learned:

Why Becky Thatcher? In answer to the question "Why did you feel Becky Thatcher was the one who needed a bigger story?" by Mike Grosso over at Fearless Fifteeners, Jessica responded, "Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a classic and I love, love, love the book exactly as it is, so I would never say that she needed a bigger story. I think it was a matter of me always relating more to Tom and Huck, and thinking that it would be neat if Becky Thatcher got to have a little fun as well."

On Becky Thatcher and Voice: In an interview with Jessica at Literary Rambles, Natalie Aguirre said, "I just totally fell in love with Becky and her voice. She's such a character that makes me smile every time I think of her. Share about her and how you got her voice so perfectly right." Jessica: "You are so sweet to say that! She was one of those lucky characters who just showed up fully formed and had a lot to say. The accent and vernacular I gave her probably came, at least partially, from the time I spent as a child in a very small southeastern Missouri town, visiting with my grandparents. My version of Becky T. was also influenced by my love for Twain, Junie B. Jones, Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables), and Mattie Ross in the new version of the movie True Grit (such a great character!)."

Point of View: Tara Dairman, in her interview with Jessica (here), said, "Please tell us about your book." In Jessica's words: "The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher is part origin story, part retelling of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, written from Becky's point of view. Though much of the plot is fun/adventure/cherry-spitting/bacon-eating based, there is an internal thread that deals with grieving and loss."

Why Middle Grade? Read about this in Jessica's own words in a post over at Middle Grade March. In the post she tells of her own 'middle-grade' years filled with her childhood adventures--hideaways under porches, planted treasures, night-time games of Ghost in the Graveyard and Cops and Robbers. Nothing better than the story of a tomboy written by a self-professed tomboy. Check this one out and you'll see why Becky Thatcher's character was pegged so well.

Where Did the Idea for Becky Thatcher First Come From? Ha--this is a good one. Dusting. Yep, dusting, as in dusting the bookshelves. Tavia Gilbert in her interview with Jessica asked, "What inspired you to place Becky Thatcher center stage and to tell a well-loved story from a new perspective? From Jessica: "One day, while I was pretending to do a thorough dusting job on my bookshelves, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer caught my eye. I hadn't read it in years and found myself thinking about Tom and Huck and all the adventures they had together. And I thought about Becky Thatcher, the nicely-dressed, finely-coiffed young girl who represented all that was good and pure to Tom--a girl who was distraught at discovering that Tom had been 'engaged' to someone else. At Becky's age, I was more likely to start a game of let's swipe cookies from the cabinet and make a secret hideaway under the porch than to wear dresses and play at being engaged. Being a tree-climbing, mischief-making, cops-and-robbers kind of girl, I always related more to Tom and Huck than to Becky. The novel takes place during a time when things like adventure and mischief were often delegated to and expected of boys. I think a part of me wanted to give Becky a chance to have a little fun as well."

What's exciting about this last link is that Tavia Gilbert, talented audio book narrator, has narrated The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher, now available for book-on-tape lovers everywhere. I'm especially tickled about this because I was the lucky winner of this audiobook in a give-away that Jessica sponsored over at her blog Falling Leaflets. And in that particular post, Jessica interviewed Tavia. The interview is another treat--giving great insights into the life of a professional book narrator. You won't want to miss this one either!

And so, having been introduced to The Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by audiobook (which I am thoroughly enjoying), I'm off to order a hard copy, too, for my collection of books by favorite authors. At the same time I'm ordering a second copy--this one for one of YOU. I can't wait to share in the celebration of Jessica's debut and start to a great writing career.

All you have to do is post a comment here (along with your email address where I can contact you) by Monday, September 8, 2014, and your name will be included in the drawing. I'll announce the winner soon after the entry deadline.

So what do you say, are you ready for Becky's adventures? She's ready to tell you about them!
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Filling and Spilling, The Writer's Journey

photo courtesy of sxc.hu
"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing 
how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out." --Ray Bradbury

Still on the journey, how about you? Shall we discuss our progress over a cup of coffee? Sugar and cream with that, or black?

(Love this Ray Bradbury quote!)

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

11 Quotes on Babies, and Joy

photo courtesy of Pixabay.com
"The world is as many times new as there are children in our lives." --Robert Brault

It's been a couple of special days around here. Texts ringing, updates singing. Announcement finally came in--we're grandparents of another new little one, fifth grandchild and third granddaughter--born yesterday--and we couldn't be happier. This special child is already bringing joy to her parents, her older brother, and all of the family. They live a few states away but you can bet we'll be on our way to meet her as soon as we can.

In celebration of a wee one who's sure to help us see the world a new way and open our eyes once again to wonder, joy, and imagination (and maybe even dance steps?), I share some of my favorite quotes about babies, with hopes and prayers that more children can be raised in nurturing and loving homes. For that is all they ask for, really.

 1. "If one feels the need of something grand, something infinite, something that makes one feel aware of God, one need not go far to find it. I think that I see something deeper, more infinite, more eternal than the ocean in the expression of the eyes of a little baby when it wakes in the morning and coos or laughs because it sees the sun shining on its cradle." --Vincent van Gogh

 2. "Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."--Elizabeth Stone

 3. "A baby has a special way of adding joy to every single day."--unknown

 4. "A new baby is like the beginning of all things--wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities."--Eda J. LeShan

 5.  "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on."--Carl Sandburg

 6.  "Babies are always more trouble than you thought--and more wonderful."--Charles Osgood

 7.  "Babies are such nice ways to start people."--Don Herrold

 8.  "Babies are bits of stardust, blown from the hand of God."--Barretto

 9.  "Children are a handful sometimes. A heart-full all the time."--unknown

10. "A baby is born with a need to be loved--and never outgrows it."--Frank A. Clark

11. "Every baby needs a lap."--Henry Robin

Once, way back in 2011, I posted my favorite poem about babies, "Song for a Fifth Child," by Ruth Hulbert Hamilton. It has proved to be one of my most popular posts. You can find it here if you'd like to revisit it. And prior to that, when proud big brother to new baby sister was born, I posted about his arrival in Story of Joy (here). In that post I quoted this sentiment, "Jumping for joy is great exercise."

Little did I know that four years later, I'd be posting that his baby sister has arrived and carries the name, did you guess, Joy. (See there's a theme here after all.) Special name connoting what's special about children. Oh, and only secondarily, my middle name. What an honor!

Just sharing a little bit of what has lit up our life this past week. How about you, any good news to share or a sparkle from your corner of the world?

p.s  A serendipitous moment [serendipity (n): "the ability to make fortunate discoveries by accident"]--in searching for 'just' the right photo to illustrate this post, I came across these delightful baby shoes on pixabay.com. On further examination, I realized the shoes are set on a background of an open Bible. Looking closer, I saw that the words are not in English. I copied some phrases into translate.google.com and discovered the language is Portuguese. Why is this significant? My daughter-in-law is from Brazil and her first language is Portuguese! Perfect.
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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Writer First--or Storyteller?


clipart courtesy of pixabay.com

"You can't visit readers where you think they are. You have to invite them home to where you are and try to lure them into your universe. That's the art of storytelling." --Jo Nesbo

We were on a walk together this morning, hubby and I, when we met a neighbor heading home from her walk. We greeted each other then stopped and chatted, spending a few minutes to catch up on life, mutual friends, and--as is often the proclivity of the grandparenting stage--updates on children and grandchildren. Oh, the stories we had to tell! Storytelling was in rare form out there under the August morning sun.  

I came home thinking about how we tell stories. We craft our tales in ways to get--and keep--someone's attention. We get animated. We are expressive. We are engaged. We have fun.

It should be that way with writing, too, shouldn't it? Hmmm. That got me thinking, too. Writing is fun or else we wouldn't stick with it. But can we admit that there are times when it isn't so much so? The times we get bogged down with form, structure, getting that beginning just right, stressing out over grammar, or any number of elements of crafting our stories. What happened to the initial glow of the idea? When did the light grow dim?

I contend that it's because we've lost sight of one of the fundamentals of being a writer: writers are storytellers. Later we we can stress out over...I mean...revise and apply all the craft techniques we've learned. But first immerse yourself in the fun of simply telling a story! Send that internal editor off on vacation for a while.

I stumbled across a great quote by Donald Maass, author of The Fire in Fiction and other great books on the craft of writing. It was actually in a comment thread over at Writer Unboxed where Liz Micalski wrote a post titled Writer, Author, or Storyteller? Mr. Maass commented, "There's nothing wrong with learning the business and working hard at it. However, what makes that possible in the first place is storytelling. First you write. Then you learn. then you relax. Then you tell stories."

Thanks much, Mr. Maass! 

Rachel, a guest blogger featured recently over at Story Addict, was asked the question,  "Writing vs. Storytelling--What's the Difference?" Her answer? "Writing is the technical aspect of conveying a story, whereas storytelling is the side of pure enjoyment and fun."

Others voice similar themes:

"I think storytelling is all about children. We human beings love to hear stories being told--and it first happens when you're a kid." --David Chase

"I've always been sort of drawn to storytelling, and I was always very playful growing up." --Megan Boone

"No, the thing is, we all love storytelling, and as a writer you get to tell stories all the time." --Joyce Carol Oates

"Storytelling is what lights my fire." --Hope Davis

Do we see a theme here? Are you having fun yet?

Kristine Kathryn Rusch at kriswrites.com stated this: "We read Jane Austen and Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, even though their work is also stylistically dated, because all three told great stories. We're reading for the story, not for the sentences or the beautifully constructed metaphor." She concludes with an interesting challenge: "Stop calling yourself a writer. The label is a misnomer. Call yourself a storyteller. And then prove it--over and over again."

Food for thought: are you a writer first--or a storyteller? Do you see the distinction? How do you approach the art of storytelling?  
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Friday, July 25, 2014

9 Links: This Week's Super Finds

discovery: woodland flower 2014
"A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind." --Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

The summer marches on and with it comes some pretty helpful information and a few laughs. Thought I'd share some of the latest discoveries I've stumbled across in the hopes that they benefit you as much as they have me.

1. Need help in managing your writing time? Check out How to Keep Your Writing in Your Over-the-Top Busy Life: Helpful Techniques from the Experts, by Mary Carroll Moore at How to Plan, Write, and Develop a Book.

2. Along the same lines, did you ever wonder how Jerry Seinfeld motivates himself to be a productive writer (his specialty of course is jokes, but his technique could apply to any field)? Can you say calendar? You'll find Jerry's Productivity Secret at Life Hacker.

3. Stumped for ideas? Melissa Donovan shares thoughts on Questions, Curiosity, and Writing Ideas at Writing Forward.

4. When you are struck with that fantastic idea that lights up your life but you don't know how to go about developing it, why not start with an outline? 7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story, by K.M. Weiland at Writer's Digest.com might be just what you need.

5. Along the same lines, Alan Gratz reinforces the idea on the Highlights Foundation blog with Why You Should Be Outlining .

6. While you're writing that next best-seller, you might begin thinking about your author bio. Do you have one yet? Ann Allen at anneallen.blogspot.com gives great tips with her post How to Write an Author Bio When You Don't Feel Like an Author...Yet.

7. Next to finishing the next great work and dashing off the best author bio imaginable, you might want some insight into industry news for the writer. If so you don't want to miss Elizabeth Spann Craig's Resources for Writers--Industry News.

8. Want a quick review of history--in 17 syllables and 140 characters? Featured on pbs.org we have a unique approach: History in Haiku, by historian H. W. Brands.

9. And finally, on a frivolous note but evidence of the power of social media? A lost sock was found at the Oklahoma City Airport and the word is out. Sound trivial? Why does it matter? Well, you see it was found by an avid knitter who recognized its value, a hand-knitted sock made with love and quality wool. Who was the knitter? Where was the sock's match? And could they be lovingly reunited? The plea has gone out on every social media site from the US to Canada to Europe (according to Andrea Vlahakis, here). Check out the whole story at Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's The Knit Signal. And be sure to read the resulting comment thread, especially the part about the banana. If you're like me, you'll get your laugh for the day over that one!

Ah, only on this thing called the internet. Entertainment abounds.

Any great web-surfing discoveries you've came across lately? And what about you, are you missing a sock?

Happy weekend, all.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How Things Change


"Grandma! I backspaced but it didn't erase!" --Angelica, 6 years old

Pulled out the old Royal manual typewriter the other day for the kids to play on. Remember when that's all we had to type our manuscripts on? Or are you too young to remember, too?

How things change! And, when it comes to typewriters vs. computers, it's a good thing for a writer, that's for sure.

Just thought I'd share. Hope you're having a great summer. What changes have you seen as a writer that you celebrate?

p.s. if you could peek at that piece of typewriter paper she's working on you'd see: my desk, magazines, hair salon (it's a game we play), Kristoff, Sven, Anna, Elsa...any idea what her favorite movie is?
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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

28 Things to Do in the Meantime

evening sky, July 2014

"Meantime is middle time. It is an intervening or intermediate period. We associate meantime with a pause, a hiatus, an interlude, a recess from strictly specified action." --Elizabeth Harper Neeld, A Sacred Primer

July is meantime month. With all the summer activities, family time, the great outdoors--where does writing fit in? Sometimes it doesn't! But that's okay. For, in the meantime...

So far in our neck of the woods, July's meantime for us has meant the Ft. Thomas, KY, Fourth of July 5K Firecracker Race/Walk. Hubby ran; I walked. He placed 2nd for males in his age group; I placed 3rd for females in mine. But don't give us too much credit--there were only six people in his age group, seven in mine! The highlight of the day was when our six-year old granddaughter, who was helping at the water station, handed cups of refreshing water to, among others, her grandpa and grandma. (btw, Ft. Thomas has lots of history, especially Civil War era. It's also home to the Blue Marble, a darling children's bookstore that has even replicated the great green room of Margaret Wise Brown's classic, Goodnight Moon. Want to experience a delightful youtube reading of the book? You'll find it here.)

July to this point has also meant a family road trip one state over to a quaint little pre-Civil War canal town, Metamora, Indiana. There we experienced a train ride, canal lore, antique stores, and a number of farm animals in the fields of a nearby farm. We also stopped in a used-book store where I found a treasure: Hospital Sketches, An Army Nurse's True Account of her Experiences during the Civil War, by Louisa May Alcott. This particular volume is a 1993 reprint of work originally published in 1863. I have a number of books on my shelf pertaining to the Civil War, but not one like this. I'm looking forward to a great read.

Ahead, July also means birthday celebrations, movie nights, family needs, and simple stop-and-take-stock moments. After all, we're right smack in the middle of the year. Half the days behind us, half ahead.  What goals have we made progress on? What might we re-evaluate? Maybe our writing has by necessity slowed down. Maybe the itch is there but not the time. Maybe...well, maybe we should just say in the meantime.

"In the meantime" (phrase): during the intervening time; until a later time."

What are some things we can do "in the meantime"? Consider the following 28 possibilities:

1. anticipate
2. abbreviate
3. accomodate
4. aerate

How about:
5. allocate
6. annotate
7. appreciate
8. approximate

Maybe:
9. calculate
10. celebrate
11. contemplate
12. cooperate

Don't forget:
13. decorate
14. delegate
15. deliberate
16. demonstrate

We could say more:
17. generate
18. illuminate
19. incubate
20. initiate

And:
21. liberate
22. lubricate
23. marinate
24. meditate

Finally:
25. percolate
26. punctuate
27. recreate
28. resuscitate!

But please don't exaggerate, frustrate, hesitate, infuriate, procrastinate, vacillate, or vegetate!

(see what a good rhyming dictionary can do for you?)

I dabbled in some wordplay in my meantime. What are some things you do in yours?
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