Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Playing Tag

About a week ago, Amy Sonnichsen tagged me with the following:

Are you hot?    Well, I live in Southern Nevada, and it's almost July. I once had a friend of a friend on FB ask: "Who is this Myrna person, and where does she live? On the sun?"

Upload a picture or wallpaper you are using at the moment.

Me boyos

When was the last time you ate chicken meat?     Last night, we had barbeque chicken.

Songs you listened to recently:

What were you thinking as you were doing this?     I was reading through blogs and came across this song on one of them. My daughter and I listened to it twice. I love that they used a bottle for percussion.

Do you have nicknames?     I have lots of nicknames, so I'll just share two that have been around for A LONG TIME and aren't as embarrassing as some of the others. When I was a kid, I looked tiny compared to the other kids my age, so just about everybody called me "Little Myrna." And even though I eventually grew into an average size/height, a lot of the boys I grew up (as a bit of a tomboy) with tease me with my old nickname, and I recently found out that some of my parents' friends still use it behind my back. The other nickname is Myrnabob or Myrna Bob, and I can safely blame the origin and longevity of this one on the boys I hung around with in high school. When we went our separate ways, after high school, they wrote out my nickname(s) (so glad some of the others didn't catch on) on every letter they sent me. Oh, and trying to explain why these boys sent me letters (to roommates who didn't know me) was LOADS of fun. Loads, I tell you. And a few weeks ago, when I asked my son if he knew what my middle name was, he went with Bob. So did his little sister.

Tag eight blogger friends (only if you want to play):

Sarah of Bookduck
Niki of Wool-N-Nuts
Catherine of Winged Writer
Sam of At the Helm of my Snekkje
Daniel of Pens and Pogosticks
Joanne Fritz of My Brain on Books
Barbara Watson of Novel and Nouveau
Deb Marshall of Just Deb

I'll be taking the next couple of weeks off (mostly). Happy 4th of July (or whatever else you might be celebrating). :o)

Monday, June 27, 2011


If you've read any of Gail Carson Levine's fairy tale retellings (ELLA ENCHANTED, FAIREST, THE FAIRY'S MISTAKE and so on), you know she makes them her own. Knowing the fairy tell doesn't give away her plot lines. So, I wasn't surprised when she turned Puss in Boots on its head.

A Tale of Two Castles

In A TALE OF TWO CASTLES, people (and fabulous creatures like ogres and dragons) aren't always what they appear to be. Gail Carson Levine mixes classic fairy tale with classic mystery (think CLUE) to deliver a story unlike anything I've ever read.
 Clue: Parker Brothers Classic Detective Game - 1996 Edition
And while the ending does wrap up the mystery, it could lead into a sequel. I hope so. I would happily follow Elodie and her friends through another adventure/mystery. If you've read it, would you read a sequel?

If you'd like to read about more Marvelous Middle Grades (ones you haven't already read), the following people would love to oblige you: 

Have a Marvelous Monday!


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cool Beans

If you have a manuscript that you're querying or ready to query, you should check out Krista's post on her agent critiqued contest. But don't delay. The contest opens on Monday, and she's only taking the first twenty entries.

Good luck!

Cool Beans Pictures, Images and Photos

And if you're wondering what "cool beans" have to do with anything, the phrase is a mutation of "course bien," which means "good run" in French. I have three older sisters, and one of them says it whenever she thinks something is really cool.    

Monday, June 20, 2011


I've decided to read the Harry Potter series again while I'm revising. It's been several years since the last time I read them, and yet they're familiar enough that I can put them down to work on my own stories. It's been about 12 years since my cousin's wife gave me HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE. She said I'd love it, and she was right.

By J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1)

I'm not going to summarize. I'd be surprised if anyone reading this isn't already familiar with the series. I'm just going to share a few of my impressions from this time through. J.K. Rowling writes fabulous dialogue. Pull a line from anywhere in the book, and I can probably tell you which character said it. And while my favorite lines usually come from the redheaded kids, something Dumbledore said to Harry hit me this time: "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that."

I'm excited to see the last movie, next month, but every time I read one of the books, I wonder why they cut Peeves. My absolute favorite part in the series is in the fifth book when Peeves salutes Fred and George. LOVE. But even without Peeves, the movies do a great job of capturing the characters and story, much better than most book-to-movie adaptations.

Did I mention I'm excited to see this? :o)

What do you think? And have you seen the countdown that Rowling's new website links to? Does anyone want to make a guess?

If you'd like to read about more Marvelous Middle Grades (ones you haven't already read), the following people would love to oblige you: 

Shannon Whitney Messenger (our founding mother)
Have a Marvelous Monday!

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Love/Hate But Mostly Love for Second Drafts

Last month was rather insane due to the fact that teachers are expected to cram all kinds of evil projects and wacky fun into the last six weeks of school, so I didn't get very far into my second draft. However, this week, I am very much back in saddle (an appropriate metaphor, if you ever get to read my story).

For me, revising is the part where I notice the sparkles (love) and tar pits (hate) in my writing. I'm still not sure where the beginning of this story needs to be (hate). But I'm making improvements. Last night, I handed the power in a relationship (no, not THAT kind of relationship) between my main character and a minor villain to the villain, creating vulnerability in my MC. This makes everything that happens between them later better than it was before (love). It also gives her more depth and a problem readers can sympathize with (love) within the first couple of chapters.

Am I making any sense? I worry about losing you when I discuss examples from my own writing.

Anyhow, I've been out of school for a week now, and I'm excited to be making progress again. I love this story.

What are you excited about?

Monday, June 13, 2011


I only had five people enter my seed giveaway*, so I decided not to draw a name. If you're one of the five and I don't already have your address, please e-mail me, and I'll send you some seeds. Everybody wins.


And for this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, we have a book that was "printed on 100% postconsumer recycled paper (that means that no trees were cut down to create the paper)" and blurbed by Kate DiCamillo: "I feel a deep gratitude that Ida B exists." Kate DiCamillo!
Ida B: . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World

Katherine Hannigan's IDA B made me cry. If you don't like books that tear you up before they set things right, it might not be for you. This is a story about a girl who knows what she wants, a girl who gets angry when her plans fall apart. It's an honest look at grief and how we can find healing. I agree with Kate DiCamillo. I'm grateful that Ida B exists and that I read it.

I noticed that the blurbs and jacket copy didn't give away anything about the story. In fact, in mentioning grief, I've already given more away than they did. So, I'm just going to list a few things that the author did really well: Ida B's relationships with her parents and their land, the description of her first day of school (especially of the teacher's smile, "where your mouth turns up but your eyes look pained"), the game that Ida B comes up with to teach Ronnie his math facts, and the way she feels about reading aloud. If you read the story, you'll understand why they didn't kill trees to print this book.

I loved the writing, and I will read more books by Katherine Hannigan.

If you'd like to read about more Marvelous Middle Grades, the following people would love to oblige you: 

Shannon Whitney Messenger (our founding mother)
Have a Marvelous Monday!

*And for those of you who aren't sure how to use coriander, I'm linking to a curry recipe.  


Monday, June 6, 2011


With summer starting toward the end of this week, I'm recommending THE UNOFFICIAL HARRY POTTER COOKBOOK, by Dinah Bucholz. It has recipes that kids can make on their own and recipes that they should make with an adult.
The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory--More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Muggles and Wizards

If you've read the HP series, you can guess this book isn't chock full of healthy recipes. There are some healthy recipes, and some bizarre recipes, but everything we've tried so far has been delicious and very British. My family's favorite is Toad in the Hole (page 144). We've had it three times. I was disappointed not to find recipes for chocolate frogs and butterbeer, but since it does have recipes for things like peppermint humbugs and custard (canary) creams, I got over it. The internet has plenty of frog molds and recipes for butterbeer.

I like cookbooks that make me laugh out loud, and this one did its job. Each recipe (or sometimes section of recipes)  has a snippet that relates it to the Harry Potter books and another that relates it to British history. Many of these snippets are funny.  I'm sharing the historical one that goes with Hot Chocolate (page 74):

"Before Coenraad van Houten was born, people enjoyed hot  chocolate with pools of grease floating on top. But then along came the Dutch chemist, who figured out how to press the cocoa butter from the cocoa beans in the early 1800's. Plus, he invented Dutch cocoa, which is leaps and bounds better than natural cocoa. We modern folk owe him a big debt of gratitude: every city should have a statue of this man, and every village and hamlet should have a Coenraad van Houten Street."

So, this cookbook has great recipes, random facts, funnies, and it will make you want to revisit your Harry Potter books. My only real gripe would be the lack of pictures. I like photos, especially in cookbooks for children, but cookbooks with photos tend to be pricier than those without.

Have you used this cookbook? What did you think?

If you'd like to read about more Marvelous Middle Grades, the following people would love to oblige you: 

Shannon Whitney Messenger (our founding mother)
Have a Marvelous Monday!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Seeds (the long awaited sequel to Carrots)

What? You didn't know you were waiting? 

I meant to write this over a week ago, but Blogger and I haven't been getting along. Your responses to Carrots made me think how it's easier for us to see things that we're struggling with than it is to see our improvement. Life has so many ups and downs. A couple of weeks ago, my favorite editor sent me a rejection for a poem that I still really like. Today, I got one of these (hint: they don't reject people with their own envelopes) from her. I'll have a poem in next January's issue of Highlights High Five.

 This post is mostly about writing and gardening, but I bet you have other strengths as well. For randomness, I hadn't made anything out of balloons for a couple of years, but when I needed one (or three), I found I could still twist a mean octopus. What are your strengths or hobbies, and how do they contribute to your happiness and, if you're a writer, your writing?

I like to grow my own herbs, and the last few years, I've been planting cilantro/coriander and poppies from seeds I've saved from my plants. Every year I've done this, my plants have grown better and produced more seed, and I've learned things without reading about them first (shocking, I know).

  Cilantro/coriander attracts ladybugs.

The kind of poppy seed you use in breads has different colored flowers.
*Also, I should apply lotion before taking pics of my hands ;)

But most of mine have been purple.

As I've written, revised and critiqued for other people, I've learned things as well. For instance, an early draft might be derivative, and then with each consecutive draft, the writer imbues their story with more of their voice and whatever vision prompted them to start writing in the first place. Revising makes a good story better.

So, I'm saving seeds for stronger plants and revising for better stories. I can see improvement. Where do you see improvement? 

And if you'd like to be entered in a drawing for coriander or poppy seed, just let me know in the comments by next Thursday. They're organic, and you can use them in your kitchen, if you don't want to plant them.