Monday, August 29, 2011


It's been five or six years since I last read NUMBER THE STARS, by Lois Lowry, but it popped into my head last week when I was at the library. My son starts fourth grade, today, and while he'll pore over graphic novels and CALVIN AND HOBBES for hours at a time, getting him to finish the kind of books they want him to read for school is . . . well, difficult.
Number the Stars 

But at 132 pages, NUMBER THE STARS isn't terribly long. I believe the story, set in Denmark during the Nazi occupation, will hold his attention. And I love that it isn't so much a holocaust story as it is a celebration of the courage and ingenuity shown by the Danish Resistance. They smuggled almost 7,000 Jews (nearly all of them) to Sweden. It's the kind of story that stays with you (and calls to you six years later, when you need just the right book for someone).

Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen's best friend is a Jew. When a rabbi warns their Jewish neighbors that the Germans are about to begin relocating the Jews of Denmark, the Johansen's pretend that Ellen is part of their family.

Have you read this one? If you haven't, I can't recommend it highly enough.

On a side note, the library copy I read this time around had been marked up by someone who'd gone through, crossing out words and phrases, adding their own. Not once did the mystery person improve upon Lowry's prose. I was appalled. Lois Lowry? Really? The marks were all in pencil. I erased them. I burned through five brand-new pencil erasers, but they won't be there to pull my son out of the story. Please, don't write in library books, especially children's books.

If Dax loves this one as much as I did, I'm pulling out THE GIVER next. :o)

And 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!

Monday, August 22, 2011


I just had to share this graphic novel series I found a few weeks ago. Kazu Kibuishi's AMULET series is gorgeous, and if you need something for a reluctant reader, these graphic readers might be what you're looking for.
The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)

In THE STONEKEEPER, Emily and Navin discover an alternate reality when a creature abducts their mother. To save her, Emily becomes a Stonekeeper.
The Stonekeeper's Curse (Amulet, Book 2) 

In THE STONEKEEPER'S CURSE, the Elf King sends two of his own Stonekeepers to kill Emily and Navin, but there are others willing to help and protect children who might end the tyrant's oppression. 
The Cloud Searchers (Amulet)

THE CLOUD SEARCHERS adds what I thought the most sinister villain yet to the cast of characters. Emily and Navin join forces with former enemies turned fugitives to search for a city that might not exist. They'll need the Stonekeepers of Cielis.

This adventure series has elements of fantasy, manga, and steampunk. If you like BONE, by Jeff Smith or RAPUNZEL'S REVENGE, by Shannon Hale, I think you'll like AMULET. And the fourth book comes out next month. :o)
Amulet #4: The Last Council

Has anyone else read these?

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!

Saturday, August 20, 2011


There were a few posts and comments over at WriteOnCon that changed the way I look at revising, so I'm going to share.

On Picture Books:

I don't blog about writing picture books often because, although I do write them, I've received what I thought were so many rejections that I haven't had the confidence to submit a PB manuscript in years. I write a first draft, decide it's a mess, and ignore it. This isn't something I'm proud of.

At WriteOnCon, I kept reading and hearing how important it is to write character driven picture books, and then I participated in "Shake Your PB Till It Shines," by Cory Rosen Schwartz and Tiffany Strelitzlaber. Corey polished a stanza I submitted for their "Makeover," and we both loved the result. In fact, she blogged about it (if you'd like to see the makeover). So, all I have to do is write a compelling story with just the right character in words that sing. Then I have to polish the confection until it shines. That's all. ;o)

Nothing has changed but my attitude.

On Novels:

I struggle with beginnings. Every time I pull up a document to write, I see the beginning and start to overanalyze it. I tinker with mine, completely scrap and write new ones, and they still never feel quite right. You want your first impression to be perfect. 

For the conference, I posted my first five pages of THE BINDER'S WEB. I'm still working on my second draft, partly because I can't leave the beginning alone, so attracting an agent's attention wasn't even something I'd considered. I just wanted feedback. The first person to give me feedback was an agent. 

"Myrna, you've sort of fallen into a common trap of epic fantasy: a huge cast of characters. There are too many people introduced in this short space, and while I was able to separate them for a while, there were just too many to be reasonable, IMO, by the end of five pages.

And your first few paragraphs are really great and intriguing, and I was hoping that something crazy terrible would happen -- you'd introduce that inciting incident -- but you didn't. I think you spend too much time on the day-to-day here, and while it's necessary for the world-building, the pacing is slow and I had to force myself not to skim. You want to filter all of this in as you go and make every single scene as proactively tense as possible, as forward-moving as possible."

This made me rethink my beginning in a major way. While I have a main character, there are two other characters that are almost as important to the story as she is. In chapter six, they all come together for the first time*, and they are the only characters in that scene. A lot of important things happen before that point, but the more I think about starting at this particular point, the better I feel about it. It's going to be a major revision. I may have to change the way I tell the story from third to first person, though I hope not. But I am so excited about how this could improve my whole story.

Robyn (my daughter) and I "attended" the conference together, this year. She even posted her first five pages for critique. I love that girl.

Have a great weekend!

*I have to give my husband credit here for telling me to start it "where the MC has a sword at her throat." Otherwise, I'd still be floundering.   


Tuesday, August 16, 2011


WriteOnCon starts today. I'm registered as Myrna Foster in the forums, if you'd like to be friends. It looks like they're hosting another great conference. :o)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Real Pain in the Neck

Actually, the pain is mostly in my head. ;o)

My chiropractor says I need to spend less time on the computer, so I haven't been reading or writing blog posts as much as I normally would. I have been revising TBW. I'm also doing funny looking exercises that will hopefully correct the problem with my vertebrae, but until they kick in, I'll probably go from a once or twice a week blogger to a once or twice a month blogger.

This is actually good news because it's something I can correct. I've been having CFS and fibromyalgia symptoms since May, and having an autoimmune relapse would be much, much worse. So, I'm just taking a bit of a time-out to get my health back in order.

I'm sorry for the lapse in blogging. If any of you need to reach me, my e-mail is in my profile.