Thursday, December 22, 2011


I am at a strange place in my writing journey. I'm querying one novel and gathering feedback on another. Last night, a picture prompted me to write a picture book manuscript, and I liked it. I haven't liked one of my own picture book manuscripts this much in years. Usually I get frustrated a few paragraphs in and never finish. And the drafts I do finish rarely excite me enough to pursue them. Picture books are hard. The story I wrote last night isn't a rhyming one, and it made my kids laugh out loud. It's just under 500 words, which is about the perfect length.

I also received my complimentary issues of this January's HIGHLIGHTS HIGH FIVE, last week, as I was on my way out of town for a couple of weddings. Mary Sullivan's illustration is perfect. I never know who will illustrate my poems or what the finished product will look like, but I've also never been disappointed.

If you don't subscribe to HIGHLIGHTS HIGH FIVE and would like to see "Worm School," most libraries carry the magazine. Ours does. Or if you'd like to listen, you can follow this link to an audio version of the magazine on the HIGHLIGHTS website. My contribution is on page 30.

Whatever holiday you might be celebrating, I wish you a happy one.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


This is another one of those multi-layered posts, but I've buried some shiny in it. You may have noticed I like doing that. ;)

Last week, attending a couple of plays that my twelve-year-old niece had parts in, I realized that knowing most of the kids involved made watching more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise. I'd either volunteered in their classroom at the elementary level or coached a team they'd been on, and having invested myself, watching them succeed makes me happy.

It isn't about what they owe me or anything I've done. I like them. Actually, "like" might not be a strong enough word. I can't recommend volunteering enough.

It's not so different from the way critiquing another person's writing helps me see changes I need to make in my own. The benefits of investment apply here as well. One of my critique partners, after years of querying and rejection, recently signed with an agent, giving me reason to happy dance. Adam Heine's manuscript is fantastic, and he'll be telling his story all week. Please, go congratulate him.

After all, he's one of the brilliant CPs who helped me polish the query I just sent out. Yes. I just sent my first query to an agent (December 13th, 11:40 PM). Let the rejection begin! 


Monday, December 12, 2011


This week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday reminds me of the late Anne McCaffrey, only without the sexy. ;)


DRAGONSDALE starts out slowly, but the characterization and world building are excellent. I'm sure I'm not the only reader to note the similarity between the dragons and horses. The dragons are kept in stables. They're trained, raced, and shown in competitions. Even the way they tease and bond with people reminds me of experiences I've had with horses. At least one of the writers has to have spent time around horses. So, it's Dragon Riders of Pern meets one of those girl and her horse stories. And it's grand.

Cara's father owns Dragonsdale, but he hasn't let her ride a dragon since a broken harness resulted in her mother's death. And Cara obeys him until riding a dragon saves her life. This forces her to choose between bad choices that get worse as the story goes on.

Salamanda Drake is an obvious pseudonym, so I went digging and found the real writers. Actually, reading the bio they created reminds me of this Simpson's episode with Neil Gaiman.

So funny.

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)

Monday, December 5, 2011


The omniscient narrator in Anne Ursu's BREADCRUMBS reminds me of the narrator in THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX. Describing it as lyrical doesn't seem enough. The story starts out gently and crescendoes multiple times until you hear ice cracking.


You'll recognize bits and pieces of other stories, especially fairy tales, but the stories are twisted. When Hazel tells a boy in the woods "I don't understand this place," he says: "You can't understand it. People think there should be rules, or order." Bad things happen to those people. Actually, bad things happen to everyone who goes into the woods, but Hazel has to go through it to save her best friend, even though everyone keeps telling her he doesn't want to be saved.

This is another one I'd like to see up for the Newbery. Hazel's struggle to be a good friend and daughter brought tears to my eyes more than once. She's a character that young readers (and older ones, too) will relate to.  

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