Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Top 8 Favorite (Contemporary) Children's Writers

Over the next couple of...however long it takes me to do this...I'll blog about one of my top 8 (top 10 lists are too conformist for me) favorite contemporary children's writers and what it is about them that I adore.

Some of them will come as no surprise, I'm sure. So here they are, in alphabetical order (because I can't decide my TOP top from my middle and bottom top; not because I'm conforming):

Alison Croggon

Kate DiCamillo

Shannon Hale

Lois Lowry

Donna Jo Napoli

Katherine Paterson

JK Rowling

Megan Whalen Turner

First up...Katherine Paterson. Coming next week.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What have I done today?

The short answer is not much. I'm going to take a leaf out of Joanna's blog and post some stats. I hope you don't mind, Joanna!

Words Written: 247

Words Deleted: 249 (This doesn't seem to be the right direction. Does novel-writing come with a GPS?)

Number of MSWord Files opened and closed with minimal alteration: 4

Hours spent on the BB: *mumbles*

Contests Entered: ONE (at the Guide to Literary Agents Editor's Blog),date,2010-02-07.aspx

Number of GIGANTIC icicles knocked off gutter by hanging out second story window and blindly swinging a titanium crutch:

Yeah, I don't really know, but aren't they cool?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Long ago

…in a galaxy far, far away…

(Just kidding. It was last September in Washington, D.C., but you *had* to know that was coming, right?)

I attended the National Book Festival on the mall with a few students and their grown ups. I was most excited to see Shannon Hale and Kate Di Camillo (fortunately, so were my students!) and thanks to the delays on Metro’s red line that morning, we arrived just in time to see a panel discussion at the Children’s Pavilion…that included both Shannon Hale and Kate Di Camillo…and six or seven other authors, most of whom I’d never heard of before. The whole time the moderator was introducing people, this guy John Something-or-other was holding up their books behind them, goofing off, and generally being hilarious. None of them seemed to mind, and the friendly, teasing interaction between all these authors was really fun to observe.

So we got to the end of the row of authors (on backless, wooden stools—I can only imagine how uncomfortable they must have been) and John Something-or-other got up at the podium and introduced… The Exquisite Corpse Adventure.

Sounds gory, huh? It’s not. An exquisite corpse, John told us, is an old art term. Seeing as how I enjoy art talk about as much as I’d enjoy a ten mile jog barefoot on a treadmill resembling a moving bed of nails, I’d never heard of it before. Fortunately, John explained. Basically, it’s when artists take their individual pieces and smush them together to form a whole project, sculpture, etc. (To read more, try

Well, what does that have to do with a whole slew of children’s writers most of whom are not also illustrators? In this particular case, a whole slew of children’s author’s are writing a round robin.

(Incidentally, I found out later, an exquisite corpse is also a writing game that I’ve played without knowing its name.)

The Exquisite Corpse is hosted on and will update every other Friday for a year. John Something-or-other, who wrote the first chapter, proceeded to read it aloud at the panel discussion, and may I just say? HILARIOUS. Bizarre and silly humor is right up my alley. The other authors there couldn’t say enough about it. Several of them joked(?) that Katherine Paterson bullied them into participating, but they were all so enthusiastic, you could really feel the excitement brewing among the audience—overwhelmingly kids. I couldn’t wait to share it with my fifth grade class.

As soon as I got home that evening, I fired up my old laptop (the one with a missing i key and a fussy space bar that’s now hibernating beneath my bed and functioning as an extra hard drive for my pretty new Dell) and went straight to to reread chapter one. I discovered that John Something-or-other was actually Jon Scieszka (*facepalm*) whom I have adored since I was in elementary school when he published “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.” I’d just never heard his last name pronounced before (and don’t ask me how it sounds, because I *still* can’t say it correctly!)

Anyhow, the following Monday, I shared the first chapter with my fifth graders. They were instantly hooked. Every two weeks since then, we’ve read the update. I relish the GROANS that fill the room when we reach the end of each chapter.

Music to an aspiring author’s ears.

P.S. You’d think I’d come up with a better metaphor, but hey, I’m still aspiring. ;)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pretty Much Just a Loooong Ramble...

I really should be grading.

Well, what else is new? I really have no excuse, except that with another snowstorm looming I will probably be trapped in my house the rest of this week. Should give me plenty of time to tackle that pile of unmarked papers.

So what to do in the mean time? I’ve finished (reading) one book—Hood—which is Stephen Lawhead’s retelling of the Robin Hood legends set in 11th century Wales instead of in Sherwood Forest. I’m about a quarter of the way through the second book in the trilogy. The narrative is set within something of a frame story and alternates between first person present tense and third person (limited) past tense. That’s interesting for Lawhead. (I’ve read his Pendragon Cycle as well as far as I remember, he generally sticks to third person. Though now that I come to think of it, perhaps Merlin was in first person. I haven’t read it in so long…) Anyhow, I find myself needing a break from that for a bit.

So…what to read now? All of my Shannon Hale books (except the autographed copy of The Goose Girl, which I don’t want to damage) are in my classroom library or loaned out. (What was I thinking?) I reread Alison Croggon’s Pellinor quartet pretty recently, so that’s a no.

What I really WANT to read is Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief and company. I count her among my top ten favorite children’s authors (hmmm that sounds like a decent, if probably overdone, blog entry.) I’ll save the reasons for loving her writing for another time (in case I end up doing that top ten thingamabob,) but suffice it to say she’s brilliant. And, hey, doesn’t she have another book coming out this spring?

Why, yes, she does! The fourth book in the Queen’s Thief series, A Conspiracy of Kings, is due to hit bookshelves in March or April of this year, depending on the source. Personally, my vote is for March, but I’m ridiculously impatient when it comes to books. Case in point, I asked my awesome Australian friend to buy and ship me a copy of The Singing because it came out a few months earlier there than here. Anyhow, I’m really looking forward to new adventures in Attolia and Eddis and to seeing what Eugenides has up his sleeve this time around.

But that’s not going to happen for at least another month, so back to the problem at hand. No Shannon Hale and no Megan Whalen Turner here at home. Those are who I really want to read right now. So where does that leave me?

In Revisionland.

I wish I’d come up with that term myself, but I can’t take credit. Someone at Verla Kay’s board coined it, or at least that’s where I first spotted it. It’s a painful place (Revisionland, not VK’s,) and I seem to revisit it more often than I visit NYC. Not by choice. I would LOVE to be able to put pen to paper, fingers to keys, or whatever and pen/type/chisel in granite a story that would need no revision. Who wouldn’t? (Oooo, that’s a great answer for the next time someone asks “If you could have one superpower, what would it be?” I’ll have to remember that.) But revision is a part of a writer’s growing pains, I guess.

Speaking of which, I’d better get back to it. If anyone has anything that would be more fun (blog updates, exciting news, bamboo shoots to shove under my fingernails) I love a good distraction!