Thursday, July 29, 2010

Inspired by Childhood Book

by Sue Berger
What was the book from you childhood that made you a reader? For me, it was the Maida series.

For my eighth birthday in 1951, my Aunt Gloria gave me an entire series of books. - The Maida Series by Inez Haynes Irwin,

Imagine opening a giant package with ten beautiful new books in colorful dust jackets. I immediately dived in to the first one. When I finished, my brother read it. (We always share our books. I read all his Tom Swift Jr. and Hardy Boy books. He read all my Maida’s and Nancy Drew’s)

Maida’s Little Shop published in 1910 and had a fairy tale quality about it. Maida Westabrook, the daughter of Jerome “Buffalo” Westabrook, Wall Street tycoon has had everything that money can buy and the devotion of her father, but she has also known trouble and heartache. Her mother died when she was younger. Poor health has given her much pain and for most of her life she was unable to walk.

When the story begins, Maida has recovered from surgery performed by a renowned German specialist, and has regained the use of her legs. However, her father and her doctor are worried that she remains listless and want to help her find some interest in life to improve her health and happiness. On a chance visit to Charlestown, on the outskirts of Boston, they visit a little neighborhood shop, and Maida is enchanted and wishes that she, too, could keep a shop just like this one. Buffalo Westabrook, delighted to see Maida take an interest in something, buys the shop and arranges for Maida to live above the shop with elderly Irish housekeeper, Granny Flynn. The only two conditions are that she must make the shop pay, and she must not reveal her true identity. The story of how she does this and makes friends with the children who live in the court is enchanting. In the end, her true identity is revealed.

The adventures of Maida and her group of friends from Primrose Court continue through nine more books, thanks to the generosity of Buffalo Westabrook, who makes all of the arrangements for the children to live together in various interesting settings.

I say nine more books, but I did not realize until a few years ago Inez Haynes Irwin wrote four more Maida books after Aunt Gloria gave me the series. (I have looked for these books, but cannot find copies under $200.00)

Maida’s Little Shop was written in 1910. The last book I had - Maida’s Little Lighthouse- was written in 1951. Although the series was written over a period of forty years, the characters age very little. During the period that Ms Irwin wrote these books, there were two World Wars and the Korean War. You will not find these events in the books. They remain a tribute to childhood and friendship. Occasionally I go back and reread them. I have loved many books since the Maida Series, but you never forget your first. My dream is to write a book that will mean as much to a child as the Maida books meant to me. Write on!

Friday, July 23, 2010


by Lupe Fernandez

Ladies, why settle for a rock star, an athlete or an actor, when you…yes you…could win a date with a writer. He’s suave, sophisticated, and solipsist. But don’t take our word for it. Behold!

Libraries, Prairie Home Companion, Latin American History, Mrs. Fields Chocolate chip cookies, Rocket Launches, Sleeping, Inspiration for a New Story, Monty Python, Snickers Bar, Popcorn
Gardening, Sawdust, Clothes Shopping, Changing Light bulbs, Interior Decorating, Moving Boxes, Reality Shows, Spinach, Popcorn with Butter

Favorite Color:
Favorite Book:
The Manuscript He Wants to Publish
Favorite Tree:
The Larch.
Favorite Writing Location:
His Apartment
Favorite Motto to Live By: “I wonder what’s on TV?”

Favorite Exercises: Jumping to Conclusions, Leaping before Looking

Hobbies: Listening to the radio, watching TV, ignoring his manuscript, eating ice cream, burping.

Here’s what you have to look forward to during your amazing date. (Assuming of course, that you, dear lady, don’t pass out from the sheer excitement.)

First you drive to his swinging bachelor pad. Free parking on the street. Buzz the intercom and be sure to speak loudly. Then you drive him to that most luxurious dining spot in the San Fernando Valley, that hub of hope, that center of community, the happiest place on Earth: Poquito Mas. The Original Baja Taco Stand. He’ll order “the usual” as he’s a regular at this edifying establishment. Order to Go and eat in your car. Don’t forget the chips! (By the way, don’t watch him eat, he’s rather vulnerable with food in his mouth.)

After your Poquito Mas meal, you’ll drive him to The AMC Theatre in beautiful downtown Burbank. Don’t’ forget to pay for his popcorn. His artistic sensibilities prefer films with guns, cars and scantily-clad women. To cleanse your palette of sticky gum on the theatre floor and beeping cell-phone with unimportant conversations about the price of soy milk, a visit to that destination of deserts, that conclave of confection: Häagen-Dazs! (He’s partial to strawberry.)

But wait! There’s more! Yes, there really is.

After dinner, movie and desert, you’ll be treated to a recitation of his current work. You’ll marvel at his metaphors, you’ll swoon at his similes, and positivity palpitate at his prose.

To good to be true? Nay, dreams come true at Pen & Ink. All you have to do, dear ladies, is answer three simple questions:

What’s your most romantic section of a book store?

If you could be a famous literary character, who would you be and why?

Would you mind financially supporting a potential literary genius?

Yes, this exciting date could be yours! You’ll be the talk of the blogosphere.

Some Restrictions Apply
Contestants Must be 18 Years or Older
Void Where Prohibited: North Korea, Pluto and the Andromeda Galaxy

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Favorite Writing Advice

Some of our favorite writing advice: Everyone probably has one or two bits of writing advice. Here are some of ours.

 Writing on Both Sides of the Brain by Henriette Anne Klauser

“When you first began to write, you had someone standing over you (for your own good) correcting your form, grammar, and spelling…..Today when you sit down to write, chances are that your teacher is still with you, standing over your left shoulder, correcting, critiquing, circling uppercase letters with her red pencil, and in other subtle and not so subtle ways discouraging your from writing, generally stemming the flow of words.” (Right on!! Greg Dean, a stand up comedy teacher, came up with a solution for this: Never criticize your self in your performing space. Get yourself a cheap bath rug. When you feel yourself getting ready to criticize your output, leave your performing space. Stand on the rug and critique yourself. Then return to your performing space. This really helped me. It also gets you to stand up from your computer on a frequent basis.)  Libba Bray at 2010 Writers Day suggested naming your critic. I love that one.

And from NanoWriMo: Give yourself a gift: a deadline

Jane Yolen on Writing

There is no such thing as the time fairy dropping bits of time for aspiring writers to trip over or find. If you want to be a writer, you find or make or grab or take time from whatever else is going on. Otherwise you really don’t want to be a writer, you just want to have written.

First rule of writing- B I C- Butt in chair
Second rule or writing- follow rule one.


From the Medicated and Motivated School of Writing and Anne Taintor, Ms. Dish recommends the following:

1) “Why yes, I am that kind of girl – thank you.” - Write what you know.

2) “Old enough to know better, too old to give a rat’s ass.” - Learn the rules, then break them.

3) “…And then Fairy Godmother said, ‘Mojitos for everyone!’….”  -Get it all out. Overwrite first, you can always clean up later.

4) “A true friend would help hide the body.” - Get someone to edit your work in an objective manner.



"Always start with a fresh tablet."  Hammurabi, King of Babylon

"And the Lord said, 'smite the Adverbs, for they are a blight upon thy manuscript.'"
3:14 Book of Grammar


"A little sacrifice goes a long way."
Tezcatlipoca, Aztec Sun God

"Sharpen thy quill, scribble on thy parchment and heed not the call of naysayers."
St. Ernesto, Patron Saint of Unpublished Writers

 "Find the gold in your landscape."
Hernando Cortez, Spanish Conquistador

"Fear not to cut, cut and cut."
Jack The Ripper

"Every period is a revolution."
Pancho Villa, Mexican Revolutionary

"Ahhhh....write some 'em about rabbits."
Bugs Bunny

"Whadda I look like, Pablo Neruda?"
Joe the Cook, Good Grub Diner

What was the advice that stuck with you?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Chocolate Day

by Susan Berger

July 7th is Chocolate day. In honor of Chocolate Day I am listing several children’s books with Chocolate in the title. Some of these I had never hear of, but they sound intriguing.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
by Roald Dahl.
The classic chocolate fantasy, upon which two different movies have been based. When a poor little boy named Charlie Bucket finds a Golden Ticket to Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory, his life is changed forever. (I am pretty sure everyone has read this one)

The Chocolate War
by Robert Cormier.
(Young Adult). This is a classic story about a teenager's decision to buck tradition by refusing to sell chocolates for his school's annual fundraiser. Not too much chocolate action per se, but it's a riveting story about one boy's fight against brutal conformity.

Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot
by Margot Theis Raven
Based on the real-life story of American pilot Lt. Gail Halvorsen, who dropped chocolate candy for the children stranded in West Berlin during the Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949, and a young girl who befriends him. It's a good representation of how children were affected by the events of the Cold War.

Smart About Chocolate: A Sweet History
by Sandra Markle
Non Fiction children's book detailing the history of chocolate, written for little kids (ages 4-8). It includes a variety of facts about chocolate, stretching all the way back to the Mayans, and also offers recipes and a bibliography of recommended books about our favorite ambrosia.

Julia's Chocolates by Cathy Lamb
Fictional account starting after Julia runs away from an abusive fiancé, she settles down in a small town with her aunt and becomes famous for her skill at making chocolate. The book is an excellent character study of how chocolate, good friends and supportive family can help a flawed person mend her life. 

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse
by Robert Rankin.
(Fantasy). Someone's sneaking around Toy City killing off famous nursery rhyme characters in fiendish ways, and leaving tasty hollow chocolate bunnies at the murder scenes. If plush detective Eddie Bear and his sidekick Jack can't find the killer, it might just mean the end of the world. (I am not sure this is for children, but I want to read it anyway)

To end, here are some weird chocolate facts:

These facts come from (you might want to visit)

1. Chocolate originated in Mayan culture, where it held a highly revered place.
In fact, the Mayans believed chocolate was so sacred they could only drink it from solid gold goblets -- which had to be thrown away after a single use! The Mayans believed chocolate came directly from the gods, and they even used cocoa beans as currency. That’s one of the better strange facts in chocolate history: money really did grow on trees!
2. Chocolate is responsible for the microwave.
Scientists were initially experimenting with micro waves in the hopes of creating a better radar detector. In the wake of WWII, scientists continued to test devices called magnetrons. On one such lab, a scientist named Percy Spencer happened to stroll through with a chocolate bar in his pocket. When he discovered the melted chocolate, Spencer realized that he might be able to use the magnetron to cook food. He tried popping corn (successfully) and then thought he'd give real food a try. His first experiment? An egg, which cooked so quickly, it blew up in his face!
3. Americans consume almost half of the world's annual chocolate products.
American chocolate companies use 1.5 billion pounds of milk every year. Every Russian and American space voyage has included chocolate bars.
4. During the 16th and 17th centuries, eating chocolate was considered a sin!
(Drinking it was ok though) By the 18th century, however, people considered chocolate a medicine. It was especially popular as a treatment for stomach aches
5. Chocolate is both addictive and deadly for dogs.
In large amounts, chocolate can lead to epileptic seizures and poisoning. The poisonous part of chocolate is a chemical called theobromine. It's harmless to humans, but deadly to dogs.
Now go read a chocolate book and eat some chocolate.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Prescription for Success

by Lupe Fernandez

Psssst... Hey you. Yeah you. Come here. Want a little something to help you write? Sure you do. It won't hurt a bit.

Fill out the form and take it to your nearest Writerologist.*

CHARACTERAXIN - Strengthens Character Development, Separates Protagonists from Antagonists
Possible side-effects include Confusion, Too Much Dialogue, Offending Relatives, Narcissism, One-Dimensionality and Burping.
PLOTTINE - Eases Events in Coherent Format
Possible side-effects include Confusion, Repetitive, Car Crashes, Exposition, Five Sub-Plots, Watching TV, Plagiarism and Rashes.
STORYOPLAN - Increases Inspiration and Originality
Possible side-effects include Confusion, Blank Page Syndrome, Taking Too Many Classes, Depression, Eating Chocolate Chip Cookies and Hiccups.
*Pen & Ink Management assumes no liability for rejection letters, procrastination or investigation by the FDA.