Monday, January 31, 2011

My Literary Romance

by Kris Kahrs

I’m currently entertaining the idea, among hundreds of other notions that take up regular residence in my brain, of attempting a Romance novel. I wonder if my WIP picture book was my Vampire boyfriend and the Romance MS was my Werewolf best friend, would my PB be insanely jealous of all the time I was spending on the new Romance MS?

Would the other PB vampires resent me for endangering their publications chances as I spend less time submitting in favor of my new fascination with the Romance MS?

My PB feels so cold to me now. I’ve worked on it for six months or more and the pages are cool to my touch. Since the PB was submitted, I’ve been alone. It has been seeing Publishers, being held in their hands and read in their beds. I’ve been sitting at my laptop waiting… for something to happen. Then the hot Romance MS shows up and everything’s new and exciting again. The Romance MS sends delicious shivers up and down my spine as I come up with the perfect scene and gasp, “yes, this is it”.

I’m afraid I’ve alienated everyone in my life because of my obsession with the Romance MS. I can’t seem to think of anything else. It’s always on my mind. I’m constantly thinking of ways to tighten the structure, to massage the limp narrative into the best shape of its life. I’m pretty sure my husband and son and desk cat have had enough of my single-mindedness. My Critique Group, not big fans of the genre, patiently tolerate my infatuation as I carry on about how chiseled the MS story arc is or if there will be a series in the future because once is never enough. The group wants to know what happened to my old PB love, they liked that one.

Suddenly, my PB gets picked up for publication!* I’ve forgotten how sexy my PB is until I see it in a contract. Well, hey there sailor. My interest is vibrantly renewed and we are together again everywhere. We are signing papers, revising for editors, meeting with illustrators, planning speaking trips to libraries, writing groups and schools. I’m breathless with excitement, until my editor asks, “So, what else do you have?”

I stop, cringe and whisper when my PB isn’t paying attention, “Uh, I have a Romance MS, I’ve been working on.”

*Author’s note: Please people, this is a work of fiction after all.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How I Made My Kids Readers

by Hilde Garcia

I bribed them… in utero. Well, maybe it wasn’t so much a bribe as exposure. I mean they were kind of captive, right? Supposedly kids can hear you at about five months during gestation, so I began reading to them the moment I found out I was pregnant. I know, I’m a little nuts. But to me, reading was an escape, an adventure, a thrill, something I cherished. I couldn’t take a chance that my kids would turn out to be … gasp…. Non-readers- ahhhh! Yep, no way, so I figured, “What do I have to lose?”

By the time I gave birth, I had read all the Anne of Green Gables Series- Books 1-8, all of Harry Potter books (only up to Book 4 at that time), the entire Chronicles of Narnia series, as well as Oh, The Places You’ll Go, Goodnight Moon, and several other classics including Mark Twain.

I was taking no chances and read them out loud right to my belly. I know, seriously twisted. But then again, when you’re on bed rest with twins and bored out of your mind, all bets are off on sanity.

Then it was time to go and meet the dynamic duo, whom we fondly referred to as Alien and Predator. I packed the following in my hospital bag: Mem Fox’s Time for Bed; Goodnight Moon and Oh, The Places You’ll Go! Yep. I read them all three nights. I cried every time I read Dr. Seuss (and I still do). The nurses smiled; maybe they thought my bedtime reading routine wouldn’t last. But it did.

My husband and I bathed our twins every night, put their jammies on after their bath, combed the three hairs on their heads and then read to them. We taught our ritual everyone that came into our world. We had songs and dances for our Sandra Boynton favorites like Hippos Go Berserk and Snuggle Puppy. We have loads of photos with family and friends all reading to our kids and loving every minute.

We read to our kids before nap and after preschool, in the sun and sometimes...just because. There is always time for reading. There is always access to books. NO electronics in our car, just a bunch of books and paper should inspiration strike. My daughter has already written two best sellers in the preschool world and I edited them for her.


Now my kids are six and in Kindergarten. Are they readers? You bet your library card. Is it because of mommy’s crazy tactic? I’d like to think so. Or maybe they are genetically wired to read. Who knows? They read and write in two languages. Soon a third- Hebrew.
Victoria & Sam
They love books, libraries, book stores, book mobiles and words. They love to tell stories and draw them and write them down. They know which way to hold up a book, a skill mastered when they were one. They are amazing and avid readers and I marvel at the places they will go.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New First lines and/or Paragraphs

by Susan Berger
Here are some new First lines for your reading pleasure.
Sometimes, for me, the first line doesn't cut it. In that case, since I know the book was sold to an editor, I use the first paragraph.

1. Fern Drudger knew her parents were dull. Ridiculously dull. Incredibly, tragically dull.

2. October 19th 1998 3:30PM
A dripping faucet.
Crumbs and a pink stain on the counter.
Half of a skin black banana that smells as old as it looks.
If I look at these things and at nothing else, concentrate on them and stay still, and don’t make any noise, this will be over soon and I can go home without Cameron’s dad ever knowing I’m here.

3. We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.

4. Crooked Creek Middle School Morning Announcement request Feb 2
Mr. Cooper Please announce that today’s scheduled meeting of the American Society of Fun Facts has been cancelled because the club’s president is stuck in In-School Suspension . (thanks a lot)

The School of Fear
The wilderness outside Farmington Massachusetts
(exact location withheld for security purposes)
Direct All correspondence to PO Box 333
Farmington, MA 01201
Dear Applicant,
I am pleased to inform you of your acceptance to the summer course at the School of Fear.

These next five are Cybil Finalists for mid grade fiction. I searched their list for books by first time authors. (Not easy.) There were more, but I only chose the ones where I could find the first line on Amazon.

6. I’d just been busted for giving the chimpanzees water balloons when I first heard something was wrong at Hippo River.

7. Fiona Finkelstein had a bad feeling. It was the kind of bad feeling she got when she just knew Mrs. Miltenberger has packed a corned beef sandwich in her lunchbox, even thought she’s told her a gazillion times that she HATES corned beef more than she HATES anything else. Especially after learning that there was actually no corn in it. If there was one thing Fiona flat-out could not stand, it was food that lies.

8. The first day of summer vacation is important because what you do that day sets the tone for the whole summer. That’s why my best friend Elliot Berger is coming over to watch the Daily Show episodes I’ve recorded. Mom and I used to watch them together. She always said that the host, Jon Stewart, stood up for the little guy, which is funny because Jon Stewart is a little guy-five feet seven inches. According to Wikipedia, the average height for men in the United States is five feet nine and a half inches. Let’s just say I can totally relate to Jon’s height issue.

9. You wake up and you’re fourteen. The world is your super sized soda waiting to be guzzled, right? Wrong. My birthday tasted more like Coke that went flat.

10. It’s a perfect night to run away, thought Fadi, casting a brooding look at the bright sheen of the moon through the cracked backseat window. It reminded him of the book From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler. (Interesting. This book by a first time author is nominated and it just broke a rule by mentioning another authors work in the first paragraph. Just shows you. Rules were made to be broken.)
The answers will be in my next post.

Happy reading and writing!

Here are links some older First Line posts

These lines came from Writers Day and were posted 5/2/10

Answers posted 5/31/10
There are the answers to
May 2nd post, posted 5/10/10 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The School is Gone

by Lupe Fernandez

Burbank Elementary School of my youth is gone. Sure there's a new Burbank School built over the Little Side and old Hunts cannery site. No doubt it has all the modern conveniences: computers, thermostats, water-saving toilets, ergonomic chairs and desk, OSHA approved play yard and no chain link fence.

Gone is the cafeteria and pigs in a blanket.

Gone is the principal’s office and the fear of the paddle.

Gone is the auditorium stage and the plays where nobody knew their lines.

Gone is the classrooms and the globe lamps shaped like the planet Saturn.

Gone is the tether ball and the smack of little fists.

Gone is the mighty oak tree, roots pulled, and branches long since chopped, leaves shredded and trunk smoldered in asphalt.

Gone is the grass of the infield and the thumps of kickball.

Gone is the fence clanking, although the chain-link surrounds the property like a forbidden grave.

Gone is the line of pine trees and their soft pile of needles.

Gone is the red rubber balls and the sting of dodge ball.

Gone is the afterschool snow cone sales and the cherry, lemon and cocoanut flavors.

Gone is the shouts of Kindergarteners, the questions of third graders and the insolence of sixth graders.

Gone is the line of cars waiting for their kids.

Gone is the crossing guard in his yellow vest and red sign.

Gone is the shrill bell and end of recess.

Gone is the teachers: Ms. Meanes – lovely Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Olson – white hair and glasses, Ms. Nakakawa – I wonder if was Interned during the war, Ms. McMasters – she didn’t wear a bra; Mr. Heath – taught me to ride a bike.

Gone are George – King of the School, Joey – George’s best friend, Douggie – great imitator of Yogi Bear, Manuel – hit me in the chest for no reason and got mad at me for refusing his punches, Ramon – the only boy to challenge George for King of the School title, bloody fight was a draw, but they were still good friends, Michael – Violent Kid of the School with obssessive hatred for Ramon, Georgina – O’ be still my beating heart, Linda – the only girl worthy of the King of the School, Dwanise– fell in love with Ramon after a wrestling match and Sam – chubby kid and avowed girl-hater.

All photos by L. Fernandez

Monday, January 10, 2011

Answers: First lines from First Picture Books

by Susan Berger
These are the answers from the last first line post in December 2010. I was looking for first books. I wanted to see the first lines that attracted the editor to a new author.

1. Nestled in the soft earth beside the path you see a yellow spider.
Dreamweaver by Jonathan London, Illustrated by Rocco Baviera

2. Everything was just dandy till that Emily Post book showed up.
Thanks a LOT, Emily Post! by Jennifer Larue Huget, Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger (First book)
3. The jungle was quiet.
Suraj, the tiger cub wondered why.
Then Rassi arrived and gave him the news.
Suraj, the Tiger Cub: by Farida Mirza. Not yet published

4. My friend Lincoln says you have two dads. That’s right poppa and daddy.
A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager Iluustated by Kristin Blackwood and Mike Blane

5. Everyone told Lily Hippo she was too loud.
Too Loud Lily by Sofie Laguna, Illustrated by Kerry Argent

6. Beep Beep. Sheep in a jeep on a hill that’s steep
Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw, Illustrated by Margaret Apple (First Book)

7. Mama love to sing. Her singing was always a happy part of everyday life. But everything changed the day after my seventh birthday.
Floating on Mama’s Song by Laura Lacamara, Illustrated by Yuyi Morales (First book)

8. Pitter, patter
Plam, plam
On my window pane
The Way the Storm Stops by Michelle Meadow, illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger (First book) 

9. I took the moon for a walk last night.
I took the Moon for a walk by Carolyn Curtis, illustrated by Allison Jay. (First book)
10. Once upon a time Chicken Licken was standing around when a piece of something fell on her head.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka, Iluustrated by Lane Smith.
(As best as I can determine, this was his first book. Wow!)

I will be posting new first lines soon They will include some Cybil nominees. In the meantime, here are links to the older First Line posts. Lots of good first lines in them there posts.
This was the first of the
First line posts  Nov 3, 2009
2nd first lines post Nov 9,2009.
(Oddly enough, I don't think I ever
posted an answer for these first lines.)

Dec 9. 2010 First Lines
December 15 2010 First lines
Happy Reading and Writing

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It Happened on B Street

by Lupe Fernandez

My former elementary school, Burbank Elementary School in Hayward, Ca., inspires my middle grade fiction manuscripts.

The school had two sides – the Big Side and the Little Side. Kindergarteners, first, second and third graders stayed on the little side. Fourth, fifth and six graders used the Big Side. Pine trees surrounded the Little Side. The brown needles made for soft beds in the curve of the chain link fence; thick roots bulged out of the ground to form houses for girls and thrones for boys. Hunt’s Cannery was across the street. Stewed tomatoes filled the air with a hot, sweet liquid smell.

On the Big Side, boys perched in gnarled oak trees, crunched on fallen leaves and smashed pollen balls down each other’s necks. The Big Side had two baseball fields with a real dug out and an announcer box for Little League games. Metal chains clanged against tether ball poles. A torn jacket, a dirty shoe, a floppy hat, a pair of cracked glasses collected on wooden benches and in the gutters after the children went home. Forgotten items lost during recess, to be replaced by understanding mothers and fathers, or sometimes not at all.

The chain link fence that surrounded the whole school was a series of hexagon links, thousands upon thousands of wires, greasy from sweaty, clutching fingers, dented by assaults from errant red rubber balls.

Neither side mingled with the other. Once I left the Little Side, I never looked back. Passage to the Big Side was a step toward that heaven of adulthood, the pedestal before the door of Jr. High School, the entrance to serious things – like Love and its mysteries.
All photos by L. Fernandez