Monday, April 27, 2015

Dispatch #37: Spirit of The Week

Senior Photo - 1980
by Lupe Fernandez
We got spirit!
Yes we do!
We got spirit!
How 'about you!
When I was in high school, I loathed spirit week. Too much good cheer. I was the Ebenezer Scrooge of school. Bah! Humbug! I sneered at the participants. "Why do they care? Look at the poor attendance. Silly games. Don't they know we're at war with the International Communist Conspiracy. There's drought on. TV is terrible."

Why? Unhappy childhood. Broken Home. That sort of thing.

This August I am attending my high school's 35th Annual reunion. I've been posting yearbook photos and promotional blurbs.

Fantasy Island TV Show
Tattoo: Da plane, Boss. Da plane.
Mr. Roarke: Smiles everyone. Smiles. Welcome the classes of 1978 through 1983.
Tattoo: That's a lot of class. Heh, heh. I made joke Boss. Get it?
Mr. Roarke: (frowns at Tattoo) They come to relive old times, talk about where they have been, show pictures of their children, talk about their careers.
Tattoo: It's been over thirty years, Boss. That's a lot of talking.
Mr. Roarke: Some Alumni remember those carefree days as if it were yesterday. Some have never left. They dwell on what they have done, what they wanted to do, what they wished had happened.
Tattoo: (wears a Falcon letter-man jacket) What do you think, Boss?
Mr. Roarke: Where did you get that?
Tattoo: E-Bay. Nine dollars. Pretty good, huh Boss? (combs his hair) The girls will go crazy over me.
Mr. Roarke: Alas, some Alumni still yearn for the years that are lost to time. But for the moment, it is as if they have never left.

Why the attitude change?

Spirit Week - Class of 1980
Professional: I write YA. I didn't get out much in high school. I want to know what other people did. How did they feel? What do they remember? I can't despise what I care about, and I care about my work, even if I'm the only one who will ever read the stuff.

Personal: I'd like to say I had a visit from the bitter Ghost of High School Past, but I think it was only a bit of unboiled potato. I'd like to say I had a visit from the Ghost of High School Present. The campus closed in 1990. No teenagers hang out in the halls anymore. I'd like to say I had a visit the Ghost of High School Future. Well...I already live there. I married an Alumni.

Four years of high school is time I can't get back. But for this reunion, I'll show a little spirit. I still won't wear a funny hat or shake a noise maker.

Instead, I'll write what I know and what I don't know.

Monday, April 20, 2015

More Blog Reviews!!

More Blog Reviews
by Hilde Garcia

Well, I could blame it on the dog and how he ate my blog post. 

I could blame it on the computer not cooperating.

But I think I will blame it on my 6th graders. 

I went to Catalina on a 3-day field trip with 50 6th graders. I kayaked, snorkled, hiked, rock climbed, and a bunch of other things that my body doesn’t want to mention. And while I might think I am 12… my body disagrees.

It took a couple of days to recover and of course, I roll into school today tired, but happy, but without a post.  I went to be at 6pm last night and feel like Rip Van Winkle today.

So a bit late, but here is my second review from the first ten sites that talked about HOW TO WRITE A BLOG POST.  

These are sites 4, 5 and 6. And they are so great.  I really enjoyed reviewing them.

Happy Reading!

101 Fabulous Blog Topic Ideas

I started off the year all gung-ho and self-righteous that I had a solid editorial plan and a never-ending list of blog post ideas I could ride through winter and beyond. But like many bloggers, I hit a wall. Ooops. My topics were boring. The content I’d planned lacked sparkle. I was tired, stuck, burned-out. I needed an infusion of creative ideas that would get my blogatude back on track. So I wrote this list of possibilities for myself, and I’m sharing them with you.

Here are six basic types of posts you can write, plus 101 blog post ideas and prompts. I threw in a few links to other resources in case you want more.

“Best of the web” posts
Essays – personal
General interest posts
How-to posts
Ideas for how-to posts:
Interviews and profiles
Ideas for interviews:
Opinions, rebuttals, trends, debates, and predictions
Ideas for opinion and predictions pieces:
Recap posts
Media-related posts

And on her site, each one of these topics has at least 10 examples each!


What makes a blog post bad?

There are lots of reasons a blog post could be less-than-perfect. Poor formatting. Poor grammar. Poor word choice. Poor shareability. 

The most pervasive problem? 

Poor flow. The post jumps from one idea to the next to the next and then circles around again for a split second to the first idea, then back to the fourth, and so on. Or the post reads like a stream of consciousness -- but it wasn't a stylistic choice. 

Luckily, you have a simple solution. Before diving headfirst into writing your post, you can create an outline.

I'm not talking about jotting down a few quick bullet points -- even experienced writers can go astray with just a few talking points. I'm talking a fully fleshed-out outline with enough details that make it virtually impossible for your writing to go off the deep end. And it's pretty easy to do.

1) Nail your working title.

2) Write down as many distinct takeaways from the article as you can.

3) Break up those takeaways into larger sections.

4) Add more takeaways to some sections. 

5) Revise, remove, and reorganize details in each section.

6) Include links to your examples and/or data.

7) If any details come to you that you don't want to forget, add them in. 

You’re beating your head against a wall. Staring at a blank screen. You need to write a blog post fast, and it’s got to be good.

You google “writers block” and hope to find a solution. If you had all day or all weekend to write, you know you’d come up with something. You always do.

But this time, you only have a few hours, and you can’t think of anything. Maybe you’ll just skip it. Who’s going to notice?

Stop. Right. There. If you’ve been posting regularly, your readers are going to notice. Even if they don’t, you will. And one of the most critical keys to a writer’s success is following good writing habits—and sticking with them.

Plus, the problem isn’t the vague, catch-all excuse called writer’s block. The problem is that you don’t have a system in place you can rely on.

Using a standard outline based on a 5-part essay can be a lifesaver.
With an outline, you can go from blank screen to polished post in a few hours or less, depending on the length and complexity.

No matter what kind of blog post you’re writing, though, or how much time you take, using an outline can reduce time, stress, and worry. Plus it keeps you organized and on track, especially if you’re writing something long and involved.

Ready, set, go!

1. Pick a topic

2. Create a working headline

3. Brainstorm, choose, and develop at least 2-3 main points

4. Write an introduction

5. Write a conclusion or call to action

6. Edit, revise, and proofread

7. Post it!

Great sites. Definitely visit all three!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Book in A Week? Are They Crazy?!

By Susan J. Berger
I went to a Boot Camp facilitated by April Kihlstrom called Book in a Week. It took place at The California Dreaming Writers Conference.
 There is a workbook for the course on Amazon. Take a look inside at the chapter headings.
 (I strongly suggest buying the paper copy. I didn't.)
I was most impressed with April. She did her first book in a week in fifteen minute snatches between work, and caring for her children, one of whom is special needs. This is the stuff of fairy tales. But she did it. I only 50% believe this is possible for me, but that's how I felt about NaNoWriMo. And I got a published book out of that. And another three first drafts worth revising.

April's workbook contains a series of excellent questions.
Names can set up expectations. How appropriate are your names for the characters?
For each character:
5 fears
5 physical reactions to fear
5 things he does when he is unsure of himself.
5 things that make them feel safe.
5 things he does when feeling safe.

Things April mentioned:
What stories do you tell yourself about you as a writer?
Focus on the good things about yourself and your writing.
Before starting the writing session, do something nice for your self to make your self smile.
After the session, reward yourself.
No editing.
No going back over what's written. (Omigosh! Not sure I can do that.)
No diving into internet research. (WHAT????)

Here's a link to April's Page. Hit page down 8 times to get to her handout at the Austin RWA Conference. Well worth reading.

Why am I doing this? 
I write better under pressure. I have been stuck on the same rewrite for a year. And maybe starting a new book will break me out of my rut. I have an idea for the book. No real plan.
I am aiming for 8,000 words a day. When I do a NaNoWriMo, I do 2,500 a day.

I've taken care of those chores I can anticipate, like writing my blog post for Pen and Ink and for Susan B. James. Taxes done. Bills paid. Will other obstacles appear? Hey this is life. You can't anticipate everything.

Thing is, if I start Book in a Week, I am already a success. The only way to fail is not to try. So I started Thursday April 9th. A friend lent me his house in Ventura. When I finish my stints, I will reward myself with a walk on the beach. I feel so lucky.
I'll let you know how it went. Write on!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Dispatch #36: The Intersection of Politics and Friendship and
What the Hell Does This Have to do with Children’s Literature

by Lupe Fernandez

Let’s find out. We drop in on two high school friends on a road trip.

The quarter-pounder wrap crinkles under L_’s foot as he slams the brake pedal.

J_ braces himself against the Vega dashboard. “Watch it!," he says, "Do you know how to drive?”

“Hey, don’t bug me." L_ says. "I’m looking out for the feds.”

“We haven’t even done it yet," J_ says.

“You never know. We could have spies at school.”

“I didn’t tell anybody. Did you?”

“Who me? I don’t have friends.”

The Vega turns onto Telegraph Avenue. J_ looks at crumpled paper with the address for Draft Counseling Center. He peers out the window, searching the street names for Ward Street.

“There!" J_ says. "Are you sure this is the right place?”

“Hey man," L_ says, "this is Berkeley. Like Power to the People and all that.”

“Bunch of long-haired hippies.”

“You’re either part of the problem or part of the the solution.”

“Did you make that up?”

“I wish. It was the rally cry of the Sixties.”

“This isn’t the Sixties.”

“I missed out.”

J_ jabs his finger at a passing sign. “You missed the street!”

“Aren’t you looking?” L_ hunches over the steering wheel to see better out the dirty windshield.

“I’m looking," J_ says. "You’re driving too fast.”

L_ stops the Vega in the middle of the street. A truck behind him honks. L_ maneuvers a U-turn and then a left turn onto Ward street.

“That’s it.” J_ sees the address of a large two story house with steep eves and a wide porch.

L_ parks three blocks away. The boys walk up Ward Street to the house.

“You sure you want to do this?” J_ chews on his thumb nail.

“I don’t want to die killing people that speak my language," L_ says.

“You speak English.”

“The other language.”

“You can’t speak that one either," J_ says. "You’re flunking your foreign language class.”

“It’s not my war.”

“I’m proud of my country. My sister’s in the Army.”

“Good for her. I got a brother in the Air Force fighting the commies from a PX.”

“It’s not funny.” J_ slows his walk and stares at his brown shoes.

“It only gets funny when the Reds invade Disneyland," L_ puts up his palms as if he's surrendering.

“I’m serious," J_ says.

“I have all my body parts and I want to keep it that way.”

“You want somebody else to fight for your freedom.”

“Freedom to what? Invade other countries? It’s Viet Nam all over again.”

“All you do is criticize." J_ trails behind L_. "You hate school. You hate your family. You don’t care about anything.”

“You’re a rule follower. If they say jump, you jump. If they say fight you fight. If they die, you’ll die.”

L_ stop at a sign reading DC Center with an arrow pointing down a set of chipped steps to a basement entrance. The air smells of hashish and car exhaust.

“I don’t want to go to jail," J_ stops several feet away from L_.

“I don’t want to die," L_ says.

Leaves flicker sunset. A lamp clicks on in the basement window. A flower pot sits on a crack step. Laughter echoes from Telegraph Avenue.

The counselor sips his herb tea, listening to the angry young voices outside his office. There’s a scuffle. The flower pot crashes on the steps. The counselor steps outside and stands at the foot of the steps leading up to the street.

One boy remains.

Are they still friends? Should they be?