Monday, May 25, 2015

First Lines from the 2015 Crystal Kite Awards Part One


By Susan J Berger

I love first lines and first paragraphs. I learn so much from them. The annual Crystal Kite Award is a peer-given award to recognize great books from 15 SCBWI regional divisions around the world.  The Crystal Kite is a rather odd award in that there are no Categories. Therefore a picture book may be competing against a young adult novel. This year I am posting the winners.

 Part one: First eight regions. (If you can't stand the suspense, all the winners are posted on the SCBWI website.)

Atlantic (Pennsylvania/Delaware/New Jersey/Wash DC/Virginia/West Virginia/Maryland)

 Pandemic  by Yvonne Ventresca

Chapter 1
As with many serious contagious illnesses, it wasn't immediately apparent what we were dealing with.
 -Blue Flu interview, anonymous US government official
I stood on the smoking corner behind the school reveling in my aloneness.


Australia /New Zealand

Karen Blair and Raewyn Caisley - Hello From Nowhere
First line not available.

Eve thought that living in the middle of nowhere was better than living anywhere else in the world . . . Only one thing made Eve sad. She hadn't seen Nan since they left the city long ago. Eve lives in a roadhouse in the middle of the Nullarbor and when her Nan visits one day, Eve shows her all the things that are special about where she lives. A moving celebration of the Australian outback and the special connection between grandparent and grandchild.


Connie Goldsmith - Bombs Over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster

Toxic Snowfall As soon as the war ended, we located the one spot on Earth that hadn't been touched by war and blew it to hell. BOB HOPE, US COMEDIAN, ACTOR AN AUTHOR -1947

March 1, 1954 was not a normal day on Rongelap Atoll in the Marshall Islands of the Pacific Ocean. That morning the US Military exploded the world's first hydrogen bomb -Bravo -on Nam, part of the Bikini Atoll about 75 miles (120 kilometers) away from Rongelap. I want to read this!

Bog by Karen Krossing –
Bog smelled the humans from across the lake. The stench floated high on the breeze, infecting the stars themselves, and then settled among the branches of the birch trees. What were humans doing on their hunting grounds?

International Other

  A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream

 by  Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Stars hardly shine in the New York City sky, with the factories spilling out pillars of smoke and streetlights spreading bright halos round their pin-top faces,
It makes it hard to find a star.
This one is on my MUST READ list. The illustrations are amazing.

Mid-South (Kansas/Louisiana/Arkansas/Tennessee/Kentucky/Missouri/Mississippi)

 Faking Normal by Courtney Stevens

Black funeral dress. Black heels. Black headband in my hair. Death has a style all its own. I'm glad I don't have to wear it very often.
I think I want to read this.

Mid-South (Kansas/Louisiana/Arkansas/Tennessee/Kentucky/Missouri/Mississippi)

     Hurricane Boy by  Laura Roach Dragon

Hollis Williams scowled as he stumbled on the same hump of buckled sidewalk he's climbed over almost all eleven years of his life. This time one of the broken sections tilted under his feet. His angry looked snapped into one of wide-eyed surprise, and his arms pinwheeled as he lurched of the chunk into the grass. He kicked the loose slab.

Middle East/India/Asia

Petu Pumpkin: Tooth Troubles by  Arundhati Venkatesh 

The Gap Club
Pushkin looked up from his snack box. He saw his friends huddled together in the corner of the art room. Kiran, Jatin, Sachin and Nitin were all there. Every thirty seconds, Jatin peeped into Kiran's book and copied something down. Pushkin moved closer and peered over Jatin's shoulder to see what he was writing,

I'll post the last seven in three weeks. I hope you found a book really want to read. I found more than one. Write on.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Dispatch #38: Reunion Rebuttal


Our Foreign Correspondent's Senior Photo
by Lupe Fernandez

Last month, we posted a piece by Our Foreign Correspondent in the Northern Hinterlands about his upcoming high school reunion. In response, we received a rather lengthy comment in responding to the post’s theme.

In the interests of equal time, we present the comment, edited for length and profanity.

Dear Management,
So I read the post about high school reunion and like I gotta tell ya, I’m really sick and tired of reading about nerds, dorks, dweks and other losers who bitch and whine about Oh High School Was So Cruel Boo Hoo and people who actually like high school are now alcoholics while I, big zero with the chicks, after a lot of therapy, am a well-adjusted pillar of the community.

Yeah right.

First off, I’m one those guys. I loved high school. I got laid, oh yeah; I did the Slim Jim, the Food Station and the Music Random Play. Know what I mean? If you don’t, well, I guess you didn’t get any action. And sports? Gym was cool. I don’t mean the cold shower part or all that changing clothes in the locker room. I mean, we should get like dressing rooms or something. Not that I got something to hide or anything. I’m proud, loud and uh…anyway I ran long distance on the track team. I went to a couple of meets. Beat the…out of Beverly Hills High.

I wasn’t a bully or an arsonist or some other kind of criminal in high school. I was a cool dude. I got along with the Movers and Fakers, the Car Buffs, Techy Toughs, Legal Beans, Scholarship Babes and the faculty. I believe everybody has the right to listen to their own tuneage, know what I mean?

If Mr. Foreign Correspondent didn’t have any game with babes, well, he didn’t try hard enough. He should’ve had his own band. I was founding member of The Carbs. Maybe you heard of us. We’re on hiatus right now on account that my best friend and bass player, Jonny, is dating CB, drummer and half-sister, and I don’t know how I feel about that. I just found out my Dad did the Pepper Shake with some New Age wacko.

My yearbook is so full of signatures; I can’t see my own senior portrait. I look pretty good. That’s another thing. Mr. Correspondent is all like I was skinny, smelly and ugly with three ears. Dude, it’s called daily shower and changing your clothes. I don’t mean you had to be Mr. Styling. Just don’t dress like you walked out of thrift store, unless you’re a Vintage. They’re experts with that sort of thing.

I think I covered everything. In conclusion, I object to Mr. Boo Hoo Reunion Blogger’s portrayal of people who had a good time in high school as growing up to be clueless clumps of garden sod.

I’m gonna go to law school and be a stud and rich. So hah!


Roger “Rogerlio” Herrera
Mr. Herrera's restored 1972 Dodge Charger
Mr. Herrera recently graduated from Chambers-Parker High School in Los Angeles County. He plans to attend UCLA in the fall and “party like its 2015.”

Monday, May 11, 2015

Bad Picture Books

By Susan J Berger

My Granddaughter Grace reading to my Granddaughter Eleanor

I have a theory that kids learn to read more easily
when confronted with one sound at a time. I taught a second grader to read with Hop on Pop.

To that end I have written a few one sound picture books that are hopefully funny and publishable. Allyn Johnston at Beach Lane bought Log on Log. She has not yet rejected Nat The Rat and Fat Cat. Allyn is pretty quick with lovely rejection letters. She rejected Claire and the Bear. I will be shopping that elsewhere.

I love working with one- sound picture books, but some sounds make really bad books. For example: Fun with Nun and Hun. Even changing the Hun from a Nazi to Attila the Hun didn’t help.

Fun with Nun and Hun

Nun and Hun have fun in the sun.

Run Nun, run.

Run Hun, run.  

Hun finds a bun.

One Bun.

 Nun finds none.

“Bun, Nun?” asks Hun.

 Nun is hungry. “Yes, Hun.” 

“No. No bun for Nun.” Hun runs. 

Nun shuns Hun.

Hun has a gun. 

“No Hun!” says Nun. “Not fun!”

 Nun takes gun from Hun. 

Nun stuns Hun with gun.

“Not fun, Nun,” says Hun

Hun is done.

Now Nun has a bun and Hun has none.

Nun won.

See What I mean? I tried the “an” words. Hmmm.

Stan’s Bad Plan


Nan and Dan.


Nan and Dan go with Gran in the van.

Gran and Dan and Nan go to Jan’s.                      
Nan wants Jam
Dan wants Spam.

“I have a plan,” says Gran. She buys Bran and Jam and Spam.
A man in a tan van scans Nan.
“Gran,” said Dan, “the man in the tan van scanned Nan.”

Gran scans the man in tan.

“The man is Stan,” says Gran. “He is a bad man.”

“Scram, Nan and Dan.” Gran throws the can of Span at Stan.

Nan and Dan ran.

Stan rams Gran with the van.

Poor Gran.

Bad Stan.
Then there is Skunk and Monk. This one is almost publishable if I left out the work drunk…I put illustrator notes in parentheses, as the words have more than one meaning.


Monk and Skunk

Monk saw Skunk.

Monk shrunk. 

Skunk stunk.                                            (skunk sprays)
Funk.                                                        (Cloud of smelliness)
Monk in funk.                                          (runs to pond)
Monk dunks

Monk sunk in gunk.
Hunk of junk.                                             (old boot in pond)

Monk has spunk. 
Monk chunks junk at skunk.                  

“Punk!” says Monk.
Skunk bunks                                            (skunk flees)
Monk shrunk.                                          (His robe shrank)
Monk in trunk                                         (underwear)
Monks on Bunks.                                    (Monks lying on beds)

Thunk!                                                     (Skunk posse arrives)
Skunks on trunks.                                  (Skunks sit on trunks at ends of bunks)
Skunks stunk.                                        (spray)
Monks slunk.                                          (Run away)
Skunks in bunks.
Monks get drunk.
Currently I am working on Buck and Duck. It’s not going well. Hopefully I will find a sound that makes a good story. Please feel free to leave me a suggestion.

I apologize for any oddities in the layout and spacing. I returned from SCBWI's fabulous National Conference at 9:30 and couldn't make blogger behave.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Best/ Worst Things about writing.

by Susan J Berger

On April 9, I started the Book in A Week challenge. I attended April Kihlstrom's Book in a Week workshop and I felt 50% sure I was equal to it. All I had to do was write 8,000 words a day.
I began writing at 10:00 AM. Sixteen hours later, I quit for the day. I had written about 6,000 words.
I knew I couldn't keep up that pace.
Everything was in my favor. Beautiful place to write. A chance to clear my mid every day with  Yoga and a walk on Ventura Beach. Zero interruptions. . . .

My brain wouldn't cooperate. Jen, my main character, veered off course, taking the plot with her. My subconscious took over the writing. Good, yes? Ummmm.
My subconscious spent a lot of time meditating. Tidbit by tidbit, it released plot points.
Day 2. 4,000 words.
By the end of the week I had 33,000 words; a plot that scared me, and a determination to see it through.
Fortunately it was April. I turned to CampNaNoWriMo for encouragement, I am a deadline junkie. I need chocolate, coffee and a goal.
At 11:00 PM on April 30th, I typed The End. 
Trumpets sound. Angels sing Hosanna
I had my first draft.
I'd gone through the fire and survived and I think my time travel logic will hold. It was a real cliffhanger. I wasn't sure Google or my subconscious would tell me how to solve it.

I surfaced into the real world and saw it was my turn to post.
So . . .

Best things about writing

1.You get to create your own world.
2. If you let them, your characters will astound you.
3.The joy of learning something new.
4. Someone invented the computer and gave writers a new set of tools. Cut. Paste. Spell check and, best of all, Cntrl & Z which undoes your last mistake (like erasing a whole chapter.)
5. Having a great critique group.
6. Going to SCBWI or RWA events
7. The call or email saying someone wants your work.
8. The first time you see your cover.
9. Good reviews.
10. Calling yourself a writer and believing it.



Worst things about writing

1. The no idea zone.
2. Your brain won't give you a sentence.
3. You hate your character.
4. The dead middle of the story.
5. Trying to find an agent.

6. Trying to find a publisher.
7. Rejection(ssssssssssssssssss)
8. Trying to keep up with social media.
9. Bad reviews.
10. Believing there are so many good books out there and why would anyone read yours?

Add to my list please. What are your favorite and least favorite things about your career?