Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Well, I felt like posting today partly because of a couple of fun books I found, and partly because it's the 29th of February, and how do you not blog on a day that exists once every four years? It sounds like something out of a fairy tale, or a sci-fi thriller, or maybe a mixture of both...
Anyway, at the library last week we (the kidlets and I) stumbled upon a book by an author I mentioned previously named Tom Lichtenheld. The book was called E-mergency!, and since I love everything else he writes, I picked it up and added it to my bag. And I wasn't disappointed. the gist of the story is that all the letters live together in a house, but one day E gets hurt, and by the doctors orders, nobody is allowed to use the letter E until she has a chance to recover, and O has to step in to pick up the slack. Makes for some pretty funny spelling. My kids can't get enough of it, and the illustrations add a whole new dimension to the story. I laughed out loud when I closed the book the first time, and saw the caption, "Look, it's and E-book!".
This book got me thinking to a novel a read a few years ago. One I picked up on a whim and absolutely fell for. It's a novel in letters, and it basically follows the same type of concept. Ella Minnow Pea is a young lady living on the island of Nollop in the Atlantic ocean, named after the man who 'supposedly' penned the famous pangram:
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
Hint: all the letters of the alphabet are used at least once. Anyway, the book is essentially a series of letters written between Ella and her friends and family discussing the political and social issues that arise when letters start falling off the monument established for Nollop, causing the island's high council, by divine will, to banish them from the alphabet.
At first, Ella and friends, find other ways of saying words with banned letters (my favorite is when the council 'renames' the days of the week. But as the alphabet continues to diminish, the text, and the task, become harder, and funnier.
This book is definitely not within my genre, but I considered it so clever and unique, it's moved up the list to one of my all time faves. Check it out, if you need a good read!
And Happy Leap Day!
Saturday, February 25, 2012
So I was blog hopping last night and found an entry by Mark Koopmans for a flash fiction contest. I read his short story (has to be less than 100 words) and inspiration struck. Actually, it was the title of his entry and the concept of telling a very short story of an inanimate object. I think it can also be partially credited to the frozen water nature so graciously dumbed on my doorstep overnight. I'd take a picture if I could get out my front door (lol).
Here is the contest details:
Usual rules: write a story with 100 or fewer words. Post in the comment column of this blog post. (Comments closed until the contest opens). If you need a mulligan, delete your entry and enter again. Only ONE entry per person will be considered for the contest.Use these words in your
choice destroy risk sequel allegiance
Contest opens at NOON on Friday (2/24) and closes at 6pm on Saturday (2/25). Winner receives an ARC of INSURGENT by Veronica Roth, the sequel to DIVERGENT which was voted Best Book of the Year by the readers at Goodreads.com (among many other honors!)
Here is my entry (just for your enjoyment!). I didn't think writing a story of less than 100 words would be hard, but I spent more time cutting it, then I did plotting and writing it (and yes, I did some plotting - in my head - for this story. Crazy, I know!
They say death takes you to a better place.
The sisters stood in motionless reverence, staring down at the lifeless thing, its empty black form in stark contrast to the harsh white snow.
It seems that nature favors pairs, and the twins grasped hands in wordless recognition of their own allegiance, and the chasm that could destroy, dividing this one from its sequel.
The playground was abandoned - children called inside due to risk of bitter cold.
The silent choice was made.
They pulled the frozen mitten from its icy grave, and took it to the lost & found.
Friday, February 24, 2012
I'm very excited about two new opportunities that have become available to me this month.
I was invited to be a roaming contributor (occasional blogger) for Ali Cross' Dojo at ninjaswrite.com. I'm really enjoying the daily posts and the insight and confidence and motivation they provide to get working on the craft of writing. If your looking for a daily boost of motivation to keep moving forward with your writing, this is definitely the place to visit.
One cool thing Ali has done is to create these little buttons you can add to your blog, to earn your Ninja writing black belt. Let me tell you - I am so excited for that day! In the mean time, I'm going to enjoy the process of learning and improving in the craft of writing. I studied the requirements of each of the buttons, and found that some matched and some didn't what I have already accomplished. So I am going to go with the highest level I seemed to have achieved, and work my way up from there. If you want your own ninja writing belt, go check it out and see where you qualify.
Here's what I've done to earn this badge, according to the list of requirements:
- Have been blogging for a year or more (almost five now)
- Joined a writer's association (Authors Incognito, Southern Alberta Writer's Workshop)
- Joined a critique group (three years now)
- Have at least five writer friends (too many to count - isn't that a wonderful feeling?)
- Started visiting writing blogs
- Entered a writer's contest (lots, and won or placed in a few!)
- Have been writing in earnest for six months or more (or years...)
- Attended a writer's conference or workshop (several of both)
- Have your work critiqued by another writer (and now know how important this is)
- Read at least 50 books in your genre (again, too many to count)
I'm excited to keep working towards the purple belt, with my eye forever on the black.
I've also been invited to be a regular contributor with the Mormon Mommy Writers Blog. Starting next week, I will be making weekly posts on Thursday. They have a cool new project called Monday Manuscripts in Motion, encouraging you to pull out a project and do something to tweak it at least once a week. Should be fun! Come check it out:
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I meant to make this post a couple of weeks ago, so I'm going to take a moment to bring it to your attention. Back in December I happened upon a blog promoting a sight called Big World Network. The basic gist is that instead of watching episodes of your favorite TV sitcom or dramas, you can now read or hear chapters of high quality fiction. AKA, books are being presented in the same type of format as a television series. And they're calling them webisodes.
The author I read about in that post is Taryn Taylor, and her book, The Secret, is being released an episode at a time, once a week, on BigWorldNetwork.com. I was curious, and clicked to check it out. I started the series about five episodes in, so I was able to read up to the point where she released the sixth part. And like any great TV show, now I'm hooked. What a fabulous idea! I checked out some of the other authors with books being released on the site, and was quite impressed by the high calibre of writing. There seem to be stories and series from a variety of genres and interests.
I must say, this new little trend may quickly become an addiction.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Wow - so it's been way too long since my last post - I apologize. And I plan to make up for it with an over abundance of dashes in the following 'play catch-up' post. We've been dealing with some health issues - not to be alarmed, I'm talking standard winter cold and flu like symptoms - nothing serious. However, trying to keep on top of life is hard enough when you're healthy. Feeling slightly under the weather trumps blogging, and therefore, my somewhat lengthy silence. However, as promised, lots of dashes.
I promised to give some tips on teaching children how to read, or more importantly, how to love reading. I want to emphasize once again that I'm in no way a certified professional, but having worked as a teacher in the field, I do know the basic tricks. In fact, you may be surprised to learn you actually know them too, even if you weren't aware of it.
And the things I've learned about literacy education I have turned around and used with my own children, so from personal experience, I know they are valid. My six-year-old daughter (notice how I snuck the dashes in???) finished reading Ramona the Pest last night. By herself. I don't say that to brag - I'm just pointing out that there's at least a little bit of truth to these simple teaching techniques.
Aware that I am probably 'preaching to the choir', I will get down off my soap box and get to the point of this post.
How do you teach a child to love to read?
Tip #1 - You read to them.
That's the first and probably most important tip. Read to your kids daily. At least fifteen minutes (that's about three books). We'll get to the how, and what and why in another post, because I think the true emphasis in this technique lies behind the action.
Read to them. Or with them, if you prefer that semantic.
And as simple as it sounds, it works. Professional studies prove that if you do nothing else to teach your child to read but this, they will learn to read (if there are no learning difficulties involved - such may require a different approach).
And as simple as it sounds, it's not as common as it should be. Too high a percentage of parents these days don't even spend fifteen minutes one-on-one with their kids, never mind reading to them. I don't say that as a political/philosophical opinion. I'm just stating a truth.
The beauty of the solution lies in its simplicity as well - it's not hard to adopt the practice of reading fifteen minutes daily. If you are analyzing you're own habits right now, and realize you are missing out on this vital learning opportunity, it's not too late to make a change. If you know of someone who could use this important interaction, encourage change.
Need some inspiration? There's some well known, successful storytellers in the world of children's literature. Names such as Don and Audrey Wood, Robert Munsch and Eric Carle span two or more decades of high quality, well loved story production. But just as in the world of novels, children's literature does not stagnate. Here are some suggestions for authors I have found that are making huge headway with their picture books - because they're that good.
Mo Willems has some incredibly popular books available - including the 'Pigeon' series. This books, however, will remain one of my all time favorite children's books. It's about Leonardo, who just can't scare anybody, and has to learn that there is something more important in life than being a scary monster.
Melanie Watt is an author on fire. Here books are fresh, original, funny and plentiful. Not only does she have the scaredy squirrel series (that includes an admontion to wash your hands with antibacterial soap before reading) but the incredibly popular 'Chester' series, in which Melanie has to wrestle with a Narcissic (did I spell that right?) cat over a fat red pen and the rights to authorship of the story. If you've never read her, head to the library Pronto!
Tom Lichtenheld is also producing a large array of high quality books (most of them co-authored by other up and coming talents). This is one of my favorite. A little cloud who dreams of being something more Cummulous (again with the spelling - I'm too tired to google it).
Finally, for the night, an author I found just this month. Michal Hall makes shapes exciting. This book is about a square that thinks he's perfect until he gets torn up and realizes he can be so much more. I read this book five times today, and still not sick of it. Plus, it has great opportunity for quality art time with the kids.
Snuggle up with one of these fantastic reads with your kids, and I promise you won't regret it!
Thursday, February 2, 2012
A couple of days ago, I promised to write a wrap-up post on the theme of self-publishing (since I've been talking about it all month) and my thoughts, insights, and feelings after the research I've done. However, after much consideration, and some failed attempts at fleshing out the subject, I'm going to postpone that blog for another day. I'll explain more when that day comes.
In the mean time, because it is such an interesting topic these days, and because the field of self-publication is changing so rapidly, if I can across anymore interesting posts/articles/stories, I'll be sure to let you know.
I'd like to kick off the month with a brand-new topic for discussion - and it wasn't even hard to come up with. Because February is symbolically the month of love, I'd like to dedicate the majority of my posts to the topic of love. Not the mushy kind (though that's wonderful too).
The love of reading.
And more specifically, giving our children the gift of loving to read.
My inspiration for this topic actually came from my own daughter. I scanned something I'd like you to read, but before you do, I'll lay out some back story: First, the book referred to, "Meet Kit", is a short early children's novel from the makers of the American Girls Dolls, and was given to my six-year-old daughter for Christmas from a friend at school.
Second, about two weeks ago, my daughter woke up one Saturday morning on the wrong side of the bed. Literally. And she never recovered. It was like a bad preview of what to expect in the teen years. Grouchy. Irritable. Moody. Pouty.
And this from a little girl who scatters sunshine everywhere she goes. Something was definitely off, and though she couldn't find the words to elaborate on what, I figured it probably had something to do with sleep.
So she went to bed early that night. Very early.
The next morning, I found the following note: (Note - I've removed her name and dubbed her 'lil miss' for privacy reasons).
Now my heart absolutely soared with joy when I read this (and yes, some empathy as well - anyone who's read late into the night knows exactly where she is coming from!).
Why? Because I believe one of the most important skills I will pass on to my children is a love of reading. Notes like these are positive signs that all my hard work is paying off. Disclaimer - I certainly am not encouraging her to lose sleep over a book, especially at such a young age. But it is nice to know she loves reading that much, already.
I have a background in early literacy, and experience teaching kindergarten and grade one. I'm not going to pretend I'm even close to being an expert in these fields, but for the month of February, I would like to share some of the activities, books, and ideas I use to teach children to read and write. They're not necessarily peer-reviewed or research-proven methodologies, but they've certainly worked for me and others I know.
I'm also going to highlight some of my favorite children's books and authors!! (One of my all time favorite subjects - Yay!)
You know what else? I'd love to hear about your strategies too. How do you teach kids that books can be fun, and make reading a pathway to future success?
And because I know that there is more to life than children's literature, I thought I'd quickly share two links with you. I saw these recently and thought they fit perfectly with my theme.
The first, from author Jennifer Clark is about an article she found about the statistics on how much people read every year - and the numbers are scary! She weighs in on why it's so important to make the time to read.
Also, writer Lisa Asanuma has proposed a special event for Valentine's Day 2012 - she's calling it Books For Lovers, and the idea is to go out an buy a book on Valentines day from one of the brick-n-mortar stores, instead of purchasing online. To find out why, and how you can support this campaign, visit her blog! It's an interesting post.
In the meantime, I have some reading and writing to do, because hey, I love to! How about you?