For Fun, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Adjectivery

I recently participated in my first-ever Instagram author’s challenge. You’d think that someone who’d been a marketing manager – as in, paid real money to develop and activate marketing strategies for a living – would be aaalll over the marketing for her own writing work. You’d think that, and you’d be right to snicker a little behind your hand right now because I have been slow to do the things I know I should do. It’s okay. I agree with you.

Anyway so I started doing this thing. I was excited. Day one I’m logged in, ready to social media and right out of the gate there was this great prompt: What one adjective would you use to describe yourself?

I didn’t go into this on Instagram, because it’s Instagram, but here’s the story behind my adjective:  I cheated. I asked my husband and my kid what one word they would use. I totally copped out. Because describing myself is like trying to apply liquid eyeliner without a mirror. I can do it, but it’s going to be slightly off. hello, i'm delightful

I like the word they chose, so I don’t mind stealing it one bit. Especially since it can be accurate when used both sincerely and sarcastically. Although I’d prefer to think that a solid 85% of the time I manage to pull off the positive, without a good night’s sleep and a cup of coffee I’m like that eyeliner – a little off.

 

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For Fun, For Writers

Onomatopoeia a.k.a. Sounds Like

ue story: I had to look up how to spell this word three times before I got it right.

How often should we use this useful device in writing? Overdo it and you come off like you’re trying too hard. Don’t use it at all and you might be missing a spicy opportunity.

Some of my favorites (new and historical):

Mlem

Splat

Cluck

Tweet

sploshy splosh
onomatopoeia

What are some of your best onomatopoeias?

For Writers, Uncategorized

Three Content Issues to Consider for Middle Grade Readers

Know your audience. That’s one of the first things they teach you in journalism school. What they don’t teach you is that this rule applies to writing pretty much anything else. Especially children’s fiction. But there’s a catch.

When you’re writing for middle grade readers – or children of any age – you’re actually writing for two audiences: the young reader and the adult gatekeeper.

Whether that gatekeeper is a parent, grandparent, teacher or librarian, there’s almost always another set of discerning eyes on work intended for middle grade readers. It’s tricky, but it can be done.

When you think about it, writing for two readers isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Gatekeepers want to make sure their kiddos’ reading material feeds their brains with wisdom without exposing them to developmentally inappropriate content. Parent gatekeepers are rightly vigilant in determining what their kids may or may not be ready to tackle, and often want to fuel my kid’s imagination by introducing them to parts of the world that they may not otherwise get to see.

The folks who decide where books are shelved and whether they are bought are incredibly important.

In talking with a number of librarians, parents, grandparents and teachers, here are three subjects that are “no-go” when they’re looking for appropriate middle grade reading material.

1) Gore.
Life is full of bumps and thumps. But graphic descriptions of the broken bones is unnecessary for a middle grade reader.

Author Steven James distinguishes suspense from thriller from horror writing like this: Suspense is when you know *something horrible* is about to happen.Thrillers are stories in which the reader knows the horrible thing that’s about to happen and they follow the protagonist through efforts to stop it. Horror is when you watch the horrible thing happening to the protagonist.

The variables here? Point of view and treatment of violence, and they’re relevant to kids as well as adults. Generally speaking, middle grade readers and their adults agree that mild suspense and thrills are okay, but graphic descriptions of violence are not at all appropriate. Violence and gore are off limits.

2) Extreme Romance.
One aunt told me her fifth grade niece would rather read ten books about puppies than a single book about a girl with a crush on the boy-next-door. Middle grade readers are still very outward-focused and don’t want to read an inner monologue describing the torment of a first crush.

Some kids are curious about and experiment with physical romance at an early age – but writing descriptions of physical romance for young children is unnecessary. There’s no need to rush kids into romantic entanglements, and there’s even less need to introduce discussions of attraction or temptation. Seriously, that’s bordering on grooming behavior. Sex, sexuality, and innuendo are out of bounds for this age group. Children should get to be children. Full stop.

3) @#!@##%
“I know that he’s going to hear foul language on the playground at school. I can’t stop him from that, or make him unhear what he’s already heard. That doesn’t make it okay to read cursing in our living room,” says one mom. Coarse language, swear words, potty-mouth characters – however you describe it – are off limits for middle grade readers. If you want to create an “edgy” character, use wardrobe or behavior choices, give her an interesting ‘tic’ or quirky habit. But keep it clean.

Does this jibe with what you have learned about writing for middle grade readers? Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear about your experiences writing for this age group, so please comment below.

For Fun, For Writers, Personal Growth, Say What?

Marbles and how to find them. Maybe.

Have you ever looked at your Astounding List of Totally Compelling Blog Post Ideas and wondered to yourself, “What in the name of chili cheese fries was I thinking when I wrote that?”

Yep. That happened to me today. Three times.

Maybe you can help me remember what in the world I’d wanted to write about when I jotted this little jewel into my notes folder.

No Chickens On The Boat
Exhibit A.  Ahoy.

 

 

So yeah. I don’t remember what that was about.  I love chickens.  Enjoy boats too. But not sure where the chicken-boat combo came from.

 

Or this one:

Another idea

 

I feel like this is something I wanted to investigate but now I can’t remember what it is or why. This is why the internet is my frenemy. It kicks the tires of my imagination but then disappears off the lot of my brain.

Last one:

scrambled mess
?????

 

I know not where to start. Apparently at one point I was considering a poll. And laughing about mental face slapping.

If I couldn’t laugh at myself I’d be crying right now. This is how my brain works, my friends. The funniest thing though is that I think I’m being so clever and efficient, writing down these ideas when I have them. Apparently I need to write a note to myself and explain that I need more context in my own notes.

 

 

IMHO, My Heart, Processing

About Parkland, Florida.

Seventeen families are living a nightmare this week. If I stop and think about what these folks are experiencing, it’s overwhelming. Everywhere I look there are reminders of just how much pain my fellow parents are feeling. I had the extreme privilege of hugging my child this morning and it brought me to tears.

Call me crazy if you must, but I’m not ashamed to weep for strangers. If collective sorrow is what it’s going to take to help people heal, change peoples’ hearts for good, motivate us to help hurting people, is crying such a bad thing? And come on, who isn’t crying about the tragic loss of life in what should be the safest of places?

There’s a lot of debate, as there always is after tragedy, about what to do next. The below piece of verse has been nagging at my brain, so I looked it up and found comfort and direction not just in Romans 12:9, but also in the verses that followed:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Feeling helpless is horrible. We want something to do, a way to act, and act now. We want this because these precious souls, the ones we lost, they matter, and we don’t want them to have been lost in vain. We want to act now because for some of us it feels like the earth has stopped spinning and the sun has turned to coal. Or it would if those had been our kids.

People always say you don’t know what someone is going through until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. I think that kind of cliché does us all a disservice, because it assumes we do not have the capacity for empathy. I don’t know anyone who is incapable of empathizing with others. We just don’t do it as much as we should. I know one thing for sure –  I think we can all imagine all too well what we would feel like if those had been our kids.  And it scares the daylight out of us.

So we grieve. And we get up and we cling to what is good. We bless those who curse us. We make time to put kindness and light and purity back into the world as best we can. If the life, death, and resurrection of Christ has taught us anything, it is that the worst thing to happen is never the last thing that happens. Even though it may not feel like it now, love always wins in the end.

For Writers, IMHO

Stating the obvious.

When I first decided I was going to make a for-real attempt at writing for a living, I started reading all the advice to new writers I could get my hands on. You know what the underlying thread is in nearly all of them – from award-winning, NYT Best-Selling icons to newbies?

Every single person says the best thing you can do if you want to be a writer is to write every day.

I love love love though that nobody tries to hide the secret sauce. There’s no silver bullet method to getting published. If you talk to a dozen authors, you’ll get a dozen unique stories about their path from idea to shelf, whether they’ve self-pubbed or been picked up by one of the big houses. But you can’t get published if you don’t write.

The killer, of course, is that this is much harder than it sounds.

Life gets in the way. Work. Spouse. Kids. Pets. Plumbing. Illnesses. Miss one day and it snowballs into months in a blink of an eye.

So here’s my advice, as a pre-published author who also happens to freelance copywrite and proofread for a living. If you’ve missed a day (or year), put it behind you. Don’t beat yourself up. Start fresh. Start now. Make an appointment with yourself to write for however long you can, however often you can. And keep that appointment.

For Fun, IMHO, Personal Growth

New Things.

pexels-photo-775779.jpegWell, we made it. A new year! And with the flip of the calendar page comes mystery and possibility and hope for making the next 365 days better than the last.

For some reason, in spite of the potential January brings, I sometimes get overwhelmed by all the excitement and determined energy around me.

In grad school we called this phenomenon “analysis paralysis.” It happens when you overthink a situation to the point of being unable to take logical next steps. You spend so much time thinking about your options until the thought of actually exercising any option and experiencing a possible consequence becomes ridiculous.

 

This failure to make a decision means that eventually, the passage of time makes your decision for you. It means instead of shopping for a good loan and buying a new vehicle to replace an unreliable one, you end up stranded in your hoopty on a busy highway at rush hour. Or it means you pay overtime plus weekend rates for a plumber when you could have sorted out the clogged drain when you first noticed it.

I’ve spent all of January worrying about which resolution to make, which bad habit to correct, what to do with my time. Maybe this is the year that I budget my time better. Or stop procrastinating. Or spend more time doing and less time worrying.  Am I too late to try?

Maybe not. Maybe my New Year starts February 1, when all the other resolvers start to wonder if they really want to stick with their new things.  Maybe I can cut myself some slack and remember that His mercies are new each morning, whether I’ve analyzed them to pieces or not. I can be thankful that grace is never indecisive.