Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Flash!  Aaaa-aaahhhhh!  Savior of the Universe! 

(Oops, am I the only one reminded of the Flash Gordon theme when thinking about flash fiction?  Yes?  Ok.)

So... anyway... IT'S ON!  Come celebrate with Vic Caswell (aspiring_x) of Hairnets and Hopes and me!  Vic is celebrating 100+ followers and I'm celebrating 300+ (wow!  you guys rock!) with a flash fiction contest!  Double prizes!  YEAH!!!

Here's how to enter:

1. Write a piece of flash fiction (1000 words or less) with the theme of Truth is Stranger than Fiction. Use something true as your seed idea (something that happened to you, someone you know, something you've read, etc.) and then fictionalize to your heart's content!

2. Email your entry to us by December 15. My email is MaddestHatter(at)verizon(dot)net. Vic's is on her blog. You can email either one of us - I promise we'll share! We are both picking winners and we both have prizes! (Sorry, mine are US only - wish I had the $ for int'l shipping!). Please send a Word doc without your name so that we can judge fairly - after we pick winners, we will match the story to your email!

3. Winners will be chosen and we will post the winning entries on Mon, Tues, and Weds of the next week (Dec. 22).

On Dec. 22, let the blogfest begin!  We hope everyone will post their entries.  We will link for your reading pleasure!

 Oh, wait.  What else... PRIIIIIZES!!! Vic's prizes will be fantastic boxes of books, movies, and candy! Pop on over to her blog to see (she will be posting rules 12/1).  

Over here at Le Dange, all three winners will be getting a secret holiday surprise, PLUS two handmade ornaments each:

... PLUS your choice of the following books (first choice to the first place winner and so on):

(All hardbacks)

We can't wait to read your stories!

Have fun and happy writing!  Feel free to grab our scary angler fish button for your blog!

(And now... just cause I can... "Flash!  Flash, I love you!  But we only have 14 hours to save the Earth!")

Monday, November 29, 2010

No Love for Picture Books?

I don't talk a whole lot about picture books here, since my writing is geared older, but... A recent article in the New York Times describes how publishers are scaling back on picture books as parents favor text-heavy chapter books for their young children.  The full article can be found here:

New York Times: Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children

Sigh.  Wait... SIGH.  REALLY LOUDLY. 

I don't write picture books, but I do teach young children.  I spend a lot of time talking to parents about books that are "just-right" for their children, and trying to slow the rush into chapter books for my first graders. 

Now... I do read chapter books to my class, as read alouds.  With much discussion.  Review.  Vocabulary building.  But my kiddies, even my brightest ones, can gain bad reading habits by jumping too quickly into chapter books.  They learn to decode but they lack comprehension even though they can pronounce the words.  Developmentally, most little guys cannot remember an entire chapter book-length story.  When asked to discuss or retell their stories (book closed) right after they read, they only tell me what happened at the end, because they are unable to accumulate all that text.  Then they begin to do this even in shorter, more simple stories, because it has become a bad habit.  :(
The definition that many first grade teachers use of reading is "making meaning of text".  If our kids are not making meaning, or comprehending, they are not really reading.  They are spitting out words.  They miss the critical thinking skills built with picture books.  And man, are they missing some good stories.

Besides, what's the rush?  I always tell both the kids and the parents that all of them will be reading beginning chapter books (think Henry and Mudge, Poppleton, Frog and Toad) by the end of first grade/beginning of second grade, so let's take the time to lay the foundation and we'll get there.  Chapter books aren't going anywhere. :)

But there is more here than just my rant on "just right" reading.  I am a lover of picture books.  There is SUCH BEAUTY in picture books!  The idea that they are becoming less valued is incredibly sad to me, but on the upside, I get to fill my kiddies' days with them.  As a celebration of picture books, here are some of my absolute favorites:

Oh.  I could go on and on.  These books are like my little best friends.  Thank goodness I get to share them with my own kids and my first graders, along with many, many more wonderful reads.

Do you have a soft spot for picture books?  What are your favorites?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

An Award!

First, I would like to thank the lovely and kind Maria McKenzie from Reading, Writing, Romance for the Versatile Blogger Award!
Maria's blog alternates between delicious and delicious... lol, the eating kind and the "I shall marinate in this writerly advice" kind.  I am, as Handsome Hubs can attest, a terrible cook.  (Fortunately, he is not!)  So people who achieve culinary success earn my awe from the start.  Every now and then HH and I watch Hell's Kitchen and I cringe at the way the less successful chefs on that show get berated, because they are still leagues and miles above me.  (Though I will point out that HH still, after 12 years of marriage, pretends that he likes my culinary experiments... experiments being stuff like... um... chicken.  That I may or may not sear directly to the pan.  Nope.  I totally never did that.  Although I think HH just appreciates the times when he doesn't have to cook, regardless of the wooden chicken that appears.  Stuck.  To the pan.)

Wow, I got totally off track there, lol.  I also wanted to say about Maria that although her writing genre (romance) is completely different from mine (YA... I think... if I ever finish a novel, maybe we'll find out), I find that the advice that she posts and the discussions that she begins are helpful and interesting.  She has recently posted about such diverse topics as poetry (LOVE), villainry (SUPER LOVE), and snippets of writing advice (NEED and LOVE).  So whether are a writer, or just hungry, or maybe even a hungry writer... go stop by.  You'll be glad you did!

Ok, so now for the award "rules" (it's been a long time since I did one of these!), I am supposed to list 7 things about me.  Hmm.  This is the part I always find difficult.  Without going back into past award posts that are buried deep in the vaults of Le Dange, I will probably end up repeating things I've said before, because I'm not sure there are multitudes of 7 things that are all that interesting here. :)  Here goes:

1. I have owned 7 cars in the past 16 years.  5 or 6 of them have been totaled (I lost count). 
2. I once had a pet shark.  His name was Jaws.  He grew about a foot long. 
3. I once had a pet hamster who got some sort of flesh-eating/rotting disease.  Yuuuuuuuck.
4. I kissed a boy in a graveyard once.
5. When Tootsie Roll was a baby, we lived in our basement for a year and a half while the entire rest of our house was being demolished and rebuilt (we turned a cape into a colonial).  It was a horrendous experience, the entire house was flooded twice, our contractor was an alcoholic and the company fired him mid-job... you name it, it went wrong.  When it was FINALLY done, it was gorgeous.  And then we moved. :)
6. This past summer, someone stole my credit card number and ordered really weird things like National Geographic Earth videos, workout videos, and beautiful Oneida silverware.  It was a big hassle that ended with a police stakeout in front of my house.  Kind of bizarre and a real pain in the neck credit-wise, but strangely entertaining.
7. I so seriously wish that I could write a book about the crazy things that are entirely the norm in an elementary school teacher's day (crazy things the kids say, crazier things the parents say).  I love my job, and it is definitely both rewarding and entertaining.  Too bad I'd get fired! ;)

Now my last order of business is to send this award on its merry way to 12 other bloggers I've recently discovered and find fantastic, so the award goes to:

1. Michele Emrath at Southern City Mysteries
2. Donea Lee at Queen of Procrastination
3. Carol Riggs at Artzicarol Ramblings
4. Rebecca T. at Sonshine Thoughts (ok, not "recently discovered"... but definitely fantastic!)
5. Quinn at Seeing, Dreaming, Writing
6. Brad Jaeger

Oops, the curly blonde one has awoken from her thankfully-zithromax-inspired nap (after we were awake together from 1 to 6am this morning - I was then relieved by HH to nap myself - thanks to a recurring ear infection and asthmaorallergiesnooneisquitesure cough).  So my list will have to end here.  Oh, eighth thing about me - I don't always follow the rules (hence the blog title)!  That makes me unruly! :)

UPDATED... Ok, it's a few hours later and my girly whirlies are in bed.  So I am going to add on the final 6 award recipients, because, even though I don't mind breaking the rules, there are so many great and deserving blogs out there!  So here goes...

7. Debbie at Thoughts in Writing, who is a new blogger and whose posts so far have been lovely and touching.  She also just finished her first book!
8. Marieke at Marieke's Musings (currently giving away a preorder of Beth Revis' Across the Universe!)
9. Erica and Christy
10. Vic (aspiring_x) at Hairnets and Hopes (also not a new find but definitely a versatile lady!)
11. Talei Loto at Musings of an Aspiring Scribe
12. Writing in a Nutshell

Ok!  My work here is done, lol.  Maybe I should go, I don't know... write something?!? 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In Gratitude

There aren't words for how thankful I am for them:

And for Handsome Hubby, the most incredible man I know.

For my sweetest fuzzy puppy.

For my family, most of them coming for Thanksgiving, we'll be missing those who can't (next year!).

I'm thankful for having all the things that we don't think twice about but that many people don't have - food, home, warm clothes, cars, safety, medicine, jobs.

For our health.

For my students, my cutie patootie first graders and their supportive parents.

For being able to follow my writing dream (when I can find time, lol).

For friends.  Good ones.

For the beauty in the world around us and remembering to notice it.

For books and music and all of the things that make a good life great.

For bloggy friends who write and bloggy friends who read and this whole amazing community that I became a part of less than a year ago but feel like I've known forever because you all get it.

I'm thankful for the time this week to stop and be thankful.

Happy, happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hunger Games Fan Video

I saw this on Steph Sinkhorn's blog and HAD to repost it here.  This is a fan video made for The Hunger Games (the movie is slated to come out from Lionsgate in 2013).  Pretty darn amazing. (SPOILERS obviously if you haven't read the book yet!)

If you haven't read it yet... Go read it. NOW! :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ooooh! It's a Teeny Prizey Preview!

Hey, Writerly Types!  Don't forget that when you are all NaNo'd out, Vic and I are hosting a Truth is Stranger Than Flash Fiction contest through mid-December!  For details, click that scary looking button on the top right over there.  Vic is doing movie and candy boxes of prizes, and my prizes will be books and holiday goodies.  Sweeeeeeet!  Here is just a teensy little preview of something that will go into my prize boxes - holiday ornaments handmade by my sister.  (Shouldn't she open an Etsy shop?!?)  Now I want Christmas to be here! :D  More contesty details and prize package info at the end of this month!

Many thanks to my awesome sister for sharing her crafty goodness!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Best. (Kiddie.) Gift. Ever.

If you don't know eeboo, click on that link right thar and thank me later.  They are a company with lots of wonderful, imaginative kiddie products like paper dolls, puzzles, special notebooks, etc. But my favorite thing that they sell are Tell Me a Story cards.
My kids loooooooooooooooooove these.  It's a deck of cards with fairy tale pictures on them.  You can do a zillion different things with them, but Tootsie Roll's favorite thing to do is to spread out the entire deck on the floor, upside down (so you can't see the pictures), say "Once upon a time..." and pick up any random card.  She tells the beginning of the story with that card, then says "and then..." and I pick up a random card and continue the story.  It turns out completely differently every time, and sometimes it's really funny trying to curve the story so that the next picture fits into the plot.  Tonight we were literally rolling on the floor laughing at our story.

This is the Fairy Tale Mix Up set.  We also have the Mystery in the Forest set:
There are two other sets, Circus Animal Adventures and Little Robots Mission.  They also make Write Me a Story versions:
... but I always love the stories that we make up ourselves.  I love the storytelling aspect.

They have a million other gorgeous products here.  I am so in luuuuuuuuuv.... Christmas shopping here I come!  (ps... I have no connection to this company, I just love their stuff!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Here, Bake This.

I am, at present, baking an apple pie.  I didn't make the pie, though... my daughter did, at Brownies.  Her wonderful, impressive Brownie leaders were ambitious enough to have each 8 year old girl make her own apple pie using a Betty Crocker recipe.  During their hour and a half meeting after school.  And they also made cornbread from scratch to donate to a local shelter.  (Excuse me, ladies, can I hire you?)  But back to the pie... they handed it to me when I arrived to pick her up and said, "This needs to be baked tonight."  And they gave me directions.  Verbal ones.  Which I promptly forgot even though I tried really hard not to.  So I looked on the Betty Crocker site to find baking instructions (having never made a pie myself) and it pretty much said "Heat the oven to 425, then bake 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown", which is a whole lot less complex than what I was told.  So hopefully it will go well.  We'll see!  The house will smell good, anyway! :)

I don't have much else to write about, being sort of mired in work this month (conferences, American Education Week, and my observation all next week... gahhhh), except that I have to send a giant shout-out to V.R. Barkowski, who just sent me a box of Neil Gaiman books as one of the prizes in her recent signing celebration/300 followers contest.  Thank you, Viva!  And.... Neil Gaiman!!!!  YIPPEEEE!!!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

UPDATED:  The Pie!
And me wishing I could dig in but Tootsie Roll is already in bed so I can't eat her pie without her. :)
Oh, and the books I won were The Graveyard Book (which I had, but not with the perty Newbery Award on it!), Neverwhere (which I didn't have), and American Gods (which I also didn't have). 

After a Pajama Reading Party at school today, adorable pictures made by Curly Jones at preschool, dinner out with the fam, then Neil Gaiman and apple pie (or at least the smell, lol) tonight... Happy Friday!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dear Facebook

Dear Facebook,

I'm leaving you.  Umm... I think I need a little space.  It's not you, it's me.  Ok, it's you and the fact that I don't really need to know the minutiae (I had to look up the spelling of that word, every possibility looked weird) of everyone else's day, even though it is oddly compelling.

It's also me, I believe I have some sort of undiagnosed social anxiety, and for some reason, reading you makes me agitated.  I also find that people say things they might filter a bit more in person.  I've found in the past few weeks that people's (often angry) opinions are getting under my skin.  Plus I have spent too much time with you.  No offense.

So... it's better this way.  I haven't posted in about a week, and I'm feeling more relaxed already.  I haven't even really been wondering what's going on in your world, nor have I been dying to post my kids' new Christmas portraits for the world to see, because, really, I think I'm just over you.

Maybe if I ever have a book to publicize, we'll talk.  I'm not burning bridges, Facebook.  Let's just go our separate ways and maybe I'll even have more time to write said book. :)  Good luck with that dinner you are cooking, movie you hated, and cryptic message that makes everyone ask what's going on.

Not yours anymore,

Monday, November 1, 2010

From October Spookies to November Love

Just so darn cute I couldn't resist...