Saturday, January 29, 2011

One Love-ly Little Lady

My Tootsie Roll may still be little (she's 8), but she has a huge heart.  She is known for making donations to those in need, including most of her Easter goodies every year to a local shelter, completely her own idea.  When she was in kindergarten, a classmate of hers was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. He returned to school when the kids were in first grade and most of the boys in the class shaved their heads in support of his return.  T-Roll chopped about a foot off her hair back then and donated it to Locks of Love, where it was used to make a wig for someone who has lost his/her hair due to illness.  Now, two years later, her friend is (thankfully!) in remission and Tootsie decided it was time to donate her hair again.  I'm so proud of her giving nature.

T-Roll and Daddy sport their new haircuts
She loves her grown-up new 'do!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mugged! Erica & Christy's Blogfest

It's time for Erica and Christy's Simply Hot Mug Shots blogfest!  The Teacher Mommy Writer Bloggers invited everyone to share their favorite mugs, something a writer cannot live without!  This was the perfect blogfest for today here in New Jersey, cause... um..

Me + snowbank that is taller than me when I am standing -  I give up! :)
For the record, those ARE gray pajama pants with silver hearts.  Jealous?

Handsome Hubby fighting his way through the mad snow beast

So yeah.  Some AAAAHHHHHHHHH in a mug is a pretty awesome thing. 
Mug with quote from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
I got this one for Christmas from a good friend who knows I am an Alice obsessor fan.

You can probably guess that as an elementary school teacher, I have a mug collection to end all mug collections.  Which is actually a good thing, seeing as coffee and I are pretty much attached at the hip.  (Last month, in a completely inhumane effort to save energy costs, we were told to get rid of all coffeepots, microwaves, etc. in our classrooms.  Ok, it was also for safety reasons.  Ok, I also totally get it and really don't mind walking down the hall to use the Keurig in the faculty room, except that I can't break free from my room until 12:10 every day when  my kiddies go to lunch.)  I have teacher mugs galore and I have adorable mugs with my kiddies' pictures on them (and even one with a collage of pictures of my dog), but in honor of my mostest favoritest book in the entire world, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and it being Lewis Carroll's birthday this week, I give you... my Alice mugs!
Cheshy... he used to appear when you poured hot things in the mug and disappear leaving only his grin behind when the mug was empty, but alas, he grows old and weary and is just sort of half-there all the time now.

And my all-time favorite...

"I'm Queen and you're not."

No, my mugs are not floating on air, they are sitting happily on my very weird glass table that came with my house.  That middle green part has tiles of fruit around it and is filled at the top with black beans.  I blogged about that weird table at the end of this here post, complete with pictures.

Happy blogfesting!  Stay warm! :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Bad Surprise and a Good One

Guess what woke me up at 4 this morning?  A bad surprise of the stomach variety.  (Guess who called at 2:30?  Tootsie Roll's school nurse with similar surprise).

Guess what arrived in the mail today?  An ARC of Matched by Ally Condie that I won from Mary Campbell at Writer's Butt Does Not Apply to Me!

Yay and woohoo!  This has definitely made my day.  Thank you, Mary!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Red Riding Hood Trailer

Red Riding Hood Trailer 2
Uploaded by teasertrailer. - Check out other Film & TV videos.

What do you think of this trailer?  I can't say I'm really excited to see this movie, which is sort of disappointing because you could do so much with a new Red Riding Hood.  It's from the director of Twilight and I have to admit that I haven't seen the Twilight movies, but this trailer sort of reminds me of Twilight vs. The Village.  I think it comes out in March.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lindsey Learns... to Be Prepared

This feature is based on whatever I am reading at the moment (so, yes, you are at the mercy of my readerly whims) and whatever I happen to learn as I am reading. My goal is to write about it and then open the subject up for discussion in the comments. Please come on along for the ride!

Tuesday was a bad day in first grade.  It was because everyone was a little off from school being closed on Monday and then Tuesday we had a delayed opening due to snow and icy roads and I had a meeting as soon as I got to school and didn’t have time to finish making copies and get prepared for the day as I would on a normal day when I get there early.

When you have taught the same grade for 13 years, you can certainly wing it for an afternoon – you know how to teach a concept backward, forward, inside, and out.  You have lots of different teaching methods in your bag of tricks. If you don’t have copies, no worries, you can pull out another way to teach the same thing.  But still, being unprepared makes me crabby, and in turn, threw my kiddies off.  I felt like there was no foundation to our day, and I felt like I didn’t teach things well, and I felt as the day went on like it was unraveling like a sweater. 

A seasoned colleague of mine who is retiring this year has all of these wonderful, funny truisms about life in first grade, and one of her famous ones is "the fish rots from the head".  She doesn't even know where the saying came from, but what it means is that if the class is having an 'off' day, it can be that they're taking their cues from you (the teacher).  In other words, if you're not feeling well, if you're stressed out, if your mind is elsewhere, if you're pushing them too hard... chances are you will see it reflected back in the kids' behavior.  On Wednesday, I didn't feel like I was prepared, and it threw me off, and in turn, my kids.

Immediately, when I stepped back to reflect on the day, I made the connection to my current writing situation.  Recently, Elana Johnson sang the praises of the book Save the Cat! on her blog.  It was within a post where she discussed how to start your book, and since I have my story idea all happily settled and the beginning has been a real bugger, I was all, HELLS YEAH and my fingers immediately did the walking and ordered the book.   Like, pronto.  Flames, on the sides of my fingers.  I typed that fast.

"Flames... on the sides of my face..."

Save the Cat! is actually a book about screenwriting, but as Elana said, the advice it gives is just as effective for novel writing.  It's a quick and easy read, to the point, makes things so clear, and on every page, it's like, YES, THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE!  Trust me.  Go buy it.  I'll wait.

Back?  Ok.  So Save the Cat! arrived at my doorstep pretty quickly (for those of you who have been following for awhile, no one stole the package from my front door!  Bonus!) and I dove right in.  I kinda had to, because Handsome Hubby is a TV Productions teacher and I think he is chomping at the bit to steal my new little gem. :) 

Anyway... onward toward the point of this post, I promise... I have been gobbling up the book and in it, Blake Snyder wills us as writers to do some sensible planning before we dive into the writing.  To have a clear logline in mind.  To make our MC likeable, even if just a little, so the readers are willing to go on this journey with us, and to have the genre clearly focused in our minds because each genre has a set of beats that should be followed to make the story a success.  He tells great tales of why movies flopped, generally because the moviemakers spent lots of money on effects rather than a few dollars on bettering the script.

So what did I learn from this?  That the whole reason that I am having trouble with my beginning, even though I have a whole story in mind, and pieces of it written, is that there were small but immeasurably important steps I hadn't yet taken before flying into the writing itself.  In essence, I jumped the gun.

Ok, this is more like running but... yeah.

So I stopped.  And I thought.  And I storyboarded.  And I worked on a logline and a title that gave me a clearer vision of my own story (they are still works in progress, but I feel like I have a lot more direction).  I know now how my MC will "save the cat", or perform an act at the beginning of the story that will sort of set her character in the readers' eyes.  It makes sense, but I hadn't done it.  I carefully read the 10 genres of screenplays he wrote about (it fits books also) and the necessary beats and focus of each one, and better identified the type of story I am writing.  And it has made so much sense.  I'm a complete Blake Snyder convert.  (And I have a brand shiny new CP to show my story to once I spiff it up a bit! WOOT!)

So let's chat.  Are you a plotter and planner, or are you a gun-jumpin' pantser?  What works for you?  Have you read Save the Cat!?  Did it help you like crazy like it is helping me?  Let me know in the comments!

Oh and by the way... Wednesday was much better  in school.  So much so that I have a First Grade Funny to leave you with (yes, I know that's poor grammar, sue me):  So when your girls are being noisy in the hallway bathroom and you go in and ask them all sternly what they are doing, and you find that they are playing Rosa Parks and they show you how each stall is a bus seat.... You just kinda have to laugh. :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rediscovering, Part 1

When I was little, when my first real memories begin, at the early elementary age, we lived in a tiny little town in central Pennsylvania called Tyrone.  It's near Altoona.  Tyrone's big claims to fame were that it was the home of Gardner's Candies (creators of the peanut butter meltaway, yummmm)

and the home of bandleader/musician/radio personality Fred Waring.
There was a Fred Waring Day each year in Tyrone, though I don't for the life of me remember what anyone did to observe it.  There was a paper factory that stunk up the town on occasion and I remember two parks, Soldiers Park which memorialized fallen soldiers from Tyrone, and Reservoir Park where the annual Easter Egg Hunt was held.  I remember going to Soldiers Park on a school field trip.

When I was in third grade, we moved back to a suburb of Philadelphia (I was born in that area too).  When you live there, your school field trips are all to Philly museums and historical sites.  Which is a lucky thing, obviously.  Except when you're a kid, you don't see it like that.  Instead, you whine, because, well, you're a kid and you're good at whining.

"We're going to the Art Museum again?"

"We went to Betsy Ross' house in second grade."

"Yeah.  It's the Liberty Bell.  Seen it."

When you're young, you really don't appreciate the treasures around you, especially if they are relatively easily accessible.  As I grew older, I didn't visit many of these places.  When I could, I'd hit the Jersey shore or if I was really lucky, see a show in NYC.  My little world was broadening and I didn't want to see the same old museums; I wanted to see what else there was to see out there.
Broadway - New York City

My Philly suburb was still pretty city-like, and I always wanted to live somewhere a little quieter, so I went to a teeny tiny college whose entire student body was about the size of my high school graduating class, and then Handsome Hubs and I ended up settling down in a small town (which I love love love).  I laugh because TR's school field trips have been to the local museum of our town, local farms, the ice cream shop, the pizza parlor, and once a year they go somewhere bigger like the Philly Zoo or the Franklin Institute.  But Philly is an hour away, so those trips are a big deal, not like when I was a kid.  She loves to go.  This past summer, when Tootsie Roll was about to turn eight, we took her to Washington, D.C. because she really wanted to see the landmarks she was learning about in school, in particular the Lincoln Memorial.

(I won't tell you about how Curly Jones scooted under that little chain there and ran up the steps, screaming in three year old glee.)  We saw most of the major landmarks in D.C. and went to several of the Smithsonian museums.  We hadn't planned on going into the Smithsonian Art Museum; however, because I thought we might get thrown out  the three year old I mentioned above isn't exactly the most sedate, art-appreciative type just yet.  But we went in by accident, thinking it was the Museum of Natural History (which we eventually found next door).

Anyway, where is this story going?  When we went into the Art Museum by accident, Tootsie Roll was instantly entranced.  Amazed.  In awe.  She pulled out a little notebook I had given her to keep her busy on the drive from NJ to D.C. and began taking notes.

(Did you know you can take pictures in art museums?  You can!  At least in D.C. and Philly).  We couldn't stay as long as we would have liked since someone little was a bit less entranced, but it reminded me of all of the treasures I had at my fingertips growing up.  So over Christmas break, we dropped CJ off at preschool one day and took TR to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is only about an hour away from where we live now in New Jersey.

It was amazing to rediscover a place I'd been so many times as a kid and probably never really appreciated the way she did on her first visit.  Part 2 with pictures coming soon!

Me:   These are famous steps.  Rocky ran up these steps in the movie!

TR:  Rocky who?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lindsey Learns... About Mood

This feature is based on whatever I am reading at the moment (so, yes, you are at the mercy of my readerly whims) and whatever I happen to learn as I am reading. My goal is to write about it and then open the subject up for discussion in the comments. Please come on along for the ride!

It was a dark and stormy night...

Mood.  Tone.  Is it set up at the beginning of your novel?  Do we know where we stand pretty quickly?  Do we need to? I just finished reading Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and without spoiling anything, I can pretty easily say that the book's mood is helpless.  The Unconsecrated (zombies, if you haven't read it yet) are kept out of the town by fences.  Those same fences keep all the people in.  And there is constant worry that eventually the Unconsecrated will breach the fences.  It's only a matter of time.  Helpless.

This doesn't mean that the main character, Mary, is helpless.  Her own moods and hopes rise and fall with the conflicts that she faces personally throughout the story.  Sometimes her life is focused on other things, and as readers, we are vaguely reminded of the constant moaning and rattling of the Unconsecrated at the fence.  Sometimes she is in the middle of Very Dangerous Zombie Smackdown with Potential Death. (I was going to put a zombie pic here but... they are pretty nasty!  And my 3 yr old is right here... lol)

My current WiP is getting a complete redo.  I started it last January, abandoned it, and restarted it at the end of the year.  I've re-outlined, reworked, and started the writing from scratch.  I have a few major decisions to make before my writing can seriously continue, mood being one of them. 

I'm trying to decide right now what the overall mood of the writing should be.  A big part of that is nailing down my MC's voice, because the lens through which she views events will obviously affect the mood of the story.  What I liked a lot about the mood in Carrie Ryan's book is that you feel the blanket of depression surrounding Mary even when Mary herself is not feeling that way.  It's the mood of the situation, of the general populace, of the setting.  Her book starts long after the world becomes zombified.

My book is a little different, the people in the story discover the problem around the same time that my MC does and the situation goes from typical to bleak over time.  Working on that mood shift is delicate - I have to make it realistic, not zero to panic mode in 60 seconds, and not so gradual that it's boring - while my own character's specific conflicts will work into, with, against that backdrop.  Sometimes she will fall into the overall mood and other times she will fight against it.

 (For the record, I am reading another book where in one sentence it talks in first person about the MC's "big, open, genuine smile" and then in the next sentence he slams something on the ground because he is so mad.  Mood of me, the reader?  Totally confused about mood of the MC and of the story  in general!)

The biggest struggle I have with mood is that I don't have big chunks of time in which to write (hence  my 100 word a day goal) and it's hard to get enough into the mood myself with the time I have.  I know a lot of you have soundtracks to write by, but as much as I love music, that's not really how I work.  I'm hoping that the further I get into it, the more naturally I will slip into the mood.

So let's talk mood.  What is the underlying mood of your WiP?  Have you ever found a book that doesn't seem to have a consistent mood?  A book where mood is like a character, the way setting can be?  An author who sets mood extremely well?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


My New Year's Resolution:  100 words a day

'Cause sometimes, that's how my life rolls.  And on days when I can write more, awesome.  This goal has been incredibly good for me in the first few days of the year.  There have already been days where I couldn't begin to write anything before 11 pm, and need to be up at 6 all bright eyed and bushy tailed for another first grade day.  But even after a loooong day, I can type 100 words before crashing.  It's only a few sentences, really.  The best news?  Even on the nights where I've gotten a super late start, my 100 word minimum has turned into 300 or 400.  Just giving myself the freedom to say - You know what?  I can write something today.  100 words is ok.  - has prompted me to write even on those days when I would normally not even think about getting into it at 11pm.

And a super extra added bonus?  Rebecca T. of Sonshine Thoughts is joining me in my 100 words a day resolution, and she made this shiny happy button to put on our blogs and keep us going!

Rebecca is awesomable for several reasons, not the least of which being that she can totally quote the movie Clue and didn't think I was a complete crazy person when I sent her a Goth NaNo Cheerleader Barbie.  (Shut up, yes I did).  Anyway, she and I would like to welcome anyone who would like to make your own 100 Words a Day in 2011 resolution to feel free to post the button on your blog as well. 

And now, as the night is young at 9:06 and I only have about half an hour of spelling assessment scoring to do... I may get to do some research and write tonight!  Woooohooooo!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Lindsey Learns... Not to Be Repetitive

See Lindsey learn.  Learn, Lindsey, learn!

Welcome to my new weekly feature, Lindsey Learns!  New year, time for a change.  I started this blog a year ago, in January 2010.  Thus far, I haven't had any regular blog features but now, along with my resolution to write 100 words (or more) a day (which so far has turned into multiple hundreds daily, yay!), I've decided to try to focus more on specific areas of writing in at least one post a week.

We all read.  A lot.  And we can't help but to read as writers.  We read and marvel at word choice or characterization or plot twists, or we read and wrinkle our noses (admit it, you do too) at things that make us wonder how on earth this book got published.

This feature is based on whatever I am reading at the moment (so, yes, you are at the mercy of my readerly whims) and whatever I happen to learn as I am reading.  My goal is to write about it and then open the subject up for discussion in the comments.  Please come on along for the ride!

For the record, I will use book titles in any post discussing something positive in my reading.  Whereas it is not my goal to ever bash a book or a writer, if I am writing about something that bugs me in a book, I will not use titles or author names.  Let the games begin!

Lindsey Learns... Not to Be Repetitive

Ha, so I just repeated my post title.  Pretend you don't notice.  Ok, so the idea for this new weekly blog feature came to me just before Christmas as I was trudging my way through a YA book that I really did not like.  I plowed through it, but as I was reading, I kept thinking - wow, why did the author do that?  Or why won't he explain what this made-up creature looks like, because I can't picture it in my head?  And I got to thinking that I learn as much from "bad" books as I do good ones as I do books on the craft of writing.  So why not put those thoughts into post form and begin some discussion.  Are you with me? 
The good news is that after Christmas, I read a very good quick book (Flipped, so darn cute, loved it) and began reading two other books that I am enjoying quite a bit more than that other crazy, confusing one.  One is billed as a YA "postapocalyptic romance" (Book A) and the other is a paranormal YA (Book B).  I am not using their titles here not because I dislike them - actually, they are both interesting and I am quite compelled to find out what will happen in both.  However, strangely enough, they share a trait that is bugging the heck out of me - they are both very repetetive in language.

Book A's main character and all of the other major characters are constantly crumbling.  That word is used to describe their despair over and over, they are constantly falling to their knees.  There are always tears crowding their eyes or tears burning eyes or tears springing to eyes and eyes meeting. The main character is quite often struck with some knowledge, or struck with a new understanding, or struck with disbelief.  And there is a lot of hand gripping.  Much description of hands and what they are doing (and no, it's nothing naughty, stop that!). The MC is constantly struggling with urges.  The story here is nicely original and is definitely engaging, but I find myself wondering at the same words being used over and over.  I do realize that that can be a style choice, but it's really standing out to me.

Holding Hands
Gripping, isn't it?
 What's probably not helping is that the same thing is happening in Book B.  Now, in this book, there is constant description of rain (it never stops raining!) and the MC's odd ailments.  Now, these things, I understand - they create an atmosphere necessary to the story.  No, I don't need to be told that it's still raining all the time, but I don't mind it, because the setting is like a character in this particular book.  There is also a lot of repetition of character behavior, which I also understand.  But then there is constant repetition of the MC experiencing smells so strong they get in his mouth, or smells so vivid he can taste them or smells that bring on his gag reflex.  Oh, and he also has many a dull ache.  Again - interesting and original book, and again I find the repetition of language odd (odd enough that I actually noticed it in both books and I'm only halfway through, so I flipped through each one and sure enough, several examples of those words popped right out.)

I'm sort of scratching my head here at why some of these words were not edited into synonyms or similar ideas.  I mean, "dull aches" can be described in many ways, can't they?  I mean, I can completely relate to the need to keep saying that the MC is aching, but why not change up the wording a bit? Or is this something that just bothers me?  I'm finding that I enjoy both books, but this is the one nagging thing that is bugging me.

So let's discuss your thoughts on this, and also, are there certain words or phrases that you know you repeat in your own writing that you've had to edit?  I'll be curious when I am much further into my WiP to check and see if I am doing the same thing!