Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tackling the TBR Pile

     I'm on a reading frenzy lately. I finished The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour late last week, read Alice Hoffman's Skylight Confessions over the weekend, and I'm just about finished with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Next up: Tighter, by Adele Griffin.
     Tighter, a paranormal YA, showed up in my mailbox a couple weeks ago. I entered so many giveaways this past month but I don't know which blog picked me as the winner (there was no name on the package). So to whomever sent me the book, THANK YOU! Books in the mail always make my day; surprise books are even better!
    What are your yesterday, today and tomorrow books?

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Slow Death for a Non-Techie's Mindset

     My boys and I visited Barnes and Noble yesterday, looking for new books. As always, the girl behind the Nook counter greeted us as we came into the store. Most times she's talking to customers so I can breeze past her. But yesterday she was alone.
     "Have you had a chance to check out the Nook yet?"
      I haven't and I told her so.
     "Do you have a minute? It's really fun," she said.
     The boys darted past her, one heading to the military history section and the other to middle grade fantasy. I wasn't shopping for anything in particular, and I'm guessing my vegetarian sub sandwich at Jimmy John's had me feeling particularly amicable so I walked over to her. She gave me a two-minute tutorial on how to use it. I admired its functions, the capacity for holding thousands of books, its compact size, its sleek design. Maybe sometime in the next few months weeks, I might get one.
     Wait. Did you just feel the ground shake beneath your feet? The earth might have just reversed on its axis. This is huge, people.
     For two years, I've been curling my lip at the thought of an e-reader. I've been ignoring them because 1) after writing on the computer for hours, the last thing I want to look at is another screen; 2) technology (to me) is something that will eventually break (because of me) or become obsolete when the next, gotta-have-it version comes out within the next year; and 3) I like the experience of reading a  book by turning a page, not pressing a button or doing that Jedi move with my fingers on the screen. I just don't NEED one.
     Buuuuut...everyday I come across books through the many blogs I read which sound really good. Their getting great buzz from the big reviewer blogs. I'm winning e-books in blog hops and I can't access them!
    So I took a Nook brochure. It's sitting on the kitchen counter now. I've been glancing at it off and on for the past 24 hours, slowing warming to the idea of buying one sometime soon. I should probably check out the Kindle and IPad, too, to comparison shop. I'm resigned. An e-reader is in my future.
    I'll always love a physical book, though an e-reader has its purpose. I can understand the appeal. When it comes time to make a choice on which format to buy -- hard copy or the downloadable version -- I'm not sure what will drive my decision. But until the Nook brochure sends me back to B & N with an intent to buy, it's still books with real pages for me, thank you.
   Yesterday I bought five.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wanted: Interview Skills for Cave Dwellers

     Lately I've been doing interviews for an article I'm working on. I love doing research. The story is already there; the facts only need to be arranged in a logical order. For once it's nice to take a break from making things up. But I do need to talk to experts to lend legitimacy to my story. And therein lies the problem.
    When I worked in newspapers years ago and interviewed people more often, it was easier. You know, the talking to strangers thing. I'd do preliminary research to gather info about the subject and come up with some (hopefully) intelligent questions. Then I'd organize my questions into a logical sequence so the interview could flow like a conversation instead of a scattershot of random questions. And hopefully, my interviewees' answers would lead to secondary questions from me. Interviewing was challenging and fun! I looked forward to them (except for the drag queen interviews, but I'll save that story for another day).
      Throughout these recent interviews, I've realized one thing: I spend entirely too much time alone! Why do my nerves feel so edgy when I have to talk to someone I don't know? My procrastination skills kicked into high gear each time I went for the phone. I'll call after I put the laundry in the wait, after I clean the bird cage... and maybe the flower bed should be weeded first...and I should put dinner in the crock pot...and...
     After the last interview yesterday, I sat down at the computer. I poured over my notes and began to transcribe the fragments, words and abbreviations into full sentences. My heartbeat slowed. My breathing returned to normal. I was back in my writing cave, sitting in the familiar chair, sharing the moment with my laptop, listening to the finches scritch scritch the gravel on the bottom of their clean cage.
     It was quiet.
     I was alone.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Contests to Keep Kids Reading and Writing This Summer

     When I was in grade school, my school district sponsored a writing contest during the summer. Prizes were awarded for the best stories in each grade. At summer's end, the winning stories were 'published' in a newspaper sent home to parents.
      I got my earliest taste of writing for publication from these contests. It was a big boost of self-confidence just to finish and submit a story, even if mine wasn't the best. Typing away on a monstrous grey typewriter, my grandmother poked away at the keys while I dictated. Our writing sessions always ended with a game of cards or a homemade vanilla shake. Writing during the summer was great fun, and didn't count for real work at all. At least for me.
     Keeping kids reading and writing during the summer can be a challenge, but the key is to make it fun. With that in mind, the sponsors of the following contests have come up with some engaging themes for young writers to keep their creativity flowing and reading/writing skills sharp during the months ahead. (And it might not hurt to stock up on ice cream for a post-writing session treat). Enjoy!

Creative Communication, a site run by teachers and educators, offers a poetry and essay contest several times throughout the year. There's no entry fee. Prizes include a cash award and publication in an anthology.

Boys' Life magazine is offering a reading contest to boys who write a book report on 'The Best Book I Read This Year'. Prizes are Amazon gift cards in several age groups. Details can be found on the magazine's website.

Totem Head's Story Contest is sponsored by AdventureWrite, and is open to kids 18 years old and under. There's a cash prize, publication on the website, and a certificate of achievement for the winning story which must start with the words 'So there I was.'

Young Voices Foundation is hosting a short story contest for three age categories, from preschool to grade 12. They're offering cash prizes, but you'll have to hurry: deadline for submissions is May 31st!

KidPub hosts a writing contest each month in different genres. The judges choose three winners, each earning gift cards. Kids post their stories for readers. You need to be a member to enter the contest.

     Don't forget the reading contests at your local Barnes and Noble. My kids are too old now, but we used to get current books as prizes for reading so many books during the summer.
     Also, your local public library sponsors summer reading programs and contests. Some of my kids' best summer memories were the cool presentations and speakers that our library hosted during June. Thinking back, we saw a balloon artist, yo-yo expert, Ronald McDonald, and animals from a local petting zoo.

Do you know of any other contests which are open to young writers?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness Giveaway

All this week, The Bookshelf Muse is hosting a Random Acts of Kindness BLITZ to celebrate the writing community.

Each day, Industry Sponsors are offering their own Random Acts Of Kindness to show appreciation for writers. WIN Scrivener software packages, Premium Memberships to award winning websites like Query Tracker, The Critique Circle, Auto Crit Editing Wizard, a Blogging class with Media Consultant Kristen Lamb, a Writer's Digest Agent Lecture and a Ultimate Writer's Course through Scribe's Forge (with Best-Selling Fantasy Author TRACY HICKMAN!) that will blow your MIND.

While you're there, don't forget to also grab your FREE PDF copy of Emotional Amplifiers (sidebar). This Writing Guide & Description Tool targets specific conditions like Pain, Hunger, Attraction, and Exhaustion, etc, which can stress characters and heighten their responses to emotion.

Have someone special you'd like to celebrate? Why not give them a shout out on your blog, Twitter or Facebook? Encourage people to connect with them, and improve their visibility online!

Monday, May 14, 2012

First Loves in the Eyes of a First-Grader

    I'm thinking about First Loves today, in the midst of choosing a winner for my Children's Book Week Giveaway (separate post later). Alex Cavanaugh is hosting this First Loves Blogfest, so I've been wracking my memory about these four areas, and here's what I've come up with:
FIRST MOVIE: Hands down, it was Escape to Witch Mountain. I envied the special powers of the two kid characters, Tia and Toby. Kim Richards (Tia) had great hair. And to top it off, they had a soda fountain built into their bedroom suite. How cool is that?!
FIRST SONG: The Bee Gees' STAYIN' ALIVE! My sister was jealous when I got this album for Christmas and she got Barry Manilow. But I envied her new white bell bottoms so it all evened out.
FIRST BOOK: During the entire first grade year, I continuously checked out George and Martha's One Fine Day by James Marshall. I remember thinking George was such a sneak, but he was also so lovable and sweet to Martha. I have to track down a copy.
FIRST LOVE: Despite my better judgement, I was equal parts infatuated with and disgusted with a boy named Tom Delaney in the first grade (first grade was quite the hallmark year for me, I'm realizing!). He gave plastic rings to ALL the girls in Mrs. Kinnaman's class except me. I didn't get why I didn't deserve a ring since he spent all of recess chasing ME and pulled the hat off MY head on the bus to and from school everyday. My crush lasted until fourth grade when Tom moved away. Oh, how I wanted a plastic ring!
     Check out more first loves from the other participants in the list below.
                                                Thanks for stopping by!

Winner of Children's Book Week Giveaway

Thanks to everyone who stopped by Here's the Story and entered the giveaway!

                      And the winner is...


Lexie, I'll be contacting you via e-mail to get your book choice. Congratulations!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Last Days, First Loves, and Pigs

     The school days are numbered here, down to the single digits. I finished my last substitute job today, and I can tell by the energy level in the classrooms that kids are ready for summer. Me too! Now that my kids are teens, I don't look forward to summer with equal parts excitement and dread. The dread part is gone because I'm not hunting for activities to keep them busy anymore. They're involved in camps, summer leagues, jobs of their own choosing, and two of the three are drivers. They're much more self-sufficient now than they were five years ago. Yet they're five years older. There's always a rub, isn't there?
     On Monday, I'm blogging about four of my first loves in Alex Cavanaugh's First Loves Blogfest. I met Alex last month through the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. He's a crazy-prolific blogger and is headmaster of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. You're just dying to know what movie, book, singer, and person hooked me good as an 8-year-old, aren't you? Come visit Monday to find out!
     Speaking of the A to Z Challenge, I've been watching which of my April posts have been most popular, according to the page views. Guess what has drawn the most hits? You'll never guess...PIGS! Yep, that's right. When I wrote about Jack, Jezebelle, and Jeffrey, whom I met at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in March, the post drew twice as much interest as, say, my post on favorite first lines or canyons. I love pigs and, apparently, so do a lot of other people.
    Also, there's still time to enter my giveaway in honor of Children's Book Week. Here's the post from earlier in the week about the details. What's the prize? Any picture book, middle grade or young adult novel of your choice ($15 limit). Be sure to check out the other blogs, too. There's over 100 participating!
    Have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Challenge Revisited

    It was a huge milestone completing the 2012 Blogging from A to Z in April Challenge. To be honest, I wasn't sure I could stick with it in the beginning. I hadn't prepared any posts beforehand, hadn't filled in half the spaces after each letter I'd written in a spiral-bound notebook. Without even a theme to follow, I titled my first April post 'Adventure' not knowing where I was going or how I was going to get there. I could have used the writing map that I blogged about mid-month. But I winged it, right up until the end.   
    WHAT I LOVED: Meeting people with similar interests (dogs, quilting, the Southwest!); looking for artsy letters to add to my post; waking up to find I had a few new followers; the inspirational posts from the Challenge hosts; and comments that made me laugh.
    WHAT I WOULDN'T HAVE MISSED: Letter 'X' (my most half-hearted, ho-hum post); scrambling to post something before the day passed; and not being able to work on my WIP as much as I would have liked.
     A SUGGESTION FOR THE 2013 CHALLENGE: I'd really like to see the blogs categorized somehow so I could easily find people with similar interests. I loved visiting a variety of blogs, and would continue to do so, but subdividing them somehow would be ideal.
     Overall, the Challenge was wildly fun. Thanks to the Challenge hosts for keeping the month exciting, refreshing, and inspirational. And thanks to you, readers, for stopping to hang out for awhile, leave your thoughts, and give me a bit of your time.
     See you around!


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Children's Book Week Giveaway

     Are you ready to win some free books? Fantastic, because in honor of Children's Book Week, I'm one of many blogs offering you the chance to win a children's book, starting today. After you enter, click here to find the list of other blogs offering giveaways. And thanks to I Am a Reader, Not a Writer, KidLitFrenzyClassic Children's Books, and Mymcbooks for hosting the blog hop!
    So how can you win a book here? I'm keeping it simple, folks. There's two requirements: follow me if you haven't already and leave a comment, telling me your MOST RECENT favorite children's book (I say 'most recent' because my favorites change all the time). That's it!
    You have until 11:59 p.m. CST on Sunday, May 13th to enter (one entry per person). If your name is chosen (using, I'll contact you to get your book preference ($15 limit). If you happen to live outside the U.S., you'll receive a gift card to the Book Depository.

And Remember...

Good Luck & Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Catching Up

     Now that I don't have to tie my post to the Letter of the Day like I did during the April Challenge, I feel a little, um...discombobulated (great word, yet I don't think I've ever used it until now). Yep, I've been thrown into a state of confusion without a theme to follow, but there are a few things I need to say:
Photo credit: DragonArtz Designs
     First, I'd like to say THANK YOU again to Lisa Campbell at All Things Campbell for my gorgeous blog makeover! I met Lisa through the A to Z Challenge and am so glad I did! Lisa had great design advice, which I needed desperately. Now Here's the Story has a nice clean look, and I love how Lisa used my monarch on the zinnia photo and incorporated that into the header. Sharp, eh? Where else have you seen a blue monarch?
     Also, I'm participating in a blog hop celebrating Children's Book Week starting Monday. The Children's Book Week Giveaway Hop has over 100 blogs signed up to offer free books and gift cards. Starting bright and early Monday morning, I'll give you the details for entering to win a picture book, middle grade, or young adult book of your choice. Then visit other blogs for chances to win more books! If you'd like a sneak peak at who else is participating, click on the badge at the right.
     Have a great weekend, everyone! See you Monday morning!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

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