Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's almost time!

November is almost here and that means one thing--National Novel Writing Month! Let the madness begin!

http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/312950

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speaking up for SPEAK


Several years ago I did a unit of Literature Circles with a group of students. The process of Lit Circles has students choose novels and the students who read the same novel work their way through the book together. The few years that I have done this, I usually choose a book and read with a group as well.

One year, I chose to read the novel Speak with a group. That year the group happened to be all girls--there were three of them, and I made member number four.

I remember talking about how sassy Melinda was, how we loved how she nicknamed her teachers, and that we ached for her lonely situation. One of the girls in the group was very artistic and made wonderful art pieces to go along with the book.

I got to "the scene" before the girls did, so I knew what was coming, but I was unprepared for their reaction. They had read that part on their own, and then we were to have a discussion. I remember that day as the girls sat kind of quietly for a while, we didn't really know what to say. Then one of girls looked up at the rest of us and there were tears streaming down her face. We all froze; we all knew what she was trying to say. One of the other girls reached over and grabbed her hand. I knew if she wanted to talk, she would, and I did the only thing I could think of--I read the next part to them. I wanted desperately to show them that Melinda was okay, that she was able to overcome what happened to her. I remember looking up to see those hands clasped together as I read to them. It still chokes me up to this day. A few days later, the girl came up to my desk during class, her copy of Speak in her hands, and asked to go see the counselor. She seemed like a weight had been removed from her shoulders. She never told us her story, she didn't need to, Melinda told it for us.

The power of this novel speaks volumes. Students and teens must have a chance to read this book. Taking this book away from students or calling it "soft porn" is the same ignorance that took Melinda's voice away. We must continue letting this story get to students and the world.
I had the good fortune of meeting Laurie Halse Anderson a few years ago. I wanted to tell her this story of my student, but just got choked up instead. That's the power of this book. It speaks for us--for all of us.

For more information about Laurie Halse Anderson or the article that is misleading people about her book, please visit her blog and please SPEAK up for her book.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"The Twitter"

I know that I am years behind when it comes to this, but I finally got me a "Genu-wine" Twitter account. And now I am totally lost.

**Random Thought: I love the movie trailer where Betty White says, "I'm also on the Twitter." Adding the "the" just cracks me up.

So, I am asking for Twitter Tutorials. Can anyone help me out?

Like,
What does the # mean?
How do I find people to follow?
How do you make heads or tails of your homepage with all those random quotes?
How do you find stuff about writing?

I may be better off just reading Jane Friedman's Best Tweets for Writers once a week . . .

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nostalgia

It's fall in West Texas and that means that there is one thing on the minds of a lot of people--Football. We started school last week and already, here they come, young men in their ties and jerseys, ready for Friday Night Football.

We went to our first game Friday. The weather was perfect. The kiddos dressed in the school colors, Little Miss A even wore her tiny cheerleading uniform for her special half-time performance with the other 40-50 little girls from the summer camp. As I kneeled on the track snapping countless photos of my little girl dancing on that field, I was transported. Who wouldn't be? I love the lights shining down in a stadium, I love the cheering crowds, and I love hope that comes when those uniforms come out. I actually missed the first two touchdowns because I was just taking it all in.

I have been doing this all my life--going to football games. I can think of so many memories that started or ended at a football game.

And I know again why I write Young Adult books. Because for me, that the THE TIME. There were so many beginnings and endings, so many football games, so many memories that come out of those years, so many possibilities. It's worth writing down.

I can't say it all myself, but this video helps. Enjoy!

My New Best Friend

I have an aging, temperamental laptop. I am forever trying to prolong its life and double/triple back things up. My gmail account is becoming littered with files that I have sent and resent to myself just so that I have a backup copy somewhere.

Then I found a new site that is saving so much time and is literally saving my writing. Dropbox is awesome. It offers an easy way to backup files, sync files, and share files. And I love that I can save things on my laptop and still be able to get to them on other computers--like my reliable, tech supported school computer! Best part--it's free.

No more emailing files. No more worries. My new best friend.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Secret

Yesterday I read six submissions from my critique group, commented on three on them, worked on an outline for my own book, blogged a little, caught up on the Verla Kay boards, and reread a MS that I wrote a couple of years ago. It was one of the most productive "writing" days that I have had in a while. School starts here in a week and I went back to work on Thursday, so this is usually one of the busiest times of the year for me. I surprised myself by being so productive. What was the secret of my productive day? No, I didn't hire a babysitter, the dogs were still running wild in the house, and everyone got fed. One change made the difference--I turned off the darned TV! This is not something that is easy for me. I like the "noise" around me, but man, I sure got a lot done!

Let's see if I can be productive again today.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.

Dear Neglected Blog,
I know you have been sitting idle for quite a while, and I understand that you may be feeling lost and alone. I apologize for not getting over here to post more things. I could go on and on with excuses about writers block, or messy houses, or dirty laundry. I could blame your neglect on my kids wanting meals or my dogs needing water, but I won't. I take full responsibility for your neglect. What can I do to make it right?

Okay, okay. I will try to think of more things to write, more information to share, and more pictures to post. I can't promise that you will never be neglected again, but I will do my best to pay more attention to your needs. At least until I get into another book.

Your friend,
Aimee

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Using Screenwriting Techniques for Novels

I have given in to temptation and started working on a new idea. I am not going to go so far as to say I am writing a new book, because, well, no writing is happening yet. And we leave tomorrow to take my son to a place to help with his developmental issues, so I don't want a book to take over my life as we embark on this important journey for him.

The thing is--the idea has become a nag. Nag, nag, nag. It's like when your ears get stopped up after flying and you can't really think of much else but relieving that tension. So, here I go.

To get started, I know I want to use a three-act structure, similar to a screenplay. I headed out on the trusty ol' internet, and found a great source from the master himself--Syd Field. I have read The Foundations of Screenwriting and studied the makings of a screenplay. Many people recommend using this structure for novels, and since I write books for teens, and teens watch lots of movies, I think this is the best route to go.

On Syd Field's website, he explains the Three-Act Paradigm (in a great slideshow nonetheless), and even offers some exercises to help a writer work with the paradigm. It is a great resource and inspiration.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Funny Author!



I met Amy Kathleen Ryan at the Rocky Mountain SCBWI confernce last year. She is smart, witty, and engaging. I don't know this Sparks guys she speaks of (disclaimer: yes, I do, but still think she is way better!), but I never met him and didn't laugh at any of his videos--so she gets to be on my blog, not him.

Enjoy!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Giveaway on Larissa's Blog

My friend and fabulous critique partner Larissa is having a great giveaway on her blog. She got to go to a great conference and has decided to share the love! Please stop by and follow her blog and comment to be entered.

Larissa's Blog

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Weekends Off?

I've been trying to get caught up on some of my blog reading over the last few days, and I am glad that some people take the weekends off--it is helping me get caught up.

I got to thinking that the weekends typically signal high-gear for my writing. There is too much with all the work, kids, and television during the week for me to do much with my writing. But there is something about my favorite purple coffee mug and a Saturday morning that just gets all the gears turning in my head.


So here's what I do on the weekends to get caught up.

Critiques--some of them are long overdue, but it helps me get to work on my own stuff.

Read--sometimes novels, sometimes books on writing. This week: The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman

Reading Blogs--looking for advice, tips, inspiration

Think--(today it was out by the pool, most days it is in the shower) I think about my characters and my plot points and my ending/resolution . . . or starting a new book

Facebook--ok, this really isn't helpful at all, but I can't seem to stay away. I like to justify going to check things since I have writer friends there.

Oh, and sometimes I write!


I wasted enough time today. Tomorrow I crack open Word and get to work. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hiatus

I guess I unintentionally "unplugged" for the entire month of May and most of April. Ooops! Summer is here and I am slowly getting back to work on some writing. Here are a few highlights over the last month and a half.

1. My first 40 pages are now in the hands of Suzie Townsend. I am anxiously awaiting her advice. I rewrote the beginning before sending it to her, and now it feels like I tried a new recipe with company on the way. I hope it doesn't flop.

2. I was notified that I am a finalist in the Panhandle Professional Writer's Frontiers in Writing Contest. Yay!

3. But, I may not get to attend the award lunch because I am taking my son to the STAR Center and a developmental pediatrician this summer to get to the bottom of his developmental issues. That doesn't exactly leave us any $$$$ for things like conferences, but what's a few dollars when it could change our lives!

4. School's out! It couldn't have come a moment too soon. We will just have to chalk up (no pun intended) the 2009-2010 school year as one of the most challenging yet.

5. We got a pool. My daughter is ecstastic. Someone should buy stock in sunscreen right now.

It's looking to be a summer to remember!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Influence

Things have been a little quiet around here. School has hit the busy testing/research time of year, we had lots of rain, and my kids and dogs all have spring fever. So while I may not have had a chance to blog, edit, or write, I have been thinking and reading. I finished two books over the last couple of weeks that have influenced me to try something to help my own WIP.

The two books, When It Happens and Two-Way Street both have two points of view--alternating chapters with the girl and the boy. I have always been a little skeptical of multiple points of view--it can feel like head-hopping, but it worked well in both of these books. One of the strongest elements that contributed to the clarity of the narrator were that the chapter headings made it clear who it was that was talking.

These two books got me thinking that I needed to get to know my characters better by writing as if I were them. I don't think the multiple point of views will work for this WIP, but I am off to write some chapters from Daniel's point of view as a writing exercise. My editing has reached a crossroads where I really have to deepen my book and up the stakes--and who better to tell me what to do than the characters I created.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Great Advice

I have been trying all week to post a few things, but I have had trouble logging in . . .

But it is working today, so I wanted to link to a great post over at the Writer's Digest Blog about the best writing advice on the internet. I love a good piece of advice!

Some of the articles have helped me with a couple of breakthroughs this week. Hopefully I can make a little progress on things today.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I hate April Fool's Day

I have never been a big fan of April Fool's Day. Probably because I am gullible and fall for the silly jokes. The other reason is . . .

April Fool's + High School = Torture

As a teacher you check a few dates every year because they bring the freak out in high school kids. Most days they can be a little strange anyway, but days like Homecoming, Halloween, Valentine's Day, and April Fool's make the strangeness fester and explode like a bad zit (or a bad metaphor, lol!).

So it is April Fool's and I am at school and I am bracing for the torture, when our lovely athletic trainer comes wandering in.

Mrs. B: Hello, lovely athletic trainer!

Miss Lovely: Mrs. B, I need ALL of your students ALL day to come to the gym and take the Presidential Fitness test.

Mrs. B: What? You want to take ALL my students and make them run and do push ups?

Miss Lovely: Yes.

Mrs. B: Is this an April Fool's joke?

Miss Lovely: Nope. I will take them to the gym and make them run.

It was about this time that I heard the angels singing. So here I sit, nice and peaceful on an April Fool's Day. I have seen a few pranks here and there, but they mainly consisted of boys pointing another boy's shirt and then poking him in the nose.

I hope your April Fool's is peaceful as well!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Brick Walls

I guess I have hit a brick wall of sorts. I have totally stalled out on the opening of my book. I am on like draft 47 of "The First Five." The first five pages are sheer torture and they are getting the best of me. On top of that, I am really looking at restructuring some of the plot points that come later in the book, and fleshing out the characters, and changing the ending, blah . . . blah . . . blah . . .

So, the struggle continues. I have opened the documents the past several nights, and all I do is stare at them, go read an article, stare at the pages some more, read a few pages from a book, stare at the computer screen some more. I have one idea, and one idea only to get over this block, this brick wall.

Start another book.

*sigh*

I keep coming back to this idea, but I don't know if it is a way to work out with some planning/plotting/character practice or if it is just one more excuse to get away from the pages that aren't changing . . .

We shall see!

Friday, March 26, 2010

10 Things from Today

I spent the day with many, many high school students as they competed in academic competitions and I thought I would jot down some of my observations . . .

1. 99.8% of the students had cell phones
2. 99.6% of them had an ipod/mp3/music listening device (some of them use phones for this as well.)
3. Girls like boys who wear sweaters (according to several of the girls)
4. Students are interested in Kindles, but haven't had a chance to play. When I let them play and try, they asked to borrow it.
5. Just what all do they have in those gigantic bags?
6. They still say "Dude"--I think I heard more girls than boys use this.
7. Students like to win--even if it is in a classroom taking a test or performing poetry. They want to win. Bad.
8. Students don't like to lose. I saw tears, pouting, sulking, hugging, desperation, and dignity in spite of the loss.
9. I saw lots of high school coffee drinkers (I didn't have any "cofee-drinker friends in high school), but they don't eat breakfast.
10. I heard some girls singing Cyndi Lauper. I couldn't resist telling them about going to buy my first cassette tape ever--it was Cyndi Lauper.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Giveaway on Suzie Townsend's blog

Suzie Townsend is having a contest on her blog. She is giving away a copy of Hourglass by Claudia Gray. Stop by and leave a comment to enter. If you mention that I referred you I get a bonus entry, so don't be shy--go leave our names over there!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Just a little map to find my way back

So tired today. The first day back to school after Spring Break is very similar to a bad hangover.

In a weary moment today, I was surfing through some advice and found some great revision tips from Laurie Halse Anderson (who is in my top 10 books . . .). I loved Revision Tip #3 using the big paper and color coded emotions. Very cool.

I didn't want to forget because, *yawn*, I gotta get some sleep.

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Moon on a Snowy Night



12:34 am on Saturday, March 20, 2010. A copy for me and a copy for my sister. And it is snowing outside. It's crazy, I know, but a little fun, too.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

For the kiddos

The kitchen "re-do" is still in full force although I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The kids are loving this project, because we are eating out a lot, they get to eat on tv trays, and the cookies are within easy reach because the cabinet doors are gone. On our way to get lunch today, Little Miss A was demanding her favorite song, so I dug out my ipod and let it roar--"I've Got a Feeling" by The Black-Eyed Peas. This is not my favorite song, and it got me thinking about the things we do for our kids. So here is a list of some things that I do because I love my kids.

Listen to "I've Got a Feeling" over, and over, and over, and over . . .
Eat at McDonald's
Buy vehicles with DVD players
Cook/Bake healthy meals, and then make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
Provide ketchup with every meal
Read the same book over and over and over (this one is not bad at all . . .)
Sit through episodes of Spongebob and iCarly
Spend hours looking for a lego man that may or may not have been dropped in the backyard
Write the Toy Story 3 release date on the calendar
Visit public restrooms

Just a little thinking out loud. Spongebob is almost over and the lego man still hasn't been found, so I had better go!

Monday, March 15, 2010

WOW!!

I posted a few days ago about a contest that Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins were having on their blog--Shooting Stars.

Well, I got a message tonight that I should check back because they drew the winners.

OMG.

I won.

Suzie Townsend from Fine Print Literary Management will be reading and critiquing the first 40 pages of my book.

A real agent reading my book.

I screamed a little.

What a good day! I'll be updating about my journey. I can't wait to see what advice she will have. I have some work to do . . .

Just taking a break . . .


We are smack dab in the middle of a kitchen "re-do". I would love to say renovation, but I think you have to actually tear things out for it to be renovation. We are really just doing some camoflauging with paint. Either way it is hard work--so I have been taking little breaks all weekend by reading lots of articles! I know, not the best use of my time, but still informative. I wanted to link to a couple of good articles I read, so that I can find my way back to them.

Here are some things I found helpful this weekend--maybe someone else can use them too.

Overwriting I knew there was a word for this ailment! This article has some great info.

Bad Advice I also had wondered about this as well. And I see this so much from students and other writers. It is like some like to "shock" people into their story, but we need to just START the story!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Corey Haim on the Brain

When I was younger, my mom didn't allow us to hang posters on our wall. I know it is a rite of passage to do that, but I totally understood where she was coming from because our old house had this intricate wooden panelling that wouldn't hold a thumbtack--it was nearly impossible to get a tack into the panelling. (Sorry, Mom, I did try a few times. . .) As a compromise, she allowed us to hang some stuff on our closet door. My sisters had lots of pictures they put up, and I chose one. It was a picture of Corey Haim that I got out of one of those "Teen Beat" kind of magazines. I chose it because I loved him, and it was similar to this:

Picture From TeenIdols4You.com<br />Click To Visit

My teenage self cried a little when the news of Corey Haim's death came in this week and it got my thinking about what life was like in the days of Corey Haim posters on my wall. I remember thinking about what I would say to him if I met him, I envisioned myself opposite to him in movies--y'know, normal teenage girl stuff. (At least I hope that is normal!) And I got to thinking about my book, because well, I am always thinking about my book, and I thought about falling in love with people we have never met. It was like those daydreams allowed me to experience "practice" feelings before they really happened. I think that is what a lot of young adult books do for teens now. They give them a chance to have "safe" vicarious feelings without the risk of real broken hearts or even real rejection.

I am still glad I got to live in a world that had a Corey Haim.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ten YA Books

Over on the Verla Kay Blueboards (which is a great place for aspiring writers, by the way), they were discussing the top ten books that every young adult author should read, and it got me thinking about my list. I don't know about calling it a "must read" list, but I do have ten books that I feel were influential for me. They influenced me in different ways. Some sparked an urge to read more by that author, some made me run to my computer and type out a chapter, others transported me back to being a teen and things were ok, and some just left me speechless.

In no particular order, I am listing them below.

1) Forever by Judy Blume
2) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
3) Looking for Alaska by John Green
4) The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen
5) The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
6) Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan
7) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
8) The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
9) The New Girls by Beth Gutcheon
10)Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman (I know this isn't considered YA, but still influential to my writing.)
This will change soon; it is ever evolving. Maybe I should go read some of them now.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It is snowing AGAIN!

I spend a lot of time looking out of my classroom window. Probably as much time as my students do. Kind of like a prisoner. (I want to be kidding about this . . . lol!)

So, imagine my surprise today when I looked out and saw more snow! Here I am working on getting plans ready for Spring Break, yes SPRING Break, and I see more snow.

I miss the sun . . .

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

LOVE a good contest!

My friend Larissa mentioned a very cool contest on her blog, so I jumped over and signed up as well. It sounds like a great opportunity and a fun way to catch some new ideas (or even a new book!)

Stop by the Shooting Stars Blog for more info!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Nice Window View

We are spending the weekend at my parent's house, who have this great porch that looks out onto their yard. It is a little rainy and foggy today, but still a good day to sit on the porch and work.




Trying to work on the porch also comes with a little extra help . . .

Saturday, March 6, 2010

YA Lit is Cool

When I do tell people that I write Young Adult literature, I usually get a few questions/comments.

1. Why?
2. Like Stephenie Meyer?
3. I have an idea for a story, do you want to hear it?

So, the decision to write in the young adult genre was not necessarily a conscious decision on my part. It was just the voice that came out when I started putting some words on paper. And they were words on paper--I wrote the first 20,000 words of my book on several legal pads, and yes, I counted.

I get a little fired up when I read about other people being passionate about YA like Maggie Stiefvater did on her blog. She wrote the book Shiver, which I really like and highly recommend, and I am an even bigger fan after reading her defense of YA. I hope to be one of those randomly shelved, possible classics someday as well.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Save the Cat!"

Since I am editing, I thought of this advice I read about creating a moment in the beginning of your book where your readers can identify with and begin to like your characters.

http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/Get+Agents+To+Like+Your+Characters+And+Keep+Reading.aspx

And, it is fun to say "Save the Cat!"

Editing

I am currently editing my first novel. It is not easy. It is much easier to throw some words together and type them into a computer and daydream about characters and look up small towns in Kansas for settings . . .

Anyway, I have taken several approaches and read several books on the subject, but I have two things that are probably the most helpful.

1. A Plan
That was the first obstacle I faced when I decided to go back and work on this book. I didn't know where to start, so I turned to the internet for advice and found this Editing Recipe. This made sense to me, so I went with it. So far, it seems to be working pretty well.

2. A Critique Group
I happened to find someone on the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrator's Discussion Board (henceforth known as SCBWI. Catchy, I know!) who was starting a new online group and I was able to join. I had heard people talk about crit groups, and I always pictured intellectual individuals in very cool glasses, sitting in coffee shops pouring over piles of papers. Very glamorous and writery . . . but the reality is--crit groups are work! And the most helpful thing I have found in this whole "writing process." My group is online and we send our submissions back and forth over email. And while they may all wear very cool glasses (I have never seen them face to face), the reality of this crit group is better than my fantasy crit group because of one thing--they are helping make my book better.

Off to edit some more . . . it is my turn to submit.

Monday, March 1, 2010

THE Snow Day

This was the view from my classroom window on January 28th, 2010. We got slammed with about two feet of snow, most of which had already fallen before they let us go home from school.

Welcome!

Welcome to my window on the world. I decided to call my blog "Aimee's Window" because it seems like that is how I see the world--through windows of houses, cars, school buildings. But that doesn't mean that I miss much. I tend to be a great observer, which is probably why I felt compelled to start writing things down. Thanks for stopping by. I do hope you will consider following me, and I promise to be more interesting than this.