Monday, December 11, 2017

MIDDLE GRADE WONDERS—book review on I'VE GOT A SECRET

I'VE GOT A SECRET, a candy apple book published in 2008 (yes, an oldie but goodie!) by Scholastic and written by Lara Bergen, starts off with a great title, and the book cover shows one girl whispering in another's ear, while just a few lockers down stands who viewers will suspect is the crush of at least one of these girls.

That should get the attention of some middle grade romantic hearts.

Sure enough, the secret involves the boy. The secret also propels the story along at a good clip for quite a ways through the book. We can't help wondering when Amanda, the MC, is going to fess up to her first best friend, Kate, and another best friend (whom she met at summer camp and who moved to Amanda's town) that she lied to them.

I was reminded of Pinocchio's nose growing, a familiar plot that has been reused over the ages and seldom fails. Didn't fail this time, either. The secret in the book is about a lie, one which I can't tell without spoiling the read for you. But, as often the case with lies, once it's told, more lies are needed to cover the first lie, and then more lies to cover those lies, and pretty soon the truth is an ulcer growing in your gut. Luckily, Amanda doesn't get an ulcer, but she does experience some serious stress.
 
Yet, while the book definitely shows what a nightmare can stem from one little lie, it doesn't come off in a preachy way. The reader is totally engrossed in what's going on, turning pages, anxiously waiting to find out if someone's going to call Amanda on her lies, before she musters courage to bow down and admit what she's done.
 
I think readers ages eight to eleven will be delighted with this book. Older readers might think the ending a little too pat, that everything's tied too nicely into too big of a bow. Personally, I was looking for more reaction from Amanda's peers once they learned the truth. That doesn't mean I didn't find the events believable. Also, for young readers, I can see where the author wouldn't go too spastic with the reactions, because that would hardly entice anyone in the same predicament into doing the right thing.
 
For writers:
 
If you're looking for perfect pacing in juvenile fiction, this book is a good example. It also does a wonderful job stretching out the tension. You can't help but worry for Amanda each time it looks as though her lies will be discovered in the next paragraph, or the next page. But of course, something always happens to postpone that moment, and that's the best way to draw out the tension. Bergen has an excellent handle on holding just enough information back to keep the book interesting, but not too much as to confuse or frustrate the reader.
 
She used the Snowball Method for plotting, whereby you start with a small ball, and as the plot progresses the ball gets bigger and bigger, like rolling a snowball. It's the same principle with Pinocchio's nose growing bigger and bigger with each lie he tells.
 
If you're looking for a good example for how to implement this method of plotting into your work, while still letting your reader get lost in the story so much that they don't recognize it as technique, but simply this girl's reality, these 146 large-fonted pages are for you.

Happy reading!
 


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

7 ways to make your spouse or partner HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY!



1. Fry two chickens instead of one. If it’s Southern fried, leftovers are always welcome.
 
2. Offer up homemade soup for a side dish, even if you have to buy it from a neighbor.

3. Bake (or buy and pretend you baked) cookies once a week and tell him/her she looks great.

4. Make (or order) a true gourmet feast at least once a month.

5. Let him/her eat as you talk, and pretend you think he or she is really listening.

6. Have a dish of fudge, peanut butter cups, or anise candy in each room. Yes, the bathroom too.

7. Ask him or her what he or she would like for supper, then be sure to call the delivery service in time.

Now, which one of these have you already tried?

Have a good day and happy feeding!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Gender Issues?

Please help me out.

In anticipation of the coming season, and to prompt smiles from little grandchildren, I pulled out this placemat. (No signature on the actual art, but the back says this placemat was made in the USA, and it's copyrighted by Greenbrier/Scentex .)



At first glance, I saw both boy and girl snowmen in the picture. But then I had to ask myself how I came to that conclusion? I try not to grab onto stereotypes, but I guess we all do now and then.

So I'm asking you all. I assumed the snowman on the front of the sled was a guy. To his right and back on that hill, that one seemed to be a younger snowperson, but again a male. The one behind him, higher on the hill, that's a girl. And back to the couple on the sled – the one in the back must be the girl. And no, I did not come to this conclusion because I have any ridiculous notion that women should always follow the men.

Anyway, I had to study the picture to figure out why my assumptions were so gender specific. I hoped that I didn't assume the couple on the sled were female on the left and male on the right (front) just because the front snowman is bigger. A walk through town would prove to anyone that size doesn't matter. So I looked closer.

The snowgal on the back of the sled definitely looks more girly in the face than the one on the front. After letting my gaze ping-pong between the two snow people, I realized that the eyes are closer together on the one I assumed to be a female, and that smile is narrower. The whole head is smaller, so the face has to be smaller. But in this situation, it gives this snowperson a dainty look, whereas the wider face, and the arrogance in the upturned nose, of the front snowy being makes it look more masculine.

The same differences can't account for the snow people on the back hill, because these are far enough apart in space and placement (on this placemat--hee!) that the one I assumed to be the girl would have to be smaller just to be correct perspective-wise. So size truly doesn't make a difference or tell me an answer here.

Yet I still think the back one on the hill looks more feminine and the front one more masculine.
Before I drive myself crazy analyzing this matter, can anyone tell me why, or whether I'm right or wrong in my assumptions, and how you justify your answer?

I'm sorry, but weird little things like this tend to bother me until I come to at least an understanding, if not a solid answer.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Get More Than Inspiration--Get Shivers!




A good friend of mine suggested I use this song to inspire my next big project. So whenever I find my energy lagging during my WIP, I give this a listen. Thank you, Terri!

Shivers, yes. Motivation, heck yeah!
So get writing!
:-)

Monday, November 13, 2017

IF YOU WANT TO SKIP TO THE GOOD STUFF...

––start here.

The idea of writing a duper (I’ll tell you whose word that is later, much later) important blog post crossed my mind, you know the one, that meandering, stream-of-consciousness piece about:
(drum roll please …)
Why it’s important to break your anxious trigger finger and avoid hitting that “send” button too soon.

But then I found someone who could say it better.

It doesn’t matter if you are submitting promotional work as an ad rep, your best cartoon that surely deserves space in the New York Times, or a fictional story taking place on the planet Who Cares
Don't submit too soon. Here’s Anna Sabino to tell you why.

I also considered doing a little public whining in behalf of the many artists not getting paid adequately, or at all, for their work. But then I found somebody who could say that better, too.
Introducing: Jon Westenberg

And then I considered a fine point about the correlation between these two articles. You should definitely read Anna’s first, because if you are lazily thinking of submitting that crappy first draft, you won’t really have the right to jump on the bandwagon of not-so-happy artists speaking out to get paid for what they do. Who’s going to pay for a practice piece?

On the flipside, once you have your artistic gift to the world truly ready for the taking, then read Jon’s article, because you certainly shouldn’t be working for free. Well, you know. Unless the whole world turns that way, and the electric company no longer sends you a bill, and your accountant goes over your expenses and sends you a note stating, “Thank you for letting me serve you. It’s been my honor,” with no invoice attached.

Until that day comes, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and attach your own invoice to all those favors of long hours of work many folks ask of you.

That’s all I’ve got to say for today.

Happy reading, and if you like this article, please share it.



Friday, November 10, 2017

A NEW DAY, A NEW GOAL? SERIOUSLY?

Excuse the confusion shown in my title. That's my confusion, not yours.

I do believe in having daily goals, but as of late my goals have changed. For the past week, I've had three darling grandchildren here, two-year-old twins and their four-year-old brother. That said, my daily goal is simply to survive.

I really commend myself when I get a paragraph written, revised, or even thought about during nap time. I give myself an extra pat on the back if I get through a single meal without a single spill. By anyone, including me. I mean, right now, that ranks as a miraculous feat.

Anyway, I thought I'd let you all know why I may be slow in visiting your blogs, updating mine, or even thinking bloggy thoughts. I plan to get back to a normal schedule next week. Or maybe the week after, because next week I might be busy recuperating. How young I don't feel – I don't want to count the ways.

Happy thoughts!

Monday, October 30, 2017

MiddleGrade Wonders, a column by Danica Flotten, coming soon, plus a few fun photos to view!


We had a fun weekend in Rochester, Minnesota, visiting with lots of family for darling six-year-old Janessa's birthday party. My husband and I enjoyed the day at a pizza place with our daughters, their spouses, our highly intelligent grandchildren, and a whole lot of fun kids. Janessa, of course, is
wearing the princess crown.


One of the unforgettable attendees was DANICA FLOTTEN (left) , a cool Wisconsin sixth-grader and our new columnist for upcoming posts, MIDDLE GRADE WONDERS. Watch for them (planning the first and third Mondays of each month) and read the random thoughts of Danica F., along with great reviews of awesome middle grade fiction. Please tell all the middle graders you know to stop by for Danica's thoughts and reviews.

Me with my hair clipped up while
concentrating on my art.



Danica is the camera-happy girl
taking photos of the birthday girl.