Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lucky's YA Fashion Picks & Dressing Up Your Characters

Lucky Mag recently ran a fun feature for us bookworms. They took a few favorite YA series and found clothing that reflected different characters' style. Here's their pick for Nancy Drew - a spunky dress that's perfectly inspired by the gumshoe's preppy chic:

And these fierce Camilla Skovgaard stilettos are somehow very Twilight (though more Volturi than Bella):

I'm writing a pretty geeky middle grade book, where robots and microscopes are more important than accessorizing. But a few distinct fashion choices came into play. When I saw Alexander McQueen's exhibit at the MET this summer, I was blown away by how much fashion can tell a story. I ended up dressing up my villain in a McQueen-inspired getup that gave her a much spookier air.

Getting too much into detail about clothing can date a book, and also distract from other important elements of characterization. But after seeing Lucky's picks for The Babysitter's Club gals, I found myself passionately agreeing or disagreeing with the choices. Clearly Ann M Martin's careful description of Claudia's style stayed with me.

What are your thoughts on dressing up your characters? Do you have their entire wardrobe picked out?  Or does their personality give you a sense of what they would or would not wear?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Alvin Ho

To find out more about Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, click here.
Title: Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things 
Author: Lenore Look (link)
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Genre: Contemporary
Pub Date: July 2008

Alvin Ho is a second grader who is afraid of everything—elevators, tunnels, girls, and, most of all, school. He’s so afraid of school that, while he’s there, he never, ever, says a word. But at home he’s a very loud superhero named Firecracker Man, a brother to Calvin and Anibelly, and a gentleman-in-training, so he can be just like his dad.

First Line: The first thing you should know about me is that my name is Alvin Ho.

There probably isn't a middle grade character more neurotic than little Alvin Ho. Though he has trouble talking to anyone outside his immediate family, his storytelling voice is fantastic.

Picture Pages: Pham's illustrations are scattered throughout the book like little doodles in the margins of a diary. They appear on almost every page, and occasionally as full page drawings. These breaks in text really add to the story, and will especially be welcomed by reluctant readers.

Why You'll Love Alvin: Alvin is a hilarious narrator, the kind that gives you an unfiltered view of his world no matter how embarrassing it might get. Through Alvin's oversharing, we get to know his fears. And there are a lot of them. It's hard not to adore his forthright acceptance of these peccadilloes, and how he manages them in front of his peers at school.

You can always find more MMGM love here: 

  • Shannon Whitney Messenger's blog
  • Jennifer Rumberger's blog
  • Joanne Fritz's blog
  • Danika Dinsmore's blog
  • Shannon O'Donnell's blog 
  • Natalie Aguirre's blog
  • Brooke Favero's blog
  • Barbara Watson's blog
  • Anita Laydon Miller's blog
  • Michael G-G's blog
  • Pam Torres's blog
  • Akoss-Nye Louwon's blog
  • Gabrielle Prendergast's blog
  • Kelly Polark's blog 
  • Isaiah J Campbell's blog

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Shhh... I'm Writing

Over the weekend, I had the chance to spend three yummy nights here:

With these  three  ladies. I somehow managed to bring my quiet productivity back from the cabin to bumping Harlem. Now that I'm on the verge of finishing up another draft, I am going to sneak away from the Internet again, and keep tapping away on my keyboard. Will be back soon!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Off to the Woods!

After work I'm going on my very first writer retreat just a couple hours away in the Poconos. There will be a cabin. There will be tea. There will be walks in the woods. And there will be four writers ready to put hours and hours into their manuscripts. I believe it will get goofy.

I plan on writing (something new) and revising (something old). Or, a little bit of this, and a little bit of that:

Let the muses loose, and see you on the other side.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tag, I'm It!

You know what's easier than writing a bio page? Answering questions! I got tagged to answer eleven of them by Gwen over at Run Gwen, Run! Here goes:

1. What is your secret weapon of choice?
Hot sauce. Specifically, chili garlic sauce in a rooster bottle.

2. If you could sit down for coffee with any historical figure, who would it be?
Cleopatra. Totally Cleopatra. We get a translator, right?

3. Any "famous" figures in your ancestry? Who, and what did they do?
This totally counts! My mom's good friend dated Bobby Brown when he was in New Edition - and he sings her name (which is Jackie) in the song Don't Be Cruel. There is't a more bad ass song to be called out in than Don't Be Cruel...

4. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Where wouldn't it be? Honestly, the list is bigger than Santa's naughty/nice list. New Zealand has been at the top of awhile now, though.

5. What was the #1 song the day you were born?
Michael Jackson - Rock With You. Highly appropriate that it's a dance song. I have and will continue to dance until day, sunlight.

6. What is your favorite genre to read and why?
Oh, yikes! I'll really read anything. Lately I've been devouring sci-fi and contemporary middle grade, but that seems so limiting.

7. Who is your favorite literary character and why?
I'll answer this question even though it's totally unfair. Lyra Belacqua from The Golden Compass is fantastic.

8. Besides reading and writing, what is your favorite pastime or hobby?
Travel and yoga. I also love to cook.

9. If you could switch places with one person for 24 hours, who would it be? Why?
Definitely my partner in crime, The Scientist. Only not on Tuesdays, when he wakes up at 5am to go to lab.

10. What is the area you live in most famous for?
The Harlem Rennaissance

And last, but not least...

11. What are the top 5 programs you watch on television?
Oh, I love me some trashy TV. Unfortunately, I don't have cable. Or a television. I just watch shows on Hulu and Netflix. Right now I'm really digging Homeland, Breaking Bad, Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock, and whatever Real Housewives are airing.

Wikimedia Commons
 My all time favorite will always be Arrested Development and Wheel of Fortune. Over to you, Pat.

And also over to you, pals! Answer any or all of these questions in the comments. Tag - you're it!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Penderwicks

To find out more about Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, click here.
Title:   The Penderwicks
Author: Jeanne Birdsall (link)
Genre: Contemporary
Pub Date: June 2005

Synopsis: This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.

The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.

First Line: For a long time after that summer, the Penderwick sisters still talked about Arundel.

The first time I read The Penderwicks, I remember checking the publication date more than once. My memory isn't awful, but I was surprised every time. The story simply details the escapades of a family's summer vacation, but the style and voice is so classic, I couldn't believe it was written in the last decade. Just look at that first line! There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and a quirky cast of characters that makes the story rich and layered.

Happy Middle Grade Valentines: For Valentine's Day, I wanted to feature a MG book that has a sweet first love storyline in it. Unfortunately, this is a heart breaker. Poor little Rosalind, the eldest sister, falls for a nice older guy. When she mistakes his polite attention for burning romance, the crush ends up crushing her in that fist-in-the-gut way that only first love can. Rosalind undergoes a more mature arc than her sisters, but it's still appropriate for a middle grade audience. 

Why You'll Love Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty: Though it's easy to turn to stereotypes when writing about four sisters, the Penderwicks are fresh, real, and hilarious. A grade school version of the March or Bennet girls they are not. Kids will become attached to these new book friends. And if they can't get enough of Jane's whimsy and Skye's tough math love, there's more fun to come in the next Penderwick books.

You can always find more MMGM love here: 
  • Shannon Whitney Messenger's blog
  • Jennifer Rumberger's blog
  • Joanne Fritz's blog
  • Danika Dinsmore's blog
  • Shannon O'Donnell's blog 
  • Natalie Aguirre's blog
  • Brooke Favero's blog
  • Barbara Watson's blog
  • Anita Laydon Miller's blog
  • Michael G-G's blog
  • Pam Torres's blog
  • Akoss-Nye Louwon's blog
  • Gabrielle Prendergast's blog
  • Kelly Polark's blog 
  • Isaiah J Campbell's blog

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pinterest Boards for Book Lovers

Galleycat posted a neat list of Pinterest boards that will appeal to the repin buttons of bookworms. One of my favorite discoveries from the list is Scholastic's vintage book and magazine covers. Check these sweeties out:

I totally had this book...
Punky Power!

I was also swooning over I Heart Paper - because I do.  I seriously heart paper.

Happy pinning!!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Oatmeal on Working From Home

I recently made the switch from a 40+ hour work week in the office to working from home most of the week. This has been sort of my dream forever, but we should always be cautious of what we wish for. The Oatmeal, for instance, warned me about a few habits to avoid in this comic strip. This panel is my favorite:

What are your tips for staying productive, healthy, and social when working/writing  from home? I made a list of RULES (of course I did), and so far I'm happy to report that I've been following them!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Marvelous MG Monday: My Very Unfairy Tale Life

To find out more about Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, click here.
Title:   My Very Unfairy Tale Life
Anna Staniszewski (link)
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Pub Date: November 2011

Synopsis: Is your magical kingdom falling apart? Twelve-year-old Jenny is on the case, whether she likes it or not. Saving the world might sound exciting, but for Jenny it’s starting to get old — even staying in the real world long enough to take a math test would be a dream come true! And when you throw in bloodthirsty unicorns, psychotic clowns, and the most useless gnome sidekick ever, Jenny decides that enough is enough. She’s leaving the adventuring business and not looking back. Or…is she?

First Line: You know all those stories that claim fairies cry sparkle tears and elves travel by rainbow? They're lies. All lies. 

I loved this book! Loved!! It's a sweet, enjoyable read with new twists on typical fairytale elements. The story slips easily between the magical and real world, and Jenny's struggles in both push the plot forward in a complementary way.

The Big Bad: So, some people *clears throat* are a wee bit afraid of clowns. Not that I know any of them... I'm just saying. The story's villain, Klarr, not only has a great name - he's also a scary, insane clown. Most kids won't find this as terrifying as I did, but then, most kids didn't read It in fourth grade.

Why You'll Love Jenny: If your favorite main characters are the sassy, take-charge type, then Jenny will rock your fairytale world. She's no damsel in distress, and has the brains and courage to save the day.

More MMGM love:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Difference Between Young Adult and Middle Grade

Literary agent Kristin Nelson's new weekly video blog has been interesting to follow. It airs on Friday, and this week she covered a question that anyone writing kidlit wonders at some point: What Is the Difference Between Young Adult and Middle Grade.

Answered elegantly, yes? You can check out her original post here.

And speaking of middle grade - I'm happy to report that I'm plowing through my newly revised ROW80 Goals like an abominable snow monster. The kind that has a snow monster laptop.

For once, I'm on track to meet my revisions as scheduled. This is partly due to getting through the dreaded beginning (it consistently wins the award for hardest/worst part of my manuscript), and also from conference motivation. I recently attended the Writer's Digest Conference - which my lovely writing pal Ghenet sums up here. She attended sessions with Donald Maas, James Scott Bell, and NaNoWriMo's Chris Baty, and does a great job extracting the gems from their talks.

So yay to conferences, yay to goals, and yay to staying on track. Hopefully all this motivation will keep up! Happy writing this week to you all!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Where She Went

Hello! I've been on a bit of a blogging hiatus for several reasons, all that popped up in the span of a week.


After six years, two promotions, and a zillion emails, I packed up my desk at my job. This was not an easy task - I pretty much needed a suitcase to clear out just my tea. Leaving was bittersweet, but there are many exciting things to come, including more time to write and work on my own projects. 


I took a small hiatus to Boston and New Hampshire to visit family and friends. That's my new teensy elf niece*, who is just over one month old.      
*Objects in photo are larger than they appear.

And Third:

I started up at my new fantastic job! We had a day-long shoot on my first day that ended with a Jersey 'poof.' Check out the video behind this photo here.

The dust has somewhat settled because I've been preparing for this transition for awhile. Hopefully I'll be a little more blogtastic in the coming days. What's been up with you all?