Monday, August 10, 2015

Middle Grade of the Past

It's been a while since I've blogged, but I'm back! A few weeks ago, I had surgery to have my gallbladder taken out, so I wasn't spending all that much time at my computer. Recovery was rough in the beginning, but I'm almost back to normal and definitely feeling much better than I was the first week post-surgery.

In my free time, I've been rereading old children's books that I'd collected from when I was a kid. Some of these books were published as early as 1950, some as late as 1985, but they're each charming in their own way. I've decided to occasionally feature one "old" middle grade book at a time, to share with you guys how fun, entertaining, and endearing these books are.

Today's post is about ELLEN TEBBITS by Beverly Cleary, published in 1951.

Here's the cover of the copy that I have, though several other covers exist:

And here's the back cover summary:

Ellen Tebbits thought she would die of embarrassment if any of the girls at school learned her secret. But then she met Austine Allen, a new girl in class who was hiding the very same secret. They became best friends immediately. Embarrassing secrets weren’t so bad when you had someone to share them with. Even being teased by pesky little troublemakers like Otis Spofford was almost fun when you had a friend who stuck up for you.

But then Ellen did something terrible that made Austine stop speaking to her. Ellen was really sorry, and somehow she had to find a way to say so. Because without a best friend, nothing was fun anymore.

Aww. I love friendship stories. I can't remember if I read this one as a kid, since I read and owned many Beverly Cleary books, and some of them blend together after 20+ years, so I was happy to read it now, as an adult. My review:

The Good: Despite how many years ago ELLEN TEBBITS was written and despite the dated language, Ellen and Austine are still very real and relatable characters. Their friendship was one I rooted for from the beginning.

The Old: The “big secret” that Ellen has in the first chapter of the book is that she’s wearing woolen underwear, which isn’t something you’d hear mentioned in a contemporary middle grade book in 2015 (none that I’ve read, anyway.) One of the other characters, Otis, repeatedly asks his mom for a dime. What can you buy with a dime? (I guess a number of things in 1951.) Also, they use the word “swell.” How cute.

The Funny: Ellen’s thoughts and musings were really entertaining. I particularly like her thought process after her best friend’s mom asks the girls, “How would you like to go on a picnic?” Ellen doesn’t answer, because she’s not sure if the word “you” refers to one person or multiple, so she might not actually be invited. Haven’t we all been there in awkward social situations?

Overall: I thought this book was really cute! I think even girls today would enjoy it if they like stories that revolve around friendship. I like Beverly Cleary as an author, more for nostalgic reasons than anything, and I look forward to rereading more of her books.

Have any of you read ELLEN TEBBITS or other Beverly Cleary books as a kid? Do you still have any of your childhood favorites, whether kept from childhood or purchased as an adult?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Well, That's Different...

Different. I like that word.

Not everybody does. To some people, "different" means that something's wrong.

For example, maybe you're supposed to look like everyone else (say the magazines), own the latest and greatest gadgets (say the commercials), and follow a traditional, conventional life path in your adulthood (says society). Since I do none of these things in my example (haha), that means I'm different -- the negative kind of different.

But I see it as a positive. I love the freedom that comes with nonconformity. Don't like something? Don't do it. Like something else? Do that instead. Granted, not every situation gives us a choice, but when we are able to make choices, I stand by this statement: Do what you want to do, even if it's the unpopular choice. (Within reason, of course!)

My writing is different, too. And not in the special snowflake, better-than-everyone-else kind of way. It's just that I write from the heart, regardless of what the current trend is. Since each writer is unique, "writing from the heart" yields different results from writer to writer. So, in a sense, we're all "different." (Unless you're trying to completely emulate a specific author, but I advise against this. You can find your own style!) Does this make each of us wrong? I don't think so at all! In fact, it's just the opposite.

In what ways are you different? Do you think positively or negatively about being different?

Monday, June 15, 2015

What I've Learned After a Year of Being Published

For months, I thought about what I'd write in this post. I can't even believe it's time to finally write it, since it's been a whole year since Wishing for Washington was released. But here it is.

What I've Learned After a Year of Being Published:




Okay, let me think for a minute. I know I've gained some wisdom from this journey so far. I developed thicker skin for critiques and reviews, improved my formatting skills, gained public speaking experience, and really got acquainted with the worlds of Kindle and CreateSpace. So, why won't I expand on all that? Why can't I bring myself to write a list, or at least several paragraphs, about the things I've learned?

Because that's not what I'm feeling right now. This is the truth:

What I've learned after a year of being published... is that I'm still learning.

I want to be that wise old sage that's like, "Don't worry, darlings. I know all there is to know about self-publishing. I'm an expert. Just follow me." While I do offer to share my knowledge and walk others through the self-pub process, I'm not an expert. Not even close.

I'm still learning how to market my books.

I'm still learning how to use my time efficiently, between editing one book and drafting another, promoting the ones I have released, and doing all the less exciting business stuff in between.

I'm still learning how to properly incorporate images in my books without messing up the entire project. (*Glares at a collection of failed versions of One Hundred Thirty Stars*)

But sure, I have learned a lot. And I do want to make a post later on, sharing the few pieces of advice that I do have. But I also promised myself that I'd be honest about my writing journey, and while I love it and feel extremely lucky to have this job, I'm not the best at it. Even a year in, I'm still a newbie.

I'm thrilled to continue learning, though, and I truly feel that it will only get better from here.

What have you learned from where you are in your journey?

Friday, June 5, 2015

So. Many. Things.

Wow, it's been quite a month! Sorry for the silence, folks, but I've had so many things going on.

We finally completed The Big Move across the country. We'd moved out of our old home many months ago and lived with family for a while, and then we lived in a hotel for a couple of weeks, so we went a pretty long time with most of our stuff packed in boxes. We're still getting used to our new house, but it's wonderful so far.

Between unpacking, meeting all my new doctors (yay for chronic illnesses), making new friends, and still doing writerly activities like critiquing awesome manuscripts and trying to get my own MS into shape, I haven't had much time to blog in the past month. I've missed this place and look forward to catching up on everyone else's blogs!

(Speaking of "this place," I plan to give this blog a makeover this summer. If things start to look wacky, that's just me fiddling around with it.)

Also, in the middle of all this craziness, this month is also the one year anniversary of publishing my first book, Wishing for Washington! To celebrate, the e-book will be free on Amazon today through Sunday, so if you don't have a copy, go ahead and grab one. (If it doesn't show up as FREE during this time period, please let me know.)

What have I missed in the past month? I'll find out; I'll be coming around to visit blogs soon!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Once Upon a Nightmare: A Collection by Cherie Reich

Ready for something exciting? Author Cherie Reich has a book out called Once upon a Nightmare, a paranormal horror/thriller collection. Check out this intensely awesome cover:

Curious what it's about? Read on:

A monster hunts us. After hibernating for a decade, it’s ravenous. We long to stop this nightmare, but the end of the road is far. There is no waking up once a legend sets its sights on you.

Disappearances every ten or so years make little impact on the small town of New Haven, Virginia. Hikers get lost. Hunters lose the trail. Even when a body is discovered, the inhabitants’ memories last about as long as the newspaper articles.

No one connects the cases. No one notices the disappearances go back beyond Civil War times. No one believes a legendary monster roams the forests in Southwestern Virginia.

I don’t either until the truck breaks down on an old mountain trail. Cell phones won’t work in this neck of the woods. It’s amazing how much a person can see by starlight alone. So what if we can’t feel our fingers or toes as we hike toward the main road. How many more miles left to go?


Hear that noise?

Purchase Once upon a Nightmare: A Collection by Cherie Reich at Amazon.

Cherie Reich is a speculative fiction author and library assistant living in Virginia. Visit her website and blog for more information.

I can't wait to check this out! It sounds like the kind of book I will think about long after I've finished it. Congrats, Cherie!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Interview with Author Linh Nguyen-Ng!

I'm happy to introduce my friend Linh Nguyen-Ng, author of the adorable picture book, MOMMY'S LITTLE WORDLINGS! I bought a copy of her book, and her illustrations are SO cute, and the message is really sweet. Go ahead and check it out on Amazon!

MOMMY'S LITTLE WORDLINGS was published by Anaiah Press on April 7, 2015. Here's what it's all about:

Little words hold big meanings. The Little Wordlings are children who use their simple words to express their feelings for loved ones. No one is more adored than the first person who made them smile. No one is more cherished than the person who gave them life. There is no one like Mommy. Join the Little Wordlings as they show Mommy how much she is appreciated and loved.

So. Cute.

You can buy the book here, or add it to Goodreads here.

And that's not all! Today, Linh is answering some questions on my blog. Welcome, Linh!

Thank you Shelley for hosting me! ^_^

Linh, how do you come up with your ideas?

I have several sketch books where I store my ideas. In those books is a collage of things—simple words, a leaf I found while walking at the park, a tear sheet from a magazine or a color that resonated with me. The important thing is to keep an open mind, let ideas flow into it.
The idea for MOMMY’S LITTLE WORDLINGS came to me as I was creating some greeting cards that featured these children called “Little Wordlings”. In my mind I saw them acting out scenes, so I decided to write a story.

What do you find easy and challenging writing for children?

I’m not sure there is an “easy” part about writing for children. Children’s minds are full of wonder, so in that sense, there are so many things you can write about. However, because there are so many ideas, how do you know which one is the right one? There are certain trends you can follow, but I think if you write from your heart, it will always end up where it’s supposed to go.

In longer children’s novels, I find it hard to balance out character, plot and world building in the beginning stages. So when editing, I try to do it in chunks; character review, plot review, and world building. I’m not sure if that is the most effective way. But it is one way that is working for me. Hopefully, I’ll find a faster method one of these days.

Did you go to school for writing?

No. I studied fashion design in college. It was a creative outlet for me. I learned form, function and creative ways to transform a two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional object. I’ve applied that knowledge into my writing-- perspective, discipline and hard work. Did I wish that I went to school for writing. I think I would have wanted to take more writing classes. I think we all have passions that take us down different paths that somehow magically lead us to where we’re supposed to be. At that time, I wanted to be a designer. That passion guided me to be an author today.

Do you write every day?

I try to write every day. Try is the magic word. Sometimes it’s only ten minutes, other times it’s longer. I discipline myself to at least write something every day so that I don’t lose the momentum. However, things often occur that alter my plans. When that happens, I say “plot twist!” and move on.

Thanks so much for visiting today, Linh! It's a pleasure to have you here.

More about the fabulous author:

I live with my family in Massachusetts where I get to enjoy the four seasons. I love unique and interesting things—things that make a lasting impression. I am constantly looking for inspiration that I can use in my writing. Everything has a story to tell.

Twitter: @linhnguyenng

And if you live in the U.S., feel free to enter the Rafflecopter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 13, 2015

Wait, Let Me Write That Down!

A question for my fellow creative types:

Have you ever been in conversation with someone, or listened to someone else's conversation, and heard the person say something that gives you an idea for whatever you're working on? Maybe it's a line that a character would say, or maybe it's a perfect description of something you could incorporate into the story. But whatever it is, it lines up perfectly with what's in your head.

And you don't want to be rude or creepy and write it down right away. Especially not in front of them.

So you make a mental note to make a physical note about it later.

And you forget it completely. (Okay, maybe that's just me. But if I'm not alone, please let me know!)

That's where I am right now. I was in a conversation with someone, and she described something so perfectly that I just had to write it down. Except I didn't, and I lost it. Now I'm desperately trying to jog my memory. Hmm... maybe something having to do with shoes? Or clothes? I can't remember.

Can anyone else relate? Anyone have any tips for forgetful people? What was something interesting you've heard lately?
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