Saturday, April 30, 2016

JOIN: Celebrating Writer Solidarity


Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.



This week, as I was scrolling through the Twitterverse, I discovered Maria Dahnava Headley and her tweets on what she's learned about writing.

People, I love writing, but writing isn't easy. It's silly...I mean, I know writing isn't easy. I've known it all along, but the more I write, the more I realize it. And the more I'm happy to know others feel the same thing.

Writer solidarity - knowing I'm not alone in the ups and downs of writing feels good and helps me keep going. And if I've learned anything in writing, it's that persisting and persevering is the most important thing you can do. 

Here's a Storify that someone created of Maria's tweets! 


I'm actually inspired to write up my own thoughts
...maybe I'll do that next week!

I hope you enjoy Maria's thoughts on writing as much as I did 
and I hope you keep going.
Write on, friends!

Friday, April 29, 2016

WRITE: Sawa Bona - I See You

 
How many times do we ask, "How are you?" and how often do we respond, “I’m fine?"

I've caught myself saying I’m fine when I’m really more or less than fine. 
It's just what people say, right?

Some people in South Africa greet each other in this way:

One person says, "Sawa bona," which means, "I see you."
And the other responds, "Sikhona," which means "I am here."

Sawa bona, I see you.

Sikhona, I am here.

Being seen...
being here, 
being acknowledged, 
being recognized, 
and ultimately, 
being loved. 

Being seen means being loved. 


When someone sees me, my strengths and my weaknesses, my beauty and my flaws, who I am on the inside as much as on the outside, and still cares about me and believes in me - that's love.

I've been making an effort to slow down, to make eye contact, to put other things aside when I'm talking to another person. Whether it's technology or another distraction, I'm trying to be more careful about being present and showing people that I'm here and I see them.

Let's Write! Write about what it feels like when someone truly sees you. What do they do that makes you feel seen? How might you practice "seeing" people more in your life? How might our relationships be different if we were more conscious to see others?

Thanks for stopping in!
I see you! I am glad you are here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Wild Robot

Title: The Wild Robot 
Author: Peter Brown 
Illustrator: Peter Brown 
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 5th, 2016 

Genre/Format: Science Fiction/Novel 
GoodReads Summary: When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings? Roz's only hope is to learn from the island's hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot's mysterious past comes back to haunt her... 
What I Think: If you had asked me, I would have told you that it was highly unlikely that a story about a robot could make my heart race. Or that a story about a robot could make me cry. Or that I could fall in love with a robot. But it's true. It can. It did. And I did. And it's all Peter Brown's fault. 
     The Wild Robot isn't just a story about a robot. It's about a remarkable, learning robot and all the wilderness friends she makes. Which is to say it's about relationships. It's about relationships in so many different ways and that's what makes it fascinating but also what makes the story resonate so deeply. Peter takes two seemingly simple things: robots, animals, but he puts them together and creates a multi-faceted story that readers will find captivating.
    To take a robot and bring her to life in such a way that readers like her - love her - and can relate to her, is a lesson in character development. As a writer, introducing a character to a reader is crucial because if the reader doesn't like the character, he or she probably won't have much interest in continuing to read the story. Readers can look at The Wild Robot and use it as a mentor text to think about what a character might say or do that helps to bring him or her to life for the reader.
     What I'm most excited to use The Wild Robot for as a mentor text, is to look at descriptive writing. Peter uses the setting to work for and against his main character in this book. The setting is almost a character in itself because of how it influences Roz and her story. A sense of time and place is very important to a story and Peter takes time to put the reader on the island with Roz by carefully describing her surroundings. He uses alliteration and onomatopoeia and strong word choice to bring the readers right into the story alongside Roz. Students can close their eyes and imagine what their own characters might see, hear, smell, taste, or feel and then try describing similar to how Peter does in The Wild Robot. 
Read Together: Grades 3 - 6 
Read Alone: Grades 4 - 7 
Read With: The Curious Garden and Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and others by Peter Brown, Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman, Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee, Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, The Martian Chronicles and There Will Come Soft Rains (short story) by Ray Bradbury
Snatch of Text:  
     "Animal sounds filled the forest. Chirps and wingbeats and rustlings in the underbrush. And then, from the sea cliffs, there came new sounds. Heavy, crunching footsteps. The forest animals fell silent, and from their hiding places they watched as a sparkling monster stomped past." (p. 16)

     "Roz stood on the peak and watched the sun sink behind the ocean. She watched shadows slowly spread over the island and up the mountainside. She watched the stars come out, one by one, until the sky was filled with a million points of light. It was the first night of the robot's life." (p. 25)

     "'...and sometimes I see you waddling behind your funny-looking mother and you seem so nice that I thought I'd come down and introduce myself but now I'm nervous and I'm talking too much and my name is Chitchat I think I said that already.'
     There was a pleasant silence.
     Brightbill stood on one foot for a moment.
     Then the gosling took a deep breath and said, 'It's very nice to meet you Chitchat I don't think you talk too much I think you talk just enough and I like you so let's be friends.'
     A big smile appeared on the squirrel's tiny face. For once, Chitchat was speechless." (p. 109)

     "'We're a strange family,' said Brightbill, with a little smile. 'But I kind of like it that way.'
     'Me too,' said Roz." (p. 126)

Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you needed to gain someone's trust and what you did. 
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Loyalty, Determination, Trustworthiness 
I *heart* It:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin Blog Tour Interview

Earlier this month, I shared my absolutely, all-out love for The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin by Elinor Teele. Now I'm over the moon to be part of the blog tour and to share my interview with Elinor with you!
I describe this book as an adventure that blends the twists and turns of A Series of Unfortunate Events and the essence of your favorite Roald Dahl characters into one nonstop novel!

I'm sure you'll enjoy Elinor's thoughts about writing and her process. I'm especially fond of the advice she shares and think student writers would benefit from hearing these words of encouragement!

TMT: Can we meet for coffee so I can pick your brain in person, please!?

Pick away! There’s not much left after winter, but you might find a few scraps of rhymes and a couple of ladybugs wandering around in there.

TMT: Just kidding! But I am so curious about how you tackle character development. All of your characters are unique and multi-faceted. What insight can you share about how you bring a character to life?

Many of my characters start with an unusual detail that I’ve observed in life or read about in non-fiction accounts—the talisman in a pocket, the habitual twitch of a foot, the odd cadence of a man’s speech. That’s a start.  

However, as the story grows, characters begin to tell me how they’re going to behave. For example, I had little control over Boz’s movements—once I’d established his red hair and his speech pattern, he was off like a proverbial rocket. I often had to shove him out of scenes.

Great-Aunt Beauregard was different. She and I are still arguing about the merits of her position in the narrative. Yes, she’s nutty and has bizarre views on child labor, but she believes in family unity and a stable income stream. Those are pretty strong arguments in today’s world.

In general, I try not to think too hard about development during the first draft. But in subsequent drafts, and with the help of editors/readers, I’ll go back and see if my characters are lapsing into two-dimensions. It usually indicates that I haven’t been listening to their voices.  

TMT: What are you reading and loving right now (or recently)? What are some ways what you have read influences your own writing?

I’ve just finished the draft of a new book, so I’ve been trying to avoid recent fiction. It’s depressing to encounter the Statue of David when you’re hacking away at a lump of granite with a pickaxe.

For the most part, I’m a magpie. Along with books (new and old), I’ll pick up ideas for themes and plots from magazine articles, graffiti, news, information plaques—whatever is floating in the atmosphere.

For instance, I was recently reading Kepler’s Witch by James Connor and got caught up in the concept of geometry being proof of divine reason. I’d like to work that into a story at some point.  

And I’ll always return to Dickens. I’m wandering through his canon at the moment and taking mental notes on his technique. It’s fasc-i-nating to see how he constructs a scene—again, usually starting with a tiny observation that blossoms into an extended metaphor.

TMT: What is the best writing advice you have received and what advice would you give student writers?

The most important piece of advice I’ve ever encountered comes from a cartoon. It’s a picture of a crane trying to swallow a frog. Though the frog is well and truly screwed, he has his flippers clamped firmly around the crane’s throat. The caption reads:

  • NEVER GIVE UP

You will want to pack it in millions of times. You can’t. You have to believe.

The second piece of advice comes from my agent, Steven Chudney. When I was wrestling with plot direction, he gave me the following phrase:

  • “This is a story about [X] who wants more than anything in the world to [Y] but can’t because of [Z].”

I often repeat it when I’m getting muddled. Don Quixote wants to right the wrongs of the world. D’Artagnan wants to be a noble musketeer. Odysseus just wants to go home.

For kids who want to be writers, the third piece of advice is:

  • Observe and report.

Every person you meet has a hidden tale. Every detail is potential fodder. Every trip, even a walk to school, is a chance to amass material—dialogue, scenery, action sequences…  

Keep your eyes and ears and heart open and record your experiences. Don’t worry about what you’ll use this material for. Just get it down on paper. The stories will come.

TMT: Finish the statements: “Reading is…” and “Writing is…”

Reading is exploration.

Writing is procreation.   

A giant thanks to Elinor for her wonderful interview and Walden Pond Press for the opportunity to review the book and be part of the blog tour. Be sure to find Elinor Teele at her website. And check out the Educational Activity Kit based on the book for use in the classroom or library.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 04/25/2016

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 


A New and Improved Teach Mentor Texts!
Teach Mentor Texts is getting a makeover! I'm working on a new look and making some changes to my review format. It's going to be great! Everything will go up May 1st! Yay!



For the Love of Mentor Texts!
I would love to hear about how you use mentor texts with students or in your own writing! If you would like to write a guest post I can share here at Teach Mentor Texts, please click here

Last Week's Book Adventures:
It took me longer than I expected to finish The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. I loved it and savored every world! Look for my review this week! I'm still reading Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson with Peanut and I started reading Miss Daisy is Crazy by Dan Gutman with Little Bean.

Shared Last Week:
Click on any picture above to go read my post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'm looking forward to reading more with my kiddos. It's fun to reread books with them! I used to take April to reread some of my favorite books. I meant to start rereading Gae Polisner's The Pull of Gravity so I'll work on that this week but I also have Geoff Herbach's new book Anything You Want that's coming out in May and I'm hoping to read that too!

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

JOIN: 100 Days of Walking Wisdom



Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.


I'm joining in on Elle Luna's The 100 Days Project! I first learned about The 100 Days Project when Elle posted about it on Instagram. It wasn't easy to come up with something I could spend 100 days working on and then it hit me. 

I've been doing lots and lots of walking with our puppy Perdi and as we walk around the neighborhood, I've noticed there are tons of sidewalk squares that look like someone came and swiped something away. Finally, I realized, someone probably wrote something in the cement when it was still wet and someone came along to clear away what they wrote! Since then, I'm always wondering who wrote what. For the 100 Days Project, I decided I would take picture of these spots and write my own messages. I'm sure I'll find some other inspiring spots along the way to take pictures of too. 

Here are the pictures I've created so far!


I'm all about appreciating everything this year thanks to my one little word: revel. Walking with Perdi helps me pause and reflect and my version of The 100 Days Project is another way to stop and appreciate life. Maybe you'll follow along? I'm using the hashtag #100daysofwalkingwisdom when I post to Instagram!

Thanks for stopping in to celebrate with me this week
as I explore my 100 days of walking wisdom!

Friday, April 22, 2016

CiCi Reno: #MiddleSchoolMatchmatker Author Guest Post

Today I'm overjoyed to have Kristina Springer here to talk about how she used mentor texts when writing Cici Reno: #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker. I hope you enjoy learning more about her process!


Using Mentor Texts for Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker
A Guest Post From Kristina Springer
Middle school is a test, but Cici Reno has all the answers. She's the go-to girl for advice. She's cool, she's funny, and she's enlightened (thanks to yoga classes at her mom's studio). So when her pretty BFF, Aggie, is too shy to speak to the boy she's crushing on, Cici goes online and does the talking for her. The only problem is, Cici starts to fall for the guy herself! For the first time in her life. she doesn't have a clue.

When I pitched this book to my agent (and then later editor) I told them it was based on a loose retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac and that it was a humorous tale of a 7th grade girl who thinks she has the answers to everything, but finds when it comes to love, she really knows nothing at all
On the cover of Cici Reno #MiddleSchooMatchmaker it says across the top, “She’s Cyrano de Bergerac in yoga pants.” So you probably can guess that a major mentor text I used for writing this book was the famous Cyrano de Bergerac play. Before I did any real writing I began by doing some research. I went online and found a copy of the original play written in 1897 by Edmond Rostand. I then searched for various adaptions of the play from over the years and there has been many. I even came across a Snagglepuss cartoon that adapted the Cyrano story. One particular version I looked at was the 1987 Steve Martin movie adaption Roxanne because I remembered watching it as a child and thinking it was funny. I knew with my book that I not only wanted it set in middle school but I wanted there to be a gender reversal in the characters: I wanted Cici Reno to be the Cyrano character, Aggie be the Christian character, and Drew to be the Roseanne character. So I also looked at 1997 adaption, The Truth about Cats and Dogs because in that film the smooth-talking Cyrano character was a female.
Another text I re-read while prepping for writing this book was Lauran Myracle’s TTYL series. The series is told entirely in text and instant messages and since I knew I wanted to include direct messaging between Cici and Drew in my book, I re-read Lauren’s book to see how she handled that sort of thing. I adore Lauren Myracle and she has been one of my favorite authors from her first book. I’m such a Lauren Myracle fan girl that I even went to one of her book signings on my due date when I was pregnant with my last child! Here’s a pic of me at the signing (from left to right: Sarah Mlynowski, me, Lauren Myracle, and E. Lockhart).
Check out Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker and let me know how you like my version of the Cyrano story.
You can find Cici Reno: #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker at
And you can find Kristina on

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Tito The Bonecrusher Cover Reveal!

As a mom to two boys, I know more about wrestling than I ever wanted to or thought I would. Honestly, I can tell you about John Cena and Roman Reigns, Sin Cara and Kalisto, The Miz and The New Day.  There's just no avoiding it in my house. 

*sigh*

But knowing that my kids are such wrestling fans, I know they are going to like Tito the Bonecrusher by Melissa Thomson. You might know Melissa from her Keena Ford chapter book series. I love Keena and her antics but I'm excited to read Melissa's first middle grade novel. Here's the summary from GoodReads:

"Oliver "Spaghetti-O" Rodriguez's dad is about to be deported to Mexico, and Oliver believes the only way to save him is with the help of his favorite lucha-libre wrestler turned action star, Tito the Bonecrusher. Together with his best friend Brianna (a.k.a. "Brain"), and their new ally Paul "Popcorn" Robards, Oliver devises a madcap plan to spring his dad from a Florida detention center. Heartwarming and hilarious, this book looks at what it takes to be a hero...and what happens when you realize that saving the day might not always be possible." 

Doesn't it sound so fun but also intriguing? I'm excited! And I'm excited for you to see the cover!

Are you ready?

*drum roll*

Ta da!



Open up your GoodReads!
Tito the Bonecrusher comes out next year on April 25th, 2017
 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

And until then, be sure to follow Melissa on social media. 
Visit Melissa's website
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

WATCH: Could Have Been Me by The Struts

I'm such a music fan. It wakes me up, energizes me, empowers me. I'm also a Spotify fan. I love being able to create my own playlists. Usually I create a different playlist for each season that comes around. 

Could Have Been Me by The Struts is one of my favorite songs. Every time I hear it, I have to jump up and dance around...or at least throw my fist into the air. It's an awesome song. More than anything, I love the message of it. 

I don't ever want to look back at my life and think it could have been me...if I had worked harder, taken a chance, stepped out of my comfort zone. I want to embrace challenges that come my way or that I find for myself. This song helps me remember why. 

"Don't wanna live as an untold story
Rather go out in a blaze of glory
I can't hear you, I don't fear you"

"I wanna taste love and pain
Wanna feel pride and shame
I don't wanna take my time
Don't wanna waste one line
I wanna live better days
Never look back and say
Could have been me"


I want to live better days. I want to feel all the emotions. Even though I don't always like having to feel disappointment and pain and sadness and shame...I know that I'm living life to the fullest when I get to experience the downs with the ups. And hopefully I find the happiness and pride and exultation as much - or maybe more - than the not-so-great emotions. 

Watch and reflect on risks or challenges you have taken on in the last year. Have you experienced ups and downs? Do the ups outweigh the downs? Are the downs worth going through to get - and appreciate - the ups? How might you make choices so that you don't look back and think "it could have been me"?

Thanks for being reflective 
and exploring your story with me today!
I'm glad you are here.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 04/18/2016

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Announcements:
Winner of Twenty Yawns giveaway:

Betsy Barr

*Thanks to Blue Slip Media for 
a copy of Twenty Yawns in exchange for an honest review 
and the opportunity to offer the giveaway above!

A New and Improved Teach Mentor Texts!
Guess what!? Teach Mentor Texts is getting a makeover! I'm working on a new look and making some changes to my review format. I'm really excited and can't wait for you to see it...just wanted to give you a heads up! It's going to be great! Everything will go up May 1st! Yay!


For the Love of Mentor Texts!
Also, I would love to hear about how you use mentor texts with students or in your own writing! If you would like to write a guest post I can share here at Teach Mentor Texts, please click here

Teachers Write 2016!
Just in case you missed it, Kate Messner announced that Teachers Write will be back again this summer! It's my favorite PD of the year and I hope you join us for six weeks of pure awesome. Be sure to sign up and mark your calendar!

Last Week's Book Adventures:
This week, I enjoyed reading my finished copy of The Wild Robot by Peter Brown but I'm still finishing it up so my review will go up this week. I'm fascinated by Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer and really enjoying it.

Last Week:
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
This week I'll finish up The Wild Robot and continue reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. And then, because I usually reread favorite in April, I think I'm going to reread The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner.

This Week:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 11/11/2019

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!   It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme ho...