Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Fives- Banned Book Week

Paper Hangover asks the question What are you five favorite banned books?

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  This is one of my favorite books.  I read it once a year.

2. The Awakening by Kate Chopin.  I read this book in high school and I liked it.  I read it again in college and I loved it.

3. The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler.  I love the character Virginia and her struggles with her weight and growing up are realistic and relatable.

4. Are You There God?  It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume.  I love how Margaret deals with the question of religion in her life.  I also love her struggles as she grows up.

5. The Giver by Lois Lowry  This is another one of my favorites.  I've read this one several times and I now I think I may need to read it again. I read a story about how caring for her aging parents inspired this book.  Listen to the stories your grandparents and parents tell.

What are your favorite "banned" books?
Find a list of frequently challenged books here and celebrate your right to read what you want

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Theater Thursdays- Dialogue

Last week I talked about a panel/reading I attended at The Loft with David Levithan and Brian Farrey.  It is now available to listen to online here.


I've worked in theater for many years and one of the things all that time listening to plays, watching plays and reading plays has taught me is how to write dialogue.

In plays dialogue is important and it moves the story forward.
"How are you?"
"Good, and you?"
This is the kind of small talk dialogue you don't see in plays a lot unless there are character who don't know each other and so are maybe trying to fill the space with small talk.  Make your dialogue count.  Make it tell the story.

Dialogue isn't just about speaking it is also about listening.  On stage actors listen to each other, they react to what is being said.  Make your characters on the page react to what is being said.

Break up dialogue with action.  Sometimes it is easy to get into writing dialogue and allow your character to become talking heads.  When you watch a play actors have actions along with those words.  They pour a drink, they look in their purse for breath mints, they fidget with their jewelry.  When you have long passages of dialogue try to break it up with descriptions of what other business your characters are doing.

It's also cool to see how sets and costumes can help people understand dialogue better.  Think of a Shakespeare play staged using modern dress and settings to make it more accessible.  How would the dialogue in your story play out in a crowded cafeteria versus an almost empty classroom?

You don't have to dedicate yourself to a life in theater in order to improve your dialogue writing skills but seeing more plays can only help your writing.  If you follow things like The Artist's Way consider a night at the theater an artist date.

What is your favorite play?  Has seeing plays made you a better writer?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Way Back Wednesday- The Growl

It's Wednesday and while that usually means a ya highway RTW post I feel like I already posted about my favorite September read on Monday.

So today I give you Way Back Wednesday.

The first time in my life that I thought I'd want to be a writer was in high school.  I took a journalism class and joined the newspaper staff.  I worked on the newspaper staff my junior and senior year first as a reporter and later as a news editor.

I'd wanted to work on the school paper since 5th grade when I started reading Sweet Valley Twins.  In 5th grade my friends and I tried to start a newspaper for our elementary school.  It was cute.  

I loved writing for the paper, doing layouts, thinking of story ideas and interviewing people.  

I also learned about the financial end of writing.  Students were asked to sell ads in addition to writing.  Ads paid, in part, for our paper.  

One of the first things we did in journalism class was learn about freedom of speech and how important it was to defend it.  This is why you will still find me defending freedom of speech and books and the right for people to read and have access to books and information.

The newspaper also taught me a lot about writing.  Newspaper articles are typically short and they need to catch the reader's attention.  They need quotes (dialog), description, a hook, a catchy title. 

When I started writing with the hopes of getting published I gravitated towards picture books and stories for kids.  

What are some of your earliest writings? 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Minnesota Monday- Wonderstruck

I read the book Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick this week.
It is an amazing book and it starts in Minnesota. Gunflint Lake, Minnesota. Like Hugo Cabret this story is told in words and pictures. The words tell the story of Ben and the pictures share the story of Rose.
Ben's story starts in Gunflint Lake and Rose's begins in New Jersey but both stories lead to New York City and the American Museum of Natural History. Both characters are deaf.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves a beautiful story told in words and pictures, Minnesota, museums, dioramas, love, and New York City.

Even though I picked this book up because of the Minnesota connection I also love the AMNH connection. When my brother lived in NYC this was his favorite museum so he took us there on one of our visits. My brother seemed to know a lot about this museum. I loved this museum and was reminded of it when I visited The Field Museum in Chicago.

Being around taxidermy animals reminds me of the art classes I took in college. My college had a large room full of taxidermy birds that the art and ornithology classes used. I know it had a real name but we all called it The Dead Bird Museum because the birds were usually behind glass in little bird dioramas. Below is one of my drawings from the dead bird museum.
Selznick has several tour dates for this book in the Twin Cities in October. A list is here.

What great books have you read lately?

Friday, September 23, 2011

#FridayReads for a good cause

Do you read?

Do you tweet?

If you answered yes to those two questions you should check out Steve Brezenoff's blog.

He has pledged to donate money to YouthLink, an organization in working with homeless youth in the Twin Cities for #fridayreads posts with his book Brooklyn, Burning on twitter. Details are on his page here so go check it out.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Theater Thursdays- The Actor's Brain

It's tech week so I really don't have an awesome post about how theater is like writing.

I did see this It is a video of an actor having their brain scanned while reciting lines from a play versus counting. It's pretty cool. Also Fiona Shaw is the actor having her brain scanned so check it out.

It made me wonder what a writer's brain scan would look like when they are writing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

RTW- Under Cover

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. What are your all-time favorite book covers?
slide 0
I love all the Harry Potter covers. For me seeing the cover was part of the fun of waiting for the new book to come out.

I loved Dash and Lily's Book of Dares. I want to read it again this Christmas.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. As beautiful inside as it is out.

Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble

What's Wrong With To Kill A Mockingbird?

I love this book. Whenever I see this cover I want to read it again.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Minnesota Monday- Panel and Reading on YA LGBT lit

OK I'm thinking of making Mondays on my blog be Minnesota Mondays. This will give me something good to talk about on Mondays. (I'm a Vikings fan. Mondays are disappointing)

This weekend I attended a panel discussion and reading at The Loft.

The reading was part of the Second Story Reading series and the Normandale Reading Series.

The panel was interesting and included Marion Dane Bauer, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, David LaRochelle, David Levithan and Pat Schmatz. David Levithan and Brain Farrey read following the panel.

The panel focused on LGBT in YA Lit. Each writer talked about their experience publishing books with LGBT characters or subject matter and how things have shifted over the years. They talked about censorship and also sort of pre-censorship. Some of the authors from smaller towns shared experiences of their hometown library not even carrying the books they wrote. But it was cool to hear the experience of Marion Dane Bauer who published Am I Blue in the 90's and how that influenced other writers like Pat Schmatz who was also on the panel. It was cool to see how these writers had influenced each other.

They talked about how to incorporate LGBT characters in works for younger kids, picture book and middle grade, by featuring gay parents.

They talked about the idea of being pre censored. I live in the city and can find David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy on the shelf at my library but that's not always the case. Many libraries and schools don't have these books. Some of the authors from small towns shared experiences about their libraries not carrying their books. Since I liv

After the panel David Levithan and Brian Farrey did a reading, which was wonderful.

Before I left for the reading I looked at my shelves to see if I had any books I could get signed. This will teach me to lend out all my David Levithan books. Thank goodness Magers and Quinn was on hand to sell me The Lover's Dictionary so I could get it signed.

Another awesome thing about going to events like this is winning books. I won Absolutely, Positively Not by David LaRochelle. It sounds like great book and I'm excited to read it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Fives- Location, Location, Location

This week Paper Hangover asks the question- What are your top five ideal writing locations?

1. My desk. It looks like this. There is not usually an evil kitty overlord supervising my work.

2. The May Day Cafe- My neighborhood coffee shop. I love this place. They recently decided to have a gluten free baked good available every day. I'm in trouble now.

The coolest image of my coffee shop is available here.

3. The Coffee Gallery at Open Book- Open Book is a fabulous space. It is home to The Loft, Milkweed Editions, Minnesota Center for the Book Arts. In other words there lost of bookish things going on here.

4. Work- I work long days. Sometimes I spend a lot of time sitting backstage waiting for something to happen. I also write on my break if I think I will get more done by staying there than by going home.
The Guthrie

5. The park by my house. I do this in the spring, summer and fall. Not the winter. It's too cold in the winter but I still take walks in the park during the winter.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Theater Thursdays- Be Prepared

In theater you have to be prepared for anything.
For actors this means having lines memorized but it also requires other skills from an actors toolbox, all the years they've spent studying the craft and the experience of being in shows.

For someone working backstage being ready means always having the tools you need to do the job. For technicians this means a multi-tool plier and a flashlight. For wardrobe people this means some sewing supplies, safety pins and a flashlight. Being caught without these things slows the process and it might be the difference between making a quick repair or not.

For writers I think we always need to be prepared for inspiration and ideas. Our tools are pens papers and of course books. You don't want to be stuck without a pen when inspiration strikes. My college roommate carries around one of these all the time and uses it to write down quotes and ideas.
Product Details
I buy those small notebooks from the dollar section at the craft store like they are going out of style. I keep notecards with me. I try to always have a book with me so if nothing else I can read while I'm waiting in line at the DMV.

What writing tools are you never without?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

RTW- Deja vu

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. This weeks question:

What themes, settings, motifs, scenes, or other elements do you find recurring in your work?

1. School- I write middle grade and YA so school comes into play a lot.

2. Sports- For some reason I like to give my characters something sporty to do. I think this is because I really liked being on swim team when I was a kid. The thing I have to watch for is that I'm not writing about the next Lebron James or Joe Mauer or Brett Favre.

3. Theater and Costumes. Last year's NaNoWriMo was set at a theater camp but the MG novel that I've been working on for a while features a school mascot costume. What can I say, I worked for Sesame Street Live, I've worked for CostumeRentals. Costumes are kinda my thing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Goodbye Borders

Last week I went to my nearest Borders on the day before it was going to close.
I'd been a few weeks ago but even then it made me sad to think about.
I live in a wonderful city that is blessed with a number of indie bookstores but I grew up in a place where the Borders became a central hub of books and coffee and social activity.
My best friend from high school met her husband while working at Borders.
A trip to my hometown usually means a trip to Borders. My mom loved the coffee there. My best friend and I would hang out there, drinking coffee and reading magazines.
When my dad and I want to kill time we duck into a Borders or Barnes and Noble and browse the bookshelves. My Dad will usually find a comfy chair and read for a while. I was always shocked that no one came and made him buy the book before he read it. He'd usually buy whatever book he found to read plus a couple more and a book for me.
As a writer who works in the arts working in a bookstore is on my list of back up jobs but as I walked up the empty aisles at Borders I wonder if I need to make other back up plans.
I love indie bookstores but I have to say that the big box stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble often provided my friends with income and health insurance while doing something that they enjoyed, selling books.
I won't bore you with all the thoughts I had about the future of books and e-publishing and the economy.
It makes me sad to see any bookstore closing. To see people losing their jobs.

What about you? Will you miss Borders?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

7 X 7 Award

Tim at Life of Riles gave me the 7 x 7 award.
This award takes a look at previous blog post in seven categories.

Most Beautiful- A Road Trip Wednesday- I Would Have Given Anything to be Like.. post I wrote about my Aunt Ursula in celebration of the book Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
Most Helpful- How to Make an Awesome Diorama is my annual attempt to make a Peep diorama. The search phrases that lead people to my blog usually have the word diorama in them. I'm providing a resource here.
Most Popular- My post How to Make an Award Winning Diorama is by far my most popular post.
Most Controversial- I don't think my blog is very controversial. I did write a response to a WSJ article criticizing YA on my blog that has a lot of hits. My Response to the Critics of YA
Most Surprisingly Successful- Way Back Wednesday. Before I started participating in Road Trip Wednesday I gave posting some work from my childhood a try.
Most Underrated- I recently wrote a piece about the importance of Small Roles. I really like it. I may recycle it some day for a Theater Thursday post.
Most Prideworthy- Even though it isn't writing I'm really proud of my Harry Potter Quilt square posts.

I'm terrible at passing awards on because I know everyone is busy writing and blogging so if you want to do this 7X7 thing on your blog you should totally do it.
Happy Saturday!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday Fives- What I Read This Summer

What are the FIVE best books you read this summer?

1. The Harry Potter series- I loved re-reading these books in anticipation of the final movie. I know this is 7 books. I'm counting it as one.

2. Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes- It is about baseball and tortillas and family.

3. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan- I loved this book. It was funny and sweet. I love the idea of people of the same name meeting

4. Possession by Elana Johnson- I've been a follower of Elana for a while and it was so cool to be able to read this. I like this book and kept thinking about the ending and the world of the book.

5. The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler- When I heard Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler were co-authoring a book I knew I had to read this book. This book was seriously funny.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Theater Thursdays- Announcement and Lessons from art

The theater I work at is looking for bloggers to come and see shows and blog about them.

I know this post is probably more beneficial for bloggers who live near Minneapolis but I know bloggers are great at passing on information.

So here's the link.

Last week I was on a road trip to see the Twins take on the White Sox in Chicago. While I was in Chicago I went to the Art Institute with my friend and college roommate, Sarah.

While we were looking at some Monet paintings I remembered a line from the movie Clueless that reminded me to step back from the painting and look at it from across the room. I have to say it totally changed the painting and made it seem even more magical and to wonder how they could look even more defined from far away. I imagine Monet stepping back from his paintings and looking at them from across the room. Or maybe he just had really long paint brushes.

Waterloo Bridge, Grey Weather - Claude Monet

Even though it isn't theater Monet still made me think about writing. How we as writers need to step back and see our work as a whole. Does it fit? Does it sparkle? Does it move us?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

RTW- Grown ups

This week's question from YA Highway is:

What non-YA character would you love to see star in a YA book as themselves?

I think Liz Lemon from 30 Rock would make a great character in a YA book.

She's funny and nerdy.
Since I work in theater with actors I sometimes feel like I relate to Liz Lemon. I think a teenage Liz Lemon would be hilarious.

What about you? What adult character do you want to see as a teenager?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Happy Labor Day

Happy Labor Day.

In Minnesota, Labor Day means The Minnesota State Fair. Fun, farming, food on a stick, people carved in butter. It is a magical thing.

One favorite stop on my State Fair rounds is Crop Art in the Horticulture building.

Check out the Hunger Games seed art.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Friday Fives- Titles

Paper Hangover asks the question- What are the Five book titles that caught your attention.

1. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green- I know this one isn't out yet but I can't wait to read it. I was crying during the description of this book.

2. Dramarama by E. Lockhart- I love books about theater so I knew I'd have to read this one. It was a fun read.

3. The Strange Case of Oragami Yoda by Tom Angleberger- In my TBR pile this book is. Love the title. Read it I will.

4. Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando- This is in my TBR pile. I love the title but I also love the description of what it's about.

5 The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne- I think this title also looks fun. A girl, named Hamlet. It's in my TBR pile too.