Monday, June 29, 2015

Can Kids Write Books?

Whatever your views are about the Common Core, I have to say there is definitely a lot of focus on writing! My daughter’s first grade class had Writers Workshop and even had a special event for parents to hear their opinion pieces. (I learned A LOT about why Minecraft is awesome and how beautiful cardinals are.)

This focus sparked some questions from a pal of mine.

“Miss Lauri, can kids write books?”

“Anyone can write a book.”

“Yeah, but can 7-year-olds write books?”
My illustrations when I was a kid are
not as good as Josie's!

“I happen to know some very cool kids who write. Like Erik Weibel, who is 13 now, but used to be 9 when he started blogging and well, I’m sure he was 7 before then. His sister Josie is an illustrator and his friend Felicia wrote a book, or well her pets did.  

“We had an author visit the school which was so cool!”

“Yeah, that was totally cool. Erik and Felicia interview real authors in videos at The Write Chat. Sometimes they are ridiculously silly. Isn’t that so cool??”

“So cool, but how do I become a writer?”

“You write.”

“Miss Lauri, I mean really.”

“First, you need an idea. There is a cool Kids are Writers Summer Camp which will have daily prompts. Prompts are like little idea starters.” 

“I’ve got a million ideas!”

“Okay, okay, just start with one. Then figure out what happens. My friend Carrie has a worksheet to help you figure out what happens. She calls it her Plot Connector. It’s really easy to fill it in with ideas.” 


“Let me read it. The dog wants more than anything to see his friend Chipper the chipmunk but his owner won’t let him out. So he tries to sneak out, break the door, and bark really loud, but it doesn’t work. Then…he says please and the owner lets him out! Oh, this is quite good.”

“I know. Thank you. It was pretty easy.”

“Would you like to read this story again and again?”

“Well, I dunno. I already kind of know what happens.”

“Hmm. Well, then this is called a first draft. I have some ideas to help you edit. Would you like to hear them?”

“Oh yes, and give me a huge stack of paper please. And sharpen this pencil. And are there any goldfish to eat?”

“Yes, yes, of course. *scurries around house for a few minutes* Okay, the first tip is to find the right word and be specific. So instead of dog, you might say Woofers the dog. Or Woofers the Great Dane. Or Tiny the Great Dane.”

“No, no, no. His name is Charming the Chihuahua!”

“Oh, yes that’s very good. Chihuahuas are always funny. That brings me to the next tip. When you want to think of something really good, write down seven ideas. By the time you get to the seventh it will be the best one. Do you know why I picked seven?”

“Because I’m seven!!”
“No, because it’s my lucky number. Now, go practice those tips until that Chihuahua really comes to life.”

“Okay, Miss Lauri. Can I bring my goldfish?”

“Yep, just get out of here, I’ve got a million ideas I need to write down.”

Happy Summer and Happy Writing everyone!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Metamorphosis Procrastination

We got 10 visitors for my daughter's birthday – caterpillars! Just like in The Very Hungry Caterpillar, these critters start out tiny as a pin head and are huge (in a small sense) within a week.

Then the calls from down the stairs begin, “Mom, one is in j-formation! J-formation!” So you watch and you think you will catch it spinning its chrysalis, but you get distracted and when you come back it’s all tucked inside its new apartment.

We observed all of the caterpillars do this. Well, not all. Not George. He just kept climbing around, maybe wondering why no one would answer his request to play croquet. Maybe he just wanted to be a little fatter. Maybe he was the shy one and enjoyed having a little space to explore without his sister giving him caterpillar wedgies. Maybe.

Or maybe George had a case of Metamorphosis Procrastination.

He would worry about not knowing how to make a chrysalis. “What if I accidentally do it upside down and then I can only fly with my head down for the rest of my life?”

He would shiver with the thought of being a pupa. “Pupa? Like I turn into Poop? Ack!”

George would declare, “I never wanted to be a butterfly anyway. No thanks. You guys fly around for a few days until a blue jay snaps you up for lunch.”

He would question nature. “But I’m perfect just the way I am. Lady Gaga told me so.”

George is in the left container,
crawling around the top. 
This continued for two days in the quiet solitude of the caterpillar enclosure. I can’t imagine how creepy it would be to crawl in and out of the stoic, hanging forms of all his friends frozen in time. Alone. Surrounded by other caterpillars poo balls.

But this morning the calls rang out again, “George is in j-formation! He did it!!”

And I said, “But George, I thought we were going to hold out on this! Tell nature to shove it. We were going to explore the world together, me on my two feet and you on your, um 32 or something. Baby, you were born this way!”

George just said, well, he couldn’t say anything because he was all j’d up. Plus, he’s a caterpillar, and you know they can’t actually talk. But I think he would have said, “I was pretty good at being a caterpillar, but I will be excellent at being a butterfly.”

So what have you been procrastinating? Well, take George’s lead and get on it with it! (For me it’s writing my pitch for this weekend’s NJ SCBWI Conference…yay!)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Tom Boys and Character Biases

I have been lax on my blog this year, but I’ve never gone a whole month without posting…and it’s May 31st! A true procrastinator like me just can’t resist the challenge of a deadline.

I was considering the other day why I always gravitate towards boy characters. After all, they say write what you know, and I don’t have a Y chromosome. I don't even have boy kids. I have girlie-girls. I mean, seriously, my dryer lint looks like glittery hot pink Peeps.

I was, however, a bit of a tomboy growing up. Perhaps it was my duty in life as the second girl child born in the family to somehow fill the void of the hoped for boy.

So I helped my dad build things. I got muddy, and my knees were always skinned. I could belch the alphabet. I formed excellent attack formations playing He-man. My favorite summertime activity was lining up all my cars at the top of the little hill on my driveway and conducting races. (Though in a nerdiness wholly my own, I also charted the results and statistically analyzed future race winners.)  

But what really made me a tomboy?

I think it was the way I spit-shined my hair. My hair was in a ponytail a lot, which probably caused the little fly-aways that surrounded my head like I was producing my own static electricity.

This was quite unsightly. I knew girls should look tidy, but the thought of having to take a break from setting the world record of times rolled down a hill in row to brush my hair was ludicrous. So, I would spit on my hands and wipe them across my head. Voila! Nice smooth hair.

Last weekend I was working with a friend putting in a butterfly garden at the elementary school. It was hard work and after a couple hours I looked just like my 5-year-old self wearing a halo of crazy hair. But I’m mature now, and I wouldn’t think of licking my hair. So I just poured some water on my hair. Voila! Nice smooth hair.

Do you have a character gender preference? I’m curious if other writers have subconscious biases too.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Take Your Child to Work Day

For my 7yo, hearing she couldn’t go to Take Your Child to Work Day at daddy’s office until she turned eight was, well, horrifically painful, soul-torturing, complete and total devastation. Everyone was doing it. She turned to me for options.

“Can I stay home with you and write?”

“Well, I hardly write on Thursdays, because your sister is home.”

“Can I stay home with you and write?”

“No, you can’t stay home to watch me not work.”

“Can I stay home with you and write?”

“Do you have potatoes in your ears?”

“I don’t like potatoes.”

“Right. Well, I was going to write tonight. If you get your homework done, I’ll take you to work with me.”

“Like in the office?”

“Yes. Like. In the office.”  

Then I realized if I was going to make it legitimate, I needed to be able to explain what I do. The truth is, well, squishy. I spend a lot of time writing in my head while staring at the swan across the street. Sometimes writing means just banging my head on the desk. Often it just looks like me pacing around muttering, “Swayed? No. Shimmied? No. Sashayed? No? Skippidoodliedooed? No! Argh, what is the perfect word???”

I decided to save that reality check for when she tells me she wants to be a writer. For today, I would keep it simple.

So in honor of Take Your Child to Work Day, here is what I do:

I could have gone super: idea, write, make it better, and blam-o—a finished book! But I wanted to be more accurate and at least include the idea of drafts which they learn about in first grade (yes, that’s true!) and critique which is such an important part of the process.

Happy Take Your Child to Work Day! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

4 Signs a Writer Isn’t Writing & a Blogiversary

4 Signs a Writer Hasn’t Been Writing

1. Butt cheek indentations missing in writing chair.

2. Spring cleaning nearly done, and it’s still winter.  

3. The laundry is done. All of it.

4 Writer can be found dressed as bacon while playing Subway Surf.

I’ve snapped these pictures the last few weeks as my Lazy Writeritis has grown out of control. 
BUT I told myself I could not post them until the problem had been solved...

So seeing them here is GREAT NEWS!

I had an awesome writing day yesterday, and here I am writing a blog post today even though more *lovely* *glistening* *please tell me it’s almost over* snow is eminent.  (Really we should all be happy this post didn’t look like a page of The Shining.)

More good news: Today is my 3 year Blogiversary!

WOW! I’ve gone through so many writing stages and so much growth in the last three years. I know call tons of writers my friends. I’ve helped other writers by sharing resources, critiquing and regularly laughing at myself.

This year is going to be all about Enjoying the Growth. I’m going to let a little publication-pressure roll off and just relish the days of letting my pen flow and becoming a stronger writer. 

Write on! Man, I could really use a few pieces of bacon...

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Watching the Wheels Turn

Tuesday was a hard day.

Both kids were sniffly.

There was a snow delay after a snow day, and the walls were closing in on us all.

My little one fell in the garage and busted her lip. Have you noticed lip booboos bleed with the shocking ferocity of a sword wound?

And my hermit crab in the Angry Birds shell passed away. RIP Hermie.

Are you playing your tiny violin for me yet?

(image by Nazreth via
Some days call for shopping. With the promise of an ice cream cone and escalator ride, my bruised baby recovered. 
She is a tough little girl and as sweet as (fill in with your own cliché – honey, apple pie, marshmallow fluff, a winning lotto ticket.)  I’ve never heard her say one of those rude things kids are known to say. No “Why are you so fat?” or “Why does that man have one eyebrow?” or “Why don’t her shoes match her purse?” So I was floored when she looked down the escalator at a woman with very gray hair and said,

“She looks like she’s almost dead.”

When you become a mother, you learn to feed the baby and don’t shake the baby and use a car seat….blah blah blah. But there’s no lessons on how to not laugh out loud when something inappropriate but hilarious happens. 

I bit my lip, I nearly swallowed my tongue, and with quivering cheeks, I squeaked out, “Hmm.”  

Then the writer-me started to study my daughter’s facial expressions as she stared at the woman with a horrified expression which can only be described as “watching a trainwreck.” I think she truly expected the woman to take her less breath and then tumble down the rest of the escalator. Perhaps she was worried about having to step over her lifeless body at the end. Maybe she wondered if she would instantly turn to bones. 

I could see her imagination running loose. It was exciting and inspiring! I knew then I needed a break from my long focus on revision. My muse wants to have a little freedom.

Have you let your imagination run wild lately? 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Persistence Party

I’ve had a touch of stinkifunkitis in 2015. (No this isn’t the same as the funkysmellitosis I’m also suffering from after a very sweaty yoga class.)

My word of the year in 2014 was REVISE. And I revised my patootie off.

But this January my revision brain is on vacation. I tried to work it with ReViMo, with medium success. I tricked it into revisions by rereading and analyzing manuscripts when not in front of the computer. Unfortunately, none of the changes are getting finalized into nice final drafts.

So when I read Romelle Broas’ blog post this morning – Confessionsof a Writer: So Close Yet So Far - which opens with this:

I have a confession to make.

Lately, I've been plagued by doubt, fear, and nonsense talk.

I found myself yelling, “OMGollygee, ME TOO!!”

Misery loves company, and boy does it feel good to know I’m not the only one facing a lot of self-doubt.

But this ain’t no Pity Party.

Nope… This is a Persistence Party. After we pin the illustrations on the picture book and crack open the slush pile piñata, we give eachother a big hug and say, “get back to work.”
"I will break this pinata open if it's the last
thing I do."

Because, like Romelle, I find creative writing for children incredibly fun, motivating, and inspiring. What a great job to have. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to write a NEW draft. Because it’s okay to let revisions wait a little bit while I nourish my brain with the bright orange glow of creativity. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...