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 freeimages.com)
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. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Loss for Words

I haven’t posted in a few-ish weeks (yikes!) I’ve started a bunch of posts, but then just didn’t finish them.

I wanted to tell you how I brought the unwrapped Christmas presents down too soon from the attic and put them in my closet. My 6yo discovered these very quickly. When I told her not to go in there, she cried

“BUT IT’S ALWAYS JUST BEEN A CLOSET! I DIDN’T KNOW!” 

Luckily she bit her tongue and didn’t tell her little sister what she saw.  

I wanted to tell you about how when I needed to get a revision done, I let my kids tattoo me for 15 minutes. They were surprisingly prolific. Sidenote, temporary tattoos stay on for a long time!


Then John Cusick’s blog post yesterday kicked me in the pants. I just needed to start a post with whatever blergh came out of my brain. If I worried so long about what I was trying to accomplish with my post I was sure to accomplish nuthin’.

I need to tell you all about when I submitted to an agent in December and got a response that the agent was closed for submissions as of yesterday. Ack! Reminder: Read the submission guidelines one more time before you submit, even if you just did it a few days ago! I also got a no thanks from an agent but with helpful personal comments, so all was not lost. :)

I started my 2014 accomplishments post as I was reading the flurry of posts after New Year’s. I haven’t finished it yet, but I did count up all the critiques I did in 2014: 
62  
Wow. I love getting critiques, but it feels really great to know I've contributed to 62 stories which may one day make their way into the world.

I also read a brand new subversive picture book called While You Were Napping by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Barry Blitt. I realized I had no idea which category it fit in from my subversive research in the fall. This delicious picture book features a big sister explaining to her little brother all the things he missed while he was napping in a way that only a real stinker of a big sister can do. It’s terribly inappropriate (babies light fireworks), but so good.





Two lovely bloggers nominated Lauri’s Stories for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Please visit their fabulous sites. If you like MG and YA, Leslie Zampetti is a librarian who does great video reviews. If you like people who spell their name's L-A-U-R-I then you have to visit Lauri Fortino's Frog on a Blog. Thank you ladies!!


Ahhh. This post was rambling and disjointed, but it was a start! Here’s to a 2015 with lots of action and less worry about whether the action is the perfect one for this moment. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Jimmy Cantore Steals Christmas

Ho, ho, ho!
It's time for another fun year of Susanna Hill's Christmas Story Contest. She's come up with a doozy this year.

The Contest:  Write a children's story (children here defined as approximately age 12 and under) in which wild weather impacts the holidays!  Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, but is not to exceed 350 words. Stories must be posted by Friday December 12 at 11:59 PM EST.

Here is my entry in 348 words. The original idea was ReindeerNado...but then the toys got mixed in, and here's where we ended up. (Note: This story is fictional and any resemblance to persons living or not is purely coincidental!)   :D

Jimmy Cantore Steals Christmas


By Lauri Meyers


Jimmy Cantore tightened the last nut on the Weatherstation 2000 Wind Turbine. His plan was simple. The machine would create enough wind to sweep over the block. All the presents Santa delivered would be blown right to Jimmy’s porch!

He flipped the switch.

Whirr, whirr.

Fwhoosh!

A remote-controlled racecar! Winner!

Shwoosh!

A telescope – out of this world!

Whoosh!

An X Box! Game on!

Whish, swish, plop!

A dragon! A train! A pee-pee doll?

The toys came faster and faster from every direction and buried Jimmy. He climbed over a rocking horse and pushed out a bouncy ball.

Fwooth!

“Oh-sugar-cookies!” a voice called.

Thunk.

A fluffy white beard flew right into him.

"Why, hello, Jimmy. I hope you enjoyed the Understanding Weather Kit I brought last year."

"Um, yes. I've learned a lot," said Jimmy.

"Perhaps too much."

Jimmy's cheeks turned red.

Santa shimmied through the hole and pulled Jimmy out.

“I must be on my way. It’s a busy night for me.”

"But all these presents have to go back," Jimmy cried. Santa hiked up his red trousers.

"I didn’t mean for so many presents to fly here,” Jimmy said. Santa stroked his beard.

“Maybe if I flip the wind direction the gifts will fly away. But how will they get back to the right places?"

(Old Santa Claus by Alcide Nikopol via freeimages)
“I’ll take care of that,” Santa said.  

Jimmy flipped the switch. A tornado of presents lifted into the air. Santa laid a finger aside of his nose, and the gifts flew down chimneys and magically snuck through keyholes.

“I’m sorry, Santa,” Jimmy said, but no one was there. “Ho, ho, ho!” echoed through the sky.

Jimmy was surprised to see a present from Santa Christmas morning. He opened it slowly knowing it would be coal. His eyes lit up when he read the box – Deluxe Snow Making Kit.

“Wow, if I hook this up to the wind turbine, I could create a blizzard!” Just then a jingling bell reminded him to read the card.

Jimmy, I trust you’ll figure out how to use this, but please use only as directed. - Santa


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Geeking Out - Leveling Books for New Readers

My 6yo and I GEEKED OUT last week. 

Over 2 days, we leveled our personal library following the Fountas & Pinnell system her teacher uses. In her first grade classroom, books are in tubs with a letter on them. Kids know their letter levels, and they get to pick from the book boxes for independent reading. 

The Fountas & Pinnell system creates a gradient of text levels, assigning a letter to the text difficulty from A to Z. The system uses word count, vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, content, etc. to assess how accessible books are to young readers.
 

Image by Anissat via freeimages.com

I started wanting to help my new reader. It turns out I learned quite a lot about picture books in the process. I also discovered my daughter (who can be a handful at homework time) loves doing analytical things as much as I do! When I was pooping out, she would bring down "just one more" stack of books. Now, most of our books have a lovely hot pink post it note with the letter on it.

You don't have to do your whole library to get the feel for how the system works. Here are the resources we used:

Scholastic Look Up - Scholastic has a website and an app which covered many of the books. The best place to start. If you have a school age child, you will start to notice the levels listed for many books in the scholastic flyer.

Lexile Scores  Look Up - If a FP level isn't listed, you may still see a Lexile score. Use a conversion charts to turn it into FP.

A to Z Teacher Stuff - This site had a few books which were missing elsewhere.
Bound To Stay Bookstore - This bookstore site had a good number of AR Levels. Use the conversion chart to turn it into FP.

Reading Level Conversion Chart - This chart compares Lexile, AR, and FP levels. So with one data point, you can translate to the other methods.

Some Easy Readers have the levels listed on the back. Also, some publishers, like Peachtree, have levels listed on their websites. 

What if you can't find the levels for a book? Well, I asked my cousin who is a second grade teacher, and she said "After a while of leveling books, you can tell just by reading them and comparing them to similar titles." I thought she was just being a stinker J , but I have to admit after going through the exercise you do start to see it.

I realized I had pushed books where the content was appropriate (i.e. The First Day of First Grade) but the reading level was way off. We also had an easy reader shelf; however, half of those books were really second grade readers which weren't accessible to my daughter. Now, she can easily find books right for her, and she can celebrate when she's read something a few levels up. 

Have you leveled books before? Please share any insights in the comments.

First Grade targets levels D to J. Here's our library to "K" to give you some perspective on how books level out:

Picture Book F&P Levels

C
Bathtime for Biscuit (Harper My First I Can Read)
Silly Sally

D
Feathers for Lunch
Bring on the birds

F
No, David!
Biscuit (Harper My First I Can Read)
Pete the Cat: A Pet for Pete (Harper My First I Can Read)

G
David Gets in Trouble
Tiger in my Soup
How Do Dinosaurs Say Good night
Boy and Bot

H
Sammy the Seal
Big Snowman Little Snowman (Random House Step Into Reading 1)
If you Give a Pig a Party
Hey, Pancakes

I
Fly Guy Meets Fly Girl
Pinkalicious Pinkie Promise (Harper I Can Read 1)
Just a Mess
Max Spaniel Best in Show
If You Give A Dog a Donut
Splish Splash (Scholastic Reader 2)
The Day Sheep Showed Up (Scholastic Reader 2)
I Want My Hat Back
Prairie Chicken Little


J
Ten Apples Up On Top
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
Hop on Pop
Harry the Dirty Dog
The Cat in the Hat
The Ice Cream King
Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?
Curious George
Three Hens and a Peacock
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

K
If you Give a Pig Pancake
If you Give a Moose a Muffin
Fluffy and the Firefighers (Scholastic Reader 3)
Splat the Cat with a Bang and a Clang (Harper I Can Read 1)
This is Not my Hat
Peppa Pig (The Tooth Fairy)
Children Make Terrible Pets
Camp K-9
Owl Babies
Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late
I’ve Got an Elephant
Snow Day
Knuffle Bunny
Kitten’s First Full Moon





Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Subversive Picture Books (Part 6): Real Life Scary

I'm finally ready with my last post on subversive books: Real Life Scary.

The other topics I covered so far are:
Part 2: Nakeyness
Part 3: The Dark
Part 5: Mortal Danger

I didn't plan to write about real life scariness. It took brainstorming what made books scary to identify this area. I've also been procrastinating this one, because perhaps it scares me the most.

There's something refreshing about being able to close a book on gooey green monsters, which you know probably aren't real. And even though I'm scared of the dark, I know there's probably really not anything lurking in it. But real life. Now, that's scary.

It's probably not fair to call these subversive, but here's a selection of books that make me pause before reading to my kids. And my breath hitches when I consider there are little children who are living in similar situations to these today.

"Bullies might try to look big...but don't let them make you feel small."

(Bully: A Lift the Flap Book, illustrated by Naomi Tipping)

I really dislike having to talk about bullies and to think about my kids being bullied. Or my kids being bullies. This book gives children the tools they need to confront bullying and seek help. It also shines a light on behaviors they need to avoid. 



"Someday we'll be able to choose our own candidates...Someday we may even be able to choose a woman as a candidate."

(Mama Went to Jail for the Vote, by Kathleen Karr, illustrated by Malene Laugesen)

I enjoy a good woman's suffrage story. What makes this one feel risqué is how it gets real on the fight. The years of daily parades and pickets, the personal danger, and the risk of being hauled off in handcuffs. While this mama went to jail for six months, her daughter carried on the fight to gain the right to vote.

"We are quiet. The fear. We run. We crawl."

(Underground, by Shane Evans)

Short sentences and dark pictures show the journey of slaves toward the light of a free day. The background page succinctly sums up the setting: "until the abolition of slavery in 1865, people could lawfully own a fellow human being." But in our real world, young girls were stolen from school and sold off as soldier wives.



"Brundibar is big...and you are small...What to do when you are few? Ask for help, get more of you!"

(Brundibar, by Tony Kushner, illustrated by Maurice Sendak.)

Scary things: A dead daddy they don't remember at all. A very sick mother. A life or death mission to get milk. No money? No milk! Threats of being stuffed in a burlap sack. Children alone in an alley.

Beautiful things: 302 children singing a lullaby to defeat the bully Brundibar, earning milk money, and saving mommy.  

The story is based on an opera performed by the children of the Nazi concentration camp Terezin. The final pages offer a threat from the tyrant Brundibar which says: "Bullies don't give up completely. One departs, the next appears, and we shall meet again my dears!" And I think thank goodness my children don't have to face this. Then I remember children in the world are facing this right now.

"...but there are some things doctors cannot fix either. Ben was too sick for his body to live any longer."

(Ben's Flying Flowers, by Inger Maier, Illustrated by Maria Bogade)

In real-life sometimes little brothers get cancer and die. And big sisters need to mourn and learn how to smile again. This is a difficult topic to share with kids. But for the child going through this situation, it's critical that resources like this book exist.


"People called Ruby names; some wanted to hurt her."

(The Story of Ruby Bridges, by Robert Coles, illustrated by George Ford.)

In 1960 New Orleans a judge ordered a 6-year-old black girl Ruby Bridges to go to a white school. For months she faced pickets and insults and walking to school surrounded by federal marshals. The other children stopped coming to school, so she learned to read and write in a classroom alone. Each day she prayed for the people those people. Wouldn't it be neat to say, "Oh thank goodness this doesn't happen today"?



Did I just write a post with no humor and no farting? Yep. Real life is the scariest thing of all. I am very thankful to have humor to soften the edges of what can be a very frightening world. And I'm grateful writing allows me the time to fully investigate the beauty and wonder of this world, too. 
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