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Showing posts from 2013

Let's Celebrate (all of the) Holidays!

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The Annual Highlights Fiction Contest is coming up! Entries can be up to 800 words and the deadline is 1/31. This year's topic is Holiday . While Christmas & New Years are top of mind right now, I thought a list of other holidays may be great inspiration for everyone, whether entering the contest or looking for a new idea to start the year.   Love this photo of a traditional Midsummer Dance! (By Totte Jonsson via sxc.hu) Nature Holidays: Earth Day, Arbor Day, Groundhog Day, Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice, May Day, Midsummer Day Fun Days: New Year's Eve, St. Patrick's Day, April Fools, Halloween, Festivus (for the rest of us), Talk like a Pirate Day, Chinese New Year, Leap Day Thankful Days : Thanksgiving, Boxing Day Holidays of Love : Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Children's Day, Grandparents Day, Sweetest Day Religious Holidays : Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Passover, Good Friday, Easter, Dyn

Christmas Past and Present

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I found a series of writing prompt responses the other day, probably from early high school, lovingly typed on a very large typewriter. I vaguely remember getting a magazine which offered writing prompts or maybe I found a "Learn How to Write" book at the library. Relevant to the season was " Describe a street at Christmas:"       Bright lights line the streets. Sleighbells jingle, hanging from a horse drawn carriage. The horses wear a thin blanket of snow. The driver huddles under his warmest coat.  Little girls in velvet dresses with hands tucked in white muffs flash smiles. The children's red noses clash with the white surroundings. Billows of white breath rise in the chilled air. The sweet smell of baking cookies fills me with warmth, and circles of smoke from Papa's pipe wrap me in comfort. I recognized the staccato poetry I often fall into without thinking and my propensity to respond very literally to the request: describe . I must have b

Christmas Confusion! (A Holiday Story)

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Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting a Holiday Contest this week!  To participate: Write a  children's story  about a  Holiday Mishap , mix-up, miscommunication, mistake, or potential disaster, not to exceed 350 words and posted by Friday December 13 th at 11:59 PM EST  Check out the full rules at her site .   Her site has the links to the 700 other entries (plus or minus a few hundred) which are full of holiday cheer and laughs!  Enjoy!     The idea came to me during PiBoIdMo, but the rest of the story had to noodle itself out the past few weeks while I've been shopping, wrapping, cooking and watching the Sound of Music for the 10th time. So on the last day... Here's my 349 word entry:  Christmas Confusion By Lauri Meyers Cries of confusion filled St. Ive's Orphanage on Christmas morning. "This strange sword has a hook on the end," Bobby complained. "This nightgown is big enough for Santa," Maggie whimpered. "Tsk

Birthday Partying like a Kid

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It's my birthday today! I was having a deep philosophical conversation with my 3-year-old this morning about how cool it would be if I became a kid again on my birthday.  So when I was asked to play Cootie, I said "No! It's my birthday! And I want to play Cootie AND make puzzles!" (Sidenote: I won Cootie, not that it matters of course...) I followed that with toast with butter and jelly which is a treat because my adult self usually skips the butter.  And I showered! (that really wasn't the kid in me so much as the overworked mom who often neglects to care for herself.) Happy Birthday to me! (Just be thankful I didn't have any Easy Cheese in the pantry.) We walked to kindergarten this morning, because I definitely would have done that when I as little.  I did a happy birthday to me song and dance in the kitchen (does it go without saying that this was a silly dance?) twice, because my daughter said "Again!" and kid me sai

Mentor Text Resources & a Winner!

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Thank you to all the participants in the Mentor Text Challenge. Remember mentor texts are an excellent defense against writer's block, lack of inspiration, and all sorts of writer's ailments. We have a challenge winner (selected by Random.org): Marcie! She has won a 2013 PiBoIdMo Journal and the warm touchy feeling that comes with knowing $3 goes to support Reading is Fundamental !  Marcie grabbed the book A Storm Called Katrina  and selected its first person narration style to apply to a WIP.  (Marcie - If I can't find you, email me at laurimeyers (at) gmail.com!) If you've been following along on the Mentor Text Posts, you deserve a prize for your commitment to studying craft. So just for you...  Excellent Resources for KidLit Nerds RenLearn  Type in the title of a book and get its book level, word count, AR points, etc. Scholastic  Type in the title of a book and get its grade interest level, grade reading level, and theme/subject area. I

Mentor Text Challenge (with a PiBo Prize!)

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I like to write a "companion" post for PiBoIdMo every year. Last year's Match Up Mash Up game spurred PB ideas faster than a cowboy at a rodeo. This year since we've been talking mentor texts to learn craft, study word counts, and improve read-aloud-ability, I want to highlight another great use for mentor texts:   Cheating! No, no, no. Not plagiarism - but as a springboard, a starting point, a puzzle frame, a make-your-own-sundae bar... pick your favorite metaphor. Does this guy look worried about stealing a little bread? Heck, no! Just have a little nibble... (By Roman Olmezov via sxc.hu) You can try straight substitution. Take Kevin Henkes' Little White Rabbit , where a rabbit wonders what it would be like to be a different color, have different locomotion, or be a different size. Replace the rabbit with another animal or person or thing (we allow personification of inanimate objects in this neck of cyberspace.) What desires would this new

Ask the Education Consultant - Interview with Marcie Colleen

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I adore seeing Marcie Colleen at NJ SCBWI events, because she is a ball of energy and easy to find in a crowd.  But it has been fun seeing  Marcie everywhere in writing cyberspace the last few weeks, too. Marcie & Lauri hanging out... if we look exhausted it's because Ame Dyckman (in the background) had us wrestling PBs all day.  As Education Consultant for Picture Book Month she developed this outstanding teachers' guide Why Picture Books Belong in the Classroom , where she makes a case for both non-fiction and fiction as teaching tools. She served as housecleaner for PiBoIdMo  with her post on preparing your creative idea collection space.  She was seen rolling up her sleeves and mining childhood memories over at the Picture Book Academy, where she is a graduate and Blogette!  Did I mention she ran the NYC Marathon last Sunday? Oh yeah. That too. :)   So it seems totally reasonable she is hosting an  Ask the Education Consultant Blog Hop on

Halloween Thank you

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I've been meaning to say THANK YOU to Bridget Heos and the Mr. Pig writers at The Little Crooked Cottage  for running a giveaway I recently won.   I received this awesome Mustache Baby prize pack - Signed copy of Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos, mustache playing cards, and mustache binky. I've found sucking on a mustache binky while writing can really drive your creativity, and I'm much less likely to cry during editing. This week it dawned on me the best way to say thank you is via Jack O'Lantern. So I carved a Bad Mustache pumpkin. He came out quite wicked, wouldn't you say? If you have not read Mustache Baby, get your hands on it.  For writers, this book will push you to pun-perfection, as in this example when the baby's mustache turns out to be a bad mustache: Billy's disreputable mustache led him to a life of dreadful crime.  He became: A cat burglar. A cereal criminal.  And a train robber so heartless that he even stole

White Cat's Halloween - a Halloweensie Poem

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It's the time of year to gorge small children with sugar and make them pee their pants! Which also means it's time for Susanna Leaonard Hill's Halloweensie contest . The rules: your Halloween story must be 100 words or less and include the words black cat, cackle, and spooky.  Last year I wrote about the poor Jack O' Lantern who couldn't go trick or treating. This year I'm tackling the serious issue of feline bullying. This particular entry was inspired by a " Short & Sweet " Susanna also hosts monthly.  (image by jerca via sxc.hu, with edits) White Cat's Halloween By Lauri C. Meyers, 2013 Violet's sad on Halloween. Teasing black cats treat her mean: "You can't even cause a fright (image by orleil via sxc.hu) Wearing fur so milky white!" Violet narrows bright green eyes, "I can too cause children's cries!" Arching back, extended claws Loudly yowl- expect

What Slows Down a Read Aloud

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Picture books need to be under 500 words (and that's only when you overshoot 350.)  Pacing and word choice are important. Manuscripts must be read out loud.  I know these things, but a lightbulb clicked on recently: time my read aloud story to ensure it reads like a low word count story. So, I timed myself reading aloud the same books as my last post. Not because I'm lazy, because I'm efficient. Very efficient. Kind of like how I'm efficiently working my way through a bag of candy corn right now. Anyhow, here they are: Kitten's First Full Moon (Henkes, 2004) - 264 words  - 3 minutes to read (1.5 seconds/word) Children Make Terrible Pets (Brown, 2010) - 372 words - 3' 40" to read (1.7 seconds/word) The Boy Who Cried Ninja (Latimer, 2011) - 517 words - 4 minutes to read (2.2 seconds/word) You may be saying "Well, there's some variability each time you read a story." And you are right. I didn't note how many times my

Mentor Texts

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I read in several "how to write" books to try typing out picture books you love to see what they looked like as a manuscript.   Well, I dutifully ignored this advice for a year. I finally tried it with the following books a few weeks ago:             Kitten's First Full Moon - 264 words (By Kevin Henke, 2004)             Children Make Terrible Pets - 372 words (By Peter Brown, 2010)             This Moose Belongs to Me - 397 words (By Oliver Jeffers, 2012)             The Boy Who Cried Ninja - 517 words (By Alex Latimer, 2011) Here's what I learned: Typing the text let's you really absorb it. Like drinking it through a straw.  I also tried drinking it through a straw, but it required so much water to make the pages slurpable that I really got a significant tummy ache and a severe case of belching. "Look Ma, I learned how to use mentor texts!" image by  C├ęcile Graat via sxc.hu Typing it out (if you're a fast keyer) is much b

The Latest, Greatest Low Tech Devices

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I am device rich. My calendar is always with me to schedule the next dentist appointment or to remind me to pick up a kiddo.  My map tells me where to go when I'm lost (which happens a fair amount.) To see if a store is open, I only need to dial a number. Hmm, that cloud looks menacing...an app lets me know to grab an umbrella. But being device rich can mean being quality time poor. No worries though, because I have the latest in low tech technology! Clearly this little piggy is an excellent listener! (Ben Earwicker via sxc.hu www.garrisonphoto.org) Arms!  Yes, arms. They are wonderful for turning the wheels on the bus round and round.  These security devices make crossing the street with a kindergartener safe.  They are the perfect utensil for eating baby carrots. You can't beat arms for wrapping up little ones (and big ones) in hugs. Once you have arms, you really need to get another device... Mouth! This ultimate multi-functional tool can be used for

Back to School

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Imagine you're walking down the street when a smell tickles your nose. Are you being followed by a young man fresh out of gym class who is not yet wearing deodorant even though it really is prime time to start? Though you try to resist, you take another sniff of the air. You catch a touch of banana peel left in the car for a week with a hint of day old peanut butter and jelly crust. You start to look around for an overflowing trash can causing the attack on your nasal passages, but instead you find some sort of creature. You quickly snap your eyes forward. Was that Medusa?  No, a pinch on your wrist confirms you have not turned to stone. You shouldn't turn around; mother always said it wasn't polite to stare. But out of a valid concern Godzilla is following you, you take a quick peek. It appears to have human eyes, though the sunken eyes have dark circles under them. Realizing this is just a vagrant, you sit on a bench and allow yourself a long look. Sometimes

Summer Hazards

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Summer is winding down. I'm okay to see it go. It's very dangerous. Though I managed to avoid serious summer dangers like sunburns and bee stings and flaming marshmallow attacks, I fell victim to some bad events. As school let out on the last day, I got too confident on my toddler-sized skateboard and fell on my tush. Since we live across from the school, all the cool kids saw it. OMG. So embarrassing . I had to set a good example about failure for my kids, so I bravely attempted another ride, aching backside and all. Ouchipotatoes! Note the big frowny face and summer flyaway hair do... A few days later I unwrapped the first popsicle of summer and raised it to my lips. I must have been out of training, because I got the popsicle stuck to one of lips. If I had been cool-headed (like if I had already had a popsicle,) I would've poured warm water on the popsicle. But it's hard to think rationally when in such grave peril, so I yanked it. One wor

As Simple as ABC

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An idea popped into my head during a lovely nap on Saturday (though of course once the idea arrived, the nap had to be cut short which was most unfortunate.) This particular idea indicated it would like to be told as an alphabet book in rhyme. A very demanding idea indeed! I have not attempted an alphabet book yet. I admit it seemed like a reasonably easy endeavor. One only needs to think of 26 appropriately named items. And weave them in a story arc.  And incorporate them in alphabetical order.  And find a way to tie it in with perfect rhyme.  Easy Peasy! (by wbd via sxc.hu) As I sat at my desk (having abandoned the napping couch) trying to figure out the perfect word which started with "A," I realized I had been hoodwinked! The alphabet book is a challenging form full of rules. Though some rules can be broken, I fear starting an alphabet book with "A" is one you can't mess with.  Luckily an "A" word finally appeared and helped to

Where Does a New Writer Start (part 3)

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I'm continuing a series where I respond to a new writer who wanted advice on how to get started  writing picture books. Check out  part 1  and part 2  also!  "I’m not sure which category my voice fits in." I struggle with this as well. My voice is probably a 12-year-old boy. Yet, I'm not focusing on a MG novel. Why not?  Because I made a choice to focus on picture books, though I play with MG stories on the side. I chose not to write Mom pieces for parenting magazines or nonfiction stories for nature magazines or steamy romance for paperback. I could write in these areas, but there is only so much time and focus is key. So when you're starting out, write a boat load of different things. If your only idea is for a middle grade novel, then by all means start there.  Otherwise, dabble for a while with short stories aimed at different ages.  Maybe your voice will tell you which it likes best. Or maybe it won't.  Now pick a genre and focus for awhile.  Pi

Where Does a New Writer Start? (part 2)

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I'm continuing an earlier post where I respond to a new writer who wanted advice on how to get started  writing picture books. See the first part of the post here.   "How do you stay organized?" "What's that now?" I call from under a stack of papers while leaning on a pile of dirty laundry.  First, I'm quite anal-retentive, so I do love organizing. In fact I like it so, it is my first go to when I want to procrastinate. I have a mirror system, I suppose. Electronically the folder "Writing" (creative, yes?) holds folders for PBs, MG, YA, Publishers, Agents, Craft, Critiquing, Blog.  Then I have a nerdy numbering system to organize stories within there, but we don't need to draw attention to my nerdiness.  I back this up to the cloud and on a little flash drive. It is super helpful if you can type this fast. (image by Hisks via sxc.hu) I like to keep a paper copy too, just in case on e-goblins and so I can grab it to go t