Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Girl Meets World

Staunton River State Park, VA
Photo Credit: Julie Bonner
As I approach "the end" of my novel, I realize more and more that my young adult story parallels my life. My main character, Corey, finds himself in this new, unknown world where he navigates his way through dangers, challenges and personalities. And though panic occasionally rears its head, he reminds himself to be brave and trust in the future. He learns to believe in himself and accept help from others.

Recently, my son and I moved to a new community and enrolled in college classes. I'm brand new to the cell phone and laptop worlds. But I've been able to navigate my way around town and through the techie challenges. I'm enjoying meeting new people. And yes, there's an occasional pang of panic. I may veer off the path a little longer than Corey, but I do make it back, trusting in community and in the future. Thankfully, I've had a bit of help from some of the dearest of friends.

I didn't set out to write about my world. Didn't realize till recently just how similar Corey's world is to mine.

So I'm curious...

Do other writers experience the same thing? Are their fictional stories similar to their own lives? And did they plan it that way or did it just naturally evolve?

If you're a writer, I'd love to hear your "story"...

(For a peek at my first page:

**Special thanks to Patrick Dinneny, fellow Social Media Marketing student, for creating my blog post title!**

#writer #story #book #fiction #life #brave #adventure #GirlMeetsWorld

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Just ONE! *Contest*

If I had to choose one word for illustrator Hazel Mitchell, it’d be talented.

Hmm… or witty, or fun, clever or spontaneous. Okay, so choosing only one word would be difficult.

You see, Hazel not only breathed life into author Nicole Groeneweg’s words in One Word Pearl, the winner of the National Association of Elementary School Principals Children’s Book Competition,
she’s also giving away an autographed copy of One Word Pearl!

How to win??

All you need to do is tell Hazel what your favorite word is, and why, in 25 words or less in the comment section below. Just be sure to include an email address so she can contact you if she likes your word best!

For example, Hazel told me her favorite word is:

Complete. I like the sound of complete. And it means I can move on to the next thing!

Congratulations to Kim W!
She won the Just ONE! Contest!!!!  

"My word is HOPEFUL. Why? I am FULL of HOPE as a teacher of students in K - 5th grade. I am hopeful that I have the courage, strength, and stamina to be a better teacher each day."

 Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest! And a special thanks to the talented, witty, fun, clever, spontaneous Hazel Mitchell for sharing her gifts with us!


One Word Pearl…

Pearl loves words. All kinds of words. Words make up songs, stories, poems . . . and what does a lover of words do? She collects them, of course!

But one day, most of Pearl’s words are blown away, leaving her only a few which she keeps safely in her treasure chest. After that day, she uses each word carefully—one at a time, until she has no words left. When her teacher asks her questions at school, she doesn’t answer. When her friend wants to know what she has for lunch, she can’t respond. What will Pearl do without her precious words? Will she ever find them?

 I hope this book will get kids really thinking about the use of words, how much fun they can have with them and that teachers will use the book as a tool in the classroom to get children creating THEIR own stories with THEIR favorite words ... just like Pearl!” Hazel

Hazel Mitchell, illustrator of 14 books for children, can’t remember a time when she wasn’t drawing. Even now she can’t be safely left alone with a pencil! Her books include    1, 2, 3 by the Sea, Hidden New Jersey, One Word Pearl, All Star Cheerleaders and How to Talk to an Autistic Kid (ForeWord Reviews Gold Medal winner). Hazel is originally from Yorkshire, England, and now lives and works in Maine, USA. She visits schools to talk with students about her illustration work and speaks at conferences. See more of her work at and book a visit through
Hazel can be found on:
Twitter @thewackybrit

Curtin Corner in Nov. 2012 with the Turbo Monkeys:
And illustrator Debbie Ohi’s web site:


 #OneWordPearl #HazelMitchell #book #contest #giveaway

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dear Life, You Suck

I had low to no expectations for Dear Life, You Suck, an edgy young adult novel written by Scott Blagden. I had purchased the book at the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in May where Scott was one of the presenters. The intended recipient of the book was, and still is, my niece who's been struggling through her teen years. But before I passed the book along, I HAD to read the story first. And I'm so glad I did.

Cricket Cherpin, the rough-around-the-edges, suitcase-full-of-baggage sort of main character, twists, transforms and molds words and names into new shapes. As I read his words, their meaning wriggled under my skin and into my heart. Yes, there's profanity and the topics of sex, drugs, religion and suicide. So, maybe this book's not for every teen, but it is for every adult... because we have the power to twist, transform and mold the shape of our youths' futures. This book reminds us that we need to be careful how we choose to do so.

As it turns out, I'm not the only one who sees this book's merits. The Young Adult Library Services Association has nominated Dear Life, You Suck for their Best Fiction for Young Adults List.

Check out Scott's web site: 
and find him on Twitter @sblagden
Scott Blagden, author
What inspired you to write this story?
I'd written three previous novels, all very character-driven, and all very enthusiastically rejected by the publishing world. I decided to write something I thought I'd have better luck selling - a teen mystery full of action and suspense.

The original story was about a sixteen-year-old orphan who notices suspicious activity on an island across the bay from the orphanage where he lives. Kind of a Hardy Boys mystery with booze and profanity. As the main character developed, I realized the story was really about him, not some stupid island adventure. By the time I was done, barely a hint of the original plot remained.

Do/did you know a Cricket?
I had family "issues" growing up. Nothing as bad as Cricket, but enough to understand his underlying emotional and psychological motivations. Other than that, Cricket is completely fictional.

Cricket Cherpin. Great name. How'd you come up with it?
I wanted a name that matched his personality, something unusual and a little creepy. I picked Cherpin as his last name because his parents are the kind of nutcases who would name a kid Cricket Cherpin.

Who has made the greatest impact in your life? And how?
Personality and psychology-wise (i.e. writer stuff), there's a Willa Cather quote I really like: "Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen." There's a lot of truth in that statement, especially for writers of character-driven fiction. So for me, the answer would have to be my parents. My childhood is definitely the major source of my story material, at least for the inner-character-struggle stuff.

I like writing stories that explore our psychological and emotional molding in childhood. How we begin to recognize this in young adulthood, and how we react, or don't react, to what we discover. My favorite characters are those who react. Those who fight to overcome their past, those who don't let it control their future.

You have nailed down that elusive entity known as voice. How?
Cricket just popped into my head one day, which is unusual for me because I usually complete a full-blown character study before I start writing. But there he was, ranting and raving about parents, life, death, religion, girls, school, God, art. I couldn't shut him up, so I started writing him down.

I never imagined I could use any of it in an actual novel because he was so crude and profane. But I kept writing because he was so entertaining. My main goal was honesty. I wanted to tell Cricket's story in his authentic voice without watering it down for industry gatekeepers. He's a tough, angry, distrustful kid, and I wanted to give him the freedom to speak his mind, uncensored.

You are the King of word play. Is there a gene for that? Or did you have to really work at it?
Both. I definitely have a twisted imagination, and I guess that's a gene thing because many of the unusual word creations and combinations just came to me, but I also work very hard on word choice and sentence structure. When I write I always have an online dictionary, thesaurus, and rhyming website open on my computer.

Did writing this story feel like a mountainous climb or a stroll on the beach?
Nothing about writing is a stroll on the beach for me. Writing Dear Life, You Suck was a mountainous climb. I spent over a year hiking toward what I thought was the summit, only to find it was the foothills of another summit. Then I discovered another summit beyond that and another summit beyond that. It was a big mountain, but I finally got there.

Your Critique Group Cohorts... What do they mean to you?
The members of my critique group are an important aspect of my writing. It wasn't until my fourth novel that I joined a critique group. I was a closet novelist for many years, unwilling to share my work with anyone, certain I could do it all on my own. I didn't want to share my work until it was absolutely perfect, but I eventually realized that sharing my work before it's perfect helps me get it as close to perfect as I can.

Tell me about your prankiness... how has it hindered/helped you?
Like with all authors, our individual quirks and foibles help us in a huge way if we're willing to accept them and make them a part of our writing. I think that's the most important aspect of voice - finding our own voice, accepting it, and writing it.

I wrote several novels before DLYS in a voice that wasn't my own because I thought it was a voice that agents and editors would want. Obviously, that was a huge mistake.

My true writing voice didn't come until I let my true self gush out onto the page, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I could see this story on the big screen. Any talk of that?
Many readers have made that comment, but I haven't gotten the call from Hollywood. I left Quentin Tarantino a message on his cell phone, but he hasn't called me back yet. He'd be a good director for a character like Cricket.

Any advice for struggling teens?
I would just mention what I learned about my teen years when I was in my 20s, which is that things do change. They do get better. When I was in my teens, I didn't think that anything would ever change no matter how old I got, and that left me feeling incredibly hopeless about my future. I felt that the struggles I was going through were indicative of life itself, not necessarily life at that particular point in time. I'm glad I stuck it out because things do change, especially when we're old enough to make our own life choices, like where we live and who we live with.

How about for struggling writers?
It sounds cliché, but it's true- Don't give up. It may take four novels (like me) before you get published (or five or ten or twenty), but if you focus on becoming a better writer instead of becoming a published author, you'll get there.

Write every day. Even if it's only 30 minutes a day, write!

And never stop studying the craft. I just finished reading From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler. It opened my eyes to issues of craft I was completely blind to.


Scott's launch party at Waxy O'Connor's, an Irish pub in Foxborough, MA, which drew in over 100 attendees!

 (Back Row, Left to Right) Betsy Groban (Senior VP and Publisher of the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group), Scott Blagden (the author),  Connor Blagden (Scott's son),  and Rubin Pfeffer (Scott's agent)

(Front Row, L to R) Riley and Tanner Wigmore (Scott's nephews), Madison Blagden (Scott's daughter), and Madison Durr (Madison's friend)

#YA #Author #ScottBlagden #Book #YALSA #BFYA #Teen

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Taste-full Art

I LOVE art. LOVE it! So when I attended the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Springfield, Massachusetts, I had a hankering to see the portfolio showcase.

Flipping through the artists' works, I enjoyed how the smorgasboard of creations conjured up different emotions within memostly awe, mixed with a dash of warmth and a cup of happiness.

I snatched up a sampling of postcards and business cards and had the urge to share them and the joy that they bring. Sort of like sharing a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

If you enjoy these tasty morsels, click on the links to feast on more art...

Russ Cox: and Jenn Maynard:

Carlyn Beccia: , Hilary Archer: and Robert Squier:


Ruth Sanderson: and Kevin Barry:

Nicole Tadgell: and Hazel Mitchell:

Traci Harmon-Hay: and Marlo Garnsworthy:

(Top) Mary Lillington Davison:
(Middle Row) David Bird: and Marygrace Aquino:
(Bottom) Amy Preveza: and Jessica Halley:

#Art #Illustrator #SCBWI #NESCBWI #Talent



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pass the Tissues!

Tissue Ratings

I have no idea how the idea popped into my head. But once it did, it took hold. Now, when I read a book or watch a movie that evokes some tears, I count the tissues that I use. Hence, my Tissue Rating system. (See the charts below.)

It’s much easier to track movie tissue ratings because, for the most part, the movie is over in two hours or less. Reading books may take days, weeks and sometimes months. So, oftentimes I lose track of the number of tissues I’ve used.

I LOVE to laugh. So, I’m seriously considering Laughter Ratings. Not sure exactly how that would look. Maybe tally smiles, tee hees, guffaws, and belly laughs. Or maybe just a 1 – 10 laughter scale.

I’d love to get some feedback! How do your Tissue Ratings stack up against mine? And what do you think about the idea of Laughter Ratings?

#Rating #Book #Movies


# of Tissues
Book Titles
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness



# of Tissues
Movie Titles
Albert Nobbs
Being Flynn
Everything Must Go
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Friends with Kids
Hope Springs
Identity Thief
John Carter
Larry Crowne
New Year’s Eve
Parental Guidance
Red Tails
Ruby Sparks
Safe House
Safety not Guaranteed
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
The Artist
The Descendents
The Gray
The Great Debators
The Iron Lady
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
The Way
The Woman in Black
This Means War
War Horse
We Bought a Zoo
You Again