Monday, August 31, 2015

Home Run Books

Last day of August - how did that happen?????

I've spent part of my summer organizing my classroom library in my new classroom. So much fun! I've got a lot of books - I've had my students do a math activity every year estimating how many books are in my library. Conservative estimates put it over well over 5000 books. It's a very crowded room.

I've got the books organized into buckets - divided into fiction & nonfiction, then by topic, genre, reading level within the genre, authors and more. I always have a few students who volunteer to help me keep it organized over the year. Couldn't do it without them!

One of the best parts of my job (special education resource teacher) is helping kids find those 'home run' books - books that turn them into readers. I love 'touring' new kids around my library and showing them possibilities. I generally send them away with a handful for them to try out. Often, we'll read the first bits together and see which ones excite them.

Once they know how to find books that are at their level and are about things they're interested in, they dive right in. Then, before long, they start expanding those tastes and trying new things. Having the power to choose and the time to explore is often a key to reading success.

Do you remember one of your 'home run' books? One of the first books that turned you into a reader? I think one of my first was the Encyclopedia Brown series, then Nancy Drew & the Boys. I still like mysteries now!

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Wrong Story

Summers are generally a time when I can really dig in and savour my writing time. I usually have full hours at a time that I can devote to my craft and my stories. This summer, however, has been extraordinarily full with far too many things to count. Which I though explained why my writing was going so slowly.

Apparently not.

Today, I decided to put aside the rewrite I've been struggling with and work on a different story that's been marinating for a while - a NaNo draft from last year. A story that is set in the same world as the Struggling Story. One that should happen after Struggling Story.

Apparently not.

I pulled up the story, and, as per my usual method lately, thought through the story without actually looking at more than scene titles, then wrote the first chapter out.

The first 3k flew out of my fingers. Not slowly, not grudgingly, not painfully.

So, instead of my crazy life killing my creativity, I've realized I've simply been working on the wrong story.

Struggling Story will go back in the stew pot and simmer for a while longer while my subconscious works away with it, and I'll focus on this draft that feels right.

How about you? Ever realize you're working on the wrong story?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Eliza Redgold & Critique Partners

Please welcome Eliza Redgold to the blog today!


I’ve been asked to write about my writing craft on my journey to publication and whether I work with a critique partner. I sure do! In fact, I’ve invited her to share this post!

Eliza Redgold: 
I have two critiquing processes. I’m part of a critique group with four other writers. We meet monthly
(with tea and cakes) to read and review a couple of chapters of each of our current works in progress. The Wordwrights group includes Janet Woods, Deb Bennetto, Karen Saayman and Carol Hoggart. They’re all very different writers. Janet is a multi-published and well-known English saga writer, Karen writes suspense, Deb writes romance and Carol is currently working on historical fiction (along with her PhD).  They saw the manuscript for NAKED in various stages of undress. I always appreciate their feedback, even when it is tough love.

I also have the most amazing critique partner, romance author Jenny Schwartz. We met at an authors’ lunch and I knew we’d be friends when she laughed at a rather risqué joke I made. Jenny reads the full manuscript when it’s done. She’s got an enviable eye for detail and plots brilliantly, but what I appreciate most is that she’s a woman of integrity. She has values she lives and writes by.  My characters are always better people but the time Jenny has finished with them!

Having someone else read your work is only part of the journey. For me, reading other writers’ work and thinking about it deeply helps to hone the craft. Most importantly, it offers friendship and company along the way. Ain’t that what it’s all about?

Jenny Schwartz:
Eliza’s jokes are funny. People at our favourite beach café must wonder what the heck we’re talking about, we’re laughing so much. Sorry, guys, it’s work. We swear, it’s work! But writing – or rather, talking about writing and the fast-changing world of publishing – is fun when you’re chatting with a kindred soul.

I can’t tell you how much Eliza has improved my writing, especially my plotting. I now have an invisible Eliza who bursts out of the cupboard in my study to haunt me when I fall into plotting errors. I have entire (imaginary) conversations with her before, grumbling and muttering, I take her advice and my plot problems miraculously solve themselves.
That’s how important a good critique partner is – they show you your weaknesses and your strengths and help you to work on both. 

ELIZA REDGOLD is an author, academic and unashamed romantic. She writes historical fiction (St Martin’s Press) and romance (Harlequin).

“NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva” will be released internationally by St Martin’s Press New York in July 2015. Her ‘Romance your Senses’ series of contemporary romances are published by Harlequin (MIRA) Australia and Escape Publishing. They include Black Diamonds, Hide and Seek and Wild Flower (2015 release). Eliza is also contracted to Harlequin Historical (London) for two upcoming Victorian historical romances. Look out for them! She is represented by Joelle Delbourgo Associates US.

Eliza Redgold is based upon the old, Gaelic meaning of her name, Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd. English folklore has it that if you help a fairy, you will be rewarded with red gold. She has presented academic papers on women and romance and is a contributor to the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Romance Fiction. As a non-fiction author she is co-author of Body Talk: a Power Guide for Girls and Stay-at-Home Mothers: Dialogues and Debates. She was born in Irvine, Scotland on Marymass Day and currently lives in Australia.

By day a mild-mannered university lecturer with a PhD, by night she is a wild-mannered writer of historical fiction and romances. “Writing makes me braver. It has inspired adventures (and misadventures!) in travel, nature, art, literature and even gastronomy. I hope my books will inspire you too! They’re for people who love a good story, but want to discover new things. They also feature adventurous heroines who are prepared to take risks in life and love. Though in life and in love, of course, things never go quite as planned …”

Eliza Redgold on the web:
Website             Facebook      Twitter      Author Page

NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva
We know her name. We know of her naked ride. We don't know her true story.

We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry,Naked is an original version of Godiva's tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion, Naked brings an epic story new voice.
Covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva's ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for 'peeping Tom') and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax.

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Enter this Goodreads Giveaway to win signed copy of Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva.
A Kindle copy giveaway of Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva to one commenter!
Thanks Eliza!!
I totally agree - critique partners are worth their weight in gold and chocolate! How about you? Want to give them a shout out in the comments?