Monday, June 29, 2015

Getting Book Reviews for Children's thru Middle Grade Books

The Rebel Princess by Janice SperryJuvenile readers do not generally post book reviews; there are the security issues of a child's online presence, for one thing. Authors of these genres rely heavily on word of mouth advertising and get their reviews from avid readers who review a lot of books. I wanted to support an author friend, who is a member of my critique group, by buying her book for my granddaughter. Buying books is definitely a way to support authors, but what else could I do? Even small efforts make a difference. If I were the reader, I would do a book review. Why not post what my granddaughter thought of the book? Can/should parents and grandparents give reviews by proxy for minors? I decided to give it a try.

I avoided leading questions and asked general ones (see below). Then I posted the review as myself in her behalf. Here's how it turned out for Janice Sperry's The Rebel Princess:
I bought this book for my granddaughter, skimmed through it and found it delightful, but didn't actually read the whole thing. This review is what my granddaughter (age 10) said about it:
What did you like or not like? Her: I liked that Charming turns into a mouse and when they are trapped by the tooth fairies. Me: It's clever and funny.
What did you think overall? Her: 5 stars. It was fun. It had the right amount of everything.
Would you recommend it to anyone? Her: Yeah. I already told my friend about it and I'm going to lend it to her.
Tell me more about it. Her: At first Raven hates Charming but she crushes on him in the end. Me: There's a character arc. Her: The author explains really well, enough that I wanted to eat the gingerbread house. Me: Good descriptions.
There you have it!

Do you think more children's reviews should be published from their viewpoint? Is there a better way to go about this?

Monday, June 22, 2015

How Much Teamwork Does a Solitary Writer Need?

Remember those group school projects you were forced into? Someone would write up the research, someone would do the oral report, and someone would make the poster. Each could emphasize their talent while learning to work in a group setting. Teamwork is an important part of sports, parenting, the workplace--even for the solitary writer.

Members of my extended family participated last week in the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay Race. A team of 12 took turns running sections of 200 miles along Utah's Wasatch mountains over two days. In the months/weeks prior it was interesting to see the emails flying back and forth. There were posts about who ran how far that day, ordering team shirts, a cry for volunteers, etc. Two of my sons ran as team members, my husband drove the Van 2 group around, and extended family took other important roles. As for me, I mostly let them plow forward on their own without complaining. Job description: background supporter. But hey, performers need an audience just like authors need readers.

What does teamwork mean for writers? If the bare minimum for a soccer team member is practicing and playing in the game, a writer's equivalent could be practicing the craft and putting his project together. The soccer player who wants to go beyond the minimum will incorporate what her coach says, watch and learn from advanced players, and find ways to improve. Writers can learn from critique partners, conference classes, books they read, etc.

While it's true that most writing is done in solitary moments, writers who want to share their work must eventually become a team player. Start by being responsible to a critique or accountability partner. Expand to a critique group, beta readers, an editor or hired professionals. A publication and marketing team will come into play. Later on, readers will become part of the team; fans need a form of connection. Even if you only want to write, you will end up on a team. Be the best team player you can be: Work hard. Learn from others. Ask for and give help. Don't allow 'the team' to be all-encompassing.

What makes a good team member to you?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Staying on the Motivational Track During the Writing Journey

Do you ever wake up excited that you get to write today? I do--more so when time is less of an enemy than usual. If a great idea comes, it spurs me on further. But what do you do when someone shoots down your idea, scene or story? (Yep, it happens to all of us.)

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that:
  • Not everyone likes the same things. Toughen up. Don't let negative minorities destroy you.
  • If I love my story, it is worth writing. If it makes you happy, make it happen.
  • Evaluate wisely. Listen to critiques from more than one source. Be wise enough to make changes if several tell you the same thing. Don't be above improvement or new ideas. You might like the changes better. If not, you're still the boss.
  • I like me. I like my story. Others will too. Just not everyone. That's okay.
  • Stick nearest those that are positive and supportive.
  • Time will pass whether we write today or not. Go for it!
What helps you stay on the positive writing track?
Now go make it a good writing week.

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Book Spotlight, A Blog, and Finding Motivation

Mothering through the WhirlwindWaiting in an airport lobby, I recently read a thought-provoking mini-book by Tamara Passey called Mothering Through the Whirlwinds. I found it an appropriate prelude to the reason for my trip. I would spend ten days mothering three rambunctious little boys while their mother was on bed-rest in a hospital, avoiding her baby coming too early. I knew what I was in for--having six children of my own--but my body wasn't young anymore, and I was out of practice. I determined to give it my best shot. My motivation? I'm their grandmother and my daughter needed me.

Tamara writes that her book is less of a How-to manual and more of a How-I-Found-My-Way story. I found it very inspiring and recommend it to mothers everywhere. She relates some personal hardships in an I'm-just-like-you manner, sharing hope and the wisdom of her experiences.

Tamara and Renae at LDStorymakers Writers Conference 2015
That is what I strive to do with this blog. My 'writespot' shares tips and experiences that express my journey as I grow into a writer. This is my How-I-found-my-way writing journal. Writing is a hard goal, but we can do hard things when we have motivation and support. Just like a grandmother who is willing to care for her grandchildren or a tired mother who continues through the challenges. You can do hard things too!
I passed the book on to my daughter before returning home. She's going to have more whirlwinds to come with those wonderful boys and now a 4 1/2 pound daughter in the NICU. I'm not too worried about her; she'll have motivation and support. It makes me grateful for the support team of my husband, critique group, and many writer friends. A big motivation for me is loving my story and seeing my manuscript improve through critique comments and revisions. It's a long, hard road. But I can do hard things too!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Deep Editing - Powerful Emotional Hits

Can I say enough good about writer's conference classes? It's awesome when I get a concept and start implementing it. Love feeling the growth through actual practice. This week I recognized where a critique partner, who had taken Margie Lawson's Deep Editing Power class with me, had also powered up her pages using the techniques taught. (Note the alliteration. It's one of twenty rhetorical devices we were shown. Strong when not overused.) My partner had a particularly good paragraph at a key moment in the story, the midpoint.

Lawson's background as a psychotherapist gives her a unique approach to writing and editing. She taught four levels of powering up emotion, generalized below. For more information on this or other lecture packets, visit The following examples are my own. 
1. BASIC is a simple line with one Emotional Hit, as she calls it. Use these when the emotion is not so important, for smoothness, variety, and flow. Example: She strode down the hallway.
2. COMPLEX can be a sentence or passage that builds on the basic level and includes two to four emotional hits. A combination of visceral reactions, internal or external dialogue, dialogue cues/tags/beats, body language, or action. These deepen character. Example: She strode down the hallway, fists balled and arms swinging.
3. EMPOWERED fills three to five lines of text and has multiple emotional hits. It combines any of the ways listed in #2, though some my be amplified. It sounds good out loud. Example: She strode down the hallway, fists balled and arms swinging. No one should have that much power over another. No one had the right to treat her friend that way. No one was going to get away with it.
4. SUPER EMPOWERED is for rare, special moments, like turning points--use only one or two per book. The writer powers up three or more paragraphs in the amplified ways stated above, plus rhetorical devices or combos. Anaphora is the device used in the empowered passage above. Super empowered would lengthen the passage to include more ways and devices. 

Strengthen your writing during the editing stage with powerful emotional hits!