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Showing posts from 2016

THE HOLIDAYS ARE HERE!

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The kids are on vacation. The relatives are coming to visit. And you're not really feeling yourself--between the wrapping and the baking and toilet-scrubbing, you're not writing enough. Take heart, my beleaguered writer friends! Remember that the life you are living right now is fodder for the stories you will soon tell. Meanwhile, take heart in these writerly observations about this festive season. “It snowed last year too: I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea.”  ―  Dylan Thomas ,  A Child's Christmas in Wales “It was the beginning of the greatest Christmas ever. Little food. No presents. But there was a snowman in their basement.”  –Markus Zusak,  The Book Thief “ I know what I really want for Christmas.  I want my childhood back... A child who is impractical, unrealistic, simpleminded and terribly vulnerable to joy.”   ―  Robert Fulghum ,  All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten "As w

Giving: Holiday Books

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Some are spectacular new hardcover titles. Others are old friends, already-available-in-paperback. Prose, verse, historical, fantastic...all are highly recommended for the MG and YA readers on your "nice list"!

LIFE & ART: A lesson from KING CHARLES III and THE NUTCRACKER

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This weekend, I had the good fortune to go twice to the theater. On Saturday night, I saw KING CHARLES III at Seattle Rep, and on Sunday afternoon, I was wowed by the Emerald Ballet Theatre's NUTCRACKER. I always cry when I see that Christmas ballet not just because it brings back childhood memories or because I am impressed by the virtuosity of the dancers, but because I identify so closely with those teen ballerinas who have given their childhoods to their art and are now on the cusp of having to forego (or delay) a college education or to walk away from the identity they have so arduously, elegantly crafted for themselves up to now. Intriguingly, KING CHARLES III tells a similar story. It is a fictionalized tale of the ascension of England's current prince to the throne upon the death of his mother. Charles has been waiting in the wings for seven decades. Not unlike a young dancer, he has spent his entire life being cultivated to fill this unique role and so he must...of

Advice and Links for Teen Writers

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There's no single path to writing success, any more than there is a single definition of writing success (or success in any form).  Careers in writing are tricky. And, journalism and fiction writing are two completely different animals. For fiction writing, the advice I always give to teens is read, write and learn about life (aka, an English major is not required to be a fiction writer and maybe college is a place to explore other intellectual interests, such as history or politics or math!). After that, that are two routes: 1. (If your goal is popular fiction) Write, get an agent, submit work. 2. (If your goal is literary fiction) Go to an elite writing grad program (such as Iowa, NYU, Wisconsin (Madison), Brown, Johns Hopkins), make connections/get an agent, submit work. That said, I have met many talented teens who dream of seeing their words in print. So, to the extent that we can define success as publication, here are a few links: SCHOLASTIC ARTS & WRITING AWA

I AM THANKFUL FOR...

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Coffee. Kindness. Creativity. Community. My four amazing sons. My adorable (extremely funny) husband. People who show compassion and respect for others, even those with whom they disagree. Live theater. Good friends. Connecting with others in real life. Books, books, books...and the people who make them.  Enjoy today. Be happy. There is much to celebrate in this world.

It's College Application Time: What to do when you meet an admissions officer IRL

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Whether it is at college fair, on a campus tour, or during an admissions interview, at some point you may find yourself face-to-face with an admissions officer. For some, this is even scarier than choosing the topic for their Common App essay. What do you say? What do you do? How do you make the best impression? DON'T... Recite your scores/stats/accomplishments. These will all be part of your application paperwork and admissions officers are not there to memorize your personal data--they are there to connect with you as a person. Ask questions for which answers are easily found on the school website. You should know if your major of choice is available at their school, the level of Greek life, or whether their campus is urban or rural.  Ask if the food is any good in the cafeteria or how they like the weather where the school is located. Make statements simply to prove you've been on the aforementioned school website.  DO... Ask a question that shows you are genuinel

It's College Application Time: INSIGHTS FROM A PANEL OF ADMISSIONS OFFICERS

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Recently, I had the good fortune to hear a panel of admissions experts share insights about their roles and the college application process.  The panel was comprised of of admissions staffers from CalTech (Pasadena, CA), University of Oregon (Eugene, OR), American University (Washington, DC) and Whitman College (Walla Walla, WA).  All four individuals were excellent ambassadors with deep understanding of the nature and character of their institutions. The event filled me with optimism and enthusiasm (not stress!). In fact, the more I learn about college admissions, the more I genuinely believe that stress can and should be avoided. Why? Because, whether you are hoping to play a D-1-2-or-3 college sport, want to bring a special creative ability to campus, or are simply a well-rounded student looking for a welcoming place to continue your academic pursuits, admissions officers are reading your resume in search of the same thing: FIT. They are asking themselves, "Will this applican

WRITING A NOVEL IN SCRIVENER: PART II

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The "murky middle" is a phrase--and a writing space--that strikes fear in the hearts of novelists in all genres. Whether you start with an outline (plotter) or follow your instincts from scene to scene (pantser), you eventually get to a place where you've set up all the relationships, planted all the plot seeds, and have to figure out how that BIG MOMENT actually happens on the page. I know when I've hit the "murk" when I find myself writing the following red flags: Extended passages of dialogue Sudden info-dump  A scene where the MC suddenly wonders about religion/love/politics These red flags show me I'm trying to force the pace. That, perhaps I've stopped listening to my characters and tried to trump their "instincts" with the plot trajectory I have planned in my head. Maybe it's just plain old "sick of this story" page 200 burn-out. I have found SCRIVENER to be a tremendous help at this moment in my writin

Free FIRST PAGES Writing Workshop this Saturday at KCLS Woodinville

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SATURDAY,  NOVEMBER 12, 2016, 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM Woodinville Library,  17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville, WA The next class in this FREE series of writing workshops  will be jointly led by Sara Nickerson, Holly Cupala & me! First Pages Interactive Workshop Are your first 250 words ready for a professional review? Are you stuck and looking for some help identifying the best start for your story? Bring the first page of your work-in-progress for this friendly, progress-focused interactive workshop led by Sara Nickerson, Stasia Kehoe and Holly Cupala, and leave with a stronger, better opening page! This workshop is open to writers in grades 7 to adult. Registration is not required.  For instructions on HOW TO FORMAT YOUR PAGE for the workshop, go HERE . For more information about Woodinville Library Programs, go  HERE .  Hope to see you on Saturday!

Second Saturdays Writing Program: Get Ready for a FIRST PAGES INTERACTIVE WORKSHOP November 12

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We're well into our second year of amazing FREE writing workshops at KCLS Woodinville. Coming up on Saturday, November 12, from 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM ,  participants will have a unique opportunity to get professional feedback on their work from this classy three-author panel: www.hollycupala.com       www.stasiawardkehoe.com       www.saranickerson.com This workshop will be FRIENDLY, POSITIVE, ANONYMOUS (for submitting writers) and CONSTRUCTIVE. Please consider taking advantage of this exciting FREE opportunity which is usually only available within expensive writing retreats and conferences. BE BRAVE! Here are the guidelines to help you prepare. WHAT TO BRING: ONE (1) copy of the FIRST PAGE of your work-in-progress, formatted as follows: Text should be double-spaced 12 point, legible font such as Times New Roman or Courier DO NOT PUT NAME, TITLE or other information on the page Picture book texts are fine, simply adhere to above restrictions HOW TO SUBM

NaNoWri-Nopes

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Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? For those of you not in the "know" (heehee!), this is short form for  National Novel Writing Month , wherein you attempt to write a complete novel in 30 days. "Can that be done?" you ask. (See how I resisted the urge to add adverb here? I was considering "incredulously," which would be plus-one in word counts.) Well, yes and no. Technically, you can bank 50k words in November, although your kids may not eat balanced meals and your spouse may do a lot of laundry. The work is not, however, submission-worthy in any way, shape or form. It's gotten to the point where agents and editors absolutely dread December because so many exhilarated NaNo-ers simply cannot resist the urge to ship that thing out over the interwebs. So, do I recommend NaNo? Having successfully "won" the game several years back, I would say it's worth trying at least once for the following reasons: It is a real motivation and creat

It's College Application Time: Why did you choose your reach, match and safety schools?

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That it is important to begin the application process by properly identifying your target schools seems like an absurdly obvious point. However, a key opportunity that is missed by not fully understanding the WHY of this protocol. Despite the ease of clicking around Big Future, College Confidential and other websites, the college search should be  much more than a computer game in which you overlay your grades and test scores over a rubric of college acceptance rates and parameters, and perhaps a few other factors such as geography, size, and Greek life. In fact… I will demonstrate why by first asking you to complete this worksheet: Having difficulty?  Here are some examples of good and bad answers: I chose this school because… BAD ANSWERS: It is a cool or famous university. My best friend/girlfriend is applying/attending. I have seen it. It is near my house. While not necessarily untrue, are these answers getting you or the desired institution any closer togeth

I'M NOT YOUR MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL by Gretchen McNeil

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Happy Book Birthday to the talented and hilarious  Gretchen McNeil . Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of her latest  novel, a clever, witty, stereotype-twisting delight! But you don't need to take my recommendation. Here's the stellar scoop straight from the pages of KIRKUS REVIEWS: A math whiz develops a formula to fix her high school experience... Bea’s cold and clinical nature is another plus: she isn’t driven by raging libido but rather a righteous anger that makes her a calculating badass.  A quintessential thinking gal’s love story.  

It's College Application Time: The Dreaded Essay

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When I'm not writing, reading or marketing works of fiction, one of my favorite jobs is grounded in a challenging reality: Helping high school seniors through the college application process. In my experience, regardless of his or her academic, athletic or extracurricular profile, every student arrives at my door with eyes full of panic. And, many kids tell me that the scariest part of the process is writing the dreaded ESSAY (Common App or school-specific).  I believe that, if approached correctly, working through the components of a college application helps a student reach a deeper understanding of his or her talents, goals and needs. In this way, the pedagogy of the application drives toward identification of a compelling topic (often a key challenge for students), and a successful essay. This, in turn, gives a student a sense of satisfaction with the self-portrait painted in the application, a sense of agency in what can be a very disenfranchising process, and ultimately a

It's Teen Read Week

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For the latest and greatest about this annual event, visit the fantastic HUB blog  maintained by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). In keeping with this year's theme -- "Read for the fun of it!" -- and because I'm currently obsessed with dual-viewpoint narratives,  I'm going to recommend two vintage, two-POV delights! FLIPPED by Wendelin van Draaenen WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green & David Levithan Have, you know, FUN!

FREE CLASS THIS SATURDAY at KCLS WOODINVILLE: WRITING DIALOGUE WITH KIM BAKER

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S ATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM   Second Saturdays Writing Program at Woodinville Library  17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville DIALOGUE IN NOVELS, SHORT STORIES & PICTURE BOOKS   In this dynamic workshop, KIM BAKER , Society of Children’s Book Writes & Illustrators writing retreat coordinator and the award-winning author of PICKLE: THE (FORMERLY) ANONYMOUS PRANK CLUB OF FOUNTAIN POINT MIDDLE SCHOOL, will teach you how to create conversations that leap off the page and add incredible dimension to your stories. This workshop is open to writers in grades 7 to adult. Registration is not required but, if you're so inclined or want more details, click here . 

WRITING A NOVEL IN SCRIVENER: PART I

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I am writing something new. It has dual narrators, two major settings, a fair number of secondary characters and, oh yeah, blackmail and murder. Not my usual teen romance! I was struggling to keep things organized and well-paced when I remember reading Justine Larbalestier's comments about writing her amazing novel, LIAR, in Scrivener. Daisy Whitney, Maureen Johnson and Lisa Yee can all be found gushing on Scrivener's "Testimonials" page. So, with feelings of hope and desperation mingling inside me, I clicked over, paid my forty bucks and became... The manuscript isn't finished yet, but here are my first observations: It was pretty easy to learn, despite my mediocre technology skills I have found myself WRITING DOWN more of my backstory and preparatory stuff (e.g., character worksheets, setting pages, chapter title ideas) and am glad they are there for reference and to offer a central place to record changes, especially things like names and subplot de

Mid-Career Mondays: Barbara Dee celebrates TRUTH OR DARE

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Disclaimer: I have been a huge Barbara Dee fan since reading SOLVING ZOE (smart girl + theater geekery + puzzles + mystery = GoReadIt!) six years ago. Since then, I've discovered that Barbara is not only a marvelous middle-grade author but an altogether awesome person and champion of writer- and reader- and teacher-people. Don't believe me? Check out her website  where you'll find one of my favorite AUTHOR FAQ entries ever: So, I asked her... Was there ever a time in your writing life where you obsessed more about your "CAREER" than the books you wanted to write? BARBARA: I did. Around the time of my third book (THIS IS ME FROM NOW ON), I tried to develop my career by blogging in the cute, confessional manner of a very young author selling well at the time—and swiftly discovered that it wasn’t for me. I think that whether you’re writing a novel or a blog post, you have to be careful about looking over your shoulder at what others are doing, and stay

Your Writing Community

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Writing is a lonely business. A butt-in-seat, fingers-on-keyboard, tuning-out-the-world lifestyle filled with rejection and uncertainty. So, despite often being viewed as an occupation for introverts, the fact is that writers need community, perhaps more than most. This morning, I was reminded of a what a lift one's community can offer. I attended this year's first meeting of KCLS Woodinville's Second Saturdays Writing Workshops, a series I have the pleasure of helping to curate. I arrived at the library, saw the welcoming face of Youth Services Librarian Pam, walked into the aptly named Community Room and there they were: Faces, familiar and new, all excited to put pen to paper. Guided by the smart and charming  Trudi Trueit , we spent two hours exploring the development of strong characters. We shared and were afraid to share. We talked about our summers. We laughed, hysterically and ruefully. We admitted our attraction to Jean-Luc Picard as well as (in ways overt and

FREE CLASS THIS SATURDAY at KCLS WOODINVILLE: BEGINNING WITH CHARACTER

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S ATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM   Second Saturdays Writing Program at Woodinville Library  17105 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville Join the amazing  Trudi Strain Trueit  for this dynamic class: BEGINNING WITH CHARACTER An irresistible main character is an essential component of any great book. How does one develop a believable, compelling, unique protagonist? Trudi, author of nearly 100 fiction and nonfiction books, including THE SISTER SOLUTION (Aladdin MIX, 2015), is here to kick off this year’s SECOND SATURDAYS PROGRAM with answers to these and more compelling character questions! Trudi’s workshop is open to writers in grades 7 to adult. Registration is not required but, if you're so inclined or want more details, click here . Hope to see you there!

PB Reading List: Big Feelings

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Fear, beauty, art...despite the occasionally uber-adorable protagonists, these slim volumes often tackle deep, dark issues. Here are three favorites that delight, soothe and, ultimately, encourage young readers to embrace the truth of their own identities. A nearly-wordless homage to nature and emotion .  The ultimate tale for anyone, of any age, facing a new adventure . Making art trumps making war . Need I say more?
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