Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's Goof-off Day

Photo time! This spring was college graduation for both Child 2 and Child 3. 2nd to finish his coursework, but 1st to have his ceremony, was Child 3. (No competition here or anything.)
                                Family gathers for the big day!
                                            Always posin'
              Such proud parents -- but what's that fly on his cap, Dad?
                                              The cute engaged couple :)
                                             But lest we be too serious...
                                     Some things never change

1st to finish her coursework, 2nd to have her ceremony, yet 1st to get her diploma because his was mailed and hers was actually in her folder, was Child 2. (You following these numbers? No competition here or anything.)
                                          Family gathers for the big day!
                                             Let's switch photographers!
                                        The cute young marrieds :)
                                        Proud parents and grad
                                                     It's for real!
                        No bunny ears? He must be the good child :D

Monday, July 26, 2010

July Critique Giveaway Winners!

The winners of this month's critique giveaway are: karenbschwartz and Angela Ackerman!

Here's the procedure. Email me at marcia at marciahoehne dot com:
  • The first 1000 words of your magazine story, chapter book, mid-grade novel, or YA novel pasted into the body of the email.
  • Be sure to tell me the genre of the material (one of the above four).
  • Put "(Month) critique winner" in the subject line.
  • The deadline to submit your ms. for critique will be the DAY BEFORE the next month's critique contest begins. Critique contests always begin on the third Thursday. Therefore I must hear from the July winners by August 18.
  • When I receive your email, I'll acknowledge receipt and let you know when you can expect my response.
Congratulations to Karen and Angela, thank you all so much for stopping by and entering, and by all means enter again next month! Wishing you all a great day in the world of books...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, by Kate Messner

Critique giveaway still open, now through July 25! Scroll down one post!

Gianna Zales, 7th grader, is an artist and cross-country runner. As she says, she has no trouble with finish lines, but deadlines are a whole other story. It's a week before the big science project is due, and if Gianna doesn't get a passing grade, her slot at cross-country sectionals will go to mean-girl Bianca. Still, she's not worried. How
hard can it be to find and identify 25 different leaves and arrange them in an attractive presentation? Especially when it's fall, and you live in Vermont, where Robert Frost wrote such poems as "Birches"? Well, when you have time-management issues and life keeps happening, it can be very hard indeed. Nonna, who lives with the family, is showing signs of Alzheimer's, and her memory lapses turn the household topsy-turvy at a moment's notice. Mom, a type-A personality who doesn't get the artistic, intuitive nature that her mother and daughter share, buries her worry in her own activities and doesn't come through on some of the help she offers. Her best friend, a boy for whom she's developing feelings (and vice-versa), is smart, organized, generous, and more than willing to help, but when jealous Bianca feels Gianna is getting too close to done and trashes her project in the cross-country locker room, even Zig can't undo that.

Spoilers Ahead ... This book deals with a subject I'm not sure I've seen addressed: a tween's need for work/life balance. Even at the height of her leaf-project disorganization, it's arguable that Gianna balances life better than her nose-to-the-grindstone mother does. It comes as no surprise that in the end Gianna prevails -- she gets her project in and runs in the sectionals. What is surprising is all the twists and turns it takes to get her there, her mother's "help" at the end (but on the other hand, not surprising at all), and Gianna's refusal to turn in work that not only isn't her own, but isn't her. Her artistic presentation of her leaf project, at absolutely the last, last minute, is, in the word of the title, brilliant. Readers will love seeing this likable girl triumph in every way. While there's no neat wrap-up for Nonna, Gianna and the little brother she formerly considered pesky join forces in a project meant to help Nonna with her memory for as long as possible.

Evocation of setting is superb in this book. Gianna's relationships with Nonna and Zig are especially well done. This is a quiet book that works! Highly recommended.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July Critique Giveaway

It's critique time. Enter to win! Here are the rules and caveats:
  • I will critique TWO manuscripts each month. By "manuscript" I mean the first 1000 words of a children's magazine story, chapter book, mid-grade novel, or YA novel. Please, fiction only. No picture books or easy readers. No poetry.
  • Enter the drawing by commenting on this post AND stating that you wish to enter. This frees you up to comment, ask a question, or just say hey WITHOUT throwing your name in the hat.
  • For an additional entry, become a follower, and tell me so (or that you already are one) in the comment.
  • For an additional entry, post a link to this contest and give the URL in either the same or a separate comment. In this category, you can enter as many times as you have cyber-places to post the contest.
  • You may enter one ms. per month. While the above rules allow you to enter multiple times, those entries are for ONE manuscript. If the #2 name drawn is a duplicate of #1, drawing will continue until a new name is drawn. This way, two people are assured of a critique each month.
  • Enter now through Sunday July 25.
  • Any story that you plan to enter in an ICL contest is ineligible. Since I am an ICL instructor, I cannot edit stories that you intend to enter in an Institute contest.
  • The level of detail I offer in a critique will vary based on my impression of the caliber of the writing. Whenever possible, I will make both "big picture" comments and zero in on more specific areas.
  • My critique is only one opinion. This business is SO subjective. Any suggestions I make that resonate with you are yours for the taking. Compare mine with those from other beta readers, critique partners, writing teachers, etc. Even if specific suggestions vary, when two or more critiquers pinpoint a certain passage or aspect, there's probably a need for revision there. Yet don't feel you must take advice you don't agree with. In the end, it's your story.
  • Winners will be announced Monday, July 26.
So if the above sounds good to you, let the entering begin!

Monday, July 12, 2010

July Book Giveaway Winner!

The winner of Whirlwind by Alison Hart is: Katie L. Carroll!

You have 30 days to claim your prize, Katie. No later than August 12, email me at marcia at marciahoehne dot com, giving me your postal address, and I'll acknowledge receipt and get that right out to you!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Dos and Don'ts I Do and Don't

Enter the drawing for Whirlwind by Alison Hart by midnight July 10! Scroll down two. :)

This may not be earthshakingly new, but I've been thinking lately about what one trait is the best predictor of writing success, by which I mean writing a good book, having it accepted for commercial publication, and, hopefully, repeating. Of course there's always more than one key to any professional success, and talent, study, and perseverance all count. (As do grammar, punctuation, and spelling.)

Is it the mental game that makes the difference? That IS huge, and it's very close to what I mean, but I think I'd state it more like this: The trait that best predicts writing success is a state of being: being someone who negotiates life mainly by means of writing. Writing is at the core of who you are. You live, therefore you write. You might say "It's a lifestyle" and mean basically the same thing, but I wonder if the trendiness of that buzzword keeps us skating on the surface a little. I'll take another stab at it: The telling trait is immersion. Trying to stuff writing into an already overstuffed life, putting everything else first...these do not bode well for the would-be writer. Nor does it work well to consider writing "me" time. Not only does it mean you put writing last (isn't that where the "me" time goes?) but if you seriously want to pursue a career, any career, you don't do it on "me" time. You do it on "career" time. (And that's one way to get people to take you seriously.) Writing is no different. You aren't just indulging yourself or your creativity; to publish, you must produce a product that a publisher wants to buy. Getting yourself to that level takes immersion. It takes being someone to whom this is life.

How do you immerse? By sacrifice, I think. At the very least, by realizing your life has a number of Roads Not Taken. By being not just selective, but sometimes brutal, about what you do and don't do. The writer Anne Tyler said, "I will write my books and raise the children. Anything else just fritters me away." So what don't I do? Here's a list. With the exception of occasional family-oriented activities that involve the following, I don't:
  • Watch TV
  • Watch movies
  • Facebook or Twitter
  • Play computer/video games
  • Do crafts
  • Pursue hobbies
  • Shop
  • Volunteer
  • Do church work
  • Staff others' projects
  • Talk on the phone
  • Have a social life
However, I do:

  • Spend time with family
  • Teach writing
  • Cook two or three times a week
  • Clean house with my husband biweekly
  • De-clutter
  • Read, read, read, read, and read
  • EXERCISE! (lest too much BIC lead to simply too much B)
  • Pray and study my Bible
  • Leave time open to think, dream, and reflect
  • And, obviously, blog
How about you? What have you had to let go of -- whether it be mainly a time waster or a true case of the good being the enemy of the best? What could you let go of that you haven't yet? What can you not let go of, because it either nurtures your family, wins the bread, or contributes directly to you or your writing?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

Have a wonderful and safe holiday! I will be enjoying family events and visits this week. I'll still be posting on my regular schedule, but won't be visiting/commenting much on all your blogs for the next week to ten days. Alas, keeping up and falling behind all at once!

If you haven't seen the book giveaway below, do scroll down one post! Enter to win a signed copy of tween novel Whirlwind by Alison Hart through Saturday July 10!

Again, enjoy, be blessed, and "see" you soon. :)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July Book Giveaway

Special for this month: Win an autographed copy!

Whirlwind by Alison Hart is an upper-MG horse mystery with a touch of romance. What more could a girl want? :) This signed copy (not an ARC) would make a fine gift for the horse-loving, mystery-loving, or book-loving tween in your life. Though a sequel to Hart's Shadow Horse, the book stands on its own. In the earlier book, thirteen-year-old Jas was devastated to find her beloved mare, Whirlwind, dead in her stall. But now she knows the dead horse wasn't Whirlwind. Her horse's death was faked -- by a wealthy breeder who collected both the insurance money on the "dead" horse and the fee for re-selling her to an unsuspecting buyer. He'll get away with his scheme unless Jas can find the horse, but he's threatened to ruin her life if she tries. How much should she risk to search for a horse that may be impossible to find?

To be entered in the drawing:
  • Extended deadline: Due to the July 4th weekend, comment on this post anytime from now through Saturday, July 10.
  • For an additional entry, become a follower of this blog and mention that in the comment. Ditto if you already are a follower.
  • For an additional entry, post a link to this contest and give the URL in either the same or a separate comment. In this category, you can enter as many times as you have cyber-places to post the contest.
Winner will be announced Monday, July 12.

So, come one, come all--and meanwhile have a great day in the world of books.