Monday, February 28, 2011

February Critique Giveaway Winners! says the winners of this month's critique giveaway are: Bish Denham and Anne Spollen!

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.
  • Deadline to submit is March 16.
  • When I receive your email, I'll acknowledge receipt and let you know when you can expect my response.
Congratulations to Bish and Anne, 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, February 24, 2011

February Book Pick: After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick

Critique giveaway still open! Enter through February 27. Scroll down one post.

This winner of the 2011 Schneider Family award at the middle-grade level is a fantastic read. Jeffrey, age thirteen, is a leukemia survivor. As tough as things have been, his parents and his brother eight years his senior have always been there for him. But Jeffrey has a way of eavesdropping on conversations that tell him more than he'd like to know. Such as the reason his brother Steven has quit college to go to Africa and play the drums: he needs a break from Jeff's dependence, and from the family who made everything all about Jeff during his illness.

This book is about how Jeffrey copes with the fact that "cancer survivor" is a label that follows him everywhere. To the extent that his best friend is also a cancer survivor, having had TWO forms of cancer. To the extent that he suffers lasting effects from chemo and radiation in the form of a limp and near-complete hopelessness with math. Jeff's darkly humorous friend Tad uses a wheelchair most of the time, and both boys have special permission to take notes on a laptop in class due to motor skill problems.

Eighth grade starts on a positive note, though. He instantly bonds with a friendly, funny new girl named Lindsey, who happens to be gorgeous on top of it. He makes a pact with Tad: He will help his friend get in shape to walk across the stage at eighth-grade graduation if Tad will help him try to pass math. Soon, though, he finds out how crucial passing math will be: if he cannot pass the state-mandated achievement tests, he will be held back in eighth grade. And when your father is an accountant and you're not even that sure he likes you these days, the pressure is even greater.

This is one of those books that tempts me to gush. The voice, the character growth, the portrayal of two different experiences of cancer survival -- the more upbeat Jeff's and the less confident Tad's -- make for a very absorbing read. I love the sudden insights into a cancer survivor's experience that you know in your gut are wholly accurate even if you've never had cancer, such as Tad's realization that his parents had his younger sister in case he didn't survive, and figuring out how to have "the talk" with people when they become important to you.  This book is serious, yet fun; heavy, yet normal middle school stuff; and Jeff is hugely likable. Books and movies don't make me cry much. This one made me tear up.

SPOILER: Strictly from a writer's POV here, I knew something at the start of the story: Tad had to die. Both of these boys would not be able to survive; Tad had to portray the other experience, the sadder outcome. Before he ever reaches eighth grade graduation and that walk across the stage, Tad relapses and deteriorates quickly, his death all the sadder because it's a shock, and it happens the day Jeff triumphs in a bike ride to raise funds for cancer research. When Jeff accepts Tad's diploma at graduation along with his own, and visits Tad's grave in the last chapter, there's no artificial tear-jerking. If reading fiction is about an emotional experience, this book delivers in spades.

I picked it up not knowing it's a sequel to an earlier title, Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie, told from Steven's POV after Jeff, age five, is diagnosed. Though you may want to read the books in order, After Ever After completely stands alone. HIGHLY recommended.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

February 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).
  • For additional entries, post links to this contest and give the URLs.
  • You may enter one ms. per month. No one person can win both critiques in a single month.
  • Include your email in the comment. But if not, be sure to check back to see if you've won!
  • Enter now through Sunday February 27.
  • 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.
  • 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, February 28.
So if the above sounds good to you, let the entering begin!

Monday, February 14, 2011

February Book Giveaway Winner! says the winner of Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool is: Vijaya!

You have 30 days to claim your prize, Vijaya. No later than March 14, 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, February 10, 2011

Writers as Warriors

Newbery book giveaway still open! Win Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, now through February 13! Scroll down one post. 

Okay, so I'm not sure where this post is going. I'll start out by saying that I'm not a military type. At all. I greatly respect those who are, because I could never cut it, physically or emotionally. I was raised by a father who was part of the WWII Marine landing on Tarawa. He survived, though injured and at one point given six months to live. I learned early to ask no questions. I had to get my answers from books. (And it was fictional accounts that brought the horror of Tarawa to life. Nonfiction may be facts, but fiction is truth.) I'm sure my father suffered from what would now be called PTSD. I grew up giving thanks every day that I was a girl, because everybody knew boys went to war. It was inevitable. And yet my dad not only went, but rushed to enlist after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Incomprehensible.

But I've learned a few things, and come to believe a few things:
  • When you have an enemy, you fight. Appeasement doesn't lead to peace. It invites more aggression, because an enemy that's truly an enemy doesn't want peace with you. He wants to destroy you. When someone engages you in war, you're in one, whether you face it or  not.
  • As a Christian, I take the "bad news" seriously: We have an enemy, a real one, and he wants to destroy us. "Us" meaning everybody.
  • Persecution makes you stronger. For example, every time the early church suffered a blow and was scattered, it served to spread the church, not squelch it. When the Apostle Paul was chained for preaching the gospel, the reason for his chains was repeated far and wide.
Attack came. Attack that I knew was spiritual but manifested in the natural. I warred. In prayer. Hours a day. Quiet. Loud. Confident. Scared. Strong. Broken. In every way I could learn about and every way I already knew. And. Did. Not. Give. Up.

And won. Intercessory prayer is, primarily, war. Who knew?

And then came the books on writing. The Art of War for Writers, by James Scott Bell. And next, so help me, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, the latter of which names our enemy "Resistance" and exposes its many guises and deceptions. How can I help but conclude that the concept of writer as warrior is something I need to understand, and understand now?

Pressfield says this to those who let Resistance keep them from their craft: "You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got."

If that weren't enough, St. Bernard of Claireaux said, "Every word you write is a blow that smites the devil."

Well, then I'll try to get in as many licks as I can.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February Book Giveaway

The ALA awards loved historical fiction this year! I find it delightful and amazing that historical novels swept the Newbery category, and interestingly enough, more than one of the books feature kids leaving home to live with others during the tough times of the Depression and WWII.

The gold-medal winner, Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, is a debut novel about twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker. She's a rough-and-tumble Depression child, used to hopping trains, growing up without a mother. When her dad gets a job in a place he deems too rough for young ladies, he sends her to spend the summer with an old friend. She jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, her father's hometown, hoping to learn more about him by investigating his earlier life. The book features a full cast of colorful characters and a dual storyline that alternates between Manifest in the years 1939 and 1918 -- America's entry into WWI. An ambitious overview of US history in the early 1900s, and a lot of story, all in one package.

To be entered in the drawing:
  • Comment on this post anytime from now through Sunday, February 13.
  • For an additional entry, become a follower of this blog and mention that in the comment. Ditto if you already are a follower.
  • For additional entries, post links to this contest and give the URLs.
Winner will be announced Monday, February 14.

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