Thursday, November 29, 2012

November Critique Giveaway Winners! says the winners of the November critique giveaway are: Joyce Moyer Hostetter and Angelina C. Hansen!

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 "Critique winner" in the subject line.
  • Deadline to submit is December 19.
  • When I receive your email, I'll acknowledge receipt and let you know when you can expect my response.
Congratulations to Joyce and Angelina, and thank you all so much for stopping by and entering. Wishing you all a great day in the world of books...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

May God's blessings fill your home, your family, your loved ones, and your life on this very special day of thanks.

And for all that we've received, and all that He is, may our hearts overflow with gratitude to Him.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

November Critique Giveaway

It's critique time. Enter to win!
  • I will critique TWO manuscripts. "Manuscript" means the first 1000 words of your children's magazine story, chapter book, MG novel, or YA novel.
  • No picture books, easy readers, poetry, or nonfiction.
  • Just comment on this post and state that you wish to enter.
  • Extra entries for following, Facebooking, tweeting, blogging, etc.
  • Include your email, OR check back to see if you've won!
  • Enter now through Wednesday, November 28.
  • Please, no stories that you intend to enter in an ICL Children's Writer contest.
  • Winners announced Thursday, November 29.
Let the entering begin!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What Came From the Stars, by Gary D. Schmidt

This MG novel is a bit of a surprise, in that it's not straight contemporary fiction like Schmidt's other recent work, but a combination of contemporary and high fantasy. Many galaxies from the Milky Way, the peaceful world of the Valorim is about to be vanquished by the Lord Mondus and his minions. The evil one isn't just Lord Mondus, but "the Lord Mondus." (I loved that name for a villain.) Just moments before all is lost, the last survivor of the Valorim secretes all of  his people's art in a single forged chain that he sends out into the universe, so that the culture of the Valorim will not be utterly destroyed. The chain tumbles through galaxies until it happens to reach one that contains a certain solar system, which contains a certain blue planet, and completes its journey by landing inside the school lunchbox of twelve-year-old Tommy Pepper.

Tommy's life is steeped in the cares of this world, from the devastating to the trivial. It's his birthday, the lunchbox is a present from Grandma, it's an Ace Robotroid lunchbox, and he's WAY too old for Ace Robotroid. This is also the first birthday Tommy has had since his mom died 257 days ago in a car crash that he believes his bad attitude caused. His dad can't paint anymore, his sister doesn't speak anymore, and a nasty realtor is trying to take their home in historic Plymouth, MA, for an oceanfront condo development. Tommy has no time for a chain from outer space; in fact it takes him a while to even find it in the hated lunchbox. Really, though, it's more like the chain has found Tommy. He suddenly begins to understand words, concepts, and especially art that he has no background for, and he can make this art, too.

Back on the faraway planet, of course, the Lord Mondus and his minions want to know where the art has gone. They will eventually find out, invade Plymouth in order to capture it, and Tommy will have to defend his home, family, friends, school, and town against enemies that are way, way beyond the cares of this world.

The chapters alternate between Tommy's world and the fantasy world, and the language is starkly different from one to another. In Tommy's chapters it's well-written but down to earth; the high fantasy chapters have the majesty of Beowulf or the King James Bible about them. I loved when Tommy began to fight the evil intruders and the high-flown language of the mythical world began to invade Tommy's world. We even see that though he is still Tommy, he is also "Tommim," a boy with a much grander purpose--an intergalatic purpose--than most people would ever dare dream of.

The basic plots of both worlds are not terribly original, but I'm not sure how much this matters. First, the high fantasy chapters are not easy reading (and in my opinion the glossary at the back of the book should be in front so readers find it before they finish), so it helps that the plot is familiar. Second, good vs. evil is so foundational to all of existence. Third, the themes are what matter here. Both this book and his previous novel, Okay for Now, are about the importance of art to individuals and to culture. More prominent though, I think, are other ideas. That we can receive grand assignments from "way out there" (God, in my book) that we did not ask for, that seem way beyond us, but that we will be equipped to handle even if we have to step out in fear. And that the key to fixing the mess in our earthly lives is often found in embracing a realer, truer, purpose. Gary D. Schmidt is a professor at Calvin College in Michigan, and I'm sure the underlying Christian themes in this story are no accident.

A "wow" book, recommended for readers who wouldn't mind some high fantasy with their contemporary fiction.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

SCBWI-WI Conference Highlights, Part 2

The title of my breakout session was "Idea Explosion Workshop." I obviously can't share it all here, so I will choose a section that addresses a common problem in dealing with book ideas: "I have so many ideas I don't know what to do with them all! How do I choose?" Well, here's the method I recommend.

Look at your list, file, or box of ideas

Pick out the one(s) that most excite you.
Pick out the one(s) that have the most emotional resonance for you.
Pick out the one(s) that capitalize on your writing strengths.
Pick out the one(s) that make use of subjects you know well.

For some of these categories, you may be choosing more than one idea. That's fine. Throw them all into a literal or virtual pot. Now examine them further.

Which one(s) are overdone topics or genres in today's market? Strongly consider putting these back in the general idea file.

Which of the remaining ideas in the pot have the highest concepts? Take these out of the pot, and put everything else that's in the pot back into the general idea file. Lay these higher-concept ideas side by side on your desk, literally or figuratively, and shine a light on them.

Compare these ideas head to head, two at a time. Let's say you have four ideas on your desk: A, F, P, and Q.
  • Compare A and F. Which do you like better? Let's say it's F. Put A back in the general idea file.
  • F is now the standard. Compare F and P. Which do you like better? Let's say it's P. Put F back in the general idea file.
  • P is now the standard. Compare P and Q. Which do you like better? Let's say it's P. Put Q back in the general idea file.
  • P wins!!!!
  • NOW, WRITE P! :)
Alas, I wanted to upload a video clip, but I tried multiple times and it didn't work.

Do you have idea tips? Have you been to a conference lately?