Tag Archives: books

Coming Up: Authors! Books! Give-a-ways! Interviews!

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By Leslie Lindsay

Don’t you just love, love, love a good book?  How about when that writer is equally cool? And she graciously offers a complimentary copy? Well, then you’ll be thrilled to learn that we will soon be meeting two wonderful authors who will be doing just that! Product Details

Laura McHugh is a debut psychological/family saga thriller writer from the heartland. Missouri, that is–who will be sharing her book, THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD (March, 2014). Think gritty Ozark moutains, a missing girl, family secrets.

Lacy Crawford writes with elegence and humor in her debut EARLY DECISION, based on the college admissions process, the elusive Product Details

college essay, and the wealthy kiddos that don’t (always) have a clue. A must read for any parent about to send their kiddos off to the wild blue yonder,high school english teachers, and so many more!

Wednesdays right here are the days to watch–that’s when you just might get to “meet” one of these lovely ladies and enter to WIN a complimentary copy of their books.

Happy reading!

Leslie : )

[cover images retireved Amazon.com on 3.30.14]

Write On, Wednesday: Author Kimberly McCreight of RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA (2013) with GIVE-A-WAY!!

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By Leslie Lindsay Product Details

I am super-excited to spend some time chatting with NYT bestselling debut author, Kimberly McCreight of RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA.  While this book was a Target Book Club pick and my local book discussion group selection, I am in awe as to how this literary wonder woman does it all.  She’s a mom to two young girls, runs marathons, and has several unpublished manuscripts just lying about. Oh, and she’s a former attorney. To accomplish all of that, you’d have to say the woman is driven, hands down.

RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA appealed to me for several reasons: it’s been compared to Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL, has a Jodi Picout-like quality in that it alternates between view points, and perhaps most importantly, the storyline is ripped right from current trends in mean girl behavior, also know as social aggression–a trend I am not proud to associate with the female culture. So, without futher ado…please welcome Kim McCreight.

LL: Thank you, Kim for taking the time to chat with us about your book, RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA (Harper Perennial, 2013). I am currently in the last quarter of the book and find myself racing to the end to find out what really happened to young Amelia. Without giving away too much, did you intend for the book to be a mystery?

Kimberly McC: Reconstructing Amelia was inspired first and foremost by my experiences as a mother, specifically my fears for my daughters as they grow older.  And I don’t think I set out to write a mystery per se.  I didn’t set out to write any particular kind of book.  But as much as I cared about the characters while writing Reconstructing Amelia I was also very interested in the puzzle aspect of the story.  And I knew from the outset that a central question driving the narrative would be the “why” of what happened to Amelia.  For me, that’s the question at the heart of all great mysteries.

LL: Cyber-bullying has become such an unfortunate trend in young people’s lives—from texts to blogs, to Facebook. You tap into this environment surprisingly well—the teen slang, the secrets, their mannerisms, yet your own children are young.  Can you give us a glimpse into your ‘research’ for the book?

Kimberly McC: I was certainly influenced by many news accounts of bullying, though the book wasn’t inspired by any one story in particular.  I also did a fair amount of Internet research, exploring what teenagers talk about and what mediums they use.  There was a lot that surprised me about the ways teens use social media these days, for better and for worse.  I’m amazed how different their definitions of “privacy” and “friend” are from mine.  I also talked to local teens while writing Reconstructing Amelia.  I grew up in the suburbs, so I needed to get a sense of how the details of life differ for an urban teenager—where they go one weekends, after the school, etc.  But much of Amelia’s character was inspired by my own memories of being a teen.  And her voice came very naturally, which maybe should concern me more than it does.

LL: Speaking kids…as an author, how do you structure your writing time while still remaining an engaging parent? My own kids are 7 and 8 and I write like mad while they are at school, but sometimes that’s not near enough!  My characters keep “talking” to me as I help with homework, prepare dinner, etc. Can you share some tips for ‘trying to do it all?’

Kimberly McC: Ever since I left the practice of law to write fiction, I’ve tried to treat writing as a full-time job with regular hours and a clear structure.  That was less complicated, of course, before I had children.  But then, life for any working parent is a constant juggle.  I feel very lucky that I at least have the flexibility (and proximity) most days to be at school at the drop of a hat to pick up a sick child.

These days, I write from 9-6 pm, five days a week, which means my girls are in aftercare or with a sitter after school.  Having lots of strict deadlines (and sub-deadlines, and sub-sub deadline helps) and I rely heavily on a great to-do app.

But you’re right that even that isn’t always enough.  Just last night, I had to sit across from my older daughter revising something as she finished her homework because I had a deadline.

Also, I am always jotting story notes in my iPhone—while watching my kids play sports or while cooking dinner (which might explain why I’m such a terrible cook) and, yes, sometimes even when they’re talking to me.  In that case, of course, I feel totally guilty, but mostly do it anyway).

McCreight Kimberly ap1_credit Justine CooperBecause you can’t control when a new idea or the solution to a vexing narrative problem will come to you.  And if you don’t grab it, it can disappear.  But I find that as long as I’ve made a detailed note, it will usually keep until whenever I can return to it during my regular work hours.

LL: I understand your first manuscripts are stored someplace under your bed or in your hard drive; RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA is actually your fifth attempt at writing a novel, right?  You must have really, really been determined to get a book out. What advice would you give to emerging novelists?

Kimberly McC: Keep writing.  That’s really obvious, but it’s also an incredibly important point.  And by that I mean don’t give up, but also:  write to get better at writing.  My work has certainly improved over the years.  I think feedback is critical, too.  Find a great critique partner or, better yet, a terrific writers group.   Then listen to what they have to say about your work.  That doesn’t mean you have to do everything they say, but keep an open mind.  There is no way to improve in a vacuum.

LL: Moving on to agents. You say you’ve gone through several, yet we struggling writers would be happy with just one!  What tips might you offer for finding that perfect fit, crafting a stellar query letter, and ultimately getting a book in the hands of readers?

While it’s certainly important to approach agents who represent your kind of work and who are accepting new clients, I think it’s easy to get bogged down in the research phase of finding an agent.  The “who to approach” part, instead of getting to the “actually approaching” phase.

I would recommend casting a wide net.  Part of finding an agent is a numbers game: sending out enough queries to enough agents (keeping in mind always to notify them that yours is a simultaneous submission) until you find that perfect match.

I’d start with a group of ten agents and see what response you get to your query letter.  If only a very few (or none) ask to see pages, your query letter probably isn’t strong enough.  Stop and revise it.  Writing a great query letter takes a lot of time.  More than you’d ever think a single letter could possibly take.

It’s also really hard.  How to write a good query is something I would recommend researching extensively.   You can start online, there are lots of great articles there. Then imagine you’re writing the jacket copy for your book.  You don’t need to tell the reader everything, you just need to grab their interest.  On that note, be sure that your letter is written in the same tone as your book.  If your novel is funny, make your letter funny.  Wrote a mystery?  Make sure your letter is suspenseful.  And don’t be gimmicky.  Agents get more queries then you can possibly imagine.  You want to stand out, but not for the wrong reasons.

LL: What’s next for you?  When will we see more of your books on the shelves?

Kimberly McC: I’m at work on revisions for my next book, another mystery with a strong character element.  Don’t know when it’ll be out, but I’d expect in about a year or so.  I’ve also started the first book in a YA trilogy that I’m really excited about. 

Thank you so very much for being here today, Kim! It’s been an absolute pleasure. Best wishes!

THANK YOU!! Apraxia Monday:  He Talks Funny Author Jeanne Buesser & Give-a-Way

And now for the book give-a-way!!  One lucky winner will be drawn at random to WIN a FREE copy of RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA. All you have to do is share this interview via email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. and let me know you shared (if you don’t let me know, I can’t enter your name).  How do you do that?!  Easy. Just leave a comment on this blog or shoot me an email at leslie_lindsay (at) hotmail.com with subject line, “I shared…enter my name!” *

For more information, please follow Kimberly’s social media:

Twitter:   @kimmccreight

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/mccreight.kimberly

website:  http://www.kimberlymccreight.com

*Fine Print: Give-a-way is open to US residents only. Must comment or email leslie_lindsay@hotmail.com so I know to enter your name after you’ve shared via social media. Contest runs Wednesay, January 22-Saturday, January 26. Please check your in-box/junk/spam for an email from me indicating you won. Please respond promptly with your mailing address. Book will be sent to you from HarperCollins Publishers. Good luck!!

[book image retrived from Amazon.com on 1.21.14; author image courtesy of Harper Collins Pub with permission of Kimberly McCreight]

Write On, Wednesday: Author Emily Liebert of YOU KNEW ME WHEN

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By Leslie Lindsay 2012.02.20_Emily Lieb_5CE0B

Have I got a treat today!  Debut novelist Emily Liebert is here to talk about books, friendship, social media, agents, and nailpolish. Oh, and that includes a give-a-way! Not just one, but TWO lucky winners will receive a copy of her book, YOU KNEW ME WHEN (NAL Trade, 2013) and custom-designed nailpolish.

LL: Emily, thank you so very much for agreeing to be on Write On, Wednesday!  The fun part of our connection is we found each other on Twitter.  In what ways has social media brought the world of books closer to readers, and do you ever consider social media to be a burden to book lovers?

Emily Liebert: My pleasure! Love that we found each other via Twitter. 😉

I don’t consider social media to be a burden in any way! I think it’s opened up a worldwide conversation that’s truly revolutionary. My first book, FACEBOOK FAIRYTALES, which is narrative non-fiction is an anthology of 25 amazing stories that evolved from Facebook connections. So I’ve done a good deal of research in this area. As far as the literary space, there’s nothing I enjoy more than interacting with my fans via social media, learning what books people are reading and loving, and meeting amazing colleagues like yourself!

LL: Your book, YOU KNEW ME WHEN is about the staying power of female friendships. In such a connected world today, what factors do you think contribute to lost friendships?  Do find the phenomenon somewhat ironic given all of the devices we have to stay connected?

Emily Liebert: As you point out, it’s pretty hard to “lose” anyone these days. Unfortunately, people still fight, which leads to falling outs. I think it reminds us that, despite all of these devices to stay connected, fundamentally you still need to be able to get along!

YKMW--CoverLL: The women in YOU KNEW ME WHEN reconvene at a Victorian mansion.  How does the house become part of the landscape, and/or contribute overall character development?  In some stories, inanimate objects become personified; do you feel the mansion becomes a character in a sense?

Emily Liebert: Well, Luella’s Victorian mansion is in Vermont…[and] I do think it became a character in a way. I love this question, because it was something I gave a lot of thought to when considering what the cover might look like. One idea (the one we didn’t end up using) was to have the house on the cover. Luella’s home and the inanimate objects in it embody her in so many ways, from start to finish. Her home also played an intricate roll in the relationships formed between Luella, Laney, and Katherine/Kitty.

LL: Many folks can only dream of writing a book.  What advice would you give to serious writers on pursuing their dream?

Emily Liebert: Write what you know. Write what you’re passionate about. Write often. Develop a thick skin. There will be rejections. There will be doors slammed in your face. Kick them in!

LL: Let’s move into agents.  What do you think you did right when looking for representation?  Tips?

Emily Liebert: I’ve had two agents and loved both of them. My current agent, Alyssa Reuben, at Paradigm is a literary goddess. I call her this often. She gets me. She gets my writing. She reads the kinds of books I write by other authors. She’s not only my agent, but a dear friend. You have to work with someone you’re comfortable with. Someone who pays attention to you and will fight for you. Alyssa is all of that and so much more.

LL: What are you currently reading?

Emily Liebert: ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS by Meg Donohue. I can’t wait to read Jane Green’s new novel, TEMPTING FATE, which comes out in March! Her writing is genius.

 LL: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

Emily Liebert: Therapist or chef.

LL:Finally, what’s next for you? More books?

Emily Liebert:My next novel WHEN WE FALL will publish with Penguin Random House in September 2014. After that, the plan is to write a novel every nine months. Livin’ the dream!

[image source: www.squidoo.com on 12.04.13.  Author and cover images courtesy E.Liebert]

And now for the give-a-way!  Emily has graciously offered TWO copies of her book, YOU KNEW ME WHEN and matching/cutomized nailpolish created for the book to TWO lucky blog readers.  All  you have to do share this interview via Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, Email, etc. and then let me know you shared by sending me a quick email at leslie_lindsay(at)hotmail.com, or by leaving a comment on this blog page.  It’s that easy!!*  Good luck!

*The Fine Print: Open to US resisdents only. Contest runs now (12.04.13) thru Friday (12.06.13 at 5pm). You will be contacted via email if your name is randomly selected.  Please be sure to check your “junk” or “spam” folders for an email from me. Respond promptly with your mailing address.  Books (and nailpolish!) will be mailed to you by an agent of Ms. Liebert.

Write On, Wednesday: Interview with Author Deb Caletti

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By Leslie Lindsay

I am thrilled to feature National Book Award Finalist Deb Caletti to Write On, Wednesday!  When I came across her latest book, HE’S GONE (Bantam, 2013) it was quite honesty by accident.  Not the kind of accident that occurs between the covers of the book, but one in which you find yourself pleasantly surprised. 

Having a long-standing career writing YA, this is Caletti’s first book intended for an adult audience.  I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

And now, I’d love to introduce Ms. Caletti and her world of fiction:1-80c6806cdf

Leslie Lindsay: Thank you for agreeing to be with us today, Deb.  HE’S GONE totally ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite books.  I fell in love the gritty manner you crafted sentences, the idea that things aren’t always what they seem, the interplay of memory versus reality and the mystery of what really happened.  Can you tell us how you came up with the premise for this book?

Deb Caletti: “The idea for the book came much the same way the book itself begins. I woke up one morning, and my husband wasn’t there. I did that listening you do, where you try to see if the TV is on in the other room, or if there’s the sound of the toaster lever being pushed down. And suddenly there was the What If that often begins a novel. What if you woke up one day to find that your husband had vanished? And while my own was merely out walking the dog, the situation was much more complex for Dani and Ian in He’s Gone.”

“After I had the original premise, I decided to explore the subjects of guilt and wrongdoing, marriage and remarriage, and the way those old, treacherous voices from childhood can continue to haunt us.  During that time, I was doing a lot of thinking about regrets and mistakes.  The thematic question became this: what do us generally well meaning but all-too-human folks do with the wrongdoings we accumulate in a life?  How much guilt should we carry, and why-oh-why do some of us carry so much of it? ”

Leslie Lindsay:  You’ve jumped genres from YA to fiction.  How is that change treating you?  What would you say are the main differences between writing for young adults versus adults?  Why is it important to remember your audience?

Deb Caletti: “I haven’t made a permanent jump – my next book is a YA novel called THE LAST FOREVER, which I think is one of my best – a great book for teens and adults alike.  After that, I’ll be back to another adult novel.  The change in genres just made sense.  My previous nine young adult novels are complex and character driven, which meant my readers are already a mixed bag of ages, with a large percentage college-aged and over.  The crossover has been great for me creatively and professionally.  I think it’s important to shake things up every now and then, to stay fresh and interested in the work you do.”

“The writing process wasn’t all that different from my other books, given their thematic weight. As I writer, what I basically do is put myself in a characters shoes (and mind and heart and bathrobe) and then tell the truth from there.  I believe we are more similar than different – the thrill of new love, the crush of loss, the frustration of your car breaking down on an already bad day – the feeling is the same at eighteen or forty-eight. Love is love at any age, and so is joy and so is sadness. The surrounding elements might alter – a teen might be living in her parents’ home, versus Dani, for example, who lives in that gorgeous houseboat in He’s Gone; the loss might be a boyfriend versus a husband; that car might be Dad’s Honda versus Dani’s own old Audi. But the heart, I believe, is age-neutral – knowable, relatable, and understandable always, and heart is what creates a story a reader connects with.  As a writer, I use the same tools for both age groups – empathy and honesty.”

“That said, I was aware that my target age range was elevated with He’s Gone, and it allowed me to play with more complex sentence structures and deeper themes. There were no fences for me to stay in or out of. It was very freeing. I could just write.  No holding back.  For me, writing within those boundaries is actually in many ways more challenging.”

Leslie Lindsay: Speaking of genres, how do you feel about the term ‘women’s fiction?’   Would you consider HE’S GONE women’s fiction? 

Deb Caletti: “I’m not fond of any of the genre labels that might keep readers away from a book.  “Women’s fiction” puts a fence around the work, which tells a male reader that the book isn’t meant for him.  While He’s Gone has a female protagonist and while the story is told from her viewpoint, some of the strongest responses to the book have been from male readers who’ve really related to the corners of marriage and remarriage that are explored in it. The labels feel a little demeaning to readers.  I trust they can figure out whether a book is for them or not without instructions.”

Leslie Lindsay: Can you tell us a little about your earlier writing days?  Do you have dusty manuscripts under the bed?  How long did it take to get your first book accepted/published?

Deb Caletti: “I studied journalism in college, thinking it was a more “practical” form of writing, and because I understood the odds of making it in this profession. But, of course, I was a creative writer, not a journalist, and the lifelong dream kept following me even when I didn’t follow it.  I started writing seriously when my children were in preschool.  I finally had a hard talk with myself one day and made a vow to “do it,” whatever it took. I actually wrote four unpublished adult novels before my fifth book, THE QUEEN OF EVERYTHING, was published.  I had the unusual good fortune of acquiring an agent after the first book I wrote, someone who believed in me so greatly that he stuck with me through those unsold books.  We actually thought THE QUEEN OF EVERYTHING was an adult novel.  It’s about a young girl who watches her father spiral down to commit a crime of passion, and the content is pretty heavy.  When it got bought as a YA novel, my life in YA began.  I always call it the luckiest accident.  I’ve loved my YA life.  But writing adult novels is a coming-full-circle for me.  And, yes, my agent and I are STILL together.”

5x7_to_useLeslie Lindsay: Do you have any specific writing routines?  Things you have to have “in order” before you start?  (For me, it’s often a clean house.  But if you were to look at my office, you may question my housekeeping skills). 

Deb Caletti: “Given that I usually publish a book a year, there are three jobs going on at any one time – writing the newest book, working with the publisher to prepare the one I’ve just finished for publication, and doing the PR for the book that’s just been released.  So, generally, I’ve got to get right to it.  Step one: fill the coffee cup!  Strong, please!  I check my mail in the morning for any urgent business from my agent, publishers or publicists, and then I write.”

Leslie Lindsay: Would you consider yourself a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter?’  A little of both?  How do you typically go about the process of writing from idea to finished book? 

Deb Caletti: “I know where I’m starting and where I’m ending up, but not necessarily what’s going to happen along the way.  My process is, begin at the beginning and keep going until the end.  It’s a lot like life that way, and also in the way that you figure out quite a bit of it as you go.  You change your mind, you make discoveries.  I start with my basic plot, and then I decide on the themes I want to explore.  I decide which characters are going to make the trip.  For me, writing a book is a therapeutic act, an attempt to understand both myself and all of us poor old souls doing our best to ride the joys and sorrows of life.”

Leslie Lindsay: What advice might you give to an aspiring author with a completed manuscript?

Deb Caletti:This business requires boldness, determination, and passion.  Make that manuscript the best it can be, and I mean THE BEST.  Send out the queries to agents in the way they request, and then send out some more.  If the feedback isn’t what you’ve been longing to hear, fix the book and/or move on to the next one, and the next.  If that book doesn’t do it, don’t get stuck there.  Write an even better book and try again.  This is a craft.  Some successful writers have written five, eight, thirteen books before writing the one that will finally be published.  Too, know what this business really is and isn’t about (key word: business).  Know what it can give and what it won’t likely give.  With that knowledge, guard your heart and GO.  Have the persistence of a dog with a knotted sock.” 

Thank you so very much for sharing your insights and musings with us…and most of all, the gift of your literary work. 

For more information about Deb Caletti and her books, check out these sites & social media:

About the book:
Where to follow:
 

[All images provided courtesy of Deb Caletti and used with permission.  Special thanks to Deb for collaborating!]

Fiction Friday: Better Late than Never

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By Leslie Lindsay1028567918_rd7wi-ti-1.jpg

It’s Friday about one more hour here in the central part of the US and I best get my promised Fiction Friday post out.  If you’re on the West Coast, then I guess I am not so tardy…

This one is something I’ve been working on lately to add a little dark edge to my novel-in-progress.  Let me know your thoughts when you get a second…a star, a comment, a like, a re-post to Twitter or Facebook is always a good way to let me know if you liked it. Enjoy…

 

“I used to imagine it sometimes, what would happen if I just didn’t come home.  The thought always came to me when I was feeling particularly unworthy, lacking confidence, seeking attention.  God, I hated how that sounded; like I was an attention-seeking borderline threatening to run off or take my own life.  I could never do that, not really anyway.  The thought was always more about sharing my pain with others, letting them know just how miserable I felt deep down.  My desire to disappear came forth in the form of generosity.  Let me show you how I feel; Welcome to my personal hell; you should feel lucky.

 

          They were anything but lucky.  My desperation and irritability put a shield around me, making me lonely in busy world. 

          “I wish I could just drive my car off a cliff,” I’d say.  Or, perhaps I met my demise in some other way; the 18-wheeler would come barreling into my tiny Toyota crushing it like a tin can, with me in the driver’s seat.  My short life would flash before my eyes, summer camps and dance recitals, class photos, and crushes. Steve.

          Whatever it was, something terrible would happen and my friends and family—would have to return to my apartment to find all of the daily pieces of my interrupted life.  My dad would see the microbiology text left open on my desk, those tiny colored tabs ruffling the edges of the book.  Remember this.  Memorize that.  My mother would pick up my thong underwear in the corner of the room with her manicured nails and wonder why I spent money on a piece of clothing that covered so little. My roommate would thumb through the mail and set aside the Psychology Today magazine.  There would be to-do notes and lists throughout my bedroom, a brush with hair still entwined in it, Tom Petty stuck in the CD player, framed photos of me and friends, a smattering of greeting cards propped up like dummies. 

          This is how it would look.  A snapshot of my life.  Don’t touch it.  It’s my life.  I would try with all of my might to communicate the message but I would be gone.  Dead, probably.   Because running off wouldn’t be enough.

          Hiding out can only last so long.  Eventually one has to come back, reclaim their old life, or find a new one.  And really, who can reinvent themselves?  We think we can, but when it comes down to it, our personalities are so ingrained, it would be impossible. 

          So being dead would be better. 

          Friends and family—and people I don’t even know would come to my funeral.  They’d wear black and bow their heads and mutter things like she was such a nice person, always smiling…I had no idea…such a tragedy…she held so much promise.  They’d lay flowers on my casket and hug and shed some tears.

          And Steve would be there, too.  His eyes would be glassy and bloodshot, a dark suit, three-days worth of scruff.  He’d lean in and whisper to my parents, “I really loved her, you know?”  They’d nod and pull Steve into a three-way embrace, tears streaming down momma’s face.  Dad would reach up and touch the corner of his eye, but no tears would flow.  After the hug, they’d hold Steve with outstretched arms, resting their hands on his broad shoulders, “You were good for her, son,” they’d say and this time, they’d mean it.  They’d be sorry it was over.  Sorry they never accepted him like I had. 

          Steve would press his lips into a tight line and nod solemnly, his gaze gliding to the open doorway where Beth Donovan sits on a divan in a gray dress and black heels.  She’d twist her face into the doorway of the funeral parlor and there may be tears because she’s my age and she knows that it could have easily have been her who was side-smacked in an accident. How fleeting—and precious life can be.  Perhaps the tears were because she knew she caused my death.”

The Teacher is Talking: Getting Resourceful for Summer Break

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By Leslie Lindsay

It may be summer break in most areas of the country, so your classroom is bound to be shifting a bit.  Instead of neat rows of desks lined up in your neighborhood school, your child’s classroom is now the playground, the nature trail, the swimming pool, or perhaps a friendly day camp. 

There are plenty of ways to “sneak” in summer learning without being overly teacher-ly.  Here are some ideas uncovered in just the last few days for little or no cost to you.

  • Michaels Craft Stores have two summer tracks you may be interested in following.  Track One:  Kids Club. Meets every Saturday, starting June 1st and going thru July 6th.  For ages 3+, kids can benefit from a 30-minute hands-on crafting activity (all supplies included) with a Michaels staff member and bring home a craft. ($2/child). (Examples:  Father’s Day Card, Father’s Day Duck Tape Frame, Silly Shells,  4th of July Hat, and Summer Games).  All classes run every 30 minutes from 10-12noon. 
  • Michaels Craft Stores Track Two: Passport to Imagination. Explore the 7 continents and their amazing landmarks and icons in this 7-week voyage “around the globe!” For just $2 and 2-hours, kids can participate in a crafting adventure Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays beginning June 17th.  You must register to join the fun and reserve your spot.  www.Michaels.com/Passport
  •   Check your local library!  Remember those fun summer reading book programs from your day a child?  Chances are, your library is still doing something similar for this generation.  Our library hosts a reading group, book logs, suggested titles, and small prizes for achieving certain levels.  Libraries often have low-cost or no-cost afternoon and evening programs designed just for kids and families. 
  • You may also consider hosting a pee-wee book group.  Pick a theme or a classic title geared to your child’s ages and interests. Invite a few friends (3-4 is a good number to start) and get reading. Parents, you read the book, too!  Pick an interval that works for you–meet weekly  (or twice weekly) to discuss your progress, or when the book is complete.  Make it fun!  Bake, draw, paint, or craft an activity to go along with your book.  (At our house, we’re planning to read several chapter books about 3rd grade).  For younger kids, try a series of picture books like Fancy Nancy or Thomas the Tank Engine.  Double-duty:  get reading hours for that library summer reading log while spending time with friends!
  • Panera Bread offers a BIT Kids program.  That’s Baker-in-Training.  Great for scouts and other service-minded groups, but also for kiddos who love to bake!  Reservations must be made in advance, classes are typically 1.5 hours and require a minimum of 10 kiddos ages 5-12 years.  An adult chaperone is also required to stay for every 5 children. 
  • Gather up a group of friends from your kiddie book group, neighbors, or moms and tots group.  For more information, http://www.panerabread.com/about/bit/

More ideas coming up next week!  For now–it’s summer–keep it fun, fresh, and educational!  Class dismissed…

The Teacher is Talking: Word Strategies for Young Readers

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By Leslie Lindsay  

If you’ve been reading for awhile now, you’ll know I have two little girls, ages 6 and 8.  They are like little sponges, soaking up all of the new stuff they can.  And they are ripe for reading. 

Just last evening, my 6 year old full-day precocious kindergartner brought home an advanced book, “My teacher says I’m ready, mom.  But she also said if it got too hard, I don’t have to read all of it.”  I nodded and looked at the book, Fancy Nancy and the 100th Day of School.  “Okay,” I said, “We’ll give it a whirl.”  We cracked open the book (it literally looked brand-new), and began reading.  (image source: Amazon.com 5.7.13)

Now, if you know anything about Fancy Nancy, you’ll know she uses a lot of “big” words.  It’s all done in a cute, playful way to improve little vocabularies.  Plus, it’s just darn cute to hear your kiddo’s diminuative voice say something like, ‘dilemma,’ and ‘imaginative.’  So, when we came to those big words in the text, we slowed down, we studied the words.  We tried to commit them to memory and place a tag on them.  Here are some other techniques you can use with your children as they emerge into readers: 

  • Find words inside of words.  Think anagrams.  Many words contain smaller words (can is in candle and end is in friend, for example).  In the car, or during an evening stroll, ask your kiddos help you look for smaller words within, or “hiding” in words.  (be and in inside begin), walk inside crosswalk.  You get the idea.  If you start seeing words everywhere, you’ll start seeing them in books, too.
  • S-T-R-E-T-C-H it out.  If your child spots a tough work, suggest she say the sound of each letter.  Then, it will be a lot easier to put the sounds together.  We do this a lot.  I often old my hands out in fists.  This fist, (pointing to the right one) contains the word, friend and the other fist (left) contains the word ship.  Smash ’em togehter and you get friendship.  As you can see, this is particularly great with those long compound words. 
  • Use Context Clues.  Encourage your little one to read an entire sentence before trying to figure out an unknown word.  Often, the word will become clear from the rest of the sentence.  Give her some practice:  write a note for your child.  Leave out some letters of a word.  Have her think about what the missing word couldbe.  Let’s go to the __ __ __K after school (or P__ __ K, whichever you think your child is ready for).  When she has it all figured out, help her sound it out and write the word (park). 

In case you’re wondering, my little Kelly finished that entire Books and reading 001book on her own, with just a couple of prompts for ‘imaginative,’ ‘dilemma’ and ‘macaroni,’ and then–she read it again! 

That’s it–class dismissed!

A Little Literacy, Please: Flit, Float, Fly.

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By Leslie LindsayProduct Details

April showers bring May flowers…and so does JoAnn Early Macken, author of Flip, Float, Fly…Seeds on the Move. 

When I first came across this darling picture book for children, I was a participant in the Write-by-the-Lake Summer Retreat in Madison, Wisconsin.  Ms. Early-Macken was presenting a session on writing children’s storybooks–which all have 32 pages, and some kind of rhyme or lilt about them.  (Don’t ask me much more, as I didn’t take her workshop.  I was too busy with adult fiction.  But I did buy her book for my then 7-year old garden lover).

I love the simple, heirloom-quality illustrations, paired with Early-Macken’s gently swaying prose, this book is hands-down a spring-time favorite at our house.  Readers–parents and children alike–will learn how seeds use ingenious methods to travel to new places to put down roots.  I abolutely adore her use of ontomonapeoas (that is, words that sound like the sound they make in real life), crunch, crackle, fling, pop!  Plop!  SWISH…

A fun book to read this spring while teaching your kiddos all about putting down roots. 

Write On, Wednesday: Perfecting the Pitch

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Write On, Wednesday:  Creating a World So Believable Your Critique Partners Think You're Having an AffairBy Leslie Lindsay

This past weekend, I packed my overnight bag and headed to  the University Wisconsin-Madison’s Continuing Ed Writer’s Workshop: Marketing Toolkit.   Besides the hotel room all to myself and the uninterrupted time in a coffee shop, it was a glorious–if mildly terrifying–time away from family and the hustle and bustle of”real-life.”  I got lost in my fiction world.  A little bit.  

But I also got a good dose of reality. 

Our instructor, Laurie Scheer started our three-hour workshop off with this statement: “There is no conspiracy against you as a writers.  You are all capable.  The publishing industry wants to hear from you.” 

Wow.  Read that again if you have to.  They want you.  A wave of relief.  But still, it’s not easy. 

For a writer to get noticed in the marketplace, this is what needs to happen before you pitch your book (we’re sticking mostly with the fiction model here, so if you’re a non-fiction writer, don’t take this to heart, although some of the elements do overlap). 

#1  Your Logline.  Your what?!  You thought loglines were just for marketing inventions and products.  Oh, but wait…you book is an invention that you are marketing to agents, and ultimately readers (the product: a book).   See what I mean.  Your logline is different than your brand.  (that’s what you are all about as a writer.  Jodi Pocoult’s brand, is family and close interactions between those individuals, throw in some world dilemma or organ donation…).  So,  let’s look at your logline, which is a 1-2 sentence about your book.  That’s right, one teeny sentence to summarize that whole 100,000 word manuscript.  A general formula:

Character name & vocation + general situation

Add a “when”….that doorway to no return

Finish with a “now”…death overhanging/what’s at stake

(Logline Example provided in class:  THE NANNY DIARIES.  A NYU student becomes a nanny for a family living on the upper East Side, but they turn out to be the family from hell.).  For more ideas on loglines, look to www.Amazon.com  (how do they market some of your favorite books?), also www.GoodReads.com  and www.inktip.com 

#2  YOUR SYNOPSIS.  That lovely little thing we all love to write.  Not.  Your synopsis should a 1-page summary of your entire novel, twists included.  Some, maybe even most include the ending.  And you thought the one sentence logline was hard!  Some writers keep the logline along the top of the synopsis sheet.  You don’t have to, if you need to save that space for more precious words.  make your synopsis sing.  Get your voice in there, but don’t over do it.  It’s always a good idea when pitching in person to have a hand-out of your synopsis (called a ‘take-away’ in the industry to hand to your agent). 

#3  YOUR QUERY LETTER.  Whether you’re picthing in person or thru email, or snail mail (always do what the agent requires, even if you think snail mail is antiquated), you still need a query letter.  In person pitches are a follow-up letter.  “I enjoyed meeting you at Books Are My Friends Conference…and I am equally thrilled to be sending you …[whatever they asked for]”  Make this  speak to the agent.  Why did you pitch to them?  A brief blurb about your book (the logline), a bit about you (pertinent bio).  Do not say, “looking forward to hearing from you.”  That’s cheesy.  Of course, you are!  : ) Instead, “I’d be thrilled if you would consider MY NOVEL…thanks very much.  Hope to talk to you soon.” 

Do not rush through these things.  They are an important part of your marking toolkit.  Make them outstanding! 

What are you waiting for?!  Write on, Wednesday!! 

Apraxia Monday: Gnoming for Words

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By Leslie Lindsay

Looking for some crafty things to do with your children during the winter months?  This one lends well to the spring season as you can make these Hobbit-inspired homes now, and then spray with that really great preservation stuff and place in a protected area of your yard/porch to attract little fairies and gnomes.  Perfect for that Irish-themed holiday right around the corner!  Photo_9374C75B-86B3-295A-836E-527655881F16 WP_001709 WP_001710

Now, don’t get wrong, this is not a how-to post on creating your own gnome homes, rather it’s a lesson on how to incorporate speech-language skills into your projects. 

          Rule #1:  You don’t have to be an artist.  Repeat that.  You don’t have to be an artist.      

          Rule #2:  It’s about the process, and not the finished art piece

          Rule #3:  Grab your child(ren). 

          Rule #4:  It’s okay to get messy, encouraged even.  (Wear old clothes or a smock)

          Rule #5:  Have fun!

Now for that part about how to incorporate speech work into your crafting.  For children of all ages and all skill levels, you can begin by just talking about what you are doing.  “Today, we are going to build gnome homes.  Do you know what a gnome is?”  Or how about, “Can you say gnome?” 

Got a tactile-learner? A kid who loves to dance? Or maybe your child really loves color? While every child has a constellation of sensory strengths (shape, color, movement and sound are just a few), your child probably has one or two that really stand out — that you notice in his or her artwork or in elements of his or her collections and activities.  Here’s how you may be able to those sensory strengths to gnome homes, or any other type of craft you attempt. 

  • Shape:  Ask your child for descriptive words related to their gnome home.  Is it tall?  Big? Flat?  Round? 
  • Sound:  “What do you suppose your gnome may hear at their home?”  Water trickling/rushing/splashing?  (Let’s practice making that sound), “How do you think a gnome talks?  Let’s try it.  Can you make your voice high-pitched or low-pitched?”  What are some other sounds in nature that may be heard at a gnome home? 
  • Color:  “What colors are you using?  Oh, green!  Look, I see gray and brown, too.”  Can you say ‘gray?’
  • Texture:  “Is that bumpy or smooth?  Can you say those words?”  “I am going to add a little texture to this door.”  Can you say the word texture? “I have some moss.  What does moss feel like?  Here, touch it.” 
  • Light:  If you could imagine what kind of light is shining on this gnome home, what colors would you pick?  Is it sunny or rainy?  Should we add sparkles to our house? 
  • Movement:  You may not be able to add much movement to your creation, unless you get mechanical and add a water wheel or something of that sort…but you can still incorporate movement in your crafting by having your child get up and retrieve a supply.  This works on receptive language, “Will you grab the glue/moss/rocks?” 
  • Extend the activity:  Now it’s time to do something different, but similar to your craft project.  Can you read a book to your child about gnomes?  Draw a picture?  Watch a movie that incorporates gnomes?  Here are a few to get your started. 

Here are couple of suggestions: 

  • Fairy Houses by Tracy KaneProduct Details (image source: Amazon.com 2.25.13)

 

 

 

 

  • Pinkalicious Fairy House by Victoria Kann Product Details(image source: Amazon.com 2.25.13)

For more how-to approaches look to: Product Details

Fairy Houses . . . Everywhere! (The Fairy Houses Series) by Tracy Kane and Barry Kane  (image source: Amazon.com 2.25.13)

 

Product DetailsThe Fairy House Handbook by Liza Gardner Walsh & Amy Whilton (image source: Amazon.com 2.25.13)

 

 

References: The Missing Alphabet, A Parents’ Guide to Developing Creative Thinking in Kids (Greenleaf Book Group, 2012). http:/www.themissingalphabet.com. Book available on Amazon.com and where books are sold.

Bio: Leslie Lindsay, R.N., B.S.N. is the author of the 2012 Reader’s Choice nominated SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech (Woodbine House, 2012). She is a former child/adolescent psychiatric nurse at the Mayo Clinic-Rochester. Leslie is now a full-time writer at work on her first novel, an active blogger, www.leslie4kids.wordpress.com, and frequent contributor to several speech-related websites. She devotes her free time to her two school-age daughters, Kate and Kelly and a spoiled basset hound, Sally. Leslie is married to Jim Lindsay and resides in the Chicago area.

[Disclaimer:  This is a fun, speech-related activity you can do with your children.  Look for low-cost alternatives & supplies you may have on hand at home.  Glitter, glue, old beads, and buttons, rocks, sticks, and discarded jewelry.  The author of this post has no affilitation with the authors or their collected works on this page.  There is no monetary gain for this post.]