Monday, November 25, 2013


Dear Readers,

I launched Sweets for Scribblers and Book Bandits almost exactly two years ago, on November 14th, 2011.

I began this blog to write a new chapter of my life.

I began this blog to write about this amazing thing called "writing."

I began this blog to rave about my favorite books.

I began this blog to publicize library events.

I began this blog to share what I learned about writing during college.

And in three weeks, I will graduate with my Bachelor's Degree in English, Emphasis Creative Writing, from Regent University. Now I need to evaluate my career goals and make the transition from student to adult. I need time to think and to write my own stories. To live my own stories.

The time has now come: I must take an indefinite blogging hiatus.

I have learned so very much from this blog--and from you, my dear Scribblers and Book Bandits, in your emails and comments. Thank you for reading and writing with me.

I have loved sharing my words with you every Friday, then every Monday.

And I still do.

So maybe I will again? Surely, at some point in the future. But for now (for however long "now" lasts), this is goodbye.

So long! Keep scribbling and reading.

P.S. Happy (Early) Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

YA Book-to-Movie News Roundup

Interno di un sala da cinema

Ender's Game premiered Nov. 1, 2013.

The Book Thief premiered Nov. 8, 2013.

Catching Fire premieres Nov 22, 2013.

Divergent premieres Mar. 21, 2014.

The Maze Runner premieres Sept. 19, 2014.

I, for one, love to watch as Hollywood discovers YA Fiction. 

The Lakeport Cinema is doing a special double-feature for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire on Thursday, Nov. 21 for $12. What a fun event for a family outing!

The Mockingjay movie (third in Hunger Games Trilogy) will be split into two parts (thanks to for the news). Boo! The book isn't long or detailed enough to merit the split, but Hollywood WILL MAKE THEIR MONEY, Y' HEAR?

The Divergent movie trailer looks good! Much better than the teaser trailer did. I read Divergent in one sitting when I should have been doing homework, which speaks to its thrills and pacing. This book also packs a thematic punch, which I love, but it has some plotting and worldbuilding problems. But! Check the new trailer:

Thanks to GreenBeanTeenQueen for the news.

The Giver, a classic in Children's Literature, is also being filmed and is scheduled to premiere on August 15th 2014 (thanks to for the news). The book is a wonderfully lyrical, disturbing Dystopia by Lois Lowry (a prolific author of several critically acclaimed children's and young adults' novels).  Many famous actresses and actors populate this cast, including Meryl Streep. Exxxxcited! Certain readers, however, are rumbling about Hollywood's choice to cast a 24 year old actor for Jonas, the 12 year old main character of the book. Personally, it doesn't worry me too much--Hollywood can remake Jonas into a teenager without impacting the story line too much. I hope.

Though filming for The Maze Runner is over, the director protracted the release date until September 19, 2014 (thanks to Hypable for the news). Again, boo. But maybe that's a good thing--we wouldn't want an undercooked film, after all. I enjoyed the trilogy, which is why it made my 2013 Summer Reading Recommendations. If you want to read my book review + craft post on the trilogy, you can click here. By the way, have you seen these Maze Runner trading cards?

*11/21/13 Update: I forgot to mention that the film adaption of Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now premiered on Oct. 4th 2013.

Photo Attribution:
I, Sailko [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, CC-BY-2.5 ( or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, November 11, 2013

8 Things for Christian (and Other) Parents to Love About Twilight

I'm not a parent...but I was a teenager during that first humongous Twilight boom and I really enjoyed the books. I've just reread the first book to see if all the criticisms about it are true. Coming back to it as an older person, more experienced reader, and aspiring writer, I can understand the criticism; but there's been plenty of that. It's time to give Twilight a little well-deserved lovin'.

*By the way, this post contains some spoilers. But if you're reading these words, you've probably either already read and love/hate the book, or you are curious about its content. So read on!

Bella and Edward As Teen Role Models (Don't laugh, yet.)


1) Bella and Edward wait to have sex until after they get married. I mean, seriously, do you want your sixteen year old having sex with her boyfriend? How about her second or third boyfriend? No? Then Bella and Edward can be an example in this regard.

2) Edward is a respectful, old-fashioned kind of guy. He respects Bella's dad Charlie, and he's actually the one in the relationship who insists on marriage before sex.

3) Bella is a responsible young adult. She finishes school essays several days before their due dates. She reads literature. She shops and cooks for her father. She was ready and willing to buy her own car with her own money. Are you liking this, parents? She's actually not a bad role model, in a lot of ways.

Spiritual Matters


4) This book touches on a few spiritual matters. During chapter 14, "Mind Over Matter," Bella asks how vampires might have originated. Edward replies,

"Well, where did you come from? Evolution? Creation?
Couldn't we have evolved the same way as other species,
predator and prey? Or if you don't believe that all this
world could have just happened on its own, which is hard
for me to accept myself, is it so hard to believe that the
same force that created the delicate angelfish with the
shark, the baby seal and the killer whale, could create both
our kinds together?"
I thought this was a beautiful way to suggest the question of origins to a teenager. This idea appears in few books, much less in Teen lit where it should be since teens are still feeling all this out for themselves. (Check out this video, around the 5 minute mark, for a minute long overview of Stephanie Meyer's religious views, and how they impacted her book.)

5) The books don't glorify the blood-sucking, evil sides of vampires. I haven't read Dracula, so I know very little about the classical metaphors, etc. But I do know that these are "vegetarian vampires," meaning they've found a way to control their thirst without drinking the blood of humans. Edward worries about his soul. These don't sound like the dangerous, evil vampires that Christians worry might influence the minds of their children. And anyway, most kids know the difference between fantasy and reality. Twilight won't demonize the minds of your children. I understand that this is a personal opinion, though. If you aren't comfortable with it, I won't try to convince you any farther.

Good Reading Experiences

6) Moms and daughters can read and enjoy these books together. It's been done. Seriously.

7) It'll get your teen girl reading! What's not to like? One positive reading experience can easily lead to another. Would you rather your daughter be watching TV or reading Twilight? By the way, Twilight is a pretty big book for a reluctant reader to pick up (my copy has 498 pages and rivals a few of my Bibles in thickness). If they're reading it, I say give 'em a gold star.

8) The classical references throughout the series spur teens on to read and listen to the classical sources. How do I know? Because I read Wuthering Heights after Twilight piqued my curiosity about it. I didn't like "the classics" back then, but Twilight helped me along. And if it makes your teen curious about vampires? Tell her to read Dracula. That's kind of a classic, you know?

Before I leave you to consider these things, let me tell you that the books are NOT the same things as the movies. I really...dislike the movies. But I like the books. And before you decide you don't like the books, give them a fair trial, please.

Monday, November 4, 2013

2 New Book-To-Movie-Trailers

Another new Catching Fire Trailer, this one with some exciting glimpses:

Also, another book trailer for The Book Thief movie (yippie!):

Thanks to GreenBeanTeenQueen for the news!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Library Events and News (Including a Book Sale!)

Hey Scribblers and Book Bandits!

Three things for Lake County library geeks:

  • Tomorrow is the Fall book sale at the Lakeport Library, from 10-3pm. Paperbacks sell for $.50, hardcovers for $1.00. I've gotten all kinds of great books there--Catching Fire, Mansfield Park, several Harry Potters, Jane Eyre and others. Check it out, if you like books!

  • Also, Jan Cook, one of the librarians, gave me permission to post her helpful library events calendar for November. I'll be posting these every month. Thank Jan when you see her at the book sale!

  • And finally,  the library is putting together a newsletter. You can sign up for it here. Look for the "subscribe to our email list" logo on the right side of the page.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Three Goodies: New Narnia, TTT & Self-Publishing Done Right

I have three announcements!

First, the next Narnia movie is in the works: The Silver Chair!

Second, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) announced the Teens' Top Ten Winners- Woot!

For a list of the books and other information about Teens' Top Ten, check out YALSA's website page, or this post in which I explain why I love the TTT competition.

And, finally, earlier today the blogging sensation Nathan Bransford released his first self-pubbed book, a writing guide. Happily, Bransford presents writers an example of "the right way" to self-publish for a large audience. He hired two editors, a cover designer, the whole shebang to prepare his book for the public. I haven't read it yet, but I certainly will.

Monday, October 21, 2013

NaNoWriMo Perspectives and Helps

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1981-076-05A, NSV-Mütterheim
Just picture it: you are your newborn
Hello, Scribblers and Book Bandits,

If you are considering doing NaNoWriMo this year, welcome to a smorgasbord of perspectives on the matter! Every year, as October comes to an end, I post about this month-long literary celebration. Here are a few old posts and a few new ones for Wrimos to digest.

Last year, I posted a pre-NaNo roundup of great resources. They are still helpful, so feel free to check them out. The post by Mary Kole gives the positives and negatives of the exercise.  Nathan Bransford offers helpful resources in his post, such as his "NaNoWriMo Bootcamp." The experienced story consultant Lisa Cron talks about how to avoid the pitfalls inherent in a month-long noveling stint. Martha Alderson tells us how we can pre-plot our novels in preparation for the event.

This list of genre descriptions from can help you discover and decide the genre of  novel-to-be.

Lisa Cron writes on the subject of NaNo once again, this time advising writers about how to prep your characters.

And, finally, young adult author and illustrator Ingrid Sundberg gives her own five tips about how to prepare.

So far, most of these posts have been supportive, if realistic, perspectives. But not everyone feels that way about NaNo, which is something important to consider. Maggie Stiefvater, who has tried NaNo in the past, 1.) rants about it (hilariously) in her annual "Dear John" letter, and 2.) explains why she dislikes it and why no one needs it.

As with everything else, we have to decide for ourselves whether NaNo can be a helpful part of our writing process. I'm in the midst of trying out the insane-outline approach to noveling, so I will not be taking part, at least in the traditional sense. What have you decided?

Photo Attribution:
Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1981-076-05A / Höss / CC-BY-SA [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, October 14, 2013

Story Notes, Story Words & My 86 Seconds of Fangirly Fame

Different cards2
Scribblers and Book Bandits,

If you watch the first 1 min and 26 seconds of this video , you will see me being fangirly famous (sort of); I promise it will be useful to you, if you do, because we'll be analyzing the writing style of Lauren Oliver based on the info she shares about her writing process.

Yeeeah, did you hear? Christy Luis!

Okay, onto the real subject of this post.

Lauren Oliver writes enormously popular Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction (Before I Fall, The Pandemonium series, The Spindlers). I've only read the first novel, but its unusual structure and skilled plotting drew my attention--it was a very impressive debut. Oliver also runs an innovative e-publisher called Paper Lantern Lit. She and other "story architects" find writers with a strong voice and teach them about the higher order writing skills involved in structuring story. The architects provide the structure; the writers provide "the talent."

All this talk about structure is what interested me in Lauren Oliver. She obviously has a strong writing method that works for her, so I decided to ask her about it.

What she shares in this video is a mix of planner/pantser writing style. I want to talk about it with you and compare it to 1.) a strict planner's process, and 2.) a strict pantser's process.

I asked emailed this question to Oliver: "You said you write 1,000 words a day. Are all of these words 'story words?' Or do outlining and brainstorming count?" A writer-friend and I had recently discussed the benefits of writing "story notes" along with story drafts. She and I have both wondered if story notes really "count" towards daily word quotas when one is working on a novel. In order to truly understand this concept and its relevance to our own processes, it will be helpful to compare the "panster" method, which uses very few "story notes," versus the "planner method" with its targeted story notes (outlines, brainstorms, etc.). The key for each individual writer is to discover her own happy medium, as Lauren Oliver has. We will analyze her method after looking at first the pantser, then the planner method.

"Story Words" are written “in the moment” --they are short sighted because they come from deep a character's point of view; in contrast, Story Notes are good for long range planning and following several idea strands to see where they could end. Story notes and story words come at the problem in two different ways. These two approaches are also known "pantser" versus "plotter."

Sometimes writing a scene is the only way to discover bits of a story. Quick example: I was trying to outline my first few novel chapters and the plan wasn't clicking very well, but I had to write the chapters anyway for a school deadline. As I wrote, I realized my main character was actually an orphan working as a prison guard as payment for his room and board in the prison's training wing. I may never have found this knowledge, which solved several of my story snarls, simply using story notes and outlining. I had to write in the character's prison-issued shoes in order to understand his sad existence.

In writing NaNoWriMo novels (50,000 words in 30 days during National Novel Writing Month, which is November), I learned some of the benefits of "just writing" without listening to my "inner editor"--the pantser method. Extreme versions of this method have worked well for some authors, such as, say, Ray Bradbury. Pantsers write first drafts, or even multiple drafts, of the story in lieu of outlining and story-notes. Bradbury advised his students to write 4 pages a day. "Most of that will be bilge, but the rest will save your life.” He would think about the work and organize its structure after writing it. These types of writers often say, "Once I've got words on the page, it's much easier to 'fix' them."

But as far as I can tell, I don't work well writing 1670 words a day (average for a NaNoWriMo day) off the cuff. NaNo gave me a few nifty plot twists, a bit of lovely prose and a giant mess of a first draft. In attempting to revise two (and a half) NaNo novels, I learned that writing that way is simply too fast because I literally don't have time to outline, write story notes and discover all the options I could take. I have no time to explore and ruminate. Each time, I ended up throwing out the entire story draft because it's structure is too much of a mess. It doesn't matter how much I love the lovely bits if there is no real useable story.

I think my stories turn out this way because my natural story choices aren't usually the best. I have to explore all of my options in order to find the perfect one (at least on the structural and outer-character-arc levels). Juliet Marillier is an example of a professional author who explores extensively before actually writing. You can read two great breakdowns of her process, here and here, in her own words. And I know I've probably mentioned this about a thousand times on the blog and elsewhere, but John Truby offers a thorough and effective array of structural techniques in his book The Anatomy of Story. I am still mining this "planner method," because I didn't even know about it until after I wrote my first novel NaNo style (which is probably a good thing. I would have run away screaming before I had a chance to get hooked). For my second NaNo, I outlined a little bit in preparation, but I still didn't know what I was doing. Bradbury did say that plotting should happen  after the first draft. So there is a planning, organizing and plotting phase that a writer must go through. Why not do it before actually writing?

It seems to me that story notes and first drafts accomplish much the same thing, even if they go about it a bit differently. I try to solve as many problems as I can using story notes because it’s much quicker for me than spending days on a sequence of scenes which I must promptly throw out because, well, the structure was unstable/a character took an entirely wrong turn/should have been the antagonist instead; etc. So story notes should count at least somewhat towards a daily word goal. (I will address that "somewhat" in a bit.)

Let's get back to Lauren Oliver for a sec, because she falls right in the middle of this planner/pantser debate. Oliver's process is a bit more of a "pantser" method than I am able to work with, at least at this point in my journey. She writes 1,000 words a day, and 90% of days, she's writing "story words" not "story notes" like brainstorming and outlining.

I researched Oliver a bit and found other insights into her process that contextualize this tidbit. In a different video, Oliver also says that she begins novels impulsively by writing about 10,000 words of her story without slowing down. If the story seems to be jiving, she sets it aside and compiles a working outline before continuing on with her word count. Perhaps the "working outline" is a very SMALL working outline, or perhaps she only takes a few full days to write it. At any rate, she does not take months to do so because, as we know, she writes 1,000 story words a day.

Oliver also offers that she started trying to write novels at a very young age and it took her many years to actually finish one. When she finally did finish one in college, it had no plot. So if young writers just blast out ginormous word quotas from the beginning, most of it the writing be structural miasma. I believe this is why Oliver also often says that it takes time to build up the discipline of meeting a word quota everyday. The quotas may be time quotas, fifteen minutes a day, in the beginning (as she said in another video). I believe by this she means that beginningish writers can meet some sort of quota and raise the quota as they grow in skill enough to properly meet it every day.

And in another video, she mentioned that her first drafts are, let's say, what Hemmingway calls first drafts. This means that she does what many pantsers do and basically uses her first draft as an outline. Her guest author friend essentially answered the question the same way as Oliver, but allowed that sometimes she "cheats" by letting "planning" into the word count.
So what I'm getting from all of this is "What you put into the words is what you get out of them." If you just let loose and write thousands of words a day, you will probably have to snip a lot of lousy and a lot of wonderful writing because it simply doesn't fit the end product. But that does not mean we have to write as Juliet Marillier does in the posts I linked above, outlining every paragraph, practically. In fact, that may be taking too much control and losing creativity, for some people. 

But truly, for several reasons, writing "story words" and "story notes" go hand in hand. When one or the other isn’t helping, I switch.

Eventually we need to recognize when it's time to begin. We cannot just write story notes forever, obviously--we must hone our skill and gradually work towards the confidence that we can begin our stories. I've come to the conclusion that it's important to "write write" at least a little bit during every writing session, be it character exercises for your novel, actual scenes, or even writing on another project that is past the planning stage (I'm preaching to myself, here, but feel free to take it to heart).

I think the NaNo method of a first draft can work wonders if I outline it significantly first. I'm working on a big 'ole outline right now, and I hope to blast out the first draft during a NaNo stint(perhaps next month, perhaps during Camp NaNo), outline in hand. I'm using John Truby book that I mentioned earlier in order to write my outline.

This is my opinion based on trial and error, and it will probably change in my growth as a writer. We all must discover through trial and error what works and what doesn't for our unique processes. It’s time-consuming to really search out and understand my own process, but I guess that’s why they say it takes a million words or a decade to learn how to write well!"

Hopefully you find something helpful in this mess of methodology comparison, whether you're a pantser or a planner or something in between. Should you write story notes? Or should you press on with your word count? It's up to you to find out.

Photo Attribution:
Different kinds of Kings of Clubs. By Tired time (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Monday, October 7, 2013

TTYAF, Scribblers & Book Bandits!

Talk To You After Finals, Scribblers & Book Bandits!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Project Gutenberg: Free eBooks!

Old Book
Project Gutenberg gives out old books (like this one!) for free. I could kiss 'em.
If you've never heard of Project Gutenberg, you are due for enlightenment!

This digital library gives out free eBooks in lots of formats. You can read them on your computer or put them on an eReader. Also, all of the books were 1) previously published by what they specify as "bona fide" publishers, and 2) digitized and proofread by volunteers.

It can be great, in a pinch, when I realize I need a copy of such and such a book to just click over to PG and find what I need. I was reading Moll Flanders the other day for class and I realized my copy was missing an important author's note. PG saved the day!

Most of the books are free because their copyrights have expired, so they are especially great for historical fiction writers or researchers looking for primary sources, period pieces, etc. I've used the books both for school projects and historical fiction before. A fellow scribbler friend of mine downloaded an old sea story to study atmosphere for her own writing. (Hi, M! :)

But the website also offers many classics such as Sherlock Holmes and Alice in Wonderland.

Check it out, ye old Book Bandits!

Photo Attribution:
By David Kennedy (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 23, 2013

How I Write Essays in 16 Steps (Which can also be how YOU write essays in 16 Steps!)

Germinating seedling
If I've learned how to do one thing as an English major, it's how to write a solid essay. This process took a long time to refine, though, starting way back in Junior Year of high school. (Well, before then, my teachers tried to teach me. Thank you, Ben Sombs. But I was not very receptive at that time, I guess! :) Many of the teachers at Regent University online have been particularly helpful in giving me personalized feedback about what wasn't working in my essays. Gradually, this and writing stories have helped me develop a good process. (The processes of essay-writing and story-writing actually don't differ a whole lot, as I'll note along the way.) I don't always use every step because each essay is a little different; but I wanted to share all the tools I have used. This post will share everything I wish I knew back when I first started writing essays.
1.) Before I begin read my source (if the essay requires one) and subject or prompt, I find some good study materials to ponder along with my reading; if the essay requires no source, I carefully examine the prompt. Study questions are particularly helpful for research or analysis essays: I find them on websites like, or get them from a teacher. If I can, I find some sort of introduction or context for the source, as well. I also make sure to study my prompt very carefully; my AP English teacher always said "'AP' stands for 'Address the Prompt.'"
2.) Then I begin reading my source and taking notes on themes or anything that could possibly be useful.* For longish research essays, this step could take up quite a bit of time. But...I shut up and eat my peas. That's just how writing goes, sometimes! Hence why I like to get started on this a week or two before my essay is due.

*If I don't need a source, I just brainstorm about my topic and thesis. When I finish brainstorming, I skip to step 4 on this list.

Notes are like mind mulch. Good seeds come from mind mulch. (To see how I make mind mulch for stories, check out this post.)

3.) Once I'm finished reading, I just write about the material for a while in an effort to pin down topic ideas. Actually, sometimes I'm not finished reading everything, yet, if this is a research essay; but I make sure to constantly ask, "What is the author of the source trying to tell me?" as I do read and after I finish a source. As I observe main points and themes (for which the study questions come in handy), I keep asking myself what might be useful for my thesis. Throughout this step and the rest, I ask myself question after question about the material and my own notes so I can begin to understand it all and make connections. I describe this process in this post, if you are curious about it. Although I describe it there in terms of story-writing, it works exactly the same way in essay-writing.
4.) When I've brainstormed everything I can possibly think of to say on the sources and topics, I go back over my notes and highlight the best stuff I find there. This mysterious "best stuff" will often be made up of conclusions I've drawn from the rest of the mass. Sometimes I'll spend a whole page or more just coming to one conclusion. Most teachers never tell you that lots of "eh-but-necessary notes" happen before the good stuff happens. Once in a while, the study questions yield good stuff immediately. But by the time I finished my last essay, an analysis of Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders, I ended up with a whopping six pages of messy notes on top of the four pages of my essay. And each note brought me closer to "the end."

5.) I compile the "good stuff" onto a new page or word document, separating it from the leftovers.  Typically, by this point, some sort of central idea is beginning to percolate in the back of my mind, so I pick the notes that fit that idea. But I make sure to save the old leftover notes in case I change my mind later.
6.) At this point, I might need to take a break. Emptying my brain is usually exhausting, if I do it right.
7.) Next, I make connections between my ideas by scanning and sorting my good notes (and, if necessary, my leftovers). I write s'more, beginning to form ideas for the introduction that will lead me and my readers through the mass of information (though the introduction will not truly take its final shape until later). If I need to, I riffle amongst those old notes I saved. Perhaps I find that I need to expand or change the central idea, or perhaps my exhausted brain picked the wrong central idea at first. Whatever the reason, old notes sometimes come in handy. Because I'm a visual learner, I use strikethrough text to cross out old ideas when they may have become irrelevant, and I use the highlighter tool to pick out new "good stuff." Actually, I don't know what the heck a visual learner is, or if I am one, but these two tools sure help! At this point, I am still asking and answering any questions about my own essay or my source the way I described in that post I mentioned in step 3.
8.) After I've picked some good ideas out of my notes, I develop a thesis. I refine the central idea I've been pondering. It may be tough to find amidst all the possibilities, so I keep them all, for now. My thesis may begin to come to me even before I've finished all my research. And even at this point, my central idea/Frankenstein monster thesis may completely change. I usually panic at this step because it's hard, but I'm sort of learning to skip that and just keep looking for the best option.  The best kind of thesis will not have lots of directions--it will be fairly concise. It will state a firm claim about my topic, one I think I can prove. Everything else I write in this essay will depend upon this one little sentence. Again, highlighting and strikethrough text come in handy.

The thesis is a lot like the premise of a story. Or like God. It is the Alpha and the Omega of your essay.

9.) Once I have my thesis, I move it onto a brand-spankin'-new page. This is a new beginning, because I finally have a focus point for my essay. But I keep my notes in a separate document in case I need them again.
10.) I use my notes to figure out what points to make in support of my thesis. These are called "supporting points," and they will form the backbone of my essay though the body paragraphs. It may take some time to find these main points. I compile all the major ideas I've discovered into the all important introductory paragraph, which is still messy. I compare them with my thesis and pick the best ones.
11.) Once I  have some possible "supporting points," there's nothing to do but try them out. I start filling in the spots between the supporting points to see if they actually lead anywhere (they don't always, but there's no way to find that out until I explore them). Yep, more notes! But these notes will eventually become my body paragraphs. I make sure to quote directly from my source to support each of my points. Even supporting points need support.
12.) Once I've filled out my body paragraphs, I start connecting them with transitions. If I can't connect one of my supporting points/body paragraphs, that's alright. I just paste it right near the top of my "notes" documents so I know where to find it, in case I change my mind. I may even erase it using "track changes" if I can't bear to simply remove it (another useful crossover from my story-writing process). Usually, by the time I've finished my essay and I check back on these track change deletions, I have no problem removing them because I've realized they just don't fit. This is how I trick myself into "killing my darlings."

13.) I tie everything up into a conclusion. I may form the conclusion at any time during the essay, not just at the end. Creating the conclusion helps me see my essay as a whole for the first time. It also forces me to see whether or not all the parts of the essay (introduction, body paragraphs and transitions) fit together. I summarize all of my main points and tie them into my argument, the thesis. And once I've finished with all these parts of the essay--thesis, body paragraphs, transitions and conclusion--there's only one essay component left to write.

14.) I write the introduction of the essay. This may seem backward, but let me explain. My introduction shows the reader the main points I will make and the order I will make them in.* If I don't know those things myself yet, how can I introduce them to my reader? I tinker with my introduction throughout the essay because it gives my essay both form and focus. It shares the "designing principle" (a term from John Truby's wonderful book The Anatomy of Story) of the essay with my readers--meaning, what will I cover and in what order? For example if I decide I'm going to argue how Moll Flanders changed after each of her (five) marriages in the essay, I might let them know the order: first marriage to last. Readers need to know this. So, to recap: once I've figured out my supporting points and tied them together using the transitions and conclusion, I can officially write "the" perfect intro to my creation because I finally have all the parts. That's what I write it at the end. Then I've finished my rough draft! The process gets easier from here on out.

*The introduction also interests the reader in my essay so they'll keep reading. This is called "hooking" the reader. A "hook" can be a quote, a question, a startling statistic or claim...anything that will interest them, really.

15.) I clean up the draft by clarifying rough spots, fixing typos and making it all-around prettier. This usually involves taking a step back and letting the work sit for a short time. If I have a few days (I usually don't), I'll come back to the essay and probably be glad I did. Oftentimes I'm too "close" to my work to catch all the typos. I almost always read my paper out loud to myself before turning it in, because that helps even an overloaded brain find the weak spots. Some people print papers out to spot more typos, but that doesn't do much for me. Save a tree. Once in a while I will change the font as I do a final read-through. This helps catch those final typos because, rather than skimming through all that Times New Roman again, I have to actually look at the words. And then? Then I'm finished.

16.) And I go celebrate. Seriously, that was hard work.

This process is extremely fluid, which can make it stressful. Every essay works out a little bit differently. I always use certain steps, but other steps I only use once in a while. And there is no set time period for writing an essay--often, it takes me at least a full day of slogging to complete a rough draft. But even sledding, an essay takes hours of diligent work. But once you learn to trust the process (your own process, I mean, not necessarily the one I've laid out here), then it will become a bit less stressful. We Scribblers must simply keep pressing on if we're going to write worth-while essays!

Photo Attribution
By Dbxsoul (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 16, 2013

Banned Books Week

Xinhui 新會城 大新路 Daxin Lu motorbike Pedestrian zone Xinhua 新華書店 Bookstore
Xinhui 新會城 大新路 Daxin Lu motorbike Pedestrian zone Xinhua 新華書店 Bookstore
Banned Books Week is coming up, friends: Sept 22nd-28th.

Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to access any book about any thing, and it advocates  against banning or censoring books. Ultimately, it promotes the freedom of ideas, the freedom to think and publish our thoughts. While I might not like or be comfortable with books like We Love Nazis! or Sex, Sex, Come and Get Your Sex, they're allowed to be published. Just like Bibles are allowed to be published.

In fact, I'm against censoring books partially because of the Bible, which is banned, restricted or censored in certain countries where my fellow believers live, and that's just not fair.

If we ban or censor literature now, what might we erase from the future? Think Fahrenheit 451 or 1984, here. Societies deteriorate when they ban free expression.

This conclusion dawned slowly for me, because typically I'm a very a conservative type of person. I could have been a Puritan if I lived in the 17th century.

But I've never heard a good argument for banning books. It just sounds...dangerous, to me. People have been killed simply for owning "banned" books in the past and present. Even today, in nations such as China, Christians are fined or even imprisoned for publishing Christian literature without the government's permission.

These and other reasons have convinced me that people should read and come to their own conclusions about the material, not ban it.

I do think schools should be allowed to keep certain books from the shelves because sometimes, kids are too young to read about ____. But banning books from school shelves  is a very fine line. There has to be a good reason. For example, I wrote a post about the controversy over Speak, a book about a rape victim that some felt was inappropriate for its target audience of Jr. High and up. This book has been challenged and banned in certain schools before, but the reasons twist the book into something it's not.

For the most part, I think it should primarily be a parent's job to protect their children from unwise reading. (I interviewed my awesome artsy neighbors about the aesthetics of art and literature, and their valuable thoughts contributed to my opinion on this matter.)

Adults, though...they need to handle books, not ban them. Books are all about ideas. An author is trying to tell you something through his book. If you don't like the delivery, you can look past it or put it down and find a new one. But don't say, "This book should be banned."

As for my own struggles on this matter...I haven't read Fifty Shades of Grey. I probably won't either because I avoid erotica as a genre, even though I almost always give books a chance. There, I said it, I handled it. But I won't say "This book should be banned" because I honestly haven't read it. I assume it's porn because of the genre, but I can't speak out against it until I know for sure what's it's really all about. So I won't.

I will, however, force myself through a John Green book sooner or later just so I can say, "See, I read it, now I can say 'No thanks!'" I've heard great literary analyses about Green's books; I have never heard a great literary analysis about Fifty Shades of Grey.

I'm an adult. It's about time I start to handle my reading like one. So I propose that everyone ought to stop banning books and starting talking about their content instead.

So what do you think about Banned Book Week? Read more about it, and find lists of frequently challenged books, here.

Photo Attribution:
"Xinhui 新會城 大新路 Daxin Lu motorbike Pedestrian zone Xinhua 新華書店 Bookstore." By Huangkeipais (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, September 6, 2013

Book-To-Movie Trailers Galore

Eventually, when I run out of book-to-movie trailers to post about, I'll get back to writing about writing and book reviews. But for now, you can get excited about these upcoming adaptions!

Book #1:

The YA novel How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff has won several awards, including YALSA's Printz award (just found a Goodreads list for Printz award winners!). An American girl visits her English cousins and Aunt. Soon after, the aunt takes a business trip, leaving the cousins alone. The next day, London is bombed by an unknown enemy and war breaks out. The story sounds amazing, although I've never read it. I have heard that the narrator is obnoxious, at first (too teenagerish, according to Maggie Stiefvater's review), but that her voice quickly draws the reader in completely.

Trailer for Movie Adaption:

Next Book:

The next movie needs no explanation beyond "Hobbit Part II." *Happy dance*

Trailer for Movie Adaption:

And Finally:

This teaser trailer for the movie "Divergent" is based on the crazily bestselling YA novel of the same name. I was modestly excited about the book, on a thematic level, and it has a killer pace with a few good thrills. But I say "modest" because craftwise, it could have been better. We'll see how the movie turns out...I fear we may have a soap opera on our hands! But we'll never know until we watch, right?

Trailer for Movie Adaption:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Free PDF Converter

Creating PDFs is a helpful skill for any writer to learn. Maybe you want to keep a club or community informed; maybe you work in an office; or maybe you're starting your own newsletter. PDFs are great tools for all of those things and more.

But the software can be expensive. I use a free website recommended by library staff called "" to convert my Friends of the Library newsletters from Word docs to PDFs. It's easy and it works great!

When installed, it lists itself under your printer.

This is a screenshot from the Windows 8. If you have an earlier version of windows, it will look slightly different,
but it's just as easy. Just act like you're going to print your document, but choose "doPDF" as the printer rather than
your normal printer selection. The red arrow points to the spot on my screen. **Revision note 9/2/13: Since I got
Windows 8, I found another way which worked better. Instead of "Print" I chose "Export," which is a few
options lower on the blue sidebar on this page.


Monday, August 26, 2013

The Book Thief Trailer

Since I'm lame and missed my post on'll just have to suffer through this wonderful trailer for The Book Thief today instead...

By the way: The Book Thief is available on both ebook and audiobook from the Lakeport Library, if you want to prepare for the movie.

Friday, August 16, 2013

End of Teen Summer Reading Program (Pictures!)

What a great year for the tween-teen program!
  • 37 teens signed up. Although 38 signed up last year, this year's crop was much more active in the events.
  • 33 teens attended 1 or more events, which is kind of incredible.
  • 14 teens read 3 or more books. In order to get prizes, the teens needed to read at least 3 books.
  • 145 books were reportedly read. (Wow!)
Here are some pictures Amy sent me of the final shebang (the Award Party):

Eating Pizza Om Nom
Awkward Moment when head librarian and teen winner
fight over the Kindle Fire grand prize.
OKAY, yes, I'm kidding.

Girl in front wearing Pikachu shirt: Fist bump.

Friday, August 9, 2013

YA Fiction Booklist: Twisted Fairy Tales and Retellings

Fairy Tale Retellings

Check out these twisted and retold fairy tales, all available at the Lakeport Library,or upon order from nearby Redbud library. And don’t forget about our ebook and audiobook downloads. You can download certain books on your home computer through “overdrive” onto your Kindles, ipods and other ereaders and mp3players. Some books are Adult Fiction that appeals to Young Adults, and others are Juvenile Fiction that appeal to Young Adults.

Cinder / Marissa Meyer
The book of lost things / John Connolly (Adult Fiction)

Golden / Cameron Dokey

Bewitching : the Kendra chronicles / Alex Flinn

Princess of the Midnight Ball / Jessica Day George

Just Ella / Margaret Peterson Haddix

Fire and Hemlock / Diana Wynne Jones

Snow / Tracy Lynn
Beauty : a retelling of the story of Beauty & the beast / by Robin McKinley (Juvenile Fiction)

Deerskin / Robin McKinley

Rose daughter / Robin McKinley (Juvenile Fiction)

Mermaid : a twist on the classic tale / Carolyn Turgeon
Spindle's end / Robin McKinley (Juvenile Fiction)

Beast / Donna Jo Napoli

Bound / Donna Jo Napoli

East / Edith Pattou

Sisters red / Jackson Pearce

Bella at midnight / Diane Stanley

Nobody's son / Sean Stewart

The swan maiden / Heather Tomlinson

Midnight pearls : a retelling of "The little mermaid" / Debbie Viguié

Breadcrumbs / Anne Ursu

Briar Rose / Jane Yolen

The following books are available Ebooks or Audiobooks AND in hard copy at the Lakeport.

A little princess / by Frances Hodgson Burnett (audiobook, Juvenile Fiction )

Entwined / Heather Dixon (ebook)

Book of a thousand days / Shannon Hale (audiobook)

The goose girl / Shannon Hale (ebook & audiobook)

Fairest / Gail Carson Levine (audiobook, Juvenile Fiction)

Impossible : a novel / Nancy Werlin (audiobook)

The amazing Maurice and his educated rodents / Terry Pratchett (ebook)

Order These From Nearby Redbud

Into the Wild : a novel / Sarah Beth Durst

Confessions of an ugly stepsister / Gregory Maguire

The swan maiden / Heather Tomlinson

Briar Rose / Jane Yolen


Friday, August 2, 2013

Letting Critiques "Marinate"

Viewing our stories from the perspective of another person can teach us a lot about writing. Most serious fiction writers make friends with other writers and exchange critiques with them.* Critiques give us vital perspective on our creations.

*You can also exchange work on this great site, called, where I learned how to self-edit by editing the work of others. Besides this, I learned many basic writing skills from the critiques of others, such as "showing" versus "telling." The website is essentially a free, online critique group.

However, we writers won't be able to understand that perspective, at first. It can be difficult for our minds to adjust to the lens of our critique partner's view. A partner's critique on my story often contains all sorts of hidden gold, if only I could mine it. In order to do that, I need to let the critique marinate in my mind alongside my story.

Then something magical happens (Magical, I tell you!). I suddenly see tons of ideas in the critiques that I never noticed before. It's like getting thoughts from several writers, instead of just one.

I used to read a critique once, maybe twice at most, before assuming "I got it."

No. No more.

Now, I have a process.
  1. I read the original critique and let it sit for a day or two or more, depending on how it strikes me. I may or may take some notes on it, at this point.
  2. Later, I read it again. I take notes on what I think is true, or what I think merits serious consideration. It's important for me to type it out the critique, or explain it out loud in my own words. As I do this, new insights from the critiques pop out at me.
  3. I come back to the critique multiple times and reread it, eventually transitioning from the critic's words to my own digested version. I run through my story with them fresh in my mind, taking notes on revision ideas as I go (but not necessarily implementing all the changes I see). As I do this for a time, more things make sense and connect. This part is especially exciting when I have two or more critiques because the advice often overlaps in areas.
  4. Finally, I implement the ideas from the critique (or ideas the critique inspired), starting with structural issues and ending with the nitty gritty. I can't say I stick to a list because sometimes new ideas pop up and I follow those. It's a haphazard, yet strangely, chaotically ordered process. (Sometimes it drives me a little insane because I like order. But writing is essentially ordering, so getting it done feels great.)
So, what can you learn from this, Scribblers? I don't know--maybe you'll want to try paying lots and lots of attention to the words of your own critics.

I was inspired to let critiques marinate by Kristin Cashore's wonderful blog post about how tedium and revision go hand in hand. (Kristin Cashore is the author of Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue, all of which are award winning female-driven YA Fantasy that I LOVE.) I highly recommend Cashore's craft post.

Photo Attribution:

By SJ Yang (Ganjang gejang  Uploaded by Caspian blue) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Story of My Feet

Dear friends,

Many of you have kindly asked about my feet over the past ten months, and some of you have even done thoughtful things like bringing meals or praying or mailing me cards. Kevin and I can hardly express our gratitude for your concern. (Thank you!!)

I decided to summarize what’s been going on to answer your questions. I refrained from doing this for a long time because we weren’t sure ourselves what we could say for certain. We still aren’t sure, but I’ll try my best.

Last year, at some point, I bruised my foot from running (*insert complicated story here*). In September, it turned into a stress fracture, but we didn’t know that for sure until December. After this, I wore a walking boot for about 9 weeks. Unfortunately the fracture took so long to heal (for several complicated reasons) that both of my feet developed Achilles Tendonitis & Plantar Fasciitis. The previously-fractured foot atrophied quite a bit. We found out all this in March. At that time, I began physical therapy. I still attend PT once or twice a week. The process has been slow going and has had many ups and downs. At this moment, I can’t drive, play drums, or go many places. That may or may not change soon—it’s very unpredictable.

If you want to help both Kevin and me, you can do one major thing for us: pray! We would love prayer for

1) patience, persistence and a positive attitude on my part.

2) encouragement and lots of blessings on my husband, Kevin, who has been amazing through all of this.

3) that God would reveal His plan to us in all of this.

If you want to pray for the physical, you can pray

1) that God would heal me

2) that we would get into a healthy pattern at Physical Therapy, and

3) that we could reach our goal of going on vacation in October.

Both Kevin and I would appreciate if you didn’t ask when I’ll be better/when I’ll be playing drums again/whether I can help with such & such event, etc. If there are commitments that I am ready to renew, I’ll let you know. It may still be awhile, but I can’t wait to get back to it all! Thank you so much for your consideration in this area, friends.

I must say that throughout this process, God has been faithful to provide everything we need. We have learned so much—I have a long list of blessings and answered prayers pertaining to my foot problems. God is good, all the time.

We hope to see you/talk to you all soon.

Love and gratitude,

-Christy & Kevin Luis

Friday, July 26, 2013

NEW Catching Fire Trailer + Signed Book Plate Swag

Did YOU know there would be ANOTHER Catching Fire trailer? *happy dance* This one lets us in on a major plot twist, but it sure sells the movie!


I just thought I'd brag about my new The Raven Boys swag. Last month I told you about a bookplate giveaway Maggie Stiefvater was doing. Well, I just got my signed bookplate! Here 'tis:

Yeah, I taped it to my Kindle. So?

Stiefvater 1) wrote my absolute favorite YA novel of the last two years, The Scorpio Races, and 2) is also an artist, so she did the artwork for the bookplates. She sent me a Maggie-esque note along with the book plate:

Made. My. Year!