Friday, May 31, 2013

Library Summer Reading Program 2013

30 Days of Gratitude- Day 15 (6347253194)
No, I did not make these. Yes, I wish I had.

Hey Scribblers & Book Bandits!

The Children's and Teens' Summer Reading Programs begin tomorrow (June 1st, 2013) at all Lake County Libraries. The theme is "Reading is So Delicious!"

If you have a kid preschool-6th grade, you can come to the Lakeport Library from 10am-1pm to participate in "Super Sign-Up Saturday." Kids can do crafts while you sign them up for some fun this summer. You can register your child (or, as was my case last summer, the children you babysit!) at any time during the course of the program. 6th Graders may join the Teen program instead of the Children's, if they prefer.

The Teen program is going to be a blast this summer. I know because I've been helping plan it! We're taking field trips, doing crafts, decorating cupcakes and more. Teens who read three Young Adult level novels will win a prize and get a bookplate in a special book. If they write reviews, they are also entered into a grand prize drawing for a Kindle Fire. (Whoa! Where was this program when I was a teen?) C'mon teens, you know you want to join.

See you there tomorrow- I'll be volunteering at the front desk for the first time!

Have a good week, friends.

Photo Attribution
By aussiegall from sydney, Australia (30 Days of Gratitude- Day 15  Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, May 24, 2013

How I Cultivate Inspiration

     How do you come up with good story ideas?
     Some writers simply force themselves to write, even when they have no idea what to say. That's just how they get things done.  I call this "Forcing Inspiration" versus "Cultivating Inspiration." For me, this approach works best while I'm brainstorming a story's first outline because everything is still in flux, at that point. I need to force myself to finish the outline. But what about before the outline? What about when I'm considering what idea to begin with? Before I even hit the premise stage? I believe that if a writer cultivates inspiration, he will not have to desperately force this initial inspiration.
    My "Long-term Inspiration Cultivation" = a word document filled with headings such as "Characters," "Situations," and "Themes." There are also genre headings for ideas such as "Contemporary," "Fantasy," or "Non-Fiction" under which I can record project ideas and themes. I make these headings big and bold, and list my ideas by bullet point. Below is an example of what my page looks like right now.

  • A teenage girl races against a good friend in the dangerous "Scorpio Races" to save her family home. (Premise for The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.)
  • A girl determined to become a knight. (Keladry from The Protector of the Small Quartet by Tamora Pierce)
  • A boy with stellar instincts who can't remember anything about his identity. (Thomas from The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner)
  • Learning how to live in a world filled with death. (A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle.)
Contemporary Genre Topics:
  • Sexual Assault. (Just Listen by Sarah Dessen.)
  • Anorexia. (Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.)
     Whenever I think of a subject, a theme, a character or anything like that, I record it on the page. When I brainstorm, I can smush ideas from this page together to create new stories. A page like this is fertile soil. When I want to write new story, I pluck a seedling from this mass of idea-material and run with it. I begin outlining. What will happen long-term in this story? What will I need to research? My process takes off from there, but I start with that initial page of inspiration. That is what I call cultivating inspiration.
     Some writers describe "forcing inspiration" as staring at the wall and coming up with something brilliant because they just keep writing. They write out of desperation. But, for me, that kind of forging ahead yields results that only sound good because...I'm desperate. I save these kinds of "desperate measures" moments for when I really have no other option--that is, when I have a story to continue and I have no ideas with which to continue it.
     To create my inspiration page, I do some freewriting and soul-searching, then I record the results all in one place. They bleed together in surprising ways. It's an enjoyable, unconscious process.
     My "Idea Page" came in handy this week in my short story class when the professor said, "Two pieces of flash fiction! Chop chop!" I had some ideas ready for digging and planting. I threw some other ideas at them, and they connected in my mind to become something better. (And let me just confirm that no story or story-process is the same, even after cultivating inspiration. One of my stories practically wrote itself in the course of 6-7 hours. The other changed theme, tone and cast several times, even switching back at times. It took me about 3 days to write.)
     Writing out of desperation is not fun. I see no reason to do it more than we have to, no matter how romantic the harried, desperate writer trope might seem. If we cultivate inspiration over time instead of grasping for it when we're desperate, we'll write better stories and we won't be as stressed about it. We'll have what we need when we need it- characters, conflict-filled situations, images, themes, whatever. It'll  be there.

Photo Attribution:
By David Revoy / Blender Foundation (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, May 17, 2013

2013 Summer Reading List and Recommendations

Scribblers and Book Bandits,

This might be my favorite post of the year: the summer reading list! First I will tell you what I'm reading this summer; then I will share my recommendations for your summer reads, based on my favorites for the year.

1.) My Fiction Study book: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.
  • Even more so than The Hunger Games, the second book in the series Catching Fire is a study in plot, suspense and pacing. The sleek, brutal style of this book matches the Dystopian storyline perfectly. The book is popular with guys and girls. All of these elements = what I need to learn for my own writing.
2.) My Adult Fiction book: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

  • This book was a recommendation from a reader friend, and it has grown fairly popular. Not to mention, I found the book at the Friends of the Library book sale. One dolluh, oh yeah. I'm going to give it a try, even though I rarely read Adult Fiction
3.) "Need Some Fun" book: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta.

  • I've been dying to read this book ever since it came out. First of all, it's Fantasy. Of course, the author also wrote the Printz Award winning Jellicoe Road (which I have not read). And, okay, the cover caught my eye!

4.) Award Winner: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.

  • This book won both the Morris award and the Printz Award in 2012, which is virtually unheard of because the Morris award is for debut authors, but the Printz award has no such qualification. Honestly, I may or may not enjoy award-winners. Literary merit is important to me, but I hope for fun in my summer reading! Let's hope the story is excellent. I'll get back to you on it--it deserves a review.
5.) My Non-Fiction: After You Believe by N. T. Wright.

  • This was one of my textbooks on character for a leadership course, but it didn't feel like a textbook. It's a philosophical read that develops ideas about how a Christian should live "after they believe." It is based on the idea of virtue ethics--that one can develop virtue into a habitual lifestyle. I kept getting so caught up in the ideas (it's heavy wading, but so worth it), I hated to rush through the book just for a grade. I'm looking forward to digesting this book and applying it to my life.

Here are my summer reading book recommendations:

1.) The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner

  • I've been waiting for a book to knock me out of my Scorpio Races phase. It took quite a while, but James Dashner has done it. The Maze Runner series as a whole will stick with me for a long time. It's just a great story. Even though I have some complaints (which I will voice in a craft post in the near future), the characters became my friends and the message is not easily decoded or forgotten. Powerful series. My main complaint: the violent images. This series is The Hunger Games gory X2, just to give you an idea. Dashner does not pull punches (which is perhaps why teen boys in particular like the books so much). I did find out after reading this that Stephen King is one of Dashner's favorite writers. No doubt this influenced his ability to describe horrifying pain and death. That said, this series is definitely worth reading. It is my favorite fiction of the year. Bonus: filming has begun for the Maze Runner movie!  
2.) The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers.

  • This classic explains several insightful connections between Christian Theology and the mind of a writer. The "Maker" of the title refers to both the human and the heavenly artist. I read it for class, but I've read Sayers's work before and as usual it was a pleasure. This was my favorite nonfiction read of the year. Sayers had a razor sharp mind.
3.) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

  • This book is already fairly popular because of its 2000 Printz Honor, but this classic never goes out of style. It's a quick read or a great listen (you can listen to it using Overdrive audiobooks through the Lakeport Library).
4.) Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

  • This is, I have to say, one of my favorite adult fiction reads ever. I read several contemporary adult fiction books for school this semester and this was by far my favorite. Raw, powerful, and sweet at the same time. The author views it as a "911 recovery novel," but says it can be many things to many different readers. I agree. I was only 9 years old on Sept. 11, 2001, but this novel still meant a lot to me in different ways.
5.) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.
  • Yes, again. I've read this book once, listened to it another time and will be studying it this summer. It's that good. I highly recommend it. Everybody probably already knows this, but Catching Fire is the second book in the Hunger Games series, and the movie will be coming to theaters November 22, 2013, which is, to say the least, very very exciting. So if you haven't read these two books, this summer is a great time to catch up and prepare for the movie premiere.
I fell in love with very few books, this year. This might be because school kept me busy. If I could honestly recommend more new releases, I would. But now at least you know I don't recommend books on the blog unless I feel they are worth reading.

Enjoy your summer reading, friends! Here is last summer's reading list, if you want more recommendations.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Movie, Book and Industry News

Come OnGreetings Scribblers and Book Bandits,

Today we've got some industry news about self-publishing, and book news about popular teen lit and movies.

Self-publishing has dominated industry discussions over the last few years. I recently read a very professional article about the reality of self-publishing, the pros and cons. Some experienced traditional and self-publishers also offered their opinions in the comment section. I learned a lot from it.

Teens' Top Ten Nominees are in! WOOT! In case you've never heard of the Teens' Top Ten competition, let me explain briefly. Teens' focus groups across the country nominate a list of titles (usually 25, although there are 28 this year) for the teen reading public to devour between April and August 15th. Over the next month, they can vote on their two favorites. YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) tallies the votes into a list of the ten ultimate favorites. This is a great way for interested persons to gauge YA interest in reading for the year. Although I typically have to weed out a few low-grade passing fad books, the teens usually do that for me. The very best of the year's crop often make the top ten (such as *ahem* The Scorpio Races *ahem*, my favorite book of the last two years or so). Check out the sweet vid below to see this year's 28 nominees, and click here for book descriptions.

The teens nominated some interesting choices this year! I was thrilled to see Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, a beautiful book I discussed here. Also, an author who began as a self-publishing superstar, Amanda Hocking, made the list with her book Wake. Someone to keep an eye on. Also on the list is Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, one of the Morris Award Winners (see our Lakeport Library's list of available award-winning teen fiction here and here or find full yearly YA Award lists here). This sounds like a quality read--and plus, there are dragons. I enjoyed The Raven Boys  by Maggie Stiefvater, another nominee. I haven't reviewed it yet because it deserves an in-depth post on craft. Serious, Stiefvater's got chops. (Which, of course, we already know from her Printz-honor winning The Scorpio Races....) Finally, the book I look forward most to reading this year, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, is on the list. This highly-praised book won a 2013 Printz Honor and was short-listed for the Carnegie Medal in the UK. I hope it wins! Should be great year for the TTT.

Kristin Cashore's book Graceling, has been optioned for a film! This is a great female-lead Fantasy, one I studied for a paper of the genre. In 2009, it was awarded the Morris honor. Thanks to GreenBeanTeenQueen for the news.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is one of the hallmarks of YA and Children's Sci-Fi fiction. I haven't read it but from what I understand, that's kind of like not seeing Star Wars. The movie date is approaching! Check out the trailer below, if interested. Thanks, again to GreenBeanTeenQueen for this news.

Have a good week, friends!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Unfulfilled Dreams?



     You probably have dreams and ambitions, like I do. Right now, I am grappling with the knowledge that I simply cannot fulfill all of my dreams. In fact, no one can fulfill all of their dreams. We may not even fulfill our one or two most deeply held artistic dreams. Not even if we try our best. Not even if we work really hard. Not even if we're good people, or we spread good Karma or we love Jesus.
   Realistically, my writing might never be published, and I have to be okay with that. What is "getting published" for you? Setting up a gallery? Being a dancer? How will you deal if your dream doesn't come true?
   How can any of us deal with this possibility? How, when we've spent years--two and a half, so far, for me--and lots of money working towards the goal of *fill in the blank*...
   But wait. Is that "goal" really what we are working towards? Will meeting that goal actually make us happy?
     In the video below (2 mins and 25 important seconds of your life), Dave Harvey answers the question, "What is the relationship between ambition and contentment?" I think this is important for writers or any type of artist because...we dream, right? Dream of our book in libraries and burning up the best-seller lists, dream of choreographing the most beautiful sequence...If you have big dreams, you might want to watch this video. It talks a bit about faith because I am a Christian, but it won't bite, I promise!

     Harvey suggests that we can be content with our lives despite unfulfilled aspirations. We have each of our dreams for a reason--they just may not turn out how we think they will. They can turn into something good if we follow them with patience and persistence.
     Maybe you dream of writing, but also of selling cupcakes, or learning to style hair  in your own outrageous fashion tastes, or you wish teenagers would flock to your house and eat all your food and you want to listen to them dream, too. There's a time and a place for our desires to meet and one day they will, even if we don't recognize it at the time. Maybe you won't ever understand your dreams or the work you put into them (scary thought!), but that isn't what matters. It matters that you know you authentically pursued them. You did your best. Even brilliant artists sometimes only became "brilliant" posthumously (such as the author Zora Neale Hurston, or the artist El Greco, just to name a few). As dreamers, we have to be okay with that knowledge if we aren't going to drive ourselves and our spouses and possibly our kids and everyone we love nutty.
     Our goal can't just be publication or however we think our dreams would be "fulfilled." We have to be okay knowing that we may never see validation by others. We have to be okay with knowing we did all we could and we did it well. And, if you are a Christian, you can know you stayed in line with God's plan for your life. Contentment is found there.
     Artists only enjoy life if they content themselves with what they have rather than seeking validation or a certain goal. Focusing on the end goal (getting signed, etc.) truly only brings disappointment because we may never understand why we are blessed with certain talents. Maybe we were never meant to be published or be a famous rockstar; maybe we dream that dream for a different reason than what we can possibly imagine.

Thanks to: Regent University for showing me this video.
Photo Credit:
By Plismo (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons