Sunday, December 30, 2012

Slooooow Motion

Those of you who know me know that I have been tortured by writing a middle grade fiction book for, oh... forever almost two years now. Not really an long time in the history of writing a middle grade novel but sometimes it just feels like things are moving in slow motion.  A big kick in the butt-ski, however, was the critique I received at my regional SCBWI conference in October.  I basically started fresh, with the same plot, and suddenly my work in progress is looking fresh again.  Now, to keep up the momentum...

Lately I've been finding Amy Fellner Dominy's blog very helpful {yes, Amy, I am all the hits from Northern Virginia}.  She's been providing me {Yes, me personally.  I know she's speaking only to me, LOL!} with some very beneficial strategies and things to think about.  Last night I went back and divided my nebulous novel into chapters.  After each chapter heading I wrote:

Purpose: {What is the purpose of this chapter?}
Want: {What does my main character want in this chapter?}
Research: {What things do I need to research to enhance this chapter? This keeps me from yelling "to the cloud!" every time and getting distracted.}

Already things are looking a little less murky and I'm feeling a little more focused.  Thank you, fellow Amy!

Friday, December 28, 2012

In a Word: Inspiring Postings

This winter break has allowed me some much needed time to peruse the blogs and tweets of published authors and published authors to-be.  While nothing takes the place, obviously, of just sitting down and writing, it's nice to "check in" every once in a while with some inspiring writers.  Here are some blogs that I've been reading lately as I work on my early reader series and my two middle grade WIPs.

Sarvenaz Tash, as I mentioned in my previous post, is the author of The Mapmaker and the Ghost.  I love her blog and website because it just makes her seem so darn friendly (maybe she's not, but I doubt it).  Her blog fascinates me because it gives us a glimpse into her pre book release journey and it provides some great links to other writers whose books debuted in 2012.  In a word:  Inspiring!

Cynsations is always a worthwhile read because its author, Cynthia Leitich Smith, has the most interesting links and tidbits (maybe bookbites is a better term) to share .  For someone like me who is just beginning her writer's journey, Cynsations is valuable because it keeps me from getting too overwhelmed by all of the author resources on the web.  In a word:  Focusing!

Jessica Love Writes is the final blog I want to highlight today.  Don't ask me how I stumbled upon her blog, but I did and it's one that I check in on regularly even though we're not even writing for the same age group.  She is recently rep'd by Jill Corcoran and I am just so, so hopeful that her YA book will be on its way to publication pronto.   She is such a cheerleader for other YA writers - her time is coming soon!  In a word:  Optimistic!

Are there any blogs that inspire you or help you navigate through the often overwhelming?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What I've Been Up To...

Phew!  It was a long four weeks since Thanksgiving, with the last one being horrific.  Just a thank you, thank you, thank you to teachers and first responders who are just some of the most selfless people I know.  Thank you.

I was honored to have a post of mine up at Nerdy Book Club.  I was very nervous about it as @colbysharp will testify.  I mean, what more could possibly be said about Charlotte's Web?  Thank you to all of those who commented and shared their experiences with that damn chapter 21.

I've read two great books so far this winter break. The first one was The Mapmaker and the Ghost by newbie author Sarvenaz Tash.  Without meaning to, I'm sure, she hit on two areas of the Virginia curriculum:  explorers and Tesla.  This book will be an enjoyable read for my third and fourth graders - even without those "curriculum ties"!

The second book seems rather implausible if it weren't for the fact that it's based on a true story!  Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri is a about a boy named Cole who joins his father in an urban cowboy.  A fascinating story with beautiful illustrations by Jess Joshua Watson.  Based on a 2005 article in Life magazine.  See a wonderful clip from This American Life here.

And finally, some of you know I've been working on an early reader series.  This winter break I hope to get a draft done of the second book in the series; my first book is out for review.  My goal for 2013 is to find an agent who will be as excited as I am to get this series into the hands of our youngest emergent readers.  One of my most favorite parts of being a school librarian in getting a book into the hands of a first grader, seeing that match between book and reader made, and then being able to say, "Yes!  There are more in the series!".

Happy New Year to all of my dear friends.  The InterWebz has allowed me to meet so many librarians, writers, and all around general do-gooders this year.  It's been wonderful!  Peace.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Week in Pre-View (12/10)

Hey everyone!  I hope you had a relaxing weekend!  My parents were visiting from up north and marveled at the "summer like" weather we're having!

This is a full week with a twist of half day early release.  But it's going to be another busy one.  Here's the run down:

Can you guess what book we looked at?
Picture by G.
Kindergarten - This week we begin reviewing possible Caldecott winners.  Can you tell what book we looked at first?  Isn't that just the cutest picture you've ever seen?

First - We are finishing up our picture dictionary activity.  This week they'll write the definitions of their words and if we have time, we'll put our dictionary alphabetical order of course!

Second - We'll be reading one of my most favorite books for this time of year:  Recess at 20 Below.  It's rare that we get temperatures of 20 Above around here, so my students are always curious.

Some second and third graders will be writing animal poems based on Martina the Beautiful Cockroach.  Thanks to @booksandbytes for the great idea!

Third - Third grade will be reviewing the thesaurus again.  Thankfully my very own blog reminded me of a fun holiday time activity I did several years ago.  You can steal the handouts there if you so choose.

Fourth - Fourth grade will be finishing up their YAPPY Online Safety bookmarks.  I hope they take there time since the third graders will snatch those bookmarks up, no doubt!

Fifth - Fifth grade will begin blogging this week!  I will post the link to their book recommendations once we have a few up there to share.

What are you up to this week?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Week in Pre-view

This coming week is the first week in EONS that I will see (knock wood) all of my classes.  Between teacher work days, elections, hurricanes, book fairs, early release days, and assemblies, we've had nary a full week of library.

This week is CHOCK-O-BLOCK full (which means something will go wrong - knock wood, redux!), but here's my week in pre-view.

Kindergarten - This week I will be starting my Caldecott unit with my Ks.  The first week will just be an overview of the Caldecott Medal and then we will look at some Caldecott-winning books together.  I will explain to them that over the next few weeks, we will be looking at some books that might win the Caldecott this year.  {The books I will be working with over the next four or five weeks are Step Gently Out, We March, Green and Boy + Bot}.

First Grade - This week I will be working on dictionary skills with my first graders.  I found this adorable graphic organizer that lets the firsties pick a letter, think of a word that begins with that letter, write the letter, and then draw a picture of their word.  I plan to put them up on a clothesline in the alphabetical order, of course!

For my second graders, it's book talking!  They seem to be stuck in a rut and it's practically a knock down drag out over a few popular titles.  So along with teaching them the fine art of browsing, I'll be introducing them to a few new books that they can fight over peruse.

Third grade is starting a fun thesaurus project that I kind of invented after reading Try Curiousity's post.  I pulled wordless books from my collection.  Students will rotate through the books and after reading them, they will come up with a one-word review of the book.  They can use the thesaurus to jazz up their adjectives.

Fourth grade is a mixed bag.  Some of them will continue with Professor Garfield and creating their YAPPY bookmarks, all in the name of online safety.  My other third graders will begin note taking in order to prepare them for research projects coming down the pike.

And finally, I'm starting book recommendation blogging with my fifth graders.  I have to admit I'm a little nervous even after talking with blogger extraordinaire Oakridge Reads.  Purefoy Reads has also been a great inspiration.

My simple wish is to remain healthy for the few remaining weeks we have until winter break.  Wishing you healthy weeks too!

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