Friday, April 21, 2017

Two Truths About Revising: Lessons From My Crooked Blinds

There are vertical blinds on my bedroom window—the kind with a ball chain hooked to the bottom of each slat so they don’t swing maniacally from the headrail every time you open or close the blinds. The other day I noticed one of the slats wasn’t hanging in line with the others. Now, those who know me well know this is a serious problem…How am I supposed to fall asleep while my blinds are CROOKED?! You may as well just leave the closet door open while you’re at it. Sheesh! But I digress…

Obviously, the slat needed to be tended to. The ball chain appeared uneven—as if it had come unattached from the slat, and someone had re-attached it so that it was pulling tightly to the left, and hanging too loosely to the right. I set out to repair this atrocity and promptly broke the chain. *sigh*

Only then did I step back, look up, and fully take in the crooked-slat problem. The top of the slat had simply gotten caught somehow, so that it was lying in front of its neighbor instead of behind it. The chain had been innocent. It wouldn't have been pulling to one side if it weren't for the real problem of the slat being caught.

I straightened things out, and the blinds once again hang perfectly. But alas, there’s now a broken chain to keep me up at night!

Isn’t this all so fascinating? Ha! The thing is, my adventure in fixing (and breaking) the blinds brought to mind two truths about revising. (There’s a writing analogy in everything if you look hard enough, lol.) So, with credit to my crooked blinds, I offer two principles to guide your revision process:

  1. Step Back: Before you start revising, step back from the manuscript. Take time away to gain some perspective and hopefully a hint of objectivity before starting to compile revision notes. Personally, I like a minimum of two weeks not working on a project (and hopefully not thinking about it). IMO, longer is better, so unless deadlines are looming, throw that wip in a proverbial drawer and focus on other things. Then, after time away, read through the whole manuscript to see the big picture. Finish the read-through and ponder for a bit before diving into revisions.

  2. Big Before Little: Fix the big-picture things before tackling the smaller details. The little things that jump out at you may not really be the problem! They may not be perfect, either, but fine-tuning sentences and paragraphs may turn out to be a big waste of time if you end up cutting those same bits when you fix big-picture things. So start with plot issues and character arcs—big things before little…there will be time for tweaking later.
Really, these are super-basic tips, but after all these years, I still fall into tweaking as I write, and I still get tempted to roll up my sleeves and “fix things” without taking time to gain perspective on what really needs fixing. So maybe I’m writing this blog post only for myself, but if it helps you too? Yay!

Now, go close that closet door…it’s driving me crazy! ;-)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cover Reveal: The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby, by Jenny Lundquist

Violet Barnaby searches for the joy in life after losing her mother in this sweet and funny follow-up to The Charming Life of Izzy Malone.

Violet Barnaby is a having a blue Christmas. She’s still grieving the loss of her mother, and to make things worse, her dad has just married Melanie Harmer, a.k.a. the meanest teacher at Dandelion Hollow Middle School. But on the day Violet and her dad are packing up and moving into the new house they’ll share with Melanie and Melanie’s two children, Violet finds a letter her mother wrote to her before she died, asking Violet to enjoy Christmas, along with a Christmas Wish List—things her mom wants her to do during the holiday season. On the list are exactly the kinds of things Violet doesn’t want to do this year, like Be Someone’s Secret Santa; Give Someone the Gift of Your Time: Volunteer; and Bake Christmas Cookies.

Violet shows the letter to her friend Izzy’s Aunt Mildred, who calls a meeting of the Charm Girls, a club Izzy and Violet belong to along with their friends, Daisy and Sophia. Aunt Mildred decides she will give them each a charm to put on their bracelet if they do all of the tasks on the Christmas Wish List, which Violet is not too happy about. She’d rather forget about the list completely, but feels compelled to honor her mother’s wishes.

And when Izzy’s crush confides a big secret to Violet, Violet feels like she is stuck between her best friend and the boy who she just might have a crush on, too…

The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby releases September 19, 2017.

It is available for pre-order: 

On Amazon:

On B&N:

Monday, April 17, 2017

Book Review : Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess

I was so happy to recently receive an Advanced Reader's Copy of Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by author Shari Green. 

Her last novel, Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles was one of my favourite reads of 2016!

Before I talk about the story, can we talk about how charming this cover is? The colours and the tiny house behind the picket fence are so inviting!

The Book's Description:

Sixth grade is coming to an end, and so is life as Macy McMillan knows it. Already a For Sale sign mars the front lawn of her beloved house. Soon her mother will upend their little family, adding an unwelcome stepfather and pesky six-year-old twin stepsisters. To add insult to injury, what is Macy's final sixth grade assignment? A genealogy project. Well, she'll just put it off--just like those wedding centerpieces she'd supposed to be making.

Just when Macy's mother ought to sympathetic, she send her next door to help eighty-six-year-old Iris Gilliam, who is also getting ready to move--in her case, into an assisted living facility. Iris can't move a single box on her own and, worse, she doesn't know sign language. How is Macy supposed to understand her? But Iris has stories to tell, and she isn't going to let Macy's deafness stop her. Soon, through notes and books and cookies, a friendship grows. And this friendship, odd and unexpected, may be just what Macy needs to face the challenges in her life.

My Review of the Book:

Shari Green is first and foremost a fantastic writer. This story is told in verse and it is awe-inspiring the way the words and images roll through the story. And this story, about a young deaf girl whose life is changing thanks to her mother's decision to marry, is heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once. There were so many scenes where I wanted to shout "No, Macy, No!" to save her from herself, which is always the sign of a good book to me!

What really makes this book special, however, is Macy's relationship with Iris. Once a vivacious woman who lived a big life surrounded by close friends, Iris' world is shrinking thanks to early dementia and the loss of so many good friends. As Macy get to know Iris, she learns a lesson that will stick with her forever: that older people are still themselves inside and they need to feel valued, just as Macy herself does. The relationship between Macy and Iris is real and true and wonderful, and for me, makes this book not just good, but great. And I'm not going to lie. I sobbed at the end. I loved Macy so much!

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess would be a welcome addition to every school library and school curriculum. Besides being a master class in verse writing, it is also a master class in telling stories about how relationships, and looking beyond the exterior, can change the way we look at the 

About the Author:

Shari Green writes Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction. She'd in love with stories and the sea, and can often be found curled up with a good book and a cup of tea, or wandering the beaches near her home on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.

In her non-writing life, Shari works as a Licensed Practical Nurse. She'd married to her high-school sweetheart and has four children. To read more about Shari and her books visit her website.

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess will be published by Pajama Press on May 1st, 2017!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Why I Love Writers

As writers, we often get lots of interesting comments from non-writers. Sometimes those comments are fun. Sometimes not so much.

People calling our work a “hobby.” No, this is a DREAM. This is a potential career. 

“How’s that little book of yours doing?” Please do not call anything I spend hundreds of hours working on “little” mmmkay?

Asking what our “real” jobs are. Whether we have day jobs or not, that’s not really the point! Writing can be your “real” job, please don’t imply it’s not enough. It is.

Asking if we’re published yet, every. Single. Week. Ask me every week for the next year, and the answer will probably be the same, because publishing takes FOREVER and a day. I promise, when it happens YOU’LL KNOW IT. You’ll probably hear my screams from your house.

Oh, I wish I had the time to write. You do. You think I have all the time in the world and that’s the reason I do this? Barring literal physical limitations, like disabilities or illnesses, if it matters to you, you’ll find a way to do it.

Are you writing anything else? Um, yes. Always. I never stop. Ever. Kinda like asking someone if they’ve eaten any food recently. Or if they’re breathing currently. Writing is my life. Yes, I’m writing something right now.

Most of time people are well meaning but that doesn’t mean those things can’t bother us, even sting pretty good when they make this huge important part of our lives feel belittled. But those comments are a pretty good illustration of why I love other writers.

Because you guys are the only people who UNDERSTAND! The only ones who really can. That’s okay. It’s okay for other people not to get it. Not to see all the work that goes on behind the scenes. The panic and the tears we shed. The passion we share. The many many many many hours we put into this “little” “hobby” of ours.

Publishing is NOT easy. It doesn’t matter which stage you are in, writing/editing/querying your first book, your 18th, or publishing your 5th. This process is GRUELING.

And yet, we keep going. We spend months, if not years working on the same story that may never actually see the light of day. We dust ourselves off after every rejection and we keep working. We keep dreaming.

We work to get better. We SEEK criticism because it might help us be better, help us find that magic formula for best-seller-dom.

We dream the same dream and though our set backs are often individual to each of us, they aren’t so different that we can’t all relate.

No matter who you are, what you write or how long you’ve been doing it—You are my tribe. And I love you!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cover Reveal: Into the Shadowlands (Book 2: Monster or Die) by Cynthia Reeg

It's time to Keep Calm and Scary On!

We have a treat for you today: the cover reveal of author Cynthia Reeg's latest book in her Monster or Die series - INTO THE SHADOWLANDS!

If you got a chance to read book 1 in the series, From the Grave, you are probably feeling just like me: excited to see what's going to happen next!

If you haven't read book 1, then by all means, order it right away so you can be ready for the next book!

A little bit of information about author Cynthia Reeg:

Cynthia Reeg, an intrepid librarian, ventured from behind the book stacks to contend with quirky characters and delightful dilemmas in her very own picture books and middle grade novels. While she has had her share of worldly adventures—fishing for piranhas in the Amazon, climbing the Great Wall of China, and white water rafting in New Zealand—she’s mainly a Midwestern girl and currently resides in St. Louis, Missouri. Cynthia enjoys tennis, hiking, reading, and hanging out with her family. For more information, visit

A little bit of information about INTO THE SHADOWLANDS:

Troll Malcolm McNastee and misfit Frankenstein Frightface Gordon—middle school monsters at Fiendful Fiends Academy and long-time enemies—venture into the infamous Shadowlands to prove their monster worthiness. Too quickly they discover that the mysterious world between Uggarland and the humans holds horrors worse than any nightmare, and if they make it out alive, they’ll undoubtedly not emerge unscathed!

Into the Shadowlands (Book 2: Monster or Die) by Cynthia Reeg
Jollyfish Press/FLUX, October 10, 2017
Middle Grade Fantasy

And now for the cover reveal!!!!

Try not to be too scared...

Seriously! How cute is this! I love how nervous the monsters look! 

Cannot wait to read this book!

Congratulation Cynthia Reeg and Jollyfish Press - what a great cover!

And remember: Keep calm and scary on!

Monday, April 10, 2017

What Kids Read #5

This month we are bringing back an old segment "What Kids Read". This segment consists of interviews with Librarians, Teachers, and Educators about what kids read. If you are in one of those categories and would like to be interviewed for the blog, please email MGminded (at) gmail (dot) com and put "What Kids Read" in the subject line. And if you have questions about what kids read that you'd like answered send them to the same email address.

This month we have Gaye Sanders answering questions for us.

1.) What grades/age groups do you work with? I teach 4th grade English Language Arts.  I teach 3 classes, so I have 75 fourth graders.  Plus, this is my 35th year to teach.

2.) What are some of your favorite middle grade books?This question is hard to answer!  I read a lot of middle grade, since I not only teach this age but I am an aspiring Middle Grade author, in current search of an agent.  So I read!
Lately, I've loved:
The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein
Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson
But my favorites are, of course Harry Potter, Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan, and Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan.

3.) What genres/topics do kids seem to ask for the most? What book titles are the most popular with kids right now?
I see kids continually want to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries, or fantasy like Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, etc.  They also love the Reina Telgemeir books. 

However, I always take the time to turn my kids on to the other genres and authors, namely Newberry winners.  They love them after I've read them to the kids, and will say, "That's a book I would never have picked up, but now it's a favorite!"

4.) What do kids seem to like the least or what do kids complain about when it comes to books? I think kids would complain if the graphic novels were banned, or not allowed.  I don't see that much complaining, though.  If a kid doesn't like to read, I work super hard to eventually find something that he or she will connect to.

5.) What gets kids excited about reading?Kids get excited about reading when I am excited about the books.  I do a "Book Commercial" several times a week.  I'll tell my spiel of the book and find a trailer on You Tube.  It keeps them excited and they always want to see what I'm going to share next.

6.) If you've had author visits/Skype chats etc. at your library/classroom what worked well and what didn't?
Skype.  I have really not used it and shame on me!  I have to admit that it's just that I haven't taken the time to set it up.  Hopefully after  testing!

7.) Any other thoughts about children's literature or reading you'd like to share?
Other I said, I feel it's my duty to inspire these kids to love to read, to crawl in that book and take an adventure! 

Gaye Sanders has been an elementary school teacher for 35 years and counting! She's also a kidlit writer, mostly writing Middle Grade Contemporary, but she does have a PB coming out later this year about the Oklahoma City National Memorial Survivor Tree.

When not teaching, writing, or reading, she loves to explore! Gaye loves travel near and far, and often uses those adventures to fuel her stories. She has two grown boys who live in the Oklahoma City area.
You can find Gaye on Twitter and Instagram. She also occasionally blogs at

Friday, March 31, 2017

5 Great Reasons to Write on the Fly

 Virginia Woolf’s contention that writers must have a room of their own may have been true back in the 1920s. Nowadays life pops in us no matter where we are, whether in the form of family, friends, and neighbors, or through our many (too many?) electronic devices.

Having an office or writing room doesn't guarantee uninterrupted inspiration. And for those of us with no dedicated writing space, the task of creating fiction can become even more tricky.

Fortunately, writing on the fly is easier now than it ever has been. Cell phones with dictation capacity and note-taking apps provide simple ways to capture our ideas whenever the Muse strikes. And with laptop computers, writers can take their manuscripts, character Bibles, and meticulous research anywhere they want.

With countless modern perks freeing up our writing options, here’s 5 great reasons to write on the fly:

1. Our best writing can happen in the middle of living  

Most writers have a life, and it’s a good thing, too. Life is brimming with story ideas we can miss out on when holed up in our favorite writing spot.

Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal” —Walt Whitman

Sometimes writers tend to forget that. Life passes us by while we’re fervently pouring our soul into our novels, only to look up bleary-eyed and blink, wondering where the day…the week…the month…has gone.

With that in mind, stretch. Take a break. Play with your kids. Play with the neighbor’s kids. Getting your blood moving helps your brain work better. Your unconscious is still busy at work, solving your novel’s problems or plotting to rule the world. (It’s all the same, right?)

Having said that, few of us can leave our stories far behind. I rarely go anywhere without my laptop. I know, I know…I may be developing a disorder. But what if something happens and I end up stranded overnight with no one to talk to and nothing to do but write? (Yes, my eyes are gleaming.)

This actually happened to me last October in a convergence of freakish events involving a shredded tire, a city 45 miles from home, a free hotel room, and my laptop. Who needs a fresh change of clothes as long as I can write?

“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days, nothing else matters." –Neil Gaiman

2. Catch ideas when they come 

As most writers know, great ideas can spring, fully formed, into our minds at any moment. They can also disappear just as fast. Keep a notebook with you at all times to jot down these gems.

Even better, use Evernote or another note taking app. Evernote is a great app that spans phones, tablets, PCs and macs. I use the free version.

For added convenience, try pinning a Story Ideas notebook to Shortcuts so you can easily add a note whenever an idea strikes. On some devices you can dictate the note, which is great for long commutes or jogs.

3. Pick up snippets of dialogue

Writing realistic dialogue can be tough. This is especially true if your character’s POV differs from
your own.

When writing in public, notice the varied ways people talk. Many use sentence fragments. Some make great use of slang. Others speak with complex sentence structure and multisyllabic words.

Can you spot someone who is like one of your characters? If so, you can channel that person when writing that character.

If you’re writing MG fiction, a buzz of young conversation around you can be a great source of inspiration. Use their dialogue to spark your imagination.

4. Study body language

While writing at the park or a game, observe people’s tone of voice and body movement.

If you’re writing about 8-12 year old girls, notice how often they touch each other (a lot) and how (hugs, playing with each others’ hair, linking arms).

Boys in the same age group tend to be a bit more bouncy, more likely to trade a friendly shove.

Note how people’s body language changes with their emotions. Sometimes it’s easy to fall back on how we tend to respond. But everyone’s different. For example, I’m not likely to shout at a referee. But I’ve got friends who will, even if the ref isn’t out of line. Spending time with (and writing in the presence of) a wide variety of people can add a rich dose of reality to your work.

5. Make the most of your time

Unless you are one of the few writers who lives off their novels, you’re probably working a job or two, maybe three. You may be in school or have a family.

Needless to say, writing time comes at a premium. It is precious, carved out of scarce free moments. So use chunks of downtime to your advantage.

Waiting in the doctor’s office? Jot down some brainstorming or do a bit of editing. “Watching” football practice? Bust out a short story. Got ten minutes before the kids finish school? Start a character interview.

You get the idea. These little bits of time can add up to something wonderful, if you’re prepared. Make a plan. Bring a notebook, tablet, or laptop, whatever works for you. Then be ready to work. Because the more time you put in, the more stories and novels you’ll have to show for it.

Happy writing!