Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Interrupting Chicken

My Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) review today is Interrupting Chicken, a story that, in my opinion, is beyond hysterical. Seriously. If you’re craving a belly laugh, this book delivers!

But first… a little story from my own life to tie into today’s picture book review.

About eight years ago when I took my first serious step toward becoming a writer, I enrolled in a course at The Institute of Children’s Literature. My instructor offered valuable critiques on each of my monthly assignments, and I diligently took her suggestions to heart. The story I worked on was a middle grade, adventure novel. I had painstakingly created my main character to the point where part of me believed he existed. I knew my way blindfolded around his home. I could hear his thoughts. I could anticipate his reactions to any situation. Over the course of writing his story, he had become a close friend. (Anyone who has dedicated a fair stretch time to writing a book of fiction will relate.)

I awoke early to write. I tumbled into bed late, sad not to be conscious enough to take my character into the next chapter of his perilous adventure. At year’s end, I completed my manuscript and sent it to my instructor, ready to read her glowing review.

“I can tell from reading your story,” she said, “that you care greatly about your main character. In scenes when tension rises and danger nears, you protect him from harm.”

“Wait!” I scowled at her letter. “You’re making it sound like it’s something awful. If I don’t protect my main character, something might happen to him. He might get hurt!” (I’ll wait until you’ve stopped laughing.)

“Hurt him,” my instructor ordered. Nobody will spend a dime on your book if nothing happens. Put your main character at risk. Have the tree branch he’s sitting on break! Then, figure how to keep him alive on the way down. Just don’t kill him.”

“EXCUSE ME???” I said, still scowling at her letter. “But my main character is someone I created. He’s like my child. A good mother would never intentionally hurt her child.”

“Hurt him,” she said.

I returned to my computer. I scrolled to the first horrific encounter. With shaking hands, I dragged my main character out of the protective shadows and into harm’s way. I ducked when he ducked. I grimaced when pain inflicted his trembling body. He bled. I cried.

Enter my husband, home from a hard day at the office. “What’s wrong, sweetheart? What’s with the tears?”

“I am a terrible person!” I sobbed, drenching my laptop. “I just sat here and let my main character get hurt. It’s my fault he’s sprawled out in agony at the bottom of page 32. I am a terrible, horrible, despicable person.”

My husband offered a hug and a tissue to dry my keyboard.

My instructor applauded me. “You can call yourself a writer now,” she said.

And now for the big reveal. What does my story have to do with today’s picture book review?

In Interrupting Chicken, Chicken’s father tries to read a bedtime story, but each time he reaches the point where something bad will befall the main character, Chicken interrupts to save the main character from harm and finish the story early with a happy ever after ending. (Sound familiar?)

Title – Interrupting Chicken

Written and illustrated by  – David Ezra Stein

Published by – Candlewick Press – 2010

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Topics/Theme –  keeping the peace and humor

Opening –  

It was bedtime for the little red chicken.

“Okay, my little chicken,” said Papa. “Are you ready to go to sleep?”

“Yes, Papa! But you forgot something.”

“What’s that?” asked Papa.

“A bedtime story!”

Amazon Review –  View it HEREAwarded a 2011 Caldecott Honor!

It’s time for the little red chicken’s bedtime story —and a reminder from Papa to try not to interrupt. But the chicken can’t help herself! Whether the tale is HANSEL AND GRETEL or LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD or even CHICKEN LITTLE, she jumps into the story to save its hapless characters from doing some dangerous or silly thing. Now it’s the little red chicken’s turn to tell a story, but will her yawning papa make it to the end without his own kind of interrupting? Energetically illustrated with glowing colors —and offering humorous story-within-a-story views —this all-too-familiar tale is sure to amuse (and hold the attention of ) spirited little chicks.

Why do I like this book? The interrupting chicken has her heart in the right place. She adores all things peaceful and can’t bear to see anyone hurt – not if she can help it! (Hmmm. She reminds me of someone…) And at every tense story moment, Chicken jumps in to save the day! But it’s not just any hero that comes to the rescue of Hansel and Gretel, Chicken Little, and Little Red Riding Hood… It’s Chicken who jumps into the storybook pages to restore peace!
I found a fun video/school visit for you to watch on youtube with David Ezra Stein HERE.

Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

PPBF Looks at Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin

PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) looks at Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin.

One afternoon, back when I was nine, I wandered up to the loft where my parents stored magazines, stacks of books, old toys, and furniture. While I rooted through an old trunk, I came across a long, peculiar-shaped case. I unlatched it and found an old violin. One of the four strings lay broken, countless frayed hairs on the bow made it unplayable, and a musty smell filled the case. But the violin…that elegant violin captivated me.

For those of you thinking it was a priceless Stradavarius, I’m sorry to disenchant you. However, the violin had merit being made by the German violin maker, Heinrich Theodore Heberlein Jr. (1843-1910)

violin-1vioin-3vioin-2

My father had purchased the violin many years ago when he was in his early twenties with the dream that one day he would learn to play the instrument. After my father brought the beautiful instrument to a violin maker for repairs, I took over my father’s dream. With lessons over many years, I practiced until I was ready to join an orchestra. I loved wearing a long black skirt for concerts. I loved sitting, not in the audience facing the music, but on stage surrounded by the music. Bows gliding together across the strings. The conductor leading us with his baton, pulling from us the best music we were capable of playing. At the end of the concert, I stood with the orchestra as we bowed in appreciation to  the warm applause.

My love of the violin leads me to today’s PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) selection.

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin by Lloyd Moss. Of course, when I saw the vibrant cover illustration of the violinist and read the title, I had to peek inside. And…one peek lead to in instant love and purchase.

Title – Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin – view on Amazon Here.

Written by – Lloyd Moss (1926-2013)

Illustrated by – Marjorie Priceman

Published by – Aladdin Paperbacks  edition 2000  (text and illustration copyright 1995)

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  music and learning about the instruments in an orchestra

Opening –

With mournful moan and silken tone,

Itself alone comes ONE TROMBONE.

gliding, sliding, high notes go low;

ONE TROMBONE is playing SOLO.

Amazon Review – The Caldecott Honor book, now in paperback!
With mournful moan and silken tone,
itself alone comes ONE TROMBONE…

Then a trumpet joins in to become a duet; add a French horn and voila! you have a trio — and on it goes until an entire orchestra is assembled on stage. Lloyd Moss’s irresistible rhymes and Marjorie Pricemans’s energetic illustrations make beautiful music together — a masterpiece that is the perfect introduction to musical instruments and musical groups, and a counting book that redefines the genre.

Why do I like this book? Musical instruments each have their own distinctive voice. Describing an instrument’s voice through words often falls flat to the actual sound. But when I read each stanza dedicated to a musical instrument, I found that Lloyd Moss demonstrates a “fine tuned” understanding of the particular sound each instrument produces and found perfect words to bring each one to life. And…offering the absolute, hands down, perfect accompaniment to the text, one of my very favorite illustrators, Marjorie Priceman, was chosen to create the art. Her style is expressive. Her illustrations burst with intense colors and freedom. Her lines are more fluid than cursive handwriting.

Learn about Lloyd Moss HERE. This is an incredible post about the author that includes the story of how this special book came to be.

Learn about Marjorie Priceman HERE.

Discussion with children – watch videos on your computer or check them out at the library of music performed by various solo instruments. Then, play a piece of classical music performed by an orchestra and see how many instruments children can recognize. And…

…ask if they can describe the sound each instrument makes in words.

DANCE TIME! – While listening to various musical pieces, make space in a room for a little creative “dance” time. Let children explore with their hands, arms, feet, legs, and bodies what direction the music takes them.

DRAWING TIME! -Spread out large sheets of paper, markers, and colored pencils or crayons. This time, while listening to expressive pieces of music, encourage children to show with lines, shapes, and squiggles how the music ‘looks’ to them if it were a picture.

If you know of other picture books that explore music, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. See you back here soon!

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at – The Inventor’s Secret

I can’t count the times my daughter asks to do an art project with me or wants to learn a new instrument like the piano, violin, or guitar. It doesn’t take long before she pushes the project away or abandons the instrument only to say, “I’ll never get good at this!” Or… “You’re so much better at this than I am.” Followed by… “What’s the point of trying?”

I make two cups of hot cocoa, a bowl of buttery popcorn, give her hugs, and plenty of encouragement. Then I tell her stories from my childhood.

“When I was a child, I sat with my mother at the kitchen table to work on an art project and felt discouraged because my mother, a scientific illustrator for the Field Museum in Chicago, clearly had more talent than I did. When I played the piano and made mistakes, my mother would sit beside me and play the piece so I could hear the song properly and get the melody in my ear. Mom was an accomplished pianist, so naturally the difference in our playing was there for anyone listening to hear. I didn’t see the point in continuing. When I wanted to quit piano lessons, my mom agreed and told me I was never to touch the piano again.

Never.

Talk about the cookie jar on the top shelf. Three days passed. Then, I couldn’t take it. Suddenly, I wanted to play the piano so much I asked my mom to please reinstate my lessons. Secretly, Mom knew I would cave in and had never called my piano teacher to cancel lessons. I practiced every day and eventually improved and enjoyed playing the piano for my own pleasure. My point is that you can’t expect to have professional results the first time you try something.” I said to my daughter. “Everything in this world worth having takes time, dedication, love, and commitment.”

This leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF)

Title – The Inventor’s Secret – What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford (click here to view on Amazon.)

Written by – Suzanne Slade

*Illustrated by – Jennifer Black Reinhardt

*Published by – Charlesbridge – 2015

*Suitable for ages – * NSTA 2016 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 *

*Topics/theme  determination

*Opening – Not so long ago the world was a little slower. A little simpler. And a whole lot quieter. No airplanes roaring overhead. No cars rumbling down roads. No phones ringing in pockets. Then things began to change–because of two curious boys, Thomas and Henry. And one secret.

Jacket copy  – Thomas was curious about electricity–invisible energy that flowed and stopped, sizzled and popped.

Henry was curious about engines–machines that chugged and purred, hiccupped and whirred.

The boys’ curiosity got them in a heap of trouble, but later led to some to the greatest inventions of all time!

When Thomas Edison grew up, he invented the electric pen, phonograph, light bulb, and more. Henry Ford dreamed of inventing a car–a road engine that hardworking families could afford. But year after year, Henry’s engine designs were a flop, while the whole country was crazy about Thomas’s inventions.

Henry was frustrated. He wanted to give up! And he kept wondering… What’s Thomas’s secret!

Amazon Review – Thomas Edison and Henry Ford started off as insatiably curious tinkerers. That curiosity led them to become inventors–with very different results. As Edison invented hit after commercial hit, gaining fame and fortune, Henry struggled to make a single invention (an affordable car) work. Witnessing Thomas’s glorious career from afar, a frustrated Henry wondered about the secret to his success.

This little-known story is a fresh, kid-friendly way to show how Thomas Edison and Henry Ford grew up to be the most famous inventors in the world–and best friends, too.

Why do I like this book? Although the retelling of the experiments, failures and successes take place around 100 years ago, the secret to what it takes to succeed is timeless and will surely inspire all who read this book, children and grownups alike. The illustrations are created with a happy heart of one of my favorite illustrators, Jennifer Black Reinhardt. Her artwork is brimming with details and colors children will enjoy looking at again and again.

Author – Visit Suzanne Slade here.

Illustrator – Visit Jennifer Black Reinhardt here.

PPBF Looks at What Does It Mean To Be Kind?

Yesterday when I was at the grocery store, the closest parking spot opened up, but I didn’t take it. I left it for someone else and parked further down. The exercise will do me good, (I’m still working off Christmas dinner…) and someone who really needs the closer spot will appreciate it.

Then, as I was waiting in line to pay for my groceries, a gentleman with two items in his arms stood behind me. So, I let him go ahead of me and my towering cart.

Last week when my daughter was practicing her guitar, I complimented her on all the notes and chords she played in tune and encouraged her to keep practicing, pointing out how far she has come in the few short months since she started lessons.

What do all these random acts of kindness have to do with writing?

They are further examples of ways we can all be kind, illustrated through text and pictures in today’s PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) review.

Title – What Does It Mean To Be Kind

Written by – Rana DiOrio

Illustrated by – Stephane Jorisch

Published by – Little Pickle Press , San Francisco, CA – 2015

Suitable for ages – 3  – 7

Topics/theme – kindness, friendship

Opening – What does it mean to be kind?

Amazon Review –  A girl in a red hat finds the courage to be kind to the new student in class. Her kindness spreads, kind act by kind act, until her whole community experiences the magical shift that happens when everyone understands―and acts on―what it means to be kind. The fifth book in Rana DiOrio’s award-winning What Does It Mean To Be …?® series, What Does It Mean To Be Kind? was named a 2015 Moonbeam Gold Medalist and won a Mom’s Choice Gold Award.

Why do I like this book?  Through sparse text and clear examples of acts of kindness, both children and adults can find, or be reminded of, simple, and much appreciated, ways to spread kindness. I also love the happy, uplifting illustrations created by the playful hand of Stephane Jorisch.

Author –Learn more about Rana DiOrio here.

Illustrator – Learn more about Stephane Jorisch here.

For more picture book reviews and recommendations, visit author Susanna Leonard Hills blog here.

START A CONVERSATION WITH A CHILD.  After sharing this book with a child (or with children) ask them to think of other ways they can be kind: at home, to their parents, to their siblings, to their pets, at school, to their teachers and friends, and also ways to be kind to our environment.

Writing From Real Life Experiences

As promised, I’ll share with you the inspiration for another picture book I am writing. This one is a nonfiction animal rescue story.

Growing up in the country meant living in a place where wildlife lived both outside and inside the house. I had, and still have, the uncanny ability to know when an insect is near. It’s like having a built-in radar I wish I could disable.

I recall a hot summer night (frankly all summer nights were hot at my mid-west house. My parents never saw the need to install an air conditioner when a cross breeze through open windows offered relief for free.) I digress… I was about eight at the time, and in addition to my insect radar, I also had (and still have) the ability to hear coffee being picked across the world—OK, not quite. But I heard a sound much like a troop of ants invading a picnic. I flipped on the light and let out a neighbor-waking scream. My mother came running. Upon seeing an uninvited millipede sharing my pillow, she proceeded to calmly get the vacuum cleaner from the hall closet and suck up the little bugger. “You live in nature,” she said, plugging the hose with a wad of tissues. Like that was supposed to bring me a calm, restful night. From that point on it seemed nature found a clear path into our home.

Yes, we had the rare, but common mouse sightings, but we also had a praying mantis infestation when my mother brought an ‘interesting’ cocoon into our house. “Isn’t it fascinating?” she said. A month later when thousands of babies hatched, she sang a different tune. Then a ladybug convention darkened our windows by their sheer numbers. ladybugsIn addition to the insects, we gave shelter and care to a variety of furry critters the cat dragged home within an inch of their lives.

But the animal which left the largest print on my heart was an injured mallard we found a mile from our home. Seeing the bloody, broken duck, my mother supposed it was attacked by a raccoon or coyote. It appeared clear the duck wouldn’t last the night, but being me… I cried. I cried for the pain the duck must have been experiencing. I cried for the fear the duck must have felt during the attack. I cried for the experiences the duck would not enjoy after her life was cut short. And my mother did exactly what I needed her to do. She brought the mallard to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

My hopes crashed when we were turned away because they had no space to care for one more animal.

We took the duck to the vet. My hopes crashed again when the vet didn’t give the duck a hope in the world of surviving. And again, my mother did exactly what I needed her to do. She brought the duck home. And what happened over the next four months touched me deeply—changed me. What happened next is what my nonfiction picture book is about. With hopes, after sending my manuscript out into the world of agents, I’ll gain the interest of one who will feel my story needs to be shared.  

As always, it’s hard to write with one’s fingers crossed.

All the best.

Tighten your manuscript – Wednesday Prompts and Inspirations

chalkboard-3-AYou’ve heard these, I’ve heard these, and up-and-coming writers are sure to hear these comments about their work…

But those are my best words.

Kill my what? No! Not my darlings!

But I worked hard perfecting that lovely, poetic flow of flowery adjectives.

What’s wrong with adverbs?

Take out that “telling” sentence? But what if the reader doesn’t grasp the showing sentence?

My love of writing centers around picture books. Therefore, I don’t have the luxury of writing without eyeing the word count at the bottom of my screen. I take a deep breath as the number crawls to 550. Gad’s I’m at 750, and I haven’t reached my story’s climax! In my critique groups, I find it easy to help others trim words. Since I don’t have a relationship to any of their carefully structured sentences, I can highlight every adjective, adverb, and telling sentence, offer stronger verbs, offer suggestions, etc…

Here is what I look for…

Signs of a passive “telling” voice. I don’t want to read that Mary is happy, I want to see her hands clapping and her feet lifting off the ground.

In picture books, descriptive passages are word hogs and can often be deleted and turned over to the capable hands of the illustrator. Unless the color of Sarah’s shoes are important to the story, don’t write — Sarah slipped on her pink, sparkly shoes with the purple, satin bows. That sentence weighs in at 12 words. Let’s shorten it for a picture book: Sarah slipped on her shoes. Woo Hoo!  5 words.

We’ve all been told to delete adverbs. And after years of writing, most writers reach the point when, after proofreading, they rejoice at not finding any. Adverbs are a sure sign we haven’t chosen the strongest verbs to “show” the action.

Mark quickly ran to the corner.  Mark dashed to the corner.

It’s easy to string a series of adjectives together when the best choice is to use one or none.

Sarah pulled on her sky-blue, loosely knit, chunky, cowl-neck sweater.

In a picture book, the writer needs to leave the bulk of description to the illustrator and write: Sarah pulled on her sweater.

Lemons are yellow, so unless the lemons in your story are purple for a reason, leave out the adjectives.

Does your picture book open with lots of back story? Have you offered the reader a long look into your main character’s past? While this information is good to know. Correction: While this information is good for YOU to know, your reader can be spared. I recently read a picture book manuscript in which the first 500 words toured me through the main character’s house, offered me a look at his town, outlined his hobbies, pointed out the places his friends lived and, I’m not kidding you, went on to say, and now my story begins… Needless to say, the deletion of those first 500 words brought the word count down.

A picture book of 500 words or less requires the writer to put every word on trial and trim unnecessary words with the thought of receiving $20 per deleted word. (Make that $50.) Constantly question if every sentence reveals something about character or plot. At the top of my computer screen, I tape a slip of paper with the central question of my story. Everything I write must answer that question.

I’m off to tighten my word count.

Happy writing.

A Present For Computer Users (everyone…)

This isn’t my typical sort of blog post, but yesterday as I was stretching, rubbing my neck, and shifting positions while reaching my 1000 word goal, I came across this video by Stephen Watkins which cleverly illustrates simple techniques to lessen body aches while working at a computer.

Some things are so good you have to share them with others.

Here is my gift to you.

 

It’s Wednesday! Writer’s Prompts and Inspirations Day.

chalkboard-3-AMaking friends is the theme of today’s Prompts and Inspirations.

People have craved friendships since the beginning of civilization. For some, the process of making a friend is easy, while for others…it’s a mystery. Children, I have noticed, need only be close in height to start a conversation with another child. Women…. Well, although I am a woman, I am also a writer, which in my case means that my best friends are the characters I create. Men? I’ve never been one, so this is unfamiliar ground. You men out there should feel free to click on Comment under this post’s title and share how you make friends. Frankly, I’d love if everyone reading this post would share their most tried and true methods of making friends.

Here are a handful of ways available to us to start a friendship:

1. Greet and start a conversation with your neighbors. (“Good Morning, Mr. Brown. How many times does this make it that the snow plow has taken out our mailboxes?”)

2. Working on homework with someone from school. (“Didn’t we just have a test last semester?”)

3. Chat with the person in front or behind you while waiting in line at a store. (“Oh, I see you like Hummus, too. Don’t you think it tastes better than it smells?”)

5. Someone next to you on an airplane. (“Are we there yet?”)

6. A misaddressed letter. (This actually happened when I was a child. A letter with the right P.O. Box, the right town, but the wrong state arrived in our mailbox. My mother mailed the letter back with a clever poem, telling of the adventure the letter had. A phone call followed by the family in Vermont. After a couple of hours on the phone, my parents discovered they had scads in common with this lovely couple, so much that we took a vacation to meet them.)

7. Need I mention the internet? (Where do I begin?)

I saw a movie in which a friendship developed when a balloon, with a message tied to the string, drifted into someone’s backyard.

Here is this Wednesday’s prompt and inspiration.

Let’s pretend that tying a message to the string of a balloon is the only way to start a friendship. What message would you write? What do you want the stranger who receives your message to know about you? Will you write a quick sentence, merely asking for friendship? Will you write pages, telling of your likes, loves, dislikes, hardships, wants, needs, colorful past, and dreams for your future? Will you send a list of your hobbies and interests, hoping the one who receives your balloon likes knitting, classic black and white movies, and writing, too?

or…

Suppose a balloon with a message drifted into your window. What message might you respond to? We receive countless e-mails throughout the years. Some e-mails are advertisements, some are Facebook notifications, and updates from friends and family. What causes you to respond to an e-mail? What would the anonymous stranger need to write to get you to write back? Would having a hobby in common be enough? Would simply needing a friend be enough?

As always, I’d love to hear from you! Just under the blog post title you’ll see the word Comment. Please click and share.

It’s Wednesday! Writer’s Prompts and Inspirations Day.

chalkboard-3-AWe all have favorite books–books that open naturally to our favorite passages, books we read annually, books we have purchased because they have deeply touched a part of us. We love these books for their characters. We also love  these books for their true-to-life locations. What a gift it is when a writer has researched a location well enough to transport us there. When written well enough, we can stroll beside the ocean, feeling the massage beneath our feet of stones washed smooth and slippery. We can move from room to room in an abandoned mansion, nearly tasting the musty smell of mildew as the foul air stains our breath. We can walk down the squeaky, paint-worn steps of an old farmhouse and hear the sizzle of bacon, crisping in a skillet. We can relax in a black gondola in Venice and breathe in the smell of… (never mind.)  We can hear the hush of snow sifting around us on a still, Winter’s evening. 

This Wednesday, I’d like you to consider the many locations available to us in our writing. Think about why you chose a particular location for one of your projects. Does that location add to the tension? Does it seem the most natural and obvious choice? Could the story work as well or better in a different setting?

Suppose in the book, From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg that Claudia didn’t run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Suppose she ran away with her younger brother, Jamie, to New York with no plans. Two children alone in a dangerous city where anything can happen. A city where evil can lurk in shadows, where the darkness of night offers no protection. That would make for a different story.

How about Charlotte’s Web by E.B White. Suppose Fern lives in a little apartment with her parents. One day, while on a school field trip to a pig farm in the country, she spots a tiny runt of a litter. Fern, being the caring girl she is, packs this pink bundle of squirmy cuteness in her backpack (when the teacher isn’t looking) and brings him home.

Location/Setting is very important to the story. First we need a central location. For this example I’ll choose a farmhouse.

Next we need to broaden out. What lies beyond the farmhouse? An abandoned house? An office building?  What lies beyond the farmhouse is important as our MC will be moving around the area during the telling of the story. For this example, let’s suppose our main character is a little girl named Betsy. One day Betsy’s dog runs away (Not a complex story example, but one that will suffice.)  The chase begins! Now if Betsy’s best friend’s house is in the direction she’s running, will the tension increase? But what if Betsy lives next to a rocky stream, a forest, a cemetery, or…that abandoned house?

Sights and sounds play a part in location, too. Let’s pretend Betsy puts her fears behind her and dashes in the abandoned house after her dog. She might feel chilly breezes along her neck, hear the wind whistle eerie tunes through cracks in the windows, see cobwebs flutter. Tension climbs.

The weather and time of day add another level and must be appropriate for the location. Of course we’ll have the dog run away as the sun is setting. We might even add the threat of a severe storm. And what if it isn’t June 1st? What if the day is October 31st? HALLOWEEN!!!

Time to switch gears.

What if we decide that a little girl chasing her runaway dog in the country sounds boring? What if we really change-up that location? Suppose Betsy is on vacation with her family in Cairo. While there, Betsy befriend’s a child. One day while the two girls are playing near a street market, the little girl’s dog runs away.

* How does the location change the story?

*How do the actions of the characters change in this new place?

*Important items available to your characters are no longer present. What new things are present in this location to add challenges?

*By making this change you have introduced drastic cultural differences. The people’s attitudes and ways will be quite foreign to your main character, the landscape is now unfamiliar, and the language will pose a problem. The list goes on.

Are you ready for your Wednesday Prompt and Inspiration?

Take a short story you’ve written or the first pages of one of your novels, and see what happens when you give the location a major jolt.

I’d love to hear from you. To comment, scroll to the top of the post and click Comment below the title.

The Not So Lonely Life Of This Writer

My parents were what I would call organized, tidy, hoarders. Definitely not the clinical hoarders you might have seen on TV. You know the ones… they scramble over a precarious stack of broken electronic devices balanced at the back door. Empty boxes of macaroni and cheese stuffed between piles of worn-out shoes sit beside garbage bags filled with dated clothes ready to cushion the impact should someone stumble.

No. This does not describe my parents…

Organized, tidy hoarders are people who keep everything of importance (not immediate importance, mind you, but eventual or possible importance.) These individuals know where everything is months and years after filing them away.

It was after my father passed away that the family had to go through the household items, making piles labeled donate, garbage, and keep. My keep stack grew to a ridiculous height in a clinical attempt to preserve my memories of my parents. I have since returned to my senses and donated some of the items.

Back to my parent’s home…

My mother kept a box filled with every Valentine card she ever received next to a box of every birthday card she ever received. (Continue filling the virtual shelf with one box per card-giving holiday.)  My father kept magazines of interest filed with correspondences to editors, asking for more particulars. (About one and a half tons according to the haul-away man’s scale.)

SO WHAT HAS THIS GOT TO DO WITH WRITING? I’m getting to that…

So it didn’t surprise me to find a box filled with my old report cards, starting with kindergarten through high school.  What did surprise me was a comment which appeared year after year by different teachers.

Leslie doesn’t play with other children. She prefers to be by herself.

Can anyone say writer?

Some people use the word, lonely, to describe the life of a writer. And from the repeating comment on those old report cards, it sure sounds like I was lonely, but I’m one of those writers who doesn’t feel that way. Okay, okay…you’ve got me. Yes, I’m here at my computer, sharing my thoughts with you while my husband is at work and my daughter is at school. And no, besides my needy dog, a chatty parakeet, a baby Cockatiel, 5 croaking tree frogs, a bucket of chirping crickets to feed the croaking frogs, and a tank of quiet (and sometimes dead) fish, I am alone.

Alone but not lonely. (Seriously NOT LONELY.)

When I’m writing, I’m closest to my inner voice. I’m free to tap into myself for ideas, inspirations, childhood memories, and moments I want to explore through words.

When I’m working on a story, I’m spending time with my friends. Sure, they’re my imaginary human and animal companions, but as they are characters I brought to life, let life happen to, and spent months or years with, they’re real to me.

How many of you have created a character, brought him/her to life, had to make something happen to him/her (throw rocks but don’t kill) and found yourself aching over his/her pain?

And now… a brilliant quote from Robert Frost:Robert Frost

It isn’t the location that brings tears or surprises to the writer or reader, those tears and surprises come from our characters actions, reactions, and decisions to situations we place in their path.

Sure, we are alone when we’re writing, but I’d guess that there are many writers who feel as I do.

Do you have a favorite character you created? Why do you like that character so much? Are they like you? Are they similar to a close family member or friend? Or are they one of those villainous sorts so addicting to include in our writing?

I’d love to hear from you!