Last weekend I went to a writers' retreat hosted by one of my favorite authors, Michelle Houts. This is Michelle with her newest book, When Grandma Gatewood Took a Hike. When you go to a writing retreat, you also do a lot of reading, and I love to read!
Michelle used "Writing Picture Books" as our textbook. We looked at it chapter by chapter and then applied it to our own manuscripts. Staying at a Bed and Breakfast meant we could spread out and get comfortable. I love being comfortable! In one activity, we highlighted our story characters, one color for each character. It was an eye-opener! I discovered I had too many characters. It’s an easy fix...eliminate a couple of characters. Other eye-openers will take much longer.
Sometimes we did an activity and had a classmate repeat it. It was interesting to see where our answers matched, but even more interesting to find differences. This is where I learned the most, and can improve the most too. I love improving, hopefully enough to see this picture book published!
Here are two class pictures from Michelle Houts’ Picture Book Revision Retreat, January 2017, where learning is a lot of fun!
Here are a few slides from my recent visit to third grade in Lafollette, Tennessee.
I was happy to see students so interested in writing, and in my story. I started working on my first book in 2008, and I’m not published yet. It hasn’t been an overnight adventure for me, or for most of the writers I know.
The students loved seeing the authors who’ve critiqued me. They were fascinated with my marked-up manuscripts after 9 years. They said don’t quit, keep trying. They told me listen to those critiques, work on getting better. I bet their teacher reminds them about those ideas when working. School’s hard!
I loved watching them discover the people behind their favorite books. No one knew Tedd Arnold, but everyone recognized Fly Guy. They also met new writers and their books. They jotted them down or asked for my favorites.
These kids were excited about editing. They worked to find passage mistakes. They left dull words behind for better ones. I hope they’ll remember this lesson, and if not, I’m sure their teacher will remind them. Editing makes everything better!
If you’d like more information, please contact me. If you’re within an hour’s drive of Wapakoneta, OH or Lafollette, TN, I’d be glad to schedule a visit, free of charge.
This is biography month, and I’m sharing some of my favorite people. People I admire, people I hope you will too. I hope you’ll share your favorites. Be sure to tell their claim to fame, and why they’re worth remembering.
I’m starting with my favorite historical hero, Elizabeth I. I was a tween in 1971 and discovered a six-part series with Glenda Jackson playing Elizabeth. Women’s rights were huge, and I was fascinated by a woman who could rule a country way back in the 1500’s. Wow!
The first picture is Elizabeth at 13. I couldn’t find earlier pictures. Boys ruled back then, literally, and it made life difficult, even for a princess. At 3, Elizabeth’s mother was executed. Her father had a new wife, and finally a son. Elizabeth wasn’t important. Her younger brother was, with pictures done at age 2 and 9.
Elizabeth did have some privileges, like great tutors. At 17, she could read and write in 6 different languages. She was one of the best educated people of her time. Being smart helped her survive long years, being out-of-favor. A clever noble convinced her brother Edward, age 15, to make cousin Jane queen. Jane, who was Elizabeth’s equal academically, was forced into a crown. 9 days later Mary imprisoned her in the Tower, later executing her. Poor Jane! She never wanted a crown. She wanted to be left alone to read and study.
Elizabeth, now 20, survived, but Protestants didn’t want Mary. They hatched plots to make Elizabeth queen. Mary put Elizabeth under house arrest, even jailing her in the Tower of London where her mother and cousin were executed. Talk about ghosts! Elizabeth chose her words and friends carefully. She survived Mary, becoming queen at age 25. The second picture shows her on Coronation Day. Queen at last!
You’d think her life would finally be easier. It wasn’t. Supporters feared for her life. English and European Catholics wanted Elizabeth dead. Her spymaster uncovered their plots and kept her alive. Councilors pushed her to marry. Elizabeth refused. She played their game, looking at Englishmen and foreign princes, taking their gifts, and making England stronger. England was Elizabeth’s true love, and she gave it a golden age.
This final portrait shows Elizabeth at the height of her power, after the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Catholic Spain tried to control England. Its prince married her sister Mary. He even tried to court Elizabeth. When he failed, as king he sent a fleet of ships to conquer England. Spain was a military power then, but Elizabeth’s England destroyed his navy. She made England an international power with colonies in the New World. She lived another 15 years, but friends and supporters were aging and dying. Young nobles wanted a new monarch.
Twenty years after Elizabeth’s death, people began honoring her legacy again. Evidently the next king wasn’t so golden. Movies are still made about her. A new one comes out this spring, and it’s on my schedule. I can’t wait!
FYI: As of 2013 firstborn girls can finally become queen. When Duchess Kate and Prince William were expecting that year, an act of Parliament made it possible for their daughter to become queen. It wasn’t necessary. They had a boy, then a girl.
I love Christmas! I keep my tree and decorations up as long as possible, sometimes past New Year’s Day. I hate saying good-bye and packing everything into a box till next Christmas. This year I finally finished up, and I discovered something new— don’t pull everything down one day and leave it to put away later. It’s like putting Christmas away twice. YUCK!!! Maybe next year, I’ll put one decoration away a day. I wonder how long I can keep Christmas going? No matter how I say goodbye to Christmas, there is a silver lining. Next year I open the box and say hello to Christmas again. It’s only 350 days away!
It’s not New Year’s Eve if I’m not watching the ball drop in New York. I’ve been watching ever since I was allowed to stay up till midnight. New Year's only! We’d watch Guy Lombardo, eat our favorite snacks. At age 10, life didn’t get much better!
In the 70’s I was a teen-ager, and Guy Lombardo, was, well, old. Dick Clark hosted American Bandstand, and he had a new idea. He knew everyone in music, so Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve was born. Anyone who was anyone came on, and I’ve spent New Year’s Eve with him since then. My kids too!
In 2005 Dick had a stroke, and no one could imagine New Years without him. Dick picked Ryan Seacrest to join the show. They hosted together till Dick’s last show in 2011. I miss Dick Clark, but I’m glad Rockin’ Eve lives on, with a little help from Ryan Seacrest.
PS- Guy Lombardo lives on too. His version of Auld Lang Syne is the first song of the New Year in Times Square. Here’s the link for you: https://youtu.be/Ik7ktS3PqEs
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!