Teacher Guides + Common Core = Common Ground guided by Marcie Colleen

TEACHER GUIDES + COMMON CORE = COMMON GROUND
GUIDED BY MARCIE COLLEEN

 

Hello everyone.

I have been wanting to address a subject that has been giving numerous writers, and parents, some trouble. I think it is in the understanding of the topic really. COMMON CORE has come to your local schools. While a lot of heated debates have happened, I have sat down and began to study it. Really dig deep, and try to understand it. While it can be overwhelming, I think it can be a good thing.

I asked one of my colleagues, Marcie Colleen, if she would answer a few questions about Common Core. I wanted to pass it along to my readers so they can benefit too. Marcie is so generous as you will see below. So, take a deep breath and lets look, really look, at Common Core and find out how it can be beneficial.

PLUS, for my writing friends, how adding a Teacher Guide (a/k/a Lesson Plan) can help your book become Common Core friendly, and hopefully get your book into more children’s hands.

 

 

I’m wanting to give my readers more information on the Common Core. It can be confusing when you first begin to look into it. How would you explain it to someone who has no knowledge?

I’d actually beg to differ. It’s not the Common Core that is confusing, it’s the emotionally charged opinions that are plaguing our media that are hard to decipher. When so many people are speaking out about their feelings, it can be difficult to make sense of it for ourselves.

Therefore, here are 3 helpful resources to help YOU make sense of the CCSS for YOU!

  • School Library Journal 6-part webcast series about the Common Core. This series is FREE and very helpful, especially Part One: Getting Real with Marc Aronson and Sue Bartle. Although they are geared toward professionals in the education world, they will give you a good overview on what the CCSS entail and how educators are “unpacking” the standards for themselves. You can find the entire series here. http://www.slj.com/webcasts/commoncore/#_
  • The Common Core State Standards. It’s always best to go right to the source. These standards are not rocket science, but they can be overwhelming. Look at the tables which include each standard by grade level. Limit your focus by standard and grade level so that it is easiest to digest. They can be found, in detail, at http://www.corestandards.org/

Unfortunately, there are really no shortcuts. If you want to be a part of the conversation, these resources will help you.

To better understand, let’s look closely at a few of the standards.

Excerpt from Grade 3 Reading: Literature Standards

Key Ideas and Details

1. Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

2. Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

3. Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

Craft and Structure

4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.

5. Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.

6. Distinguish their own point of view from that of the narrator or those of the characters.

7. Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting).

In isolation it becomes clearer that:

  • The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of benchmarks which focus on the development of essential skills at the most appropriate age and development stage for students.
  • They are skill-based, not test-driven, and in theory will prepare students better for life post-school.
  • They also allow teachers to be unique in their approaches to instruction, not dictating what is to be taught or how. The focus is on results, not means.
  • They are not rocket science or really that confusing.
  • Every book can be Common Core compliant.

 

I wanted to ask you also to explain why is good to offer Teacher Guides.

A Teacher’s Guide is

  • A tool for teachers to use to gain immediate access into your book and adapt it quickly and easily for classroom use.
  • Aligns your book to the current curriculum and curriculum standards (state standards, as well as the Common Core)
  • A marketing tool which promotes you within the educational environment and helps you garner more school and library visits.

But to answer your question, I want to tell a story. I was recently hired by Adriana Brad Schanen to create a Teacher’s Guide for her debut middle grade novel Quinny & Hopper (Disney Hyperion, 2014). Fast forward to Adriana’s first school visit to a bunch of 4th grade classes. In addition to presenting to the classes, Adriana gave each teacher a copy of the Teacher’s Guide. By the end of the day, the teachers were raving about how comprehensive the guide was. They loved how many options and avenues into the book it provided. In fact, the teachers decided that perhaps next year they would forgo the usual Superfudge unit and instead teach Quinny & Hopper!!!

Teachers are busy. They are overworked. They are spread thin. The easier you can make it for them to use your book in the classroom the better your chances. Of course they have been teaching Superfudge. There are a zillion lesson plans and activities for free on the web on how to bring Superfudge into the classroom. A Teacher’s Guide can help you “compete”.

 

When should you think about teacher guides?

Truthfully? Once your book is finished. Just like I wouldn’t want a teacher to “teach to the test”, a writer shouldn’t write to a Teacher’s Guide. Once your book is finished you can start to think about its life outside.

Six months prior to the date of publication is usually sufficient start the process of creating a Teacher’s Guide.

 

What if your story is fiction, can you still incorporate teacher’s guides?

Absolutely! In fact, out of the 33 Teacher’s Guides I have created for clients, only 3 of them have been for non-fiction titles. To check them out, all of my guides are available for free download on my website at http://www.thisismarciecolleen.com.

You’d be surprised what academic goodies can be pulled out of a fiction story. After all, isn’t The Very Hungry Caterpillar a great springboard for learning about food choices, the life cycle of a butterfly and metamorphosis?

 

Thank you so much, Marcie. You really have gone above and beyond.

 

 

MARCIE COLLEEN

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Education Consultant, Marcie Colleen, is a former classroom teacher and curriculum creator turned Picture Book writer. Her Teacher’s Guides, which align picture books and middle grade novels with the Common Core and other state mandated standards, have been praised by both teachers and librarians. Her Teacher’s Guide for Picture Book Month, Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms, validates the use of picture books across EVERY curriculum and provides teachers with a hands on approach to adapt any picture book for educational use. Her work with Picture Book Month has been recognized by School Library Journal and the Children’s Book Council. Marcie is also an Education Strategist, providing one-on-one consultation guiding authors and illustrators to best position their books for school visits and classroom use. Visit her at www.thisismarciecolleen.com to discover how Marcie can help you navigate the world of children’s literature and education.

 

 

I hope that give you all some stepping stones to begin the journey of understanding Common Core and how books, with Teacher Guides, can play a vital role in children’s education.

Happy writing/reading everyone!
~t

 

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Tuesday Tips: Get Back to Your Roots. WHY Do You Write?

pencils

 

Getting Back to Your Roots
WHY Do You Write?

Have you ever been asked this question:

Why do you write?

Or more importantly, have you ever asked yourself that?

A fellow writer, Debbie LaCroix, posed this question to herself on her blog and it got me to thinking.

WHY do I write?

For me it is a number of things:

  1. My love of stories since I was a child.
    My papa told me stories all the time. I’m sure most of you have heard of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or Jack and the Beanstalk, or The Three Pigs, want me to keep on??? BUT you might not have heard of The Three Frogs or The Three Lightning Bugs. Those were my Papa’s stories, those were the ones that I began my writing journey with. (If they do sound familiar, it is because THIS is where Ribbert and Liddil came to be.)
  2. Ideas and concepts that come into mind.
    I find that little things, ordinary things, things taken for granted will turn into an adventure in my head. Then I discover characters and characteristics, and twists with turns, and then -hopefully- the happy ending. It is amazing how many ideas surround us, if we only take the time to listen, look, feel.
  3. Wanting to make a difference.
    The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword.
    Y-E-S! Words can heal, can cut, can reach out, can silence, can make us feel deeper than we ever thought we could. I can’t tell you the times I have shed tears over a character or rooted them on into victory. There are times when I can’t sleep after reading something. There have been times when I would sneak off into my closet to turn the light on because I couldn’t put the book down in the middle of the night.
    Words, books, let us know we are not alone and can close the gap.
  4. The voices in my head won’t hush.
    I admit it. Yes, writers are the only people who can say we hear voices in our head and NOT have people worried about us.
  5. It is like breathing. If I tried to stop, I would die inside.
    This is the most profound statement I can make. I don’t choose to write words, the words have chosen me. People have callings… to be a doctor/nurse, to be a policeman, or a teacher. I have a calling to be a writer and it is my job to do it properly.

Those are some of my reasons. At least the first 5 that came into mind. It won’t be the same for everyone, but then again everyone has their own story to tell.
What are yours?

 

:::Leave me a comment:::

Let me hear WHY you write. Or follow up with your own blog post. Link this post to it and we can follow the journeys of different writers. Don’t forget to visit Debbie’s blog!

 

Happy writing!
~t

 

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#summersparks: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner


Summer SparksTa Dum Dah Dum Dahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

 

Last night the raffles came to a close. I know everyone is ready to learn who the winners.

First let me say THANK YOU one more time to all of my guest bloggers.

  • Kelly Milner Halls
  • Alison K. Hertz
  • Alayne Kay Christian
  • Corey Rosen Schwartz
  • Julie Gribble
  • Jodi Moore
  • Susanna Hill
  • Tara Lazar
  • Kirsti Call
  • Donna Earnhardt
  • Donna M. McDine
  • Kris Dinnison
  • Carol Gordon Ekster
  • Claire Rudolf Murphy

You all did a wonderful job. I know I learned some new things along the way and could not have had Summer Sparks without their help.

Now…

ON TO THE PRIZES:

Winner of   Sasquatch by Kelly Milner Halls   is:   KIRSTI CALL!

Winner of   Prose-Only Picture Book Critique from Alayne Kay Christian   is:  KRISTI VEITENHEIMER!

Winner of   Bubblegum Princess by Julie Gribble   is:   TERESA M.I. SCHAEFER!

Winner of   Your choice of one of the following (Punxsutawney Phillis or Can’t Sleep Without Sheep) by Susanna Hill   is:   SHARON PUTNAM!

Winner of   Your choice of one of the following (Shaping Up the Year, Ribbert’s Way Home, Liddil Gets Her Light, Just the Thing to Be, Angels Do That, or Arachnabet by Tracey M. Cox   is:   JOANNE SHER!

Winner of   The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall by Kirsti Call   is:   CHRISTINE IRVIN!

Winner of   Total Funds for Writers newsletter donated by Donna M. McDine   is:   MARCIA BERNEGER!

Winner of   Your choice of one of the following (Take Joy by Jane Yolen, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont, or Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman donated by Kris Dinnison   is:   ELLEN (SIRIANNI?? <-EMAIL IS BEING SENT)!

Grand Winner of   Non-Rhyming Picture Book Manuscript Critique by Tracey M. Cox   is:   KATHY HALSEY!

WINNERS: I have sent you an email this morning. If you have not received your email contact me at tracey (at) traceymcox (dot) com with your name, user name on my blog, prize won, and address, I will get the information to each of the bloggers.

THANK YOU to everyone who participated in Summer Sparks and made my first attempt an overwhelming success. I hope to be able to do this again next year!

Happy Writing!
~t

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
WRAP-UP!
Follow-up #1:
Follow-up #2:
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

Last Day to qualify for #summersparks

Summer Sparks DON’T FORGET:

TODAY is the last day to finish qualifying for the raffle prizes!!! All entries must be done by tonight, Friday, July 11th, at 11:59 pm, est.
THAT’S A WRAP post will explain the steps to qualify!

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks Thursday Thinking: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story

image

9 Ways to Tighten Your Story

 

Donna Earnhardt wrote a terrific post, Burning Down the House, that covered how reading out loud helps to revise. Then, saputnam had a great comment about how she color-codes her submissions, and that reminded me of another way to revise. Then that got me to thinking of other ways to revise. That lead me to thinking, just how !any ways are there to revise. Here’s my list:

  • Read out loud (thanks Donna)
    This not only gets your brain working, but your ears as well. You will stutter and stumble over words and phrases that are out of place and don’t belong.
  • Read backwards (thanks again Donna)
    This will help see gaps in your plot, where you need to rearrange or add to build the right sequence.
  • Read to an audience (Donna is the bomb)
    This is where you can see how people react. Did they laugh? Was there an Ah-ha! moment.
  • Observe a reading.
    Here’s where you combine watching you audience reactions with listening to the story to see of things are off, Make notes. Don’t have a reader? Record yourself and play it back.
  • Highlight your text.
    Use different colors for dialog, action, passive texts. This will give you a color-coded visual of your story.
  • Cut up text and place in a storyboard.
    This will show pacing. you can see where there are holes and where text !at be too heavy.
  • Draw it out. (thanks Alison)
    You can also use doodles of your text to make sure your story is moving forward and hasn’t stalled out. In picture books, every word counts!
  • Draw a story arc. (thanks Alayne)
    This is also called ‘The W Factor’ or ‘The Heartbeat of the Story’ and shows pacing well too. Here you go up and down determined by the conflicts and resolutions -aka Cause and Effect– of your story.
  • Read, read, read.
    Yes read your story, parts of your story, and then read it some more. Make it flow effortlessly!
  • Set it aside.
    How is this revision?Think of wine, if you taste it right away, sure it will be good, but if you put it away. Don’t open it. The body develops. When you taste it again, there will be notes that highlight the flavor. The body will be fuller. It will be like tasting it for the first time. The same can happen with your story. You will have separated yourself from the text and can see it with fresh eyes. Mistakes will pop out. Things will make you smile. You will get the goosies when you read THE LINE.

So what are some of the ways you revise? Do you have a routine that is different from those listed?

:::Leave a comment:::
Let me know how you tighten a story.

 DON’T FORGET:

You have one more day to finish qualifying for the raffle prizes!!! All entries must be done by Friday, July 11th, at 11:59 pm, est. THAT’S A WRAP post will explain the steps to qualify!

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks Follow-Up: TIPS

Summer SparksTIPS TO FOLLOW A WRITING CHALLENGE

 

My mind is still whirling. What a lot to cover in only two weeks! Sometimes that can leave everything in a jumble. Add several ideas sparking to the mix and you can feel overwhelmed. Here are a few tips I have found that helps me out:

  1. Make a list of your ideas where you can see them all at one time.
  2. Star or check each one that has promise to flesh out into a story.
  3. Look at that group and see which ones are really grabbing your attention.
  4. Pick one or two and start researching, note taking, and writing.

I have found by narrowing them down by importance, I get a better feel for what I want to work on. Of course I have had an occasional loud mouth that demanded attention. When that happens, I KNOW what I want to work on.

Things I also consider before I get too far into my writing:

  1. Has the subject been written about?
  2. Has my angle been written about?
  3. How  can I make my story unique?
  4. What way can I market this idea? (<– Yes, I start that now)
  5. What other layers can I bring into the story to add depth?

There are so many things that come into writing. I have found that the more I do it, the easier steps come. I automatically pull up Amazon and do a search now. My mind starts visualizing ways I can market a book, different ways to promote, and who I can approach, outside of bookstores, to sell my book(s).

The main thing to remember is to BREATHE and enjoy the writing process.

Happy Writing!
~t

 

 DON’T FORGET:

You have three more days to finish qualifying for the raffle prizes!!! All entries must be done by Friday, July 11th, at 11:59 pm, est.

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks and that’s a wrap!

Summer Sparks

Oh my goodness!  What a whirl wind of two weeks.
Have you been inspired? I hope those sparks flew and a few caught.
Not only that, I hope you gathered more information on the writing process and will be able to incorporate it into your own writing to improve.

Did you miss a few days? Is okay.  You have until Friday,  July 11th at 11:59 pm, est. to finish the challenge and qualify for prize swag. Time cannot be extended because it is scheduled through Rafflecopter. So make sure you have them finished and logged in to any of the raffles you want to enter!

So lets look at what you need to do now:

  • Registered for prize swag
  • Have at least 14 new story sparks.
  • Take the pledge:

I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good.

No wait,  wrong pledge.   ; p
Now raise your right hand and say:

I promise that I have had at least 14 new story sparks during the Summer Spark Writing Challenge.

  • Now comment below that you have done these three things and include your name too.

I will have two more follow up post during the week and finally,  FINALLY, I will post the winners Saturday, July 12th.

Thank you so much for participating. I hope you have gotten as much out of this experience as I have. Have a safe and fun 4th of July weekend for those of you celebrating!

Happy writing!
~t

 

DON’T FORGET:

You have five more days to finish qualifying for the raffle prizes!!! All entries must be done by Friday, July 11th, at 11:59 pm, est.

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks DAY 15 BONUS POST: What Songs Rock Your World? by Claire Rudolf Murphy

 

Summer SparksWhat Songs Rock Your World?
by Claire Rudolf Murphy

 

Music can be a powerful tool in our lives, and in our writing. Think about it. We’re always singing or dancing at special times– birthdays, weddings, graduations, funerals. Music can make us feel things that words alone cannot. It wasn’t until my last two books that I realized just how much it could enhance my own writing and how much I loved singing in my own life. While researching a book on women’s suffrage set in California I ran across a suffrage verse written to the well-known tune “My Country Tis of Thee.” My story morphed into an historical fiction picture book, so I had my two girl characters sing this verse as they marched in a suffrage parade. And when I did readings for my book when it was published, I asked the crowd to sing along with me. It also got me thinking about whether other protest groups had written verses to this song.

I am a NF history geek, so for years I had been researching protestors from many races and religions who had stood up for equal rights throughout our country’s history. Had other groups written verses to this song, I wondered? Sure enough they had and before I knew it, I had uncovered a terrific structure for a nonfiction book that I had been struggling with for a long time. Singing the verses at readings and getting others, especially younger people, singing, too, and writing their own verses to the song, has been great fun. Two choirs here in Spokane recorded the verses from the book, and it gives me great delight just to listen to them on my web site.

But enough about me. This is your month to come up with new writing ideas and bring new energy to your work. Since I am the last post of this Summer Sparks series, here is a list of suggestions of how to bring music into your writing life. A prompt follows the list.

 

  • If you listen to music while writing, come up with your writing anthem this month or even an entire play list to get your creativity pumping every day. I need absolute quiet, but before and after the work, a musical interlude brings energy.
  • Think about a manuscript you are working on. Where could you musical details in the story line? Snippets of a song, a character who plays an instrument, a character’s flashback brought on by a song. Even if you write nonfiction, music can be a part of a biography or event.
  • Because music brings me joy and uses another part of my brain, I have decided to join a women’s choir next fall. How about you? What activity, musical or other, could feed another part of your brain and make it stronger when you return to writing?
  • Opera singers use a term called tessitura (Italian for “texture”), to define the most comfortable range for a singer’s voice. Take a look at some of your manuscripts. Has the voice in each one found its tessitura? Or is there more work to be done?

 

Writing Prompt:

Make a list of ten memories from your life triggered by or focused around music. Such as driving along in the summertime listening to the Beach Boys, your worst birthday party, the song at a relative’s funeral. Free write on one of these memories for five minutes. Try to include other senses besides sound – sight, taste, touch, and smell.

Now study your list again and next to each memory, write down a scene you could build into one of your writing projects.

 

As we close up Summer Sparks, let’s sing out for Tracey Cox for her inventive program to encourage us all to dig deeper and find the music in our stories. Thanks, Tracey.

 

Claire Rudolf Murphy

Claire Rudolf Murphy

 

 

Claire is the author of:
My Country Tis Of Thee
&
Wild Garden JKT

FIND CLAIRE:

Website
Blog
Facebook

 

:::LEAVE A COMMENT:::
Do you use music to find inspiration?
What background noise (if any) do you like to have?
What other things do you use that hasn’t been discussed?

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks DAY 14: Hope In Your Heart by Carol Gordon Ekster

Summer Sparks

Hope in your heart
by Carol Gordon Ekster

 

 

Hang in there and have hope in your heart. If you are a writer who has submitted work this could be the day. Okay, maybe not today. It’s a holiday. But maybe tomorrow. There could be a letter in the mail asking you for a rewrite. There could be an e-mail telling you they want to acquire your manuscript. It only takes one such communication to change everything and bring the hope of having your work published. That keeps me going, along with the love of the craft. That must be there. Focus on writing your best story, fine-tuning your words to sing. If you don’t worry about publication, you’ll put your energies where they belong – on the writing.

It’s happened to me a few times– the e-mails and even the letter. “We’re interested. How about rewriting it like this….I’ll take another look if you wish to revise. We want to acquire this manuscript, etc.” And the excitement spills out as happy tears. But it’s the hope of what that will look like…children holding my book in their hands and being touched by my words… that keeps my coming back for more. We must hang in there because this writing process is arduous, at times torturous. And there are so many ups and downs…from the time you hear that good news, until you get the contract, until you see those first sketches and even after your work gets published. Then you’ll deal with issues about marketing, sales, and reviews.

So hope will keep you going for those months, if not years, from this first communication until that manuscript is a bound book. Hope and trust in the process is my mantra and I’m sticking to it, as I wait to see the art work for my third picture book coming out January 1, 2015, as I wait to hear from editors about the many manuscripts I have out in snail mail and e-mail, and as I wait while another book has begun the acquisition process. And with this post complete, I’m off with hope in my heart and trust in the process to work on a revision.

 

Carol Gordon Ekster

Carol's professional photo for books

 

Carol Gordon Ekster was a passionate elementary school teacher for 35 years. Her first published book was, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-A Story of Divorce, Boulden Publishing, 2008. It was an About.com Readers’ Choice 2012 finalist for Best Children’s Book for Single Parents. “The Library Is The Perfect Place”, was in Library Sparks magazine, 2010.  A picture book, Ruth The Sleuth and The Messy Room, was on Character Publishing’s debut list, 2011 and was awarded the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval.  Her newest picture book, Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You, will be out January 1, 2015 with Pauline Books & Media. Retired from teaching, Carol now spends time in critique groups, doing exercise and yoga, and working on her books. She’s grateful that her writing allows her to continue communicating with children.
 

Carol is the author of:

cover-Ruth The SleuthRuth the Sleuth
&
wais bk coverWhere Am I Sleeping Tonight

 

FIND CAROL GORDON EKSTER

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WRITING PROMPT

Oh, but first I must give you a “spark” to ignite your creative juices. And because it is July 4th, Independence Day, it is the perfect time to think of child’s journey to independence. Maybe think back to your own childhood. Or imagine another child showing off their independence or attempting something they feel they are ready for…probably too early if you want to add that tension in your picture book. Everyone always wants to do things to feel older than they are…unless they’re an adult! So if you’re not too busy barbecuing, get writing…with hope in your heart. Tomorrow may be your day.

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

#summersparks DAY 13: Writing Your Way To A Spark by: Kris Dinnison

 

Summer SparksWriting Your Way To A Spark!
by Kris Dinnison

 

Ah summer! Sunlight that lasts until long past bedtime, irresistible afternoons of lingering in the warm grass, cooling off with a swim in a local lake. Milkshakes, BBQs, Drive-ins, bike rides…

But where does the writing life fit into this equation? How do we live in the moment and still make time to write about it?

I would love to say I have the secret to this dilemma, but I am, alas, still working towards writerly perfection in this area.

What I do have to offer is three of the most important pieces of writing advice I have ever received. They are not revelatory, they are not even particularly seasonal, but they are, in my experience, always, always true.

  1. Write: “BIC-HOP (Butt in chair-Heart on Page)” (Jane Yolen)

I know, it’s easy to say you don’t have time, or your kids are out of school, or your partner is on vacation, or the sun is shining, or the sky is blue, so you can’t write. But there is a long list of writers who had way more valid excuses than you who found the time to write anyway. William Carlos Williams was a full time doctor during his whole writing career. Franz Kafka worked at an insurance company. Virginia Woolf founded and ran a Publishing Company. The difference between them and most aspiring writers? They wrote.

But the second half of that advice is just as important. Yolen advises writers to let whatever mix of emotions and experiences that are true for them appear in the writing. Maybe not as a literal account of those experiences, but the idea is to write something emotionally true. Especially in writing for children. Otherwise what’s the point, really?

  1. Shitty first drafts: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.” (Anne Lamott)

This is literally the best advice I’ve ever gotten. I am a born perfectionist, completely stymied by my own impossible standards and fear of other people’s judgement. The only way I wrote my novel was by telling myself nobody would ever see the writing. In other words, I gave myself the gift of a shitty first draft. (And in my case a few more shitty drafts as well). You can always revise, but you can’t revise what you haven’t written.

  1. Finish something: “You have to finish things. That’s what you learn from; you learn by finishing things.” (Neil Gaiman)

This little tidbit is huge for me. I have lots of little ideas and starts and bits that I get very excited about and then just peter out after a few paragraphs. But committing to finishing something forces me to give it some form. Once I’ve given it a rough shape beginning to end, then I can wade into the tougher territory of the writing process: revision.

But still: it’s summer!” you say. And I hear you loud and clear. Don’t worry, Neil Gaiman also has other advice for writers: “Go for walks. Read a lot & outside your comfort zone. Stay interested. Daydream.” So when you can’t bring yourself to follow the first three pieces of advice, follow that last one. That way you can have your summer and write about it too.

Kris Dinnison

photo 4

Kris Dinnison is a former teacher and librarian. She now chases her dream of being a writer.  She lives in Spokane, Washington with her husband, daughter (when she’s not off gallivanting in Europe), two cats, and a labradoodle named Charlie. She likes to read and hike but rarely at the same time.

FIND KRIS DINNISON:

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Writing prompt:

Make a list of at least ten of your favorite summer activities in any order. Circle numbers three, five, and 10. Now write a scene about a character who is terrified of doing one of those three activities.

Kirs will be giving away your choice of one:

Take Joy by Jane Yolen

Take Joy by Jane Yolen

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

OR

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

to those of you who PRE-REGISTERED, COMMENT on this post, and COMPLETE the challenge.

Go to this RAFFLECOPTER LINK TO ENTER into the drawing to win under Kris’ post!

 

Missed a SUMMER SPARK? Don’t worry, you can find them here:

Day 1: In Celebration of Summer Magic  by Kelly Milner Halls
Day 2:  The Power of Doodling  by Alison K. Hertz
Day 3: Cause & Effect  by Alayne Kay Christian
Day 4: How to be a Marketing Ninja  by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Day 5: A Visual Writing Prompt: Begin at the End  by Julie Gribble
Day 6: The Final Word  by Jodi Moore
Day 7: Inspiration Station  by Susanna Hill
Day 8: Voice and Word Choice in Picture Books by Tara Lazar
Day 9: Platform Building Can You Build It? Yes, You Can!  by Tracey M. Cox
Day 10: 5 Ways to Hook Your Reader with Your Very First Line  by Kirsti Call
Day 11: Burning Down the House aka Revision by Donna Earnhardt
Day 12: Persistence  by Donna M. McDine
Day 13: Writing Your Way to a Spark  by Kris Dinnison
Day 14: Hope In Your Heart  by Carol Gordon Ekster
BONUS: What Songs Rock Your World?  by Claire Rudolf Murphy
THAT’S A WRAP!
Follow-up #1: TIPS
Follow-up #2: 9 Ways to Tighten Your Story
Prize Announcement: Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!