Tag Archives: fiction


One for the Murphys

I’ve read three more pieces of fiction for older readers (young adults and adults) and countless picture books (thanks to Mister) in the weeks since I read One for the Murphys. But I was still thinking about that book as I sat down to write Monday’s post.That’s probably because the book made me feel. It made me so thankful that I get to watch Mister grow up. It made me realize how lucky I am to have a husband who wants our family to work as much as I do. It made me remember my own childhood and how bits of that have shaped the person I am today. All that from a book. A work of fiction.

As I said, I’ve read a lot of books since One for the Murphys. Here are some of them and the influence they had on me:

The Day the Crayons Quit– makes me want to ask more “what if” questions throughout the day to find more creative stories

Reason to Breathe, Barely Breathing, Out of Breath– all three books in this series made me want to renew the romance Husband and I had when we were young

Tough Chicks– made me realize that what makes Mister difficult to deal with some days is exactly what will make him successful as he grows

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo– in a weird way made me want to give a voice to those who are underrepresented in fiction

Notice that the list isn’t very long. Not every book I read makes me want to make a lasting change, but some do. Those are the books I need to read again. To study. To absorb into my being. Because those are the books I want to write.

Related Links:

One for the Murphys on Goodreads:

How writing affects the brain:

A study that shows we are what we read:

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Posted by on January 31, 2014 in Emotion


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Foster Care

My eyes are puffy and won’t stop tearing. The hives cover my chest, arms, and, I see as I climb into the shower, back. I curl up on the floor of the shower and let the hot water try to wash it all away.

But hurt like this doesn’t go down easy.

After a lengthy hospital stay to recover from injuries inflicted by her mother’s new husband, 12-year-old Carley was placed in foster care. Her new family is loving, kind, and, most of all, cohesive. Everything her “family” isn’t. Knowing she’ll never fit in, Carley keeps her distance.

Before long, they family’s little boy blasts away the walls she’s put up with his super hero powers and tied-towel cape. She becomes Super High Tops Girl and rescues him right back, hanging a bully in a tree by his overall straps. Through their little superhero’s hole, the rest of the family squeezes into Carley’s heart. She becomes the funny, strong, caring, and open young lady she was always meant to be.

But news from her mother threatens Carley’s new self. Her mother, who was never expected to walk again, is about to be released from the hospital and move back to Las Vegas. And she wants her daughter to go with her. Carley has a choice to make: stay with her foster family where she knows she’s safe and loved or return to an uncertain life with her mother, the only blood relative she’s ever known.

I towel off and snuggle into my pajamas. I curl up on the couch and heave a heavy sigh. Then I crack open the book one last time. Despite the tears, I just have to know how it ends.

Carley is the main character in One for the Murphys. An absolutely recommended read.

What book has touched you emotionally? What, if any, lasting effect/affect did it have?


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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Reading


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So to finish the Mister story, Husband called the doctor right away and the doctor told us to go get x-rays. The x-rays showed that Mister did, indeed, swallow a penny. And it was already in his stomach. That was a big relief for us since a Google search told us they can sometimes get lodged sideways on the way down. We were told to sift through his poop until we found the penny, and sent home.

The next day, 29 hours from when it went in, the penny came out without issue. I joke that it took Mister as long to birth the penny as it took for me to birth him.

After I told Mister the penny was out, he yelled “I’m free!” I didn’t know if he meant he was free because he had $0.00 in him now, or because he was free of the worry, but it was pretty funny either way.

As funny as this story is, it is probably something in Mister’s backstory that I won’t often reveal. Sure, I may tell it to a girlfriend later in his life to try to embarrass him. But, otherwise, that story is just going to quietly become a part of what makes Mister, Mister.

Just like our characters have stories that make them, them.

And all of those stories don’t need to be told either.

Discovering those stories can be almost as much work, and as much fun, as writing the story.

On expert advice, I started digging deeper into the past of my own character. She’s an eight year old tomboy, named Mabel, who loves baseball. This same expert asked why she loved baseball so much and who was her favorite player. I knew she wouldn’t have just any favorite player. It had to be a woman. And not just any woman. She had to be as good as the boys.

Well, after not too much searching, I found her. Jackie Mitchell.


The daughter of a doctor, Jackie seemed to be born to play ball. Her father introduced her to the game at a young age and Dazzy Vance, her next door neighbor taught her how to pitch. Vance went on to pitch in the majors while Jackie played in a women’s league. That is, until she became the second woman in history to sign a minor league deal.


Jackie was on the Class AA Junior Lookouts Roster when the new York Yankees came in to town to play an exhibition game. She took the mound against the greats: Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. And she struck them out. Perfect hero for a tomboy.


And I admit that I’m tempted to squeeze Jackie into the story. She has a great story all her own. But I know that if I’m going to use it, the timing has to be perfectly right, or it will feel forced. And if I don’t use it, then it will just be part of what makes Mabel, Mabel.


Related Links: an article researching whether the strike outs of Ruth and Gehrig are a myth The story behind the children’s book Love You Forever what you can learn about writing from children’s books (including that no one wants backstory in place of plot)

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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Character


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“Welcome to the National League Division Series. Here are your Pittsburgh Pirates,” the announcer booms. “Starting in center field…”

Through wells of tears, I watch a blurry Andrew McCutchen turn to point to the fans before high-fiving his way down the line of coaches to take his space on the field.

As my other favorite players are announced, I can’t hold back my tears. The city has been waiting a long time for this. My family has been waiting a long time for this. And it is finally here.

Looks like the rally towel give-away is going to come in handy in more ways than one.

Okay, so it might not exactly be normal to be moved to tears at a baseball game, but, if you’ve been paying attention to sports at all lately, the Pirates making it to the NLDS is kind of a big deal. What is something you’ve experienced lately that has had a particularly strong emotional impact? How can you draw on that emotional experience to enhance your writing?


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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Emotion


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I’m Learning

When I signed in this morning, I remembered that I forgot to write Friday’s follow-up post on pleasure reading. So, today is a bonus two-part post!

Last Monday, I asked about reading for pleasure. Mostly because I was feeling a little guilty about reading some juvenile fiction…for fun. Since then, I’ve read two more books in The 39 Clues series, two Judy Blume Fudge books, one Lucy Rose, an A to Z Mystery, a new YA novel called You Are Mine by Janeal Falor, and a book of knock-knock jokes (that one was mostly for Mister).

When I’m reading, Husband usually asks, “How’s the book?” And I usually launch in to some plot element that I wasn’t sold on or a character description that was magically perfect. Which leads him to asking, “Can’t you read just for fun anymore?”

My answer? No.

One of the best parts about writing for kids is that when I’m reading, even for fun, I’m learning. Kind of like when kids are reading. Or singing or playing or even sleeping. But, also just like kids, I prefer when I don’t feel like I’m learning. When I can read kidlit and have a little fun (like with The 39 Clues or You Are Mine) while I’m learning, I’m more open-minded. I learn more than when I do if the lesson is pushed on me.

I guess that is why they advise writers (like in this article)  not to preach in picture books.

That leads to this week’s question. I’d like to know:

What hidden lessons did you learn from your favorite picture books?

If you need help remembering some of your favorites, check out this list of the 100 best-loved children’s books. I look forward to your comments!

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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Reading


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I walk in to the library and go straight to the hold shelf. I pick up the book I requested on using dreams to write fiction and put it in my bag. Then I head to the “juvenile” section.

I pull a couple of new mysteries off the shelves and bag them with my writing book. Then I go for what I really came for: books 3 and 4 in the 39 Clues series. Last week, I read the first book in the series to learn about mysteries. I’m reading the rest because I enjoy the books. Not that I’d admit that to just anyone.

I walk to the self-checkout counter, silently rehearsing the lie I’d use if asked. “I’m checking out these books for my daughter.” I don’t have a daughter, but some how that seems easier to say than “I’m a children’s writer” or “you know, they’re just suspenseful.”

I have a moment of slight panic when one of the books won’t scan, but it works on the second try. Soon, I’m on my way. I sling the bag into the front seat, resisting the urge to crack the binding before I drive home.

Have you had a pleasure read lately? What was it? How was it alike/different from what you usually read?

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Posted by on May 6, 2013 in Admitting You Write


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Another Voice

“I got another voice,” I tell Husband while plugging my laptop back in on the desk.

“What?” he asks.

“I got another voice,” I repeat. “Another character introduced herself to me. And she’s a tough one.”

“Oh, so you don’t mean a physical voice?” he asks, sounding relieved.

“No…but sort of,” I reply. I’m sure that didn’t help. He must think I’m nuts.

So far all of my characters for my longer stories have introduced themselves to me (I’ll share more about how this happens on Friday). I feel very lucky to discover characters this way, but I also want to know if anyone else is a little nuts like me. So, the prompt for this week is:

How do you get an idea for a new character? What do you do after you get the idea?


Posted by on April 29, 2013 in Character


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