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Reflection

“No, Mom!” Mister yells.

I remove my hand from the bathtub drain lever.

“My toys are still in here. And please don’t let the water go down now. That will scare me.”

I nod, even though we’ve talked about him not being able to fit down the drain a gazillion times. I make a mental note to drain the tub after he’s asleep and to read I’m Not Afraid of Anything to him again.

I’m Not Afraid of Anything is the picture ebook I wrote a few years ago that was published by MeeGenius. It was recently featured on the MeeGenius blog as a book to help kids conquer their fears, especially the fear of the doctor.

It’s recent feature got me thinking about Mister and his fears. I find it funny that, even though I wrote it inspired by my own childhood fear of the vacuum, and even though Mister wasn’t even close to being born yet at the time I wrote it, the book still nails one of Mister’s fears. So, this week’s question is:

What book(s) do you find to be a reflection of your life? What about the book is familiar?

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2014 in Reading

 

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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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Juvenile

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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Balance

As I talked about in the last post, I’m missing one of the important credentials necessary to becoming a writer. Namely, that I wasn’t an avid reader as a child.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like to read when I was young. I just liked being outside and being active more. In fact, I read a lot more in the summer when I could read outside and I had more time, without the obligations of school, to also be active.

My friend and critique partner, Kelly, also shared her experiences of not being an avid reader:

 I was not an avid reader. My parents did not read to me (at least not during the years I can remember, which is ages 3 1/2 and up). They never took me to the library until I was in high school (and even then I made them take me because I had book reports to do). I didn’t even go to preschool, so no outside influences to introduce me to amazing titles. Before kindergarten, I loved my Dr. Seuss books because that’s all I had. When school finally started, I felt quite lost/behind during library class (which I’m pretty sure didn’t even start until first or second grade). The library was super foreign to me, and I’m actually old enough that I learned to read with Dick and Jane texts (blech). I think I finally discovered Judy Blume in about 5th or 6th grade, and then in high school I discovered Agatha Christie. So, I guess I can truthfully say that Dr. Seuss, Judy Blume and Agatha Christie rescued me in terms of liking reading … but no books “changed my life,” and I most certainly was not “an avid reader growing up.” It’s nothing short of a gift and a miracle that I can write, quite frankly.

That’s some serious stuff. I know now that not being a year-round reader definitely had an influence on me, too. I’m a terrible speller. And I’ve noticed my vocabulary is a little stunted compared to the vocabularies of those who were avid readers. But I also think I have some traits to make up for those faults.

One of those is that I was a writer first. I talk about my introduction to writing in other areas of this blog. I’ve also always had the drive to write when I’m upset or something goes wrong. Writing my feelings or recounting events seems to help me make sense of things. Writing, for me, is a need.

I’ve also always enjoyed learning. No, really. I did. And do. Not all learning (ahem, math), but I liked learning about things that interested me. Some history (when it was taught in stories rather than rote memorization of dates), current events, science, language and culture introduced me to a lot of neat stuff.

My need to write and learn helped me make up for not always being an avid reader. But, I also think that not being an avid reader had its perks.

Yes, perks.

When I wasn’t busy with reading, I was busy with other things: dancing, religious education classes, running, playing outside, pretending, and (briefly) girl scouts. I can see all those experiences coming out as material for my writing.

I do think it is important to be a reader for so many reasons. I’m certainly encouraging that with Mister. But I also think living is important. Rather than just reading, I think it is the sum of a person’s experiences, and the responses to those experiences, that makes him or her a writer. Like most things, it seems to be a good balance of things that makes a good writer. 

Related Links:

Author Aimee Carter tells her own reluctant reader story: http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2013/02/true-confessions-of-reluctant-reader.html

The advantages to being an avid reader: http://www.bestcollegesonline.com/blog/2012/04/09/your-brain-on-books-20-proven-benefits-of-being-an-avid-reader/

Tips for parents of kids who don’t like to read: http://www.supernanny.co.uk/Advice/-/Learning-and-Education/-/4-to-13-years/Help.-My-child-doesn’t-like-reading.aspx

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2013 in Reading

 

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Non-Avid Reader

I sit in the ballroom with 998 other writers at the winter SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. I eagerly await the inspiration and writing wisdom to come.

Then the speeches start. And while speaker after speaker says things like “I think we all were avid readers growing up” and “I think we all have one book that has changed our lives,” I slink down in my seat. I don’t want anyone to know that those statements just don’t apply to me.

“Do you have a ‘one book you’ve read that changed your life’?” I ask my critique partner on the way to the airport. 

She tells me she doesn’t have just one.

I wonder if something is wrong with me. Can a non-avid reader expect to write? Along with a healthy dose of inspiration, I’m taking home the seeds of self-doubt.

What perceived shortcomings do you bring to writing? How do you make up for it?

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2013 in Reading

 

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Jolt

Sorry about the late post. I didn’t feel comfortable writing about warm fuzzies on Friday. Now that the initial shock of the events in Connecticut have worn off, I think warm fuzzies might be what a lot of people need.

Luckily for those of us who need something positive to think about, books can be a great place to find distraction. Have you ever watched someone else watching TV? If you have, you’ve probably seen the glassy eyeballs, blank stares, and expressionless faces that, especially for children, make up a TV face. I’m the same way when I read. I can completely zone into what I’m reading. That means I can block out whatever else is going on around me. And it takes a pretty good jolt to get me out of it. I’d bet I’m not alone in that either.

Reading can also help someone process something or experience emotions through someone else. I think that is part of the reason why there are so many books dealing with so many different topics. From potty training to divorce or even death, there are books for us to read to help us figure out how to navigate a new situation or feeling.

Writing has the same effect. I’ve written through feelings of jealousy, sadness, defeat, joy, and embarrassment. But, got through them through my character. And sometimes they were feelings I didn’t even know I had until I wrote them.

So, if you are in need of some good feelings, pick up a book, pass one on to someone else (it is a great time for that  anyway), or write through your feelings (in fiction, a letter, a journal or whatever format suits you). Please also share some good-feeling book recommendations in the comments.

 

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Other Stuff, Reading

 

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Warm Fuzzies

“Can I tell you something?” I ask. Mister smirks. “I love you.”

“No ‘I love you’s,” Mister replies.  I guess his dislike of warm fuzzies doesn’t stop with happy endings.

“Hmm,” I say, thinking about how his response makes me feel. “How about you say ‘I love you too, Mom’ instead? Let’s try. I love you.”

“I love you too, Mom,” Mister says. He shrugs his shoulders like he does when something makes him feel good.

I feel pretty good too.

What about reading or writing makes you feel good inside?

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Process

 

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