In an old house in Paris …

… that was covered with vines
How many of you
can finish those lines?
(Admittedly atrocious rhyme substitute)

For those who can, you’ll be thrilled to see that Madeline made it to Betsy Bird’s #8.

I think I can still recite the entire book – which is the beauty of rhyming picture books. The predictability of the words allows early readers greater success with the story and makes for folkloric recitation years later.
What are your favorite rhymers??

Practice Makes Perfect – or at Least Very, Very Good.

OUTLIERS, by Malcolm Gladwell, heads up my to-read list, and there’s a lot of blogging going on about his 10,000 hours to success theory. I buy it. And today a friend directed me to this NEW YORK TIMES op-ed piece about practice as compared to genius. I like that Brooks actually uses a writer as his primary example. The theories have merit – or at least they offer me a hefty dose of rationalization for the writing hours I put in and the stack of books on my nightstand.

Tell Me About Your “Lilly” moments and Win a Book!

If you haven’t been following Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Picture Book Poll you’re not too late to join in the fun. This NYC children’s librarian polled her blog readers on their top 10 picture books. Now she’s not only tallied the results, but she’s compiled comments, reviews, pictures and more, for each of the 100 selections. And she’s awarding even bigger blog blurbs to her top 20.

I was thrilled to see Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse make it to #15. Hooray!

Why do I love this book so much? Because I’ve had “Lilly” moments – even as an adult. My face gets hot just thinking of them – ah, that melting point of anger and embarrassment. Sheesh! If you don’t know what that means, please check out the book – a sweet, funny, smart story about a mouse having a little-bit-naughty day and her terrific teacher who gets it. It’s completely honest and totally charming.

How about you? Do you remember one of your little-bit-naughty days? To celebrate Lilly on the list, tell me about your own Lilly moments. And as a reward for fessing up, I’ll award a copy of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse to the best story.

1. Stories must be true, from your childhood and G-rated.
2. Stories must appear in the comments section of my blog by midnight MST on May 8th.
3. Stories will be judged on several factors but especially on how well they mimic the authenticity of the”Lilly” moment. By the way, it’s a requirement that you did get caught.
4. I’ll conduct voting via e-mail when the contest closes.

In this world of pressure and perfectionism, it’s refreshing to laugh at the little bit of Lilly in each one of us.

I Need to Be Rescued!

Tonight I’m being abducted. Right here. In downtown Denver. As a show of solidarity with Uganda’s night commuters – the Invisible Children. My sons have visited the IDP camps. They’ve slept where the night commuters have slept. The tragedy is real.

Please, if you know any Denver moguls – Mayor Hickenlooper, Governor Ritter, John Elway, The Fray – anyone who can lend a face and a voice to this cause – please let them know that we must be rescued. All they have to do is show up. We’ll be walking from Civic Center Park and spending the night at Cheesman Park.

But even if you don’t have those connections, please join our efforts by checking out this site Read about the Invisible Children. Watch the videos. Then send the link to a friend.

Thank you!

What do you think of the WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE Trailer?

I’m just not sure how I feel about this. I so love the story with its simple truth. I fear when too much is added to it – the truth will blur, and the children who read the book after seeing the movie might lose the ability to put themselves in the story – the quality of the book I find most endearing. What do you think?

View Where the Wild Things Are trailer now.

Creating the perfect “inciting incident”

When I’ve finished reading Les Edgerton’s HOOKED: WRITE FICTION THAT GRABS READERS AT PAGE ONE AND NEVER LETS THEM GO, I plan on writing a review – a stellar review – because I’m completely taken with his pin-point logic, instruction and examples. I’m about halfway through so you’ll have to hold your breath.

But in the meantime, I’ve begun incorporating Edgerton’s advice in my own process.

I’m currently revising a very rough draft of one of my MG novels. I’m back on those first few pages and first scenes – always the toughest for me – trying to get them just right.

Yesterday I focused on clearly defining what Edgerton calls the “inciting incident.” He describes it as “the event that creates the character’s initial surface problem and introduces the first inklings of the story-worth problem.” Essentially, it’s where the real story begins.

Thankfully, early in my revision process, I spent some time crystallizing my story into one sentence – an exercise I recommend to every novel writer. That sentence beats in my brain as a constant reminder of the heart of my story as I rewrite. But it also revealed a buried treasure. Because there in that 15-word sentence lies the inciting incident. Hurray!

Problem: In my draft I had broken up that incident into two scenes separated by a few other surface problems. Consequently my inciting incident lost the power it could have to really get the ball rolling in my story. I needed to clarify it, rev it up and spend more time with it early on.

How will I accomplish that? I’ll couple the two separated scenes into one in my opening chapters and rearrange those other surface problems – which really have nothing to do with the inciting incident – by moving them to later chapters. Then I’ll work on energizing that opening scene with more humor and higher stakes for my MC.

When I’m done that scene should shout from the pages “THE STORY STARTS NOW!”
And hopefully my reader will be hooked. I’ll let you know how it turns out.