Thursday, December 30, 2010

So, I finished Wish Thief--now what?

What am I reading right now? Tempestuous (Lesley Livingston)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far? Holy twisty-turny plot drama!!
This is the third and final in the series; I seriously think each one got better.

Now, about WISH THIEF
1. I finished the story
2. Had some other people read it
3. Got feedback.
The verdict is in and it is (drum roll, please) "It needs more work."
I know, not a shocker, but it's nice to have people give their opinions to help you narrow down the many options for revision.

A month ago, I attended the national conference for the National Council of Teachers of English and listened to as many authors as I could. Susan Campbell Bartoletti talked about how she researches and collects ideas for her books as she writes, but she doesn't outline until after the first draft. So, that's what I'm going to do with WISH THIEF.

I've been looking at an outline of what I want in the story, and now I'm working at filling in the gaps. (And between you and me there is this one that is pretty big.)

Here's my current revision list:
Foreshadow the theme earlier
Add in some more minor scenes of the problem
Rework the time flow (here's the major one)

Funny thing is, I really like revision. Off to play . . .

Ahhhh-choooo. That's how I've been saying bye for about a week now :)

Monday, December 27, 2010


What am I reading now? Crescendo (Becca Fitzpatrick)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far? From murder to steamy kisses to dumped in 50 pages. Hang on it's going to move fast.

The new year is coming right up. I mean right up! Am I the only one here who is a little surprised that 2010 was only half as long as a usual year? I know I needed a little more time to get things done.

So, it's time to start my list for resolutions. Here goes:

1. Eat less. Or eat less while reading. Or eat less chocolate while reading. (Yes, I know "less" is a relative term and of course I'll be unbiased and completely honest.)

2. Save money. Or save money by buying items on sale. Or save money by buying more books on sale. (I may have to double my book budget.)

3. Exercise. Or exercise daily. (Uh-oh. This one sounds serious. What to do? Got it.) Or exercise restraint daily. (whew)

I'll keep looking for a few more. How about you--are you resoluting this year?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Berry Tart

What am I reading now? Darklight (Lesley Livingston)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far?
Two things.
One: Love it that this book doesn't have a love triangle!!
And two: I'm just past the info dump that books in a series always start with. Here's a idea--why not include the info dump in a separate place, like in a forward, so the rest of us don't start the second book by hating the recap. Right, this comment is not specific to this book and the publisher made her do it and maybe someone bought the second book first and this will help them get the story.
Just sayin'.

Because my husband's family has diabetes sprinkled around here and there, I try to make a few things that cut carbs. Here's one of them:

Berry Tart
graham cracker crust (I know--sugary! but the rest of this is an improvement on carbs)
2 cups vanilla yogurt (I look for fat-free and low-sugar)
1 pkg sugar free white chocolate pudding (the little one)
1 cup water
1 package Raspberry Ice Crystal Light (the cup that makes 2 quarts of drink)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups frozen raspberries
2 cups frozen blackberries

Mix yogurt and pudding together and pour into pie crust and chill in the freezer just until the next step is done.

Combine water and Crystal Light, mix in cornstarch and bring to a boil stirring constantly. Remove from heat when it thickens and stir in frozen fruit. Pour atop pudding. Refrigerate.

Serving Suggestion: Surround pie tin with garland and taper candles as part of the centerpiece for your table or buffet. You'll love the pretty dark red color of this tart. Makes a nice alternative to pumpkin and pecan pie after dinner.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Baklava Bundles

So what am I reading now? Wondrous Strange (Lesley Livingston)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far? Just finished this one and will start the next in this series today--yeah, I liked it! The twisty turn of events near the end kept me guessing.

The holiday treats continue!
Baklava Bundles
1 roll Pillsbury crescent sheet
1 small can mandarin orange slices
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon soft butter
1/3 cup honey
1 cup honey
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Stretch crescent sheet and cut into 12 squares. Mix filling together. Place 1 heaping teaspoon in middle of a square and fold the corners into the middle. Pinch them together in a knot with a little water to secure, leaving the edges open to vent. Pinch new outside corners.

Bake for 12 minutes then cool.

Microwave syrup ingredients. Drizzle over bundles and top with orange slices.

Serving Suggestion: Enjoy these treats filled with Middle-eastern flavors while reading the story of Christ's birth.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Baked Chocolate Cups

Hmmm. Do you think I have too may recipes with chocolate? Yeah, me neither.

What am I reading now? Entice (Carrie Jones)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far? I liked "Need", first in this series. Enjoyed "Captivate" more than the first. Really couldn't say I was sorry to see Nick leave the story. Enter Astley. Mmm and dangerous. Just starting this book--with high hopes.

Baked Chocolate Cups
20 ounces good chocolate (melt in microwave 30 sec., stir, 20 sec., stir, 10 sec., stir)
1/4 c. sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 c. softened butter
4 eggs (separate yolks and whites)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Vanilla Cream Sauce (recipe below)

Stir together sugar, flour and butter. Combine with chocolate, yolks and vanilla. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into chocolate mixture.

Butter 1-cup baking dishes and dust with cocoa powder. Pour in chocolate mixture and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Allow to cool a few minutes and invert on dessert plates. Surround with Vanilla Cream Sauce and sprinkle with raspberries.

Serving Suggestion:
Invite a few friends over. Turn on a little background music of your favorite Christmas songs. Relax and enjoy each other's company while nibbling on this smooth chocolate treat.

Vanilla Cream Sauce
1/2 c. sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 c. water
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt
Mix together and boil over medium heat for f5 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter, vanilla and dash of salt. Cool completely. Fold in whipped cream and serve.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Goopy Popcorn Balls

What am I reading right now? Last Sacrifice (Richelle Mead) Yes, I know it is a banned book. (In its defense, it was banned before it was even written!)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far? I have really enjoyed this series! In the last book: character reveals, crazy schemes, dangerous road trips, unlikely allies, betrayal, passion, gunshot and the world of the dead. Not exactly the ending I imagined for Rose, but it seems right for her. Oh, and put "Bloodlines" on the wish list.

Here's the next holiday recipe installment.

Goopy Popcorn Balls
1/4 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. corn syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Popcorn with kernels removed (3 batches microwave or 2 batches hot air)

Stir constantly. Bring the first four ingredients to a boil on medium heat. Continue stirring until it reaches soft ball stage.**

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and pour over popcorn. Let it cool a bit then butter your hands to form the balls.

Serving Suggestion:
Add a bell ornament to your Christmas tree and watch "It's a Wonderful Life" while eating goopy popcorn balls.

**I don't use a candy thermometer. After the carmel becomes thick, I put cold water in a mug and drop some from a teaspoon. Then I roll it into a ball and lift it out of the water. If it flattens a bit (but doesn't drip off my finger) it is ready.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Minty-Chocolate Indecency

What am I reading now? Peasant Queen (Cheri Chesley)

Annnd . . . how do I like it so far? I like Krystal's personality: spunky, resourceful, caring. She's stuck in an engagement to the town idiot, but considers her options and makes a choice that will be hard, revealing her courage and strength. She doesn't actually get to put her choice into action. Because she's kidnapped. Yes, there is a love story in here--with a few glitches.

Here's a great recipe for all of you who like hot chocolate.

Minty-Chocolate Indecency
6 cups milk
1 bag chocolate chips
1 bag white chocolate chips (if you use milk chocolate only use 1/2 bag of these--too sweet!)
scant 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
sugar to taste (1-2 tablespoons)

Whip cream and cocoa powder to stiff peaks. Add sugar to taste.

Combine milk, peppermint extract and both bags of chips, Warm over low head and stir constantly until melted and combined. Do not boil.

Serving Suggestion:
Turn off all the lights, except the ones on the Christmas tree, and serve hot with chocolate-y whipped cream on top.
Happy Recipe Countdown to Christmas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Let's Do 'Launch'

What am I reading now? Matched (Ally Condie)
Annnd . . . how do I like it so far? Finished it in two sittings--kinda hard to put down. Okay, I didn't really try to but I'm sure it would have been. ;) Since I'm not a masochist I did the easy thing and satisfied my curiosity. Read. Read. Read.

I attended two launch parties for friends with new books out. Ally Condie's party was at the Provo Library with a packed house, standing room only.

Ally's book, Matched, was listed on the New York Times Best Sellers list for chapter books for Dec. 19th. Woohoo! It couldn't have happened to a nicer person.

So, have you read the book?

You should.

It starts off with wonder and adventure for a girl on the verge of adulthood. (And you know there is a 'but' coming) But she finds that the life she thought she would have, a life that would be perfect, isn't possible in her world. In fact, there are things she discovers and mysteries that change who she thinks she is, who her family members are and how she fits into her society. No spoilers here. Read it.

Also, Cheri Chesley had the launch for her book, Peasant Queen. This is the next book on my bedside table.

What is on your list to read next?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Teachers' Book Club

What am I reading now? Agent in Old Lace (Tristi Pinkston)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far? I'm in the middle, so I'm dying to know what happens with the romance and is the danger she is in going to peak soon. It's a little tense right now.
By the way--Tristi Pinkston is hosting an absolutely huge contest over on her blog to celebrate the release of her new book, "Dearly Departed." A new prize will be offered every twenty-four hours, books, jewelry, perfume, movies, and the grand prize is a free night's stay at the Lion Gate Manor in Lava Hot Springs. Visit Tristi's blog for rules and more details.
(I'm giving the Kindle app on my phone another go with this book. It is kind of weird turning pages every 3 or 4 paragraphs, but it is great that I always have several books in my purse. Stuck in the doctors office? Read. Waiting for a family member? Read. Happiness!)

So, we started a really fun thing this year. We have a book club class for teachers to get familiar with Young Adult literature generally, and Utah authors specifically. Sixty people joined the club--how fun is that! We will have 7 sessions this year, and we've already had two.

In each session, we talk a bit about improving literacy instruction, discuss the book in small groups, have a fabulous dessert and have a Q&A with the author.

In September, Chris Crowe came to our group to talk about his book "Getting Away With Murder". I had never heard the story of Emmet Till before, and was intrigued by the tragic and pivotal role he played in the Civil Rights movement.

In November, Lisa Mangum gave us the inside scoop on writing "The Hourglass Door." It's a fun twist on science fiction and time travel. It was the second time I had a chance to read it. The first time was just for enjoyment. The second time, I read to consider the story from the perspective of the target audience. Yes--I think girls 14-16 (or anyone who like YA) will love this.
The lesson for this session was about how we make reading plans to increase our understanding while we read. Click here for a copy of the Alpine Reading Process Chart to use to think about reading purposes and plans.

Here's a sneak peek for what's coming for us.
January: "Matched" by Ally Condie
February: "Wolves, Boys and Other Things that Might Kill Me" by Kristen Chandler
March: "Wings" by Aprilynne Pike (I know we're stretching the 'Utah Author' thing but she has connections here)
April: "Wrong Number" by Rachelle Christensen

Ooh, I can hardly wait for each of these discussions! There is nothing better than great books, awesome people and lots of chocolate to make an enjoyable evening.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blizzard Anyone?

What am I reading now? Clockwork Angel (Cassandra Clare)
Annnd. . . how do I like it so far? LOVE IT! Fun Steam-punk, beautiful writing, interesting/confusing/complex characters. I'm at page 386 of the 476--I'll finish this morning.

Blizzard anyone?
Yes, I'll take one. Ooh, and make it a double.

Here's the rest of the story. . .
•Orlando, Florida--82 degrees--left after a wonderful conference, chucked full of YA authors at noon on Tuesday. No coat needed!
•Landed in Memphis--62 degrees--flight was delayed for and hour and a half, instead of arriving in Salt Lake City at 4:00 we got there at 6:00. What time was the blizzard supposed to hit? Oh, yeah, 6:00. Got it. Probably best not to land if you would crash anyway. :)
•SLC Airport wouldn't let us land so diverted back to Grand Junction, Colorado--28 degrees--wish I had a coat.
•Delta Airlines has no flights available out of Grand Junction. You know, busiest airline travel days of the year coming up. :( apparently not for me.
•Sitting in a hotel now waiting for my husband to come pick me up.

Oh well, I can catch up on my blog. Did you know the Walt Disney World Resorts don't have WIFI? I didn't know that, so I been unwired for most of the last 8 days. I could get a few things out on my phone, but the screen and keyboard are tiny, so unless it was really important I didn't.

During the conference, I had the opportunity to listen to dozens of YA authors. Here are a few tips some of them passed on:
Sarah Mynowski
•Define nutshell moments for your character arcs, ah-ha moments that change who they are and how they see their world and their problems
•Create a history of these moments, a chain that defines then redefines the character

David Wiesner
•Look for connections to familiar or popular images, stories, and memories
•It's not the thing you first connect to that you use--it's the thing after that that you connect the first one to, or the one that that new connection connects to that is the one to use.
(hmm, how many times in one sentence can I use "that that", or should I use "that that")

Laurie Friedman
•Keep a basket of clippings from newspapers or magazines, that would resonate with your intended audience, as an idea pool for future scene and story prompts
•Discuss your story with a focus group that represents the audience you want, to give you reactions to your plot, characters and events

Susan Campbell Bartoletti
•Don't need to do the outline before you start writing your ideas; do the outline last to prepare for revision, check for holes, see where you need to kick it up or tone it down

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Guess where I am?

What am I reading right now? Knight Angels: Book of Love (Book One) Right--try googling that name when all you know is the second part of the name. :-*
Annnd . . . what do I think so far? Jury is still out. I'm using a Kindle app on my phone to read it. There are four POV characters and I'm turning pages about every two paragraphs. I think the story is just at a point to take off though--the Angel of Death showed up.

Okay. Let's play a game. I'll show pictures and you can guess where I am. Ready. Go!

Do you know? Here's another clue.

But then we went here:

And here, too. :) Oh my gosh, the Harry Potter ride is AWESOME!

I am attending The National Conference for Teachers of English conference this week. The first two sessions started this afternoon. The best thing happened--Shar got seats for her and me at the table with Brian Cambourne!

If you would like to take a look at his foundational work for literacy instruction check this out:
(I'm not pushing the book advertised on this page, but it has a quick summary.) I'll post some of the gems I get at this conference.

P.S. It was 80 degrees, today.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pause NaNo--Outline

What am I reading now? Mystic and Rider (Sharon Shinn)
Annnd . . . what do I think of it so far? Fantasy, swords, magic and romance--I love this kind of book! (Ignore the Fabio-type cover; I promise it's a good book.)

The day before starting NaNoWriMo, I realized I only had one plot point for the outline of the story I wanted to write. Chapter 1: the main character dies. Yes--I'm new at this. But from what I heard at Death Camp (Dave Farland's) and ideas from other writer friends, I decided to stop writing for a little while and jot out an outline. Not full blown but enough to have ideas to spur some more writing.

Here's how the outline format I used came out (click here to download).

What I learned #1
Oh, I knew I needed to outline and kinda knew how plot points worked, but my epiphany came that I needed to plot all the character arcs for the main characters, then combine them together, weaving them through the story and trying to have peaks and valleys for each character in different chapters.

What I learned #2
The Rule of 3--
If you need to give an example in the story? Give three.
The characters have to decide where to go? There are three choices.
When a character is debating herself, she changes her mind three times.
(Thus the three dots on the outline page to remind me.)

Also, A Teaching Tip: A couple of posts ago I attached a page that listed reading skills and strategies that children learn as they begin reading. I'm putting a list of how to teach some of those items. Click here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chocolate Mousse

What am I reading now? The Hourglass Door (Lisa Mangum) actually, I'm rereading it for book club tomorrow
Annnd. . .what do I think so far? Fun read, especially for early teen girls; what's not to love about time travel, a rock band and kisses that stop time?

I'm feeling very chocolatey today. Here's one of my favorite recipes; it's an original for chocolate mousse.

In a microwavable bowl heat 14 oz. of chocolate chips, 1/4 teaspoon rum extract and 4 Tablespoons of butter for 30 seconds, stir, heat 20 seconds, stir, heat 15 seconds and let sit to finish melting.

In another bowl combine 1 cup milk with one small package sugar-free instant chocolate pudding mix. Beat until thick then place in microwave for 20 seconds to take the chill off. Add chocolate mixture to pudding and beat on low until smooth.

Place 1 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream in bowl and mix to stiff peaks. Stir 1/2 cup of whipped cream into pudding then fold in the rest in batches of 1/3 of remaining mixture.


Usually, I take a package of crescent rolls, and cut each one in half then place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with a bit of sugar, cook at 375 for 8-10 minutes. I serve a couple of these with the mousse in glass bowls.

I have also used this mousse to make a trifle: Cut brownies into bite size pieces place half in the bottom of bowl, top with 1/2 the mousse, Heath bits and more whipped cream, then repeat the layers.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Teaching for Literate People

What am I reading now? Torment (Lauren Kate)
Annnd. . . What I do I think so far? I'm a succor for a fallen angel book + I loved the first one in this series (Fallen)

My granddaughters were tended by my husband last night. At bedtime, of course, they wanted books read to them--lots of books. :) This morning they sat at the dining table and wrote their own books. We stapled together pages of paper and they chatted and drew and shared the pages of their current Works In Progress. (They may not make the NaNo 50,000 but they started and finished something!)

The five-year-old wanted an animal book, so she said words slowly and wrote letters she knew beside the pictures. The three-year-old made a book about her family. She drew pictures of people and pets then asked me to write the names in by each one.

I wasn't a teacher when my own daughters were at these ages so I didn't notice their developing expertise with literacy. Here's a big idea, if we could help all children understand that there is a point to what they read, we would solve a few reading difficulties. Both of my granddaughters were driven by meaning when they organized their books with a main idea. (Okay, the three-year-old digressed a bit when she added the page of the dragon to the family book. She read that page, "Dragons are dangerous." And again when she threw in a wild pink and blue roller coaster--but seriously every book can be improved with a little action sprinkled throughout.)

For the last couple of months, I have been teaching inservice sessions on how people develop literacy over a school career, and how our classroom instruction can better support students' developing literacies. There's a transition in the development flow from hearing and seeing then speaking to the point when the child begins to read and write.

One piece that makes the transition difficult for some children is that the language of books (either read by or written by students) is decontextualized. Instead of a child reporting, "I am eating," a book might say "I ate." Instead of a child saying, "I am at my grandma's house," a child would write, "I went to my grandma's house for Thanksgiving," when they tell about the event later. Reading and writing require a past-tense vocabulary and grammar structures that children may not have practiced, if they haven't had experiences with being read to a lot or writing their own little books.

When children without lots of these experiences have to read, they also have to learn new words and language structures at the same time. Wow--that's a lot of work! So the moral of this story is: Developing Oral Language isn't optional for children in school (and hopefully before). It is essential, if we want to help children become literate.

Teaching Tip: Here's the latest version of a chart I've used for thinking about what to teach and when to teach it to beginning readers. It is a great resource for lessons and mini-lessons.

Click here to download the page.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Vacation & Literacy

Vacation and Literacy

What am I reading now? WRONG NUMBER (Rachelle J. Christensen)
Annnnd. . . what do I think so far? Chapter 1--gripped. Middle--cried a few times and very nervous at others. Ending--satisfied

I'm on vacation this week. Woo-hoo! I know some of you are wondering what I do in my spare time, right? The rest of you are already answering, "Work." True. But only kinda-sorta.

I'm at Death Camp (a writing workshop by David Farland) in St. George. One of the ideas we talked about today is the concept of "character circuitry" in the role of crafting conflict in a story. The basic idea is that one character's actions or traits feed into the actions or traits of the next character. This happens on positive or negative interactions. For example: In one of my favorite YAs, Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantasky (odd title but a FUN read--love Lucius's letters home--LOL) the main character, Jessica, is fed up with Lucius. He is pursuing her for an arranged marriage that she wants no part of.

His character trait of being arrogant repels her further away from him. The circuitry of he-wants-her-and-pursues-her feeds into her feelings of disgust toward him--so negative circuit. However, there is a positive circuit also--he's gorgeous and as soon as she decides she wants him, he doesn't want her. (No more spoiler; go read the book.) The switch is flipped and the circuit goes the other way.

Character circuitry keeps us reading--and maybe writing. ;)

Teaching Tip:
I've had a request from a few teachers in the last couple of weeks to know where I got my easel. My brother-in-law made it for me. I sketched out some plans and he made it work and I love it. Actually, it is twelve years old and we are still using it for inservice classes since I'm not in the classroom any more.

Click here for the plans.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy B-Day, Blog

What am I reading now? The View from Saturday (E.L. Konigsburg)
Annnnd. . . what do I think so far? Abandoning

Busy week!
I've been teaching all week--all week--one full-day session with kindergarten teachers and six half-day sessions with Reading Recovery Teachers, plus one half-day spent demo'ing a comprehension lesson then a guided reading lesson in a 3rd grade classroom, (This was my favorite part of the whole week. I love teaching.) so this weekend I'm sitting around relaxing (read~learning to develop a blog).

What you might see here if you follow:
•Super secret tips for teaching
•Great original recipes
•Crazy thoughts and ideas
•Shocking personal details (okay, probably nothing truly shocking, but I'm pitching for followers *wink*)

Here's the first teaching tidbit.
5 Ws & and H
It's a wheel for students to use (Oo, physical mediator) to add more details to their stories. Cut them out and put them together with a brass butterfly brad then model how to use it by aligning two words to ask yourself a question. Such as: 'Where' 'is' the main character now? Then answer the question aloud, place a caret in your story and write the answer into your story.

Download template for 5W's & an H here.