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.