Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Last Entry--Sasquatch Spotted on Saturn?

 Today, I am desperate for one more entry in my PiBoIdMo notebook. (I like to think of it as an idea notebook for middle-grade/YA novels.) One final book idea to go and my list will be complete. The 30 ideas in 30 days challenge for Picture Book Idea Month has been an incredible journey. The days are flying fast, but this morning I came to a screeching halt. The blank entry stared at me and snickered. Was that a sneer?!
I slammed my notebook shut. Take that! I went to checking e-mails. On the front of Yahoo's homepage, I scanned over the Top Ten list of breaking stories. Lists. I love lists. I make lists for the grocery store, for my day, for just about anything in life.
The Top Ten list looked at me and smiled, and I stared blankly back. One at a time, the random bits of information popped off the page. 
#3    Big Foot/new DNA found
#5    Family of 5 die in a house fire in rural Ohio in a 130 year old farm home.
#8    Some famous actress gets manslaughter
#10  Huge Saturn Vortex found
      If there's not a story there (or two), then I've got my head stuck in the sand. Can't you just see Big Foot running loose on a farm while teaming up with a Hollywood has-been? Then their brains get sucked into Saturn's huge Vortex! Oh, how will they ever make it out alive?
     OK, but really something could possibly work in that myriad of messy ideas. Ever read Monster by Frank Peretti? Fantastic Sasquatch book where Big Foots are genectically engineered and accidentally let loose into the forests of the Northwest.
    Christmas is coming and, there is bound to be a list in your hand some time this season. And if you are a writer, I dare you to look through the Top Ten breaking stories. You might be surprised. There's a wealth of book ideas just ripe for the picking. Happy Listing!

Friday, November 16, 2012


     I just drank another medium mocha cappuccino, in other words, creativity in a cup! November is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. When I taught fifth grade several years ago, my class participated in NaNoWriMo. My students were excited to write their own novels and then share them with the class.
     Although I didn't actually sign up this year for NaNoWriMo, I did participate. I also joined PiBoIdMo. Are you laughing yet?! It stands for Picture Book Idea Month. Those crazy writers! you are probably saying about now. Even though my passion for writing is geared toward middle-school age, I found myself intrigued with all the wonderful authors and illustrators that posted so far this month. With my notebook in hand, I jotted down wonderful ideas for middle grade fiction novels and more ideas for advanced picture-book biographies of great Americans.
     One of the aritcles posted discussed stealing ideas from your children or from someone else's children. Hey, we gotta do what it takes! When several ladies from my critique group suggested we exchange middle grade fiction novels, I was thrilled!  I grabbed my ideas and wrote furiously the entire month of October.
     I had just finished a conversation with my oldest son, when a flash back from this past summer hit me, BAM! My head spun, making me dizzy. I just cranked out a 20,000-word novel. I fight it for a few seconds. I argue with myself, but I give in--the new idea is powerful, exciting, and hopefully never been done before. I grab my computer and start cranking out another novel. (The book idea is in Top Secret mode right now. Sorry!)
    One week later, my novel is finished and my nails are nibbled to nubs. Actually, I only chew on one nail. Thanks to NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo for the inspiration. And a special thanks to my oldest son, S. Austin Hawes, (Isn't that a cool name?;-) for the spark that ignited this brand new novel.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Yellow Tree Surprise!

     The autumn afternoon brightens my paper. I try to pen the colorful scene in my backyard, but the  rusty red leaves keep falling on my paper. Two yellow trees in the distance, late to lose their leaves, display the perfect fall attire. The twin trees are such a nice surprise. I love discovering a surprise in a story. I also enjoy hanging onto suspense in a mystery. Combine those two elements, and now you're talking! Autumn is the perfect season for surprise and suspense.
     Researching other writers and thier development of these two elements is a whole lot fun. Who doesn' t love a good adventure or mystery? Remember reading Mark Twain's novel, Tom Sawyer? My youngest son is reading the classic for English. No one does it better than Mark Twain. His simple town with a simple mystery creates a ton of suspense and surprise. That simple town based on his childhood home is really Hannibal, Missouri, where I reside.
I pass Cardiff Hill where Widow Douglas lives in the novel. I can still see Injun Joe seeking revenge in the dead of night, and Huck Finn hunkering down scared to death.The Mark Twain cave south of town depicted Tom and Becky lost deep in the labrynth of connected tunnels. Then Injun Joe jumps out of the shadows, surprise!
    Chase and I made puppets (for his English class, of course) of the characters in Tom Sawyer. Injun Joe even looks scary dressed up in felt on a popsicle stick! Try looking for the two elements of surprise and suspense the next time you read a classic novel or a current book hot off the press.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fantastic Fridays

     When Fridays roll around, I seriously don't know who is more excited about art class, me or my students! I was introduced to art at a young age. Staring at my mother's oil paintings hanging over the couch, I used to imagine I was sailing on her painted ship or holding that cute cuddly painted kitten. She let me peek into her art books showing me the correct way to sketch a tree or shade an object. I fell in love with art and with trees. I should have a bumper sticker that says, "I love to draw trees!" Just ask my art students. In the fall we tackle pointilism trees painting bright bold dots for leaves. Amy Carr, Candadian born artist, is an inspiration with her water color tree resist paintings. Next we try our hand at constructing a Gustav Klimt curly tree with metallic paints, not to mention all the fun things we do with leaves!

     I tend to think in terms of snapshots and color. My children think I'm crazy for stopping by the side of the road, "Look at that!" I pull out my camera and snap the perfect picture of a  trio of trees each dressed in their own fall color. "Mom's getting Willow Care for Christmas," they say. I'm pretty sane (I keep telling myself that;-).

    I have a wonderful group of 3rd-6th graders this year. It's important to make art fun and to make art a great learning experience for them. As a child, I was never without a pencil and paper in my hand. My addiction to writing words and drawing pictures first started with my Grandmother, Mary Curtis, a sassy, saucy, southern bred woman full of spunk and pizazz! To quiet me and my sister in church, she would reach deep into her purse. At first, I thought she was going to pull our a whip! She smiled kindly handing us tiny pencils and brand new shiny notepads. I fell in love.

June #IWSG: Is the ending the end or just the beginning?

              Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of ...