Thursday, December 15, 2016

'Twas the Night Before Christmas, I Was Reading a Book...

Here is a list of my favorite Christmas classics that never fail to get me in the holiday spirit.  As Christmas inches closer, I wrap myself in my favorite cuddly blanket, pour some hot cocoa (the frothy kind, made with real milk, and bobbing marshmallows), and go back to a time when I, too believed in a jolly man in red...


1) A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

2) The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg

3) How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Dr. Seuss

4) "The Gift of the Magi" - O. Henry

5) The Nutcracker - E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrations by Maurice Sendak

6) The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Barbara Robinson

7) The Christmas Box - Richard Paul Evans

8) The Night Before Christmas - Jan Brett

9) The Tailor of Gloucester - Beatrix Potter

10) The Father Christmas Letters - J.R.R. Tolkien


Merry Christmas!!!


"God bless us, everyone!"  Tiny Tim, A Christmas Carol  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Books Make the Best Gifts! Support an Indie Author Today...

Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School

Time to put the freak-out on pause because outgoing, boy-crazy Lucy Pringle and shy, studious, bespectacled CeCee Cruz have the goods on how to make middle school the best three years ever!

Lucy and CeCee-the official self-proclaimed Madison Heights Middle School experts on how to deal with haters, hormones, and hot lunch dilemmas-are ready to demystify swirlie urban legends and dish about academic and social topics. They're keeping it real, lacing diary entries with their own daily escapades regarding skater slacker boyfriend crushes, BFF shopping trips to the mall, and BEE (Bitter Eternal Enemies) text wars. The two seventh graders swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth . . . so help them Good Fairy of Popularity.

In this handbook, two girls who have already survived boyfriends, sleepovers, nerd crushes, detentions, and runaway pimples share helpful hints and lingo lessons that will help tweens not only survive, but thrive while navigating through all the gory glory of middle school.  

Check out Lucy and CeCee's official blog at http://tweengirlsrule.blogspot.com

Winner of Editor's Choice, Rising Star, Paris Festival of Books, San Francisco Festival of Books, and New York Festival of Books.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Books Make the Best Gifts! Support an Indie Author Today...

Pretty Dolls - Young Readers Picture Book

Pretty eyes and pretty hair, we're the best dolls anywhere.
If you were a pretty doll, you'd be up here standing tall...

Gracie is the purple-eyed, one-armed, spiky-haired doll who has won the snuggly arms and heart of Tasha. Only Emily-Nicole, the prettiest porcelain doll in Tasha's collection, will have none of it. What Tasha doesn't know is that when the lights go out, the doll wars begin....Pretty Dolls is Winner of the Reader Views and Character Building Counts Best Children's Book of the Year and featured on TeachingBooks.net and StoryCub.org.





Saturday, November 19, 2016

Ten Prompts for NaNoWriMo!!

Okay, guys!  It's officially NaNoWriMo and the month is getting away from us!  Next week is Thanksgiving and before you know it...

You know where I'm going with this.  If you are finding yourself lacking motivation to get started, here are ten prompts to help pen the first chapter for that award-winning, best-seller:

Ten Prompts for NaNoWriMo

1) A C.E.O. gives a keynote address at a convention when overtaken by a panic attack.

2) A passenger discovers an unattended carryon when flying over the ocean.

3) A book club hostess receives a threatening anonymous note at her own home.

4) A disgruntled claustrophobe finds himself locked in an elevator at work overnight.

5) A weary taxi driver picks up a sinister stranger contemplating suicide who wants to drive around town first.

6) A couple celebrates their anniversary at a cozy restaurant when a mysterious bouquet of flowers is brought to the table.

7) A daughter cleans out her parents’ attic and discovers an urn of ashes.

8) A valedictorian gets arrested for shoplifting right before graduation.

9) An unappreciated secretary calls in sick and goes shopping where she runs into her boss’s wife with another man.

10)  A first-day-on-the-job nanny takes the children to the park where she loses the master key only to have a burglar find it.


Remember, the first rule to writing that novel is No Excuses!  I have to remind myself of that everyday.  NaNoWriMo is a great time to get started, so write on!



Saturday, November 5, 2016

Thrills and Chills Book Club

I’ve never been a fan of the traditional book club for one very good reason – I like to read what I want to read when I want to read it.  I’m kind of stubborn that way.  Perhaps it’s because I was an English major in college and then pursued a master’s in English Education.  The last thing I want in life is someone telling me what to read, when it is due, and to hear everyone's profound opinions about it laced with pressure to share my own.

And there are other reasons…what if everyone hates the book I choose?  Or there is some know-it-all literary blowhard who dominates the conversation?  Or I don't like the wine. Or worse – what if they don't serve wine!?!?

That's it.  After all, reading is a solitary pursuit and if I want to read the latest James Patterson in lieu of Pride and Prejudice, then that is my prerogative.  I don't need to defend my literary choices.  Because frankly, they don’t always deserve defending.  (Secret Alert: I love the occasional detritus diversion as much as the next person!)  Problem solved - I was, am, and always will be anti-book club!  Until recently…

I picked up Paula Hawkin's The Girl on the Train and devoured it.  It was a punch to the gut and I needed to talk to someone about it.  I wanted to pour over the discussion questions.  I wanted to revisit, discuss, and analyze this juicy, twisted plot.  Rachel, Anna, and Megan were delicious characters that merited conversation.  Help!  I needed a book club and fast!  So I created one with the help of Meetup.com entitled: Thrills and Chills Book Club.

The description is as follows: 

I love to read suspense and thriller books.  You know - the kind that make you double check your doors and keep the lights on.  That’s pretty much all I read. Sooooo, I thought it was time to start a book club with likeminded women who love suspense and thrillers as much as I.  Some of my favorite authors are Harlan Coben, Lee Child, J.T. Ellison, Stieg Larsson, Gillian Flynn, Thomas Harris, Mary Kubica, Karin Slaughter, and of course Stephen King.  If you’re looking for a book club that chooses books that make the hairs on your neck stand up, this Book Club Meetup Group is for you!  





The upshot is I love my book club.  Here’s why…it’s a stress free zone for five simple reasons:

*We meet regularly while allowing enough time to actually finish the book.  Every six weeks is perfect.  Life is complicated and busy so we don’t persecute those who don’t finish.  It happens.  M.W.D.H. (Members Who Don’t Read) can still add to the discussion and stimulate conversation.

*We have enough members to make it interesting yet intimate.  Eight to ten is ideal and demographic diversity allows for richer discussion.  Mix it up with age, sex, experience, marital status, etc.

*Book Choices – We take turns choosing the books.  It’s democratic and allows members the opportunity to read a variety of authors while being introduced to new ones.

*Hosting duties should be rotated and stress-free.  You don’t need to be Martha Stewart to pull off a successful book club.  Snacks and beverages should be yum but simple.  Note: It’s okay to serve store bought items if baking isn’t your jam.  Another idea is to hold the book club at a local restaurant.  Just make sure the venue isn't too loud and you speak to the manager beforehand.

*Assign/rotate the discussion leader role to those who feel comfortable acting in this capacity.  Some people don’t feel comfortable leading the discussion, and that’s okay.  Book club shouldn’t feel like a graduate course.    

You can’t beat a good read and good friends!  A book club is one of the best ways to converge these two treasures and rekindle your literary spirit.  Whether your book club likes romance, science fiction, or the latest crowd-pleaser – attend regularly, read, and participate with gusto!  After all, books and people who relish them allow our worlds to grow larger and our problems smaller.  A book club can open the door to new friendships and fresh ideas – so proceed with caution.

Remember what Louis May Alcott said, “She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Students Acting Slothy? Teach Them Something Gothy!

The honeymoon is officially over, and it's about this time that students reveal subtle symptoms of slothy sluggishness.  Consequently, around late September/early October, I reach deep in my literacy bag of tricks for my go-to Gothic Literature unit.  Reading spine-tingling excerpts from DraculaFrankenstein, or Edgar Allan Poe are all but guaranteed to reignite enthusiasm from my students and possibly even the most reluctant of readers who have yet to reveal their literary chops.  (My hope is, in keeping with the theme, they are merely keeping me in suspense!)




That said, before plunging into the dark world of castles, chambers, and creepy cloisters, students require background information on Gothic Literature itself.  It is at this time we examine five basic elements of Gothic Literature, which I have classified into the following categories:


5 Elements of Gothic Literature

1) Elements of Superstition
  • Presence of ghosts, vampires, etc.
  • Unexplained sounds, sights, occurrences
  • Eerie atmosphere
  • Mysterious tone adds to building of tension

2) Emotions and Passions
  • Emotion surpasses rationality
  • Spells of hysteria, lust, and anxiety
  • Frequent crying and screaming
  • Detailed sensory description revealing characters’ passions
  • Characters experience terror and hysteria due to miasmic atmosphere


3) Broken Families
  • Families are often broken, incestuous, or murderous
  • Women subject to lustful wrongdoings 
  • Male characters are tyrannical
  • Women depicted as damsels in distress
  • Family unit confining, from which characters must escape

4) Eerie, mysterious setting
  • Claustrophobic, dark venues such as an old castle, mansion, or abbey
  • Places of fear and dread that portray the world as deteriorating
  • Desperate, dark ruined scenery
  • Surrounding area is dismal and rotting, often adding a haunting flavor of impending doom


5) Distinctive Characters
  • Characters are lonely, isolated, and oppressed
  • Presence of a tyrannical villain 
  • Action revolves around an unrequited love, or illicit love affair 
  • A vendetta or vengeance is a prominent theme

After my students are fully inducted into the world of Gothic Literature, it's time for them to write their own stories.  For inspiration, I offer some creepy music, telling them to listen at their own risk.  (Note to Blog Reader: Play at your own risk!)




Assignment: Write a Gothic Story...

The requirements are as follows:
  • Setting must be a large old house or graveyard
  • An unexplainable, scary event occurs in the house or graveyard 
  • Presence of the supernatural, such as a ghost, vampire, or werewolf
  • Unexplained phenomenon, such as doors slamming shut or lights turning on/off by themselves
  • Highly emotional characters who cry and scream
  • Implementation of Gothic symbols, such as a staircase, shadows, or a full moon.  

With a little inspiration from the darker works of the literary canon, students can't help but get their Goth on.  Whether you are a teacher, writer, or simply have a nagging nostalgia for Manic Panic, it's the perfect time to reach inside YOUR creepy bag of tricks and write your own Gothic tale.  



For more literary Goth inspiration, go to Kimberly's product store at:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Celebrate the Freedom to Read!!

Do you know it's Banned Books Week?

According to the American Library Association, here is a listing of ten classic books that are subject to being banned in American schools.  How many have you read?  Pick up a banned book this week and celebrate the freedom to read!!




1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

2. The Catcher in the Rye

3. To Kill a Mockingbird

4. Bridge to Terabithia

5. The Lord of the Flies

6. Of Mice and Men

7. The Color Purple

8. Harry Potter Series

9. Slaughterhouse Five

10. The Bluest Eye

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Midsouth SCBWI Conference

I had a wonderful time (as always) at the Midsouth SCBWI conference this weekend.  An added bonus was winning an Honorable Mention in the Picture Book Category!!  Thank you Midsouth for the inspirational sessions, camaraderie, and sharing the kid lit writing spirit.   



Sunday, September 4, 2016

10 Not So Cringey Self-Promotion Ideas

Confession: No word gives me more angst than the boastful, hyphenated noun “self-promotion.”  I find the humble brag unsavory, so the thought of soliciting book sales from my middle school crush on Facebook is downright creepy.  Moreover, prowling around on social media websites in search of new friends and followers is a complete time suck.

“That’s it.  Self-promotion isn’t for me,” I confided to an author friend the night at my first book release party.  Biting into a salmon mousse canapé, she smirked amusingly - as if she knew so much better.  (Spoiler Alert: She did!)

Not wanting to rain on my cutesy appetizer-filled book parade, she later called to readjust my oh-so-naive and erroneous ways: “Author can not live by canapé alone.  You wanted to get into this racket.  Own the angst and sell yourself like a Gold Rush harlot!”

Touché.  Self-promotion is fraught with the cringiest of awkward moments, but my more experienced comrade was right.  Combing the social media circuit in search of friends, followers, and readers isn’t just necessary; it’s an integral part of the average author’s day.  I consoled myself with one small, comforting thought:  I can at least be smart about it.

Smart is always easier said than done.  Nonetheless, through a steady upswing of sales, a myriad of book signings, and more hours on social media than I care to admit, I managed to snag some amazing opportunities – all thanks to shameless self-promotion.  Never, for instance, did I think I would interview on an NBC morning show, speak to a room full of two hundred people, or have a tiny pigtailed fan beg me to write a sequel (which, of course, is the best accolade an author can ask for)!

I’ve made peace with self-promotion as a necessary evil that perhaps can’t be cured, but most certainly treated.  Furthermore, when played right, self-promotion can have a resounding ROI - Return on Investment when guided by a few rules:

Rule #1: Fortify your brand with a basic media kit.  The key essentials include an author website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, and some eye-catching business cards.  Invest in a quality headshot taken by a professional photographer that can be used for your website and various promo ops.

Rule #2 – Always show gratitude and be professional – no matter what!  If no one shows up for a book signing, write a gracious thank you note to your host.  Ditto for author presentations.  Speak to your audience, no matter how meager the turnout, as though they are the V.I.P.’s of the world.  Hyper-prepare and be professional at all times, especially online.  It may be tempting to post snarky political comments or an old risqué college pic, but you are bound to offend someone – possibly an ardent agent or esteemed editor.  Don’t! Do! It!

Rule #3 – Choose wisely.  Promotion opportunities, especially ones with an excessive price tag, should be vetted carefully.  Book marketers and publicists will haggle you 24/7 with promises to make you the next Stephenie Meyer, only to drain you emotionally and financially.  Opt for affordable opportunities with a high ROI.

To that end, below are ten smart, economical, and (practically) cringe-less ways to promote yourself, your brand, and your books.



10 (Practically) Cringe-less Self-Promo Ideas 

1) Start weekly Twitter chats with readers.

2) Keyword your blog posts.

3) Create a monthly newsletter with news of upcoming events.

4) Post pictures of fans reading your book.

5) Host a book release party.  (Don’t forget the canapés!)

6) Create a Meet the Author or Writer Meetup group.

7) Provide a book link in your email signature.

8) Write magazine articles that your niche audience might read.

9) Post short stories on your blog.

10) Contact your alma mater. They might be willing to do a story on you.


Now put down the salmon mousse canapé and go sell yourself like a Gold Rush harlot, you brilliant author you!
 (Publishers Weekly, May 2, 2016)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Join Me at Killer Nashville!



Join me this Sunday, August 21st, at the Killer Nashville Writers Conference as I present about writing Point of View.



Sunday, August 21st, 2016 
Embassy Suites Hotel - Franklin, TN

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Parent's Guide to Surviving Middle School!

Back to school is right around the corner.  Only this time your child is entering middle school – that rite of passage where they will undergo academic, social, and developmental challenges like never before.  While your eager middle schooler is raring to go, you may be secretly asking yourself if you’re truly ready for this auspicious journey.  The answer is Yes!  With today’s challenges, middle school may seem like the new high school, but below are six tips on how to make the transition seamless for both you and your child.  Get your brave on and learn how to survive (and thrive) as a parent of a middle schooler…



6 Steps to Swinging Into Middle School With Ease

Prepare:  Middle school isn’t exactly The Hunger Games – but you will fare much better if you know the rules.  Procure a copy of the school’s handbook and read it, ideally with your child.  Be familiar with the school’s policies.  For instance, does the school have a dress code?  Is there a general class supplies list?  What is the protocol for absences, medications, cell phone usage, etc.?  Make sure to complete all emergency card information with several contacts and up-to-date phone numbers for easy communication.  

Volunteer:  Join the PTA, PTO, or Booster Club.  Introduce yourself to the principal, counselor, and teachers letting them know you are available to assist wherever needed.
With school funding at a premium, some ways parents can help are volunteering in the computer lab, chaperoning field trips, selling concessions, leading a book club, or supervising dances.  If working with students one-on-one, be sure to check the district’s policy on parent volunteer fingerprinting and/or background checks.

Be a Study Buddy:  Check homework once a week or more if your child is struggling. Designate a study time and place free of distractions with adequate supplies, including pencils, paper, dictionary, and calculator.  Calendar long-term projects, and be available for assistance or hire a tutor if needed.  Many schools offer free after-the-bell tutoring programs or intervention services.  Encourage and teach time management and organization skills – before social networking, cell phone, and television time.

Communicate:  In elementary school, teachers call home if there is an academic issue, but in middle school the report card is often a parent’s first notification that their child is struggling.  To avoid Report Card Shock Syndrome and address problems early on, attend Back-to-School Night and all parent/teacher conferences.  Introduce yourself to your child’s teachers, provide email contact information, and let them know you want to work as a team.  In middle school, each teacher has their own way of posting homework, grading, and communicating with parents.  Ask for a copy of the class syllabus. Communication is key to your child’s success.

Get Social:  Your child’s circle of friends will most likely be at the top of their priority list. This is a good time to rally your own parental BFF’s, if nothing else for moral support.  In short, get to know the parents of your child’s friends.  Arrange a lunch to establish common norms for sleepovers, social networking, etc.  Discuss bullying and implementing appropriate safety precautions.  Talk over the school’s vision and what you can do as parents to make it the best place it can be.

Be a Cheerleader:  As your child enters middle school, he or she will tackle academic, social, and peer related issues.  There will be laughter and there will be tears.  Let your child know that you are their greatest fan and support.  Encourage their strengths and interests with extracurricular activities such as clubs, sports, band, and foreign language. When a problem arises, be there to help but also just to listen.  At the end of the day, sometimes a tween just needs a sympathetic ear.  Middle school is a challenge, but never let your child forget that you are their ultimate BFF and secret cheerleader.

Have a tween going into middle school?  Make sure they feel positive and prepared with Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School: 




This nostalgic read is both fun and informative in its perspective of middle school existence. The author's use of tweenie vernacular adds to character development and theme relevance.  - Readers Favorite

(Dana) knows her audience well, and has pitched this book to them perfectly, packing useful information into a fun, frothy read....Any sixth grade girl who's facing middle school as if it were a firing squad will find great comfort here.  Both entertaining and useful, How to Survive is a winner.  Starred Review - BlueInk Review 

Lucy and CeCee's guide to middle-school survival is a fast-paced, funny, and insightful book that will serve to clarify typical teen lingo and behavior for adults and give guidelines to tween and teenage kids who are having trouble navigating the middle-school milieu. - Clarion Reviews

But while the girls' teachings are often amusing, what really makes Dana's book exceptional are the girls themselves....Lucy and CeCee's target audience may consist solely of tweens, but this is a book that can educate readers of any age. - Kirkus Reviews

With plenty of humor and adventure, "Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School" is a strongly recommended addition to young adult fiction collections, not to be missed.  - Midwest Book Review


Saturday, July 2, 2016

Scene + Sequel = Story

Which is more important – plot or story?  It’s a writer’s debate as old as a scroll of papyrus.

The simple answer is both are critical to a satisfying read.  You book nerds know what I’m talking about.  The kind of read where ordinary life comes to a screeching halt.  You skip meals, stop returning phone calls, and maybe miss a hair wash or two - just so you can keep flipping those pages or swipe that screen.

So, what exactly is the difference between plot and story?  Although they are often used interchangeably, plot is the protagonist’s physical journey.  Story is the protagonist’s emotional journey. What we’re really talking about is scenes and sequels.  There are many ways you can look at this, but it really comes down to cause and effect.  Scenes are the CAUSE of a protagonist’s actions and Sequels are the EFFECT of those actions.  Put another way, scenes show and sequels tell.


SCENE

Goal + Conflict = Disaster
Goal – What the character wants.  Must be clearly definable
Conflict – Series of obstacles that keep the character from the goal
Disaster – Makes the character fail to get the goal

If a scene is truly effective, the protagonist will fail to reach his or her goal and be worse off than before.  (Again, this drives the story forward keeps those pages flipping like Grandma’s pancakes).   Side note: Time always unifies a scene!


SEQUEL

Reaction + Dilemma = Decision
Reaction – Emotional follow through of the disaster
Dilemma – A situation with no good options
Decision – Character makes a choice and sets up a new goal


If a sequel is truly effective, it will turn the disaster into a new established goal (which won’t be met, of course, until perhaps the end of the story).  It will establish the character’s motivation and force him or her to make a choice, which is the key to suspending disbelief.   This is the time for any character soul-searching or backstory.  Side note: Topic always unifies a sequel!

So to spring back to my original point, both scenes and sequels are what cause the reader to flip pages or swipe screens.  They both drive the story.  By using scenes and sequels effectively, you as the author control the pace of the story.

For instance, scenes read fast because they’re active keeping the reader engaged, whereas sequels slow down the pace of the story.  They give the reader time to breathe and contemplate as they TELL what happens rather than SHOW the events.  (The protagonist also takes five as they emote about the success or failure of their actions and think about options for Plan B, i.e. a new scene).  

Writing should flow like a song.  As with anything melodious, it requires harmony and balance.  By interweaving plot and story or scenes and sequels, a writer honors both the pace of the story and the evolution of the character.

So the next time you’re sitting around with your own Algonquin round table writing pals, and the topic of plot versus story comes up, lay it on thick with the scenes and sequels argument.  I don’t know about the sequel part but you’re sure to make a scene!



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Skype an Author Visit Today!

Should one believe the hype about Skype?  Absolutely, yes!

My most recent Skype author visit was with the phenomenal fourth grade students from Schwarzkopf Elementary School in Lutz, Florida.  While nothing can replace a personal visitation, Skype allowed for an efficient, rewarding experience, bringing the students and me together in a personal and entertaining format.  The precocious tweens had prepared questions in advance and having read Lucy and CeCee’s How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School, they were eager to discuss the book and writing process in general.  In short, it was a glorious morning!

So for us non-techy types, what exactly is Skype?  Skype is an Internet telephone service that allows one to connect with others by video, telephone, or voice messaging.  Once you download the Skype software, setting up an account is relatively easy, and utilizing basic services such as video calls is free, which is economical for schools that are often challenged with limited budgets.

Some Skype Author Tips I share with librarians and teachers to help the presentation go smoothly as possible and maximize our time together include the following:

Download Skype and open an account if your school doesn’t have one already.  (Contact your technology coordinator to make sure you can use the software. Some districts block programs like Skype, and if that’s the case, you’ll want to see if it’s possible to unblock it for your program). Test it out at school to make sure it works.

Contact the author to arrange your virtual visit. Set a date and time and decide which videoconferencing program you’ll use and who will initiate the call.

Plan the presentation. How long will it last?  Will students gather around a computer or will the author be projected on a big screen?  Where will kids stand or sit so they can be seen and heard?  Have kids write questions on index cards in advance to keep the discussion moving.

The day before, set up a “trial call” with the author to make sure everything is working on both ends.

Make sure the kids understand that your connection may be lost temporarily during the chat. It helps to have a plan in place for when that happens.

On the day of the presentation during Q and A, if the kids seem reticent, you might start things off with a question or two to prompt discussion.

If your connection is lost, don’t panic. Just call the author back. It may take a few tries before you establish a good connection.

Keep an eye on the clock, and let students know when it’s almost time to wrap up the discussion.


Skype author presentations are a win-win for both authors and schools, who most certainly will integrate them into prevailing Blended Learning curriculum and digital instruction.  They are a time saver for busy authors and a money saver for schools.  Most importantly, Skype author presentations provide an opportunity for an interactive connection among the literary troika of author, student, and text.  Online, interactive school visits are the wave of the future as students, authors, and educators can dialog about the joy of expressing oneself through the written word.

Happy Skyping!

You can use the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Speakers Bureau to find authors who Skype at http://www.scbwi.org/speakers-bureau/






Thirty Sample Student Questions to Ask Authors During Skype Interviews

1. When did you first start writing?

2. What is the hardest part about writing a book?

3. How do you know when a book is finished?

4. How do you keep track of the different characters, events, and places?

5. What time of day do you do your best/ most productive writing?

6. What do you do with random ideas that pop into your head when you can't write them down?

7. What inspired your first book?

8. Do you map out the entire plot? Or just write as it comes to you?

9. What do you do when you get stuck or experience writer’s block?

10. What are your tips/ secrets about writing for any up and coming author who may need help/ encouragement?

11. When you are not writing, what do you like to do for fun?

12. What books do you enjoy reading? (favorite genre, author, book, etc.)

13. How long does it take you to write a book?

14. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

15. How do books get published?

16. Do you edit or proofread your own books?

17. How do you research information or ideas for your books?

18.  What does your family (parents, spouse, kids) think of your writing?

19.  How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

20.  Do you have a favorite character?  Which character would be your best friend?

21.  Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

22.  Are people ever critical of your books?  How does it make you feel?

23.  What audience do you write for?

24.  What do you think makes a good story?

25.  How did you come up with the title?

26.  Is there an overall message or theme in your books that you want readers to grasp?

27.  How much of the book is based on real life or someone you know?

28.  What books or authors have most influenced your writing?

29.  What are your current writing projects?

30.  Who designed the cover(s) of your book(s)?





For more information on Skype Author presentations, please visit my website:


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sensational Teen and Tween Summer Reads

As we all fondly recall, summer vacation is the ultimate!  Staying up late into the night, basking in the golden sun, slurping up frothy ice cream concoctions, and yes - hopefully reading a good book or two or three...or three in one day.  And why not?  It's summer, after all.

Here is a list of twelve of my 2016 fave summer reads for tweens and teens.  The list includes some classics and some contemporary, depending on personal choice.  Either way, tweens/teens will have a blast getting their read on!!!



Kimberly's 2016 Summer Reading List for Tweens and Teens


1) The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

2) Bone Gap - Laura Ruby

3) The House on Mango Street - Sandra Cisneros

4) Paper Towns - John Green

5) The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu

6) Go Set a Watchman - Harper Lee

7) The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton

8) The Best of Roald Dahl - Roald Dahl

9) If I Stay - Gayle Forman

10) The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

11) Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

12) Girl Online - Zoe Sugg




HAPPY READING!!!!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Get Your D.E.A.R. On!!

D.E.A.R. is an educational acronym that stands for Drop Everything and Read.  It’s much frothier than the dated S.S.R. – Silent Sustained Reading, which sounds a bit torturous to even the most avid reader.



April 12th is the official National D.E.A.R Day.  It is the birthday of the beloved author Beverly Cleary who created one of my all-time favorite childhood characters – Ramona Quimby.  On National D.E.A.R. Day, families are encouraged to read together while promoting books as an integral part of daily life.

So how will you be celebrating D.E.A.R. Day?  Fun activities to do with family, friends, or an impassioned book club include making bookmarks, reading favorite passages, and acting out scenes.  Character charades, anyone?  While April 12th is official D.E.A.R. day, every day is a great day to Drop Everything and Read!  So – drop those agonizing bills, take a break from Facebook, and get your read on!

For classroom activities and lessons corresponding to D.E.A.R., visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:



Saturday, April 2, 2016

Celebrate National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world.

Why should we devote an entire month to honor words written in verse?  Because poetry is the language of the soul.  When life drowns us with its dark moments, poetry throws us a raft – a verbal sanctuary of healing and beauty.

So I urge you to release your inner poet and succumb to the sensory language, rhythm, flavor, call and response of poetry.  Feel the human spirit and universality of life's shared stories in a stanza.  Read or write a poem this month.  Restore your spirit.  Restore your soul.





Ten Favorite Poems

  1. “Sick” – Shel Silverstein
  2. “Phenomenal Woman” – Maya Angelou
  3. “Annabel Lee” – Edgar Allan Poe
  4. “Oranges” – Gary Soto
  5. “The Road Not Taken” – Robert Frost
  6. Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare
  7. “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” – Robert Herrick
  8. “The Kiss” – Sara Teasdale
  9. “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” – Dylan Thomas 
  10. Fragment 31 – Sappho




April Challenge:  Write a Cinquain

A cinquain is five line poem that follows this lyrical pattern:

1) a word for the title
2) two adjectives
3) three verbs
4) a phrase
5) the title again – or synonym


Example:

Chocolate
Dark or milk
Smooth, silky, sweet
Best thing ever
Yum! 


Eyes
Large, mysterious
Watching, rolling, blinking
Tell more than words
Soul-windows


Cinquain
Short, sweet
Five, simple steps
Maybe not so easy…
Voila!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tween Fever Hits Coffee County Middle School!

I had a amazing time at Authors' Night at Coffee County Middle School in Manchester, TN.  The students were ebullient and full of questions about how to become a writer.  It was such an inspiration.  Thank you, Coffee County Middle School!



For more information on Kimberly Dana Author Events, please visit my website at http://kimberlydana.com/author_visits_19.html

Monday, March 14, 2016

Introducing the Teach & Reach Bundle

As an educator for over twenty years, it occurred to me one day while reflecting on my pedagogy (because this is what we teachers do in our free time!) that while I’m teaching, I’m not always reaching.  Or perhaps the opposite - I might be reviewing a skill or concept that I just assume my students understand - without ever actually having taught it.

Cogitating on my own instructional disconnect helped me to create the Teach & Reach Bundle.  Teach & Reach Bundles are an all-inclusive easy way to teach skills and concepts while reaching 100% student engagement and proficiency in no time.

Here’s how it works:
1) You TEACH the content with an easy-to-understand, kid-friendly, comprehensive instructional PowerPoint.
2) Students REACH proficiency as they review and practice the content with engaging, hands-on Task Cards that allow you to quickly assess for comprehension.

Teach & Reach Bundles are all-inclusive Common Core aligned lessons that are guaranteed to work.  Why?  As educators, we teach but not always reach.  Or, we may have students review the skill without ever actually teaching the concept.  But let’s face it…Who has the time to create daily PowerPoints and eye-catching task cards?  YOU do - with the all-inclusive Teach & Reach Bundle!



10 Benefits of the Teach & Reach Bundle:

Bundles are instructional time-friendly!  They can be done in one lesson.
Bundles are perfect for standout evaluations.  You’ll shine as your evaluator commends your use of materials, creativity, and content.
Bundles are minimal prep work – it’s all there!
Bundles are green – they require no copying.
Bundles are time savers that last for years!
Bundles work!  Research shows task cards are a hands-on, high yield strategy.
Bundles are super sub friendly…Keep them learning even when you’re not there!
Bundles have built in standardized test prep so no need to stress come spring!  You’re prepping for high stakes testing all year round.
Bundles make collaboration easy.  Share the wealth of your knowledge and resources with your colleagues the easy way.
Bundles are Easy for you – Engaging for them!!


Teach & Reach Bundles are featured on TeachersPayTeachers.  Add Teach & Reach Bundles to your teaching library today!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

How to Write a Thrilling Short Story

The Bennies of Short Story Writing

Just about everyone I know wants to be a novelist.  But let’s be honest.  Writing a book is a long and tedious process that can take years to finish.  To that end, almost every wannabe novelist I know never even comes close to finishing that elusive manuscript.  Even writing that first chapter can be a daunting task!

But writing a short story is an attainable endeavor with many benefits to the aspiring writer.  At 1,000 – 4,000 words, there is power in the short story.  It’s lean and mean, and can be read in one sitting.  The short story allows the writer the opportunity to explore the uncharted territory of a plot, character, or setting and make it pop!  In addition, one can experiment with other genres, develop their style, and use their short story to expand their platform as a marketing tool.  But most importantly, crafting a short story teaches the writer a vital skill: word economy.  To paraphrase my idol Stephen King, writing is “refined thinking.”  Nothing could be truer than when writing a short story, where the prose must be clean, compact, and concise.  If you are prone to a producing a bloated manuscript, trim the fat and turn it into a short story.  It’s quicker to write and if you’re lucky, quicker to sell.  


SWBS – Somebody Wanted But So…

Okay, so the benefits of writing a short story are clear, but the question still plagues most spinners of words.  How do I write a compelling story in a condensed timeframe, i.e. one sitting?  One word – conflict!  Conflict creates the need for story in the first place.  It is what adds tension and moves the story forward.  Without conflict, there is no story!

You need proof?  Think back in school when you first learned about story structure through Freytag’s Triangle.  Do you recall what’s on top?  Climax!  It is the decision-making, sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat moment of the conflict-ridden protagonist that determines the story’s outcome.
When I teach my middle school students about conflict, we use the following SWBS Statement:
Somebody ___________________________ Wanted ___________________________ But_______________________ So __________________________________.  (It is the “but” that is the heart of the conflict in the story).

Let’s look at a few examples of conflict in three classic short stories: “The Necklace,” “The Monkey’s Paw,” and “The Lottery,” paying particular attention to the “but” element.  Note: Major Spoiler Alerts!

“The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant
Somebody Madame Loisel wanted to appear rich at a party BUT lost the fake necklace she borrowed so she spent years paying it off.

“The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs
Somebody The White family wanted to wish for money on a cursed monkey’s paw BUT their son Herbert got killed so they unwisely wished him back to life.

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
Somebody The Hutchinsons wanted to uphold the town’s traditions BUT Tessie won the lottery so she’s stoned to death.


The Thrilling Threesome 

Okay, conflict rules.  But how do I actually get started?  It’s literally as easy as 1-2-3.  Think of a thrilling threesome story prompt consisting of 1) character, 2) setting, and 3) a compelling conflict.
Here are ten short story prompts just begging to be penned into a story:


Ten Thrilling Threesome Short Story Prompts

1) A C.E.O. (character) gives a keynote address at a convention (setting) when overtaken by a panic attack (conflict).

2) A passenger (character) discovers an unattended carryon (conflict) when flying over the ocean (setting).

3) A book club hostess (character) receives a threatening anonymous note (conflict) at her own home (setting).

4) A disgruntled claustrophobe (character) finds himself locked in an elevator (conflict) at work overnight (setting).

5) A weary taxi driver (character) picks up a sinister stranger contemplating suicide (conflict) who wants to drive around town first (setting).

6) A couple (character) celebrates their anniversary at a cozy restaurant (setting) when a mysterious bouquet of flowers is brought to the table (conflict).

7) A daughter (character) cleans out her parents’ attic (setting) and discovers an urn of ashes (conflict).

8) A valedictorian (character) gets arrested for shoplifting (conflict) right before graduation (setting).

9) An unappreciated secretary (character) calls in sick and goes shopping (setting) where she runs into her boss’s wife with another man (conflict).

10) A first-day-on-the-job nanny (character) takes the children to the park (setting) where she loses the master key only to have a burglar find it (conflict).



Need Suspense?  Implement G.E.M.

Okay, now that you have a thrilling story starter, throw in a little suspense, which of course is the secret sauce to story telling.  It’s easy with G.E.M. – an acronym I created to front-load my students when teaching the craft of suspense writing.  G.E.M. stands for Gothicism, Expansion of Time, and Magic of Three.

GOTHICISM: All suspense stories can benefit from an element of the gothic genre, such as the supernatural; an eerie, mysterious setting; emotion over passion; or distinctive characters who are lonely, isolated, and/or oppressed.  Throw in a tyrannical villain, a vendetta, or an illicit love affair - you've got Goth gold!  Why Gothicism?  It explores the tragic themes of life and the darker side of human nature.  What’s more, readers are innately attracted to it.  No one wants to read about someone’s perfectly wonderful life.  It’s boring.  Remember – conflict rules!

EXPANDING TIME: Next, I introduce the art of expanding time using foreshadowing, flashback, and implementing "well, um ...maybe…let me see” dialogue."  Expanding time allows the writer to twist, turn, and tangle up the plot.  “Tease your audience,” I tell my students.  “Pile on the problems and trap your protagonist with a ticking clock.  Every second counts with suspense!”  There is an old writing adage that says to write slow scenes fast and fast scenes slow.  By delaying the big reveal, we build tension and punch up the plot but with one caveat.  Expanding time demands a fine-tuned craftiness when writing a short story because of course, your time is limited.  Remember, every word counts!  

MAGIC OF THREE: Finally, the Magic of Three comes into play.  The Magic of Three is a writer's trick where a series of three hints lead to a major discovery.  During the first hint, the protagonist detects something is amiss.  The second hint sparks a more intense reaction but nothing is discovered - yet.  And then - BANG!  The third hint leads to a discovery or revelation.  During the big reveal, I teach my students to use and manipulate red flags and phrases, such as Suddenly, Without warning, In a blink of an eye, Instantly, A moment later, Like a shot, To my shock, and To my horror.      

Adding suspense to your short story tantalizes your readers and breeds amazing results.  It’s what makes a perfectly adequate story “un-put-downable.”  So go ahead, and write a short story that explodes with tension!  1) Start with a thrilling threesome.  2) Punch up the plot with conflict.  3) And, sprinkle it with suspense.  Not only will you hone your craft and have your readers begging for more, it could morph into something bigger - like that elusive novel that no longer seems so impossibly unattainable.  Write on!


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Remember and Celebrating Harper Lee

As we remember and celebrate the deeply influential Harper Lee, I couldn't help but think back on the effect To Kill a Mockingbird had on me as an eighth grader.  Its message still resonates with readers today as it imparts a powerful lesson: empathy.

Scout learns how to empathize with people who are different than her, many of whom are symbolic mockingbirds shunned by society, including Walter Cunningham, Boo Radley, Mayella Ewell, and Tom Robinson.  As Atticus explains to Scout, "“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

I haven't taught To Kill a Mockingbird for several years, but I picked up a copy this weekend and started to read it.  I was of course transfixed and before I knew it, created several projects and activities for my future students.  It's apparent that to celebrate Harper Lee is to celebrate this powerful book.

So when was the last time you read To Kill a Mockingbird?  How well do you remember the book?    Take the quiz below to find out:

To Kill a Mockingbird Recall Quiz


1) What is Dill’s real name?
(A) Jack Harris    
(B) William Peter Harris
(C) Charles Baker Harris    
(D) Truman Harris

2) What does Jem use to try to deliver a message to Boo Radley?
(A) A fishing pole  
(B) A rock
(C) A paper airplane  
(D) A slingshot

3) What does Scout dress up as for the Halloween pageant?
(A) An eggplant  
(B) A ham
(C) A werewolf  
(D) A mouse

4) The story takes place in
(A) Atlanta, Georgia
(B) Maycomb, Alabama
(C) Nashville, Tennessee  
(D) Maycomb, Georgia

5) What is the name of the mad dog?
(A) Heck Tate
(B) Tom Johnson
(C) Tim Johnson  
(D) Dolphus Raymond

6) Tom Robinson's wife is named
(A) Hannah
(B) Mayella
(C) Maudie  
(D) Helen

7) During the trial, Atticus proves -
(A) Tom Robinson wasn’t even in town the night of Mayella’s alleged rape.  
(B) Mayella Ewell is a perpetual liar and needs psychologcial help.
(C) Tom Robinson is left-handed and therefore, guilty.
(D) Mayella Ewell was most likely beaten up by a left-handed man.

8) During the trial, what makes Mayella think Atticus is making fun of her?
(A) He shakes her hand.  
(B) He calls her Miss Mayella.
(C) He sneers when she tells her story.
(D) He laughs at what she’s wearing.

9) What does Atticus read to Scout the night of Bob Ewell’s attack?
(A) The Bible  
(B) The Gray Ghost
(C) The Maycomb Tribune  
(D) Robinson Crusoe

10) How does the Sheriff contend Bob Ewell died?
(A) Heart attack
(B) Boo Radley stabbed him.
(C) Jem Finch stabbed him.  
(D) He fell on his own knife.


Answers
1) C,  2) A,  3) B,  4) B,  5) C,  6) D,  7) D,  8) B,  9) B,  10) D





"[Courage] is when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."  Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird


For more TKAM classroom activities and reading support materials, please visit my store at: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/To-Kill-a-Mockingbird-Unit-Bundle-1965242

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Advice by Lucy and CeCee: How to Snag a Hottie in Time for Valentine's Day

Okay, let's be honest.  No one wants to fly solo on the day that shall be nameless.  But the clock is a ticking.  So if you need a sweetie for the Valentine's Day Dance or just for general appearances (oops, we said it!) - here are some quick tips...  

Find a good candidate starting with someone who likes you for you. Other quality traits to look for in a guy are sweet, funny, and genuine. And let’s face it: cute doesn’t hurt, either. Stay away from boys who ego trip or only think about themselves.




When talking to him the first few times, you may be a little nervous. If so, ask him questions about himself or his classes. Here are some good questions to ask:


  • What's on your playlist?  
  • Do you have (name a teacher)? How is your project coming along?
  • Are you going to the football game on Friday?
  • Do you know what time the bell rings?


Try to be friends first and get to know him in a casual setting. This will make the going-out stuff less awkward.

If you want to ask a guy out, approach him when he’s alone—not when he’s hanging with “the guys” and absolutely not when he’s talking with another girl. If the coast is clear, pop a breath mint, take a deep breath, and go for it!

Do a little recon investigation, and find out what your dude is into. If he likes sports, talk about a local or state team; if he likes music, chat up tunes and bands.

Don’t talk too much about yourself. For most guys, this is a turnoff.

If he makes a joke, laugh. Guys like to think they belong on Comedy Central.

If you’re apt to blush when you gush, don’t fret. Most guys think this is cute.

Make signs that you like him and are interested by smiling, making eye contact, lightly touching his arm, and the like.

It sounds dorky, but practice talking to your crush in the mirror. When the time comes, you’ll be a silver-tongued smoothie.

Helpful Hint #1: Don’t be a psycho-stalker.  Guys are pretty simple to figure out. If they like you, you’ll know it. If they don’t, move on.

Helpful Hint #2: Don’t have a friend tell his friend to tell his friend that you like him. Do your love work yourself! It shows confidence!


 Happy Valentine's Day!!!
 Lucy & CeCee





Thursday, January 7, 2016

Cheerage Fearage Prologue Reading

What if Bring It On met Friday the 13th?  It would be called CHEERAGE FEARAGE!  

Welcome to Camp Valentine - a cheerleading camp with raging spirit. A ghost that is! It's ten years after cheer captain Lexy Mills' bizarre drowning, but the bloodthirsty pranks are still going down at a hypnotic pace. Urban legend says it's Lexy seeking revenge, picking off cheerleaders one by one in a symphony of horrors.

Peppered with humor and wit to offset the diabolically scary, CHEERAGE FEARAGE will have teens salivating for more Tiki Tinklemeyer and tales of the sleepy, supernatural town of Valentine. CHEERAGE FEARAGE is the first installment of a paranormal jaw-dropping teen series, jam-packed with chills and thrills that will leave no pimple ungoosed! Fire up as the girls get ready to fly high and die! Ready? O-kay!

CHEERAGE FEARAGE, published by Wild Child Publishing, is an award-winning Writers Digest Young Adult novel, Readers Favorite Young Adult Bronze Winner, and Honorable Mention in the 2012 New York Festival of Books.

Enjoy a prologue reading of CHEERAGE FEARAGE sponsored by the Novel Writing Festival:

http://novelwritingfestival.com/2016/01/06/cheerage-fearage-prologue-reading-by-kimberly-dana-reading-by-reetu-bambrah/