July 2011 Archives

My Favorite Online Resources

http.jpgRecently I shared a couple favorite internet resources with a friend. When I mentioned to her that I'd been meaning to get a blog post up with them, she told me to get to it! So thank you, @Carmen Nodar, for the prompting and for sharing sites you find, too.


Scrivener at Literature and Latte
This site has downloadable software for writers of one cool writing program called Scrivener. Already available for sale for Macs, Scrivener is in process for windows, so a beta version. I was introduced to it by Jenn Bailey, Kate Blaisdell, Heather Trent Beers, and the afore mentioned Carmen. Thank you, wonderful ladies! I'm lovin' it.

Edit Minion
The awesome Lisha Cauthen found this one and shared it on Kansas SCBWI's Sunflower Scoop (see below). It's in beta and @DrWicked plans to add features, but it's so cool. You paste in a piece of your writing and you can have it check for adverbs, weak words, "said" replacements, passive voice, ending a sentence with a preposition and often misspelled words. A bonus I like is you get a different writing quote each time you click on "Edit!."

ICL's Rx for Writers
Articles and transcripts of online workshops at the Institute of Children's Literature - they are indexed. I come here when I want info on something or am looking for a resource to share with someone else. For example, there's an interview with Uri Shulevitz under the Writer Illustrator category.

Grammar Tutorial
Another instructor shared this awesome site. Having trouble with a specific grammatical issue? Go here and learn how to handle it.


If you have your own blog or website, or are creating presentations, you need images. And most of us want free images.

Photos on this site are free for use (read the licensing info). People take pictures and upload them into this searchable database. If the photographer includes contact info, I send a thank you email telling which image and when and where I used it. (Each picture shows who uploaded the image--click on their name or username and look for email.) The image at the beginning of this post is from morgueFile.

Similar to morgueFile, most photos are free and the site is searchable. purple abstract.jpgHowever, read what it says under availability on each image. The "standard licensing" agreement is more detailed. Some photographers include a notice that says they "must be notified when using the photo for any public work." The lovely abstract to the right is from stock.xchng. Instead of emailing, I used the contact form to send my thanks.


I met DearEditor aka Deborah Halverson at the 2010 SCBWI LA conference. A former editor, Deborah answers writers questions. You can subscribe and get links emailed to you when there's a post or search the site. Deborah's recently launched her book: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies. Tonight she's doing a free webinar. You can also follow her on twitter @deareditor.

Kidlit Scoop (Formerly the Kansas SCBWI - Sunflower Scoop)
@LishaCauthen is the fabulous editor of this once-a-week announcement list-serve. Go here to subscribe: Kidlit Scoop newsletter.

School Visit Experts
Founded by author and SCBWI Regional Advisor Alexis O'Neill, this blog site is again subscribable. This site has very practical info about speaking in schools, arranging visits, etc.

Fict!on Notes
I've never yet gotten to attend one of the Novel Revision Retreats with author and speaker Darcy Pattison, but I want to. This is her site.

Those are current favorites, though I know as soon as I hit "publish," I'll think of others. I'd love to hear yours.

Your favorites?
To comment, click on the title above, then scroll down.

What Happened?! - No Passengers Beyond This Point

no-passengers.jpgNo Passengers Beyond This Point (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2011) by Gennifer Choldenko is a fantasy that makes you wonder along with the characters.

It starts out when Finn, his older sister India and his younger sister nicknamed Mouse are sent off to live with their Uncle Red because Mom has lost the house. But instead of getting to Colorado, they end up at this strange place called Falling Bird. They can become citizens, or Finn could work for Sparky, or go on to Uncle Red's. What should they do? Each has a different opinion.

The story is told in multiple viewpoints. I like what happens with all the characters, but confess that Finn is my favorite.

I've been a Gennifer Choldenko fan for years, so knew I was getting something good when I got this book. Check out her other books here. Here's the book trailer for No Passengers:

lost gate.jpg In The Lost Gate (Tor, 2011) by Orson Scott Card, Danny North doesn't fit in to his family. Even though he's a descendent of the gods, he doesn't have any "godly" talents. Being very smart isn't enough in the North family. The other kids consider him Drekka (an outsider who is less than them). Danny's always trying to slip away from his tormentors and one day discovers himself outside the compound. But life outside isn't going to be easy either.

Enjoy Danny's journey to finding himself in this very good story. This book might especially appeal to teen boy readers. It's book one of three in the Mither Mages. I'll be definitely watching for the others when they come out.

Here's the wonderful Orson Scott Card's official website. On it is a link to the trailer for the book or you can watch it here.

Things needs not have happened

Things needs not have happened to be true.
Neil Gaiman

The Ideas aren't the hard

The Ideas aren't the hard bit. They're a small component of the whole. Creating believable people who do more or less what you tell them to is much harder. And hardest by far is the process of simply sitting down and putting one word after another to construct whatever it is you're trying to build: making it interesting, making it new.
Neil Gaiman

Technicalities - More Thoughts on Public Speaking

photo courtesy of Stuart Whitmore

After my last post on public speaking, I kept having more ideas of things I wish I'd said. Like some technical issues. Like . . . what do you do when you have to fly to a presentation? Then I saw this tweet from author Erin Bow: "BTW, the complete stack of MS for PLAIN KATE, which I use as a prop for my HS writing presentations, just *barely* fit in one suitcase."

So let's talk.

Traveling and Presentations
I'm paranoid. I never want to end up at a talk without my most important materials: my notes and handouts. So when I travel by plane, I "carry on" my physical notes, printouts of my handouts for copying if necessary (and/or the actual copies), my netbook with my notes, and a USB thumb drive with all my notes and my handouts. Props go in checked luggage. Props are nice to have, but they aren't absolutely necessary. YOU are the presentation.

PowerPoint, Video and Internet Access
I can speak to this from the conference director side. I've seen speakers come with their CD/DVD, laptop, USB device and not been able to get it to work because "someone else" set it up for them and they don't really understand it. If you want to use technology that you are not familiar with, practice it on a variety of computers and/or projection systems. And, be prepared to graciously go on without it.

Laptop Connections
Even if you bring your own laptop, don't assume that the host will have the correct cable to connect your computer to the projector. If you're running a windows machine, you're probably okay, but did you know that each Apple laptop has a different style of "dongle?" If there is tech support at a conference, he/she will not have every possible connector. And definitely don't get angry at the conference presenters for not providing what you need. (It's true--I've heard about speakers throwing fits and complaining afterwards as well.)

Oops, I Forgot!
About ten years ago I left an announcement PowerPoint show at home. Was it absolutely necessary to have it? No, but I wanted it. I had arrived early. The moment I realized my error, I called my husband, who is a computer guy. He posted my slide show up on my website and gave me the url. I used the school's computer to pull up that page on my website and ran the PowerPoint presentation from there. These days we have Google docs and dropbox and other web services where we can store backups--use the tools. Obviously, if your venue won't have internet access, this option won't be available to you.

Old School Slides
If you're using film slides, you should probably provide your own slide projector, or at the least, make sure the type of carousel you have will fit their projector.

Netbooks, Notebooks aka Mini-laptops
If you're using a netbook to show internet sites, be aware that your screen size probably will not match what the projector shows.* I learned this one the hard way. I had no scroll button on my screen, and couldn't see the full view of what the audience could see on the screen behind me. Eventually I figured out I could turn around to see what they were seeing, but that makes for awkward speaking.

*How to possibilities (for windows machines) 1. Connect your projector (or a large second monitor) to your laptop/netbook. 2. Hold the windows key down on your keyboard and press the letter P for projector. This may give you options to choose Duplicate, which give you the view on your screen on the projector. You may have to modify the resolution (more on that below in step 4). Both resolutions must be the same. If former not available: 1. After you've connected your projector (or a large second monitor) to your laptop/netbook, right click on the desktop background on your screen. 2. Click on Display Properties/Graphic Properties, or you might have ATI or NVIDIA control panel option to get you to display properties. 3. Under Display Devices, you'll have options, such as: Single Display, Dual Display (Clone), and Extended Desktop. You might see a question such as "Do you want to extend your desktop onto this monitor?" Either way, you want to change it to Extended Desktop. 4. You should have a box that shows you the different sizes of each "screen" (projector or 2nd monitor) and your computer--the two need to match. 5. Next chose clone. In either case, when you are done, make sure your laptop is back to Single Display. If this sounds too complicated, get a techie to help you figure it out.

Going from PC to Mac
Recently, I created a PowerPoint slideshow to use for a presentation. I talked to the event organizer about equipment. He said he had a Mac and that it should be able to open the PowerPoint in Keynote, so I didn't need to bring my laptop. I sent my presentation to him via email. Yep, it opened, although it changed some fonts. (Note to self, use very basic fonts!) But, I wondered, what did it look like?

I met with a friend who had a Mac also with Keynote. She opened up my presentation and I saw that some images were a bit big and that some spacing was off on a few lines where I'd put in manual breaks to make it look how I wanted. We resized images, fixed spacing issues, saved the presentation in Keynote and I re-sent that to the organizer. It worked well for my talk.

The next day I was working on a second presentation for the same event. I used simpler fonts and when I used images I made no spacing changes in my text near the pictures. Instead, I changed the size of the image if necessary. This time, because I was adding last minute items inspired by the questions at the previous presentation, I didn't have time to look at it on someone else's Mac. Fortunately, because I kept the PowerPoint presentation formatting simple, it worked well. (The only transitions I used were to add text or image on mouse click.)

Remotes are wonderful things for a presentation. Then you aren't nailed down to the computer keyboard or slide projector to change slides as you talk.

I like being in a room that is small enough that a microphone is not needed. That means I can wander while talking. Obviously in a larger room, the speaker may need to be miked. Best is a wireless. But if all that is available is a stationary, you'll have to stay still.

Your thoughts?
I'd love to hear what others have experienced with the technical side of speaking. Feel free to comment. (If you can't see the comment box, click on the title above, then scroll down.)

More History - The Fences Between Us

diary.jpgThe Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis, Seattle, Washington, 1941 (Scholastic, 2010) by Kirby Larson is a very good book written in diary style. The story deals with a lot of issues of the war, but especially the incarceration of the Japanese.

Here's an intro to the story: Piper lives with her dad and sister in Seattle. Her brother Hank has enlisted in the Navy. Then the attack on Pearl Harbor happens. It's a while before they know he is okay and then the members of the Japanese Baptist church start getting arrested. Margie gets married and when Piper's dad decides to go to Eden, Idaho in fall of 1942 where his congregation has gone to Camp Minidoka, Piper has to go along. She ends up going to school in the camp and experiencing a lot of what the Japanese have to put up with except she gets to go home at night.

Kirby is the Newbery honor winner for Hattie Big Sky. Read about her other books on her website.

Historical for Boys - The Walls of Cartagena

cartagena.jpgOn twitter someone recently asked for recommendations of historical books for boys and I realized I hadn't written up this one!

The Walls of Cartagena (Simon & Schuster, 2008) by Julia Durango is a historical novel based on real people in the 17th century. This very good and memorable story introduced me to some history and a place previously unknown to me.

Here's a brief look at the story: Calepino was taken in by a wealthy woman when his slave mother died and has been raised with a life of privilege. But now at 13, because of his gift with languages, he is having to go with Father Pedro and help minister to those coming off the slave ships.

At last year's SCBWI conference in LA, Julia accepted a Golden Kite for her book Sea of the Dead. I love what Julia says about herself on her blog: "Purveyor of Children's Books & Monkey Business." You'll see why if you read about her other books. I love the picture of her house and her "out of the box" author visit idea, too.

The only way to stay

The only way to stay sane in the business is to enjoy every step as you're actually experiencing it. Happiness is not around the bend. It's found in the present. Because writing is pretty great—otherwise why are you doing it?
Nathan Bransford

Writing kept me sane when

Writing kept me sane when I was a stranger in a school or neighborhood. I've kept a diary since I was ten years old. It's a place for my emotions to catch their breath; a portable fire escape, I guess.
Mitali Perkins