Oct 28, 2012

When faith and culture collide

This year I've been reading the Bible through. Each night I read a portion of the Old Testament, the prophets and then the New Testament.

A while ago my mother gave me a book that dissected the Bible's treatment of women so I already knew portions of the Old Testament were hair-raising. Seriously. There's one story where the entire nation of Israel puts aside wives who were foreign born...and all their children...in an effort to "cleanse" the nation. So picture hundreds of families torn apart, women and children cast aside, so the men could be pure. Where did all those people go? The book doesn't say.

So I'm very interested in Rachel Held Evan's newest book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, which comes out today. Like the title states, Rachel spent a year attempting to comply with as many of the Old Testament rules for women as possible...including living in a tent during her period, covering her head during worship, and calling her husband "master". She's a Christian so this wasn't an attempt to satirize faith, but to examine the myth of Christian womanhood and discover what was really required of Hebrew women.  Of course, some in the Christian evangelical camp are already up in arms - with one notable bookstore refusing to carry it - but many are already using the opportunity to reexamine what the Bible actually is vs. what they want it to be. Rachel's book sounds like a thought-provoking read.

What books have made you think lately?

Oct 25, 2012

Friday funnies - Oct. 26

Fancy a gross out before satisfying your sweet tooth? Visit here to get an eyeful of some tasty treats. My favorite are the STD cupcakes, courtesy of London's repulsive cake shop.

And if you've yet to check out the Tumblr site, Title to Come, go there now. Here's a sample:

When I'm critiquing a manuscript, 
and the plot goes off the deep end

Have a great weekend!

Oct 21, 2012

Revising the revision

Last week, I got a long list of notes from my agent re: my recent MS revision. Like, 20 pages. Of notes.
It was awesome (and also a wee bit embarrassing that she had to do that! *red face*)
Her suggestions and questions were just what I needed to go through the plot and extract all those pesky rabbit holes, unnecessary words and characters.
And I came up with a quick test to see how well the resulting chapters held together.

A chapter table.

This is not a revolutionary idea. I think Save The Cat asks writers to do something similar. A table makes it really easy to see which chapters are pulling their weight and which ones are holes.

Here's how mine worked: I created a table with a column for each chapter's synopsis. Then I indicated which part of the synopsis moved which part of the plots along.

love interest
main plot
subplot/red herring

Chapter 12:  Carrie and Grant kiss, they discover the magic portal, the elven king is there first

Every chapter should include at least one element -  the main plotline if nothing else - and preferably two elements. Chapters without any plot movement must be examined carefully. Can they be removed/shortened/edited to include a plotline? This method also allows a quick check of the main plot's timing: are all the clues in order? Is there a lot of main plot bold leading up to the climax? Did any thread of subplot go unresolved?

This is also an easy way to stay organized if you have CPs or betas because they, too, can refer to your chapter table rather than giving intext comments. It's a way to give feedback on the overall flow/pacing.

What are some ways you make sure your revisions are on track?

Oct 19, 2012

Friday funnies - Oct. 19

My sister-in-law was visiting last week and thought this kitten was the funniest thing she's ever seen.

Edward Gorey's alphabet:

Have a great weekend!

Oct 14, 2012

Searching for great YA nonfiction

Next week, I'm picking up a class teaching gifted seventh grade students in language arts.

I'm soooo excited for this opportunity for several reasons. One: I've known these kids for several years, watched them grow and am already familiar with their work habits/abilities. Two: LA is my field. I was an English major and then a journalist. While I like teaching math, and love P.E., I've had a steep learning curve for both. (Yes, even for P.E. Contrary to popular belief, there's a lot more that goes into a successful P.E. program than organizing a round of rabbit sticks.)  But this is my native hearth.

So for the next several days, I'll be putting together a curriculum supplementing  regular 7th grade LA. We'll be taking writing to the next level, working on critical thinking skills, developing multimedia presentations and reading nonfiction that's not in the (limited) district agenda.

And that's where I need your help. I'm looking for great books - that inspire, educate and broaden horizons. ENDANGERED by Eliot Schrefer is on my list. So is Sherman Alexie's THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN. SPEAK by Laurie Halse Andersen. I'm also considering MONSTER by Walter Myers and UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand and many others.

What else can I add to my list? If you're able to link this question on Twitter or your blog, I'd so appreciate it! The more recommendations, the better! :)

Have a great week!

Oct 7, 2012

Shiny new ideas

 I came up with a shiny new idea this weekend (yay!) and even wrote the first two chapters. Then I read this post by agent Jill Corcoran about what makes a book sell. Her first tip is to come up with an original, compelling idea. Which is kind of obvious. Her post also gives a litmus test for shiny new ideas (SNIs for short) and mine only passes half the criteria.

My SNI isn't original. It's a quest story, which has been done about a gazillion times in literature. You know, the story about a hero(ine) who has to get somewhere to do something world changing/life saving, and the journey is actually more important than the destination. ( LOTR is a gigantic quest story. Many Celtic fairy tales are quest stories, generally told with rules of three: three tests to pass, three monsters to face, etc.)

So if my storyline isn't original, it must be compelling. And that's what I'm mulling over as I begin to outline my plot.

What makes a story compelling for you? Consider this an unofficial survey and leave your responses in the comments.

Tomorrow I fly to Dallas for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics convention. The entire teaching staff at my school is going through the end of the week and we're all a little giddy.

And the fact a math conference is getting us excited is proof that we're nerds teachers. I won't be back until Saturday a.m. so there will be no Friday Funnies this week.

Have a great one!

Oct 4, 2012

Friday funnies - Oct. 5

If I were a zombie....

I do this:
Also, (cat lovers only) 17 cool things about your bestie: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/cat_know

One more for the road:

Have a great weekend!