All posts by loisdbrown2013

Lessons learned from my flat iron — No time like the present

cartoon-hair-on-fireI have thin hair. The kind that requires a short funeral service every morning as I mourn over the strands that have fallen out from brushing. When flat irons became all the rage, I made sure to buy the most expensive brand that promised not to damage my precious locks. I dumped a good $150 into it, so I was annoyed a few months back when I noticed the flat iron’s charging light never stopped blinking.

I knew something was wrong, but I was in a hurry and so I kept using it . . . until a week later when I took a good hard look at my hair in the mirror and thought, “Why is my hair so frizzy?”

It was burned. Irrevocable hair damage. My hairdresser said it resembled cotton candy. (Ouch, that hurt!) She cut off a lot, trying to “lessen” the damage. In the meantime I learned an important lesson.

It’s much better to take some time now to fix something rather than to continue along, assuming all will be well.

boy writingIf you know a tween who struggles with writing, the time to help him or her through this issue is NOW, especially as school begins anew. The following are five suggestions taken from the National Council Teachers of English website to encourage writing in children. (Link to the full article.)

  1. Go places and see things with your child, then talk about what has been seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched. The basis of good writing is good “talking.”
  2. Talk through their ideas with your tween. Help them discover what they want to say.
  3. Make sure your tween has a “place” of her/his own to write. Any flat surface with elbow room, a comfortable chair, and a good light will do.
  4. Share letters and emails from friends and relatives. (You may need to urge relatives and friends to write notes and letters to the child, no matter how brief. Grandparents can be very helpful here. Writing is especially rewarding when the child gets a response.
  5. Think of unique ways a child can be involved in writing. For example, helping with grocery lists, adding notes at the end of parents’ letters, sending holiday and birthday cards, taking down telephone messages, writing notes to friends, helping plan trips by writing for information, drafting notes to school for parental signature, etc. Each attempt at writing, no matter how small, is important and builds confidence.

Above view of a girl geek . She is using her laptop and looking at the camera.  [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786682][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/children5.jpg[/img][/url]

Tweens Rise to the Occasion

Ballroom at Tween ABC

For the last six years, a group of authors I work with have held a writing conference for teenagers (ages 13 to 19) called Teen Author Boot Camp.  It is a daylong event and often we have people ask us how we dare spend 8 hours with a bunch of crazy teenagers. Yet we have never had a problem (and we’ve had as many as 750 teens at TABC). I fact, I’ve met teens  who I consider genuine friends and fellow authors.

This year, I felt the desire to put on a writing conference just for tweens (ages 9 to 12). I had a couple of people tell me I was absolutely insane—what with all of the ADHD, bullying, lack of respect, and such. After some of the feedback, I started to worry a bit as well.

dogtagLast night we held the first ever Tween Author Boot Camp. Almost 250 kids came to a conference for nearly five hours to learn how to write better. And guess what? They sat in their chairs. They listened. They took notes. They asked a very intelligent questions, and they gave brilliant answers.

I was impressed!

The kids did just as well as the teenagers in paying attention. The authors who taught were lively, and the classes lasted only 25 minutes instead of 40. The evening went by quickly.

Granted, the “Lost and Found” was HUGE, but other than the tweens were outstanding students. With all that goes on in America and in the school system and in society, we tend to think that kids are headed on a downhill spiral. In reality, we have some amazingly intelligent young people in our society.

Lois Class at Tween ABCKudos to these parents who are raising such bright young minds. My favorite part of the evening came during teaching my class called “idea invention.” I showed the kids a picture of a man in a kayak with the darkened image of a large shark looming in the water about 20 feet away. I then asked the kids to pose a question using “what if?” The kids came up with a lot of great “what if” questions:

  • What if the shark eats the man?
  • What if the man survives the shark attack?
  • What if the shark is the man’s best friend?

But the one I loved the most, the one that I thought a New York Times best-selling author could easily write a book about, was the answer from a 10-year-old kid who said, “What if the image of the shark is really just the man’s shadow?”

Wow! Doesn’t that sound like an intriguing novel?

 

Don’t Destroy Good Writing

Sometimes writers don’t trust themselves. We write a paragraph, reread it, backspace (a lot), and write it again. And then we repeat the process. Several times.

For me personally, I’m not so sure if the sixth time I write the same paragraph is really all that much better than the first attempt. What I do know, however, is that writing this way takes forever and turns something that is naturally hard to do into something that is excruciatingly difficult.

Lately, I haven’t been making progress because I keep writing the same stuff again and again. I’ve decided to take a lesson from history and break this bad habit. Let me explain:

Over Thanksgiving break my family went on a little adventure. Our favorite stomping ground is Southern Utah (near the Kanab area). First we hit Cutler’s Point, which is a fabulous cave (albeit shallow) inside the side of a mountain plateau. (See pictures below.)

We drove back from the hike using an old highway that used to be the
main road into Kanab.  On some of the red cliff walls right next to the old highway are Native American Fremont petroglyphs dating from 700 to about 1300 A.D.

writingOn top of some of these wonderful writings from a culture lost hundreds of years ago, business men from the mid 1900s wrote big advertisements in black paint—everything from law services to painting for hire. It was a “natural” bill board of sorts. People noticed the cool petroglyphs, so writing a business advertisement right over the top of them would ensure better visibility for their ads.

Seriously?

What were they thinking?

I’m starting to ask myself the same question when I “write
over” my own writing again and again, hoping to improve it. Am I actually making things worse?

My new game plan is to write whatever comes out and move forward. In the end, I know I’ll be going back and rewriting/cleaning up my manuscript. I don’t need to keep writing over myself during the creative process. After all,  I may be destroying things that should be left alone.

Here are a few more pictures from our outdoor adventure:

Cutler's PointIMG_1338

IMG_1326

IMG_1330

IMG_1352

 

Chicka Chicka vs. Paper Towns

chick vs paper

In a little over a week’s time, I’ll be sitting down to breakfast with hundreds of other authors who write for “children” at the New York City Book Expo of America “Children’s Book & Author Breakfast.”  I am very excited. Nathan Hale and James Patterson will be there, along with many others.

However, I must admit, when my friend said she and her agent wanted to go to the breakfast, I was confused.

“But you write for Young Adults,” I said. “Why do you want to go to eat breakfast with authors who write children’s  books?”

It was then I was reminded that even in one of the most innovative cities in all of the United States books written for someone under the age of 18 are all still classified as a “children’s books.”

Huh?

It’s true. Young Adult, Middle Grade, Chapter book, and picture book authors are typically lumped together in the same category.  Perhaps it’s just me, but I get a chuckle thinking about the authors of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom having a chat over a coffee and bagel with John Green, author of the edgy YA fiction such as Paper Towns. It seems silly to consider them in the same category, but that is what the industry currently does.

Emblazoners, however, is different. We are a group of writers who call attention to the unique needs and interests of the “tween” reader. Emblazoner authors have all published books for those between the ages of 9 to 12—an age that often gets lost in the “children’s books” category.

So if you know someone who has out grown “little kid stories” but who isn’t ready for the edgy material in some Young Adult books, this is the place for you.

Stop. Take a peek around. You’ll find the works of twenty-five talented authors whom I would love to go to breakfast with someday.

All Good Plots Have Already Been Taken

A few years ago, someone told me that to write a completely original plot line was impossible because every basic story has already been told in the Bible. Take for instances Luke 2 where we find:

  • The story of an underdog
  • The story of good vs. evil
  • The story of hope

There are stories to entertain (like the ones I write), there are some stories to teach truth, and then there are stories that change the world. On this Christmas Eve, I want to pay tribute to one of the greatest stories ever told–the Birth of Jesus Christ.

Here are a few family pictures “Brown Christmas Style.”

bible story Brown Awkward