Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Books-A-Plenty (I Hope)

12/31/11 Update — In case you hadn't already guessed, we did not win again this year. I still think this is a great contest and will probably participate again next year. Congratulations to winner Jennifer Miller of Where the Best Books Are. I'm green with envy, but happy to have found this great blog about children's books. You should check it out.

There are two kinds of people in the world — those who write blog posts that could win big prizes, and those who comment on blog posts and could also win big prizes.

This holiday season, I'm teaming up again with Chronicle Books for their 2nd Annual Happy Haul-idays Giveaway. I could win, you could win, and a charity of my choice could win.

That's win-win-win.

Win #1
First I get to make a wish list of Chronicle Books up to $500 dollars in value. I've sorted my list (sort of):

Animal and/or Picture Books
Amazing Animals: Parrots $5.99
Creepy Creatures: Scorpions $4.99
Creature — by Andrew Zuckerman $60.00
Creature ABC — by Andrew Zuckerman $19.99
Dog is a Dog — by Stephan Shaskan $14.99
Duck! Rabbit! – by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld $16.99
Happy Hamster — by Mathijs van der Paauw $9.95
The Lonesome Puppy — by Yoshitomo Nara $17.99
Press Here — by Hervè Tullet $14.99
Walk the Dog — A Parade of Pooches from A-Z by Bob Barner $9.99
What Puppies Do Best — by Laura Numeroff $14.99

Word and/or Writing Books
Creative, Inc. — The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business by Meg Mateo Ilasco and Joy Deangdeelert Cho $16.95
L is for Lollygag — Quirky Words for the Clever Tongue $12.99
No Plot? No Problem! A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days — by Chris Baty $14.95
Show and Tell — Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration by Dilys Evans $24.99
You're a Genius All the Time — Belief and Technique for Modern Prose by Jack Kerouac $12.95
You Know You're a Writer When … — by Adair Lara $9.95
The Writer's Toolbox — Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the "Write" Side of Your Brain by Jamie Cat Callan $24.95
Writer's Workshop in a Book — The Squaw Valley Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction — edited by Alan Cheuse and Lisa Alvarez $14.95
A Zeal of Zebras — An Alphabet of Collective Nouns by Woop $17.99

Fiction and One Nonfiction
The Doorbells of Florence: Fictional Stories and Photographs — by Andrew Losowsky $18.95
How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend — by Gary Ghislain $16.99
Milk & Cookies — 89 Heirloom Recipes from Milk & Cookies Bakery $24.95
Murder al Fresco — A Sunny McCoskey Napa Valley Mystery by Nadia Gordon $12.95
This is My Best —Great Writers Share Their Favorite Works edited by Kathy Kiernan and Retha Powers $16.95

Not Books
Creature Floor Puzzles — by Andrew Zuckerman $24.95
Eric Carle Decorative Prints — by Eric Carle $24.95
See the World With Chronicle Books Tote Bag $2.99
Typewriter Eco-Journal $10.95

Win #2
Like my list? Leave a comment, because if I win, you could win all these books too. (Make it a good one, because I get to pick the winning commenter.)

Win #3
If my blog post is chosen the winner, the Chronicle Books will also donate $500 worth of books to the charity of my choice. I choose The Mighty Twig, which was founded during city budget cuts by the volunteers of the Evanston (Illinois) Public Library Friends. Here's what they do:

"What is The Mighty Twig? Smaller than a branch, (but mighty) the Twig provides children and adults with books, internet, computers, storytime and a community space. A small but wonderful library collection circulates in a new way, on the honor system: No cards, no fines, no fees, no fooling! Where else does The Twig take books? We provide donated books to community centers, coffee shops, and schools throughout Evanston. "

If you don't like my list, write your own blog post with your own list or check out other bloggers' lists (find out how here.) The contest ends 12/2/11. Be sure to leave info in your comment on how I can contact you when and if we win. Good luck.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Look in Thy Heart, and Write

"Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite: 
 'Fool!' said my muse to me, 'look in thy heart, and write.'" 
 — Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)

There are two kinds of people: those who celebrate literature and those who take it for granted.

November abounds with opportunities to celebrate the craft of writing and the joy of literature. My 2KoP readers may think I haven't been doing much writing, but that's not the case. I simply haven't been writing here. It's all good, and I'll be sharing more soon.

Last November, I participated in my first National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I had no idea what I was doing and, in fact, decided to work on a memoir instead of a novel (making me a NaNo Rebel — not bad for my first time out). And I won. What did I win? Well, nothing. Oh, I got that nifty little badge in my sidebar that says I'm a 2010 NaNoWriMo winner. I made some cool, supportive writing friends. And I have an excellent start to my memoir. Just a start.

I've signed up for NaNo 2012 and am well on my way with a new project — a mystery. Why am I starting something new instead of working on last year's project? Well, that's a complicated question, but thanks for asking. The short answer is, that's not the NaNo deal. NaNo participants agree to start a brand new project on November 1 and commit to writing at least 50,000 words in 30 days. Is there a NaNo enforcement department that will hold you to that commitment? No. But here's what I think.

Writer-types like me tend to do better when under deadline. Given gobs of time, we fret and agonize over word choice and characterization and plot twists and … nothing gets done except the fretting. Committing to NaNo is an opportunity to turn off that inner editor (or agonizer) and just get the words out. You see, there are many, many steps to the writing process, and each one requires a different set of skills:
  • generating ideas
  • getting down the bones
  • rewriting
  • revising
  • starting over
  • rewriting
  • revising
  • revising
  • agonizing
  • polishing
  • getting critiques
  • crying
  • putting it in a drawer for a while
  • looking at it again with fresh eyes
And that's just the first step. NaNo is the perfect time to execute bullet point #2 (getting down the bones). Just getting your ideas out on the page fast, without trying to make it perfect, can be a huge creative rush. There is plenty of time to agonize about how terrible it is when you reread and rewrite in December.

For picture book writers, November is also PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month), where you commit to generating one picture book idea every day, for a total of 30. Some people believe that discovering the idea is the hardest part of writing, but think about having 30 ideas to work from at the end of the month. Nobody said they all have to be good.

For those writers who feel too constrained by the "rules" of NaNoWriMo or PiBoIdMo, SheWrites.com founder Kamy Wicoff has issued a much broader challenges called SheWriMo, where the big idea is to make a daily writing commitment (your choice) and sticking to it. That's a little too squishy for me, but I appreciate the concept.

My friend Mary Beth recently commented on my Facebook post about my NaNo progress: "I know that your numbers stand for words. And just 'cause I'm feeling kind of left out because I do not have a novel in me, whenever I see your number count, I'm going to write a number."

I haven't figured out what her numbers mean yet, but I have figured out that maybe November is just a great month for goal setting. Even if you're not a writer, I hope you're a reader. Maybe you could take this month to set a daily reading goal.

Here's one more opportunity to celebrate: November is also Picture Book Month. I'm a big believer in the importance of picture books and read alouds, both for children and adults. If you're with me, you can become a picture book ambassador. Check out the website for daily posts from different authors about why picture books are important to them. Whatever you do this month, I hope it includes a celebration of words.

Photo credit: WASTEBASKET © Lksstock | Dreamstime.com