Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rumors

The e-mail rumor mill is running full blast this month, all about the award-winning book and new movie The Golden Compass. The cry is boycott because the author—gasp—is an atheist! My response is “so what?” Does that mean we don’t read Edgar Allan Poe because he was a heavy drinker, Shel Silverstein because he once published an article in Playboy, or Ernest Hemingway because he committed suicide? All of them espoused ideas and ideals that we might not agree with.

Should only Mormons read Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes by Gordon B. Hinckley, only Catholics read Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI, or only Buddhists read The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by Howard Cutler from interviews with His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama? Of course not. We become more tolerant and understanding, finding the similarities between us more important that the differences when we share the common bond of the written word.

Besides, The Golden Compass is a children’s book. A fantasy, a genre that came into being at the time the highly successful works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis were published. Should we not read The Chronicles of Narnia because Lewis shares his views Christianity, or The Lord of the Rings because Tolkien was a devout Catholic? Has it not always been true that fantasy uses as its basis the war between good and evil? Through the telling of story, both sides are presented, but the didactic efforts to preach a philosophy do not make it to the level of popularity reached by each of these series.

A graduate of Oxford, the same school where both Tolkien and Lewis were among the faculty, Pullman first came up with the idea for the series known as His Dark Materials after reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Close friends, Tolkien and Lewis were both members of the informal literary discussion group at Oxford known as the Inklings, defined at Wikipedia as “a group of literary enthusiasts who praised the value of narrative in fiction, and encouraged the writing of fantasy. Although Christian values were notably reflected in several members' work, there were also atheists among the members of the discussion group.”

For what it’s worth, I’ve met Philip Pullman and had a nice long sit-down luncheon with him at the 2000 National Council of Teachers of English conference. He’s a very nice man, albeit he had a few oddities about himself as a writer. At the time, he wrote his books by hand only on yellow legal pads that were two hole punched, stopping for the day after he had written a single line of text on the next page. His workspace was a gardener’s shed on the back of his property.

Never once did he try to convert me to his way of thinking about religion, just like I never tried to convert him to mine.

Rather than being among those who spread rumors and encourage boycotts, I would hope that readers would at least accept that gossip is never fair, and that the best way to know if the information being presented as fact is indeed true, is, in a situation involving literature, to read the book, in its entirety for yourself. Get to know the author and their intent before you spread the word.

To end with Pullman’s own words from his website: “As a passionate believer in the democracy of reading, I don't think it's the task of the author of a book to tell the reader what it means. The meaning of a story emerges in the meeting between the words on the page and the thoughts in the reader's mind. So when people ask me what I meant by this story, or what was the message I was trying to convey in that one, I have to explain that I'm not going to explain. Anyway, I'm not in the message business; I'm in the ‘Once upon a time’ business.”

Friday, November 02, 2007

Check Out My Latest Publication

As I was reading Heather Moore's most recent article in Desert Saints Magaine, I realized I had submitted something to this month's issue as well.

I cruised on over to the home page and found a link to Hymn Book Challenge, written by ME!

If you'd like to read my article, go to http://desertsaintsmagazine.com/2007/11/02/hymn-book-challenge/

Heather's article, Sering for Life can be found at http://desertsaintsmagazine.com/2007/11/02/serving-for-life/

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Meeting Miley Cyrus

A friend of mine got us great seats to the Miley Cyrus concert in Salt Lake City tonight. We also had backstage passes, so here are the photos of Chan, Kent, and me with Miley.





Wednesday, October 17, 2007

YALSA Voting Available Through Saturday

If you have any avid readers who might be interested, teens can vote for their favorite books in the YALSA Award nominees until this Saturday.

One book I know my students will be voting for is The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson. I've read it to classes and they really liked it. The story is about Cameryn Mahoney, a teen from Silverton, Colorado, who really wants to become a forensic pathologist. Cameryn convinces her father, the county coroner, to hire her as his assistant. She turns out to be pretty good at the job and her dad lets her come along to a murder investigation. The body they find is Cameryn's friend, Rachel Geller. Rachel is the fourth victim of a serial killer who strangles his victims and leaves a St. Christopher medal on their bodies. In her pursuit of the truth, Cameryn finds herself in danger of becoming the fifth victim of the Christopher Killer.

If you know anyone who would like to vote for The Christopher Killer or see the entire list of nominees, click the link below.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=4GlA6OUjRfm1OhoNuaUwdg_3d_3d

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mega-Blogger!

I'm been a busy little bee tonight and posted a new entry on every one of my blogs! At least that little bit of writing lets me feel like I accomplished something over this long weekend. Well, something other than just work for my graduate classes, school, and housecleaning.

Wasn't this supposed to be fall BREAK? Oh, wait! I forgot. That means "fall head cold!" Of course, I get a few days off, and the way of the world for me is that I'm sick. Not too bad, and I know it could be worse, but the croupy nighttime cough, drippy nose, and aches and pains are for the birds, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, I hope all of you will check out my other blogs. Most of them are much more informative that this one because they were actually written when I was feeling so crappy.

By the way, I've reposted my interview with Michele Holmes over on Lu Ann's Book Review if you didn't catch it in the newspaper a few weeks ago.

Time to go, before I sneeze!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

In Case You Haven't Noticed . . .


I'm expanding my blogs to include more of what people are asking me for. You'll see a new list of blogs under the Lu Ann's Blogs section on my home page. Let me give you a brief rundown of what each link takes you to:

Library Media Friendzy --- A place where current and future librarians can discuss books, lessons, and more about being an effective library media specialist.

Lu Ann's Book Review --- Reviews or blurbs about books I've read. Occasionally you'll find an interview here with an author.

Lu Ann's Library Technology ---
Technology issues for educators, secondary students, teachers, librarians, and writers.

Lu Ann Staheli. com --- General information about my teaching and writing careers.

Out of the Best Books --- My newspaper columns from the Spanish Fork News.

Read All About It --- My newspaper columns from the Spanish Fork Press.

Writers in Heels --- A group of authors who have established a web-ring of their blogs.

Writing on the Wall --- The blog about writing from members of the Precision Editing Group.

I also have a new blog coming at Cre8Buzz.com. I'll add the link for that one soon. In the meantime, I hope you'll check out my other blogs. Hopefully you'll find something there that interests YOU!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The World is My Audience

The desire of my heart has always been to publish for a worldwide audience. Today, it finally sunk in, that is exactly what I’m doing—and in more places than I ever thought possible. And to think this epiphany came to me because of a little icon titled Stat Counter on my blog site.

One click and I discovered that Saturday seems to be the most popular day for people to visit my blog. That may be because I often write on Friday or Saturday, or it could be because that’s when my readers are home with extra time on their hands.

Another click tells me readers are coming via other websites where I write (LuAnnsLibraryTechnology and Library MediaFriendzy, both at blogspotcom) or after visiting websites run by my friends (AnnetteLyon.com or WritersinHeels.com). Some viewers stopped in directly from blogger.com, and a few did Google or MSN searches for me by name. Cool, huh?

As I expected, the majority of my readers are from North America, but I had no idea they were coming from so many states. Canada also has a fair-sized showing, and I don’t even know anyone in Canada! The United Kingdom and Sweden join France, Israel, Australia, Germany, Turkey, Chili, The Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, and India who also have at least one person who has stopped by.

I don’t know how you found me, but welcome all! And thanks for making my dreams of being an internationally known author closer to becoming true.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Join the Nebo Reading Council and Come See James Dashner

Author James Dashner will be the featured speaker at the opening meeting for the Nebo Reading Council, Thursday, October 4, 2007, at the Grant Building (400 East 105 South, Springville, UT) at 4:00 p.m.

Dashner will be speaking about his transition from publishing in the local market (Jimmy Fincher Saga) to releasing his first national market book (The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters).

Atticus Higginbottom—better known as Tick—wishes his life were more interesting. But, as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for. On a snowy day in November, the first letter arrives and everything in Tick’s life changes---and only time will tell if the change is for better or worse.

Given the challenge, Tick wants the chance to unravel the mystery all the way to its end by discovering the special meeting place, but Tick will only be there if he solves the clues. And, of course, if he survives. . .

Because the last line of the letter makes him a promise: Very frightening things are coming your way.

I’ve already had the chance to read this novel and it’s great. (I’d say that even if James weren’t in my critique group!) Come meet the author along with the NRC and get a sneak preview of your own. By the way, James will be a featured presenter at the Nebo Young Writer’s Conference in February as well.

The Nebo Reading Council is dedicated to promoting literacy to the communities served by the Nebo School District and beyond. Membership dues are $20, which includes membership in the Utah Council of the International Reading Association. First year teachers, interns, and students may join for $10. You do not need to be a teacher to join the organization. We invite anyone who is interested in the promotion of reading and literacy to become a member.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Cleaning House the Clean Sweep Way

Just letting all of you know about my latest national publication.

Visit Desert Saints Magazine at the following link to read my article.

http://desertsaintsmagazine.com/2007/09/01/cleaning-house-the-clean-sweep-way/

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Slamming My Head Against the Wall

When I was a young child, I used to get really bad ear-aches. My mother always tried to stop me, but the only way I found to relieve the pressure was to slam my head against the wall.

Tonight, I’m thinking that method might once again make it onto my list of possibilities. I don’t have an ear-ache, but the pressure and stress might just be beginning to get to me. I thought maybe if I had a way to let it all out, I’d at least feel better.

So, tonight I’m forgetting the teachings of The Secret for a few minutes and release my top five lists of reasons I’m under duress. Once I’m done, I plan to take a deep breath, log off my computer, and go to bed.

After all, like Scarlett O’Hara says, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Stress #1: Summer vacation is over and I’m back teaching school. This year is my first ever to have a class of 7th graders on top of three 8th grade and one 9th grade classes. The class sizes range from 25 to 43 students packed into a room that is wall-to-wall kid. Altogether, I have nearly 160 students in my classes. Just think about how many papers that adds up to each week to grade.

Stress #2: My husband in living and working in Los Angeles which is great for the finances, but it leaves me home with five children to watch out for, on top of all the others things I do. By the time I leave for work in the morning, no one is awake except the youngest who leaves with me to be dropped off at a neighbor’s who takes him to and from school. I have to hope all goes well and everyone makes it to school on time, come rain or shine.

Stress #3: One of our children has gotten a little too big for his britches in the last few weeks and keeps both my husband and I emotionally distraught, trying to figure out what to do to prevent him from having a negative impact on the other boys. Is it a sin to count the weeks until he graduates and moves into a life of his own?

Stress #4: I’m enrolled in graduate school and classes start again for me tomorrow. Now, if that isn’t enough, I just started reading the articles for this week’s discussion and I might as well be trying to read Greek! As a nearly thirty-year teacher who knows that educational theory is almost always a bunch of malarkey and rarely useful in the real classroom, reading this stuff, assigned by doctoral candidates who are years younger than me, makes me crazy.

Stress #5: I want nothing more than to publish full-length novels and non-fictions books, but every time I turn around it’s another major rejection for me. Tonight I had great hope that I had found an agent. Alas the e-mailed rejection came less that two hours after I had sent the sample chapters she had requested. I should be happy about my writing because a script option was recently renewed, but I’ve worked so much harder on the novels, only to receive yet another rejection.

It’s eight-thirty. My brain is fried. My body is tired. I’m going to bed to sleep, perchance to dream of better things. And tomorrow, I will awake and again pursue my dreams of holding my published novel in my hands before too many more days pass me by.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Lest I Look Like a Slacker

If you've watched my progress in the Summer Reading Thing, you might think I've been such a slacker. Not true. I may not have yet finished all the books on that list---I go back to work on Wednesday, so summer is over for me---but I've read lots of other books this summer. I'm currently reading New Moon and the copy of Eclipse is on my desk next to where I am typing.
So, I've decided to share a little bit about the other books I've read this summer, so you'll know that I have been reading, just not always the books I said I'd get around to.

1. The Greatest Discovery - Sorensen. Very predictable, a little sappy, but a quick read.

2. My Point, and I do Have One - Ellen Degeneres. Some funny parts, some crude parts.

3. Nobody's Better Than You, Mom - Bowen. Should have made my boys read this one!

4. Aunt Dimity's Christmas - Atherton. Recommended by someoen at critique, but I abandoned.

5. The Elusive Mrs. Polifax - Gilman. A 2nd read for me. I love this series.

6. The Independence Club - Nunes. I enjoyed this one a lot and hope Rachel starts a series.

7. Purple Cow - Godin. Okay, I'm weird because I read marketing and business books for fun.

8. Free Prize Inside - Godin. Lots of good ideas to draw customers to your products.

9. The Peach Cobler Murder - Fluke. Another favorite mystery series for me.

10. Mrs. Polifax and the Whirling Dervish - Gilman. The trouble this woman gets into!

11. Secerts to Zarahemla - Wilson. I kept getting lost. The characters were confusing to me.

12. The Fudge Cupcake Murder - Fluke. I kept craving chocolate, but still loved this one.

13. Life As We Knew It - Pfeffer. Interesting YA novel about the moon moving closer.

14. Ghost of a Chance - Blair. Better than the first book, but some parts still bugged me.

15. Death on Demand - Hart. I discovered a new mystery writer that I liked.

16. Dead as a Doornail - Harris. A disappointing and somewhat crude vampire mystery.

17. Rickles' Book- Don Rickles. Like Ellen, sometimes funny, sometimes VERY crude.

18. Nothing to Regret - Pinkston. Liked it but wish it had been a series with more development.

19. It's All Too Much - Walsh. Loved the book, love the series (Clean Sweep). Loved the advice.

20. When Faith Endures - Van Nuygen. Taught me a lot about LDS, the Vietnamese, and war.

21. Deep Storm - Child. Another great thriller from one of my favorite writers.

22. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling. Thought the ending was PERFECT!

23. Farworld: City Under the Water - Savage. Don't look for this one yet; it's not out til 2008.

24. Loved Like That - Wright. Liked it a lot, but I wonder if my book is too similar in theme?

25. Religious Literacy - Prothero. Interesting view why we are religiously illiterate.

26. One Minute Millionaire - Allen & Hansen. 2nd time reading this. Good motivation.

27. Circle the Truth - Schmatz. MG religious fantasy. IT was oaky, but not a grabber.

28. Twilight - Meyer. Decided to reread this one. Liked it better this 2nd time.

29. Wild Worlds - Moore. YA Graphic novel. Why must the girls be half-naked?

30. Loving Will Shakespeare - Meyer. I'm related to both of Wills' parents.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Lucky Fours

Four Jobs I've had:
Administrative Assistant for McDonald's in Bloomington, IN
Associate Producer for Stadium of Fire, Alan Osmond Productions
Fan Club President and Promotions for Osmonds: Second Generation
English Department Chair, Payson Jr. High School

Four Places I've Lived:
Alexandria, IN
Bloomington, IN
Rockville, IN
Spanish Fork

Four Favorite TV Shows:
American Idol
Clean Sweep
The Partridge Family (now on video)
Everwood (even though my husband worked on the show and grew to dislike it)

Four Favorite Foods:
Fettucinni Alfredo
Pepperoni Pizza
Cheesecake
Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Four Websites I Frequent:
Drudge Report
Spanish Fork Library
Wikipedia
Writers in Heels (of course!)

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:
In a comfy spot, reading
In Los Angeles with my husband who is working on a commercial
Visiting family in Indiana
Back in the beginning of June, ready to start summer vacation again

Four Movies I Love:
Franco Zefferelli's Romeo & Juliet
Ever After
Back to the Future
Never Been Kissed

Four Bloggers I Tag Next:
Zac Quist
Alyssa Burrell
Heather Moore
Scott Franson

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
(No Spoilers)

It's midnight on Sunday evening. My copy of the final installment of Harry Potter arrived Saturday afternoon, and I just finished reading the last page. I refuse to give any details about the book because I want each of you to have the chance to read it spoiler-free like I did. (Although my oldest son ran through the house shouting out spoilers he had heard from someone. I was far enough along in the book at the time to know that only one thing he said was even true! The rest, bogus.)

Let me just say, I liked the book. So many questions were answered and the story held my attention to the very last page. For those of you with young children, I will say there is some strong language you might want to be aware of or perhaps edit out if you are reading it aloud. But overall, the book was well written and satisfying.

My poor husband has been begging for the book all day, so now that I'm finally done, he's starting to read, despite the fact that it is after midnight!

For any of you who don't yet have a copy, here's a great price through amazon.com.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Following Tristi's Lead

Okay, I'll admit Tristi's blog got me curious, so I hopped over and took the quiz. Here's my evil result:



You Are 36% Evil




A bit of evil lurks in your heart, but you hide it well.

In some ways, you are the most dangerous kind of evil.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Off to the Rat’s House

I don’t know where it started, but one of my friends has always called anything associated with Disney “The Rat’s House.” Now, this friend used to work for Disney Pictures, so maybe the nickname is an inside code, or perhaps a commentary on how the employees were feeling about the place. Who knows? In any case, my husband picked up the nickname and anytime we’re off to the Magical Kingdom, he reminds us we’re going to visit the Rat’s House.

We’ve been to Disneyland lots of times now as a family. My husband and I even spent three days of our honeymoon there. So, this week, we’ve decided to go one better—we’re off to Orlando to visit the Giant Rat’s House. We’ve got seven days on the ground to park-hop between EPCOT, Disney-MGM, Animal Kingdom, Downtown Disney, and the Magic Kingdom.

I’ve been to Disney World twice before—long before EPCOT opened. This is a first time for my husband and the boys. Here’s to hoping they can find something new to experience that will keep them all happy. Lots of high-speed roller coasters for the older two, plenty of classic Disney for the other three, some culture for Dad—even though we’ve heard the Japan pavilion is closed for remodeling—and an occasional place for me to stop and breathe. A trip with my husband is sometimes called “The Forced March” rather than a vacation.

Before I leave, I wanted to write one more entry into the Summer Reading Thing, especially since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be here a few short days after I return.

It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff by Peter Walsh.



I LOVE the TLC program Clean Sweep. As a matter of fact, I think it’s a shame the network took it off their regular line-up. Even though I’ve seen each episode a dozen times, I still continue to watch it whenever they decide to run one, and organizer Peter Walsh is the reason why. When I listen to his fascinating Australian accent and his genteel way of approaching people who cling to their stuff, I am more motivated to clean house, de-clutter areas, and show respect toward those items that have meaning to me. One of my favorite ways to clean is to turn on Clean Sweep and watch the show while I de-junk a closet or sort through items shoved into a dresser drawer.

When TLC announced they weren’t doing any more episodes, I was so bummed, I thought, “How will I ever get anything done without Peter to guide me?” Someone at Free Press must have thought the same thing because they came to my rescue and published this book. Thank you Free Press, and thank you Peter Walsh. Now I can motivate myself to do a clean sweep of a room anytime I need to.

By the way, Peter Walsh’s other book—How to Organize Almost Everything—is a great reference tool also.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Moment for Celebration

I am currently printing out all 658 pages of a non-fiction manuscript that has actually been requested by a local publisher.

Here's to keeping my fingers crossed and hoping I'll soon have another moment for celebration.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Summertime Blues

I know . . . summer is supposed to be the time of vacations and free time . . . well, at least that’s what I thought when I was a kid. Now that I’m an adult, I see that summer is just as busy for me as the school year. Didn’t I go into teaching so that I would have my summers off?

Well, I guess that just isn’t an option when you are a workaholic like me, who has a crazy husband and five sons to boot. I’m done with classes until the first week of August when I head back to Logan for a three day introduction to my graduate program workshop. Of course, Im already half-way done now with that program, and we just got word that my husband will be working in California those three days (and a lot more), so what am I going to do with my kids while we’re both gone? Such a bother, as Winnie the Pooh might say, but I’ll play Scarlett O’Hara today and say, “Fiddle-dee-dee. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

This week I’m trying desperately to finish a manuscript a publisher wants to see. Okay, I know it’s my fault for sending that e-mail query out the day before I left for Logan the first time, but how was I to ever guess I’d get a positive response in less than four minutes! I’m just too conditioned to those New York editors who take six months to tell me, “No.” Monday is my own drop-dead deadline for getting this nearly 600 page document into the mail.

Of course, that means I have to work like crazy between now and then because we are going to a family reunion in Beaver on Saturday and packing for a 10 day trip to Disney World Resorts. We leaved Tuesday, the day after my deadline, if I make it that long before collapsing!

Once the trip is over (if I’m not in jail for killing my husband or one of the kids—why is it teenagers can’t just stop the whining and be happy they are going to the Happiest Place on Earth????), I have a whole two weeks to enjoy my summer vacation, then I’m off and running, back to my graduate classes, getting ready to teach school (and those 7th graders I’ve never taught before), and still trying to finish the novel I’d hoped to have written by the end of June.

At least I spent an hour this afternoon watching my youngest play in his new pool. I guess that will have to count as my real summer vacation.

I did find the time to finish the second book from my Summer Reading Thing.

Ghost of a Chance by Kerry Blair

Samantha Shade, of the Nightshade Detective Agency, has been hired to find out what seems to be haunting the San Rafael Mission. But soon, Samantha is investigating a series of murders occurring within the parish. Several young men are found executed in the same gruesome manner—and each is discovered with a marigold between his lips. The clues all seem to lead to someone at the Mission. Who could be responsible? It’s Samantha’s job to find out, especially if she wants to live.

I love the book covers on this series, but unfortunately the books themselves have both been somewhat annoying. When I read a book, I want to be in the story with the main character, but not having them talk to me so often they draw me out of the intensity of the story, especially at a key time. At least this volume got rid of the crossword puzzle clues that ended every chapter in the first book (Mummy’s the Word). I think this author is really talented overall, but I have trouble staying hooked with the parts of the story that try to be “cutesy.” The joke just doesn’t translate onto paper for me. Because I thought book two was better than book one, I may give her one more chance when number three comes along.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Once Again, the Critics Got It Wrong

I often wonder who these people are who write the reviews for the latest Hollywood movies. What kind of a life must they lead? Do they all wait to read that first review before they make up their mind about a film and their opinion of it? Why do they so often get it wrong?

This weekend I took my sons to see Evan Almighty. Now, I admit, I have never seen Bruce Almighty, and the reasons have been clear: the previews for the Jim Carrey film were crass in my opinion. The MPAA rating service agreed with me: “Rated PG-13 for language, sexual content and some crude humor.” I did not want to pay money to watch a movie make fun of the very core of my beliefs.

There was something different about the tone of the trailers for Evan Almighty, however. The situations were funny and the characters seemed genuine, in a sweet and innocent way. The rating was only PG for mild rude humor and some peril. So off we went, including my 7 year-old, and I’m here to tell you, I was not disappointed.

The movie was hilarious, one of the best comedy films I’ve seen in the last couple of years. And that crude humor? Bird poop and alpaca spit. Seriously! Even when Evan Baxter and his wife get into bed at night, they are modestly clothed, and here’s the clincher—Evan gets onto his knees and PRAYS! When’s the last time you saw that happen in a movie made in Hollywood?

Morgan Freeman is great as God. He’s funny and personable, and someone I’d want to know as my Father in Heaven. The lesson Evan learns about following God’s will is beautiful, and even the bad guy gets what he deserves in the end.

There was not a single moment that I wasn’t enjoying myself. I never worried about my youngest watching this movie with me. I will admit, one of my teenagers thought it was stupid (of course, he thinks mostly everything is stupid—it comes with the age), but then, he loves Jim Carrey and crude humor so this one didn’t meet his lower level comedy standard. It required the audience to THINK.

And as for Hollywood? My husband is working on a shoot there this weekend as I write this. He passed on my review to their director who said, “I’m so glad to know. I was looking for a movie I could take my children to without having to worry.” Go figure!


I finished reading my first book for the Summer Reading Thing, so here’s my review.

The Fudge Cupcake Murder - Joanna Fluke

Hannah Swenson, owner of The Cookie Jar bakery, once again finds herself in the middle of a mystery, and it’s not just trying to discover the secret ingredient in a fudge cupcake recipe for the cookbook she’s compiling (although readers do get that recipe along with several others in the chapter divides.) After teaching her evening cooking class, while taking out the trash, Hannah discovers the body of Sheriff Grant, a not-well-liked man who was running a campaign for re-election against Hannah’s brother-in-law. The last thing the sheriff had been doing before his death? Eating one of Hannah’s trial fudge cupcakes, and the icing is all over him.

This fifth book in the series will continue to delight (and probably make hungry) fans of cozy mysteries. I know I’ll go back to Lake Eden, Minnesota, for another stop at The Cookie Jar.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Logan Bound

As some of you know, I’m currently enrolled in the Utah State University Graduate Program for a MEd in Instructional Technology. My focus area is Library Media, so this week I’m off to Logan to finish up my practicum, hours spent working in real libraries alongside my professors.

Since Murphy seemed to know what he was talking about with his Law, the fact that have to be gone from Sunday night until Friday evening also means that my husband, who has been home nearly full time for the past couple of months, has now been called to work on a series of commercials in Los Angeles and a film being made in Salt Lake. Ya gotta love it, but now we need to figure out how to fit his job around watching the kids who are still home for the summer.
(Of course, life will only get more insane if Mike’s jobs overlap the BIG TRIP planned for July that takes us off to Disney World for ten days.)

In any case, being in Logan means a top ten list for me:

1. I’ll have a whole week without my husband and kids driving me insane.
2. I’ll have a busy week attending classes and working in libraries.
3. I’ll not have access to my computer or the files at home.
4. I’ll be totally out of touch with all of YOU.
5. I’ll be worrying like crazy about finishing my homework for my classes.
6. I’ll be wondering how I’ll ever get the manuscript ready that a local publisher has requested.
7. I’ll be thinking about the deadline I set for myself on the new novel that isn’t getting done.
8. I’ll be too tired every evening to read the books that will be overdue at the public library.
9. But maybe I’ll never sleep in a strange apartment, on a strange bed (should I take all 5 of my pillows?) While sharing the bathroom with people I don’t know.
10. I’ll be so worn out when I get back from this trip, I’ll be happy to be bothered by my husband and sons while I try to write that work of art which will bring me fame and fortune, if I only survive the week in Logan.

See you all when I return, but in the meantime, I think I’ll join Tristi in the Summer Reading Thing. Here’s my list of books, and in no particular order:

1. The Book Thief - Markus Suzak
2. The Fudge Cupcake Murder - Joanna Fluke
3. The Children of Hurin - J.R.R. Tolkien
4. Tantalize - Cynthia Leitich Smith
5. Ghost of a Chance - Kerry Blair
6. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth - T. Harv Ecker
7. It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff - Peter Walsh
8. Shakespeare's Landlord - Charlaine Harris
9. New Moon - Stephenie Meyer
10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J. K. Rowling

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Publication by Piggyback

Okay, okay, so it isn’t my book that’s new in the stores, but I feel like I’ve helped give birth to this baby all the same. Michele Paige Holmes (http://www.michelepaigeholmes.com/) has just released her first novel, Counting Stars. Since I’m a member of Michele’s critique group, and since I helped edit this book, I feel like it’s got a little part of me inside. As a matter of fact, it does—it has my name in the acknowledgment page.

Michele should be proud. This is a great story, and readers will love it. I’m happy to recommend it to all of you, especially since I played a small part of seeing it be released.

Thanks, Michele, for letting me be a support to you on this project, and for all the support you (and the rest of our illustrious group) give to me. Maybe next year, I’ll be the one standing at the autograph table, handing out chocolates and hoping people will buy my book. In the meantime, keep working on Jay’s story and I’ll get back to creating a romance for Jenny and James.

From the back cover of Counting Stars . . .

Jane was hoping for a date—maybe even a boyfriend. What she wasn't expecting was Paul Bryant's completely original and sincere pick-up line: Hi. I'm Paul. I have terminal cancer. My wife was killed in a car accident, and I'm looking for a woman to raise my children.

It was never Jane's plan to fall in love with a dying man and his two infants. But her seemingly simple decision to date someone outside her faith leads to one complication after another. With the stakes this high, is choosing to help Paul a choice to be alone forever?

And how can Paul feel so confident that this woman—who's never managed to keep a checking account for more than six months—should be the one to raise his children?

How can something that seems so unbelievably insane feel so completely right?

Sometimes love is found in the least likely places, and the greatest blessings are discovered while counting stars.

Available now: http://www.covenant-lds.com/osb2/itemdetails.cfm?ID=2023

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Take A Meeting

We have become a world filled with meetings. There are meetings for planning, meetings for training, meetings to plan for meetings! No organization seems to be able to run anymore without heaping on meetings.

Take the church for instance. Elder Henry B. Eyring reminded us the November 1996 General Conference: “Prophets in our time have consolidated our meetings on Sunday to allow time for families to be together.” Yet this morning, three of my teenage sons are already at the church—four hours before our block starts—attending a training meeting. Once this meeting is done, they will be off doing fast offerings. Tonight there is a Stake Fireside kick-off to this week’s Youth Conference which takes them out of town for two days, after an evening of doing service projects in the neighborhood. Last night, one of the boys had a meeting to plan this morning’s meeting, and a phone call earlier today confirmed that all three of the boys have an extra meeting every Sunday this month except for Father’s Day, which is always our stake conference. So, would someone please remind me, when we are supposed to have extra family time on Sunday?

Church isn’t the only place we’ve become meeting-happy. I teach school and it seems that preparing lessons and spending quality time in my classroom isn’t enough, despite the fact that my students’ scores on the time-wasting tests are sky-high. Last year we started collaboration—which so far has meant that my former student teacher tries to tell our entire department what to do. Next year, the district has found this extra meeting to be so important that we have a late-start every Wednesday—more time away from teaching—so the teachers can meet to collaborate (lock-step might be a better description of the intention in my opinion). Isn’t is amazing that I’ve survived 28 years of successful teaching without this extra weekly meeting?

Then there are board meetings. I’m on several boards for education-related organizations. What used to be monthly on-line meetings for one board is once again swaying toward in-person meetings that require members to travel from the far reaches of the state for an hour of face-to-face. Another local board calls for a small group (3-5 people) to meet at a central location each month, despite the fact that a conference phone call or e-mail could handle all of the decisions in a matter of minutes.

Add to this the meetings we have to attend as parents (state-required SEOPs four times a year per child, for example), and the list of places we have to be can suddenly become overwhelming! Is it any wonder people skip out, don’t participate, or are always running late? Obviously, they are scheduled for too many meetings!

How I long for the good old days, when life seemed to go along smoothly and was not run by a day-planner scheduled full of excess meetings that some leader has deemed as vital to the success of their program.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My Summer Writing Schedule



Summer vacation is supposed to be a time of relaxation, but that never seems to happen for me. Instead, my time away from teaching school is my window of opportunity for writing. This summer’s schedule is no different from any others, except that this year I’m going to graduate school at the same time.

Here’s a rundown of what I’ll try to complete in the 80 days between the time school gets out and when the teachers go back to work:

1. Finish the new romance novel I’ve been working on.

2. Finish the Middle Grade novel I started this year.

3. Finish the book guides for Books, Books, and More Books: Volume 2.

4. Write a screenplay adaptation of a novel I’ve wanted to see made into a movie.

5. Write several magazine articles and submit.

6. Continue my columns, blogs, and zines.

Then there is the marketing. These are my summer goals for the things that are already written, edited, and looking for a publisher:

1. Follow-up with editors and the agent for the three books already submitted.

2. Query publishers for three more books.

3. Search for a film agent for the three scripts I’ve written.

4. Check with the producer who optioned one of my scripts to see what’s happening with funding.

5. Query magazines and submit articles.

6. Do interviews and assemble podcasts to post to my blog.

Oh, and I can’t forget the editing.

1. Finish the 90,000 word manuscript that was dropped off to me this week.

2. Go through my own stack of edits from my critique group and revise my manuscripts accordingly.

3. Edit manuscripts for Precision Editing Group.

4. Get to critique group every week.

5. Meet with a fledgling critique group to help them know how to get started.

And at last, I’ll have time to read the hundred or so novels that publishers have sent me to review for my newspaper columns, educator magazines, or workshops I present.

Oh, no! That means I’m back at list one with more things to write! And they call this a VACATION.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Give Me a Break!

My entire life I’ve wanted to be a writer. Somewhere in my future scrap-booking projects box are copies of papers and poems I wrote clear back in grade school, as well as works from my high school and college years.

My computer hard drive is filled with more recent works—five completed middle grade novels, several film scripts, the new adult novel I’m working on, and countless non-fiction projects, both short and long. And, of course, the drafts of all those query letters and a chart filled with rejections from most of them.

All of this can sometimes get depressing, especially when I have a day like today. I was doing inventory in my classroom library and picked up a copy of Veggiemorphs: The Fungus Among Us, and I had to wonder, what on earth am I missing?

I slave for months—sometimes years—over a manuscript, doing rough drafts, research, and revising until I think I can’t look at the pages one more time. I follow the same process with the query, even running those past my well-published critique group. I study the guidelines for publishers and agents, then send my polished letters and manuscripts off into the world, hoping someone will love my babies enough to send me a contract.

But, when it comes to a novel or full-length non-fiction book, that hasn’t happened. And that’s why it was so depressing to see the Veggiemorphs book in my class library inventory. Not only did an editor offer a contract for this book, but someone—not me, I can assure you!—actually paid money to buy the book once it was published.

Granted, I hope what I write is much, much better than the quality of a Veggiemorph book (I’ll admit, I haven’t read one, but my students have totally panned the series). The book may not be a work of art, but at least that author got something published, got a foot in the door.

Why can’t an editor give me such a break?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Where Does the Weekend Go?

I always have such high hopes of getting lots of stuff done over the weekend. Alas, the stack of historical fiction papers from my 9th graders still sitting in my school bag, 23 books perched on the top of my desk awaiting guides, and two novels that absolutely must be read and reviewed before next weekend prove that the time I thought I have never seems to be enough to cover all the things I have to do.

As I write this blog entry, it’s nearly six o’clock on Sunday evening. I still haven’t sent my two weekly e-zines to subscribers, and the three thousand words I wanted to write this weekend on my new novel will be lucky to make it to two.

Of course, I have sent two submissions, written two newspaper columns, composed three blog entries, and graded a few student papers, but it all seems so insufficient compared to all that I still need to finish.

All I have to do is make it through 19 more days, and my time will suddenly be as free as that of a queen. School will be through, and I’ll be able to concentrate on all of those tasks that get set aside for when there is nothing else to do.

Ah, the luxury of it all—until August, that is, when the back to school panic once again sets in. But in the meantime, there is still so much to do!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

It's a Techno-World, After All!

This past week has taken me deeper and deeper into the world of technology.

First, I finished two more Master's classes toward my degree in Information Technology.

Then, Annette Lyon got a group of us all technologically tied together through her Planet: www.WritersinHeels.com.

I set up a second blog of my own, www.LuAnnsLibraryTechnology.blogspot.com, plus posted at www.WritingontheWallblog.blogspot.com.

Next, I got myself registered all over the internet so I could post files at blink.tv, get subcribers hooked up through my blog at feedburner.com, and signed up to follow how many people are reading my blogs at technorati.com.

But, the biggest feat of all, is tonight I'm ready to advertise the first episode of "The Author's Corner," my podcast. This week features an interview with author Jeff Savage.

Those of you who listen to podcasts can subscribe and your computer will download new episodes to your MP3 (iPod) files as they become available.

Next, I'll be setting up interviews with some of YOU, but maybe I should take a few days off and grade that HUGE and growing stack of papers from my students now that only 20 days are left of school.

To listen to the podcast, click below.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Lu Ann’s Top Ten Classics

My honors students have proven the point that reading the classics does help with vocabulary development, especially when it comes to doing well on standardized tests. I’ve been reading classics since my own school days, and I’ve put together a list of ten books I’ve enjoyed. If you haven’t already ready them, pick one and give it a chance. You might be surprised by how fun it can be to read a novel written before you were born.

Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Signet Classics, 1997.
True gothic romance. The story of plain Jane, orphaned as a girl and raised in an abusive school, who becomes a governess of a young girl whose benefactor is irresistible to Jane. Despite their love for one another, his dark past comes between them just as they are to be married.

Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol. Bantam, 1986.
Must you ask? The story of Scrooge, miserliness, and finding love in the world. Incredible descriptions are lost if you’ve only seen the movie.

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Warner Books, 1988.
Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, the story follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus—three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman.

Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Signet Classics, 2004.
Believe it or not, I just read this fable of a workers' revolution gone wrong for the first time this year. And who said English majors couldn’t graduate without reading the classic canon?

Shakespeare, William. Romeo & Juliet. Folger Library, 2004.
How could I ever omit my favorite play by my first cousin, twelve times removed ? (We share common ancestors of Robert Arden and Mary Webb.) I memorized the soundtrack to the Zefferelli film version in 1968 and teach this tragic love story every year, yet I continue to love it and learn something new each time I teach it.

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Peter Bedrick Books, 1989.
The original vampire tale begins when a young Englishman travels to Transylvania to do business with a client, Count Dracula. After showing his true and terrifying colors, Dracula boards a ship for England in search of new, fresh blood.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Oxford World’s Classic, 1984.
As Eliza flees slavery to protect her son, we see into three plantations, each worse than the other, where even the best plantation leaves a slave at the mercy of fate or death.

Stratton-Porter, Gene. A Girl of the Limberlost. The Library of Indiana Classics, 1984.
This was my mother’s favorite novel when she was a girl. I read it every year from 4th - 12th grade. Once I even visited the Limberlost—or what’s left of it—and Stratton-Porter’s home where Elnora’s butterfly collection is still displayed. The movie doesn’t do this book justice.

Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome. Signet Classic, 2004.
Another classic that I just discovered this past year. The hard-edged irony and the flashback technique provides an incredible climax in this story of Ethan Frome, his wife Zenobia, and her young cousin Mattie Silver, the woman Ethan learns to love.

Wilder, Thornton. Our Town: A Play in Three Acts. Harper Collins, 2003.
Set in Grover's Corners, N.H., the play relates the story of George Gibbs and Emily Webb as they go through courtship, Emily’s early death from child-birth, and her thoughts as a spirit in the local graveyard.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Playing Tag on the Internet

The latest rage in the blogging game seems to be playing tag, you’re it. Hey, didn’t we play this in grade school? Oh, well, since I’ve already been tagged, I’ll give it a go. Maybe I’ll learn something along the way.
Here we go for my HISTORY TAG.

1. Go to Wikipedia and type in your birthday without the year:

April 27

2. List 3 events that occurred that day:

1667 - The blind, impoverished John Milton sells the copyright of Paradise Lost for £10. (I can feel his financial pain, Oh, the difficulty at finding a well-paying publisher!)
1810 - Beethoven composes his famous piano piece, Für Elise. (One of the few classica pieces of music I can still play!)
1911 - Following the resignation and death of William P. Frye, a compromise is reached to rotate the office of President pro tempore of the United States Senate. (Hey, Frye is the maiden name of my great-grandmother. I wonder if we are related to this guy?)

3. List 2 important birthdays:

1759 - Mary Wollstonecraft, English author (d. 1797) (Here’s woman I’d heard of, but never read. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about her: “Wollstonecraft is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but only appear to be because they lack education.” Since education is very important to me, I think I like her way of thinking.
1899 - Walter Lantz, American cartoonist (d. 1994) (I chose him because my older brother used to go around the house singing the theme song to The Woody Woodpecker Show, a character created by Lantz.)

4. List 1 death:

· 1882 - Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist (b. 1803) (In keeping with the literary theme.)

5. List 1 holiday or observance:

· Finland: Veterans' Day (In honor of Annette who tagged me!)

Now for tagging other bloggers: (I know, I’m supposed to tag 5 people, not 2. I have a problem though—all the other bloggers I know have already BEEN tagged in this game!)
Heather Moore
Margy Layton

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Non-Fiction: Just the Facts

Here’s a list of the top ten non-fiction books I’ve read with or recommended to my junior high school students. The kids have told me they loved them.

Ayer, Eleanor. Parallel Journeys. Aladdin, 2000.
The stories of two WWII youths, one a German Jew and the other a Hitler Youth, and how each of them viewed the world of their time. The text is excerpted from their published memoirs.

Barron, Tom. To Walk in Wilderness. Westcliffe Publishers, 1993.
A photo journal accompanied by poetry and journal entries about a month-long journey into the Colorado mountain wilds.

Crowe, Chris. Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case. Dial, 2003.
While researching a book about Mildred D. Taylor, Crowe first learned about Till. Unable to rest without this story being told, the author wrote a children’s novel, Mississippi Trial 1955, the story of a white boy who becomes interested in the trial. But more needed to be explained and this non-fiction book tells the rest.

Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl. Pocket, 1990.
Everyone should read Anne’s entire diary at least once in their life. There is so much more here than what the play gives students, and understanding the fear of oppression and those who fight for right in the world is just as important today as it was during WWII.

Hickam, Homer. October Sky: A Memoir. Dell, 1999. (also known as Rocket Boys)
Inspired by Werner von Braun and his Cape Canaveral team, 14-year-old Homer Hickam decided in 1957 to build his own rockets. They were his ticket out of Coalwood, West Virginia, a mining town that everyone knew was dying--everyone except Sonny's father, the mine superintendent and a company man so dedicated that his family rarely saw him. A beautiful movie, but even more beautiful memoir.

King, Stephen. On Writing. Pocket, 2002.
A must for any student who would like to improve writing skills. A former English teacher and Best-Selling author, King takes readers through his personal history as well as giving specific advice on writing marketable pieces.

Paulsen, Gary. Caught by the Sea: My Life on Boats. Laurel-Leaf, 2003.
Through this book, fans will enjoy learning about his attraction to the sea and how Paulsen came to live on the sloop Felicity where he wrote the novel Brian=s Winter. The danger he has experienced is real and makes for a great non-fiction read.

Paulsen, Gary. How Angel Peterson Got His Name. Yearling, 2004.
Although Paulsen’s non-fiction is not always squeeky clean, readers will identify with the short pieces in this book as Paulsen recounts his 13th year "of wonderful madness" and extreme sports of the day when he and his friends tried to shoot a waterfall in a barrel, break the world record for speed on skis, hang glide with an Army surplus parachute, and perform other dare-devilish stunts.

Sparks, Dr. Beatrice. Annie's Baby: The Diary of Anonymous, a Pregnant Teenager. Avon, 2004.
Annie, 14, falls in love with wealthy 16-year-old Danny, who takes her to drinking parties, rapes her, then becomes physically and emotionally abusive. Then Annie discovers she is pregnant and must decide what to do.

Ten Boom, Corrie. The Hiding Place. Bantam, 1984.
The true story about the Ten Boom family who hid Jews during WWII and then got sent to a concentration camp themselves.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Graphic Novels: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Kids like picture books, even when they grow up to be teenagers. And the picture books are growing up right along side them. Among the hottest books being published and purchased today are graphic novels. Longer than a comic book, but illustrated in the same manner, graphic novels are a great way for the visual learner to be exposed to the same types of stories and vocabulary that one would gain from a regular novel. If you’ve never read a graphic novel before, here are a few suggested titled to get you started.

Brigman, June and Richardson, Roy. Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty Puffin Graphics, 2005.
This version runs true to the original class novel in tone and art. The story of a horse: gentle, spirited, swift and steady. When his kind owners are forced to sell him, Black Beauty finds himself in a world not so refined.

Cavallaro, Michael. L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Graphic Novel. Puffin Graphics, 2005.
Take the classic children’s book, stir in a little touch of the MGM movie, and add a
Manga touch and you have this story retold for today’s reader.

Greyson, Devin. X Men: Revolution. Marvel Digests, 2003.
Color version of the X-Men team, how they were gathered, and the special skills that make them valuable to society. Based on the television episodes.

Hamilton, Tim. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Puffin Graphics, 2005.
Another graphic that remains true to the original classic, this one is a must for those who are seeking even more on pirates.

Holm, Jennifer. L. Babymouse: Our Hero! Random House, 2005.
Babymouse is terrified by the upcoming dodge ball tournament. Once again, Felicia Furrypaws is good at something that Babymouse is not, but this time, Babymouse is ready.

Holm, Jennifer. L. Babymouse: Queen of the World! Random House, 2005
Babymouse has a problem—she wants to be popular. But her arch nemesis, Felicia Furrypaws, is out to make sure that Babymouse doesn’t get her secret dream fulfilled.
.
Lobdell, Scott. Hardy Boys #1: Ocean of Osyria. Papercutz/Simon & Schuster, 2005.
MG, 96 pgs. 1597070017, $7.95.
“Frank and Joe Hardy, with Cathy and Iolam search for stolen Mid-Eastern art treasure, the Ocean of Osyeria to free their best friend, Chet Morton.”

Reed, Gary. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Graphic Novel. Puffin Graphics, 2005.
MG, 176 pgs. 0142404071, $10.99.
The classic tale of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, the monster he creates, and the long-lasting repercussions of abandoning his creation.

Smith, Jeff. Bone: Out from Boneville. Scholastic, 2005.
This is a compilation of the original comic books which follow the adventures of three blobby creatures who have stumbled into a valley full of monsters, magic, farmers, an exiled princess and a huge, cynical dragon.

Speigleman, Art. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale and Here My Troubles Begin. Pantheon, 1996.
The author retells his father’s experiences as a Holocaust survivor. Mature language and situations may not make this appropriate for all age levels.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Top Ten Books to Read Aloud

No matter how old, kids still like to be read to. Here are ten of the best books I’ve found to read aloud or listen to on audio with teenagers.

Cormier, Robert. The Rag and Bone Shop. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2001.
A seven-year-old girl is found dead—a suspected murder. But who did it? The special investigator who is called in is an expert at getting a confession out of his suspect. But what if twelve-year-old Jason really is innocent and Trent is just trying to save his reputation? (Do a little pre-editing for implied content.)

DeFelice, Cynthia. Weasel. Harper Trophy, 1991.
A ruthless villain known as Weasel commits unspeakable atrocities in the frontier wilderness. When 12-year-old Nathan's family is victimized, the boy is determined to avenge the wrongs on his own.

Horowitz, Anthony. Stormbreaker: An Alex Rider Adventure
When Alex Rider’s guardian uncle is killed in an automobile accident, Alex discovers that his uncle was really a spy killed on the job. Alex is taken into the agency in an effort to solve the crime Ian was investigating that involves a gift of computers to all British school children.

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Among the Hidden. Simon & Schuster BYR, 2006.
Luke was a third child, hidden away from the world for fear the Population Police would find out about him and kill him. The series continues with: Among the Imposters, Among the Betrayed, Among the Barons, Among the Brave, and Among the Free. Works with Anne Frank and the Holocaust.

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Escape from Memory Simon & Schuster BYR, 2003.
At a sleepover, Kira agrees to let her friends hypnotize her, but she reveals a buried memory of fleeing from danger with her mother and speaking in a language none of them understands. Then her mother disappears, and a woman shows up claiming to be Kira's benevolent Aunt Memory from a community called Crythe.

Plummer, Louise. The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman. Laurel-Leaf, 2005.
Kate Bjorkman narrates her tale of teen romance in the language and conventions of The Romance Writer's Handbook. This six-foot tall heroine with glasses thick as Coke bottles and an I.Q. off the charts proves that true love awaits even the gawkiest, most socially inept teen.

Taylor, Theodore. Lord of the Kill. Scholastic, 2004.
Sequel to Sniper. Ben is once again left in charge of the wild animal preserve when someone dumps a young woman into a cat cage where she is found dead. Ben must solve the crime before the authorities try to shut down the preserve.

White, Robb. Deathwatch. Laurel-Leaf, 1973.
Always a winner with reluctant readers. Ben is earning money by taking people on hunting trips, but this trip goes all wrong. When Madec shoots an old prospector, he wants to cover up the accident so he can get his bighorn sheep. Ben refuses and finds himself being hunted.

Williams, Carol Lynch. My Angelica. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 1999.
Sage and George, two wannabe-authors secretly enamored with each other, plan to enter the school writing competition. Sage is eager to enter her "steamy" novel-in-progress, but George knows her writing is awful and wants to spare his beloved a humiliating loss.

Zindel, Paul. The Doom Stone. Hyperion, 2004.
Well-written thriller/horror set in Stonehenge. Jackson arrives in England to help his anthropologist aunt track down a murderous beast, a mutant hominid.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Top Ten Hot Teen Picks

I’ll be speaking this week at the UVSC Forum on Children’s Literature. If any of you are going be sure to stop in my workshop and catch the updated version of these lists. These are the top ten books my students were talking about last year.

Brashares, Ann. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2003.
They were just an ordinary pair of thrift-shop jeans until the four close girlfriends took turns trying them on.

Hale, Shannon. Princess Academy. Bloomsbury, 2005.
The thought of being a princess never occurred to the girls living on Mount Eskel. When it is announced that the prince will choose a bride from their village, Miri, believes this is her opportunity to prove her worth to her father.

Hiassen, Carl. Hoot. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2004.
Roy is the new kid in town, and it’s the same old routine: bullies like Dana pushing him around. But if it wasn't for Dana, Roy might never have seen the running boy, met Beatrice, discovered the burrowing owls, or had the adventure of a lifetime.

Levine, Gail Carson. Ella Enchanted. Harper Trophy, 1998.
At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. A Cinderella story.

Lewis, C. S. The Chronicles of Narnia series. Harper Collins, 2004.
Four children travel repeatedly to a world in which they are far more than mere children and everything is far more than it seems. One of the few book sets that should be read three times: in childhood, early adulthood, and late in life. (Watch for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian in theaters 2008.)

Meyer, Stephanie. Twilight. Megan Tingley, 2005.
Headstrong, sun-loving, 17-year-old Bella declines her mom's invitation to move to Florida, and instead reluctantly moves to her dad's cabin in the dreary, rainy town of Forks, Washington, where she becomes intrigued with Edward Cullen, a distant, stylish, and disarmingly handsome senior, who is also a vampire.

Paolini, Christopher. Eldest. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2005.
Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have survived the battle at Tronjheim, but their challenges are not over. Galbatorix, the corrupt emperor, still rules Alagaesia and is looking for them. The magically bonded pair must help the rebellious Varden regroup after their leader is slain.

Shan, Darrin. Cirque Du Freak series. Little Brown, 2002.
Evil begins to win when Darren and his buddies find a flier for "Cirque Du Freak," a traveling freak show promising performances by Larten Crepsley and his giant spider, Madame Octa. Darren and his friend Steve wouldn't miss it for the world.

Skye, Obert. Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo (Aladdin, 2006)
Leven can glimpse and manipulate the future. According to the other characters—Winter, a girl who can freeze things instantly; Clover, a foot-high furry creature assigned as Lev's companion; and Geth, the wise but displaced king of Foo—Levan is also the only person who can protect the gateway to Foo, a place whose existence allows humans to dream, hope and imagine.
Westerfield, Scott. Uglies. Scholastic, 2005.
Tally Youngblood lives in a futuristic society that teaches its citizens to believe they are ugly until age 16 when they'll undergo an operation that will change them into pleasure-seeking "pretties." When Tally meets Shay, another female ugly, she has decisions to make that might change her future.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Top 10 Favorite Books for Adolescents

I speak at a lot of conferences and workshops for educators, and one of the favorite parts of my presentation both for me and for my audiences is when I give book talks. Here’s a list of my favorite books that I talked about in a workshop last summer. Maybe you’ll enjoy reading them too.

Auch, Mary Jane. Ashes of Roses. Laurel-Leaf, 2004.
Immigrants, Rose Nolan and her younger sister are left to care for themselves in America and must go to work in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory to survive. Rose makes friends with Gussie, whose father is a union organizer. And then, the infamous fire breaks out.

Ferguson, Alane. The Christopher Killer. Viking Juvenile, 2006.
Cameryn wants to be a forensic pathologist and follow in her father’s footsteps as the county coroner. When he allows her to join him, she proves she has a knack for detective work. But the next case is a murder, and the victim is one of her friends.

Funke, Cornelia. Inkheart. Scholastic Paperbacks, 2005.
A novel for the true bibliophile, filled with literary allusions, readers will enjoy the journey as they travel along with Meggie who has just discovered her father’s secret ability: he can read characters out of books and into the modern world. Unfortunately, he seems to have read Meggie’s mother into the book “Inkheart” several years before.

Holm, Jennifer. Boston Jane: An Adventure. Harper Collins, 2001.
Although Jane Peck is happy with her tomboy lifestyle, she wishes she could capture the attention of the handsome William Baldt before he moves to the great northwest. When an
invitation to join him and become his wife arrives, Jane’s life will be changed forever.

Kerr, P. B. The Children of the Lamp: The Akhenaten Adventure. Orchard, 2004.
Twins John and Philippa learn their true identity as children from a long line of Djinn, capable of granting three wishes to each person who releases them from their lamp or other temporary home. Soon they must use their new powers to overcome an ancient Egyptian pharaoh and his seventy djinn who will change the entire world if they are released into the wrong hands.

Naples, Donna Jo, The King of Mulberry Street. Wendy Lamb Books, 2005.
When Beniamino, a nine-year-old Jewish boy from Napoli, is smuggled aboard a cargo ship heading to America in 1892, he assumes his mother is onboard, too, but he has a lot to learn once he reaches New York. The streets are not safe and the food is scarce, unless you know how to survive.

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. Blizzard’s Wake. Atheneum, 2002.
Set in the 1941 North Dakota blizzard, the novel weaves together the story of Kate Sterling, who is still trying to cope with the death of her mother four years earlier, and Zeke Dexter, the drunk driver who killed her mom.

Ritter, John H. Choosing Up Sides. Puffin Books, 2000.
In 1921 society looked upon being left-handed as a sign of the devil. Twelve-year-old Luke is left-handed and discovers he has a natural talent for throwing a baseball. He is also the son of a preacher who sees both left-handedness and baseball as of the devil.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Scholastic, 2006.
In the latest episode, Harry is faced with Lord Voldemort’s Death-Eaters, even in the Muggle world. he leaves for Hogwarts with the promise of private wizardry lessons from Dumbledore, but once again, Harry is not sure who he can trust, and who he can’t.

Rook, Sebastian. Vampire Plagues: London 1850. Scholastic, 2005.
When a ship from Mexico docks in London a flock of bats and a young boy are the only living things on board. A London street urchin, Jack Harkett, hears the boy’s tales of a vampire plague that's killed the entire crew.

Friday, March 02, 2007

UCET Conference Day One

Wow! I've had such a great day at the UCET (Utah Coalition for Educational Techonlogy) Conference. I attended a keynote and three sessions by David Warlick (Consultant, Speaker, Author, and computer guru extraordinaire) took pages of notes, and learned so much already to improve my blog, e-zine, and website. Now I can hardly wait to start a wiki!

All this excitement from the person who once said, "Why do I need to learn to use a computer? I'll never use one in my life." Ah, the wisdom of youth and the irony of famous last words.

So, I'm trying out some of what I learned and if I've done it right, a photo of me listening to David Warlick present should show up here at the bottom of this blog entry. Keeping my fingers crossed!

http://l.yimg.com/www.flickr.com/images/spaceball.gif

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Writers Are No Better Than Their First Line

I attended the Nebo Reading Council Young Writer’s Conference yesterday and heard a wonderful piece of advice in a talk by author Carol Lynch Williams. She quoted author Richard Peck (Here Lies the Librarian): “Writers are no better than their first line.” To continue his thought, Carol said the first line of a novel should “grab the reader first, tell who the character is, and establish there is a problem.”

I decided to look over some first lines from a few of my favorite books and discovered this is indeed the case.

“Somehow I knew my time had come when Bambi Barnes tore her order book into little pieces, hurled it in the air like confetti, and got fired from the Rainbow Diner in Pensacola right in the middle of lunchtime rush.” - Hope was Here by Joan Bauer

“If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it.” - The Teachers Funeral by Richard Peck

“The bargain was quickly made between my mother and the witch.”.- Mira Mirror by Mette Harrison

“I wasn't even all the way home and I could hear it”. - A Mother to Embarrass Me by Carol Lynch Williams

“I grew up with my left hand tied behind my back.” - Choosing Up Sides by John H. Ritter.

So, I decided to look again at the current drafts of my own novels.

“Watch me, Leona. I’m Miss Tarantula, mysterious tight rope walker of Madagascar!”- Leona and Me, Helen Marie

“I was named after a movie star.” - Just Like Elizabeth Taylor

“Vickie and I had been waiting for this night for three weeks.” - A Note Worth Taking

"’A new world. Just saying the words brings a fire to my belly,’ Felipe Marco said, his fists resting on his hips.” - Tides Against the Sea

“Anita and I had made a plan on the phone: Think sophomore.” - an as yet unnamed novel in progress.

Maybe I’m more confident than I should be, but I think my opening lines follow both Carol and Richard’s advice. If my first lines can meet the test, then I guess there is hope for the rest of my novel. Now, if I can only find an editor or agent who agrees with me.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Law of Attraction

Everybody’s talking about it. Colleagues at work. People on the street. All the self-help motivator gurus from Oprah to Robert Allen, Wayne Dyer to Jack Canfield, Dr. John Grey to Dr. Phil. Everyone seems to know the secret to success—or path to failure—can be found in the law of attraction.

I’ve been proving that the law works for a long time in my life, but two very vivid examples have come to our family in the last few weeks. Both came quickly to fruition, and in the most unexpected ways.

Several weeks ago one of my co-workers—a believer herself in the law of attraction—brought around a basket of fortune cookies to each of the teachers in my building. I chose one at random and opened the message to read: “A long-lost friend will re-enter your life and re-establish a friendship.” That afternoon—less than 6 hours later—an old friend whom I had lost contact with called my house and talked with my husband. “Is this still LuAnn’s house?” She had located an old Rolodex card with my name, phone number, and address and decided to give me a call. Later, when I came home from work, she called back, we chatted and renewed old friendship ties, and made arrangements to see each other when she came on a trip to Utah. That visit was yesterday, and it’s nice to say the law of attraction worked in a most pleasant way.

The other example actually happened with my husband. A week ago on a Friday night, he commented that he wished our oldest son would stay home more often. As a seventeen-year-old, this son thinks he should be out gadding around every moment of the day, to the point he seems more of a border than a member of the family. The next afternoon, both my husband and I got emergency phone calls. A snow boarding accident and a lacerated spleen have taken their toll again—two years ago this same son had the same injury for the same reason at the same ski resort. Is this his own law of attraction?—and now this boy must stay home for two solid weeks, then he must spend another six weeks in limited activity which includes parental supervision at all times. Perhaps not a happy time for him, but it’s exactly what my husband wished for.

If you haven’t heard about the law of attraction before, maybe you should check into it. You never know what you might be drawing into your life without being aware. As for me, I’m working on keeping those positive thoughts in action—funding for my movie, a book contract or two, a giant influx of money. Hey, it all sounds good. Now if I can only locate that bottle where I’ve stored my genie. . .

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Making Progress

Do you ever feel like you’re just spinning your wheels in the sand? That’s how I feel most of the time anymore it seems, even though I know I’m actually making progress. The stack of papers on my desk at school diminished by two whole class sets this week, I finished reading two books I needed to review, and I managed to write both newspaper columns this morning in less than an hour.

When I forget how much I really have accomplished, I take a minute to look over my planner and submission calendar, then give myself a pat on the back. Too often we let all the things we still need to do overshadow all the things we’ve already done.

Each of us is given the same amount of time each day. It’s up to us how we use it. As for me, I’m making progress today with my “To Do” list. Only five hundred and fifty-seven more things to do before I go to bed tonight.

Actually, I’m just kidding because I just checked off this blog, so now I have one less thing to do!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Swimming in the Ocean of Paperwork

The end of the first semester and I’m still drowning in papers, papers, papers. It’s amazing how many papers 150 or so students can create at the end of a term—especially when they procrastinate and turn everything in at the last minute. Oh, how I love those students who finish their play reviews or reading logs early and hand them in weeks before the final deadline.

Final grades are finished and entered into the computer—a process which only crashed twice this time. Yippee and hallelujah. This week, I look forward to reading the very first literacy analysis papers my 9th grade honor English students have ever written. Based on the ones they volunteered to read aloud, the process shouldn’t be too painful to withstand.

I’ll actually have a little time to read them leisurely because my student teacher will be taking over a few class periods throughout the week. I threw him into the saddle for a little bit of time last week—letting him get a taste of reading a short story aloud and playing a well-organized vocabulary game. Now it’s time to throw him into the pool and watch him sink or swim. I have a feeling this one’s going to swim with no problem.

Now if I can only make it through the ocean of work I have awaiting me as my own new semester of graduate classes swing into full gear. If only the stack of edits awaiting my own work don’t overtake the computer keyboard like a tsunami, I should be back again next week.