Friday, June 26, 2015

She's At It Again!

       Hats off, again, to my childhood best friend Jessica Lawson on the release of her second novel, NOOKS & CRANNIES! She continues to be uber-impressive, cranking out fantastic novels while caring for two big kids and two little ones. 

       I haven't read it yet (don't worry, it's at the top of my summer reading list), but here is a little blurb: 

Tabitha Crum is a girl with a big imagination and a love for mystery novels, though her parents think her only talent is being a nuisance. She doesn't have a friend in the world, except her pet mouse, Pemberley, with whom she shares her dingy attic bedroom.

Then, on the heels of a rather devastating announcement made by her mother and father, Tabitha receives a mysterious invitation to the country estate of the wealthy but reclusive Countess of Windermere, whose mansion is rumored to be haunted. There, she finds herself among five other children, none of them sure why they've been summoned. But soon, a very big secret will be revealed--a secret that will change their lives forever and put Tabitha's investigative skills to the test. 

       I believe Jessica described it as CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY meets CLUE. Plus, I detect a couple references to MATILDA and even PRIDE & PREJUDICE. Can't wait!

       If you're interested in winning a free copy, check out Jessica and her agent Tina Wexler as they discuss middle grade voice here. You can also win a free query critique by Tina if you're a writer! 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My First Book Review

       The long awaited moment has arrived: on the last day of school, I finished reading my middle grade book The Sleepers to my 4th grade class. Then, I confessed. I apologized for lying to them, and told them it was not written by my friend, but by me (click here for my original post from when I began reading it to my class). 

       I wish I had photographed their faces. Imagine shock + delight + pride. I also wish I'd had time for a more formal feedback process, but it was a rather hectic day. After having missed the previous 4 days of school for jury duty, I had to try to squeeze what I'd normally do in a week in one day. On top of that, our end-of-the-year picnic was moved indoors due to thunderstorms. But as they sat eating their Dairy Queen lunch, I gathered what feedback I could and scribbled it down so I'd remember. Two of my students were motivated enough to write down a review for me. 

       Here are 4th graders' reviews and comments about The Sleepers:

"Fantastic book! Very suspenseful and adventurous! If this book gets published I call dibs on the first book!" (hand drawn: 7 stars)

"One of the best reads of my life. Okay, of 4th grade."

"You can retire from teaching when this gets published."

"Mrs. Azark, I. Am. Impressed."

"How did you get the idea?"

"I'd recommend that book to my friends."*

"When I'm in college, and my friends have your book on their bookshelves, I'll be able to say I know the author!"

"I don't know if this is good or bad, but there are lots of cliffhangers. It's good because it makes you want to keep reading, but it's bad when you have to stop."

"Can I have your autograph? It'll be worth millions."

"When this books gets published, I'm going to be the #1 person to buy it. And it WILL be published."*

"I love this book!"*

"It's kind of like The Giver, how it takes place in a 'perfect' society." *

"When this book is on the New York Times Bestsellers list, I'll say 'That's my 4th grade teacher!'"

*comment from before they knew I wrote it

       In addition to these comments, many of them were very concerned with what the cover of the book would look like. I insisted that I wouldn't have much input, but they shared their ideas anyway. So, prospective publishers, I have 27 children with ideas for the cover in case your artists can't think of anything. 

       It was a pretty cool feeling to see how excited they were about my book. I felt like a celebrity answering questions and talking about it with my kids. So, now I've completed my own market test, and I can't see what would be better proof to an agent or publisher that my book is worth taking on! 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Writing Workout: Wart

In need of a writing workout? 

       The SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) is hosting a new monthly writing prompt. The first 500 entries will be posted in their online gallery so others in the writing community, including agents and editors, can see little morsels of work by writers. 

       I could definitely use some writing exercises to keep me fresh, so I thought I'd give this a go and post my entry on the blog just for fun--and feedback! If you have any ideas or tips that can help me improve, let's hear them! Also, if you're a fellow writer, or are just looking for something to get your creative juices flowing, have a crack at it and post in the comments section! If you're a SCBWI member, enter your writing to be posted online. 

       JULY PROMPT: Write a description of a children's book character using no more than fifty words. The prompt word is WART. 

Ready, go!

       Greasy knuckle hair, moldy toe fungus, puss-filled pimples, and skunk breath…Wart is a typical ogre. But those aren’t the qualities that disgust his friends. It’s his overwhelming passion for baking pink petit fours.  What can Wart do to get others to enjoy his delicate creations?