Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Celebrating Successes, No Matter How Small

On this day last year, I took the advice of children's author Julie Hedlund and posted my writing successes on my blog [Writing Achievements from 2014]. Julie’s approach is an alternative to traditional New Year’s resolutions that stem from negatives, like 'what I didn’t do last year' or 'what I need to fix about myself.'
Her suggestion is to review your successes and achievements, and then use them as a foundation for setting goals. To me, this makes a lot of sense. I've been thinking about mine. Here are a few of my writing-related successes from 2015:

1. Like last year, in January I signed up for Julie Hedlund's 12 x 12 (12 picture books in 12 months), with the goal of writing more picture book manuscripts. I didn’t write one every month but I did end up with five, the same number as last year. And12 x12 also led me to my agent, Janine Le!

2. I played around with an idea I had for an amusing picture book that involves a very large animal and ended up spending a lot of time working on it throughout the year. I was fortunate to have valuable feedback from many wonderful critique partners and an amazing editor, in addition to helpful advice from my agent. I learned so much about writing and revising picture books!

3. In June, I won an honorable mention for my middle grade novel WILDERNESS GIRL in the Rate Your Story Writing Contest. I spent some of the summer and much of the fall revising the novel, again with insightful feedback from critique partners and my agent. At times it was hard work, but the end result was a stronger novel with more spark.

4. During the summer, I also revised another middle grade novel, THE MIRACULOUS DOG CURE. There are more revisions to come, but it was really great to finish a thorough revision of this novel and give it more structure.

5. In September, I bravely ventured out of my writing cocoon to attend my first SCBWI get-together in Toronto. It was interesting, fun and I met a new writing friend, Erika David, who lives practically in my neighborhood!                  

6. In November, I participated in PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) organized by author Tara Lazar, and I completed the challenge by coming up with more than 30 ideas by the time the month was finished. I’m looking forward to the fun of creating some new stories.

When I started to compile this list, I didn’t think I’d really done much writing work this year. Just like last year, I surprised myself with my successes. By far, my biggest accomplishment is the way I continue to grow and develop as a writer.

What are you most proud of from your writing or reading life this year? I hope you feel good about your writing and reading successes!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Book Recommendations for Readers Aged 9 to 12

I don’t have one Marvelous Middle Grade Monday feature for you today. Instead, I have a few middle grade book recommendations from my reads this year, in case you’re looking for a gift. I'll be taking a week or two off from featuring books, while I enjoy the holidays and work on my own writing.

For kids who love animals and especially zoos:

For kids who like books about wilderness adventures and survival:

 Stories that take place at a different time in history:

About friendship:

 For kids who enjoy emotional stories about overcoming personal challenges:

Just for fun adventures and mysteries:

What were your favorite middle grade reads this year? I'm always looking for more good books to read and welcome your recommendations!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: THE ELEVATOR GHOST

The title of this book caught my attention! I haven’t read any ghost stories for a while and this was fun, because it was really several ghost stories inside a larger one. 

Description from Amazon:

When Carolina Giddle moves into the Blatchford Arms, no one knows what to make of her sequin-sprinkled sneakers and her trinket-crusted car. But the parents are happy there’s a new babysitter around, and Carolina seems to have an uncanny ability to calm the most rambunctious child with her ghostly stories.

Armed with unusual snacks (bone-shaped peppermints, granghoula bars and Rumpelstiltskin sandwiches), candles to set the mood, and her trusty sidekick ― a tarantula named Chiquita, Carolina entertains the children with some good old-fashioned storytelling and, at the end, a great Halloween party.

Governor General’s Award winner Glen Huser brings his quirky sense of humor and horror to some time-honored motifs. The artistic Lubinitsky girls find out that artists must be wary of the power of their own creations. Holy terror Angelo Bellini discovers that no one can throw a tantrum like a double-crossed pirate. The Hooper kids, including UFO junkie Benjamin, learn about some eerie goings-on in the New Mexico desert. Timid Hubert and Hetty Croop are practically afraid of their own shadows, until they hear the story of a boy who finds the perfect weapon for overcoming his fear of the dark. And Dwight and Dwayne Fergus, two would-be Freddy Kruegers, finally meet their match in Carolina, and her story of the footless skeleton.

As for Carolina Giddle herself, it turns out that she has a timeworn connection to the Blatchford Arms, and to the ghost who still haunts the building ― especially its old-fashioned elevator.

The Elevator Ghost was written by Glen Huser and published by Groundwood Books in 2014.

My Take:

This book is amusing and full of mildly spooky stories that are linked together by an interesting character, Carolina Giddle. She comes to live in the apartment building and ends up babysitting different children that live in the building – keeping them entertained with ghost stories. At the same time, Carolina is also visiting her ghost friends. 

As a writer, I really enjoyed language and phrasing in the story. It was very interesting the way the author was able to keep a lighter tone and yet still create the suspense needed for a good ghost story.

Opening Line:

“Blatchford was scary any night of the year, not just on Halloween.”


“At an hour past midnight, all of the excitement over Halloween had faded away. There was just the smallest taste of it left, like the sweetness from a caramel.”

“She pulled out tea candles, can labeled Ghost Host: The Drink That Soothes, and a plastic container filled with dessert squares."

“My stories are often a bit raveled,” Carolina Giddle said. “I just tuck the loose threads back in best I can to make a tidy edge.”

Other Info:

Glen Huser has worked as a teacher-librarian, children’s book reviewer, and instructor in Elementary Education. He has written several YA novels, all of which have won prizes or been shortlisted for awards. Currently, he lives in Vancouver.