Friday, June 27, 2008

Kid Lit as a Travel Guide

The hubby and I went to Chicago earlier this week. When we discussed our travel plans, DH asked me if there was anywhere special I wanted to go. I quickly answered, “Yes! I want to see Sue.”

Sue is not a person. She is the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered. Visitors to the Field Museum in Chicago can see Sue in the main entrance hall. I read about Sue in the picture book, The Field Mouse and the Dinosaur Named Sue by Jan Wahl several years ago. Since then, I have wanted to go to Chicago to see the giant skeleton.

Sue is named after Sue Hendrickson, the fossil hunter who discovered the skeleton in Faith, South Dakota in 1990. The skeleton was purchased at auction by the Field Museum for $8.3 million. Wow!

Sue’s 600-pound head is in a separate case on a balcony overlooking the skeleton since its weight prevents it from being supported with the display. A 200-pound replica of her head was made and mounted with the rest of her skeleton.

Who needs a travel guide when children’s books are available?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hindsight is 20/20

I will be participating in a writers’ panel next month. We will be speaking to a group of writers on the benefits of belonging to a professional writers’ organization. I of course represent the writer on the road to publication. I started thinking about what experience (not wisdom) I might impart to the group. My first thought was – if you are a serious writer, join with other writers.

I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) after I had completed a few children’s stories and started attending local chapter meetings. I joined Romance Writers of America (RWA) and my local RWA chapter after completing a draft of my first novel-length manuscript. I thought that a completed manuscript was required to join!

My writing skills were not improving while I sat at my computer and wrote in a vacuum. I started to fill my writer’s tool chest when I talked with other writers -- one-on-one, in small groups, and at large conferences.

My writing tip of the week: Join with other writers. Not only will you improve your craft, but you’ll meet some really cool people.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Books and Movies

After reading a string of books for research, I treat myself to a laugh out loud contemporary or historical romance. A great book sometimes makes me want to see a favorite movie again. A new movie will remind me of another movie that has to be added to the must-see list or a book I must tack onto the to-be-read pile.

I recently read Whispers of Heaven by Candice Proctor (aka C.S. Harris), set in 1840 Tasmania. This wonderful book that is now on my keeper shelf reminded me of another favorite, The Thorn Birds, set a century later in New Zealand. My copy of the book is on a shelf in my mom’s house so I asked the young clerk at my local video store if they had any copies of the DVD. I could tell by her puzzled look that she had never heard of it. And unfortunately, the answer was no.

The movie, Nim’s Island (based on the book by the same name), was a must-see after the previews showing Jodie Foster’s writer character. This fun family movie added another film onto my future viewing list, Romancing the Stone. Anytime Romancing the Stone is mentioned or clips are shown at the Romance Writers of America conference, it gets a huge amount of applause. Not sure if all of the writers in my area are checking the movie out, but it looks like I will have to buy my own copy if I want to see if anytime soon. Such a hardship.

Am I the only one in this book reading-movie watching cycle? Is it summertime fever? Do you have any favorite books or movies that you pull off of the shelf at this time of year?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mirrors in Storytelling

What do mirrors and storytelling have in common? I think of magic mirrors in fairy tales first. “Mirror, mirror on the wall . . .” from Snow White or the magic mirror from The Sister’s Grimm by Michael Buckley. I have to add the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Characters can also mirror each other. I have been brushing up on some craft info lately and read a passage about mirror characters in Darcy Pattison’s Novel Metamorphosis (a great workbook on revision). She said Mirror Characters “are used to highlight similarities or contrast differences” and gave one example as Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl’s characters of pirates Pintel and Ragetti mirroring the two bumbling British soldiers.

I mentioned this at the dinner table one night. The Parker children are taking their Summer Rights seriously by watching the entire Star Wars series (again) this week. They told me there are mirror characters in Star Wars also and gave these examples:

Anakin’s arm cut off (Episode II)
Luke’s hand cut off (Episode VI)

Anakin electrocuted by Count Dooku (Episode II)
Luke electrocuted by Emperor/Darth Sidious (Episode VI)

In the Harry Potter series, I see Harry and Tom Riddle/Voldemort as mirror characters.

Do you recognize any mirror characters in your favorite books or movies?