Monday, September 30, 2013

Young Reader Review: THAT SUMMER

We have a great new Young Reader Review today by Kennedy featuring Sarah Dessen’s YA novel, THAT SUMMER. Enjoy!

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Hi Kennedy! Thank you so much for joining us today! Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am 13 years old and in the eighth grade. I live in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I enjoy hiking, sliding and jumping off rocks, running, and of course reading. I have two siblings and a dog.

I love the mountains, especially in the fall! What types of books do you enjoy reading?

I enjoy reading nonfiction, realistic fiction, mysteries, and some fantasy.

What is your very favorite genre?

It is too hard to choose!

I know that you are an avid reader and that it’s hard to pick a favorite book, but tell us about your current favorite.

My current favorite is That Summer by Sarah Dessen. It is about a girl, Haven, around age 15, whose life is completely changing during the summer. Her father, a local sportscaster, has had an affair with the weather girl, they are getting married, and she soon finds out they are having a baby. Haven has a crappy job selling kids’ shoes, and her best friend is gone for a good chunk of the summer to summer camp and comes back a changed person.  Haven’s sister is getting married to a guy that Haven does not like. Her mother has changed since the divorce, and is thinking about moving out of the house Haven grew up in. Haven also starts seeing her sister’s ex-boyfriend all over the place. He is taking time off from college to work in his hometown for the summer, and she feels like he is the only one she can connect to.

Haven eventually breaks down, but with the help of family and friends, things start to get better. The book is called That Summer because Haven keeps remembering the summer when she, her family, and her sister’s ex boyfriend (the one she keeps seeing all of the time) went to Virginia Beach, and everyone was happy and her parents were still together.

THAT SUMMER sounds like a great book, Kennedy! Are there any kinds of books that you would like to see more of?

I would like to see more realistic fiction books about teenage girls who are athletes.

If you could meet any author in the world, past or present, WHO would it be, and WHY?

I would like to meet J.K Rowling because her story is so amazing and she is an awesome author.

I would also love to meet Ms. Rowling. She is tremendously talented and is one of my all-time favorite authors! know you enjoy writing, as well. What kinds of stories do you like to write? 

I enjoy writing mysteries and nonfiction stories.

I would love to read one of your stories one day, Kennedy! Thanks again for joining us today, and Happy Reading!

Friday, September 27, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: Smiley Face, A Poem about Braces

Thanks so much to Amy at The Poem Farm for hosting Poetry Friday today!

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My son Will had his braces put on yesterday morning! He survived the ordeal very well, with only a bit of soreness throughout the rest of the day. But every time I looked at him, I caught him poking and prodding his new hardware with his tongue. This morning his mouth is a bit sore, but he is hanging in there!

I searched online, but found very few poems about braces. So, in honor of this momentous milestone in our family (which will be repeated very soon when Ben gets braces), I came up with this orthodontic delight of a poem! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! ☺
 
Smiley Face
by Becky Shillington
No more popcorn, nuts, or chips
Nothing sticky past my lips
Brush and floss and rinse with care
Don’t let food get trapped in there!
 
Toothy, tonguey, feels so strange
Hotwired teeth are such a change
Shiny, silver, tight and straight
Looking good and feeling great!
 
My braces will be on awhile;
I’m guaranteed a “Perfect Smile!”
But there’s no rush—it’s not a race—
I like my brand new Smiley Face!  

 
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I’m off to the Carolinas' SCBWI Fall Conference this afternoon! I am excited to spend the weekend learning from industry experts, reconnecting with old friends, and making new writer friends! (If you are headed to a writing conference any time soon, be sure to read my Conference Tips post here.) Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and Happy Writing!  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Super SWEET Blog Award and My Recipe for Chocolate Chip Oatmeal “Inspirations”

Thanks so much to Vijaya, who nominated me for a “Super Sweet Blogger Award!” I am looking forward to attending Vijaya’s breakout session titled Building a Career in Nonfiction and Magazines at the Carolinas SCWBI Fall Conference in Charlotte, NC this Friday. Make sure to stop by her Reading, Writing & Ruminating blog for writerly wisdom and inspiration!

Here are five “sweet” questions and my answers:
1. Cookies or Cake?
Cookies, preferably with chocolate, nuts, and more chocolate. I actually came up with a new cookie recipe this weekend (I was trying to create the *perfect* chocolate chip oatmeal cookie), and I will share it below!
2. Chocolate or Vanilla?
Chocolate (of course!!)

3. Favorite Sweet Treat?
See answer #1

4. When do you crave sweet things the most?
Definitely in the afternoons when my boys come home from school. Yesterday after school we made caramel apples together—YUM!

5. Sweet nick name?
Mommy  (No explanation needed, right?)  
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Here is my list of five bloggers who have added a heaping pile of sweetness to my life (and who have not yet received this award). If you chose to accept this award, please answer the questions above on your blog and nominate five “sweet” bloggers who inspire you. Have Fun!
Joan Y. Edwards’ Never Give Up blog: Joan is a great writer friend of mine, and encouraged me to start my own blog. Joan is sort of like my “blogging Yoda” and is full of wisdom and advice. Her fabulous blog reached 70,000 views yesterday!! Congratulations, Joan, and thank you for being so SWEET and encouraging to me!

Joy Acey’s  Poetry for Kids' Joy blog: If you have never stopped by Joy’s blog, you should definitely take a moment and visit. For several years now, Joy has written a poem every single day and shared it on her blog. Thank you for the SWEET inspiration, Joy!
Tabatha Yeatts’ The Opposite of Indifference blog: Tabatha’s blog is terrific, and has all kinds of cool stuff about writing and music. She has an especially fascinating post here about how metronomes will eventually sync over time--seriously, check out the first video. It is amazing! I just found out this morning that I won an Opera for Kids CD in her most recent giveaway. Thank you, Tabatha! = )
Stacy Cacciatore’s Five a Day the Fun Way blog: Stacy’s blog is all about eating healthy and eating delicious! She is a wonderful writer who has combined her writing abilities with her nutritional knowledge, and her blog is full of great advice and yummy (and healthy!) recipes that kids and adults can both enjoy. Stacy’s encouraging blog is one of my favorite “foodie” blogs on the web today!

Laura Matias’ Let Them Come blog: Laura is my younger sister, but even if she wasn’t this blog would be one of my favorite blogs ever! Laura and her husband, Felipe, are missionaries living in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and serve children and adults living in the slums of the city. Laura’s blog is encouraging, uplifting, and inspiring, and her husband’s photography is truly amazing! I was listening to them speak at a church on their most recent visit to the U.S. and I kept thinking, “I can’t believe I’m related to these people…” Seriously, these are two people who you listen to and think, can anyone really be this GOOD and DEDICATED and TALENTED? (Laura and Felipe are wonderful musicians, as well.) But, I promise, they are totally for real. Please stop by their blog and see what I mean!
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And last but not least, as promised, here is my recipe for Chocolate Chip Oatmeal “Inspirations.” (I’m giving them that name because these are some seriously good cookies, and chocolate always cures writer’s block, right??)

Ingredients:
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
½ cup white sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled oats
1 (12 oz.) package chocolate chunks
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
 
Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375◦F

2. Mix butter, shortening, sugars, and vanilla in a mixer until light and fluffy

3. Beat in egg

4. In a small bowl, blend together flour, baking soda, and salt

5. Blend dry ingredients into sugar mixture

6. Add in oats, a little at a time

7. Using a spoon or spatula, fold in chocolate chunks and nuts
8. Spray cookie sheet with non-stick spray and drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls two inches apart onto cookie sheet
9. Bake for 10-11 minutes, or until edges are golden brown

10. Let cool on tray for 8-10 minutes

11. Remove to cooling rack

12. Pour a cold glass of milk, take a bite of “inspiration,” and enjoy! ☺

Monday, September 23, 2013

LIEBSTER Blog Award!

It was an eventful weekend for me—in a good way! I have been nominated for two different blog awards, and I am so excited to share the first with you today! (The second will be unveiled on Wednesday, and it is an especially “sweet” award, so please stop by then, as well.)

I’d like to say a very special thank you to Leandra Wallace for nominating me for the Leibster Blog Award, an award given to fabulous blogs with less than 200 followers. “Liebster” means sweetheart in German. What a nice name for a blog award! Please take a moment to visit Leandra’s wonderful blog here.


Here are the questions Leandra asked me, and my answers!

1. Who do you credit as being most inspirational in your life?

I would definitely have to say my grandmother, Catherine Bookout, who I remembered in this post in March. My grandmother was a strong woman of incredible faith, and one of her favorite sayings was, “Treat others like YOU want to be treated.” She died at age 96 last November, and I miss her every day!

2. What is your favorite thing to do on the weekend?
I love to take day trips to the mountains with my family. We love to hike and drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We also love to camp! 
       
3. Top three authors?
Oh, how do I pick just three? Hmmm….I am going with the first three that popped into my mind:
Judy Blume
J.K. Rowling
Diana Gabaldon

4. Snow or no snow?
Snow!


5. If you could visit any city in the world, what one would it be?                               I am assuming that this could include places I’ve already been, right? I love Vancouver, British Columbia for many, many reasons, so I am going with that one!
6. What is your favorite restaurant?                                                                     Pappadeaux (which—sadly—is nowhere near where I live now). Cajun flavor at its best!

7. Do you loan your books out?
Yes, but since I now read mostly on my Kindle, this happens much less often.

8. What's the one thing you're sick of seeing on book covers?
Those steamy pictures of people embracing on the covers of romance books really get on my nerves— really, who looks like that??


9. If you could travel back in time to any major historical moment, what would it be?
I think it would be interesting to witness the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the founding “moments” of the United States of America. What our founding fathers did really was amazing, and I think we don’t honor this enough today.

10. If you could pick a name for yourself, what would it be?
I love the name “Rebecca Shillington,” which is on my checks, but which is not really “me” (I like the name “Rebecca” but am definitely more of a “Becky.”) A cashier once said to me, “That sounds like the name of a princess!” If I ever write a sweeping historical saga I could put that on the cover, but for my current chapter books and picture books, I will stick with “Becky!”
 
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Thanks again, Leandra, for the nomination! Here are my nominees, with links to their blogs:

Mirka Breen at Mirka Muse

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes at Today's Little Ditty

Dani Duck at Artist Obscure

Julie C. Phillipps at Ninja Woman

Ann Eisenstein at anneisenstein.com

If you choose to accept here are the directions: Link back to the blogger that tagged you. Nominate 5-10 others and answer the questions of the one who tagged you (mine are below). Then ask 10 questions for the bloggers you nominate as well as letting your nominees know of their award. Oh, yeah—and have fun! ☺

Here are my questions:
1. When did you first know you'd like to be a writer (or illustrator)?
2. If you could meet any author, living or deceased, who would it be?
3. Coffee or tea?
4. What item is #1 on your "Bucket List?"
5.  What topic do you think is most overdone in the kidlit market today?
6. What is the best book you've read in the last six months?
7. Are you an early bird or a night owl?
8. What is your favorite opening line from a book?
9. Do you write better in silence or with background noise? (If you chose background noise, then what kind?)
10. What book has had the most profound effect upon your writing style?

Friday, September 20, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: It’s Apple Pickin’ Time

Thanks to Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference for hosting Poetry Friday Today!
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Every fall my husband and I make the drive up to Flat Rock, North Carolina and visit Sky Top Orchard with our boys. We’ve been taking this annual trip since we moved to the Carolinas from Texas in 2008, and it’s something we look forward to every year. We all enjoy hiking through the orchard and picking our own apples, and my boys love reaching for the highest, ripest, most perfect fruits.


Sky Top Orchard is a true Carolina Treasure, and this is evident in its growing popularity.  Every year the crowds get bigger and the line for their hot, fresh apple donuts gets longer. This year we made it to Sky Top before the line got too long and devoured a dozen between the four of us in about an hour. (The donuts alone make the 2-hour drive worth every minute!)
 

As I was walking through the orchard enjoying the cool mountain air, I started brainstorming a September Poetry Friday post that would incorporate our family’s day at Sky Top. I hope you enjoy it, and ALL of the fruits of this lovely fall season!
 
Apple Pickin’ Time
by Becky Shillington
Crispy, firm, crunchy, sweet
Apples are a treat to eat
 
Red and green, big and small
We love to pick them every fall
 
Gala, Mutsu, Red Delicious,
Honeycrisp—good AND nutritious
 
Tangy, tart, juicy—CRUNCH—
We take a bite and then we MUNCH!

Ben and Will get their pictures taken every year by this tree!
For more information about Sky Top Orchard, please visit their website at www.skytoporchard.com. They have a barnyard, pond, store, picnic/play area, and more! 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: Laurie Chance Smith, author of SNAPSHOTS

This is the first installment in my “Industry Spotlight” series, which will explore the publishing profession from all angles. Future Spotlights will feature interviews with authors, editors, agents, publishers, teachers, booksellers, and more!

Our very first “Industry Spotlight” guest is debut author Laurie Chance Smith, whose first book was released this spring. Laurie is a wife, mother, avid gardener, and native Texan. She is also an internationally published author and photographer with over 130 credits in adults’ and children’s magazines, and one of the most focused and dedicated authors I know!
 
Hello, Laurie, and thank you so much for being my guest today. Your first book, SNAPSHOTS: FOCUS ON NATURE IN THE BIBLE, was released in April 2013. Congratulations! I know that you are unagented and did this on your own. I think it is important for people to realize that they can get published without an agent—can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?

Thank you for inviting me as a guest on your blog, Becky. I have enjoyed writing since my earliest school days, but I really got interested in publication when my twin boys were around two. At that time, I felt my most important job was being a full-time mother, but I craved a creative outlet for myself. So I enrolled in a writing course, and that led to my first publication credit -- a puzzle entitled “Steely Snake” for Boys’ Quest magazine. I continue to work for magazines today and believe it is a wonderful way for writers to hone their skills and gain experience.
In fact, my book Snapshots was published because I was writing for magazines! I submitted a nature story to a magazine that is published by Review and Herald Publishing Association (R&H), and the editor of that magazine encouraged me to continue sending her nature stories. The idea dawned that R&H might publish a book of nature stories in the Bible. So I wrote the proposal, they asked for the book, and here we are.

What inspired you to write this book?

I am a nature girl. While other people may squirm when they see a “yucky” bug, I fetch my field guide to research its life cycle. I enjoy being outdoors, taking hikes, following animal tracks, watching butterflies emerge from their cocoons, hugging trees, and feeling the wind in my hair. I live on a piece of property that has been in my family for generations, and I feel very connected to the Earth here. I tried to share a sense of that reverence for the natural world in Snapshots. I want to encourage people to honor the Divine by spending time in nature and protecting the Earth and every living thing.
Can you tell us about your writing routine?

It changes day-to-day, and I am pretty relaxed about it at the moment. I’m working on two long-term projects and find that I do my best work when I allow myself time to doodle outside the lines. At other times, I write at a more harried pace. For example, when I am writing to a deadline and an editor is counting on me, I push myself to beat the deadline every time.
Can you share a bit about the new projects that you have in the works?

Both of my current projects are fictional works. I am in the finishing/editing stage on one, and the brainstorming/outlining phase on another. I have published short fiction for magazines and am transferring that experience to books. It is fun and challenging to create new worlds along with the characters and stories that fill them.
You wrote and photographed for magazines for many years prior to publishing your first book. Any words of wisdom to all of the aspiring authors out there?
Practice your writing skills every day. Make a list of your goals and the steps you plan to take to achieve them. Get involved in a writer’s group or find a writing buddy who will give you honest feedback on your work. Take writing courses or workshops.

Be true to yourself, but be flexible. Write what is on your heart, but be open to enjoying experiences that turn up in spontaneous ways. The doors that open will often come as a complete surprise! Walk through them!
Thank you very much for having me here today, Becky. If any of your readers have further questions, they are welcome to contact me through my website: www.lauriechancesmith.com

Thanks so much for joining us, Laurie! Your website is beautiful, and I hope everyone reading takes a moment to check it out!
 
SNAPSHOTS: FOCUS ON NATURE IN THE BIBLE is available through online retailers, as well as from the publisher’s website (http://www.adventistbookcenter.com/snapshots.html)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Half-Full Glass and What I’ve Been Reading

I didn’t write my usual Tuesday and Friday blog posts this week because I’ve been recuperating from surgery I had earlier in the week. This sounds much worse than it actually is, because in reality I kind of feel like I’ve been given a little vacation. When else would I have the opportunity to read as much as I like and sleep as much as I like for days on end, with my sweet husband and sons (more or less) cheerfully tackling every household chore? Instead of complaining about the pain and inconvenience of recovery, I decided early on to focus on the positives here, and it has made all of the difference in the world! ☺

Since I have been spending SO much time reading this week, I thought I’d discuss these books today. Usually, I am not one to read more than one book at a time. I also generally stick to the same genre for awhile, but lately I have veered from my usual reading style and have mixed things up a bit. Here is a tidbit from each of the books I have had the pleasure of reading this week—I promise I will not give too much away! 
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THE HANDFASTING by David Burnett  I just finished this book this morning. It is a wonderful story that begins when two college-aged kids become “handfasted” on a trip to Scotland, and picks up ten years later when the two reconnect. I enjoyed this book, and it definitely made me think about the significance of honesty in relationships and the pros and cons of small-town life.

THE BRIDE by Julie Garwood  OK, so this is definitely not "literary fiction," but it is still a really good book! Set in Scotland in the time of William the Conqueror, THE BRIDE is a light, easy read and is just fun—anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a bit of romance should enjoy this one.

THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER by Megan Shepherd  I don’t usually go for “thriller” types, but I LOVED this book, which uses H.G. Wells’ THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU as a springboard for its haunting, intricate story. This is superbly written, and I can’t wait to read more by this author!

GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn  About a year ago this book was chosen for my street’s monthly book club, but due to the craziness of life I never got around to reading it. GONE GIRL is a razor-sharp, fast-paced book that takes an up-close look at a couple’s (very) dysfunctional relationship. I was a bit unsatisfied by the ending, but, honestly, the whole book was definitely out of my comfort zone, and I think the ending just serves to prolong this discomfort. It DID really make me think, though, and is extremely well written—and it’s *definitely* a page turner!

A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM by Scott Southard  I love, love, love this book! Mr. Southard says up front that this is not a biography of Jane Austen, but is instead a projection of what he imagines her life to have been like. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his interpretation, and was gratified at the end of the book because I felt like Miss Austen finally had an opportunity to be the heroine of a story. It has always saddened me that she died at such a young age, but as Mr. Southard suggests, maybe there is more to her story than we know.  

A CLUE FOR ADRIANNA by Charlotte Kent, Annie Acorn, and Juliette Hill  This is a fun, lovely read, perfect for a weekend at the beach or relaxing at home. I started this book several weeks ago but got sidetracked by the back-to-school rush, so this was the first book I finished this week. I especially like the language and the coastal imagery the authors so skillfully employ. You really feel immersed in the setting!

NORTHANGER ABBEY by Jane Austen  I am re-reading this book, partly because of its reputation of being the “least favorite” of Austen’s novels. Why? I wondered. After starting and stopping it several times (definitely in exasperation, and interspersing it with these other books), I think I have figured it out. Miss Austen meant NORTHANGER ABBEY as a satire of the types of novels that were popular while she was striving toward publication. So, naturally, some of the nuances of this book are over emphasized to the extreme, such as the wishy-washiness of her main character, Catherine Morland, as well Austen’s several-page discourse of why she refuses to denigrate the reading of novels while writing HER novel. (I loved this!!) I also really like a particular sentiment that her hero, Mr. Tilney, utters about novel reading (see my quote of the week for this week). I am not finished with this book—I was a bit irritated with Miss Morland a few days ago and have not returned to her story—but I will pick it up again soon. I just love Jane Austen!


This morning I started reading PRIDE, PREJUDICE, and CHEESE GRITS by Mary Jane Hathaway  Here is the author’s dedication, which sums it up nicely (at least from what I’ve read so far): For my sister, Susan, who when I first told her I was writing a contemporary romance between two Civil War historians in Southern academia and it was based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, didn’t even laugh. Due to my (very) high regard for Jane Austen, I have not read many of the Austen spin-off books, but as a raised-in-the south writer with an addiction to southern literature, I just had to give this one a chance. So far it is great!

I plan to be back on track with my posts next week—please stop by on Tuesday, September 17 for the first post in my “Industry Spotlight” series. I will be interviewing debut author Laurie Chance Smith and I can’t wait for you all to hear what she has to say!

Have a wonderful weekend, and Happy Writing!