Raising a Book Critic: Advice to Writers

Happy first Tuesday in January readers!  Today’s bit of advice to writers comes from kiddo. Kiddo’s full of surprises this morning. One was his critique of a kid’s book. As I’m sitting at my home computer desk, trying to keep my eyes open (yes, I know it’s 8:30am), I’m reflecting on his critique without naming the book here out of respect for the writer.

Add raising a book critic to my resume. I’ve been encouraging kiddo to read more (indeed, my tweeps know all about that). And since he was up and dressed early this morning, I egged him on to read before school. Except, I chose a book that he didn’t like after 20 pages. I asked him what he thought was going on with the book. Here is his advice to writers.

Get to the point. With a great cover that had me interested in reading the book, I thought kiddo would go for it. I was wrong. He told me it was the 7th book in a series. Kiddo was bored with the recap of the previous books. He was waiting for the book to get interesting. He kept trying to read it and now he won’t look at it.

Keep it simple. Kiddo didn’t understand the point of the story because he was too busy being annoyed by the backstory. He didn’t like all the previous history. Yes, it might important for the writer’s vision for the book, but without writing for the readers, especially kids, it’s very hard to reel them into the story.

Improve your writing or else. The writing didn’t work for him. Kiddo said he wouldn’t finish the book. And he’s not. It doesn’t matter how much I sweet talk him, cajole him or threaten to Gangnam Style at his school – he’s not having it. And I’m pretty sure that if he saw another book by the author, he wouldn’t think twice about rejecting it.

Writing is a tough gig. Being critiqued is even harder. You spend so much of your time making it perfect only to have a pipsqueak (like kiddo) tell you it’s not good enough. And it will sting. But, it will also help you become a better writer. I’m not saying that bending over backwards is necessary, but knowing who your target reader is important when you’re writing for that reader. If you follow the steps above, you’ll have a dedicated reader sharing his favorite books with his pals. Have a great Tuesday!

 

 

 

Ruckus Reader is here!

Parents, got an iPad or iPhone? Do your kids hijack your electronics to use apps? In search of apps perfect for your little readers? Look no further than the Ruckus Reader.

Specially made for kids, Ruckus Media offers a variety of apps for young readers through 8 years old.Very user friendly, kids can choose to have the story told to them or read it out loud. Cool graphics, great music and classic stories come to life with the Ruckus Reader. The kids can use the apps over and over again for reading fun!

 

And that’s not all. Parents, the Ruckus Reader also “gives parents feedback on how their kids are doing and tips on how to help.” It reinforces national educational standards for preschooler through second grade. The Ruckus Reader has been given thumbs up from Daily Candy, Parents.com, Five Minutes for Mom and Mediabistro. To learn more, check out Ruckus Reader today!

Yes, I AM Mom Enough!

Yesterday’s release of the Time magazine article incited outrage and comments from moms all over. Some moms were upset because of picture itself of a mom breastfeeding a toddler (who is standing on a chair to reach his mother’s breast). Others were upset because it showed a woman breastfeeding in public. It was all over my Twitter feed. Neither of those things upset me.

What DID upset me? The title. “Are you Mom Enough?” I could care less about what other moms do – breastfeeding in public (or not), breastfeeding a toddler (or not) or attachment parenting. I know what works for me doesn’t have to work for anyone else. Or vice versa.

But, the idea that I’m NOT mom enough because I’m not breastfeeding a toddler did spark my outrage. The title of this article is yet ANOTHER way that words have hurt the community of moms. Stay-at-home, Work-at-home or Work-outside-home, breastfeeding, bottle-feeding – these are all words that have caused divisiveness in the Mom community.

Rather than helping moms unite as a force to be reckoned with, this choice of words for the cover article title only serves as a way for us to pick at one another for our parenting styles. This mom wants to breastfeed her toddler? So what? She wants the world to know about it? Fine by me. Her choices do not mean that she is “more mom” than I am. Not at all.

I’m a single mom living in New York City. Not many women would freely choose to be a single mom. I got out of a relationship and am co-parenting my son with his father. Yes, a single mom I am, but it doesn’t make me any “more mom” than the moms featured in the article. This is just my experience. It does not make me braver than anyone else. It doesn’t make me stronger than anyone else. It just makes me – me.

So yes, I AM mom enough! Next!

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Information Overload?

Hiya Freshman Writers! Hope this finds you well and writing. Today’s post is about information overload. There is no shortage of ways we can get the information we need and even the information we don’t need. According to Brownielocks, October 20th is Information Overload Day.

I know I get very overwhelmed by all of the information out in the world especially that on cyberspace. Here are some tips to keep information from overloading you.

1. Find the one medium that works best for you. These days we can get information from television, radio and online. Figure out which of these is more convenient and practical for you. Stick with the one you use most and chuck the rest.

2. Clean out your inbox. I’m an email junkie. I admit it, I have an email problem. Recently, I went through my inboxes (I have three) and deleted emails that I simply don’t read anymore. I also unsubscribed from any groups or subscription lists that just take up space. If you don’t read it, you don’t need it.

3. Limit the number of email addresses you have. I have one for fun, one for writing and one that I’ve kept for a million years because it was my very first email address. By keeping separate accounts, I’ve found that I can better organize my information.

4. Life is busy, but multi-tasking can make it worse. I read my personal emails on my way to work. I have my emails connected to my Blackberry so I have them organized there. Since I commute to work, it saves me time to read and reply to emails. But, I’ve also learned to put my phone away one stop before I get off. I’ve missed my stop once or twice because of my inbox.

5. Check in on your lunchhour. Lunchtime is a great time to check your email or catch up on your favorite bloggers.

6. Limit your RSS Feeds. I LOVE to read and have subscribed to several blogs. But, I reached the point of hating the number of feeds that I get and don’t have time to read. So as I cleaned out my inbox, I also cleaned out my RSS Feeds. Again, if I don’t read it, I don’t need it.

Hopefully, these tips can keep you from being overloaded. And remember, information helps you write, but too much can keep you from writing. Happy Writing!

 

Love Note Day

Hiya Freshman Writers! Hope this finds you well and writing. Today’s post is in celebration of National Love Note Day according to BrownieLocks.com. I’m a sucker for a great love note so I thought we could use this as a prompt. Share what you like about love notes and even one of your own! Below is my contribution. Enjoy!

Happy Writing!

 

Dear Son,

Little boy, you’re the center of my world. You’re my motivation to get up everyday to work hard. You’ve pushed me far beyond my limits and even my dreams. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I love you. You’re my favorite kid in the whole, wide world and I live for your smile. Remember that I’ll always be there no matter what.

Love,

Mami

Notable Quotable

Hiya Freshman Writers! Hope this finds you well and writing. This week’s quote is from The Lion King, which I had the pleasure of previewing last weekend. (Thanks again to Mommyslinks!).

As writers, I feel that we focus a lot on who we are (or are not) and sometimes forget that we’re not alone in this. In the movie, Simba has a spiritual encounter with his father who reminds Simba that in forgetting himself, he has also forgotten his father.

It is very important for all writers to remember the writers who came before us. In their works, they remind today’s writers that they are not alone. Every time you feel lost and alone as a writer, read the first book, essay or manuscript that inspired you to become a writer. When you remember them, you remember yourself and your writing dreams. Whether it’s Joyce Carol Oates, Sylvia Plath, or Stephen King. Someone inspired you Freshman Writers to pick up a pen (or turn on the computer) to share your stories and thoughts.

“In forgetting yourself, you have forgotten me. Remember who you are. Remember.”

~ Mufasa a.k.a. James Earl Jones (The Lion King)

Also, for more inspiration from the movie, check out The Lion King 3-D for two weeks only starting September 16, 2011.

9/11

Hiya Freshman Writers. Hope this finds you well and writing.

I hadn’t planned on writing today. I planned to rest today. Given the solemnity of the occasion, I really wanted to stay home to rest and reflect. Then a friend of mine over at Mommylink’s asked me to share my 9/11 story. Everyone has one, but as New Yorkers, ours can be very unique.

So, in honor of the many loved ones lost, I encourage you Freshman Writers to write your story. Express your thoughts and feelings about that day. This is how writers live on, through poignant messages and stories. Please come and share them here as well.

9/11 – We will never forget.

June 4th is Drawing/Pencil Day

Hiya Freshman Writers! Hope this finds you well and writing. I was’t sure of what to post this week until I came across Brownlocks.com’s June Calendar. According to the site, June 4th is Drawing Day or Pencil Day.

Normally, writers think about pens and notebooks or computers. But, do you remember what life was like before computers and pens? I can think about the hours I spent doing homework with my trusted pencil – allowing me to erase my mistakes and keep going. Pencils are cool tools for writers that can often be forgotten with the need to move a bit faster.

Today Freshman Writers, I encourage you to pick up a pencil and draw. Make character sketches for your fiction piece or doodle until you get out of a funk.  You can use it to write outlines for your projects, freewrite or even do some mind-mapping to see where your ideas take you.

For more cool information on pencils (history and such) check out this site.

Happy Writing and Happy Friday!

 

Catching up with myself

This week brought me one major accomplishment – passing my licensing exam. I rarely share it here, but one career goal is to be a licensed professional in my field.  No more waiting for the exam date, no more stressing out over what I know or don’t know and no more darn studying.

I’d been studying for seven months now and felt stuck in other aspects of my life because I was waiting to pass this one exam. I stuck with it because I knew that gaining my licensure would open many doors.  I’m in shock right now that something I set out to do six years ago has finally come to pass.

I realized that this morning as I shared the news with a friend. Six years from the time I started grad school until now. The first thing I wanted to do was sleep because I hadn’t slept well for several nights prior to the exam. To suddenly have the weight of this lifted from my shoulders and see this huge goal achieved has really caused me to stop and reflect on what I want to do next.

Of course, the next step is to find a new dayjob with my shiny, new license (ie better pay and better hours). Then I started thinking of what else I wanted to accomplish because I really can do anything I put my mind to.  So, I thought about my writing.

I’ve felt stunted in the writing process simply because it wasn’t my central focus for the last several months. I still wrote, but not in a planful way because I didn’t make the time for it. My time was for studying and building up my self-confidence for the exam.

I’ve now been doing research on breaking into magazines (yet again), but with small goals in mind. I’m starting with fillers just to get my feet wet. I’m also doing research on effective blogging so that I can grow The Freshman Writer blog as well as to market myself better as a blogger in general.

I can see that my writing talent now is in blogging. Since I know I can blog, why not put my energy into it? Other ways I’m catching up with myself is to focus on things that I love doing – writing, reading and having time to myself. I really missed just being me.

Under Pressure

Hiya Freshman Writers! Hope this finds you well and writing. Today’s post is about being under pressure and how that affects your writing. I came up with this after going through my own ‘dry’ period and wrote about it here.

For some, being under pressure works. It can motivate you to push yourself harder and further in your writing. That kind of pressure can get you to try new forms of writing, submit to that magazine (that you think is out of reach) or start a new writing project. It can help.

For others (like me recently), being under pressure doesn’t help. It turns our brains into mush, keeping us from writing a coherent thought. Pressure can be intimidating and makes the road to publishing daunting.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. I have a couple of tips that can help you depressurize and get back to your writing.

1. List all of the things that are bugging you. Even the small act of writing out our stresses can lighten the load and helps get the junk out.

2. Separate the things that you can change and the things you can’t. There’s so much that we think about that is out of our control. The weather, the economy, gas prices – there’s just too much out there that we can’t do anything about. So why worry about it? Get rid of the stuff that you can’t fix and work on the things you can.

3. Figure out ways to deal with the things you can change. Maybe change your writing schedule or read a good book. Take a walk or start a journal. Your power is in your hands and you can make your writing happen. No one else can do that for you. Life will continue on without you anyway, so focus on the stuff that matters to you.

4. Give yourself a break. Being under pressure can be hard because you feel you don’t have a chance to breathe. Take five minutes or 30 seconds to just sit and breathe. Take in the oxygen (good stuff) and get rid of the carbon dioxide (bad stuff).  The act of deep breathing (if you allow it) can calm you down and prepare you for the next step.

Life is hard and we all know that. These tips have helped me let go of the junk, empowered me to get back on the horse and allowed me to write again. I just wanted to share with you the tricks that get me through challenging days. Feel free to share what helps you Freshman Writers release pressure and write.

Happy Writing!