July 31, 2007

Quotes for Writers

A few quotes for writers by writers:

“Writing is harder than anything else; at least starting to write is. It’s much easier to wash dishes. When I’m writing I set myself a daily quota of pages, but nine times out of ten I’m doing those pages at four o’clock in the afternoon because I’ve done everything else first . . . But once I get flowing with it, I wonder what took me so long.” -- Kristin Hunter

“It’s a reactive thing, like a Geiger counter; you click whenever you come close to whatever you were built to do.” -- Stephen King

“Today is a dawdly day. They do seem to alternate. I do a whole of a day’s work and then the next day, flushed with triumph, I dawdle . . . The crazy thing is that I get about the same number of words down either way.” – John Steinbeck

July 27, 2007

Favorite Book Friday

My feet still hurt.

Yesterday, I took our niece, who is visiting from Philadelphia, and our two sons to a rocky beach nearby. When our boys swam so far off I couldn’t see them, I left my sandals and my good sense behind and ran along the sand – the hot sand – the scalding hot sand – to find them and tell them to come back before the undertow swept them away or they were smashed into the jagged rocks or a shark ate them for a midday snack. The farther I ran, the faster they swam. Tall, jagged rocks separated me from them. The boys couldn’t see me or hear me. Up ahead, I noticed the end of the rock formation where I could enter the water and, I hoped, find our boys swimming safely. Once I saw the boys emerge from the water, I called to them and plopped down in the sand. My feet were burnt so badly it brought me to tears.

In the end, everyone was fine. (Except my sore feet.)

There are some things I love about summer in South Florida – the relaxed pace of life with no school schedules, the ability to get a table at my favorite breakfast spot without waiting in line and no traffic because tourist season is still several months away.

But there are some things I do not love about summer in South Florida – scalding sand, slithering snakes and shocking storms. (We’re the lightning capital of the world.)

But there’s one thing I love any time of the year – Scrabble.

Hubby and I play competitively with each other whenever we get the chance, studying two-letter words, working puzzles from our Scrabble calendars and keeping the scores of each game we play in a notebook, marking who won and if either of us got any bonus (7-letter) words.

Oh, look. Here’s one of our games now:

Even Vanessa, the flat-chested, forever fumbling, spelling bee whiz in my new novel, loves to play Scrabble with her mom (when she’s not busy campaigning to become president).

Vanessa learned that the man who invented Scrabble was named Butts (B-U-T-T-S). Alfred Mosher Butts. To learn more, check out this site.

And for all you Scrabble Word Nerds, have fun at this site.

And because it is Favorite Book Friday, my character’s favorite book about Scrabble (and mine and hubby's, too) is Everything Scrabble by Joe Edley and John D. Williams Jr. (I’m going to go study it now so I can get an advantage over hubby. Sh (acceptable Scrabble word) -- don’t tell!)

July 23, 2007

Motivation on a Monday

Wild About Words is wild about The Oprah Magazine this month (and every month). In the August issue, from page 156 – 166, there’s a special section for writers.

Here are a few gems from that section:

Walter Kirn: “At the beginning of a novel, a writer needs confidence, but after that what’s required is persistence. . . Confidence is what politicians, seducers, and currency speculators have, but persistence is a quality found in termites. It’s the blind drive to keep on working that persists after confidence breaks down. This usually happens in chapter five . . . Stopping to think is fine for characters, but not for their creators. They have work.”

Joshua Ferris: “It takes no particular human quality for one to become a novelist save this: the ability to endure long stretches of time at one’s desk. Not even that: Short bursts of intense time at one’s desk will do. You don’t even need an actual desk. You can be at a desk on the subway. You can be at a desk in the bathroom stalls. Wherever you give yourself over again to sustained meditation.”

And this, taken from Walter Mosley’s book, This Year You Write Your Novel, in which he talks at length about writing, rewriting and keeping the faith: “The first thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you must do every day. There are two reasons for this rule: getting the work done and connecting with your unconscious mind.”

About beginning a novel, Walter Mosley writes: “The only thing that matters is that you write, write, write. It doesn’t have to be good writing. As a matter of fact, almost all first drafts are pretty bad. . . . Don’t stop writing for any reason. Don’t stop writing. Don’t stop . . . Don’t.”

And this wisdom about avoidance: “Procrastination is an author’s worst enemy, but there are others: the writer who suddenly has chores that have gone undone for months but that now seem urgent . . . the Good Samaritan who realizes that there’s a world out there that need saving . . . Forget all that. Save the world at 8:30 instead of 7:00. Let the lawn get shaggy and the paint peel from the walks. For that time you have set aside to write your novel, don’t do anything else.”

May I humbly add that there is a book waiting to be born that only you can create. Go ahead. Write it. Now.

Happy writing trails,


July 20, 2007

Favorite Book Friday

For fans of The Princess Bride book and/or movie, a little something funny . . .

In William Goldman’s book, Which Lie Did I Tell?, he says this:

The Princess Bride is the only novel of mine that I really like.

The movie has become a classic.

In writing about the filming of the movie, William Goldman says this:

I don’t like being on the set for any number of reasons:

1) it’s just amazingly boring if you have nothing to do, and I have nothing to do because

2) my work is done, not to mention

3) I make the actors nervous, a serious problem but not as serious as

4) I *&@# up shots.

The worst thing I’ve ever done was on The Princess Bride. During the Fire Swamp sequence.

For those of you who don’t know, and how dare you not, Buttercup and Westley are being pursued by her fiancĂ©, Prince Humperdinck. They are forced to go through the Fire Swamp, not easy – no one has ever come out of it alive.

One of the dangers in the Fire Swamp is the flame spurts.

These unexpected streaks of flame happen there and when I wrote the novel, well, Buttercup and Westley are making their way through the place, and suddenly flames – her dress is on fire.

Westley saves her.

Okay. Pinewood Studios. The glorious Norman Garwood Fire Swamp set. This is my dream come true, watching this baby happen, and you can bet I am tense, but for me, kind of almost happy.

Okay. Roll of drums, please.

Rob Reiner says “Action” and now here comes Cary Elwes as Westley leading my beloved Robin Wright as Buttercup into the Fire Swamp and they are making their way through the place –

--and suddenly flames—

--and I scream out loud, “Her dress is on fire!”

The shot is obviously ruined. Rob says “Cut,” Robin’s dress is made flame-free, the actors go back to their positions. And Andy Scheinman, Rob’s partner, sidles over to me and says quietly, “Bill, try and remember this time—her dress is supposed to be on fire.”

July 18, 2007

Wise(acre) Words Wednesday

My favorite quote is:

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” -- Groucho Marx

What’s your favorite quote?

July 16, 2007

Sumo Good Times

What a delightful time I had at The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens with my friends, Deb, Micah and Christina.

We meandered around the tranquil gardens, ate delicious food at the outdoor café and experienced the most extraordinary drumming group with the backdrop of a spectacular sunset.

I even had fun exploring the gift shop, purchasing green tea, a bookmark and this little, um, er, large friend to keep me company while I work.

He’s been great company. And just yesterday, he spent the afternoon reading my new book. (Apparently, it left him smiling.)

But the best thing my new friend does is remind me of the writer’s most important mantra: B.I.C. Butt in Chair.

Hmmm. Guess it’s time to get back to work and produce sumo good children’s books!

What unusual items do you keep at your work space for inspiration?

July 13, 2007

Favorite Book Friday

My Son’s New Favorite Book

Our fourteen-year-old son started reading when he was four. Before long, he’d polish off a dozen chapter books before dinner. His teachers complained that he had his nose stuck in a book while they were teaching. He still reads that voraciously, only now his fare is found in the adult section of the library (while I still linger in the children’s section).

Our twelve-year-old son is not an avid reader. He’s happy to peruse the latest Sports Illustrated for Kids or breeze through a comic book. When we take him to the library, he checks out DVDs. That said, he’s read a couple novels that made an impact because when he does read novels, he immerses himself wholly and completely in the stories.

Once, when he was sick, he read My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett in one five-hour stretch and loved it.

Another time, he read Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan and declared it his favorite book.

So, when I got my advanced reading copies of my new novel, As If Being 12 ¾ Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother is Running for President!, I had low expectations of our younger son’s enthusiasm.

Our older son tore through it in a couple hours. “It’s really good -- way better than the stuff you usually write.” And he was off to dive into an adult thriller.

Our younger son held my book in one hand while he spooned cereal with the other. He did this for a few days, telling me each time what page he was up to and what was happening. But mostly, he spent his days playing video games, watching TV and shooting hoops in the driveway.

Then, the other night, his light was on waaaaaay past bedtime.

When I peeked in his bedroom, he was slouched in a chair, eyes trained on my book. My book! I could see he had only a handful of pages left. Without lifting his eyes from the page, he held up a hand as if to say, “Don’t even think of interrupting me now.”

I closed the door.

Several minutes later, he burst from his room and tore into the living room, where hubby and I were reading.

“That was the greatest book ever!” He stood in front of me. “I love Vanessa. Why does she have to be made up? I want her to be real.” Then his eyes opened wide. “Can you write a sequel? Please?” He stepped closer. “Now?”

I thanked him, tousled his hair and kissed him goodnight.

My novel’s release is still seven months away. I have no idea what’s going to happen once it’s available. But I do know that as an author and a parent, something special happened the other night.

Our son, who never hesitates to tell me when my writing stinks a big one, gave me the ultimate compliment: He has a new favorite book.

And the author of that book happens to share his last name.

July 11, 2007

Every Little Thing Sting Does is Magic!

Wild About Words got wild about music last night at an open-air arena in Miami where I saw . . . THE POLICE!

The price of the tickets was worth it because in addition to seeing THE POLICE rock on for nearly two hours, my hubby, friends (Klaus, Pam, Alain & Nancy) and I got the added bonus of having two drunk guys in front of us sing loudly into their beer bottles and high five before, during and after every song.

Partway through the concert, I realized a couple of THE POLICE's lyrics might translate well into the titles of books that teach kids about colors:

There’s a Little Black Spot on the Sun Today

Roxanne, You Don’t Need to Turn on the Red Light

Then again, maybe this writer needs her little post-concert nap.

Rock on,


July 9, 2007


“Friends are relatives you make for yourself. ~Eustache Deschamps

When we moved 1,200 miles from our families in PA and NJ, friends became our family here in South Florida.

We attend each other’s children’s performances. We share holiday meals. And we offer each other shelter during storms – both figurative and literal. Carilynn and Holly – you and your families sure know how to make hurricane evacuation fun.

“A good friend is a connection to life - a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.” ~Lois Wyse

Fourteen-years-young and getting in trouble for talking in Mr. Perry’s 8th grade science class, Jeanne and I began a lifelong friendship. We have so much in common that even our birthdays are two days apart. Happy birthday, girlfriend! After twenty-eight years of friendship, we still haven’t run out of things to say to each other.

Jeanne (J.W. to those in the know)

“Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.” ~Virginia Woolf

About seven years ago, a group of creative friends came into my life thanks to the SCBWI.

These friends understand my writing life like no others.

This past Friday evening, my friend Riley and I spent hours blathering on about books and writing while her hubby, Kenny, taught my hubby and sons to juggle. That was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

Until the following day . . . when my dear writing buddies took me out to lunch.

Janeen, Sylvia, Me, Carole (Linda is missing from
the photo, but not from our thoughts.)

These women are like rock stars to me. With their wisdom, passion and compassion, I hang on their every word and revel in their company.

My sons will tell you that my best buddy is a guy. And I happen to be married to him.

Me and Hubby
(at the mountains in PA)

“God gives us burdens, but He also gives us friends to help carry them.” - Donna Gephart

Hugs to all my friends,

July 6, 2007

Favorite Book Friday

As a child, my favorite place to ride my purple banana seat bike was to the local library. I loved the stacks of old books and the strange but friendly librarians.

Last month, while I was visiting Philadelphia, my Aunt Marcia and I visited my childhood library.

Sure things were different – computers were everywhere and the librarians had changed, but as soon as I saw that picture book room and the middle grade novels perched atop the bookshelves, I was transported back to my favorite childhood memories.

It was at that moment I saw a sign: Books for sale. A buck a bag. No kidding. A buck a bag.

Well, I couldn’t run down the stairs to get to the book sale fast enough.

It was obvious the sale had been going on for awhile because there were slim pickings. A tattered copy of Passages by Gail Sheehy and books about Windows 95.

But I discovered and grabbed a copy of my favorite childhood book – Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater, along with Betsy-Tacy and Tib by Maud Hart Lovelace and The Trap by Tabitha King – hey, a girl’s gotta live.

There was nothing else I wanted, but let me emphasize this: I got Mr. Popper’s Penguins for 33.3 cents!

I loved that book so much as a kid that to this day, I adore penguins. And during a Florida SCBWI shindig this past January, I dressed up as Mr. Popper along with Janeen Mason. (Could we creative types possibly get any nerdier?!)

So, what’s your favorite childhood book? And for that matter, what’s the strangest thing you ever dressed as? (Jay, we already know you dressed as a penguin for a day. Too funny!)

By the way, thanks a million (or 33 cents worth) for all the birthday wishes. And thanks to my kids for actually being nice to each other all day yesterday. Thanks to Carilynn for the edible arrangement of fruit (including the chocolate-covered kind) made to look like a bouquet of flowers. And thanks to hubby for the roses, the dictionary with the words to our wedding song marked off and for managing to say “Happy Birthday” to me forty-two times throughout the day. Cute. Have I told you lately?

July 5, 2007

And in the beginning . . .

Welcome to Wild About Words.

I’m a children’s book author (among other things) and today is my birthday. (I’m 42, Jay.) It seemed a good day to begin my new blog about children’s literature, the writing life, parenting, the wonder of words and other stuff.

Since this is about beginnings, I thought it would be fun to share the beginnings of a handful of wonderful books.

AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS by Gennifer Choldenko: Today I moved to a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water.

THE TIGER RISING by Kate DiCamillo: That morning, after he discovered the tiger, Rob went and stood under the Kentucky Star Motel sign and waited for the school bus just like it was any other day.

THE TEACHER’S FUNERAL – A COMEDY IN THREE PARTS by Richard Peck: If your teacher has to die, August isn’t a bad time of year for it.

THE CHOCOLATE WAR by Robert Cormier: They murdered him.

OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse:

As summer wheat came ripe,

so did I,

born at home, on the kitchen floor.

Ma crouched,

barefoot, bare bottomed

over the swept boards,

because that’s where Daddy said it’d be best.

MILLICENT MIN GIRL GENIUS by Lisa Yee: I have been accused of being anal retentive, an overachiever, and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things.

CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E. B. White: “Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

HOLES by Louis Sachar: There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.

ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine: That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me.

REGULAR GUY by Sarah Weeks: “I know it’s a long shot, but I don’t feel I can just eliminate the possibility that I was raised by wolves without at least considering it for a second, do you?”

Share YOUR favorite first lines . . . or your grocery list or anything else you’d like.

Thanks so much for stopping by.