Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dragon Love from Bruce Coville

I’ve always had a soft spot for dragons. I wanted one as a pet for years. Not a cranky dragon like Smaug in THE HOBBIT, but one I could ride around the world while roasting marshmallows on its fire breath. Couple dragon love with my goal to read a novel by each faculty member of the SCBWI Summer Conference and you have my discovery of JEREMY THATCHER, DRAGON HATCHER by Bruce Coville.

My search for a zinger read aloud to open the 2011-2012 school year in my fifth grade class might just be over.

The first paragraph in “A Note from the Author” at the end of this wonderful story says it all.

“I desired dragons,” J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote, and it seems he was not the only one. There is some powerful pull about these great creatures, something that sings to the imagination. – Bruce Coville

JEREMY THATCHER, DRAGON HATCHER has all the relatable ingredients to be a hit in my middle grade classroom:

Peer problems
Fantastical situations that you believe could really be true
School issues
Devotion to a pet
Resistance to romance
Increased responsibility
Getting around parental scrutiny
Personal growth and maturity
Heart, heart, and more heart

Best of all JEREMY THATCHER, DRAGON HATCHER is part of Bruce Coville’s MAGIC SHOP book series where kids grow through magical experiences emanating from Mr. Elives magic shop.

I know my new class will be enchanted with Jeremy and his dragon, Tiamat. I forsee a rush from my students to gobble up more stories in this series.

Thank you, Bruce Coville, for bringing your dragon magic into my life.

Do you “desire dragons?”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I’m ecstatic to wave my pom poms, squeal, and do an embarrassing cheerleader leap over the release of the new superhero anthology, GODS OF JUSTICE, that includes an awesome story called IDENTITY CRISIS by my treasured and talented friend, the wonderful Lisa Gail Green.

Blurb alert from Smashwords:
Like mythical gods of the past, superheroes are a primal force of nature. This thrilling collection of ten original short stories features brand new heroes in action-packed adventures that will grip you and never let go. Each is written by some of the most talented writers today, including DC Comics writer Ricardo Sanchez and Star Trek author Dayton Ward.


The thrill continues as Lisa joins us for an interview about this cool project.

How did you become a part of GODS OF JUSTICE?
I try to keep my eyes open for different submission opportunities. I’ve always loved writing short stories, especially sci-fi and fantasy, so when I saw the call for superhero stories mentioned on a blog, I had to go for it. I also loved the idea that I would have a print book that I could hold in my hands with my words in it. Maybe it’s a little silly, but most of my other publications were online or e-book format, which are great, but I wanted that tactile experience at least once!
Give us a peek into your short story, IDENTITY CRISIS.
Well here’s the official blurb from the website: After the superhero, SolarFlare, is injured, her twin sister, Leslie, takes her place. Leslie soon discovers that it will take more than just a flashy costume to save the city from a mad man.
I thought, what if I took the concept of sibling rivalry and elevated it to the extreme? I frequently start ideas with “what if” statements. Imagine a girl whose twin sister was always the perfect one. But her sister turns out to be more than perfect – she’s an actual superhero! Then suppose the other sister had to pose as said superhero…
May I say Leslie is a fabulous name for a superhero. Okay, SolarFlare is pretty rockin’ too. Do you prefer to write short stories or full-length novels?
 Ha! That’s a good question. There was a time when I never thought I could write a full-length novel, now I’ve written many. I suppose I have to admit that I prefer the novel because of the depths I can explore. I love all those complicated subplots, and the chance to develop a whole cast of characters. But short stories are fun too! And you forgot poetry – there’s something especially cathartic about the freedom involved.
 How is your approach to a short story different from a longer format?
 Well, in a short story, again, you can’t get too crazy with plot and character. You have to have a fairly straightforward arc so you can get from point A to point B. And you can’t have too many characters either. The more you have, the trickier it becomes. The problem has to be more simplistic as well. There have been several times where I’ve taken one of my short stories, however, and gotten the seed for a novel.
I know you saw a sketch of your heroine. How did the picture relate to your personal visualization of the character?
 He he he. Well, let’s just say she’s rather well endowed! And I do make a joke about that in the story, so I know the illustrator was paying attention. But wow, I’m thinking she can defy the laws of physics beyond just her SolarFlare powers… Seriously though, it was so unbelievably cool to see my character come to life in a drawing! I even got to give input on it. So yeah, I was geeking out about it.
 What was the editing process like for the anthology?
 It was possibly the most involved edit I’ve ever done. I did three rounds with the editors who didn’t pull any punches. Part of the revision was aging my protagonist by four years. But all that helps prepare me for the editorial letter I’ll hopefully someday get for a novel! And there is no doubt the story is stronger than the one I submitted. And as readers you can be sure that the book is high quality.
 Did I hear that GODS OF JUSTICE is making an appearance at Comic Con?
 Yes!! You can get the scoop on the Comic Con 2011 website, it will be in several booths including the DC booth, which again for nerds like me is sooo cool. That’s because one of the other authors is a DC comics author. I am in good company. I wish I could be at Comic Con too, but I’m thrilled that my work will be!
I promise to drop your name at Comic Con. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about GODS OF JUSTICE?
 It’s for sale now through Smashwords at a very reasonable price, and will be offered soon as a print book. I’m really proud to be a part of it. It was fun to write the story, and I hope that the readers enjoy it.

Thank you, Lisa, for hanging out with us. I've had the honor of reading IDENTITY CRISIS. It is clever and exciting - a must read. Now everyone pop over to Lisa’s blog, Paranormal Point of View, and enter her contest to win your very own copy of GODS OF JUSTICE.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Batting Slump

Ever been in that twilight where your dedication to the routine of sitting down everyday to write is intact, but you feel disconnected from the material appearing on the page? It’s not quite a writer’s block where you are locked up so tight nothing flows, but your words feel more like hiccups than a good breath. I’m dubbing my slow trickle period a "Writer’s Slump," like a batting slump in baseball. We show up to the park in our uniforms, but our bats don’t connect crisply with the pitches.

Here are some of the culprits that have been known to throw me into a slump: 
  • Querybummertosis (for symptoms see Tahereh Mafi's awesome post)
  • Whenever I have to write report cards
  • Missing the WIP I just finished and feeling unfaithful working on something new
  • Not enough food in the house
  • A chapter that just doesn’t work no matter how I tweak it
  • Feeling fat
  • Grown children who want something from me
  • Taxes
  • My characters aren’t whispering in my ears
  • Dirty laptop screen
  • I’m not waking up in the middle of the night with an “ah ha” moment
  • Oprah’s last episode

What did I do to connect with the pitch and deafen the crowd with the crack of my bat? 
  • Showed up every day in front of my keyboard
  • Wrote snippets not connected to my current WIP
  • Walked in the moonlight
  • Watched a movie
  • Plucked a book off my TBR pile and devoured it
  • Listened to my favorite music

 What throws you into a slump and how do you pull yourself out of it?


Thanks to the wonderful Deana Barnhart for tagging me. So here goes:

Do you think you’re hot?
I’m glistening. *dabs face with cool cloth*

Upload a picture or wallpaper that you’re using at the moment. 
 My next car

When was the last time you ate chicken meat?
I had eye-rolling, delicious hibachi chicken in a peanutty sauce at a Japanese restaurant early in the week.

The song(s) you listened to recently.
“Misery” by Maroon 5 and “Rhythm of Love” by Plain White T’s.

What were you thinking as you were doing this?
Smoothie or Ice Cream?

Tag you’re it…

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Join the Conversation: YA Saves

Welcome to all the new followers of Yes, This Will Be on the Test. I’m delighted you’ve joined us. It was a thrill to hit the 100 followers mark. Thank you.

And now for something completely different:

I would be remiss and irresponsible if I did not add my voice to the chorus of protest against the offensive article in the Wall Street Journal, "Darkness Too Visible", by Meghan Cox Gurdon. Her words slammed young adult literature as containing “hideously distorted portrayals of what life is.” If you haven’t read the article please use the link and become informed/outraged.
The piece made my blood boil and turn into a cloud of red vapor. I am prepared to write a doctoral dissertation to rip apart this gross misrepresentation of YA lit. Instead I will hit on a few of the key points that have me seeing red.
Gurdon acts as if she intends to inform and warn parents about YA lit. More accurate words describing the thrust of this article would be:
1. Sensationalism: The journalistic use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy in order to provoke public interest.
2. Propaganda: Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature used to promote a particular point of view.
The use of the word pathologies to sum up crucial teen issues is as insulting as it is ignorant. How dare you shove the challenges and life altering situations that face our teens today under an unfeeling term associated with disease? Being gay is not a disease. Being abused is not a disease. Being raped is not a disease. Psychological and emotional disorders are not obliterated with a simple vaccination like the measles.
1.Foul Language: Ever ride on a junior high bus or sit next to a group of teens at a fast food restaurant? They are well versed in the language of profanity. Curse bombs are even being dropped on a daily basis on the elementary school playground. Kids don’t learn profanity from books. They learn it from life.
2. Faulty statistics: Going to a private school with a small student population to report the percentage of students reading YA books is skewed data, with a capital S. 

1.Jane Eyre – Man nearly commits bigamy since he keeps his lunatic wife locked up secretly in the house. Lunatic wife burns house down.
2. Lord of the Flies – Anarchy. Murder.
3. Add your own favorite example here… 
Why oh why is the Oprah show finished? I would love to see Oprah moderate a debate where the author of this biased article has to hold her own against the dream team of Laurie Halse Anderson, Libba Bray, Suzanne Collins, Ellen Hopkins, and yes, the Judy Blume. These creative warriors would tear her to shreds.
Let you own voice of outrage be heard. Blog about it. Register your thoughts on Facebook. Join the conversation on Twitter by weighing in under the hashtag #yasaves. Read through the tweets on #yasaves to hear an elegant artistic uproar. They will link you to some brilliant blogging thoughts.
And by all means go to this eloquent link by Laurie Halse Anderson to hear the heart of the matter.

As a mother and mentor of teen readers, a teacher, and a writer of YA, I say:


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ode to Cynthia Lord

I admire authors who take on what many of us consider tough subjects and approach them with open hearts. One of my favorite truth tellers is Cynthia Lord.

Her insightful middle grade book, RULES, takes us inside the dynamics that occur in the relationship between twelve-year-old Catherine and her younger brother David, who is a child with autism.

At my school we joyfully mainstream children with autism into our regular education classrooms. We’ve embraced RULES as the initial read-aloud for the year across the grade level. It serves as an invaluable teaching tool for our kids to build an understanding and compassion for their peers who don’t necessarily fit the blueprint of a typical middle grade student. Our students grow along with Catherine as she navigates her own emotions and realizations. RULES teaches that children with autism and other challenges are not broken, but rather bright lights that allow us to value differences. 

“Wishes are slippery things. You have to be very specific or you can get exactly what you wished for and still end up with nothing.” – Cynthia Lord from TOUCH BLUE

This quote brought tears to my eyes and made me pour through the book, TOUCH BLUE. Again, Cynthia Lord tackles a delicate, but fascinating subject, that of a foster child coming to live with a family. We share this experience through Tess, as she reconciles her whimsical expectations with the gritty reality of integrating someone new into your household.  

Cynthia Lord pulls us into the fascinating world of Bethsaida Island off the coast of Maine where lobster fishing is a way of life. The picture she paints of this setting is every bit as magical as a fantasy story, while still giving the reader a grounded sense of home.

As a teacher, I appreciate Cynthia Lord not only for her wonderful storytelling, but also for the life lessons she beautifully illustrates for my students.

Thank you, Cynthia Lord, for sharing your heart.

Is there an author whose work tugs at your heartstrings?