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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summer Writing

I have really been neglecting my blog lately - I apologize.
It seems that summer is a very busy time for us here at The Blackberry Patch.

But - I promise you, I am still writing.  And, I am still surfing the web and reading helpful, wonderful blog posts of my friends.

To go out of July with a bang - below is my Two-Lane Livin' July column for kids.


     What would you get if you crossed George Washington with cattle feed?
     The Fodder of Our Country!

    WHOOOOOOOOSH! BOOM! HISS! CRACK! On July 4, 1777 fireworks lit up the sky celebrating the country’s first anniversary.  Many towns still have celebrations and fireworks on Independence Day.  Our town of Ripley, West Virginia boasts of having the largest small town celebration in the nation. After parading, eating, and celebrating all day, the fire department puts on a dazzling display at night. Fireworks flash across the sky in a sparkling array of color and sound, creating big booms and bright lights.
     Did you know that fireworks are also called pyrotechnic devices and the experts that handle the explosives are pyro technicians?  And, since fireworks are explosives, they should only be handled by experts
     They have been around for a long time and are as American as apple pie, but fireworks originated in China. The Chinese roasted bamboo, which explodes with a bang when heated due to the hollow air pockets.  Later in history they began stuffing saltpeter, charcoal, sulfur and other ingredients into bamboo shoots that were then thrown into the fire to produce a loud blast.
     BANG! The first fireworks were born.
     The colorful displays we know today began in the 1830s, when Italians added trace amounts of metals that burn at high temperatures, creating beautiful colors. Calcium produces orange and is the easiest color to create. The hardest color to create is blue. It is done with copper compounds and the temperature has to be just right. Sodium makes yellow and barium makes green. Lithium salts and strontium salt create red. Aluminum makes white and is a common ingredient of sparklers. Just like you produce different colors by mixing primary colors, pyro technicians mix copper (blue) and strontium (red) to create purple fireworks.
     Iron flakes create sizzling sparkles. Titanium powder creates crackling sounds and sparks.  The whistling sounds are created by using cylindrical tubes with an open end.  When the oxidizer and salts burn a layer at a time, the pulses of escaping gas produces the whistling sound.  Zinc creates smoke clouds.
     Not everyone likes fireworks. Dogs whimper, cats hide under the bed, birds may become startled and fly into things and even some people shake with fear.
     With my poem, Freedom Song, I wish everyone a fun, safe and sparkling Fourth of July.

WHOOSH! Fireworks
streak across the sky.
POP! Fireworks
dazzle way up high.
BOOM! Fireworks
sparkle in the night.
CRACK! Fireworks
whistle and take flight.
BANG! Fireworks
bellow loud and strong.
ZING! Fireworks
sing our freedom song!

I hope you enjoyed it. My column is titled, Fun Facts for Kids, so I always like to include fun information for kids. I've been told by many adults, that they also love my column and learn something new when reading it.

My book, Fun Through the Seasons, is filled with these type of articles, fun recipes,crafts and stories for kids and adults to enjoy.

I hope you are enjoying your summer. I'll start blogging more soon - I promise.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Writing Tips on Prose

I attended a workshop by Cat Pleska about putting poetry in your prose.

How do you do that?

To make your narrative flowing and beautiful you can add metaphors and similes and figurative language.

As always, with your writing, choose your best words. Revise and move parts around. And, my favorite, use rhythm and sound. Make the words sing when read aloud.

So, when writing, create a mood, entertain and play with your words and phrases. Using elements of poetry can make your story memorable and a pleasure to read.

Here are a couple of links to elements of poetry.

Elements of Poetry: Examples and Techniques

Poetic Devices - Judi Moreillon


 I love putting poetry in my prose, whether it be a middle grade novel or a picture book. 


One of my favorite picture books, Owl Moon, is written beautifully using some of these techniques.

With passages such as:


we reached the line of pine trees, black and pointy against the sky

the moon made his face into a silver mask

the trees stood still as giant statues


I have also written a picture book (unpublished at this time) where I have used lines such as:


We walked past the cattails near the pond, standing tall like toy soldiers all in a row

The ground rose before us like a giant stretching his arms tall and touching the sky. 


So, give it a try, whether you are writing a picture book or a novel. Add a little magic to your writing to make it memorable and fun to read.


 Do you put poetry elements in your prose?

Happy Writing! 


Monday, June 22, 2015

Writing Tips on Beginnings

While at the WVWriter's Conference last week I went to a workshop on ----- beginnings.

This was a long workshop that came in two parts. Edie Hemingway was the teacher.

Some of the things I gleamed from the workshop were:

The importance of the first page.

Your opening page should be powerful, giving a glimpse of your voice.
If writing for a young audience, try to incorporate the POV character's name, age, something about their physical appearance, and time/place within the first three pages or better yet, the first page.

That's quite a list for you to include in the first or second page of your manuscript.

In the second half of the workshop, we got the chance to read our first page for her. She, and members of the audience, critiqued it. Before reading my first page, I quickly skimmed through it, realizing that I had not incorporated some of those things listed above. I found out (through a little quick editing) that most of these bits of info can be easily incorporated into your manuscript -- and it does make it better.

Very helpful is all I can say about this part of the workshop. I would love to attend other workshops that incorporate this into their presentation.

A few other first line tips are: draw your reader in with emotion, set up conflict, set up a question for the reader, set the mood or tone of the story and jump right into voice. If starting with description, add something extraordinary (no hum-drum, overused or ordinary descriptions)!

Open with a powerful image, dialogue with tension and/or emotion to pull your reader in.

Give your manuscripts a glance and spiffy up those first pages!

Go to the library, or your bookshelves, and check out the first pages of your favorite books, to see how they did it.

Do your first pages make the grade?

Happy Writing!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Writer's Conference - I'm Still Smiling

The WVWriter's Conference is over until another year rolls by.

It was a wonderful weekend. I enjoyed meeting old friends and making new friends.

And, I very much enjoyed attending the Saturday night banquet where they announced the winners of their annual writing contest.

The presenter was speaking about no matter how the entries are mixed up and shuffled before sending them out to the judges - the cream rises to the top.

I am so happy that the judge chose mine as first and second place winners!

I entered six manuscripts into the children's category and four of them placed. (I also received 1st HM and 3rd HM)

Duck and Cover and Amazing Miss Maizie are near and dear to my heart. My heart skipped a beat when they were announced as winners.

Amazing Miss Maizie was the second PB I ever wrote, and it has been changed many, many times. I am a BIG advocate of revising to get it right.

Duck and Cover is a more recent product of my imagination. It takes place during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The manuscript started out as a small memory from my childhood. A small memory that I never really understood. I remembered us going to my aunt's house and being scared. One of my other aunts kept saying that the world was coming to an end. But, I finally figured out that it must have been a memory from the time period of the Cuban Missile Crisis. So, I put on my writing cap and a story came to life from that one small memory.

For now I want to say to never give up and to keep revising until you are happy with your manuscript. Don't send your work out before it is ready. (Unfortunately, I have did this many times)

I think when you submit a story in which you have put your heart and soul into and have revised it over and over again --- that manuscript will have a much better chance to rise to the top and stand out in the slush pile.

I am very thankful to my writing group. They have put up with listening to my stories over and over again until I am sure they were sick of hearing them.

 Happy writing! I will be posting later about some of the things I learned from the workshops at the convention.

At the conference with WV Poet Laureate Marc Harshman.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Writer's Conference

Cedar Lakes, WV

It is once again time for:

What:West Virginia Writer's Conference
Where: Cedar Lakes, WV
When: June 12, 13, 14

Every year writers from West Virginia and beyond gather at Cedar Lakes to attend writing workshops and the banquet on Saturday night to see if they placed in their annual writing contest.

Among the workshop presenters this year are, Marc Harshman poet laureate of West Virginia and author of 11 children's books! And,
Edie Hemingway co-author of two Civil War novels, both licensed by Scholastic Book Fairs and optioned for films.

I enjoy attending writing workshops.
You get to mix and mingle with other writers and learn more about writing.

I'm going. Are you?

If not, have you ever been to one? What is your favorite part about writing conferences?

photos from prevous WVWriter Conferences:
local geese