Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where I am Learning

While I am learning a lot from reading books in my target age-range, I have taken a few bits of advice and started learning from the writing community as well. I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) which I have read over and over is a key step in the right direction if you want to get published. I have been e-mailing a local (WA-state) author and she recommended the SCBWI Western WA conference coming up in April and I jumped on this opportunity and signed up! I am very excited about this and hope to learn a lot and make new friends. Our local SCBWI coordinator mentioned that there is a chapter of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) which meets on the second Monday of each month and I attended that get together this week. They have a different topic for discussion at each meeting and this month it was story structure which was very informative.

I am continuing to find new (to me) book series that are similar to the type of book I am writing. It is interesting to see which titles I can find at our local Barnes and Noble. Some series, even though there are many installments (some as recent as last year) do not have a lot of copies on the shelves. I read somewhere that you should go to a bookstore (not a library) when looking for books to research that are in your age range/genre because there you will find out which ones are most poular/sell the best. Now the key is to figure out what makes one series sell better than another. For example why is Judy Moody more popular than the Mallory series? I'm sure there are many reasons for this, hopefully with the #1 reason being good writing.  But it could also have to do with marketing, presentation of the books, and other things along those lines.

Monday, March 5, 2012

More Book Research

My writing project is along the lines of Judy Moody... realistic fiction, on the lower end of middle grade, or high end of lower grade chapter books. I have been reading as many of these types of books as I can find, with the main character's name and hint at subject matter in the title. Some books I have found through research but when I was at the library recently I strolled up and down the aisles in the juvenile section trying to spot books that had "that look" and surprisingly I found several. They are usually about the same size and of course have a name on the spine!

Cinderella Smith by Stephanie Barden, Harper Collins (word count 20264; pgs. 148; AR 4.2) Age Range: 8 and up; Middle Grade: 4-8

Penina Levine is a Hard Boiled Egg by Rebecca O'Connell, Roaring Brook Press (word count 28147; pgs. 164; AR 4.0) Age Range: 8 and up; Middle Grade: 4-8

Just Grace by Charise Mericle Harper, Houghton Mifflin (word count 16004; pgs. 138; AR 4.8) Age Range: 6 and up; Lower Grade: K-3

Piper Reed Gets a Job by Kimberly Willis Holt, Henry & Holt (word count 15289; pgs. 149; AR 3.7) Age Range: 8 and up; Lower Grade: K-3

Alice's World Record by Tim Kennemore, Eerdmans Books (word count 10225; pgs. 76; AR 4.9) Age Range: 8 and up; Lower Grade: K-3

More thoughts on the reading level of books. I was reading "Just Grace" to my daughter (who is 8) last night. I hadn't checked the reading level yet but was thinking to myself that, even though the main character is in 3rd grade, the book had to have a much higher difficulty level. And I was right. Some of the sentences in this book are WAY long and I actually found myself gasping for a breath while reading. Even though my daughter is an advanced reader for her age/grade, I don't think she would be able to read through such long sentences, pausing when necessary, and get the gist of all the thoughts packed together. I'm also not sure that almost 5th graders (as the reading level suggests this book is suited for) would be interested in reading about a 3rd grader. But I could be wrong on this point b/c my own almost 5th grader was listening in and has also been seen reading the Ivy and Bean books we have laying around. I asked him what he liked about the Ivy and Bean books and he said "that they are being bad" which of course I should have known would be his answer!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Remembering Books

I often like to think back on all the books I have read just for my own pleasure. Since I have been reading so many lower to middle grade books recently I have not had time to read any YA or adult fiction and I miss it! This is not to say that I don't enjoy the books I am blasting through at an amazing rate. It is actually kind of cool to be reading about characters who are around the ages of my own children... and see little things that make me think "Hmmmm, she reminds me of my daughter!"

After starting a family, reading pretty much got put on a back-burner for me. I would read a book now and then, and kept up with the Harry Potter series, but nothing consistent. My friend Kathy started talking about this Twilight series and I just scoffed at the idea of vampires - not really my kind of subject matter! Finally I gave in and borrowed the book from her. It took me about a month to start reading it but once I did I was hooked! I loved the series and read several of the books more than once. After I finished the four books in the Twilight series I didn’t want to stop so I started a steady stream of books coming home from the library. I’m sure I haven’t remembered all the titles from the past 3 1/2 years, and this doesn’t include the non-fiction/self-help type of books I browse through and the countless books I have read to the kids, but I like to try and keep a mental list of what I read. Every once in a while a character or scene will pop into my head for some reason or another, and it is like the words I read have become a part of my life. Pretty cool!

These titles are in no particular order, but I will put my favorites in red type.

1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
2. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
4. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
5. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
6. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
7. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
9. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
10. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
11. The Host by Stephenie Meyer
12. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
13. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
14. A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay
15. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
16. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
17. Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards
18. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
19. I Remember You by Harriet Evans
20. Perfect Timing by Jill Mansell
21. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
22. The Other Mother by Gwendolen Gross
23. Confessions of a Supermom by Melanie Lynne Hauser
24. Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris
25. Hold Tight by Harlan Coben
26. Long Lost by Harlan Coben
27. Play Dead by Harlan Coben
28. Caught by Harlan Coben
29. Just One Look by Harlan Coben
30. One False Move by Harlan Coben
31. The Woods by Harlan Coben
32. The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright
33. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
34. For One More Day by Mitch Albom
35. Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks
36. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
37. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
38. The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil
39. Needles and Pearls: A Novel by Gil McNeil
40. Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown
41. 206 Bones by Kathy Reichs
42. The Associate by John Grisham
43. Ford County: Stories by John Grisham
44. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
45. Hearts Awakening by Delia Parr
46. Serendiptiy: A Novel by Lousie Shaffer
47. The Lucky One by Harlan Coben
48. Cool Beans by Erynn Mangum
49. The Abbey by Chris Culver
50. Until Proven Guilty by J.A. Jance
51. The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan
52. Fools Rush In by Janice Thompson
53. Homespun Bride by Jillian Hart
54. Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury
55. Moon Spinners (Seaside Knitters Mystery) by Sally Goldenbaum
56. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer