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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Story School #5

Wow!  You guys killed it last week.  So many castles.  There were a few castle poems, a castle song, and lots of castles that appeared in stories.  The space castle, submitted by J,  really stays in my mind--floating through the galaxy with an asteroid moat and a galactic dungeon. Oh, the dungeon! Anyway, I am really enjoying reading your writing.  Keep'em coming!

As for me, I wrote a description of the island castle I am planning on sticking in a story--but I am not at the point in the story where the castle comes into play.  Yet. But it is nice to know that when I need it, it will be there, waiting for me.

If you are new here,  let me explain Story School:

Every Wednesday this summer, I'll post a story starter of sorts.  It might be an idea or a prompt.  It might be just a single word.  Who knows!  Story School started as a way for me to continue to connect with the students from my school (about writing) over the summer. But really, Story School is for everyone, young or old.  Writing exercises often get my writing juices flowing so I thought it would be good to share some of the stuff that works for me! 

Okay, the truth is, sometimes random stuff just gets me going.  So, I am going to give you a random word (actually two words):

Chicken Pie

Don't ask me why I have this word in my brain, or what it has to do with a new project I am working on, because I can't tell you.  What I can tell you is that I spent most of yesterday writing about chicken pie.  Weird, huh?  So, now it is your turn.  Does chicken pie remind you of big meals at your grandma's house?  Does it make you think of a chicken eating a pie?  Does it just make you remember how much YOU LOVE PIE?  ALL KINDS OF PIE? 

Remember the rules: you can write a story, a poem, a song, a letter, a whatever-you-want, just try and use the words chicken and pie in there somewhere. (And if you write about something else, that's okay, too.  There are no Chicken Pie Police that are going to throw you into Chicken Pie Jail if you don't use the words!)

Also, I will be doing a story time the Barnes and Noble and Oceanside this Saturday, July 19th at 5:00 pm. Bring your books and I'll sign them. There will also be books available to purchase. (I MIGHT give you a sneak peak of some new stuff....maybe...) The Carlsbad Educational Foundation is hosting an showcase of their summer programs.  There are only two weeks left!

Have fun writing!

xo--

hrh

P.S. If you want to share your writing with me, my email is storyqueen@gmail.com. No pressure, though.  Only if you want to.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Story School #4

Happy Wednesday!  And welcome to the fourth installment of Story School. Last week's NARWHAL prompt inspired lots of great writing. I received several awesome poems, in lots of different styles--haiku, diamonte, cinquain, and free verse.  We even had a story about an epic narwhal battle.  As for my narwhal story, I polished it up and sent it to my agent, so we will see what she says.

  In case you are new here and are wondering what Story School is, let me tell you:

 Every Wednesday this summer, I'll post a story starter of sorts.  It might be an idea or a prompt.  It might be just a single word.  Who knows!  Story School started as a way for me to continue to connect with the students from my school (about writing) over the summer. But really, Story School is for everyone, young or old.  Writing exercises often get my writing juices flowing so I thought it would be good to share some of the stuff that works for me! 

So, we've talked about writing characters for the last two weeks, today lets talk about setting.  I am going to be honest, if I am reading a book and I can't picture myself in the setting, it is really hard for me to pay attention and stick with the story. Setting isn't just the WHERE and the WHEN of a story, it's the sounds of a place, the smells of a place--the tiny details that  come together and allow me to experience any story I am reading in the best possible way. When I am writing a story myself, I am always thinking about where a scene takes place, why it takes place there, and what I need to tell my audience about that place so that they can see it in their minds like I do.

One of my favorite story settings is Hogwarts. (I didn't write that setting, just so you know!) I love all of the personality that castle has.  So, I thought that today's prompt would be CASTLE.  

Here are a few to get your creative thoughts flowing:
This is quite a fancy castle.  It looks rather happy.  Of course, every place has its secrets, doesn't it?

This one looks like  the hidden castle of the sea-elves.  It only rises from the water at sunset...

A castle on a lake!!  This looks like one where King Arthur would live, very Camelot-like.

RUINS!  I love ruins!!  Of course, it's kind of an awful word, being RUINED and, but you can just imagine what once was here--and what happened to ruin it.

Such a chubby little castle!  This is a fairy tale castle for sure.

Saw this castle in person not too long ago.  Amazingly, we discovered a terrible smell as we went through the towers.  It was awful and there was no escape.  Just goes to show, things are not always as pretty and pink as they seem.

HAUNTED CASLTE.  Well, this looks adequately creepy, don't you think?  (I think what makes it look so scary is the fact that the photo is black and white.  Wise choice for a haunted castle.)  So, do ghosts reside here?  A were-wolf perhaps?  or perhaps a creature so terrifying it has yet to be described...

Come inside my sand castle!  This is where stories are born and dreams come true!
Choose any castle to write about--or you can find one of your own!  Google is amazing for that.  I chose the word CASTLE this week because I am writing a scene that happens in a place very much like this:
It is called Mont St. Michel and it is awesome.

So, your task is to use the word CASTLE in your writing.  You might set a story in one of the castles I have shown you, or create a castle of your very own..  You might write a poem about a castle, or perhaps a song.  You might choose to take a story you are working on and set a scene in a castle.  Whatever you do, remember to have fun!

You can email me at storyqueen@gmail.com if you want to share your work!

See you next time!

xo 

hrh

P.S. If you want to come and write with me in person, there are still a few seats open in my summer writing workshop offered through the Carlsbad Education Foundation. CEF offers so many cool summer opportunities for kids.  My workshop runs from July 21-July 25,  from 9 am to 12 pm at Jefferson Elementary School.  You can click here for more information.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Story School #3

Hi everyone!

Welcome to week #3 of Story School!

I really enjoyed reading the adventures of the Dog Brothers and Paper Cat last week.  There was even a poem using the word "Cat-tastic" which I found rather marvelous.  Keep them coming!

This week's inspiration for story school is a picture, but a different picture from last week. Sometimes a picture will inspire me because of the subject of the picture, or sometimes it is the feeling the picture portrays, sometimes I can't describe the feeling at all--it is just a little bit of magic that somehow comes through the drawing/photo/whatever and makes my fingers itch to write.

Recently I saw a drawing that I really liked.  It was done by and artist named Jenni Desmond.  She is illustrating my book THIS BOOK IS NOT ABOUT DRAGONS which comes out in the Fall of 2015.  Anyway, this particular drawing just spoke to me and I knew I had to write about it.


I love the colors, I love the mood, but most of all, I love that it features that often misunderstood sea creature, the NARWHAL.

So, your prompt for today is Narwhal.  Maybe you will write lovely poetry about sea animals or the way the waves flow upon the shore.  Maybe you will write a story about a large family of narwhals going on a summer vacation.  Maybe you will write a letter to the world, urging folks to take care of our oceans so the narwhals will have a home. You can research narwhals and write about how amazing they are. Anything that you want to write is fine, just use the picture for inspiration. (Sometimes writing takes us in a completely different direction that we plan and that is okay, too.)

As for me, when I saw this picture, I immediately knew I had to write a story about the littlest one, the one at the bottom.  Isn't he cute?  I just finished it up the other day. Maybe I'll share it one day soon.

I am so excited to see how the narwhals inspire you.

(And the horn on the narwhal is really a TOOTH!  Seriously.)

If you are interested, you can see Jenni Desmond's books and such at Jennidesmond.com

(And if you want to check Jenni's Etsy shop, it is here. )

Guys, wait until you see how Jenni draws dragons!!!

And if you want to share your writing with me, my email address is storyqueen@gmail.com.  I will write back to you!

hrh

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer To Do List 2014: Simple Pleasures Edition




Part donut, part croissant.  Where have you been all my life?

1.  Eat a cronut. Yeah, I know, it's a simple thing to have at the top of a summer list, but I will feel pretty good about this summer if I can accomplish this.

2.  Hike around in Joshua Tree National Park. (Actually, I am hoping to do this tomorrow.) It's so close and I've never been.




Those trees in the background look like DUDES!
3.  See the covers of my new books, NO, NO KITTEN!   and  SECRETS OF SELKIE BAY.  One of them is almost finished, one of them I have no idea what to expect.  But I am excited beyond all reason to have a glimpse of both.
4.  Watch the sunset in the desert.

5.  Watch the sunset over the ocean. (Okay, I am noticing a theme here--where are the sunrises?)
6.  Sleep in sometimes. (Oh, that's where the sunrises are--being missed altogether!  Well done, me! Sleep is good.)
7.  Visit Catalina Island. Again, so close but I have never been!



8.  Eat Mexican food in New Mexico.  Well, why not?

9.  Visit the Santa Fe Opera.
Look at it, all snuggled up against the Sangre de Cristos.  

10.  Oh, and write.  A BUNCH.  Write a bunch of words! Good words, of course.

So, what's on your summer to-do list?

hrh








Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Story School #2

Hello and welcome! Welcome to the second Story School of 2014!

What is Story School, you ask--let me tell you.  Every Wednesday this summer, I'll post a story starter of sorts.  It might be an idea or a prompt.  It might be just a single word.  Who knows!  Story School started as a way for me to continue to connect with the students from my school (about writing) over the summer. But really, Story School is for everyone, young or old.  Writing exercises often get my writing juices flowing so I thought it would be good to share some of the stuff that works for me! 

The response to our first Story School was awesome.  Several kids sent amazing stories and poems.  It was a pleasure to read them and I am looking forward to reading more!

Okay, so on to today's prompt:

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  A thousand words!  That's a lot of words.  I am hoping that one of these two pictures inspires you to create some words of your own, but don't worry if it's not 1,000.  Any words are good words.

Today we are going to focus on character.  Describing your character well in your story really helps your readers create pictures in their own minds, and understand your story even better.   Describing a character doesn't have to mean showing what the character looks like. If you tell how the character acts, or what they are thinking, you are describing important parts of the character as well!

Who are our characters today?  Well let's meet them:

These are the Dog Brothers. (These two guys live at my house).

And this is Paper Cat. (This was made by my friend Mimi).

So, your characters for today's Story School are the Dog Brothers and/or Paper Cat.  Maybe they are super heroes!  Maybe the Dog Brothers live on a farm and the little one is always getting into trouble and the big one always has to get him out.  Maybe Paper Cat goes into outer space and saves the Earth from an alien invasion.  You can have them do anything you want, because you are the AUTHOR.  You don't have to use them both in your story.  You can make up a story with Paper Cat OR the Dog Brothers if you choose.  Or a poem.  Maybe the Dog Brothers or Paper Cat reminds you of your own pet and you want to write about them instead.  That is okay, too.

Just make sure you describe them!  (And you don't have to write a WHOLE story, either. Maybe you just want to write the beginning today, and more tomorrow.  Anyway you want to write it is fine, just as long as you are writing!!)

Remember, if you want to send me your writing, you can email me at storyqueen@gmail.com.  I will write back to you!

Happy writing!

hrh

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Story School #1

Hello and welcome! Welcome to the first Story School of 2014!

What is Story School, you ask--let me tell you.  Every Wednesday this summer, I'll post a story starter of sorts.  It might be an idea or a prompt.  It might be just a single word.  Who knows!  Story School started as a way for me to continue to connect with the students from my school (about writing) over the summer. But really, Story School is for everyone, young or old.  Writing exercises often get my writing juices flowing so I thought it would be good to share some of the stuff that works for me!

But first, some NEWS!!




http://www.publishersweekly.com/images/data/LINK_SET_LINK/graphic/000/012/12276-1.JPGWesley Adams at Farrar, Straus & Giroux has bought Secrets of Selkie Bay, a middle-grade magical realism novel by Shelley Moore Thomas. When Cordie's little sister claims their missing mother has turned into a selkie, Cordie has only herself to blame, since she's the one who made up that lie in the first place. But in order to discover the truth of what happened to their mother, Cordie must take a treacherous journey to the hidden Selkie Isle. Publication is set for spring 2015; Joanna Volpe of New Leaf Literary & Media did the deal for world English rights.
(from Publisher's Weekly)





So....Yay!!! A new book next Spring!!

Soon, I'll share what made me write Secrets of Selkie Bay in the first place.  But today, let's just look at one word from the title to get our imaginations geared up.  

Secrets

What a great word, huh?  A story with a secret is a story that I want to read!  Maybe it is a secret regarding a character's identity--is the princess really a dragon in disguise?  Or maybe it takes place in a secret land--a land where dinosaurs rule from atop thrones of broken televisions.  Sometimes a character has to keep a secret--maybe YOU have had to keep a secret and it was HARD.  Did you let it slip?  Did you feel it burning inside of you, bursting against your heart, trying to get out?

So, today your assignment in Story School is simply to use the word secret (or secrets) in your writing.  You only have to use it once, but it has to be there.  Oh, and your writing doesn't have to be  a story you know.  Sometimes, I write poetry.  Sometimes, I write non-fiction reflections about things in my life.  It doesn't matter, as long as you are writing!!

So, on your marks.....get set......

Oh wait.  I forgot to tell you.  When you finish your writing, if you want to share it with me, you can send it to storyqueen@gmail.com and I'll write back to you. If you have a question, you can email me or put it in the comments.  

Looking forward to sharing Story School with you!

so......GO!!

hrh

Saturday, June 14, 2014

In the End

Well, it's over.  The school year, that is.

When I look back on my meager blog posts this year, I know that the reason I had so little energy for blogging is that I have just completed the hardest year in my teaching career.  Ever.

I think what was hardest were simply the changes--changes are rarely simple. As I was driving to my school yesterday (a teacher work day--no students), I was giving a fake keynote address to myself in the car about the current conditions of teaching.  I am so rarely in the car by myself, that when I am, I find myself giving fake speeches about things I feel are important.  Yes, I know it's weird.  Hopefully, I just look like I am singing to myself in the car to passersby.

Anyway, my speech addressed the hard thing about being a teacher in this day and age.--the fact that I found myself in a constant state of self-reflection.  Everyday, I had to ask myself, "But is this good for children?"

Because some if it isn't.

And we, as teachers, are all that stands between our children and a bunch of stuff that may or may not be good.  The jury is still out.  Some of the changes might look good on paper, but in practice are unrealistic and possibly damaging.  I reflected a lot on the Hippocratic oath that doctors take, where they promise to abstain from doing harm, and I thought it was a pretty good place to begin as a teacher, a pretty good standard to be accountable to.

Do no harm.

The thing is, we who teach, we who stay in the profession, do so in order to make a difference in the lives of children.  We do so to make our world a better place. Lofty goals, but important ones.

There's a lot of teacher bashing out there.  There probably always has been.  Everyone thinks they can teach because if they completed high school, then they know all of the things a child in grades k-12 should know because they've lived it.  The spent thirteen years learning it.

But knowing the content is not the same as being able to present it in an inspiring way so that others not only remember it, but learn it themselves.  It is similar with writing.  Everyone who knows how to write can write a book, they possess all of the knowledge that is necessary.  But everyone does not write books.  That is because something more is needed. Something more.

A friend of mine once told me I was crazy to be a writer and a teacher because both professions demanded a piece of your soul.  I know this to be true.

 Stephen King claims the only time he seriously almost gave up writing was when he was an English teacher.

So, there I am feeling seriously depleted as I pull up to my school, giving my fake keynote to myself, wondering why it all matters.  Isn't the plan to just replace all of us with robots someday anyway?  As I stumble out of my car to go and finish cleaning my room, I come upon some older teen skateboarders and their dog sneaking onto the school grounds.  They see me and pretend that they are headed to a trash can to throw some trash away--like finding a trash can was the only purpose for being at the school on a teacher work day. Now, our school is famous locally for the skate stunts one can perform on our many stairs, rails, etc.  Dangerous tricks that are a big no-no.

I see them with their dog, which is also a big no-no on school grounds, and say, "Hey, guys, you can't bring your dog here.  It's against, er, um....some kind of code." (Obviously, I used all of my good words in my fake keynote to myself.)

Skater:  Oh.  Hey, are you the Art teacher?

Me:  No.  That was Mrs. Hawes.  (Mrs. Hawes and I both let our hair turn silver and choose to wear it long.  She retired last year.) I'm Mrs. Thomas.  The Story Queen.

Skater:  STORY QUEEN?!? YOU'RE STILL HERE??

Me:  Hey, I'm not that old.  Actually, to you I probably am.  But yes.  I am still here.

Skater:  Do you still do those puppets?

Me:  Yeah.

Skater:  Well, Storyqueen, when I went here (to this school), you made my life a little better.



He didn't have to say that.  He didn't have to say those exact words. He could have just rolled his eyes and skated on, or made an unpleasant gesture or something.  But MAN, those were words I needed to hear so badly.
 
And so maybe it does matter after all.

Maybe the moments we carry with us from our educational lives matter far more than all of the mandates imposed from above.

hrh