Monday, July 8, 2013

A Long-Overdue Letter From Me to You

Dear Reader:

I really stink at this blog thing.

Now that I have that confession off my chest, I figure I'd better come up with a good excuse why I've been away so long. 

My dog ate my laptop?

I fell down a hole and was sucked into this amazing underworld adventure?

A crate of lions showed up on my doorstep and I have been very busy giving haircut after haircut?

Oh, I know!  I got a phone call.  

Yeah, that'll work.

*ignores the awkward silence*

Anyway, truth be told, I've had my fair share of personal tragedy and professional setbacks the last 6-8 months, but now is not the time for a pity party.  We'll have one of those during SCBWI LA (which I am, again, not attending, so that makes me a nobody yet again this year [see this post to understand what I'm talking about]).  But for now we need to keep moving forward, moving onward, moving...well, moving somewhere.  Movement of any kind is a good thing, at least.

So, onward we go!  I hope you'll join me, dear friend.  

And let's just forget about the last 8 or so months of radio silence on my part, okay?  Thanks.

Affectionately Yours:
Me

P.S. I hope to be back to my regularly scheduled unscheduled schedule shortly. Don't hold your breath, though.  I'm not very good at keeping to a schedule.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I'm Here, But Not Really

So, you may have noticed that I missed a few weeks' worth of posts.  Yeah...about that....


Photo from http://capl.washjeff.edu.
I've been knee deep in a book drive for my other blog* for half of September and all of October, and though I love that we can provide such a wonderful collection of books for one library out there, it does take a lot of work to get everything together and the logistics figured out.  That's my first excuse.

The other knee has been plunged into planning our Regional Conference** for SCBWI.  Though this year we opted for a plot intensive instead of a true conference as in years past, so you'd think it would be less work.  Yeah...right.  Excuse #2.

I am also knee deep (I have a lot of knees) in the middle of a revision for an upper MG manuscript*** that I love to pieces.  Unfortunately, Excuse #1 and Excuse #2 have pretty much stolen any writing time I've had the last month or so, and I need to get back on track and Get. This. Manuscript. Finished.

So, because of this, I'll be shutting down this blog temporarily and pulling back on my other online projects through the end of this calendar year.  I'll still probably check in online occasionally, so I'll be here, but not really.  The best chance to see me online will be Thursday night at the #MGlitchat sessions, though I may not be able to get to all of them, either (it's a good thing we have 8 hostesses for the chats, or I'd be in trouble).  And, as always, if you really want to reach me, drop me an email at elissadcruz at gmail dot com.

So, until next year, dear readers!


*This is not an attempt to get you to stop by and vote on who should receive our collection of books.    Okay, it really is.  www.fromthemixedupfiles.com

**This is also not an attempt...oh, who am I kidding?  I totally want you to check out our amazing Plot Intensive with Cheryl Klein, and maybe even sign up to come.  http://www.scbwi.org/Regional-Chapters.aspx?R=49&sec=Conf

***This is not an attempt to get you to read the manuscript.  I mean it this time.  Maybe if it sells to a publisher someday, then I might attempt to get you to read it, but you're safe for now.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Friday Reads, Monday Edition: Bird By Bird

I spent the weekend tucked away in the mountains of Idaho at the SCBWI Utah/S. Idaho's Novel Revision Retreat (I'll attempt to blog about that later this week/month, but don't hold your breath--I spent a good chunk of the time doing dishes and driving people around), so this Friday Reads is coming to you a few days late.  And since writing was on my mind this weekend, I figured I'd share a non-fiction title our faculty member, Senior Editor Kendra Levin from Viking Children's Books mentioned as one that speaks to her.  It spoke to me when I read it for the first time years ago.  I hope it speaks to you, too.


Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
by Anne Lamott

For: Adults

Genre: Non-fiction, Writing,

Published: 1995

Description from Barnes and Noble: Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird is an inspiring and humorous look at the spirituality and sometimes dull reality of writing and the writing life. Lamott offers practical and honest suggestions on how to beat writer's block, find inspiration, or tackle a project that seems overwhelming, all of it wrapped in her warm and often hilarious viewpoint. With lessons in craft, art, and even life, having Bird by Bird on the shelf is like having a fellow writer and friend on hand for whenever you need motivation, inspiration, or even just a chuckle or two.

Why I Liked It: There are times when writers need  more than practical tips about craft.  This book left me inspired to keep pursuing the writing life.  Though the tips are amazing as well, it was the pep talk from Anne that gave me the courage and determination to keep going at a time when things in my own writing life looked bleak.

From the book: "Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'"

Priceless advice, and only one of the gems hidden in this book.  You'll have to take the info in this book bird by bird, I must say.  You might as well buy a copy now, because you'll keep coming back to it again and again.


Do you have any other books about writing that you like?  I have a list of favorites, of course, but I'd love to hear about yours.  Leave me a comment if you have a title to share.

And happy weekend weekday reading!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Reads: Moon Over Manifest

A dear friend sent me this book in the mail.  For no reason.  Just because.  Now you know why she's a dear friend.  (Thank you, Wendy!)


Moon Over Manifest
by Claire Vanderpool

For: 8-12-year-olds

Genre: Historical fiction

Published: 2010

Description: Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.

Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”

Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.

Why I liked it:  I really loved how the author weaved two different time periods together into one story.  The main story is set in the 1930's and is from the main character's point of view, but I the second time period during World War I was told through newsprint  and letters and stories from folks who'd lived through it.  But mostly I connected with the main character as she struggled to find herself by searching to find who her father really was and how the town of Manifest had molded him.    I felt her longing, and I wanted her to grow from the experience (which she did).  In my opinion this deserved the Newbery Medal (which it received in 2011).

Have any other historical fiction from either WWI or the 30s to share? Please do!  And happy weekend reading!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Nominate a Library Today!

(Psst.  Hey, I know you are curious to know why I missed last Friday's Friday Reads.  It was because I wasn't actually reading.  I was getting ready for a baby shower I was hosting for my baby sister.  In fact, I spent the whole week offline.  I don't think I turned my computer on the whole week, either.  So, sorry about that.  But we're back on schedule for this week, so it's all good.  Hope you'll forgive me.)

Today on my other blog we are launching our second Great Library Giveaway.  We've collected almost 50 middle-grade titles and we would like to donate them to one lucky public, private or school library.  The problem with this great idea is that it's hard to narrow down which library to choose.  So we are asking our readers to nominate one.  

Head on over and tell us which library you'd suggest we send our collection to.  We'll be accepting nominations through October 16th.  Then, from Oct 20th-30th we'll choose three finalists at random and let our readers vote on which library should receive our middle-grade collection.  


We are also hoping to collect 100 titles for this giveaway, and we are only half-way there.  Please consider donating a middle-grade book for this, since you'll be helping a worthy library.  Any book will do--a new release or an old classic--but it needs to be in new or like-new condition.  Also, hardcover is preferred, though we will accept paperback as well.

I hope you'll join in the fun and nominate or donate, or both!  See you on the MG side! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Reads: Amelia Lost

Here's a little family history lesson for you:

My 23rd great-grandfather was the 15th great-grandfather of Amelia Earhart's husband.  (Or something like that, anyway.  It's hard to count back that many generations.)

That makes us almost related, right?

Anyway, ever since I realized this pseudo-family relationship existed, my fascination about her story has bordered on obsession.  So when I heard about this book, I had to read it.  In fact, I made my son choose it for one of his school book assignments.  Hey, he thanked me for making him read it, so my obsession turned out to be a good thing in this case.

You should read it, too.  I'm just saying....


Buy this book!

Amelia Lost
by Candice Fleming

For: 8-12-year-olds

Genre: non-fiction, biography

Published: 2011

Description (from Booklist): Drawing on her training as a historian and her considerable writing talents, Fleming (The Great and Only Barnum, 2009) offers a fresh look at this famous aviatrix. Employing dual narratives—straightforward biographical chapters alternating with a chilling recounting of Earhart’s final flight and the search that followed—Fleming seeks to uncover the “history in the hype,” pointing out numerous examples in which Earhart took an active role in mythologizing her own life. While not disparaging Earhart’s achievements, Fleming cites primary sources revealing that Earhart often flew without adequate preparation and that she and her husband, George Putnam, used every opportunity to promote her celebrity, including soliciting funds from sponsors. The use of a gray-tone background for the disappearance chapters successfully differentiates the narratives for younger readers. Frequent sidebars, well-chosen maps, archival documents, and photos further clarify textual references without disturbing the overall narrative flow.

Why I liked it: Aside from my Amelia Earhart obsession, this book was so well-written and captivating that I couldn't put it down.  The recounting of her final flight, in particular, was mesmerizing.  And I appreciated that the author was willing to point out Amelia's flaws as well as her successes, since it gives the reader a more well-rounded picture of who Amelia Earhart really was.

Do you have any other narrative biographies that you can recommend?  I really do love a good biography, so if you know of one, please tell me in the comments below.

And happy weekend reading!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Reads: Gregor the Overlander

You may have noticed that I missed a few Fridays.  I had to take some time off in order to finish a few unusually large projects I had brewing.  Thanks for being patient while I worked through my work.

Anyway, I do a lot of confessing on this blog, and I have another one to share.  Brace yourself.

I have not read Hunger Games yet.

*waiting for you to pick your jaw off the floor*

Truth be told, I haven't felt the urge to read it yet, but I did hear that the author had written a middle-grade series before her HG success.  I did want to read that.  So I picked up the first book.  And here it is.


Shop Indiebound
Gregor the Overlander (Book 1 in the Underland Chronicles)
by Suzanne Collins

For: 8-12-year-olds

Genre: Fantasy Adventure

Published: 2003

Description: When Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland, where spiders, rats, cockroaches coexist uneasily with humans. This world is on the brink of war, and Gregor's arrival is no accident. A prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland's uncertain future. Gregor wants no part of it -- until he realizes it's the only way to solve the mystery of his father's disappearance. Reluctantly, Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure that will change both him and the Underland forever.

Why I Liked It: You should know that I really hate cockroaches.  I've lived in Texas once for a few years, so I know what real, big, ten-gallon-hat-wearing cockroaches look like.  But they are nothing compared to the roaches in this book.  So, oddly enough, I liked the roaches in this book.  And any book that can make me like roaches is a winner in my eyes.

Oh, and the adventure in this book sucked me right in.  I suppose that's a good reason to like it, too.


If you know of any other underworld adventures, please share them in the comments below. And happy weekend reading!