Sunday, October 26, 2014

Book Review: Little Author in the Big Woods by Yona Zeldis McDonough

I usually don't feature secular books here, but since Laura Ingalls Wilder has been such an influence on my writing career, I felt this book would fit right in with my blog.

"Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs."  This sentence opens Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the first in a series of children's books that gave middle grade readers a glimpse into the life of America's pioneer families. And for some--like myself--this would be the start of a lifelong desire to learn more about the real life of Laura, her sisters Mary, Carrie, and Grace, and her parents Charles and Caroline Ingalls.

In a style similar to the  Little House books, author Yona Zeldis McDonough has created a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder aimed toward middle grade readers that not only helps point out the fact and the fiction behind Wilder's classic children's books, but also celebrates the independent mind of the Quiner and Ingalls women along the way.

McDonough's book opens not with Wilder, but with a brief prologue discussing the life of Caroline Lake Quiner, who would one day become Caroline Ingalls. This sets the tone for the rest of this biography, as it highlights how Caroline's mother, Charlotte, believed in higher education for girls; something Ma Ingalls also wanted for her daughters.

Told in chronological order, Little Author in the Big Woods follows Wilder's life and the journeys she took not only with her family, but later with her husband Almanzo and daughter Rose. It talks about the hardships the Wilders faced as a young married couple and of their leaving De Smet, South Dakota to settle in Mansfield, Missouri. Readers learn about the building of the dream house on Rocky Ridge Farm and Wilder's early career writing for the Missouri Ruralist, before moving on to the creation of the Little House series. McDonough ends with an epilogue that discusses the longevity of Wilder's work and Michael Landon's classic television show, Little House on the Prairie, which is based upon the books. Readers are also treated to quotes from Laura Ingalls Wilder, details on some of the games that Laura played, crafts, and recipes. Also included is a list of other writings by Wilder and a list with some of the other books about her.

While I have to admit I learned little new about Laura Ingalls Wilder as a result, I believe middle grade readers will enjoy getting to know more about her real life and the independent nature of the women in the Quiner, Ingalls, and Wilder families. With a similar writing style and design to the Little House series, readers will feel right at home with this book. Jennifer Thermes did an excellent job in capturing the essence of McDonough's book and Wilder's life with her beautiful illustrations. I'm thrilled to add Little Author in the Big Woods to my Laura Ingalls Wilder collection.

 Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7
Series: Christy Ottaviano Books
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (September 16, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 080509542X
ISBN-13: 978-0805095425

I received a copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Writing World Update

My last writing update was in August, so I am overdue. I've pretty much stuck to the goals I began with in January, but I removed one of them because I knew it wouldn't happen. Here is where I stand now.

Daily Bible reading between 8 and 8:30 a.m.

I originally set this task for the morning because I knew once I got into my day it would never happen. Since I am now doing my best to get to the office by 9 am, this time frame no longer works. I've tried switching it to just before bedtime, but I'm tired and fall asleep without reading anything. I was able to get some reading in this past week, so hopefully that continues.

Reduce blogging/reviewing duties.

I haven't taken on many new books to review this year, but I have taken a few through December. I pretty much figure that by January I will be concentrating solely on my TBR pile and not take any new reviews until I catch up; especially since spring is a busy time for real estate and I plan to focus on that.

Complete the first draft of my middle grade historical Amelia's Mission by February 28th.

As we all know, this didn't happen. I'm 13 chapters in and meeting with my writing group once or twice a month to see on what I need to change. October's meeting found that perhaps Amelia and the butler are too friendly, so I want to edit that section soon. After that, I hope to keep plugging away through the winter a little at a time.

Research one new publisher/agent a month. I want to submit more often.

I've been using my 2015 Guide to Literary Agents to help with my search. I haven't submitted yet, but I am farther along than I was in the process. I want to be ready once Amelia's Mission is in good shape.

Complete editing projects.

This is a new addition. Two editing projects came my way unexpectedly. I'm thrilled. Not sure on the time frame for both yet, but once I know I'll update my goal.

That's it right now. I am looking forward to the end of the year. The Lil' Princess is turning 11 in a couple of weeks, and soon Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Daily Bible Reading - 2 John, 3 John & Jude

I'm doing my best to get back into the habit of reading daily from my Bible. It's just been hard because I am so tired from working that I often fall asleep without reading anything. The important thing, though, is that I find myself praying more and more these days.

Here is some of what I've read from lately.

Favorite verses:

1:3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

1:9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.

Favorite verses:

1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

1:11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.

Favorite verses:

1:20-21 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Write Angles Conference 2014

Another Write Angles Conference has come and gone. It's amazing how months of planning is done in an instant.

Here is a list of this year's panels:

Doing What You Love: Sustaining Your Writerly Practice
Panelists: Liz Bedell (moderator), Áine Greaney, Christian McEwen, Holly Wren Spaulding
Do you ever struggle to find time to write, or to make best use of the time and space you have to write? Do you wrestle with burnout, writer’s block, or the muse’s fickle attention? This panel will explore what is really at the heart of the matter: how to nourish and sustain your writing self, amidst the perils of both external responsibilities (job, family, community) and internal distractions (self-doubt, dithering, curiosities).

The Essay: A Genre for All Reasons
Panelists: Daniel Jones, Alison Lobron, Bill Newman, Darlene Smith-Ash (moderator)
We read them everywhere – op-eds, reviews, on-line commentary, and profiles of the famous and the unknown. The length varies as much as the subject matter. This panel promises to be scintillating and surprising as we consider the many facets of the essay.

“Who’s Speaking and Why Does it Matter?”
Workshop leader: Ellen Meeropol
Choosing the point of view(s) for your fiction is critical. Through discussion and writing exercises, this workshop will consider who speaks, to whom, and at what distance from the action. Bring pen and paper!

Building a Platform: What Is It, Do You Need It, and How Do You Create It?
Panelists: Linda Cardillo, Avital Norman Nathman, Jean Stone, Julie Winberg (moderator)
In the evolving publishing climate, it has become more and more important for authors to engage with their readers and create a “platform” that demonstrates visibility, creativity and reach to a defined audience. Panelists will discuss what it means to build a platform, whether we need one, and how to develop it?

Pen in the Sickroom: Getting the Illness/Caretaking Experience on Paper
Panelists: Jeanne Borfitz (moderator), Joanna Lillian Brown, Jan Freeman, Nell Lake, Suzanne Strempek Shea
Why does experience with illness and caregiving turn ordinary folks into writers, novelists and poets into memoirists, and writers of prose into poets? What pulls at us from the depths of our souls and compels us to translate intensely personal experiences and conflicted emotions into words? How do we unload such heavy emotional burdens while continuing to hold their meaning close? How can our words provide inspiration, strength, and hope to readers? Panelists will discuss why and how they write about their own and others’ experiences with illness and caregiving.

Read & Weed: Critiquing for Growth
Workshop Leaders: Liz Bedell, Cheryl Malandrinos, Jean Marie Ruiz, Darlene Smith-Ash
Plucking through garden weeds and flowers takes knowledge, tools, and a gentle hand. This applies to writing as well. Some words or phrases are unnecessary weeds, while others are exotic, beautiful flowers meant to blossom and enhance a narrative. In this experiential workshop facilitators will guide participants in the art of helpful critique. Using one-page, blind samples of participants’ writing, we will focus on the writer’s words and concept, resisting the temptation to re-write. Honest critiquing, like earnest weeding, is beneficial, but knowing where to stop can be tricky. This session focuses on the art of giving constructive critique, giving you strategies you can apply to your own writing to become an active editor in your own garden of words. You will be asked to submit a single page of writing (in any genre) immediately after registration. Please be sure to mark the box on your registration form, indicating your interest in this workshop. The workshop size is limited to 24.

Muse or Method? The Poetry Process in Perspective
Panelists: Sally Bellerose, Terry S. Johnson (moderator), Gail Thomas
A lively presentation about how poets work, and an opportunity for the audience to try out various approaches. A handout will be available with options and prompts.

The Agents
Literary agents tell what they look for in a publishable manuscript.

I took in the panel on essay writing first thing in the morning. Then I worked with a group of others on the critiquing workshop panel. After lunch I sat down and listened to what the agents had to say. This is the first year I didn't leave with a handful of books--only because of the limited space in my office.

The planning committee wrapped up the fun by going out to eat.

I can't wait to see what we do next year!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Blogging at Christian Children's Authors

I'm blogging about writing through changes today at Christian Children's Authors. This year has brought a great deal of change in our family's lives. Here's how I'm helping myself and my kids to deal with it:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Blogging at Write2Ignite

Today I am blogging at Write2Ignite. The Write2Ignite Conference For Christian Writers of Literature for Children and Young Adults is for those Christian writers who desire to write for Children’s and Young Adult markets. Now that it's October, my mind is on reviewing my goals for 2014 and plotting out my goals for the new year. Today's topic is "Be Positive about Your Writing Goals." It encourages writers to think positive when assessing their writing year. Hope you'll visit at