"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Serious Series

In case you didn't hear, the amazing Beverly Cleary passed away a few days ago just shy of her 105th birthday. Her Ramona books were one of the earliest series that I enjoyed. The only earlier precursors might be the Mercer Mayer Little Critter books and the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel.

News of her death put me in a nostalgic frame of mind and I started thinking back to all of the book series' I have enjoyed over time, as well as to the ones I still haven't gotten around to reading. I also started thinking about the ones I would highly recommend versus the ones that might be a waste of time.

As a middle and high school student, I enjoyed several different variations or series of Nancy Drew. Then I discovered Christopher Pike and several of his horror series such as the Chain Letter and The Last Vampire before discovering and becoming consumed with R.L. Stine's Fear Street series. Other author series I pored over in those years included L.J. Smith's The Secret Circle and Vampire Diaries as well as the Sweet Dreams romances by multiple authors. 

It would be so very difficult to pick the best book series ever written. You could argue genre, timing, in-depth creation of worlds, redefining characters, the number of generations who have enjoyed it, and so much more. Finding a new series to fall in love with has led to an all weekend binge for me in several cases. Some of the more popular series that I have enjoyed included Twilight, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, and more. Here are a few I've missed, but hope to try soon:

1.) The Brigid Quinn Series by Becky Masterman - the story of an FBI agent tracking down a notorious killer who murdered her colleague, this four-part crime series as been highly recommended to me.

2.) The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher - this fantasy series includes 16 books showcasing vampires, demons, and magic.

3.) Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan - this series based on Greek mythology has been in my TBR pile for a while. Students have often claimed the series is funny, and full of heroes, love, adventure, and characters I will never forget.

4.) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis - while I did read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a young girl, I never picked up any of the other books in the series. It might be time for a revisit.

5.) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - I was visiting Scotland when they first began filming the television series version. I watched a few, but I didn't care for them. However, as is usually the case, I have been informed the books are so much better and the series did not stay faithful to them.

There are so many more series that I have enjoyed, and many more that I have yet to try - more than I wish to cover in this one blog post.

How about you? What was your first series? What is your favorite? Do you have one to recommend as a "must read" or even as a "must avoid" series?

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Spring Competitions and Critiques

Chicken Soup for the Soul: https://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/possible-book-topics

This is one company I have experience with and will continue to recommend. They always have a call out for multiple topics. They also pay fairly well in both cash and contributor copies. If you are interested in writing creative nonfiction, please check out the link above.

The First Line: https://www.thefirstline.com/

Accepting fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, the next available deadlines are May 1, August 1, and November 1. Please click the link above to learn more.

FLASH 500 COMPETITION:     http://www.flash500.com/

This is an annual set of three competitions for 500 words or less - in the categories of flash fiction, short story, and novel opening!

This quarterly open-themed competition has closing dates of March 31, June 30, September 30 and December 31. The results will be announced within six weeks of each closing date and the three winning entries each quarter will be published on this website. Entry fee: £5 for one story, £8 for two stories. Optional critiques: £15 per story. The competition is open to anyone over the age of 18, including non-UK entrants. Only manuscripts which are within the 500-word limit will be accepted. Entries must be in English.

Prizes will be awarded as follows:
First: £300 
Second: £200
Third: £100
Highly commended: A copy of The Writer’s ABC Checklist


We no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts, but we do offer unpublished and unagented writers of children's fiction the chance to submit their work to the annual Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition. We're looking for original ideas, a fresh voice, a diverse range of entries and stories that children will love! We'd particularly like to encourage entry for BAME writers and others from underrepresented backgrounds. The competition will close for entries on 14 May 2021 at 11.59pm GMT.

The Times/Chicken House Prize is a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House with a royalty advance of £10,000, plus an offer of representation from a top literary agent. This year we're delighted to introduce an exciting new prize, sponsored by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), who are celebrating their 150th anniversary in 2021. The IET 150 Award will be awarded to a complete fiction manuscript for children aged 7 up to Young Adult that broadly explores or celebrates Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

By entering the competition, your manuscript will automatically be considered for both prizes by our expert team of readers. To enter, you must have written a completed full-length novel suitable for children/young adults aged somewhere between 7 and 18 years. By full-length we suggest a minimum of 30,000 words and ask that manuscripts entered do not exceed 80,000 words in length (please note these are suggested word counts). Visit the site above for more info...

Youth Writing Contesthttps://writersfest.bc.ca/programs/education/writing-contests/

The Vancouver Writers Fest's annual youth writing contest is open to all students enrolled in grades 8-12 in British Columbia. Entries will be accepted for previously unpublished short stories (fiction or non-fiction) and personal essays: 1,500 word limit. The first-prize winner will receive a $200 cash prize and the second-prize winner, a $100 cash prize. Deadline May 31.

For More Options: https://blog.reedsy.com/writing-contests/

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Happy St. Patrick's Day and Spring Break


If you're not sure how to celebrate, check out this article I shared a couple of years ago: Irish Classics, Prompts, and Party Tips

How about you? Are you celebrating Spring Break, or St. Patrick's Day? How are you spending this time?

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Training an Artist

In order to even begin to learn how to play his instrument, it takes the guitarist weeks to build calluses on his fingertips; it takes the saxophonist months to strengthen his lip so that he might play his instrument for only a five-minute stretch; it can take the pianist years to develop dual hand and multiple finger coordination. Why do writers assume they can just “write” with no training whatsoever-and then expect, on their first attempt, to be published internationally? What makes them think they're so much inherently greater, need so much less training than any other artists?     - Noah Lukeman, THE FIRST FIVE PAGES

If you decide to write, it must become a repetitively practiced art form, or you cannot in good conscience call yourself a writer. You certainly wouldn't want a wedding planned, a house built, a baby delivered, a car mechanic, or a brain surgeon in your life that did not have plenty of practice and expertise. So, why would you accept less from yourself? That invested time and practice lend credibility, ease, expertise, and dare we hope: "a certain genius" to our chosen fields.

So, what are you doing to pursue your training and become an "expert, or genius" at writing? If you're looking for ideas, please check out: http://writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2021/01/2021-conferences-workshops-and-literary.html and then continue reading books on craft as well as both fiction and nonfiction in a variety of genres.

Do you recommend any specific ideas for training? What works for you?

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

IWSG: Genre Choices

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.

Now, IWSG hosts have changed up the format in an effort to make it more fun and interactive. Every month, they will announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Don’t forget to visit others that day to see their answers. Want to join, or learn more? Visit our - Sign-up List.

Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?

MY ANSWER - I read in the same way I write - by mood. This means it's not unusual for me to read a romance, biography, true crime, cozy mystery, scifi, or fantasy, etc. I usually have more than one book going at a time. It's not even unusual for me to read in multiple genres at a time. Example, I might be reading a biography in the morning (while I'm waiting for my kids to finish getting ready for school), a scifi during the day (if I take a lunch break), and a romance at night (before I fall asleep). I keep books in my car, at my desk, and on my nightstand. Sometimes, if I'm extremely drawn into one particular story, I will abandon all other books until I've finished the tale absorbing my mind - regardless of the genre. I'm also motivated by mood. I like new takes on a genre, tried and true tropes, and interesting characters for which I feel a connection.

How about you? Do you have a favorite genre to read? Is it the same one you prefer to write?