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Thanks so much for visiting HipWriterMama, my blog about children's books, authors and readergirlz!

It's time for a change. I've decided to focus my attention on my writing blog, www.vivianleemahoney.com. Hope to see you there!

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Hardcover vs. Paperback vs. Audiobook vs. e-book

Okay, everyone. Jennifer got me thinking about something, which we all know can be a dangerous thing. Everyone must have a preferred medium of book.

Some people may love reading a hardcover book, crisp binding crackling with every page turn. Others love mountains of paperback books, light and easy to pack away on trips. How about the audiobooks, bringing drama and life to every word? Or what about the easily accessible e-books, like those from Project Gutenberg?

Personally, if I add a book to my personal library or give a book as a gift, I want hardcover. If I'm in the car, I enjoy listening to an audiobook CD, as long as it is entertaining. I'll read any form of book I can get, but sometimes have a problem with paperback books. Apparently, I'm unable to properly take care of a paperback book--the pages and book cover taunt me, edges curling, pages loosen--general untidiness on parade.

So, what book form do you prefer?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Great Books for Boys

Imagine my surprise when I came across a series of books written by Henry Winkler. You know, Henry Winkler of The Fonz fame? Well, this cool celebrity teamed up with Lin Oliver. Together, they have written a popular series about Hank Zipzer, The World's Greatest Underachiever, ages 9 - 12.

I read the first book of the series, Niagra Falls, or Does It?, and was pleasantly surprised. Hank Zipzer's first homework assignment has him terrified. He needs to write five paragraphs on "What You Did This Summer." Hank has a hard time writing one sentence. He isn't sure how he'll be able to complete the assignment. He then gets the brilliant idea to turn this written essay into a visual demonstration of his vacation to Niagra Falls. Think water, water, and more water. Poor Hank gets detention and gets the surprise of his life, with a cool music teacher, who helps him see that he learns differently, and it was okay.

If you're looking for a book to help your child understand their experiences with dyslexia or other learning difficulties, this is a great start. Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver created a clever, resourceful character who just happens to have a learning disability. This first book was amusing and also empowering.

______


The next book I read just happened to have protagonists with dyslexia as well. Add some hyperactivity, and you've got teen heroes who are demigods. I loved The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, ages 9 and up. Sadly, I discovered there will be five books to this series, and only three are published to date. I really try to read series only after all the books are published, but made an exception since I am fascinated with Greek mythology. Now I will pay for it.

What a great book! I think children with learning disabilities will feel powerful after reading this book. Great empowerment and fantastic heroes/villians packaged in a smart, funny, action packed, entertaining, fast read.

_____


If you ever think you have a tough life, you haven't read Tyrell by Coe Booth, one of The Longstockings, YA: ages 15 and up, for mature teens. This is a wonderful book that kept me on edge. I was cheering for Tyrell and booing his pathetic excuse of a mother. Since fifteen year old Tyrell's father is in prison, he finds himself the man of the family and needs to figure out a plan to make some money so he can get his mother and little brother out of the roach infested homeless shelter. His girlfriend is very smart, and he reduces himself to look through her diary to see where he stands. He refuses to make a living from crime, and has some challenges he needs to work through. Even though Tyrell isn't in school, he makes sure his brother does his homework and gets to school.

This book is masterfully told in first person. Smooth, courageous, honor, anguish, insecurity, hope...you'll see it all.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Inspiration Monday: Take Yourself Seriously

How many of you let other people know what your dreams are? Or do you secret it away, hiding your herculean efforts, until the moment of truth comes and you can unveil your masterpiece? Or, do you let a few people in, and try to juggle everyone else's needs since you don't want to change the status quo, while you waste away, not having the time to work on your heart's desire?

Two of my favorite things to do when I was young, was to read and write. Sure I loved to do other things, but reading and writing were the things I had to do, sure as I needed to breathe. My family really didn't understand it too much. Still, my parents faithfully brought me to the library every week, so I could lose myself in the book stacks and carefully make my selections.

Then, when I was in third grade, I remember my English teacher asked us to write a story. I was hooked. That's when I knew that's what I wanted to do when I grew up. Write. I mean, can you even imagine? Creating a story for other people to enjoy and to even want to read it again, and again, and again? Now that was my idea of the best job ever.

Though, for some reason, I was always close mouthed about this dream. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always say the right things every solid American citizen wishes for their children. President. Doctor. Lawyer. Professor. Dentist. Financial Whiz Kid. I mean that's what gets the respect and money in this land of opportunity.

When I first started college, my major was biomedical engineering. I convinced myself it would be cool to learn how to meld robotics with medicine. And it is absolutely fascinating stuff. And it really is. To read.

My freshman year, I took a Creative Writing Class. I was so thrilled. What a relief it was to write, when all my freshman days were filled with biology, chemistry, and physics. Oh my. So imagine my disappointment and grief, when my professor told me I didn't have what it takes to write a good story. Instead of getting angry about that and wanting to prove him wrong, his words cut me to the core, shredding all my dreams. For years, I believed this professor, and stopped writing. For a little bit. When I started to write again, I squirrelled my work away, not telling a living soul about my dream in fear of the laughter that would follow. Because in the back of my mind, I wondered whether my professor was right, maybe I really didn't have the creative knack to make it as a writer.

But you know what? I've had it with doubting myself and my abilities. I've had it with my old professor, whose words haunted me for years. I've had it with all the naysayers and dream busters.

My kids are a big reason for this. I want them to know they are capable of reaching their dreams. What type of message am I sending them if I can't work toward my own dreams?

The only way to do this, I think, is to take yourself seriously. I know this is easier said than done, but really, if you can't take yourself seriously, who will?

Be responsible for yourself. Take those classes, join those critique groups or professional organizations. Practice, practice, practice your art. State your dream, loud and proud. Make sure you allow yourself the time to work on your dream. Enough time so you're not cheating yourself. Yes, you may disappoint people in the process, but in the end, you will disappoint yourself far more. It is all a balance, and one you will need to figure out how to manage so you can succeed.

Take yourself seriously. Treat your dream seriously. And by the way, it is totally okay to allow people to treat you and your work with respect.

What are you going to do today, this week, this month, this year, to take yourself seriously? For the sake of your dream?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

True Confessions

I have a confession to make. And please, don't jump all over me on this one. I didn't read any of the Harry Potter books before yesterday. Really.

I do have the books. All except the last one, which can wait. There were six HP books lined up all in a row, on a TBR shelf in a barely used, narrow closet of my home, so tempation didn't tease me too much.

Sure I've longed to read these books, but with so many other books that are out there, it has been easy to deflect temporary pangs of wishfulness. I've even seen a few of the movies, allowing myself the visual feast under my premise that most movies veer off the book path. And yes, I do have a general idea of what is going on with the books, but truly for me, the reading experience overshadows all that. But, I've had no interest in reading any of these books. Until now.

I have very little patience when it comes to books. Oh yes, I am a horrible book glutton. Every once in awhile, I find myself immersed in a great book, and then find out I have to wait a year or two for the next book to find out what happens next...Argh! Pure torture for me. So I'd rather wait until all the books are out, before gorging on incredible words that will leave me immersed in a whole new world until the final word.

I fear the only exception I have to make for the time being is with Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, which I started on a lark since I really didn't think I'd like it with the vampires and all. But I am now shamelessly addicted and will probably hopelessly wait for each and every book that is published.

However, I digress. While most people were out there grabbing the over 8 million copies of the final book (and this is only in the United States!), I was lounging around, reading the very first HP book. Content that now the the final book is published, I can read about Harry Potter until the very last word. And see for myself how much of a genius J.K. Rowling truly is. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. Of course, you all know this already.

Don't leave any spoilers to the ending here, but how many of you bought the book and finished it now?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Great Books for Girls: Walking on the Dangerous Side

Alkelda the Gleeful had mentioned in the comments of a past post, that she wanted "a Dangerous Book for Girls too. (Daring is good, but I want dangerous!)" I loved this and have wondered what books would qualify for this esteemed honor. I must confess, not all these following books will be on the dangerous side, but, I hope you'll agree that they are definitely daring and maybe start to border on the dangerous. I must hunt for some more to read.

And I must ask you, in your mind, what would make a children's book qualify as a Dangerous Book for Girls? If any of you have any suggestions for Dangerous Books for Girls, let me know in the comments.

So, here are the "dangerous" books I've read over the past couple of weeks:

1. Cornelia Funke, author of Inkheart fame, wrote a brave picture book for girls, The Princess Knight. This picture book is perfect for little girls who are tired of the same old stories about demure, pretty princesses who wait for their prince to rescue them. Enough already!

Princess Violetta has three older brothers. She is determined to be a great knight and choose her own destiny. Forget about arranged marriages and having the man fight for the woman's hand in marriage. You will adore this smart tale of a clever princess who is unwilling to follow tradition and finds her own happily ever after.


2. Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer by J.T. Petty, ages 9-12: Clemency Pogue is a clever girl who listens well to her parents. When faced with an evil fairy who is determined to send Clemency over the edge of a deep gorge, Clemency remembers this important line from Peter Pan, "I don't believe in fairies."

She has to repeat it seven times, before the evil fairy drops dead. After Clemency pulls herself to safety, a hobgobin tells her she's killed six other fairies in the world. Clemency is horrified and wants to make things right, even if the wicked fairy is brought back to life.

This is an amusing book with a delightful use of clever wordplay and interesting adventure. Please note this wicked fairy is mean. So keep that in consideration if your child doesn't like this sort of thing.


3. Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black, I would recommend this to mature teens 15 and up: I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book, despite the dark edge to this fantasy. 16 year old Kaye isn't your average teen. She watches over her flight rocker mom, feels like a misfit, and had faeries as friends when she was a young child. She soon discovers she has more in common with the faeries than she thought she did. Kaye has to think fast and be stronger than she ever thought she could to survive the struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms.


4. Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black, I would recommend this book to mature teens ages 15 and up: Seventeen year old Valerie finds her boyfriend and mother together and runs away to New York City. She soon meets up with and lives with a group of homeless teens in the underground subway tunnels.

Val and her friends meet up with a troll, Ravus, who concocts a magical drug called Never. The teens become addicted to this drug and realize their lives may be in danger, as they become more involved in the faerie conflict. This is a good second book, but personally, I liked Holly Black's first book, Tithe better.


5. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, ages 9 and up: This is quite an imaginative book. Meggie's father has the power to read a book with such depth, that he brings the wicked characters from a book to life. This is quite an adventurous read and boys and girls will enjoy this book.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Inspiration Monday: Take Time for Yourself

Summer is a time I'd like to think would be slow and relaxing, but I've found myself more stressed these past few weeks. Isn't it sad that I've found having three children home, all day long, making sure they have summer fun, has drained me? It pains me to admit that, because these kids are my life and joy.

But, when I look around and see women with four and even five children, move along with effortless grace, I am overwhelmed by how hard it is for me to stay organized to make sure my kids are happy, my husband is happy, and I am happy. Inevitably, something always has to fall by the wayside, and I hate to say it, but I let it be me.

Not to mention, I've let so many household and personal things slide this summer, so I can concentrate on my writing. See, I get rather obsessed with my projects and neglect other things, like grocery shopping, regular mealtimes, getting to fun activities on time, cleaning, bedtime rituals. It shouldn't have surprised me when I found myself surrounded by family mutiny. But, also somewhat relieved because I was stressed and exhausted.

All of the sudden I realized I needed to make an adjustment to re-energize my household, my writing and most importantly, me. Oh yes, for the moment, this is all gonna be about me...and you'll soon find this is all about you, too.

So if you're a regular visitor, you may have noticed I've been a bit absent from the blogging scene for bit. As well as a few other things that have been so important to me. I needed a chance to rest, recharge and get my life in order. This has made me happier and more enthusiastic for my projects. Not to mention the family is happier.

I've mentioned before that it is so important to work toward your dreams on a regular basis. What I failed to recognize and convey to you, is how absolutely essential it also is to pay attention to your needs and your family's needs . Give yourself permission to take a break when you need it.

Your dream won't go away, it'll still be there while you rest or focus on the people who are important in your life. In fact, this may just give you the necessary chance to brainstorm or even channel your energy in a more positive way.

So go, take a well deserved break. Then come back and unleash your newfound energy and enthusiasm into your dream.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Spiderwick Chronicles Movie Coming in February 2008

If you haven't heard, the best selling children's fantasy/adventure series, The Spiderwick Chronicles, by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, is being made into a movie, due to be released February 2008. Here's the movie trailer.

What do you think?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Inspiration Monday: Be Persistent

I am in constant awe of my children. For any of you who have interaction with children, you know what I mean. The ability children have to persist, despite who they irritate. The ability to tune out the "No's" and turn them into "Why's" in a split second. For the most part, children don't care who they tick off, wear down, or exhaust. What they are focusing on at the moment is, "What do I need to get ____?" So they practice, they refocus, or they change strategies so they can reach their carrot.

My 8 year old is on the town swim team this summer. It is the one sport she can do well. She's not into running around and sweating. So soccer, track, softball are all out. She can swim to her heart's content, work hard, and still feel cool. Gotta love it.

8 year old is not the fastest swimmer, but she is sure dedicated. I never have to wake her up or force her to get ready. After breakfast, we head over to the town's outdoor pool. She has a 20 minute swim class to work on her swim strokes, then she has an hour and a half swim practice. Later on in the afternoon, we'll head back into the pool so the kids can cool off, and 8 year old automatically heads over to the swimming lanes and starts her laps. Even if she sees her friends at the pool. She will always wave and play for a little while, but she ends up going back to her laps.

This is when I am in awe. See, I wasn't even into the sports thing at this age. I kept thinking the kids are too young to get into a competitive sport. But then after talking to some friends a couple years ago, they told me that it was important to get girls into sports early. It helps them with their confidence, their body image, and gives them a respect for fitness. Plus, it keeps them out of trouble as they get older. Hmmm. So I figured why not.

This past winter, I signed her up in the winter swim team. She was thrilled when she earned a bunch of ribbons for the heats she swam in. Most of the ribbons were just for showing up, but there were three she received for third place in the team swim relays.

The first swim meet of the summer season was last week. I saw 8 year old looking at her ribbons before her swim meet and just focusing. Before she left for the meet, she looked at me and told me she was going to win. I smiled and encouraged her, but I have to say, in the back of my mind, I was a bit nervous about this since she isn't the fastest. There are kids out there with long, lean swimmer's bodies. My child is not that. But she is persistent and determined. And I have learned to never underestimate these characteristics.

Which I am so glad of...you see, my daughter won her heat! She might not have been the fastest, but, she was focused, she practiced, and she saw herself winning. Now that's what I'm talking about.

Embrace your talents. Embrace your dreams. Focus. Visualize. And never, ever give up. The people who continue to follow their dreams, no matter what, are going to get there. So what are you waiting for? Go on. Be persistent.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Writing Tip: Getting In The Mood

Writing is hard work. For me anyway. It is tough creating meaning out of a jumbled assortment of words. Very tough. One. Word. At. A. Time. Tough.

If I'm going to commit one, two or three hours to writing, I need to make sure I'm focused and in the mood. Otherwise, I'm staring into a blank screen and feeling rather pathetic.

So. What do I do to get in the mood to write? Lots and lots of research in the library. I listen to music or watch movies. Hey, this counts as research too. For those who are curious, I put together a playlist of some of the music I'm listening to while I'm getting into character for one of my manuscripts. I couldn't figure out how to put the playlist on my post, so the sample playlist is in my sidebar.

The funny thing is this, no matter how much I'm prepared to write, there is one thing I absolutely must have at all costs to succeed in my writing time -- Order. This is amusing to those who know me, since chaos and disorder is a constant in my household. But when I work, I need order. This means a clutter free work area, no glaring things to do hanging over my head, and calmness in the household. Ergo, things need to be picked up and I write at night. And that is what gets me in the mood. To write.

So what do you need to get into your creative mood?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Inspiration Monday: Looking Fear in the Eye

Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.
- Dorothy Thompson

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.


So how many of you are afraid to work toward your dreams? Afraid of what your friends and family will say? Afraid of messing up the comfort of your life? Afraid of what you will need to sacrifice? Afraid of making a mistake and having it thrown in your face that it just serves you right...who do you think you are, trying to do something outside the norm? Afraid of failing at your dream? Afraid of maybe succeeding and finding out what that really means? So afraid of finding out what you are capable of and then discovering you could have done this all a long time ago and your life could have been so different? So afraid of any consequence...you're paralyzed, and you choose to let life go right on by.

Okay, you've come this far. I'll admit I get freaked out at times. But, I'm also tired of just dreaming. It is time to do something about it.

So now what? Now that we've acknowledged our fears, let's figure out what we will do with our fear. Some people are automatically motivated by fear and work away from what they are most afraid of. For example, some people are afraid of having no money. They end up working long hours and do just about anything to earn and squirrel away the money. This gives them the comfort of knowing they have money. Other people are so afraid of failure, it makes them work so hard, so much so they break the barriers of what has held others back, to succeed beyond what they ever imagined.

Think back to when you remember life as so easy and triumphant. Think back to all the wins you've had over the years...maybe it was the freedom and excitement when you learned how to ride a bike. Or the first time you aced a spelling or math test. Or hit the ball further than anyone else. Maybe it is when you became someone's best friend. Or when you know you helped someone who was troubled. Or maybe it was your first real job and you could go out an afford a new pair of shoes. Maybe it was when you were able to save enough money to pay your way through school, buy your first car, rent your first apartment, buy your first condo, your first house.

Remember all the sweat and hard work you put into a project to make things happen. Smile and enjoy the glory you remembered. Doesn't it feel great to feel competent, to feel successful and powerful with what you've accomplished so far? You handled the stumbling blocks just fine. You might have grumbled a bit, but it didn't sway you, because you had to or wanted to do it.

Maybe you had to do it to show your friends you could ride a bike. Maybe you had to jump off the high diving board to show your friends you weren't chicken. Maybe you wanted to show off in front of that cute boy or girl in your class. Maybe you wanted that promotion because only you could take that new job to a whole new level. Or maybe you were so mad because a door closed in your face or someone told you that you were stupid or not good enough; too young or too old; the wrong race or the wrong gender...and you wanted to prove everyone wrong. And you worked your little tail off to make things happen.

No matter how you went about it, you have already learned through your mistakes, disapointments, failures and successes. You've already done things in your life that you've been proud of. So, what's so different about trying to reach your dream?

I can't make you change your life patterns to make you reach toward your dream. Only you can do that. However, I can show you that it may not be so hard from what you have already accomplished in your life. Little steps, that's all I'm saying. It takes little steps to make big things happen.

And in case you have't read it lately....You are good enough. You are smart enough. You are clever enough. You have the right combination of genetic codes to do whatever it is you want to do. You can do it. Get rid of all that mental garbage that's telling you otherwise. Besides taming the fear, throwing out the negative thoughts will be one of the most liberating things you do.

You are capable of so much, it is up to you to choose how you will let the fear into your life. Will you let the fear in and dominate your whole existence or will you totally kick it to the curb? You decide.

Tex & Sugar Giveaway Winner

Last week, I wrote about Barbara Johansen Newman and the Tex & Sugar Giveaway. Thank you everyone who entered the book giveaway. So now...drumroll...Tricia, you won! Send me your address via e-mail. Congratulations!