Monday, November 26, 2012

NaNoWriMo Research: Ten, Eleven, and Twelve

Ten, Eleven, and Twelve (first half) by Lauren Myracle:  Winnie is a regular kid growing up at her own pace one year at a time and learning how to deal with changing friends, changing family members, changing priorities, and her changing body and mind.  She just wishes everything could stay the same.  POV: 1st person limited, past tense.

Each book captures one year of her life with a chapter per month.  Each chapter mainly covers an event that happened during the month, not everything that happened during the month.  The books are mostly light, and Winnie is a fun main character.  She's a late bloomer, and this is handled pretty well.  Her mother is amazing, her older sister is well-drawn, and her puzzlement about the choices her friends are making is really genuine.  Sometimes I feel like maybe the narrator is a bit too old for her years, but, frankly, I don't really care.  (The popularity of these books indicates that most tween girls don't care either.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

NaNoWriMo Research: Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis:  Emma-Jean is in seventh grade, and she is very bright and thinks about the world very differently from her classmates.  She keeps her distance and observes their bizarre behaviors benevolently until the pain of a classmate draws her in, and she starts trying to help others with some interesting results.  This one is told in alternating POV between Emma-Jean and Colleen (the classmate she first tries to help).  POV: 3rd person, quasi-limited, alternating.

I adored Emma-Jean.  The author did a great job of making her point of view read completely differently from really anything I've read before.  I wasn't as big of a fan of Colleen.  I'm still not entirely sure she was needed as a POV character, but I think that may be because I loved Emma-Jean's familiar head so much.  Ah, nostalgia.  Colleen's POV did help set off the uniqueness of Emma-Jean's as well, and I'm sure to the average reader, she was needed as an accessible entry point and someone to relate to.  And there were some twists that would have been hard to show clearly if there were only one narrator.  Overall the characters are quirky and well-made, the twists are pretty unexpected, and the adults are a good mix of nice and nasty and mostly realistic, as are the kids.  Loved it.  Thanks to Joseph for this recommendation.

Monday, November 19, 2012

NaNoWriMo Research: Caddie Woodlawn

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink: Caddie's 11 and lives in the mostly-wilderness of Wisconsin where she and her older and younger brother get into trouble a lot and grow up a little, too.  POV: 3rd person quasi-limited, past tense.

"In 1864 Caddie Woodlawn was eleven, and as wild a little tomboy as ever ran the woods of western Wisconsin.  She was the despair of her mother and of her elder sister Clara."  I sort of wish I could have offered this book to my mother at age 11 to show her how much worse it could have been.  Alas, the cream pie of justice flies only one way.  This won the Newbery, which usually indicates literature, but the dog doesn't die.  I do like the father much better than the mother, which tends to be a mark of literature. I'm not sure if this one should be classed as literature or fun, but I enjoyed the heck out of it.  Lots of adventures and some lessons learned without feeling the least bit preachy.  Thanks to Deborah for the suggestion. : )

Thursday, November 15, 2012

NaNoWriMo Research: Skinnybones

Skinnybones by Barbara Park (the "updated" version from 1997): tiny class clown Alex Frankovitch tries to talk his way out of trouble, but he usually ends up doing just the opposite, like the time he ends up in a pitcher's duel with the state little league star even though he describes his baseball prowess as follows: "I'm not exactly what you'd call a real good athlete.  Actually, I'm not even real okay.  Basically, what I'm trying to say here is, I stink."  POV: 1st person, past tense.

Well, I didn't just want to read serious literature that requires tissues or stuff about girls getting their periods and crushes on boys, so I threw in some other fun things.  This is one of said fun things.  This book was updated after 15 years to make it more accessible to the kids who kept writing the author to ask who certain super-famous-in-the-early-80s people were, which I find amusing because there were several names I didn't recognize from the update.  (The context made it clear enough who the people were supposed to be, though, so I didn't think the book lost anything.)  This is a short book that moves as fast as the main character's motor mouth and has a sort of surprise ending that I found pretty funny.

Monday, November 12, 2012

NaNoWriMo Research: The Agony of Alice

The Agony of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor: Alice doesn't have a mom, and she is looking for a role model.  Too bad she gets the frumpy teacher instead of the beautiful, young, and glamorous one.  It's kind of hard becoming a woman when you, your college-aged brother, and your father don't know exactly how it's supposed to work.  POV: 1st person, past tense.

These sorts of things (getting the teacher no one wants and being a total jerk about it, accidentally kicking your favorite teacher in the head while dressed as the rear end of a horse, etc.) are always funny in retrospect, but they are The End of the World when you are living them.  I feel like the author really captured that while still keeping this funny.  It's a fine line between making fun of and sympathizing with while being a step removed/older/wiser.  The Catholic saint card bit was a hoot.  I like that Alice's dad is bumbling but good-hearted and that he is allowed to have a work life that is part of Alice's life.  I like that her brother isn't a monster despite the age difference, that she has some good extended family, and that the lessons she learns about not judging by appearances aren't too heavy-handed.  The ending is really sweet, too.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

NaNoWriMo Research: Sparrow Road

Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor: A literary fiction book set maybe late in the 70s/early in the 80s where a 12-year-old girl is forced to spend her summer at a remote art colony in the country by her mom who may have other motives than just ruining her citified daughter's summer.  POV: 1st person limited, past tense.

This book has a pretty unique setup, and the result is that it's a children's book where the protagonist/narrator never really interacts with any other kids.  To me at age 12, this would have been pretty awesome, especially being out in the country and with all these interesting artists.  The author, Sheila O'Connor, recommends against this kind of setup because publishers don't like it and don't think it will sell.  She's a also a writing teacher in college, graduate school, and elementary and secondary schools, though, so she probably convinced the publisher that enough libraries and teachers would buy this book that they could make up their costs. 

The girl in it starts writing stories and learns quite a bit about knowing and expressing herself, and sometimes kids need to read about someone doing something as an example before they can do it themselves.  The mysterious back story is also interesting and a bit wrenching.  I like stories where
  1. not all the grownups are portrayed as stupid and out of touch
  2. some adults are just kind of mean and hard to like
  3. grownups screw up and are given the chance to prove themselves again and do so, but the ongoing struggle isn't all sweet, saccharine, and cut & dried
  4. some adults are great and amazing despite not feeling comfortable around kids, but the kids learn about it and start realizing the value of looking beneath the exterior gruffness of people for their wonderful hearts

Monday, November 5, 2012

I am not a robot

Dear bloggers,

Please stop it with the stupid "type these words to show you're not a robot" thing if you already have comment approval set for your blog.  If you have to give approval for it to be published anyway, you are going to be able to see if it is a robot or spammer or whatever.  (And a friend of mine says they can be encouraging or hilarious sometimes.)  Rather than keeping robots from posting pointless spam in your comments section, what you are doing is making sure no one but the most persistent people out there ever comment on your blog.  All you do by adding the extra hoop is make sure most people who want to comment give up because they can't read the stupid words with their weak, human eyes.

A commenter who isn't always willing to try five times to get a comment to publish

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update 1

I probably shouldn't say this so early, but hitting the quota for National Novel Writing Month today was easy.  It took less than an hour and a half.  That'll be tough to carve out on my busiest days, for sure, but the fact that this is about output and not quality is really very freeing.  (To see the current total, look to your right where the tracker is to keep me honest.)

To some extent, these blogs (one post a day spread among 4 different blogs) are also an experiment in output, but they were more about any daily output, not 1667 words of it.  And it's only really this year that I've started to be more consistent with the daily part.  (I admit I do cheat sometimes since Blogger fixed the scheduling feature, so I can designate a time I want it to say it was posted, so it doesn't look like I did three posts on the same day after getting behind, but I think I've kept it in the same month, and you will notice a regularity there.)  Maybe I needed 3 years of fiddling with that to get into enough of a habit to be able to make NaNoWriMo work for me.

Extensive planning is allowed, and maybe such activities would have helped me focus better and have some themes and chapter divisions already picked out that I could write towards, but my decision to participate was somewhat last minute, and I didn't want to try to cram all that thinking into a short time and set myself up for disappointment.  I sensibly decided to settle for some free-writing to get some topics and ideas down.  On October 31st, I did enough brainstorming to make this some sort of bloated epic.  (I'll settle for hitting the goal of 50,000 related words.)  Now I don't even have to strain to come up with the topic for the day's "chapter."

The result will be a lot of haphazard info dumped onto pages without any thought for novel structure and final form.  According to the rules, that's okay.  Yay rules! 

In conclusion, it looks like my results will be about what I predicted, the kind of kitchen sink draft my essay professor and my fiction professor suggested as an exercise in completing something all in a set time and worrying about editing it later once I saw what kind of story and themes naturally shaped themselves in the drafted material.  I may even hold off trying to dump it all into the computer until the end (or until my hand gives out) to prevent the urge to edit/tinker.  This might mean I won't be able to upload the scrambled novel and get the official completion badge, but I can live with that, if need be.  If I succeed, I'll know, and you'll know, and that's probably enough for a first try.