I’m offering a chance for you to craft a working plan for your spooky MG novel. I’ll read and comment on your 500-word synopsis, guide you through crafting a two-page outline, and discuss your project in a 15-minute Zoom or phone call. All this in a two-week window and for only $210.
Please contact me before October 15 to get in on this one-time offer. A limited number of spots are available, so don’t wait.
Jump-start your spooky middle grade novel with me!
This post is for both educators and writers. I hope it will be useful!
I had never heard of Text Sets until my friend Deb Gonzales directed me to Barb Rosenstock’s website. Barb has made Text Sets for her books, and they are an awesome teaching tool.
Text Sets provide, in two pages, book titles (fiction and nonfiction) and links to material that enhances and enriches the reading experience of a book. Here’s a screen shot of a small portion of the text set I’ve made for CARRY ME HOME:
I’ve made downloadable pdf Teacher Guides for all of my books. Unlike Text Sets, Teacher Guides provide suggested activities. Early on my guides were lengthy – now I find that again, two pages is just about right.
Some of the kinds of things that can be included in a Teacher Guide are:
I’m about to start making video and/or audio snippets of my work. When I was teaching – 8th and 9th graders – I often read aloud to them in class. I don’t think we should ever stop reading aloud, honestly. Listening to a reading touches a different part of the brain, and enhances comprehension, particularly for auditory learners.
These two years have been so difficult for so many. And every day life throws another curveball into the mix, from weather nightmares to military nightmares to ethical nightmares to health nightmares.
For parents and teachers, this new school year is a mixed bag. Everyone’s thrilled to be back in the classroom (where that’s possible), but the lurking issues around Covid make it difficult to relax.
For writers, add the stress of the mixed-up publishing industry: mergers, overwhelmed editors and agents, shipping issues, and booksellers struggling with Covid, or storm or fire damage.
Time For Some Self-Care: Personal
I see the insecurities appearing in my coaching clients. Some have struggled with serious writer’s block, others with serious health problems, and still others with the pain of rejection. A lot of what I do is try to help my clients through these painful moments. Sometimes that means reconnecting with the important stuff: yourself.
So, take a deep breath. Place your feet flat on the floor to ground yourself. Place your hands in your lap, and let your shoulders relax. Sit still with your eyes closed for thirty seconds.
Now – what do you hear? Is the air around you warm or cool? Can you empty your mind of thought and just be in this moment with your sensory channels wide open?
Now, can you get up and take a walk, preferably outside in nature? (It goes without saying – leave the cell phone at home.) Let your mind rest.
If you are having trouble with your current manuscript – if you are feeling stuck or hopeless or like it’s just not good enough – here’s are two exercises:
Write, on one page, in a couple of paragraphs, exactly WHY you are writing this current work-in-progress. What are you trying to say – about yourself, the world, your character? What drove you toward this idea? Why is it important to you, right now?
Write a backstory scene, with your main character, that goes to the heart of her internal conflict. What brought her to this place in her life, emotionally? What underlies all her dreams and wishes, as shown in that scene? For example, if you have a young character who has lost a parent, write the scene of that loss, that tragedy, from the point of view of that young character.
As a book coach, I give the writers I work with exercises like these. My Story Heart Workbook also contains a series of short exercises designed to get you thinking more creatively about your manuscript.
The Importance of Connection
One of the reasons I think so many of us are struggling now is that Covid, on top of the world’s politicized issues, has created deep divides. Many of us are alone, or isolated, and have lost connections.
One of the themes in CARRY ME HOME deals with connection. My main character Lulu is isolated by her fears. It isn’t until she realizes that she has an entire community around her of people who care (whether she knows it or not) that she can finally lean on someone else for help.
So my last suggested exercise: contact someone you haven’t seen in a while. Send them a note, an email, an actual letter, or make a phone call – and just say, “Hello! How are you?”
And – please let me and everyone here know if you have self-care exercises to share. With love and thanks.
Practicing kindness makes you happier, healthier, and more connected to those around you, but according to a recent survey from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common Project, 80% of children in this survey believe that parents are more concerned about achievement or happiness than caring for others. How do we develop these social emotional skills in a way that will resonate with our young audiences? And how do we teach kindness to others as a priority, not an option?
Kindness doesn’t have to be complicated. In Carry Me Home, Lulu discovers genuine kindness can be found in even the most simple gifts. In the Shaker Hymn Simple Gifts, Lulu connects with her lineage, but also with a deep sense of love and caring. Lulu takes us on her journey to show us that the smallest acts have the deepest impact.
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free
Tis the gift to come down to where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right.
‘Twill be the valley of love and delight (pg. 65).
Now it’s your turn to positively impact the lives of those around you through a simple gift. Using the Carry Me Home Activity Guide, facilitate your own public service project offering hope, kindness and encouragement to those who are experiencing the heartache of homelessness. Gather your kind crew and make a difference in the life of someone in need by offering them the simple gift of a Blessing Bag made possible by your organizational efforts.
Each Blessing Bag will contain Lulu and Serena’s basics for good hygiene, but also the Simple Gifts lyrics bookmark, an Origami Crane craft card, and the Blessings Cards. Be sure to write your hopes and blessings for the recipient of your bag on the back of the Blessing Card print out. Write a note reminding your bag recipient that there are people who care and want to help. (Note that all of the above links take you to downloadable images.)
There was an old Japanese beliefthat anyone who made a thousand paper cranes by folding them in the origami way could make a wish and that wish would come true, so the girl began making paper cranes, wishing to get well (pg. 14)
What is your wish for those in need? How are you extending kindness– simply? Remember that kindness benefits those who receive it, but also those who give it.
One of my writing heroes is Linda Sue Park. For one thing, she writes so beautifully – simple, clear, pure, and filled with emotional weight. (She’s also skilled at teaching writing craft, BTW.) But for another thing, she recognizes the importance of words and their potential impact on the world.
Her novel, A Long Walk to Water, is based on true stories of the difficulty of obtaining water – essential to life – in north/central Africa. After she wrote it, the power of her story became clear, as children across the globe responded to the need for easy access to water.
If you’ve never seen Linda Sue’s TEDx talk, it’s worth a watch:
Change the World
Using insight and a dose of magic to change the world, one book at a time.
There’s a reason I love that phrase and use it as my personal motto. I aspire to write a book that could make a difference, to impact the world in the way that A Long Walk to Water does.
This is my fervent hope for Carry Me Home. That my book would (a) give voice to the need for remedies to homelessness, and (b) give Lulu her voice, to reach out for the help that she wants. And in addition, to encourage kids, wherever they are and in whatever circumstances, to know that help is out there.
A Very Important Moment: Now
At the very moment I write this post, people across this country are dealing with possible eviction from their homes, due to repercussions from the pandemic. We cannot not fault the landlords; they have bills to pay, too. The problem is that for too long we’ve ignored the problem of affordable housing.
I say when I am signing my book, ‘Everyone should have a home’, and I truly believe that.
All of Us: Let’s Do It
Those of us who can – we all need to raise our voices in alarm that some among us have 4 or 5 luxurious homes, and some sleep in their cars.
Among other things, the very people we rely on all the time – waitstaff, delivery people, cooks, grocery clerks, store workers, skilled laborers, hospital workers, home healthcare workers, and more – all those folks are being shut out of affordable housing. This is not about people who can work but don’t, but about people who want to work but can’t.
Can’t, because they can’t live where the work exists. I see this first-hand in the restaurants and stores in my small city in a rural state, where businesses simply cannot get help and must close early, or entirely.
They’re small enough to fit on the book’s endpapers but large enough for really generous personalization. If you’ve bought any of my books and would like one of these, let me know with personalization details and I’ll get one out to you.
And for Carry Me Home – I have these sweet pins of paper cranes, plus bookmarks. Pre-orders are being taken now at my hometown indie Country Bookshelf – in the notes when you order just let them know how you’d like the book to be personalized and I’ll throw in other fun stuff for you. The book is out August 24 and will ship to you right away.
In one month, my next novel Carry Me Home, comes out. That’s my ninth book out in the world!
I have 2 ARCs to give away, with some swag! The first 2 commenters here with snail mail addys, win those ARCs!
I really love and am proud of this book and of Lulu, the twelve-year-old girl who is my main character. And while it sounds like a sad book – Lulu, her sister Serena, and their father living in a car – it has a positive ending.
Kirkus said: “Fox offers a message via Jack when he learns about Lulu’s life: “No one should have to live in a car.” Cranes…represent wishes granted and a kind of grace, leading to a satisfying, redemptive conclusion nicely pitched to a young audience.”
…is an issue facing so many right now. Between the pandemic and loss of jobs and housing costs, so many people can’t afford a place to live. This isn’t right.
I’m hoping that Carry Me Home raises awareness. That kids who read it will learn to understand what it means to be homeless, and if they are homeless that they find ways to seek support.
But the novel is not just an “issue” book. It’s also a story about friendship and family, and the strength of one young girl in taking care of herself and her sister in the only way she can.
Preorders and Reviews
…help an author enormously.
If you are planning to buy the book, I’d love it if you’d preorder it. And I’d love to sign it to you, to someone as a gift, to your teacher or your school, and if you order from my indie, Country Bookshelf, I can do that.
And here’s a special offer: if you are willing to write an honest review, let me know in the comments and include your snail mail addy, and I will send you a bookmark and a pin and some other swaggy gifts.
Plus: I have 2 ARCs to give away, with some swag! The first 2 commenters here with snail mail addys, win those ARCs!
I thought I’d write about the question of “head-hopping” because I see it often in less experienced writers. Head-hopping is moving in a narrative, without breaks, from one character’s point of view into another.
This is not the same as writing from an omniscient point of view, in which the story is told in third person from the point of view of a god-like narrator who is not a character in the story. Generally, omniscient point of view (POV) feels old-fashioned and distancing, which is why it is not used often in modern literature. For examples of this POV, look to Jane Austen or Charles Dickens.
Head-hopping is to be avoided.
There are some notable exceptions to the rule against head-hopping in modern literature. If you are Ann Patchett, you can get away with moving from one character’s POV to another’s, but only if you are Ann Patchett (see Bel Canto).
What’s Wrong With Head-Hopping?
In a word, it’s confusing. Especially in books written for young readers.
Whether you choose to write in first person POV or third person POV makes no difference, although it’s easier to make the mistake of head-hopping in third. And if you choose to write the story from multiple points of view, that, too, takes consideration and care.
If you do choose to write in multiple POVs, use a chapter or section break to indicate the change in POV. In books for young readers it’s best to label the chapter or section so that readers can follow the narrative without pausing.
Because pausing while reading is an invitation to put the book aside. Ugh.
What About More Than One Protagonist?
Nope. A story can only have one protagonist. Yes, this is a rule.
However, you can write from multiple POVs, including the antagonist’s – you just have to know who your protagonist is and know that the arc of the story is hers alone. The protagonist carries the burden of change, of having external and internal conflicts, etc.
And the protagonist carries the majority of words in a story, which means you are in the protagonist’s POV most of the time.
How To Avoid Head-hopping
When writing from, say, a third person POV with another character in scene, double check that you haven’t suddenly moved from one to the next. That your reader is seeing things only through the eyes of the character carrying that scene.
It’s that simple, but also that hard, and awareness of the issue is key to avoiding the problem.