Monthly Archives: April 2011

Read-Through Thursday: Chasing Brooklyn

This is a series wherein I will discuss whatever book I’m reading or have just finished. Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading or your own thoughts about the books I discuss.

I just want to clarify that this is not a review. I may recommend the book, but my real point is that I love to talk about books and this is my blog so I get to do whatever I want. And I want to talk about books!

Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder

I won the bid for this novel-in-verse during WriteHope (thanks to Catherine Johnson for donating the book to be auctioned off!), and I read it in 3 nights. Almost the first half in the first night. A novel-in-verse goes much faster because there are fewer words to a page, but I just couldn’t stop turning the pages. And this was completely unexpected because I don’t read novels-in-verse.

One of my critique partners loves verse and is currently working on her own novel-in-verse and I always feel so completely inadequate to offer her any constructive criticism. She reads lots of verse novels and is always recommending some to me, and I always say, Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t read novels-in-verse.

I can’t say I will continue this practice, but this one in particular – Chasing Brooklyn – was amazing. Like I said, I couldn’t stop turning pages.

Written in alternating “chapters” by Brooklyn who lost her boyfriend, Lucca, a year ago, and Lucca’s brother Nico, this is a story about love and loss and hope. It is absolutely beautiful. Each has given up on living in her or his own way, and each is being haunted by someone they care about. Until they can open up to each other, they will continue to be ruled by fear rather than love.

Don’t worry, Gail, I’m holding it for you.

Have you ever read a book you weren’t sure you wanted to read, and then loved it?



Filed under Reading

Kwizera Inspirations: Landmine

This is part of a series of posts discussing the real-life places, people and events that inspired scenes and characters in my young adult manuscript, KWIZERA MEANS HOPE.

…Teddy ran to the door.  How odd.  Teddy usually walked with a long, ambling stride.

            He burst through the door.  “There was a landmine accident near a school in Kigogo!”

            My heart stopped.  My sisters go to school in Kigogo.

            “Oh my goodness,” Louise said, squeezing her lips between her fingers.

            “Two children were hurt,” he said.

            I took a few steps back.  “No, no, no.”  Bile rose in my throat.

            “Some villagers found a landmine in a potato field early this morning.  They built a pyramid of stones around it like the UN people taught them to and went off to inform the chief.  The chief told the bourgmestre who told the Byumba prefect, who told the local military commander.  All this took time.  Two kids found the pyramid while the Big Men talked.”

            Oh God, please not Thérèse and Lucie, I prayed.  They knew not to go near such a pyramid, didn’t they?

Such a landmine accident occurred in Byumba Prefecture in my second month there (February 1995).  Some villagers found a landmine in a field, built a pyramid of stones around it as they had been taught, and informed their local chief.  The local chief reported the news to the next person up the chain, and so on, until the news reached the regional government in Byumba.

In the meantime, two little boys found the pyramid of stones and played with its deadly contents.  The six-year-old needed surgery to remove shrapnel from his abdomen.  I visited him in our trauma hospital, his father at his bedside.  The look in the boy’s eyes haunts me to this day.

The eight-year-old had to have his leg amputated and I watched part of that surgery.  Our very able, very calm-under-pressure trauma doctor and co-Team Leader, Dr. Noli, performed the surgery aided by nurses, and surrounded by visitors from a foundation located on the Isle of Jersey.  They had donated a Land Rover to us and spent a few days visiting our program at the same time as the landmine accident.

Dr. Noli is fromKisangani in what used to be called Zaire.  In fact, the war that caused the country’s name to change to the Democratic Republic of the Congo occurred while Dr. Noli and I worked together in Rwanda.

The landmine incident horrified and angered me.  The Rwandans had done exactly what they were supposed to do, yet two little boys got hurt anyway.  I suppose it didn’t occur to anyone to guard the pyramid.  And why was the landmine there, in the middle of a field in a rural area of a developing country?  It was leftover from the war that preceded the genocide.

Yet another reason I have to get this manuscript right, so it can see the light of day, so it can inform and inspire America’s youth.

(Originally posted on 1/3/10)


Filed under writing

Read-Through Thursday: Bird by Bird

This is a series wherein I will discuss whatever book I’m reading or have just finished.  Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading or your own thoughts about the books I discuss.

I just want to clarify that this is not a review.  I may recommend the book, but my real point is that I love to talk about books and this is my blog so I get to do whatever I want.  And I want to talk about books!

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I haven’t finished this book yet, but I think I already know what makes it an enduring classic.  The writing style.  It’s humorous, it’s real, it’s relatable, it’s honest.  The advice, so far, is nothing I haven’t seen before.  But Anne Lamott tells it in such a funny way that it stays with you.  And I’m a big believer in being reminded (repeatedly) of the good stuff.  No matter how great a piece of advice, I will likely forget it when it comes time to write.  The more times you hear/read something, the more likely you are to retain it.

Here is an example: “The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.  You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page.  If one of the characters wants to say, ‘Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?,’ you let her.”

And I love that she admits to having conversations with people who aren’t there.  I do that, too (especially in the bathtub, shower or car).  For example, she writes, “I speed or run an aging yellow light or don’t come to a full stop, and one nanosecond later am explaining to imaginary cops exactly why I had to do what I did, or insisting that I did not in fact do it.”  It’s so refreshing to see my own behavior acknowledged, shared and validated (thanks, RocketMan).

The title of the book comes from something her father told her brother when he was stuck writing a report on birds and getting frustrated.  It reminds me of something I learned from my mother.  Eating an elephant (ignore the ick factor for a moment) seems like a huge task.  Of course it is.  But how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

Ooh, it feels good to be back.  What is everyone up to this week?


Filed under Reading


I had intended on writing a post for today, all about a great writing book I have been reading.  But Passover festivities and family visits have taken over my life.  So you will read all about Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird on Thursday in a Read-Through Thursday post instead.

I apologize to all my followers and Crusading friends.

Happy Passover!

See you on Thursday…


Filed under The rest of my life

Change of POV Exercise

For those not yet in the know, POV means point of view.  It’s about whose voice is telling the story, which character is taking us for the ride.  For instance, in my YA historical fantasy, Sophie and the Medallion of Time (I think that title is going to have to change), Sophie tells the story, so the story is in Sophie’s POV.

Recently I received feedback from my beta readers on the third draft of Sophie.  One of my readers – my newest critique partner, in fact – pointed out that the relationship between Sophie and her mother was confusing.  She couldn’t understand why Sophie’s memories of her mother were so negative.  She recommended rewriting those scenes from the mother’s point of view, just to get a better feel for their relationship and the mother’s perspective on Sophie’s reactions.

Furthermore, she suggested that since the mother is French but speaking English, I should try writing her scenes in French so that when I translate them back to English, the reader will get a sense of her different way of constructing sentences.  Okay, that part was just hard!  My French is rusty and I couldn’t think of how to say everything Sophie’s mom wanted to say.  But I think I got the gist.

The point here is that this POV exercise was awesome.  I wrote three scenes that involve both Sophie and her mom in her mom’s point of view (and in French – ack!) and when I finished, I wanted to cry.  I felt so much more for her mom than I ever had.  I was used to relating to Sophie and feeling for Sophie, but I’d never realized I should feel for her mother. 

Oh my Zeus, that poor mother.  I gained so much insight into what she’s going through that I can now bring to those scenes rewritten once again in Sophie’s POV.  This exercise has given me a new excitement for the revision – I can’t wait to get back to it.

What exercises do you use to improve your manuscript?


Filed under writing

Read-Through Thursday: Across the Universe

I would just like to mention that today is the 17th anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide.  The people of Rwanda continue to tug on my heart and memory.

Back to the usual business:  This is a series wherein I will discuss whatever book I’m reading or have just finished.  Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading or your own thoughts about the books I discuss.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

This genre-bending novel combines science fiction, mystery, romance and dystopian. 

Amy and her parents are cryogenically frozen to be carried on a spaceship and believe they will wake on a new planet three hundred years in the future.  But 50 years before the spaceship’s scheduled landing, Amy is violently woken from her frozen slumber.

Now she is caught inside a tiny world led by a tyrant, and aided by his teenage heir, Elder.  Amy desperately wants to trust Elder, but should she put her faith in a boy who has never seen life outside the ship’s cold metal walls?  All Amy knows is that she and Elder must race to unlock the spaceship’s secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.  (The above two paragraphs are a paraphrased version of the inside flap.)

The story is told in alternating chapters by Amy and Elder, is well-written and suspenseful, and has epic qualities.

My husband is a huge sci-fi fan, but I am not.  So the mere idea of reading this book filled me with a mix of emotions.  I wanted to like it, for his sake and because I’d followed Beth Revis’s journey online (and she once made really awesomely complimentary comments about an anonymous excerpt of Kwizera).  But…I’m not a sci-fi fan.  I don’t read science fiction.  I don’t watch science fiction on TV and in movies.

Let me not keep anyone in suspense for any longer than necessary.  I loved it!  As I said above, the book was written well and kept me in suspense.  The suspense didn’t just come from the alternating chapters, it flowed naturally from the narrative.  The clues were doled out perfectly, and there was a final twist that I wondered about at one point and then promptly forgot as I got lost again in the story.  The science seemed solid – to my unscientific mind – but didn’t overwhelm the story either.

A great mix of genres, a great story.  Go read it!


Filed under Reading

Young Middle Grade Boy Books

Today’s post comes from the me that is a mother as well as a writer.  The proud book-loving mama.

My older son has become an avid reader in the past year or so.  He is currently in the middle of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which he can barely put down long enough to play Legos or Wii, or go to school.  The rest of the family eagerly awaits the completion of this book so we can all watch the movie together.

In case you’re interested in what a 7- (almost eight) year old boy is into reading right now, below is the list of his recent reads.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look

The King and the Calico…in Paris by Brooke Rousseau

The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series up to #3 by Jeff Kinney

Magic Tree House series up to #41 by Mary Pope Osborne

The Time Warp Trio series up to #8 by Jon Scieszka

Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton

Awaiting his attention are:

If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late by Pseudonymous Bosch

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

I keep a list of books to suggest to him, too (like Pickle Impossible by Eli Stutz, Hereville-How Mirka Got her Sword by Barry Deutsch, The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett), for when he runs out of ideas of his own.

What are your kids into?


Filed under Reading, The rest of my life