Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hot Deals for the 4th

Need something to do this long holiday weekend? Here's a special deal from Leap Books:



We're offering this super deal because we're launching 2 new e-books. We have a special beach read by Tina Bustamante, As Waters Gone By, debuting on July 6.





And  watch for Book 1 in Patrice Lyle's Poison Ivy Charm School series, The Case of the Missing Witch, on July 11. This humorous mystery is sure to tickle your funnybone. For ages 9-13.


These two e-books will be specially priced at $.99 for the month of July, so you can enjoy some special vacation reading.

But the rest of our Leap Books will be available for $.99 for the Fourth of July weekend only, so get them while they're hot.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Oops! Always Fact-Check Your Information


Let's take some time to talk about research.

Whether you're writing fiction or non-fiction, it's important to know what you're talking about.
Even if you're making up an entirely new creature, some research is required to make sure that creature could live on the planet, eat what they eat, and do what they do. You have to explain yourself to readers and be able to back up your reasoning because although YOU may not notice that something changed from chapter 4 to chapter 13, a reader will.

So, what's your story?

I recently went through an absolute research nightmare. I was given a press release from the state auditor's office by a gentleman who told me to look into it and create a story. He told me all the details about the people involved. I was interested in the story and went back to work and told my editor about it all.

The people involved in the story had been audited and caught by the state auditor for allegedly misusing grant funds for a school district. I attempted to contact the state auditor's office and had trouble—we played phone tag, which happens a lot in the writing business and isn't anyone's fault. I also tried to contact the school, phone tag. It was as if the planets aligned, so I had to run this press release.

My editor said go ahead and run it, so I did. Then all heck broke loose, y'all.

People were calling in saying they were angry, I should lose my job, they were having heart palpitations, why would we print this……I'm sure you're wondering what the big deal is, right?

When the gentleman gave me the press release, he forgot to mention the fact that the release was six years old. There was no date on the release, and no date on the state auditor's site.

I had brought up old news that had ruffled feathers the first time around, and this time it was even worse.

The lesson?
Never let go of something until you know you can back it up.

I couldn't get in contact with the people I needed, so I should have waited. I should have held the story until everything was confirmed.

Many people are willing to help with your writing and answer questions. Check with these experts to make sure you have the correct information.

Example: I was having trouble describing the mindset of a Navy SEAL so I made a quick phone call to a local recruiter. He helped me come up with a great description.

Reach out to people and ask questions. Watch movies. Read articles. Look for books on the topic. Researching for a project will never hurt. You might go down a few rabbit holes and end up taking quizzes online to see what kind of fruit you are, but, hey, that's okay!

Research, research, research.
Check the facts.
And , if nothing else, Google it.

Writing prompt:

Pick up this story where it ends. How has this person's research (or lack thereof) backfired?

I had it! I clutched the paper in my hand and stormed from my desk, down the long overly decorated great hall and towards the boardroom. I was so getting him this time, and the information in my hands was the key.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Courtney Warren is a writer for her local newspaper, as well as a graduate student at Hollins University where she is pursuing a degree in Children’s Literature. She has a bachelor’s degree from Delta State University, the home of the Fighting Okra (which she is incredibly proud of). She loves to read just about anything placed on the shelves but has a special place in her heart for the Harry Potter series.

When she is not writing about herself in third person, she loves to write stories about middle schoolers with spunky attitudes who intend to save the world, as well as drinking Earl Grey tea from a very prissy teacup.

Check out her blog, Tea, the Spirit, & a Pen.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Exciting Announcement from Leap Books

Leap Books is pleased to announce the newest addition to our editorial staff. We'd like to welcome Judith Graves as Acquisitions Editor for SHINE, our e-novella line. Judith will be accepting both agented and unagented submissions at: submissions@leapbks.info.



The nitty-gritty details:

  • SHINE word counts: 15-20k
  • We’re looking for solid storytelling with romantic elements, engaging voices, and characters that LEAP from the page
  • All genres will be considered, but preference for: contemporary, thriller, paranormal, and mystery


Why an enovella with Leap Books SHINE?

  • Introduce readers to your young adult fiction brand / style / tone / voice / worlds by giving them a short, fun, affordable read. Snag their interest in your other projects by offering a tale sure to SHINE
  • If you want to step into the ebook arena, but have been hesitant to offer a full-length novel, here's your chance to test this market
  • Each book will be professionally edited and have an eye-catching cover
  • At a small press, you’ll have more one-on-one contact with our editors and other authors
  • Each title will be launched with a 9-week (3 stops per week) blog tour facilitated by a successful blog-tour organizer
  • SHINE titles may be compiled into anthologies to be sold in both print and ebook formats

About Judith Graves

Award-winning author Judith Graves has multiple young adult novels and short stories published with Leap Books,  Orca Book Publishers, Compass Press, and, under the pen name, Judith Tewes, is also published with Bloomsbury Spark. In addition, Judith is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright, writes freelance articles for literary magazines, and facilitates writing workshops for both adults and young adults. She has always been keen to delve into the flipside of publishing and joins Leap Books to manage our newest line. She will assist in the selection of titles, provide editorial services, and supervise the direction of the SHINE young adult e-novella line.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Storm Watcher Discussion Guide

Discussion Questions for Storm Watcher by Maria V. Snyder

1.    How did Luke’s mother die? How does Luke feel about this? How do his brothers feel? How does his father feel? How does this affect the dynamics of the family?

2.    Why does Luke want a papillon? What does his father think of that? Why? What would you do if you were Luke?


3.    Describe Luke’s relationship with his father. How did it change through the course of the novel?


4.    What did Luke learn while working on Willajean’s farm? Have you ever had a job? What did you learn from the experience?


5.    How does Luke feel about weather at the beginning of the novel? How do his feelings change? What events in the novel led to this change? How do you feel about weather? Why?


6.    Describe your personal experience with dogs. How is it similar to Luke’s? How is it different?


7.    Consider the fathers in this novel. How are they similar? How are they different?


8.    What makes someone a hero? Is Luke’s father a hero? The dogs? Luke? Anyone else? Do you know any real-life heroes?


9.    Describe Luke’s science fair project. Describe Megan’s. How might each of them have expanded or improved their projects? Have you ever participated in a science fair? If so, describe your project. 


10.    What does the guidance counselor say that Luke suffers from? How does Luke feel about that? What do you fear? Is fear normal?




BLOG AUTHOR


Mary Helen Sheriff lives in Richmond, VA with her husband, two children, and two cats. She has an MFA in children’s literature from Hollins University and is an experienced teacher of elementary, middle grade, and college students. Her most recent publishing credits include four middle grade short stories for a reading comprehension website and a YA short story for an anthology written for Ethiopians learning English. She is currently writing a novel and maintaining a blog where you can read her thoughts on writing and education. 


 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Poem in a Blade of Grass




I've been working with a young girl from Korea since the beginning of the school year. At first she was on a Fancy Nancy reading level and couldn't understand English very well (especially Southern English). Now we are currently reading Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring. We've read the entire Harry Potter series, The Hobbit, and a few other smaller books that she enjoyed including Savvy and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Her reading level went from kindergarten to sixth grade and she's only in fourth grade. I. Am. So. Proud.

So yesterday afternoon as we were sitting on the university's quad reading out loud to one another I stopped her. We began talking about the difference in the English language from one book to the next. When I asked her what she thought the difference was, she said older books sound prettier. I could not agree more.

While there are wonderful children's books out there that are written in modern English and include slang kids use in school now and also a few choice words, there's something to be said about going back to the basics and reading a book that causes a child to really think. 

The two of us have enjoyed the songs in Tolkien more than anything and I have had so much fun with her as we went line by line and made an entire paragraph of story from three words in a song. I explained the hidden treasure in these words.



I recently read an explanation of Whitman's "A Child Said What Is Grass?" and as we sat on the quad I had her list every word she could think of that described the grass.

Green.
Long.
Soft.
Sticky.
Full of bugs. (By the way, she prefers the library to the quad any day, what a girl!)

So I went with sticky. "Why on earth would the grass be sticky?"

"Because it's wet?"

"Yeah! So, if the grass is wet, and you've already said it's green, what does that mean?"

"It's healthy."

"Exactly. So we could just say it's sticky and let the reader know it's green and healthy. If it wasn't, it would be crunchy, right?"


I took this conversation and ran with it, explaining Whitman's lines such as, "Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord/ A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped/ Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners/ that we may see and remark/ and say Whose," which took us into a conversation about the tradition of handkerchiefs.

Book Cover

Also, "Or I guess the grass is itself a child…the produced babe of the vegetation," versus "And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves," which told us the earth could be described as young or old depending on the image.

I'm sure you can see the point I'm getting to here; our words can cause a child to think or not think. We have gotten lazy in our writing, it is much more difficult to find good vocabulary words in a children's book, and there is less to talk about. Kids are reading for entertainment, but there is no brain food there.

So, here's the writing challenge:

Choose an object, scene, or person and describe them without being direct. Use metaphors and similes that you have completely made up and haven't borrowed from other writers. Write for 15 minutes without stopping and then go back and cross out words that aren't necessary because of the descriptions you’ve created such as "sticky" instead of "green and healthy." Post your exercises below.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Courtney Warren is a writer for her local newspaper, as well as a graduate student at Hollins University where she is pursuing a degree in Children’s Literature. She has a bachelor’s degree from Delta State University, the home of the Fighting Okra (which she is incredibly proud of). She loves to read just about anything placed on the shelves but has a special place in her heart for the Harry Potter series.

When she is not writing about herself in third person, she loves to write stories about middle schoolers with spunky attitudes who intend to save the world, as well as drinking Earl Grey tea from a very prissy teacup.

Check out her blog, Tea, the Spirit, & a Pen.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

All Out of Ideas? Tips for Finding Something to Write About...


You're out of ideas and can think of nothing new. You sit and stare at that computer screen or blank paper, and it laughs at you. Your mother keeps telling you all of your ideas are wonderful when you know FOR A FACT they are hot garbage.

Any writers who say they have never had trouble coming up with a new project or have never been stuck on where to take characters are liars.

Coming up with a new idea is hard, especially after you've just finished a project. Many times, you've poured out all of your brilliant brain juice into your previous project, and now you simply have nothing left.

Fear not! Grab some tea, sit down, and listen.

One of the most helpful things to do when you can't write is read.

I have heard so many authors tell new writers, "You must read. It's your best tool."

As a matter of fact, my eighth-grade yearbook quote was about this. Right next to my crimped hair, braces, and overdone eyeliner, it said, "If you don't have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write." –Stephen King.

If only my graduate self would listen to my eighth-grade self. I can go back and look at journals and poem books where I was pumping out some writing every five seconds! It was horrible, absolute garbage, BUT it's better than the blank page I've been staring at for the past few days.

So, my solution? Take everyone's advice and read. I spent the entire weekend in the bookstore drinking overpriced coffee and what I refer to as "rich girl water," which is shaped like a square and fits in no cup holder. Book after book, I explored the store. Some books I saw and thought, "What in the Hello Kitty is this? I never would that thought of this, it's brilliant!" Others I thought, "This, ladies and gentlemen, is why the youth of today are the way they are." Either way, I came back with several ideas. 

Whether it's a character, a setting, a plot from a story you think would be cool to continue or one you want to write a prequel to, you'll find something to write about.

Courtney's Bookstore Tips:

1.     Go alone. You can't possibly form amazing, wonderful, literature-changing thoughts with someone yapping in your ear about how they want to check out the sale at J. Crew. Although the sale is important, your writing is "importanter."

2.     Get an overpriced coffee or water. It just makes you feel better.

3.     Don't bring a heavy purse that you have to carry on your arm. This was my mistake, I couldn't juggle my book stack and rich girl water AND my purse. I abandoned the purse in the car later that morning. Put your stuff in your pockets or if you’re one of those people who must have a purse (me), use a crossbody.

4.     Have a notebook and something to write with. You will see and read through so many things in less than thirty minutes, there is no way you'll remember all of the ideas you have. WRITE THEM DOWN. Forgot paper? Use your phone.

5.     Don't be afraid to look at books you wouldn't normally read. Science fiction? Romance? Horror? You never know what you might discover. Maybe you'll want to create the story of that pathetic blonde girl screaming at the top of her lungs on every classic horror cover. Why is that girl freaking out and not running? Answer that question, and you're well on your way to a thrilling story of your own.

If All Else Fails...

Never fret about not having an idea. Take a step away from your computer or paper, and get involved in life. You'll find something to write about. Also, write anything down, even IF it's hot garbage. Maybe you can clean it up and create a story that will make someone other than your mother proud.



ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Courtney Warren is a writer for her local newspaper, as well as a graduate student at Hollins University where she is pursuing a degree in Children’s Literature. She has a bachelor’s degree from Delta State University, the home of the Fighting Okra (which she is incredibly proud of). She loves to read just about anything placed on the shelves but has a special place in her heart for the Harry Potter series.

When she is not writing about herself in third person, she loves to write stories about middle schoolers with spunky attitudes who intend to save the world, as well as drinking Earl Grey tea from a very prissy teacup.

Check out her blog, Tea, the Spirit, & a Pen.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Common-Core-Aligned Classroom Activities for Storm Watcher by Maria V. Snyder


Are your middle school students studying weather? Then Storm Watcher by Maria V. Snyder is the perfect complement to your curriculum. Below are classroom activities, aligned with common core standards, that you could integrate into your language arts or science classroom.
 
ACTIVITY ONE
Objectives
·            CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7
Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
·       CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.7.3
Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).
·       CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3
Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
·       CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.7
Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).

Procedure

1. Have students work in groups to research different weather instruments mentioned in Storm Watcher. Their research should include what the instrument is, how to make one, how meterologists use the data from it to predict the weather, and why such predictions are important.
2. Student should then make the instruments and set up a weather station in the school yard.
3. Students should collect data from the weather station and graph it to look for trends and make predictions.
4. Students should make write scripts for a weather report that can be shown on the morning announcements.

Note: While all of these activities can be conducted in a language arts or science classroom, if teachers are teamed it would be more efficient to share the tasks, such that #1 and #4 are completed in a language arts classroom, #2 is completed in the science classroom, and #3 is completed in a math classroom.

Possible extension: Have a meterologist come speak to the students about his/her job and take a field trip to a weather station.

ACTIVITY 2

Other possible research extensions when reading Storm Watcher are mental health issues. In Storm Watcher, the main character, Luke, struggles with Severe Weather Phobia. Current events indicate that our mental health system is inadequate and educating our students about some mental health issues could be a step toward positive change.

Objectives: 

·       CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
·       CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.5
Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify claims and findings and emphasize salient points.
·       CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.7.8
Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.

Procedure:

1.     Students should choose a mental illness to research. Questions they should try to answer include what it is, symptoms, and treatment. When possible their research should attempt to determine the quality of the treatment available and any current event stories linked to the illness.
2.     Students should work in groups to put together public service announcements on various mental health issues. This might include writing press releases, creating a class blog, making videos for YouTube, creating Prezis, or recording podcasts.

Other possible research topics include: dogs and rescues

Look for my blog post here next month with possible discussion questions to use with Storm Watcher.

BLOG AUTHOR


Mary Helen Sheriff lives in Richmond, VA with her husband, two children, and two cats. She has an MFA in children’s literature from Hollins University and is an experienced teacher of elementary, middle grade, and college students. Her most recent publishing credits include four middle grade short stories for a reading comprehension website and a YA short story for an anthology written for Ethiopians learning English. She is currently writing a novel and maintaining a blog where you can read her thoughts on writing and education.