Annnndddd I’m back! OK, so it was a little longer than a week of silence, but I had to speed read through hundreds of blog posts to get the linkfest ready. And my critique group is still waiting for this month’s feedback (coming soon, promise). All while a shiny new idea is pulling attention from the current WIP revision. *oye* Anyone have any tips on staying focused? Now for the links:
June 30, 2010
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June 20, 2010
First, Happy Father’s Day to all fathers, grandfathers, and father figures out there! My dad is the one who introduced me to Star Wars and the fantasy and sci fi genres, so I forever owe him for that. And for letting me follow my dreams, even the ones involving cows and cheese. I love you, Daddio.
Second, it’s also John and my one year wedding anniversary today (seems like forever :) ) There have
been some big changes in the last 365 days, John quitting his job to become a farmer, renovating a house and moving, etc., but through it all John continues to support my writing and that means a lot. I love you, honey.
Third, (no more lovey-dovey stuff, promise) I’m headed to Portland, Oregon this week for my full-time job. The good news is I have one morning off and will be spending the whole time at Powell’s City of Books, and I’m PSYCHED! Definitely leaving extra room in the suitcase . The bad news is that I won’t have enough time to sleep, let alone blog and read blogs and respond to blogs. Leave your guesses for how many unread items my Google Reader will show by the end of the week.
So have a great week, everyone, and I’ll be back next Monday!
June 18, 2010
Now that my husband and I are back on the farm, I’m trying out some cheese recipes with milk from our own cows, which is exciting (and tasty!). Shannon requested I post the recipe for ricotta, so I’m instituting my first Food Friday. And, for bonus fun-sies, I’ll also post the recipe we used for ricotta pancakes after the cheesemaking. Yum!
Whole Milk Ricotta
- Dissolve one teaspoon citric acid in ¼ cup cool distilled water. Add to one gallon whole milk and mix thoroughly. (1 teaspoon cheese salt optional to add)
- Heat the milk in a large pot to 185 to 195°F and stir often to prevent scorching. Don’t boil.
- When the curds and whey separate, turn off the heat. (It takes me about half an hour to get the milk to 195 degrees. It’s hot. Be careful.) Let the curds and whey set for ten minutes.
- Ladle the curds into a colander lined with butter muslin (like cheesecloth, but with smaller openings). Tie the corners together and hang the bag to dry for about half an hour.
- Eat! You can add one or two tablespoons of cream if you’d like a creamier consistency.
- Clean up. This isn’t a technical step in the recipe, but it’s my least favorite part :(
The ricotta should be good for one or two weeks stored in a covered container in the fridge. I doubled the amount of cheese salt in it and it still wasn’t quite enough for my taste, so add more at the start of draining if you have a taste for the NaCl. (Is it still NaCl for cheese salt versus table salt?)
So once you have this bowl of awesomeness, can you use it for anything besides lasagna or cheesecake? (Not that those are bad things, I just needed something quicker for supper) Ta da:
- Sift together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp baking soda, and ½ tsp salt.
- In medium bowl, beat 2 egg whites until stiff. (I recommend using an electric mixer; I tried a whisk and my arm almost fell off. Yes, I’m out of shape.)
- In large bowl, beat 2 egg yolks, 2 cups milk, and ½ cup (4 oz) ricotta until smooth. Add the flour mixture and mix gently.
- Stir spoonful of egg whites into batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining whites with spatula.
- Pour ¼ – 1/3 cup batter per pancake onto hot griddle and cook until golden. (Don’t forget to flip when bubbles form on surface.)
- Make husband clean up.
Anyone have any other good uses for ricotta?
June 16, 2010
Starting with a super important link, illustrator Kelly Light has started the Ripple blog to help animals impacted by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Click through to purchase cards from some great and generous artists and help the animals (via Alice Pope’s SCBWI blog).
Want to attend a national kidlit writing conference from the comfort of your own home and for FREE?! (hello, who doesn’t) The Bowl of Awesomesauce comprised of Casey McCormick, Elana Johnson, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Jamie Harrington, and Shannon Messenger are organizing WriteOnCon for August 10-12. Check out the website for a list of the stellar guests lined up and get psyched!
June 14, 2010
- Good hook. Actually, you need two: one at the beginning to entice the reader to start reading and one at the end to keep them reading.
- Character set-up. Give a sense of voice, personality, their goals/desires, their challenges and how they might be overcome.
- Set up themes, emotional arcs, narrative arcs, and conflicts.
- Introduce the setting. Why is it unique?
- Set up tone. Make sure the reader knows what they’re getting in to and make them willing to go along for the ride.
- Show your characters being happy. Readers need to like the characters, or at least want to read about them. Give characters goals, something for kids to latch on to.
That’s the last summary, I promise :) This truly was a great conference with fantastic speakers, and I learned something in every session. Looking forward to the next!
June 11, 2010
Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year, and thanks to my in-laws, I have a legitimate celebration that allows me to both talk about literary figures and post pictures of cows. Seriously.
Most dairy farmers who name their animals use the first letter of the mother’s name for the subsequent daughters, granddaughters, etc. (it turns literary, just stay with me). But my in-laws are more category-oriented people. We have:
- The “tree” family, including Willow and Mahogany
- The “political” family, including Eleanor and, my favorite, the twins Hillary and Tipper (I told you the in-laws were fun people)
- The “Star Wars” family, which started with my sister-in-law naming a cow Leia and then naming her daughter Amidala. My father-in-law can never remember “Amidala,” so the poor thing gets called “Aba-dabba-do.” I can’t make this stuff up.
- There’s even a “writer” family (see, told you literary was coming) with Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, and Maya Angelou. But beyond the writerly ladies, there is a specific To Kill A Mockingbird family.
As shown with the Hillary and Tipper (true) story, my in-laws especially have fun with twins. So about three years ago, these twin girls were born that they named (I swear I’m not making this up) Boo and Radley. From that day on, my mother-in-law has been waiting for one of them to have a heifer. And one month ago, my father-in-law interrupted milking with the phrase, “You have your Scout.” Yes readers, Boo had a heifer who is cute enough and spunky enough to earn the name Scout. So congratulations on 50 years, Harper Lee and To Kill A Mockingbird, your legacy lives on.
Any nominations for other literary names we can use in the future?
June 9, 2010
To start your Wednesday, it’s fan girl time: The next Harry Potter trailer is here! The next Harry Potter trailer is here! Forever Young Adult’s fantabulous analysis pretty much says it all. And now to other links:
June 7, 2010
I was excited to look back through my notes from Harper Collins editor Laura Arnold’s presentation to the Iowa SCBWI group, because she listed some common mistakes I need to look out for during revisions. She and Iowa author Carol Gorman began the presentation by asserting, “You are not alone. Editors wouldn’t have jobs if published writers didn’t make the same mistakes all the time.”
- Overwriting – going overboard trying to write evocative prose (the examples for this one were quite amusing)
- Misused words – for example, “shuttered” instead of “shuddered,” “as” when an action happens after another (“as” means two things happen simultaneously)
- Too many adjectives and adverbs (not a moratorium though)
- Characters who all sound alike – write like your characters speak. It’s OK to use sentence fragments and other habits of speech.
- Watch for repetition, especially with words like “just” and “look.” Laura said word repetition was the most common mistake she sees.
- Overused phrases, especially when describing gestures – for example: eyes rolling, shrugged shoulders, waving hands, frowning, grinning (I’m personally guilty of excessive eye rolling). You can’t “say” with a nod or a grin or a laugh.
- “Sure thing boss,” Geraldine nodded.
- Should be: “Sure thing boss.” Geraldine nodded.
- Clichéd words or phrases. Laura is seeing lots of hair cascading down backs, faces going ashen, “It’s quiet. Too quiet.” Don’t try to force slang or try to be hip. (You know you hated when your parents did it. Don’t make the same mistake in your manuscript.)
- Mechanical errors – comma misuse is very common. Incorrect: “Jack would you…” Correct: “Jack, would you…”
- Also watch out for misplaced modifiers: “one another” if many people, “each other” if two people
- “further” versus “farther” (for more of these common mistakes, check out this handy poster from The Oatmeal.)
- Beginning before the story actually starts. I’ve heard this one over and over, but Laura gave a new reason for making your first chapters the best they can be: with e-readers, many books offer free downloads of the first few chapters, so you need to capture that person’s attention immediately so they buy the rest of your book.
- Info dumping – weave in backstory, don’t hit the reader with it all at once.
After the top ten list, Laura and Carol took questions from the audience, and some more excellent points were made:
- Another cliché is lots of red-haired and/or green-eyed protagonists. (um, guilty)
- When writing middle grade, consider giving chapters funky titles. Kids and librarians look at the table of contents before reading the book. (This one surprised me. I can’t remember ever really noticing a fiction book’s table of contents, but I do like chapter titles when they’re done well.)
- There was some good discussion about chapter books. They are generally 6,000 to 9,000 words and publishers prefer series to stand-alone titles.
Which of the above issues do you have trouble with? Any tips for avoiding them?
June 4, 2010
I’ll be spending about eight hours in my car today and eight hours tomorrow on a work trip (darn full-time job).
I usually don’t mind windshield time, because I can sing or talk out loud without anyone judging (except for the cars passing me). I’ve invested in a sound recorder in case I have a brilliant break through on the work-in-progress, and it’s really helped in unraveling some revision issues, but oh do I hate listening to the playback and typing in the words! There’s just something about hearing my voice that sounds ridiculous.
Anyone else feel that way? How do you keep track of your ideas when driving?
June 2, 2010
Happy Wednesday all! Is it really June already? This week’s links to fun:
Finally, for a good time with great people, hop over to Where In The Blogosphere Is Jon this afternoon for a race around the blogosphere!