June 2010


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:

Justus Stone explains the classic Hero’s Journey. A must if you’re interested in fantasy writing! (via Adventures in Children’s Publishing)

Apple sold three million iPads in eighty days (via Galleycat). Sadly, none of them have appeared on my doorstep.

I haven’t seen Toy Story 3 yet (ack! Soon, I hope), but MiG Writers’ Carmella Van Vleet has some great writing tips learned from the movie and Pixar’s work in general.

Awesome Link of the Week: For all of us channeling our inner child while avoiding acting like an adult (that’s not just me, right?), the latest bit of awesomeness from Hyperbole and a Half.

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Dad lookin' sharp and me...in a dress

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

Hah, another gratuitous cow picture!

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!

Yum, cheese and cheesy pancakes!

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!

Both recipes come from the book Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll. We get our cultures and other ingredients from Ricki’s New England Cheesemaking website.

Whole Milk Ricotta

  1. 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)
  2. Heat the milk in a large pot to 185 to 195°F and stir often to prevent scorching. Don’t boil.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Eat! You can add one or two tablespoons of cream if you’d like a creamier consistency.
  6. 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:

Ricotta Pancakes

  1. Sift together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp baking soda, and ½ tsp salt.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. Stir spoonful of egg whites into batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining whites with spatula.
  5. 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.)
  6. Enjoy!
  7. Make husband clean up.

Anyone have any other good uses for ricotta?

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).

Author Maureen Johnson has a fantastic social media manifesto (via Tina Laurel Lee). Amen to conversation instead of branding!

For those who miss the sound and feel of typewriters, you can buy one that connects to a computer through a USB port (via Galleycat).

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!

Awesome Link of the Week: From The Oatmeal (so you know it’s good), an explanation of irony. Thanks Shannon Morgan for the link!

The last round-up post from the spring Iowa SCBWI conference features former editor and published author Lisa Graff. She focused on what authors need to accomplish in a first chapter:

  1. 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.
  2. Character set-up. Give a sense of voice, personality, their goals/desires, their challenges and how they might be overcome.
  3. Set up themes, emotional arcs, narrative arcs, and conflicts.
  4. Introduce the setting. Why is it unique?
  5. Set up tone. Make sure the reader knows what they’re getting in to and make them willing to go along for the ride.
  6. 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!

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.

    The Boo-ster

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.

Scout - ohhhh so cute

Any nominations for other literary names we can use in the future?

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:

Jennifer Hubbard has a humorously true post about the evolution of story ideas.

Great guest post on the Guide to Literary Agents blog about revision (or should I say “re-vision”). Don’t fear the changes, let them liberate you!

Debut author Kody Keplinger has a guest post on Janice Hardy’s blog about realistic dialogue. Straight forward advice on an area I really need to work on!

Awesome Link of the Week: Stickman in Fairyland, via Beth Reevis. The dude from the caution signs gets impaled by a unicorn. Seriously. Awesome.

Wait, may I have two Awesome Links of the Week? Why not. Rachelle Gardiner posted this comic last Friday and I almost rolled off my hotel bed laughing. Enjoy 🙂

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