Blog Archives

That First Page & Call Me Ishmael

knobil_mark_wikicommons_viaflicker

by Heather Harris Brady

I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately, just not on this blog! Right now I’m preparing for #PitchWars (for more info see Brenda Drake’s fab blog here), with my new YA contemporary. Since I have to submit a query and the first chapter, I’ve been scouring the internet to keep up on what’s working and what’s going on. In the course of my online adventures I can across several spots I wanted to bring to your attention.

Any writer knows the first page has to be amazing, easier said than done of course, and way subjective but still. It seems like the more first pages you read the more you get an ear for them, a little like developing an ear for music I suppose. I was so happy to find the thatfirstpage tumblr!

thatfirstpage

You can browse through a wide selection of first pages, all streamlined for your reading pleasure. I really hope the author keeps up with this tumblr, because it’s such a great resource for writers.

Then, on Terri Eichholz’s Engage Their Minds she featured Call Me Ishmael.

callmeishmael1

The site features an 800 number that goes straight to voice mail. Readers are asked to leave the name of their favorite book and a message about what it means to them or how it’s changed their life. I have so many I could call the line every day for a year I think! But seriously, the site is a great way to renew your love of books and what makes them special to a reader. ‘Cause that’s why we’re all doing this right?

Top photo: Mark Knobil, via Flickr/Wikicommons CC license

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If you’re going to talk the talk. . .

sis

by Heather Harris Brady

Last week presented a wake-up call for me. As anyone who reads this blog knows, education for girls is something very near and dear to me. So when my daughter’s amazing teachers nominated her for an important local award (Outstanding Math & Science Student), I was very proud.

Now I don’t hesitate to run with her to the mall to find something special for the Daddy Daughter Dance. We both look forward to it and it’s a nice thing. But if I’m so into girls excelling at all subjects, including non-traditional, shouldn’t I treat this occasion this same? After all, she’s earned this through hard work and dedication. My answer to myself, as you can see above, is yes. It gave me a chance to think what this world would be like if our girls got fancy dresses and corsages for academic achievements, rather than setting them aside only for a girl’s ability to get a date to a dance.

Now I’m not saying that everyone has to do this. My family certainly couldn’t afford it when I was young. If you have the chance or another way to celebrate these academic achievements – do it, in as big a way as you can. There are oh-so-many girls in this world who will never get these opportunities. By the way, I also made a donation to Camfed in her name.

It’s Children’s Book Week!

CBW_Poster-small

by Heather Harris Brady

This promotional poster is by Robin Preiss Glasser, one of my favorite illustrators! Request your free copy (you just pay shipping) here.

There’s lots of other goodies too – don’t forgot to vote for your favorite books, authors and illustrators too!

 

 

 

We need diverse books!

Community_Box_Library_in_Bangladesh

by Heather Harris Brady

Those of you who have explored the pages of my website know this topic is close to my heart as a member of a blended Hispanic family, and as part of my own past growing up in a small, non-diverse country town. There are so many unknowns when you don’t get to meet all walks of people on a daily basis. It is all a driving factor behind most of my work, including the manuscript I am querying right now. A Missfits Misstory stars two fashionistas (May and Valentina). May is a young Victorian woman rebelling against her Puritan town and Valentina is a contemporary 13 year-old Hispanic fashionista who moves into her house and into the middle of a century-old mystery May left behind.

I’m copying the essence of the #weneeddiversebooks tumblr below, to help spread the word for their effort:

Recently, there’s been a groundswell of discontent over the lack of diversity in children’s literature. The issue is being picked up by news outlets like these two pieces in the NYT, CNN, EW, and many more. But while we individually care about diversity, there is still a disconnect. BEA’s Bookcon recently announced an all-white-male panel of “luminaries of children’s literature,” and when we pointed out the lack of diversity, nothing changed.

Now is the time to raise our voices into a roar that can’t be ignored. Here’s how:

On May 1st at 1pm (EST), there will be a public call for action that will spread over 3 days. We’re starting with a visual social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. We want people to tweet, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, blog, and post anywhere they can to help make the hashtag go viral.

For the visual part of the campaign:

Take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because ___________________________.” Fill in the blank with an important, poignant, funny, and/or personal reason why this campaign is important to you.
The photo can be of you or a friend or anyone who wants to support diversity in kids’ lit. It can be a photo of the sign without you if you would prefer not to be in a picture. Be as creative as you want! Pose the sign with your favorite stuffed animal or at your favorite library. Get a bunch of friends to hold a bunch of signs.
However you want to do it, we want to share it! There will be a Tumblr at http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com/ that will host all of the photos and messages for the campaign. Please submit your visual component by May 1st to weneeddiversebooks@yahoo.com with the subject line “photo” or submit it right on our Tumblr page here and it will be posted throughout the first day.
Starting at 1:00PM (EST) the Tumblr will start posting and it will be your job to reblog, tweet, Facebook, or share wherever you think will help get the word out.
The intent is that from 1pm EST to 3pm EST, there will be a nonstop hashtag party to spread the word. We hope that we’ll get enough people to participate to make the hashtag trend and grab the notice of more media outlets.
The Tumblr will continue to be active throughout the length of the campaign, and for however long we need to keep this discussion going, so we welcome everyone to keep emailing or sending in submissions even after May 1st.

On May 2nd, the second part of our campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm (EST) using the same hashtag. Please use #WeNeedDiverseBooks at 2pm on May 2nd and share your thoughts on the issues with diversity in literature and why diversity matters to you.

On May 3rd, 2pm (EST), the third portion of our campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them. Diversify Your Shelves is all about actively seeking out diverse literature in bookstores and libraries, and there will be some fantastic giveaways for people who participate in the campaign! More details to come!

We hope that you will take part in this in any way you can. We need to spread the word far and wide so that it will trend on Twitter. So that media outlets will pick it up as a news item. So that the organizers of BEA and every big conference and festival out there gets the message that diversity is important to everyone. We hope you will help us by being a part of this movement.

#diversity
#poc
#change
#BEA
#Bookcon
#weneeddiversebooks

Photo: WikiCommons

Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity

by Heather Harris Brady

Quite some time ago there was a SNL skit where Al Franken (as Stuart Smalley) had a regular affirmation: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me.”

I think as writers we all need to say that to ourselves at times because there’s no sugar-coating it, this writing thing is a hard slog! Here are two TED videos that might boost you up, should you need boosting at the moment 🙂 If I had a WordPress.org account I could embed them, but since I don’t the links will open in a new window.

egilbert

 TED Video One: Your Elusive Genius

TED Video Two: The Drive to Keep Creating


 

Common Core: Creating Supplemental Materials

Community_Box_Library_in_Bangladesh

by Heather Harris Brady

Since it’s a major goal of mine to have my books become part of the educational process I think a lot about creating supplemental materials. These materials (questionnaires, worksheets, fun activities and even LitTrips) are another way for writers to reach out to teachers and guides. I know companies like Scholastic do a lot of this for their books, but if you are doing a lot of your legwork there’s resources to help.

Common Core Seven-Step Short Guide to Creating Text Dependent Questions

Complete Guide to Creating Text Dependent Questions

Checklist for Evaluating Question Quality

Professional Development Module: Understanding Text Dependent Questions

Photo: Wiki Commons
 

Apps Part II

image

by Heather Harris Brady

In my last post we talked about using online apps to be more productive. I’m going to get a little more in-depth today on using apps while you’re writing.

I write a lot of historical fiction (using my ipad), so I’m constantly jumping around to fact-check. I use UX Write as my word processor, partly because it was cheap and partly because it can deal with .docx files.

UX Write also has a nice working relationship with Dropbox. As you can see from the above graphic, when I’m in UX Write I can choose my working files (under ipad) or jump into Dropbox where I store my historical research.

image

Inside Dropbox I organize my research by writing project, noted above as Missfits 2 research. It’s worth noting that I do not ever save manuscripts or writing-to-be-published on any of the cloud services because I have a deep-seated skepticism of their privacy policies.

In addition to my Dropbox research library I also create mood boards and character inspiration boards on Pinterest (pinterest.com). Anything that isn’t conducive to either Dropbox or Pinterest I save in kippt (kippt.com).

I’m not receiving any kind of compensation for any of the services listed. They just happen to work for me, maybe they can help you out as well.

Getting more done with online apps

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by Heather Harris Brady

Whether you’re a writer, a teacher, a student we all need more time, amirite? When it comes to finding reasons not to write I suspect we’re all experts. Not that we need any help when there are so many things to do as a writer these days – build the platform/online presence, stalk research agents, participate in critique groups, on and on. I can say that I’m working on it at least, trying to find ways to streamline things to make as much time as possible to procrastinate write. Here are few (mostly free) online tools worth a look, besides Google Drive:

Images from quotes

http://pinstamatic.com/#quote

http://www.recitethis.com/

Picture editing and social media photo adjustments

http://www.picmonkey.com/

http://www.internetmarketingninjas.com/seo-tools/favicon-generator-crop-images/

http://www.autreplanete.com/ap-social-media-image-maker/#twitter

http://timelineslicer.com/

http://www.photovisi.com/

Infographics

https://infogr.am/app/#/home

https://magic.piktochart.com/

Dictation

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dragon-dictation/id341446764?mt=8

To Do Lists

https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/teuxdeux/id384291782?mt=8

https://www.wunderlist.com/en/

http://fanzter.com/products/streaks/

http://astrid.com/

If you’ve found something great let us know in the comments! Happy Valentine’s Day readers –

Photo credit: This is a press photograph from the George Grantham Bain collection, which was purchased by the Library of Congress in 1948. According to the library, there are no known restrictions on the use of these photos.

Jingling your way to a query

roses1

by Heather Harris Brady

It’s been gray here for what seems like weeks, so I needed to post this picture. The fact that I am languishing in the leech-infused quicksand swamp of query-writing turns everything another shade darker. I think about queries all the time. One night while we were watching a few TV shows with the kids it dawned on me just how many older sit-com jingles are a form of query. Take, for example, Gilligan’s Island (RIP Professor):

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.

The mate was a mighty sailing man,
The skipper brave and sure.
Five passengers set sail that day
For a three hour tour, a three hour tour.

The weather started getting rough,
The tiny ship was tossed,
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The minnow would be lost, the minnow would be lost.

The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle
With Gilligan
The Skipper too,
The millionaire and his wife,
The movie star
The professor and Mary Ann,
Here on Gilligans Isle.

So this is the talel of the castways,
They’re here for a long, long time,
They’ll have to make the best of things,
It’s an uphill climb.

The first mate and the Skipper too,
Will do their very best,
To make the others comfortable,
In the tropic island nest.

No phone, no lights no motor cars,
Not a single luxury,
Like Robinson Crusoe,
As primative as can be.

So join us here each week my freinds,
You’re sure to get a smile,
From seven stranded castways,
Here on “Gilligan’s Isle.”

source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/gilligansislandlyrics.html

And of course, the Brady Bunch:
Here’s the story of a lovely lady
Who was bringing up three very lovely girls.
All of them had hair of gold, like their mother,
The youngest one in curls.

Here’s the store, of a man named Brady,
Who was busy with three boys of his own,
They were four men, living all together,
Yet they were all alone.

Till the one day when the lady met this fellow
And they knew it was much more than a hunch,
That this group would somehow form a family.
That’s the way we all became the Brady Bunch.
The Brady Bunch,

That’s the way we all became the Brady Bunch.
The Brady Bunch.

source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/thebradybunchlyrics.html

There are even examples written with the show’s voice:
Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
Then one day he was shootin at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin crude.

Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.

Well the first thing you know ol Jed’s a millionaire,
Kinfolk said “Jed move away from there”
Said “Californy is the place you ought to be”
So they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly.

Hills, that is. Swimmin pools, movie stars.

Well now its time to say good by to Jed and all his kin.
And they would like to thank you folks fer kindly droppin in.
You’re all invited back a gain to this locality
To have a heapin helpin of their hospitality

Hillybilly that is. Set a spell, Take your shoes off.

Y’all come back now, y’hear?.

source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/beverlyhillbillieslyrics.html

Can you guess this one?
Boy the way Glen Miller played
Songs that made the hit parade.
Guys like us we had it made,
Those were the days.

And you knew who you were then,
Girls were girls and men were men,
Mister we could use a man
Like Herbert Hoover again.

Didn’t need no welfare state,
Everybody pulled his weight.
Gee our old LaSalle ran great.
Those were the days.

Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Augmented reality.

augmentedreality

by Heather Harris Brady

If you took my hint earlier and downloaded the Layar app (Android, iphone/ipad), then you see this when you view my blog through the app. Hidden stuff! Pretty cool right? You can see a little slideshow with some little factoids about me, and a few other tidbits. (This is a photo I took of my ipad viewing my blog.)

Teachers have started using augmented reality in the classroom to embed richer information in graphics, posters, etc. Writers, of course, can use it as I have here – or you can use it to dress up your promotional posters, book covers, – pretty much anything! I’ve just done a simple demonstration here, but you can get crazy with videos that open up out of the page, etc.

The question becomes, how then, to make this magic happen. Well to do that you need two things:

  1. a creation site to allow you to build the hidden elements, and
  2. a viewer that will allow other people to see them through their phones, web cams and computer cams. Future web browsers will likely have this feature built in, but for now you have to download a viewer.

There are several easy, augmented reality options including Layar and Aurasma. Most work the same way:

  1. Choose a trigger image. For the example above I used my blog header.
  2. Add overlays/auras.
  3. Assign actions to each overlay through pictures, web links, mailto links, etc.

The scripting is done for you behind the scenes, and includes handy features like the slideshow I used above. The free versions of these products are fully functional but ad-supported.