Monday, May 24, 2010

An Amazing School, An Amazing Visit!

This past Thursday I visited a truly amazing school. So, I thought that I would share a few parts of my fantastic day.

Even as I walked toward the school, I could feel the enthusiasm and energy that filled the rooms and the hallways of this middle school. Everyone was welcoming and excited and friendly. And boy, did the staff and parents and students make this author feel special.

There were “Welcome Cynthia Chapman Willis" banners hanging outside the school as well as inside it. There were also student-made posters for Dog Gone and Buck Fever all over the hallways and in the rooms. Wow!

The librarian and the parent who organized this visit gave me a binder filled with compositions about why each student hoped to attend one of the writer’s workshops with yours truly. Believe me, I will treasure this binder of essays forever. Each composition is it’s own gem.

Before my arrival, the staff held a bookmark-making contest with Dog Gone and Buck Fever as the inspiration. And the bookmarks that people created were incredible--so creative and beautiful. I could not have been more impressed. The winning bookmarks were copied and each student got to pick one to go along with his or her signed copy of Dog Gone or Buck Fever. Perfect!

Also, the students dressed in camouflage or animals prints, wore animal hats or painted on whiskers or paw prints on their faces in tribute to Dog Gone and Buck Fever. How cool is that?

I could go on and on, but I will summarized by saying that I walked away from this visit feeling beyond grateful for the opportunity to experience such a wonderful school filled with dedicated teachers, librarians, parents, and students. I can’t even imagine all the hard work that went in to making our day as special as it was. Incredible.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Share the Books, Share the Love

I love sharing books. If I won a lottery or stumbled over a pot of gold, I’d probably spend at least a chunk of the booty buying books to read and pass on to others. I’ve lost count of how many copies of Dog Gone and Buck Fever I’ve given away. Sharing books is just pure fun.

It’s probably not surprising, then, that I am always on the lookout for organizations where I can donate books that I’ve read and want to share. So, I’ve done a bit of homework. Below are some organizations that you might like to check out if you have books that you have loved and would now like to share with others. This nonprofit organization recycles children’s books through student-run book drives. The books are placed in schools and with youth organizations in need. This group sends books to American troops deployed overseas. This is another organization that sends books to U.S. soldiers stationed overseas. This group also sends books to the Walter Reed Memorial Library Center in Washington, D.C. as well as to schools and libraries. This non-profit organization distributes books to schools and libraries in need. If you happen to be in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Missouri, Washington, or Georgia, this organization collects and sends books to schools and libraries desperately in need of them.

* * *

Reading is rewarding. Sharing the books and sharing the love makes it even more rewarding. Don't you agree?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dog Gone Good News

Good news! THRILLING news! Forgive me, but I just have to share:

Dog Gone has been selected to be included in the fabulous line up of Scholastic Book Club selections!

Now, I don’t know about you, but some of my best in-school memories are of picking and ordering books from the Scholastic Book Club flyers. And oh, the thrill when the books arrived in all their shiny glory. When I got the news about Dog Gone and Scholastic, I immediately went back to my elementary school self. To think that readers could be picking “the dog” (as it is fondly referred to around here) and getting excited when the books hit their hands… well, that’s dog gone fantastic.

Happy! : )

Monday, May 10, 2010


Is it just me, or does waiting stink? Like, the kind of stench when the dog wrestles with a skunk and loses in a big way. I don’t care if I’m waiting for a train or waiting for a piece of mail or waiting on someone else, I fidget and fuss when I have to wait. And yes, I sometimes whine. Don’t ask. It isn’t pretty. Waiting is waiting. And it rots. One answer (call it anesthesia) that works for me is reading. Immersing my impatient self into fictional worlds takes the sting out of waiting. Ahhh.

Is it only me? Or am I the most impatient human being on the face of the planet? WAIT! … Don’t answer that!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Survey Says...

When writing or reading, what is, in your opinion, the most delicious part of a story? The plot and the premise? The writing style? Or, maybe you prefer the characters. No? How about the setting? Is this what you most enjoy writing or reading about when immersed in a story?

I came upon a survey about this in the March/April issue of Writer’s Digest. The members of a WD forum found characters to be the biggest pull of a story. Not surprising, really. I mean, if, as a reader or a writer, I’m not relating to the characters in any way, I get tired of interacting. It’s kind of like being at a party with really boring people. Why stay? Okay, that sounds rude, but I bet you understand what I mean.

The plot and premise of a story was ranked as the next most important element. In some ways, in my opinion, the plot or premise can be even more important than the characters. Don’t most people consider the plot or premise when making a decision about whether to read a story to begin with? Before getting to know the characters? The plot and premise can be the hook that pulls a reader or writer into a story.

Writing style came in third. I might not have been with the majority here. When I'm reading, if I’m really infatuated with a writer’s style or with really great writing, I might keep reading the story even if the characters are not completely engaging or if the premise is not all that fascinating. This is probably the writer in me.

Setting came in dead last. Okay, I get this. If the characters are fabulous, the premise interesting, and the writing style decent, I’m probably not going to care all that much about where the story takes place. However, I do appreciate a great setting when I come upon one. No doubt about that.

So, what’s your favorite story ingredient?

Monday, May 3, 2010


It’s a rainy Monday morning and I could use a kick-start. So, I looked up a few quotes on writing. Below are some choice snippets. Inspiration, anyone?

Some advice from Stephen King: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Ah yes, so true.

According to Ernest Hemingway, the most frightening thing he had ever encountered was [insert drawn out drum roll here]: “A blank sheet of paper.”

Keep in mind that this man was a journalist who, while serving on the front of the First World War, was badly wounded. And after recuperating, he continued to cover other conflicts. Yet, a blank sheet of paper terrified him. Yup, I get it. I do.

On rewriting, Ernest Hemingway said: I re-wrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.”

Wow. That’s all. Just wow.

From Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” (an awesome book, by the way): “For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.”

Amen to that.

From Maya Angelou: “What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”

I love this quote.

Last but most certainly not least, the fabulous Dr. Seuss:

It has often been said

there's so much to be read,

you never can cram

all those words in your head.

So the writer who breeds

more words than he needs

is making a chore

for the reader who reads.

That's why my belief is

the briefer the brief is,

the greater the sigh

of the reader's relief is.

Well, I do believe I’ve been kick-started. Happy Monday! : )