Review of Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

I really enjoyed this spin-off of the familiar Peter Pan story. Jocelyn Hook is a feisty, funny, and strong character. She doesn’t fully realize just how strong she is, or what is holding her back from achieving her goal, until the climax. A great book for middle grade kids, as a read-aloud or a read-alone. I’m looking forward to the sequel. Hook's Revenge Cover

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Review of The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla

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This is not a book about death. Even though Jesse, one of the main characters has been given a death sentence, the book is not about him dying. It’s about how his best friend/girlfriend, Sam, helps him to live. It’s about how Sam suffers through pain, guilt, jealousy, and loss, but still manages to love with her whole heart. However, it’s also a book about learning to depend on others to guide us through our darkest times. In this way, The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla serves as a message, to teens especially, that it’s ok to seek professional help when tormented by negative experiences and thoughts. This book ripped my heart out. It will probably do the same to you. But I also think it will leave you with a strong sense of hope, and an appreciation for the love you give away.

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Exploring Doodling Again

Teachers Write never ceases to amaze and surprise me. Today on Kate Messner’s blog,  guest author Elizabeth Dahl explains how she became a writer, and how doodling while writing helped her with that process. She challenged us to give it a try. I have to admit, this is one of the hardest exercises I’ve tried this summer. I was an art major way back when, but quickly changed my major when I realized I could not compete with those more talented than I am. When I set out to doodle today, I couldn’t do it… at first. Then, just like with writing on that blank white page, I started and before I knew it, I was lost in the creative process. What I produced is not extraordinary by any means, but it was fun to do! So much so, in fact, that I plan to doodle as much as possible from this point on. Who knows, maybe I’ll one day illustrate a book (yeah, ok).

Anyway, here are my efforts from today. What do you think?

(c) 2015 W. Scalfaro. All rights reserved.

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Learning More About My Characters

Kate Messner’s guest on Teachers Write today is Heidi Schulz, and she teaches us about Creating Compelling Characters. Here are two brief interviews with my protagonist and a supporting character.

LILY: More than anything, I want to be reunited with my mother. This never changes, but I realize that I can’t wait for her to figure out where I am. I have to do something to help her get back to me. However, I learn that something may be preventing her from finding me, so I have to go search for her. I’m afraid that, even if she has a job now, she still won’t be able to take care of me, and that I’ll have to stay in this orphanage until I’m 16 and am forced to live on my own. I would sacrifice anything to have my Momma and me together again.

SISTER MARY ROSE: I want more than anything to teach all children the love of Jesus, and how to live in order to glorify Him. However, Lily is teaching me that children must feel loved themselves, before they can understand Jesus’ love. Secretly, I wish I had never lost my family when I was around Lily’s age, and this makes me want to do what I can to help her be reunited with her mother. I’m afraid that she will be heartbroken that her mother cannot support her. I would sacrifice anything to protect Lily and the other children.

This was a great exercise for helping me get to know my characters a little better. I plan to “interview” all of my characters in my novel.

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Exploring Setting from Different Points of View

Author Elana K. Arnold presented the Tuesday Quick-Write on Kate Messner’s blog today. She had us shift points of view and describe the same setting. Here are my descriptions. They’re very rough. I have not worked extensively on any of them, and have not spent time editing them.

A description of my surroundings

I live on a corner, where one street is busy and the other is a side street. We have weeds – which we call alien plants because they grow so quickly – bordering the property line on one side. The birds love these weeds because they can hide in them. Our neighbor behind us mows his law a couple times a week, and is precise about where his (unmarked) boundary is. He’s planted a shrub – possibly a lilac – on the side. Across the street is a young motor head. He fixes cars in his driveway. His next door neighbors hate him and spy on his constantly. We all jockey for a parking position on the street because no one likes these neighbors.

 

The same surroundings, now from the POV of a lost six year-old child. 

I don’t know this neighborhood. How did I get here? The streets are strange. There’s a dog barking somewhere. I hope I don’t see it, or if I do, I hope it’s friendly. Should I go to someone’s house and tell them I’m lost? There’s no one outside, so I don’t know if anyone is home. There’s a motorcycle parked in front of this house. Cool! My mother said never to go near anyone with a motorcycle because they make bad decisions. Some houses have nice yards. Oh, there’s the dog. He’s a huge, black, furry dog! And he’s barking a deep booming bark. I’m not going near him! Now I see a lady with two kids. Mom always said that if I got lost, to find another mom and ask for help. I’ll go ask because she looks nice.

 

The same surroundings, now from the POV of a housecat. 

Ah, I love it out here. I think I’ll just creep under these bushes and wait for the birds. It’s dark and cool under here. What’s that? Oh, a bug crawling over the stones. I’ll just watch for a while. Maybe give it a good sniff. I’ll try smacking it with my paw. Here come the birds. They don’t know I’m here. I’ll watch them preen and chirp. Hey! They’re flying away! Oh, it’s the woman and her two kids. They scared the birds away. I think I’ll take a nap now.

 

The same surroundings, now from the POV of aa fifteen year-old whose parents are divorcing.

I’ve always hated this place, now I hate it even more. Dad’s leaving. Figures. I have to stay here with Mom. Not that it matters. She’s never here anyway. NONE of my friends live around here. Dad used to take me everywhere because he works from home. From this home. House. It’s not really a home. And this neighborhood is not really neighborly. Bunch of old people, or people with little kids. They always look at me funny, like they’re afraid of me or something. Like I’m gonna hurt anyone. I’m too puny anyway. All I have is this stupid skateboard. That doesn’t get me very far. And the stupid sidewalks around here are all cracked and broken. There’s parts where the tree roots have pushed sections of sidewalk up. I have to stop when I get to them. Or I could ride in the street, like I see everyone else doing. Mom would have a fit if she saw me do that. Too bad. I’m going down this person’s driveway. The yard is up so high that the apron of the driveway is a ramp. I put my earbuds in and crank up Eminem. I’ll get a good start on that and just ride down the street, away from this house.

 

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A Rhyming Poem

Today on Kate Messner’s blog, author Liz Garton Scanlon gave a Teachers Write mini-lesson on rhyming poems. Here’s my attempt at completing the assignment.

On Display

The circle widens as more people come
A crowd such as this I would not find at home

Children are screaming and running amok
America passes by along the sidewalk

The rumble and roar of Harleys overpowers
The weather report does not call for showers

“Lemonade!” the girls shout from their homemade stand
Salesmen stroll by with light up toys in hand

No mosquitoes but June bugs hover ‘round trees
Overhead brown bats swoop in for a free meal

Then all grows still ‘cept for ahs and ooos
As fireworks burst forth into glorious blooms

(c) 2015, Wendy Scalfaro. All rights reserved.

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An Interview with one of My Antagonists

In today’s lesson Teachers Write on Kate Messner’s blog, author Tracey Baptiste explores Voice. Two of the exercises have us become one of our characters and answer interview questions, and then flip the switch and become the opposite of that character and answer the same questions. Here is what I wrote as a result.

 

Exercise 2: Becoming Your Character

I love my country more than anything else. I hate anyone who makes me out to be anti-American, or not loyal to my country. I am jealous of anyone who has a higher status than I do. If I could do anything, I would convince my husband to ask for a promotion at work, so we could buy a nicer home. My biggest secret is that my mother hated this country. She never wanted to leave Germany, and so she never learned to speak English. I was teased by other children because of her; Therefore I did not love her.

Exercise 3: Flip the Switch

I love my family more than anything else. I hate when people are teased or called out for being Anti-American, when they have given their whole lives to pulling their own weight in America and building a life their ancestors would be proud of. I’m jealous of women who can have more children. If I could do anything, I would have my husband take more vacation time so we could go to the shore.

These exercises helped in that I was totally surprised by Mrs. Schmidt’s biggest secret. I had no idea!

Try these exercises and see what your characters reveal to you.

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