Thought for the Day:
“Start early and work hard. A writer’s apprenticeship usually involves writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he’s almost ready to begin. That takes a while.”
Some Gifts for My Writer Friends:
Anne R. Allen, whose name you see here quite often, has a terrific post for writers about building a platform. There are a LOT of misconceptions about this. Click HERE to read this helpful, honest post.
The women at Writers Helping Writers have a really important and useful post (don’t they always!) on creating unlikable characters the reader will care about. That’s a tough assignment, but they can help you with it. Click HERE to see this great post.
Writer’s Digest posted an interesting article called “5 Writing Lessons Inspired by Famous Writers.” It’s fun. You can find it by clicking HERE.
When I last posted about a non-picture book, I promised a gently-read copy of Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine to one of you. The lucky winner tonight is Janet Smart! WooHoo, Janet!! If you don’t know her, she writes children’s books and writes about her journey to become a published writer at her blog, Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch, which can be found by clicking HERE. Janet, I will get the book out to you this week.
A little over three years ago when this was a baby blog, I wrote a post about the wonderful western True Grit. I had read it for the first time. If you’re interested (and how could you not be interested?), you can read that review HERE. I ended that post by saying good books find ways to get into the hands of a new generation of readers. Now one of my favorite books has been reprinted by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt with a nice, new cover so a new generation of readers might find it.
When I was very young, I saw the movie Shane. I think I had a crush on Alan Ladd and thought it was a pretty cool movie. I had never read the book. Many years after that, I was poking around the dusty book room at one of the high schools at which I taught, looking for a book that would capture my sophomore students’ interest. I found a stack of copies of Shane by Jack Schaefer. No one used them anymore, but I thought a western might be fun. And it had a movie to show while I graded the papers the kids would write while reading it. So I took a copy home and read it over the weekend.
Oh, my. What a book. This is the kind of novel teachers dream about because is it so well crafted it has everything a teacher wants to teach about looking at literature. Even better, it is a great story told by a young boy and very accessible to young people. And it is based on one of the least known, yet most fascinating chapters in the history of the West — the Johnson County Wars. The only problem with it, as my students pointed out to me, was once you had read this rich and riveting story, the movie is frankly bad. I had to agree. I wondered if the screenwriter had even read the book.
The story is a simple one. Young Bob Starrett lives with his parents on a farm in Wyoming in the late 1800s. One day he is sitting atop the fence of the corral and sees a stranger riding through the valley. That stranger, when he comes to a fork in the road, chooses to go to the right, which takes him to the Starrett farm, rather than the other path that
would take him to the Fletcher ranch, home of all the villains in this book. And there are truly villainous villains, and plenty of them, that must be taken on by Bob’s father and that stranger, Shane. There are great heroics, a hint of romance, and a true coming of age story. This is a little book — 176 pages — one you can read in a day, but you will find yourself savoring it long after. And do yourself a favor — when you finish the last page, go back and read the opening section. It’s worth doing.
I received a copy of the new printing of Shane that I reviewed for the San Francisco Book Review. (It is no longer the Sacramento Book Review.) I got to re-read one of my favorite books and got a new copy just for doing a review! How sweet is that? I have a couple other copies, so I am going to give away this gently-read copy to one of you. All you need do is be a subscriber or follower with a U.S. address and leave a comment. Please tell me if you are a follower or subscriber, and I’ll put your name in a drawing. If you want extra chances, spread the word by linking to my post on Facebook or your own blog or Tweet about this. Let me know you’ve done that and get an extra chance.
Don’t forget to check out Shannon Messenger’s blog for lots of Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts. You can get there by clicking HERE.