Monday, July 30, 2012

Writing Like F. Scott Fitzgerald

I had so much fun writing like JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien and Shel Silverstein in the past month that I decided to take my Modeling Mondays show on the road! I shared the prompt idea with the entire StoryDam community on their blog today and I'm really hoping to bring some exciting burst of creativity into the lives of fellow writers online.
Writing Prompt Modeling Mondays

For this week's selection of author and three sentences to use as a model I selected a novel that has somehow slipped through my fingers all these years. I picked it up this weekend and, by the end of the first page I turned to my husband saying, "Whoa. I want to do nothing else today but read this book cover to cover!" Needless to say, life got in the way and I'm still toting the book around, but the impact of the introduction of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby was not lost on me. I knew then that I wanted to take a stab at recreating the sentences that drew me in so artfully.

For your reference, here are the first three sentences of The Great Gatsby that I will be using as my model:
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
 “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
 He didn’t say any more, but we’ve always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that.
Now, I will rewrite this introduction by changing nouns, names, adjectives, adverbs and pretty much as much as I can while maintaining the basic sentence structure. I will italicize my changes. Let's see if I can make any kind of impact with my own creation...
In my older and more detailed writings my characters gave me one warning that I’ve been running from in my work ever since.
 “Whenever you feel like killing any one,” they told me, “just remember that all the creations in this world have had all access to your psyche.”
They never revealed any more, but I've always been unusually connected to my creations, and I understand their threats mean a great deal more than that.
Alright. I'm not F. Scott Fitzgerald and I put this together through what turned out to be a Migraine Monday for me, so I'm not sure how I feel about it as a whole. I'll have to come back to it later when my head stops spinning and the mystic blue lights of pain stop flashing.

If you're ready to join the Modeling Monday party, go check out the prompt on the StoryDam website and add your link for the whole community to see!

Also, if you have any ideas for future first sentences, or authors, just let me know. I'm always on the quest for the next great model.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Writing Prompt - Modeling Shel Silverstein

For the last two weeks I did a writing prompt based on a recommendation from the book So, You Want to Be A Writer by Vicki Hambleton and Cathleen Greenwood (the review is on its way!).  The suggestion/prompt was to "Use an Author as a Model" (p.67). It's pretty simple: "Try looking at the first few paragraphs of a favorite book. Choose three sentences and copy them, substituting new names and mostly new verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Keep the basic sentence structure the same."

 So far I used J.K. Rowling (via Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) and  JRR Tolkien (via The Hobbit) as my models. This week I am going to dig back further into my experience as a reader and use Shel Silverstein as my model via one of my favorite books of all time The Giving Tree. Here are the first three sentences:
Once, there was a tree…
And she loved a little boy.
And every day the boy would come
And he would gather her leaves
And make them into crowns and play king of the forest.
He would climb up her trunk
And swing from her branches
And eat apples
And they would play hide-and-go-seek.
This is going to be something completely new and different from previous weeks, but I'm going to go for it. (Little voice in my head is screaming: WHY DID YOU PICK THIS BOOK, NICOLE?!?!). OK, here it goes. Here is my new version, with the changes in italics: 
Once, there was a sea
And she loved the giant moon.
And every night the moon would come
And he would give her tides
And make them into waves and watch her waters rock.
He would reflect upon her surface
And light up her horizon
And sit still
And they would play until the sun came up.
I love the moon and the sea. I think I like what happened here. Shel Silverstein is awesome.

What do you think? Make up your own and add it in the comments below!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Words in the Wind

OK. I did it. 10 pages of my first novel were just handed over to three writing group peeps.
Alright. I got that out of my system.

Luckily I'm hard at work on novel number two through Fast Draft, so I can't really sit here and stare at the pages I sent away and wonder What are they thinking? How will I show my face at the next writing group meeting? or Who the hell do I think I am writing a novel???

No time for that.
I've got writing to do!

I only just cracked 160 pages in novel number two and I'm itching to get to its conclusion. I know I need a lot of help in the editing/revising world, but I'll worry about that when I reach it.

For now, I'm going to keep this short because I have 20 pages to write tonight, along with a need to see Breaking Bad which I will be reviewing for Word of the Nerd, and maybe I should get some dinner put together for me, the hubby and the dog. Just sayin' - I've noticed that all these beautiful words have failed to fill any bellies around here!

Page counts since Wednesday:
Thursday: 23 pages
Friday: 10 pages
Saturday: 3 pages
Sunday: 0 pages so far (because YOU are distracting me!!)

Here's what I've learned: 
  1. The next time I plan to do a "Fast Draft" project, I will not decide 48 hours before and I will actually plan ahead in terms of doing tons of loads of laundry, cooking meals and blog ahead of time and clearing my calendar of distract-able events!
  2. I don't think I have been doing FastDraft correctly. I'm not sure I've been employing my notebook correctly during my writing process and fear I am letting super awesome ideas slip by me due to this fact!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

When Panic ATTACKS

When I was in college, my mother took me to the emergency room for strange chest pains and difficulty breathing. I don't remember the trip or the treatment, but what I do remember is that when I relayed the story to my friend who was studying medicine at the time, she looked at me strangely and said, "Nicole... they treated you like you were having a panic attack." It was a strange bit of information; I hadn't felt any more stressed than usual, I didn't feel panicked at all, the one thing I had been worried about was the chest pains. My friend and I chalked it up to shoddy treatment at our local hospital.

If only I had listened to my body's first screams for help.

Those symptoms didn't return, but more severe ones did. According to medical professionals, both of my chronic conditions have no known cause, but are equally aggravated by stress. In the years leading up to my diagnoses I experienced some of the most stressful times of my life. I was not surprised when I found myself admitted to the hospital in June 2009; I knew there was only so much my body could withstand.

In the years since being out of work I have attempted to do everything in my power to avoid stressors. However, in the last couple of months, that act, in and of itself has proved to be one of the greatest stressors I contend with. You see, as a living breathing human being, avoiding stress is impossible. The only course of action is to deal with it.

Now that this ostrich is slowly raising her head from the ground, I'm coming to realize that this is a skill I may have forgotten. The result: Last Thursday I experienced the beginnings of another panic attack. I told my husband what I was feeling and talked through why I thought it was happening. We took the day very slowly. We're currently living through that terrifying part of life that older couples look back on and say, "Lord only knows how we survived," while laughing with the grand kids who don't believe life will ever be so difficult for them and who swear that their grandparents are exaggerating just to ensure they appreciate all that they have.

Friday we went to the beach with the family. This was a great escape from my norm with ups and downs of its own. Up: hanging out with a two year old who just wanted to play with sand and watch some Sesame Street on my iPhone. Down: not feeling confident enough to go in the water or walk alone back to our blanket because of my lack of vision. On the weekend, I was distracted by San Diego ComicCon news, which I welcomed, watched and wrote about, using it as a fantastical get away from my norm. And then my brother, another welcomed distraction, came to stay over on Monday.

Yesterday, the panic welled again.

I'm going to get through this. I've gotten through so much worse than what I'm dealing with now. I just have to remember to be strong, but also be forgiving of myself. Feeling stress is normal, avoiding it is not... I must deal.

In the meantime, I think it probably goes without saying that this has greatly affected my writing output, even though I am involved in the fabulous Fast Draft workshop! Here's the rundown of pages written since last week's update:

Day 6 (Thurs): 0 pages
Day 7 (Fri): 0 pages
Day 8 (Sat): 6 pages
Day 9 (Sun); 0 pages
Day 10 (Mon): 0 pages
Day 11 (Tues): 0 pages
Day 12 (today, so far...): 10 pages

Any words I did spill forth in this time, fell onto the pages of the Word of the Nerd website in the form of these three articles:

So, for my weekly check in, I didn't do so hot, but I'm not going to PANIC about it. In fact, I think I'll just follow this rule of thumb:
Keep Calm and Write On

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Fast Draft Experience

I have just completed day five of Candice Haven's Fast Draft writing workshop. For those who are considering jumping in on this program the next time it is offered, I highly recommend it. Perhaps you don't need help in all of these things, but this is what Fast Draft has taught me so far:
  • how to make time for writing every single day
  • how to balance my writing life with my real life
  • how to shut down my internal editor during the creative process
  • how to stay positive about my writing even when things get sticky
  • how to write 100 pages worth of a first draft in five days
Each day I have pulled one or two of these lessons out of my day's work. Each day I am learning something new. I have not been perfect and all of these lessons learned haven't solidified into habits yet, but I am confident with the support I am receiving in our Yahoo group, from Candy and from the #fastdraft team on twitter that after two weeks of this that is very possible.

Each day, except for today, I set a goal of writing 20 pages per day. Today I set a goal of writing 22 pages, here's how my days worked out:

Day 1: 23 pages
Day 2: 21 pages
Day 3: 21 pages
Day 4: 13 pages
Day 5: 22 pages

As you can see, I did not hit my goal yesterday. When I was so far below the mark, my husband came up with the idea of setting today's goal to 22 pages so that, by today, I would at least have an average of 20 pages per day.
So what happened yesterday? I got BLOGGED DOWN.

On Monday, I thought I was pretty awesome because I managed to reach my Fast Draft goal, write a blog post for this blog and write a pretty awesome article for Word of the Nerd. On Tuesday, I thought I had mastered life based on Monday's success, so I decided to 1. wake up late, 2. take forever writing the top 10 post for this blog, and 3. accept another mega article for Word of the Nerd (at least I told them I wouldn't finish it until today). It was all wrong. I was all wrong, and I paid for it.

I spent a whole bunch of my creative energies on my blogging this week, and I enjoyed it, but my novels suffered for it. I could have delved deeper into the story I'm building right now and I could have edited more pages of the novel I have already completed (I have done no editing on that work since the weekend!).

And, so I don't feel like it was all for naught, here are the two articles I wrote for Word of the Nerd this week:


My question to my fellow writer/bloggers:  

How do you balance the two joys? I have scheduled blog posts in the past when I knew I would be doing a lot of writing (ie. NaNoWriMo), however, if I commit to writing every single day that is not a realistic option. It is also unrealistic if I want to continue to write for other sites, like Word of the Nerd who have time sensitive articles that must be written. Any suggestions are welcome!


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

EXODUS from GNT My Book. -God

The following post is taken directly from my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

EXODUS from GNT My Book --God

I was really looking forward to reading Exodus since it detailed the story of Moses' life, but, in the end, I am disappointed. The story was all there, but it was so short. I feel like I'm reading Cliffs Notes. I felt myself re-reading chapters to ensure I didn't skip anything (I didn't). Then in place of all of the catalogs (from Genesis), this book has detailed instructions for building the Tent of the Lord's Presence. I now move on, hoping to find all the great Biblical stories I always heard about.

Dated: 03/13/04

To read about how I ended up with this particular version of the Bible, check out my Genesis Reading Journal entry from last week.

What matters more to you - the story as it is first told, or what endures after?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

10 Books I Wish I Read When I Was Younger

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish which I found out about thanks to Amber over at Me, My Shelf & I. There's a new book-related top ten list every single week and it is a great way to get to know other book-loving bloggers! Everyone is welcome to join in the weekly linky party, even if you can't think of TEN for a certain Tuesday (just think of as many as you can!), just make sure you link back to The Broke and the Bookish if you do!

This week's topic is a FREEBIE, so I came up with:

I always loved reading and had no problem reading whatever school had assigned to me, but, somehow, in my literary travels I missed out on some incredible reads as a child and a young adult. Thinking back on it, I would guess it was because I got my books from either the school's book club, or from my own home library that my father stocked from books that  his school's library was giving up. As a result, I didn't truly explore the shelves of bookstores or the library until I was a teenager. By that time, I was pulled in by the bestsellers up in front and immediately fell into reading fiction for adult audiences. I think this is part of why I love children's and YA books so much now- for me, it is still so fresh and new! The list below is full of books that, after reading, I wished I had found earlier in my life...

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis 

If you look through the archives of this blog you will find the reading journal entries from when I first read these books. I was an adult. I was teaching already. Now, after having the experience, I dream of the day where I can read this series aloud to a child of my own - let his/her mind wander through the lands of Narnia, with the fantastic creatures while they talk to Aslan in their daydreams. I loved this series as an adult, but I often wonder how it would have affected me as a child.

2. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L'Engle 

I remember exactly how I read this book. I was in college, I was home sick because of some food poisoning ridiculousness and I wobbled down to our basement library desperate for something to read. I found A Wrinkle in Time. I remembered my little brother had to read it and I always wished I had. I took it up to bed and read it cover to cover. You must remember that I was once a math teacher, so, at the time I was majoring in Mathematics and loving every minute. I closed the book and just let my mind wander... one thought kept creeping up, Why didn't I read this sooner? The unification of science and fantasy was so beautiful I thought, for sure, if I had read this book as a child I would've gotten my first peak at the beautiful potential of my new found love, Mathematics. Would it have happened that way? I'll never know, but that is one magnificent children's book I missed out on.

3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett  

Shortly after my aforementioned food poisoning, I was back in bed again due to a car accident (freshman year of college was rough on me!). I hobbled back down to our library, full of tons of books I had read before and spotted one I hadn't: The Secret Garden. There was no better book for me to be reading at that time while I was stuck in bed, in winter with my back in severe pain. I still daydream about that garden and remember that happy feeling it gave me. I feel like I would have enjoyed that secret world as a child and wish I had discovered sooner.

4. Dr. Seuss

Did you gasp? The fact is, I did not start reading Dr. Seuss books until I was at least a teenager. My mother was not a fan of the man's work. Having gotten to know my mother's likes and dislikes over the years, I'm going to say that she probably based this on the pictures alone (my mother was very disturbed by nearly everything Tim Burton). Anyway, as a child, I trusted my parent's judgement implicitly and had to shake free of a bias against Seuss' works before I understood how brilliant they are. Once realizing this, I recognized the sin in depriving me of his work for so long!

5. The Fudge Series by Judy Blume

I read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing when I was in the fourth grade. It was easily my favorite book in all of elementary school. So, why didn't I continue reading the series of books that sprung from it? I. don't. know. However, I will confess to one little snippet of possibly relevant information: I didn't realize there was a series until last year!! OK. wait. That's sort of a lie. I knew about the "Fudge" books, but I never put together that they were related to Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing! Incredible. I guess I needed to see sequential numbers on the book spines, or something...

6. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

I first read this book when I was 21. Now, I don't think I could have handled it in elementary school, like some of Rivera Runs Through It readers, but I definitely should have read this book sooner. In addition to The Lord of the Rings. I know why I didn't: The Hobbit cartoon that they showed around Thanksgiving time scared the heck out of me. Plus any time someone would talk to me about Lord of the Rings, I would think they meant to say The Lord of the Flies, which was one of my favorite books, so the conversation would always shift into me telling them why they needed to read Golding's novel, rather than them convincing me to read Tolkien! Whatever the reason, the fact is, I missed out!

7. Hiroshima by John Hershey

In 2002 I read this book because it was on my students' summer reading list. I should have read this book sooner. Everyone knows how devastating the atomic bomb is, right? I mean, we all agree it is the worst, so who needs to go any further than that? I did. Hershey's book sent the chills up my spine and through my core. I was crying page after page after page. I know I'll never fully understand the devastation, but this book shook me. It said on the cover of my book that everyone who can read should read Hiroshima. I couldn't agree more. I also think, the earlier, the better.

8. The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King

When I was a kid I was a chicken (note: this should not be interpreted as me stating I am Captain Courageous now!), I didn't want to read (or see) anything scary or related to horror. At the end of junior high and in high school, I noticed a lot of people talking about how great Stephen King books were. Now, you have to remember (if you are old enough to) when I was younger they used to run these Stephen King commercials selling a bunch of his books and advertising The Stand - the commercials alone had me hiding behind the couch cushions! By the time I hit high school, the buzz was just too much, I had to check out Stephen King. I took it slowly. I picked up a book of short stories called Four Past Midnight. I loved it immediately (the story The Langoliers still ranks as one of my favorites!). However, I wasn't sure I was ready for a big, long scare. That's when I was told about The Eyes of the Dragon, a fantasy book King wrote. I loved this book and it wasn't that scary. I should have read that book in junior high, at least! Then my near-obession with King that lasted through most of high school could have started a couple of years earlier!

9.  Comic Books/Graphic Novels

One of the great joys of my childhood was "after church." After church on Sundays we, as a family would go to either the art store (omg! drawing and coloring materials!!) or to the comic book shop. I would love walking up and down the aisles looking at all of the art, the titles and seeing brand new stuff every week. I was confused by the books that looked by magazines and always put off by the fact that they were up to number 84, 604, or something like that, so I'd stick to collections like Calvin and Hobbes or Garfield and scope out the shelves for drawing books. I was shy, so I never asked about the comic books - not even my parents. I suppose they thought I only liked the other stuff and had no interest in the comic books I passed by. This is why I didn't really start reading comic books until I was dating my husband. Now, I love them. I think the medium is fantastic and too often overlooked by book lovers. I know I don't have to worry about history repeating itself with any of our own children - we are a comic book family now. It's just who we are.


10. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

I read the first book in August 2000; I was 23 years old. It was three years after the book had been published, but I wasn't too far off the bandwagon. I was hooked and ran out to get book two before third book's release. When a Barnes & Noble opened up the block from me before the release of the fourth book and I was able to attend the midnight release parties for the final four books in the series, I was filled with euphoria at the sight of the children all around me. 

And then, a little itty bitty piece of me was envious. 

Where were these wonderous book parties when I was a child? Where were these stories? As tiny witches and wizards ran by or were found dozing in between bookshelves I tried to imagine what their lives must be like - dressing up like characters in a book, talking endlessly with friends and the world (via the Internet) about the things that they read, and then seeing that world come to life on the movie screen. There was no equivalent experience in my background to compare it to. I was so happy for them all, knowing, more than they did, how unique their generation's childhood experience was.

For the Harry Potter series, I have a slight adjustment to my wish. I do not merely wish that this book series somehow gets transported in time to when I was younger; I wish that I was younger when we all read the books! I want to know what it feels like to be a tiny witch sleeping in a bookstore.

What's On Your List?

Do you have any books that, after reading, you thought, It would have been great if I could have read that _____ years ago! ? How about the "impossible dream" category? Were there any books published after you were "of age" to read it and wish you were part of its true audience? Let me know in the comments! Also, let me know what your favorite childhood/YA book is so I can make sure I read it!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Writing Prompt - Modeling JRR Tolkien

Writing Hand

Last week I did a writing activity based on a recommendation from the book So, You Want to Be A Writer by Vicki Hambleton and Cathleen Greenwood (the review is on its way!).  The suggestion/prompt was to "Use an Author as a Model" (p.67). It's pretty simple: "Try looking at the first few paragraphs of a favorite book. Choose three sentences and copy them, substituting new names and mostly new verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Keep the basic sentence structure the same."

Last week I used J.K. Rowling as my model, using Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as my jumping off point. This week I'm looking to the father of fantasy, JRR Tolkien using The Hobbit. Here are the first three sentences:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet, a dry bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle.

Below is my new version with all my changes in italics:
On a farm in the SouthEast there lived a boy. Not a two-legged, normal preteen boy, filled with the thoughts of video games and icky girls, nor yet, a weak crippled, broken boy with nothing in him to build up upon or dream of: he was a confident boy, and that equals strength.
He had an intensely piercing gaze, blue eyes, behind a long focused sniper scope in his steady arms.
Well... that turned dark, didn't it? What the heck is wrong with me? Anyway, let's just say he's going out hunting for food... that will make this boy less scary!

What do you think of this week's transformation?
Have you tried this prompt yet? If so, share your writing in the comments section? 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Writing Challenge - FastDraft + ROW80

ROW80 logo
Round 3 is ON!
 A Round of Words in 80 Days started Round 3 this past week. In July 2nd's blog post announcing the beginning of the new round Kait Nolan challenged all of us ROWers to "Be an Action Verb." When I read the post, I felt its word reach out and grab me by the neck:
...saying that you are a writer is a static thing.  It’s a noun.  A descriptive term.
And it’s a term you need to earn.  Repeatedly.  Because you can’t call yourself a writer and mean it if you’re not actually writing on a regular basis.   You aren’t really a writer if you just wrote something that one time and then never touched it again. [...]
No.  You’re better than that.  You have more than one idea, recognize that you need to work on your craft, and that you actually have to KEEP WRITING.
WRITING.  That’s the clincher.  The VERB.  The ACTION verb that indicates something is HAPPENING on a continual basis.
I read the post over and over again. I had been editing my first draft of Dear 302 for a six months, but felt like I was getting nowhere. I hadn't started a new project because I wanted to give my first my full attention. I hadn't been keeping up with writing short stories either. Awash in shame, one question stung as it queried, Was I becoming just a noun?

On that same day I received an e-mail from Tui Cameron from StoryDam inviting me and Morgan Dragonwillow (other StoryDam-er) to join her in a writing workshop beginning on July 7th. It was Candace Haven's Fast Draft. I hadn't heard of it, but Tui had been to Candace's lecture at the DFW Writer's Conference and she was inspired. According to the workshop description we would have to write every single day for two weeks straight in order to complete a first draft in that time. I thought, if nothing else, it had writing action written all over it.

The question in the back of my mind: Am I ready for ACTION?

The answer I finally came up with: JUST DO IT!

So I'm in. I spent the rest of the week plotting and planning. On July 2nd I had no plans for a second novel, by July 5th I was feverishly researching and plotting my first ever SciFi YA novel. I can't believe it. On Saturday I woke up at 7am to ensure that I reached my FastDraft writing goal before my day got in the way. I wrote 23 pages, exceeding my daily goal of 20 pages.

In other good news, I sent out my first three edited chapters of Dear 302 to two volunteer beta readers on Saturday night! (eep!)

In short, in this first week of Round 3 of ROW80 I have embodied the three action verbs that I strive to represent throughout this challenge and beyond:


I am WRITING 20 pages per day.
I am READING at least one book per week.
I am EDITING my first draft of Dear 302  to have it completed for my August 17th deadline.

So far, so good. And one of the rules in Fast Draft is absolutely no negativity allowed! Therefore, with my optimist's hat planted firmly on my head I have to say I think Round 3 of ROW80 and my first stab at Fast Draft is going to produce one fantastic Writing Woman of Action in me!

What was the last writing (or reading) challenge you participated in?
How did it turn out for you?
How do you keep yourself motivated and reward yourself when accomplishing your goals? 

Friday, July 6, 2012

YA Book Review and Giveaway - Skinny by Donna Cooner

When I heard about Skinny by Donna Cooner in the YA Editor's Buzz Panel at this year's Book Expo America, I knew it was one book I just had to get my hands on. Not only did this book sound like it was going going to be an enjoyable read, I felt that it might also turn out to be an important one.

Skinny is the debut novel of Donna Cooner and it will be released in October 2012. Aimee Friedman, the book's editor, described the book as one that "could change lives," that was written in an "incredible voice," that is "haunted," but also has "dazzle." She claimed that this "novel is both timely and timeless," with "rich characters" throughout.Does it sound like too much for one book to handle? I promise you, it is not.


The novel is told in first person from the perspective of Ever Davies, a 15 year old girl, who is over 300 pounds and is haunted by a voice she has named "Skinny." Skinny tells Ever everything others are thinking about her, constantly calling her fat and unlovable in any number of cruel ways. The whispers of Skinny are enough to silence her beautiful singing voice which she knows is her great talent.

When embarrassment and frustration reaches its peak, Ever goes through gastric bypass surgery in order to live the life of her dreams. Ever's journey towards happiness is not solved magically overnight with this surgery. As readers, we are swept up in the challenges of Ever's day to day: what to eat, how to exercise, how to get her dream boy to notice her, how to behave in the new social scene around her and how to deal with the fact that the surgery did not silence Skinny.

My Review

I loved this book. I believe we all have a "Skinny" inside of us. Maybe our Skinny doesn't whisper to us about our weight or looks; maybe her chant is about our competence at work or school, or how (un)athletic we are. (My voice should probably be called "Sickly" since she's always talking about how my health is holding me back from everything - honestly, she needs to shut up!) With this singular truth, Ever's story hits home from page one - and for those readers who are struggling with their weight that impact will be tenfold.  Donna Cooner's writing in Skinny's lines is so steeped in reality that they deliver the stings only one's inside voice can.

Cooner's skills did not stop with Skinny's script. All of the characters in this novel come vividly to life. Ever is surrounded by a fairly large cast of characters of varying importance to the unfolding story; each and every one of these characters were given a rich description and persona. I never once found myself confusing one character for another. In fact, right now, days later, I can recall character names, personalities, and even styles from characters as important as the two boys in Ever's life - her best friend Rat and her dream guy Jackson - to those background characters like Gigi, a girl in the drama program and Wolfgang, a guy her step-sister had a crush on.

I have to agree with the book's editor when she claimed that this book has the ability to change lives. I believe, presented to the right person at the right time, Skinny can make all the difference in the world. For anyone who is insecure, particularly those young adults in the social high school scene, count Skinny as one of your must reads this Fall. This Fall won't be about fighting against the Capitol, the Dark Arts, or any other outside demons; with our new heroine, Ever Davies, YA readers will be learning to fight the most important battle of all: the one against their internal insecurities.

ARC Giveaway

A book this good has to be shared. Let's get the buzz going before it's big release this Fall! I have an Uncorrected Proof Advanced Reader Copy that I received at the 2012 Book Expo America that I'm looking to GIVE TO YOU! I'm opening this Giveaway up to the world - yep, that's right, International - so, don't let the borders bind you: use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for your chance to win. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What Will You Do?

I just received my review copy of The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters from Quirk Books and I can't wait to get started on it. It is the first of a planned trilogy and this book trailer, released at the end of last month is what got me even more excited about it:

One question is raised: What Will You Do?

What if there were six months left, not just in your life, but in all life as we know it? Think about that for a moment. Really, now, what would you do?

If you have a plan, or you are curious to see what others have dreamed up, then go check out Quirk Books' "What Would You Do?" page for the The Last Policeman. You can submit your own response to the question there for possible publication, and read through the responses that are most popular so far.

For those of you that have been following this blog for a long time, you know that this type of "What if..." thinking is right up my alley!

Stay tuned for my review of this book, sure to be coming soon. In the meantime, if you are looking for mor information on it or its author, Ben H. Winters, then check out The Last Policeman website.

Any first thoughts about what you would do?
What are your impressions of this book trailer?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

GENESIS from GNT My Book --God

The following post is taken directly from my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

GENESIS from GNT My Book --God

I have decided this Lent I will read the Bible. I doubt I will finish by Easter, but I have set the goal. The Book of Genesis had its highs and lows for me. I enjoyed the stories - Creation, Noah Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, etc., but I found it very difficult to follow the chapters about descendants and such. I can see why people read this book over and over again - it's hard to remember all of the details of every story. I've only completed Genesis and I've already forgotten the details of the creation!

Dated: 03/07/04

The Story Behind this Book

In 1999, after his boot camp and training, the first place my brother was stationed as a United States Marine was in Pensacola, Florida. My mother, my boyfriend (now husband) and I took a road trip down from New York to go visit him in his first official home away from home. While there is a book worth of stories that can be told from that trip, the one that I am thinking of now is the seed planted that lead to me reading this strange black-covered Bible. 

I saw a sign. Well, I saw a bunch of signs. Not the mystical religious type; actually giant billboards on the side of the road, from God. Did you see them? I thought they were just awesome. Black backgrounds with white lettering, each sign contained a simple statement or question and was signed "-God." I wondered why I hadn't seen them anywhere else, or where they came from, but they were not marked in any way for me to find any information.

I never forgot the signs and one day I was hanging out in the book store when I saw a black book with simple white type on it saying "My Book -God": I couldn't help but laugh. The book looked just like the signs and, when I started flipping through it, actually had pictures of the signs inside it, along with the story of the "God Speaks" campaign:
In 1998, an anonymous donor contacted an advertising agency with an idea for a local billboard campaign that would create a spiritual climate and get people to think about a daily relationship with a loving and relevant God. The agency came up with the idea of creating a series of quotes from God to be placed on billboards.
The billboards would be simple and easy to read—black boards with white type, and all “signed” by God. No logo. No address or phone number. Not religious or condemning. Just straightforward messages that would rightly represent God.
There was something so "user friendly" about these signs. These billboards reminded me of the God I had always imagined was in my corner. So, while the idea of reading the Bible always seemed to be too daunting a task, with this particular book, I felt that it could be possible.

That was 2004. It is now 2012 and I can tell you that I still have not finished reading "The Book" cover to cover, but it is always on my to-read list. I'll tell you one thing, though, just in what I have read so far, I have gained a new perspective of the role of this piece of literature in my religion and in my culture and it is fascinating.

Have you ever read the Bible cover to cover? If so, what edition?
Have you seen the "God Speaks" billboards?
For those who believe in God, does the "God Speaks" campaign represent the voice of God as you imagined Him/Her?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

4 Book Match Ups For What To Read Next

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish which I found out about thanks to Amber over at Me, My Shelf & I. There's a new book-related top ten list every single week and it is a great way to get to know other book-loving bloggers! Everyone is welcome to join in the weekly linky party, even if you can't think of TEN for a certain Tuesday (just think of as many as you can!), just make sure you link back to The Broke and the Bookish if you do!

This week's topic is:

No big surprise that I couldn't pull through a complete top ten this week since I only made it to number five last week, but this week's topic was just as challenging for me! One of my issues with this particular list (which you will probably pick up once you start reading my suggestions) is that it is difficult for me to categorize an author as one type of writer throughout the sum of their career; while some works may be similar in tone, voice and message as others, I tend to veer away from authors who consistently present me with the same type of story every time I grab up one of their books. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but for the most part I have found this to be the case in my reading habits.

Here is my paltry list of four "If you like X, then you should check out Y" authors and books:

1. If you liked C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia series, then you should check out the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins Both of these series take normal, everyday kids dealing with their own human struggles and thrusts them into a mysterious land just beyond th reach of our own. Adventures ensue once the children make it to their respective "other worlds" and lessons are always learned on their paths.

2. If you liked Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon, then you should check out the Marcelo in the Real World Each of these novels takes a look at a protagonist who has been labeled as learning disabled in one way or another and then is challenged to assimilate into the mainstream world. As each of these characters take us on their respective (and very different) journeys we, as readers, are left wondering what our world truly has to offer. 

3. If you liked Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, then you should check out Susan Beth Pfeffer's The Last Survivors series. The similarities in these tales is that all of these books are about survival in extreme circumstances. They all look at the stark contrast between that which we are used to having around us and that which it takes to survive. While Paulsen's tale can be a lonely one as it follows one boy's struggle, Pfeffer's places her protagonists in a survival scenario that is not separate from the people in the everyday lives. 

4. If you liked Elie Weisel's Night, you should check out Art Spielgalman's Maus. While the latter is in a completely different format - its a graphic novel - it is brilliantly done. It is one of the greatest graphic novels ever written and is one of the great artifacts that shows the depth and richness of storytelling the media of graphic novels make possible. The writing is wonderful, the story is classic, but the art and artistic choices add even more to the discussion.

Have you read all of these books?
Do you have more to suggest?
What are you best author match ups?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Writing Prompt - Modeling Your Favorite Author

Writing Hand

A couple of weeks a go I read a fantastic book called So, You Want to Be A Writer by Vicki Hambleton and Cathleen Greenwood (the review is on its way!). It is geared toward a young adult audience, but I, personally, think it is an invaluable resource to anyone thinking about jumping into the writing profession. Amongst a number of other resources and tips, there is one section of the book which provides writing prompts. I would like to attempt one that has captived my attention and share it with you. The suggestion/prompt is to "Use an Author as a Model" (p.67), here is a description from the authors of what it entails:
Try looking at the first few paragraphs of a favorite book. Choose three sentences and copy them, substituting new names and mostly new verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Keep the basic sentence structure the same.[...] Keep going after you've written these first few sentences, using your author as a model whenever you'd like. [...] This technique is like learning to ride a bike: at first, you need someone to hold the back of your seat. But once you get going, you can do it all by yourself. Once you've gotten started, let go of the original author's plot and characters, and let your story go off on it's own adventure.
 I'm going to give this a shot with one of my favorite authors, J.K. Rowling, using Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as my jumping off point. This might be a little awkward because the first paragraph has only two sentences, the third sentence will be in the next paragraph. Here's the model I am going to use:
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.
Mr. Dursley was the director of a firm called Grunnings, which made drills.

OK... here is my new version. I'll put all my changes in italics:

Mr. and Mrs. Roddington, of number one, Rodding Ranch, were proud to say that they were extremely important, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything banal or mundane, because they just didn't hold with such simplicity.

Mr. Roddington was the director of a firm called Fulfillment, which made dreams come true for those who could afford his lofty price.
Wow. I told myself I was going to stop writing at the three sentences, but I can definitely see how this prompt works. I'm curious about the Roddingtons now! I want to write more. What is this "Fulfillment" firm all about? How lofty is Mr. Roddington's price? I have to be honest with you, I sat down in front of my computer with no idea of what the heck I was going to write today. That's why I pulled out the prompt section of the So, You Want to Be A Writer book in the first place and now, here I am, three sentences later, with some new characters lurking about in my brain. What fun!

Fellow writers, you have to try this out. It's fun and easy. If you do, share your link in the comments below! You don't have to use Harry Potter, go ahead and use whatever book you like.

What do you think of the Roddingtons?
Have you used a writing prompt like this one before?
Would you use a prompt like this one in the future?
What kind of writing prompts get your juices flowing?