Category Archives: Writing

Maze Me

I’m slowly trying to get back to writing more regularly.  You know, in a format other than this blog.  I’ve been writing, but so sporadically.  First up, a boy chapter book project that I wrote awhile back but never got around to revising.  So I’m starting that painstaking process.

And, because there’s a maze tie in, I am randomly sharing mazes with you all.

First up, there’s some great printable mazes out there for kids and adults alike.  A simple set can be found at Print Activities.  There are other good little puzzles there too, and the mazes include number mazes for skip counting and number recognition, which we found really useful in kindergarten.  An even better source is Krazy Dad’s maze collection, which includes some really elegant mazes and some astoundingly difficult ones too.  Looking at that collection will make you wonder why anyone would ever spend money on a book of mazes.  Finally, Mazoons has printable cartoony handmade mazes that are pretty cool.

For online mazes, the simplest option is at Mazes to Print, where the “create you own” maze is actually a maze you just do on the computer.  For simple games, you can try Maze Frenzy, which has simple maze based flash games where you try to carefully move a little ball through a moving maze.  This is an old fashioned little maze game where you guide a robot through a maze that you can’t see, gathering needed items which younger kids might enjoy.

 

Of course, you all know me.  I’m a book person.  For just straight up doing mazes, you can’t beat printing them off the internet, but many maze books have excellent illustrations that make them worth a look.  And there are also some books about mazes that aren’t for using your pencils.  Two maze books I just love are Mazes Around the World by Mary Lankford, which is a nonfiction picture book about mazes.  It includes information about corn mazes, the Minotaur’s labyrinth, and meditation labyrinths, among other topics.  Another one is the wordless fiction picture book The Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman.  Lehman’s work is all wonderful, but this one is my favorite.  A boy discovers a maze inside a maze inside a maze which he must complete.  The illustrations are cartoonish and bright but somehow manage to feel like they have more depth than they might initially seem.  It’s for younger picture book readers, but I still like it as a grown up.

Thankfulness

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for all my families and communities.

First and foremost, I’m thankful for my immediate family.  I’m thankful that the husband has a good job that allows for him to provide for the life we choose to lead.  I’m thankful that Mushroom and BalletBoy are such amazing, wonderful kids.  I’m most thankful that we have such a loving household where we all try our best to respect each other and take care of each others’ needs.

I’m also thankful for my extended family: my parents, their spouses, my in-laws, my step-siblings, my grandmother, my aunts and uncles and cousins and all my connections in the world.  I am blessed to have so many wonderful family members.

I’m also thankful for my writing groups and for the fellowship that I find with them.  I recently had the pleasure of hanging out with my friend Pam Ehrenberg at the Writer’s Center as she gave a short class about running a writing group, so the benefits of writing groups have been on my mind.  Writing is a solitary endeavor.  I’m lucky to have found people to share it occasionally: people who inspire me and who help me write more and write better.

I’m thankful for all the wonderful homeschool parents I know.  First, I’m thankful for my co-ops and for my wonderful Half-Caf and Decaf friends.  Sure, I found other families so that my kids would find friends, but sometimes I think I’m the one getting the best socialization out of these relationships!  It can be hard in some corners of the world to find homeschoolers who share your basic outlook and can be friendly companions for your homeschooling journey.  I’m so lucky to have found so many families who are so loving and wonderful.

Finally, I’m thankful for the online community of homeschoolers that I’ve found, especially in the blogging world.  I’m still a bit of a newbie to this blogging thing.  I’ve gotten a lot out of so many homeschool blogs, who have led me to resources, made me laugh or think, and let me (and everyone else) into their world.  I’ve been especially honored when my fellow bloggers, like Theresa from Our Life in Words, Rayven from Ramblings of a Dysfunctional Homeschooler and have mentioned little old me in posts and tagged me in blog games.  I’m not always very good at following memes and blog awards, but it’s pretty cool to have gotten a couple of them.

So, happy Thanksgiving to everyone.  I hope you have just as many wonderful people in your life to be thankful for.

Creative Distractions

Traveling has been one of the greatest creative distractions.  It takes a lot out of me so that I can’t get much writing done.  Actually, that’s an exaggeration.  It means I don’t get any writing done.

However, I have a myriad of other creative distractions that tear me away from writing.  I think the creative process is such a difficult one to understand.  Watching my kids, they are filled with a seemingly unlimited supply of creative juices.  On the other hand, they have small attention spans and few skills through which to express their creativity.  Last year we participated in the Destination Imagination program, which I highly recommend for homeschoolers, by the way.  They have a specific category for K-2 teams with its own challenge.  At the team leader training I went to, the trainer explained that many people think of Destination Imagination as a “creativity competition” which it is, kind of.  However, she said it doesn’t not teach creativity because kids already have that.  It teaches teamwork and encourages skills to harness creativity.  A fine distinction and a difficult one.

Le Petit Prince-esque shirt idea by BalletBoy. Design and sewing by moi.

I have the skills (or, at least, a few skills), but sometimes I think I’m missing that mad rush of creative flow that kids have.  I feel like my creativity is something that gets parceled out like my time.  There is only a limited amount.  When it dries up, I may as well go watch TV.

Art, or distraction from art?

Homeschooling, especially planning and finding new materials or dreaming up activities, soaks up my creative energy.  Blogging is an outlet, I’m finding, but it also drinks down a little.  Oddly, organization uses it up for me.  Occasionally I go on mad rushes to organize bits of the house or “improve” things and I find I almost never get any writing done when I’m at it.  Then there are the artistic side projects that take me away.  I did some lino and wood block printing in the winter that was excellent fun.  It rejuvenates me to find a new artistic hobby, but it also zaps that creativity allowance.  There are also sewing projects, especially T-shirts for Mushroom and BalletBoy, that take my creativity juice.

In the end, I always return to my writing.  It wants to come out and it refuses to be ignored.  When I don’t write for a long stretch, I begin to get a little anxious.  Stories build up and I have to get back to the keyboard, even if it’s just to set down a little bit.

Spies Like Us

Last summer I got really into the Alex Rider books and this summer I can already foresee that my spy reads will probably be the Gallagher Girls books.  I read the first one in an afternoon and there’s a new one coming out at the end of June.  I don’t know what it is about spy stories exactly, but they sure are hilarious fun, especially if there’s spy gadgets.

In case you don’t know the Alex Rider books, this is a YA series by Anthony Horowitz that’s extremely popular across the pond, about a boy who stumbles into becoming an MI-6 spy after the death of his uncle.  All the fun games and activities his uncle did with him growing up seem to have been designed to turn him into the perfect spy.  Each of his adventures is more preposterous than the last.  The eighth book in the series, Crocodile Tears, was just released last winter, so you can imagine how preposterous that one was.  However, there’s something incredibly fun about watching Alex succeed against all odds and with ever more impressive gadgetry.  It’s great how these books hit that familiar YA theme of adults just not getting it, but played grand in life or death situations where MI-6 refuses to give Alex any backup.

The Gallagher Girls books have the same teen spy feel from an American perspective.  However, these books are at least as much romance as adventure.  I admit that the writing wasn’t perfect.  The dialogue isn’t very well done and some of the cleverness just gets a little cutesy.  Actually, there’s a whole silliness factor that needs to be toned down, which is really saying something in a genre that thrives on being silly.  However, the premise was good and there’s potential in the characters.  Each book has an excellent, if lengthy, title.  The one I just finished was called I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You. In it, we follow sophomore Cammie at the prestigious Gallagher Academy, a school for young women to become spies.  There’s not too much real action.  Instead, Cammie finds her first romance with a normal boy who she meets while on a covert ops training mission and must figure out what to do.  Later books in the series apparently present more action for the Gallagher Girls.

And now for my own spy secret.  The writing project I’m working on now is a little bit spy.  Actually, that’s sort of an argument for me to stop watching Spooks reruns and reading spy novels so I can do my own thing.  That probably won’t happen though.

Writing Retreat

One of my writing groups took a writing retreat last week.  We did a couple writing exercises, critiqued everyone’s stuff, talked publishing and writing…  oh, and ate too much junk food together.  All in a cute West Virginia cabin that smelled strongly of the knotted pine that made up the walls and cabinets.

I think retreats, conferences, classes and all that stuff is great as a general rule.  Even when I think it’s hokey or not useful, I usually come home recharged and ready to write.  I have one novel off, still being mulled over by a publisher who asked to see revisions twice (everyone cross their fingers for me!).  I have a million other projects jockeying for my attention, but my writing group helped me pick the project I think my fun side wants to explore.  Something crazy and high concept, with magic, gadgets and mystery.

Why are there hippos in this post? Well, my writing group will understand and the rest of you will just have to wonder.

In Which I Try to Think Like an Optimist

I am a pessimist by nature.  Anyone who knows me knows this.  Therefore, while I probably have a lot to say and like to hear myself think, I also, any time I’ve contemplated getting a blog, have thought to myself something along the lines of, “Who would want to read anything that little old me would have to say?”

I write by compulsion.  I generally can’t be stopped from putting pen to paper.  Right now I’m in the midst of desperately trying to get a book published.  There’s one out at a publisher who might be interested right now, actually.  The pessimist in me says that this clearly won’t amount to anything.  This particular manuscript has been through the wringer at a number of publishing houses.  As I wait to hear back, I’m starting this blog as a gesture of optimism on my part.  When I go to writing conferences, agents and editors seem more and more concerned that writers be able to put ourselves out there online.  So I’ve told myself that when this manuscript gets published, I’ll need to have a blog.

So here goes.  I don’t suspect I have enough to say about writing in particular, or even about children’s literature.  However, if you toss my primary occupation into the mix by adding homeschooling, then between the three I can probably talk your ear off.