Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Book Project with IMPACT for Teens during this Holiday Season 2013!

If teens you know are looking for a great, easy yet important project to help others this Christmas Season, here's one that can put desperately needed kids' books into the hands of needy children around the world!

 Thanks to Room to Read for the use of this photos to share their story on Writermorphosis this Christmas!

ROOM TO READ is a non-profit organization that builds libraries in needy communities around the world and publishes children's books in languages and countries where there aren't many children's books!  

(When I went to Haiti this past year I didn't find any children's books.  There were no book stores with Story books in the area of the country where we were -- a couple of 3rd grade textbooks were all I found.  Room to Read creates and publishes books and supplies libraries around the world in areas like this! - Janelle from Writermorphosis)

THIS HOLIDAY SEASON Encourage teens you know to  
check out the ROOM TO READ Holiday giving page.

They and their friends or families can give books to children around the world this Christmas with just a small cookie-baking fundraiser, 

or by not drinking their normal Starbucks coffee for 1 week straight

or by choosing to donate some of the money their families would have spent on them

 -- to help children in Africa or Asia in need of books and an education. 
Education eradicates poverty.  Books and Education can change the world!

So encourage teens and pre-teens you know to change the world this Christmas!

Give a Book.

Give a Library!

And stay tuned to Writermorphosis for another great Author-Tips Interview coming up between now and Christmas!  Who is it? That's a secret!  You'll have to wait and see! :)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

BOOKS WITH IMPACT for Holiday Season 2013!

If you're planning to give books to children or teens this Holiday Season there are a few new releases and new options this year that will allow you to give a great book to a child or teen while also letting that book be a jump start for Holiday activities that involve socially conscious giving or sharing of their skills with others in fun holiday ways this Season:

If you happen to also be a teacher and you plan to read Holiday-related books to the kids in your classes, you can use these world-changing options below as well.

Here's week 1 of this year's 2-week Writermorphosis list of 


Group 1:
 These are Books that can be used by Families or Educators to get elementary school children, early middle graders, and even teens involved in helping others this Christmas. Combine the book with a related activity and you've got a gift that keeps on giving:

  1.  Wangari's Trees of peace shares the world-changing story of Wangari Maathai.
As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But years later when she returns home, she is shocked to see whole forests being cut down, and she knows that soon all the trees will be destroyed. So Wangari decides to do something—and starts by planting nine seedlings in her own backyard. And as they grow, so do her plans. . . .
         This true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a shining example of how one woman’s passion, vision, and determination inspired great change and is a wonderful story of women and children taking the lead in solving a problem in their country.

For Elementary and Middle Schoolers: 
Pair this book with a hands-on activity about how trees help the environment and plant seedlings with your kids that they can care for all Winter, then plant outside in the Spring.  Stick this book in a box with a gardening shovel, a pair of gardner's gloves, a tree seeds or a few small saplings.  You can even grow your own Christmas tree, or decorate a potted Christmas tree this year and then plant it back outside

For Teens: Though this book is a picture book it opens the door to exciting projects involving environmental and political awareness, and grass-roots community organizing, and can be the beginning of a project of service that teens and their friends or family decide to take on this Christmas.  Wangari's nation needed trees.  What kind of an impact do you want to have this year in your own town?  What is the need there?  Teens love the opportunity to go out and be elves 
and make a difference.

2.)  Another great "Make a Difference this Holiday Season" book is The Mitten Tree, in which an old woman in the town knits mittens for others in need and places them on a Christmas tree.  In the end others begin to help her by secretly donating yarn to her as a way to keep the project going.

For Elementary and Middle Schoolers/even Teens: 

Combine this book with a book or lessons on knitting, go out together and buy the colors of yarn and needles that the kids like best, and spend time with your child or pre-teen knitting scarves for local homeless families.  There are kids and families staying down at the homeless shelter this season.  

Crafty Teens: can learn to knit scarves or hats this winter season.  It's a great opportunity to spend quality time chatting while knitting, with family members and/or peers.

3.) Christmas Feels Like Home is a 2013 New Release  
by Author Gretchen Griffith.

Accompanied by warmly, rich illustrations by Carolina Farias this book shares the story of a boy from Latin America who moved to the United States to live with relatives and how he waits and waits and hopes that someday this new town will feel like home.  And finally on Christmas day -- it does.

This is a great book for children of any ethnic background who have moved this year, as well as for children who want to learn more about the lives of recent immigrants, or who are recent immigrants themselves and trying to find reminders of Home while making new friends in a new place.

For Elementary and Middle Schoolers/even Teens: 

For Kids who've moved, this book will resonate and can be paired with the family creating a special new family tradition in a new place.

For non-immigrant children or even teens who live in an area where there are lots of new people or people different from them moving in, this book can be the beginning of a fun new Christmas tradition of welcoming those new families and new kids who've arrived this year with a visit to their front door bearing a plate of home-made cookies that makes them feel more a part of the neighborhood this Christmas.

Is a 2013 New Release by Patricia Polacco
In this book Hanukkah was coming, and Trisha's family was busy getting ready. But many of their Christian neighbors had scarlet fever and wouldn't be having Christmas that year.  In a sweet gesture of service Trisha's family brings Christmas to them, including Christmas trees adn food baskets.  A story of true friendship and giving during the holidays.

 For Elementary and Middle Schoolers

This is another great book to pair with a fun inter-cultural Christmas sharing outing, cookie baking extravaganza for the neighbors, or other intercultural Holiday activities -- wherever you live this holiday season!

As Holiday Shopping, Celebrating, and Giving begins this holiday season may you and the children and teens in your life be surrounded by great books, great projects, great neighbors and friends, and may you find great opportunities to use 
your hearts 
 your hands 
to share with those in  need.

- Janelle


Friday, November 15, 2013

YA Author ALLY CARTER on "Combining Characterization & Action scenes"

 This week is the second and half or our interview with wonderful teen spy & thief novel writer Ally Carter! Thanks Ally for being with us today!

(If you missed last week's interview with this NY Times YA Best-seller, it's definitely worth sneaking back to last Saturday's interview to read it!)

Let's jump right back in with today's interview!

(First, here is a sample snippet from Ally's Gallagher Girls’ book # 4: Only the Good Spy Young

This section of text relates to our first question for Ally today. Spoiler: For those who haven't yet read this great book, teen Main Character Cammie is narrating the passage. Zach is another teen main character from a spy school):

"…Zach was so focused on Mr. Solomon, so anxious to come to our teacher’s aid, that he didn’t see when one of the men on the ground pulled out a gun and took aim at Zach’s back.
    “No!” someone screamed, and only when the man stopped did I realize that it hadn’t been me. There was only one person in that cave with the power to save Zach – one person with the power to stop those dominoes from falling, and she was the person who turned from me and started toward her son.
    I watched Zach’s mother slam into the gunman – heard the weapon clatter across the floor.  Even without turning, I knew that no one was behind me then – that there was absolutely nothing between me and one of the tunnels that spiraled off the main floor. And yet I couldn’t move.
    Everything seemed to freeze for that one second, as Zach picked up the gun and yelled, “Now! Run!”
    But I couldn’t leave him, couldn’t run, couldn’t do anything but shout “No!” as Zach took aim at the metal box marked Warning: explosives, and mouthed the word, “Good-bye.”


1.) Ally, one thing I’ve noticed about your books is that you do a great job of balancing the character development we talked about last week, (AKA friendships, family relationships, school stuff, and teen love interests) with the life or death spy and thief action scenes that keep us all up reading late into the night. You keep both our hearts and our minds engaged!

Maintaining this equal balance between character development and action scenes is extremely difficult for many authors. What tips can you give for those of us who want to learn how to write scenes, chapters, and books that are strong in both action and character growth?  How do we maintain that important balance -- so that it's not all character and it's not all action?
Thank you! Many books ago I was working at my desk and I had this little white board propped right next to me. I was making a timeline of the novel with your usual straight line going across and the events of the book going up at an angle right over the line—you know, like we all used to make in junior high history class.
But for some reason I started writing below the line too—filling in where the character was emotionally at each step of the book. I found that REALLY helpful. I started calling this “below the line” conflict, and now it is a huge part of the way I write and think about my characters/books.  Every scene needs to take place either “above or below the line”. And the great scenes take place in both.

 2.) One final question.  Your Gallagher Girls Series about teen spies in training, and your Heist Society Novels about a group of brilliantly ethical teen thieves, are all best-sellers in the YA world.  With those two series’ you recently did what many other authors have probably wanted to try sometime but have rarely done – you wrote a story that combined characters from both series’ and made them begrudgingly work together to solve a crime!

Double Crossed is brilliant! (Read it here for free, readers!) It shows that strong characters can be moved into a new type of environment and yet we as readers still totally believe that they are still the same “people” who they were in the other books. These characters are real – they live outside of the pages.  Can you tell us what made you decide to write Double Crossed and whether you have thoughts of writing any more stories that combine both sets of characters? What other new books do you have coming out this year?

Double-Crossed was the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time. It came about because I was touring for the fifth Gallagher Girls book, Out of Sight, Out of Time, and at almost every stop someone would ask “will the Gallagher Girls and the crew from Heist Society ever meet”? I got this question so frequently that I eventually realized that there was no reason they couldn’t meet!
I knew I didn’t have time to do a full-fledged novel on the subject, but ePublishing has made it so easy to put up short stories that I thought it would be worth exploring. I pitched the idea to my publisher, Disney-Hyperion, and fortunately they were 100% behind the idea. My good friend, Jennifer Lynn Barnes (whose new book THE NATURALS just launched and is fantastic) made the comment that she had always just assumed that Macey (from GG) and Hale (from Heist Society) ran in similar circles in their “real lives”, so that was really the launching point for the story. That was the obvious place for the characters and worlds to intersect.
I would dearly love to do another crossover novella (or maybe even novel someday) if and when the time is right. 
Up next for me is EMBASSY ROW, the first novel in my brand new series that I’m doing with Scholastic. This is actually an idea that I had way back in 2007 but couldn’t write at the time because I had two other series under contract. It is about a girl who witnessed her mother’s murder and yet no one believes what she saw. Things get really complicated when she goes to live with her grandfather, a powerful, ambassador, and realizes her mother’s murderer is not only a very powerful man in his own right, but also has diplomatic immunity. It should be out in spring 2015

Embassy Row sounds like it will be another "stay up all night to read it" kind of series Ally! We look forward to checking it out! 

Thanks so much for sharing your clear and logical, very implementable suggestions with us these past two weeks!  We love them! Once we implement these suggestions our own stories will surely be stronger as a result!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

YA Author ALLY CARTER talks "Building Strong Characters & Action scenes"

Ally Carter is the NY Times Best-Selling Author of two brilliant YA series' -- the Gallagher Girls series and the Heist Society Series, as well as two adult novels, and an action packed novella called Double Crossed. (Click here and scroll down to read Double Crossed for free!)

It would not be an un-truth to say that many of the teen spy books being published today reflect the authors' own experience reading Ally Carter's books and learning from her techniques.  Both the Gallagher Girls Series & the Heist Society Series are full of strong, believable characters and packed with action.

Luckily for us, Ally will be here sharing tips on Writermorphosis for the next couple of weeks.   Thanks so much, Ally, for being with us today! We have a lot to learn from you! Let's jump right in with our first question:

Let’s talk about building strong characters and creating strong character interactions in our stories.   I love the scene  in the first two pages of Double Crossed. In this passage (linked below), we meet Macey McHenry, and W.W. Hale the 5th.

By the end of just the first two pages of Double Crossed (read them here) we have learned so much about who other people expect Macey and Hale to be – and who they really are instead.  Many writers have trouble writing characters who are truly individuals with their own voices and their own complicated lives.  How do you do it? Can you give us some specific tips or strategies on how to create and describe such strong characters in our own novels? Thanks!

Thank you! I try first and foremost to think of all characters as people. The more people I meet and get to know in real life, the easier this is, of course. No one is exactly who they appear to be. Everyone has secrets and lies and hopes and fears and traumas. We are all the main characters of our own stories. And I really strive to have every single supporting character be someone who could spin off into their own series quite easily—there is that much to them.
Another nice thing about writing about teenagers is that they—even more than adults—are still figuring out who they are. They have so many doubts and questions about their own personalities! It is a fun thing to play with if you get the chance.

That's really great advice, Ally!  I am sure all of our books will be much stronger if we all start writing each character in the book, no matter how seemingly insignificant, as a character who is strong enough and unique enough, with their own clear voice, to become the main character in another series.  That's wonderful advice!

Here's our second question for today:
You write teen novels about very human yet completely brilliant teen spies and teen thieves-with-a-twist.  Your books are full of bank heists, high-speed chases, secret meetings on trains in Eastern Europe, brilliant disguises, teen girls rapelling expertly out of 80 story high office buildings, teens breaking into highly guarded museums, and even a few near-catastrophes involving helicopters and  submarines!  Are there any tips or strategies you can suggest for those of us wanting to write strong action scenes in our own novels?  Are there specific components that you always try to include?

On one hand, I love writing action scenes! On the other…I hate writing action scenes. There is a lot of logistics to them.  Who is where? What hand did he just use and where did that knife fall? So much to keep track of. But they do get the blood flowing, and I know that is part of what readers expect when they pick up one of my books, so I know it is important to deliver. 
For me, what really sets an action scene apart is location. Punches and kicks are always the same. But if you have it happening on a moving train then it feels very different—and has a different set of stakes—than something happening in a bank vault or a church or a submarine. There are new things in the background that you can play with and a much fresher take on what may be, in many ways, a scene most of us have read in dozens of books and seen in hundreds of movies.

Good point! You definitely do have some very powerful "places" in the action scenes in your books, Ally, and I love your suggestion that we use "place" as a way to increase the tension and create more reader interest in our action scenes.  Just off the top it's easy to see how locations like the roof of the school, the hidden basements of both academies, the adventurous locations of Mr. Solomon's class, and the secret tunnels Cammie always seems to find in the Gallagher Girls books, really do set the stage for perilous action!

For anyone who hasn't yet read Ally's books, I definitely recommend picking one up and sitting down somewhere comfy to read it ASAP.  In the both the Gallagher Girls series and the Heist Society novels you'll find many evocative "places" that add to the suspense and complexity of the action scenes.  Of course, the problematic location and situation taking place in Double Crossed (linked above,) is nothing to be trifled with either!

Thanks for this tip, Ally, and for the great examples that your books give us!

Now off we all go to look at our own scenes.  Is the sense of place we're portraying strong enough to increase the drama of our scenes? Is each character -- no matter how small - strong enough and unique enough to stand alone?

Next week we'll be back here again with Ally Carter, learning from examples of great writing in her books and hearing her suggestions on how to balance character development with action in our novels -- something Ally does better than most!

Thanks Ally!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Creating Your 3 ACT STRUCTURE - A video tutorial by Katytastic

Yesterday was the first day of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) 2013 - Hooray!

So do you need a brief refresher on how to plot?

Whether you're writing your first ever novel via Nano this year, or you're starting your 7th new novel with the plan to send it off soon to your publisher who has already published your first 6 books, you might still find yourself at times a bit lost in your plot.

Most novels are written using the 3 Act Structure. 

So today we have a great video (-- a bit slow to start, but really good once she gets going) from 
Katytastic, who gives a wonderful and concise description of how to outline your book in 9 sections using the 3 act structure.

Katy does a great job of breaking the often complex job of plotting, into very concrete and understandable steps.  (Thanks Katy!)

So, with only 11 minutes of time here's a great, step-by-step refresher on how to create a strong plot for your novel:   

The awesome author-tips interviews are coming in November!
Check out the October 19th Post on Writermorphosis to know which books to read to be prepared for the guest-speaker authors coming up!