Writing for boys and gaming.


I love the smart people over at TED.com. I could lose myself for days in the brilliant minds of the collective there. Immersed in the high quality videos, feeling new wrinkles growing in my brain until it hurts. I’ve “liked” their page over at Facebook so that I can be informed when they post new talks on video. This past week they posted “Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning” which interested me for a few reasons. First, I have two sons who are extremely intelligent but were left behind all of their grade school and high school careers. Second, I write for kids, some of those kids being boys.

I’ve always maintained that there isn’t as big of difference between boys and girls as society tells us there is. Maybe this is me trying to simplify things, or maybe it’s the female in me screaming for equality for all. I believe that as a society we are just as bad to our boys as we are to our girls. Men may have the power, but society strips them of a lot of things still.

Ms. Carr-Chellman maintains that we are losing our boys from schools because we do not accept their culture. She does address my concerns about girls and gender bias, so I think I’m okay with that. The only thing I might add which would take away from her focus is that girls might also make better students because society teaches us to be submissive. Care-takers. Memorize your lines and move as directed. However, we want adventure, and games too. But this is about the boys and while I love to blur that line, I understand the need here for distinction.

Here is the TED video that I’m talking about:

I always put a limit on the video games my boys played. I kept them age appropriate. But, I let them play. I would take the games away as punishment for failing in school. I stopped doing that as it didn’t work. I ignored people who told me the games were evil and must be purged from every household. I told my boys they were good at the games, they could also be good at anything they tried.

Games teach so many things and as I listened to my boys tell me about the latest game they were conquering I loved how excited they would get, how shiny their eyes were. They told me about the story, about the weapons, about the characters and plot. They craved the details. If you ask any teacher, as long as you didn’t say it was a video game, I’ll bet they would claim this was an earnest student who loved learning.

As she sums up at the end of the video, I agree with everything Ms. Carr-Chellman says. I too wondered why educational “video games” were nothing more than flashcards. So much of what she said was my experience with my boys in school. It would be good to see it changed, but for now we’ll have to settle for challenging it.

This video also stimulated ideas in me for my writing. We always talk/argue about writing for boys and I think that what Ms. Carr-Chellman says could be applied in our writing as well. She’s giving us a lot to think about.

There was a follow up video to this one titled, “Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world.” What Ms. McGonigal says is that she believes, as a game designer, that video games can save the world. She also has some wonderful thoughts that stimulated my own in kind. Here’s her TED video:

I think that there is something to be said about gaming, culture and ideas that are shared. Now I think I’ll go play a game or two with my family. I already regularly play the home version of the arcade game Dance Dance Revolution for exercise. Video games have been very good to me. They’ve taken excellent care of my sons and me. My husband and I spent a lot of time in the arcade when we were teens. I highly recommend you play.

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I think the cat wants a robot and a little hiatus for me.


Happy Holidays everyone! Here’s a little Christmas joy from me to you….and the cat. This is Cat#5, also known as Mr. Naughty. (He’s got other nicknames too, but most of them wouldn’t survive the bad-word filter.)

I hope everyone has been enjoying my Skype Video Interviews? I’ve been having a wonderful time making them. But I discovered, thanks to the fabulously patient Jennifer J. Stewart that the recording program I was using, Pamela, has been the cause of most of my technical glitches. Poor video and audio quality, sometimes losing the audio altogether, it seems that was mostly Pamela’s fault. Nice that the program has a human name so it feels like I can call her out to task over it. Of course there is an update that I need to apply and see if that takes care of things, but right now I’ve lost faith in Pamela and so I’m not confident in the fix. I need to test a few more options too, but we ran through a bunch of programs when I was starting this and it feels like we’ll be starting over again. So, I’m taking a little hiatus from the interviews. When I’m back at it, I’m hoping to be able to produce higher quality recordings.

Taking a hiatus from the vlogs too. I really enjoy doing them, but I’ve not gotten much response. Although, the few responses I did get were very flattering and encouraging and were from people who aren’t related to me or who owe me money. I see myself doing more of them in the future though and hoping I can make them more interactive. With more give-aways, of course, because I love giving things away.

Needless to say, I’m excited about the possibilities that a new year will bring.

All my best to all of you,

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Skype Video Interview with Jennifer J. Stewart


I talked writing and super hero assistance with Jennifer J. Stewart, author of If That Breathes Fire, We’re Toast!, The Bean King’s Daughter, & Close Encounters of a Third-World Kind. We also talked about her new picture book The Twelve Days of Christmas in Arizona, just released in time for the holidays, with illustrator Lynne Avril.

Here is one of Lynne’s adorable illustrations from the book. Thanks for letting me use it Lynne!

Learn more about Jennifer at her website: www.jenniferjstewart.com

Jennifer is also the board of directors for Make Way For Books: www.makewayforbooks.org

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Video Interview With Kelly Milner Halls and *BOOK PACKAGE Give Away!


Kelly Milner Halls sat down and talked with me about her process of writing both non-fiction and fiction books. She also shared her great news, CONGRATS KELLY! And we had some great laughs over Darth Vader and cat hairballs too.

The drawing is closed, we have a winner! Congratulations to Pamela Ross who’s name was pulled from the pewter trophy bowl!! Thanks to everyone who watched and participated! *Kelly also is generous with the give-aways. She has a BOOK PACKAGE that she’s put together for you that I’m going to be drawing a name randomly for. Leave a comment on this post between today and November 2, 2010 midnight-my time here in Arizona, to be put in for the drawing. This offer is only available to people in the continental United States and people who are not relatives or close friends…..sorry mom. I will announce the winner sometime on November 3rd. Please make sure you’ve left a way for me to get in touch with you or you won’t be eligible despite your location or DNA status.

Sorry, the drawing is closed.

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Skype Video Interview with Janette Rallison & 2 BOOKS TO GIVE AWAY*


EDIT October 2, 2010: WE HAVE THE WINNERS! The drawing is over, thank you for watching and commenting. Congratulations go out to KathrynC. and LomaR.!!! Ladies, check your email! Comment here to be entered into the drawing to win one of Janette’s books; the hardcover of Fame, Glory, and Other Things On My To Do List OR How To Take the Ex Out of Ex-boyfriend. We will be drawing a name randomly for each title. The cut-off for the drawing is Friday October 1st at midnight, 12am Arizona time. I will draw and announce the names sometime the following Saturday, October 2nd before midnight. Please make sure you’ve left a way for me to contact you.

*Offer good until date specified and only in the United States. Void after the date of the drawing. Thank you!

I had so much fun talking with Janette Rallison! Janette is smart and funny and writes some pretty kick-ass books. I hope you enjoy the laughter and the video as much I did making it.

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Skype Video Interview with Larry Dane Brimner & BOOK GIVE-AWAY!


***BOOK GIVE AWAY*** Watch the interview video and leave a comment here and please make sure you leave a way for me to contact you. We have one copy of TRICK OR TREAT OLD ARMADILLO to give away. Thank you Larry! Names/comments will be taken at this post until 12am-midnight Arizona time, Sunday September 26, to be included in the drawing. I will draw a name on Monday September 27th and I’ll announce the name before the following Tuesday. Offer is only good for people in the US. ***This drawing is over, WE HAVE A WINNER! Thank you for watching the video and commenting. Be sure to check out Larry’s new book TRICK OR TREAT OLD ARMADILLO, it’s a great Halloween read!***

Larry Dane Brimner rocks non-fiction in a lyrical way. Author of more than 150 books for kids, his non-fiction books WE ARE ONE, the story of Bayard Rustin and BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY informed me and affected me at the same time. I would bet that there isn’t a school child anywhere who hasn’t encountered one of Larry’s works. Larry chatted with me and shared with me his writing insights and why he loves fiction as much as non-fiction. He also scared me with his talk of what he would do to zombies with knitting needles.

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Elizabeth Law talks books and gives away a galley!

UPDATE: The “free galley” contest is closed.  We have a winner, thank you for playing.  More importantly: Thank you for reading and watching!!

One of the things I love about conferences is hearing the stories behind the books. Nobody tells these better than editors/agents/publishers. Authors are fun to listen to too, but we’re too close to our own stories to tell them and there’s nothing like the industry’s point of view.

When I interviewed Egmont USA’s vice-president and publisher Elizabeth Law a few weeks ago. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLiQXw8T7Jc ) I told her how much I loved these stories. Then I took a deep breath and asked her quickly if she would consider talking books with me again. She say she would and this video is the result of that.

Elizabeth also wants me to give away a free galley. I’m going to let Elizabeth choose which galley to send to the winner and I’m very envious that I cannot be included in this drawing. I’m pretty sure it will be one of the books featured. I’ll collect comments from this blog entry and my facebook too. I’ll give you until Sunday, September 5th, 2010, midnight-Arizona time to enter. I’m bad with numbers and lots of other things, so I’ll let you figure that out. Then, the following Monday, I’ll draw a name from slips in a bowl and post the winner.

I’m also going to ask you to leave some love for Elizabeth while you’re here. She took time to do this and she had one of those days when it seems that all things made of technology were working against her. You’ll see in this video the technological trials we were run through and in the end we lost audio completely. You will also see what a great sense of humor Elizabeth has, you will be simultaneously charmed and solidly cracked up. You have to see her reaction when I pitched a picture book manuscript to her!! FUNNY! She then followed that up with some really sweet advice about interacting with her at conferences. This is a special lady who wraps her heart and soul around the books she acquires for her company. She is exactly who we want to choose the books that will offered to our kids to read!

Enjoy this video of Elizabeth talking books!

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I got to talk to Adam Rex on Skype!


And I recorded it so that all of you could see it too, wasn’t that nice of me? We talked about balancing writing and illustrating. If you’re familiar with Adam’s work, then you know that he is just a scary creative genius who has put out a phenomenal body of work and he just keeps more coming all the time. We also talked about that all too familiar dilemma of what to do when a basket of were-puppies has been abandoned on your doorstep.

You can find a complete list of the books that Adam has either illustrated or written or both here. His picture book Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich had me LOL-ing so hard the cats came running to see if I was dying. Okay, they didn’t run, but they did lift their heads off the floor-interrupting their naps because of it. I just finished The True Meaning of Smekday and let me tell you that was a FUN read. Adam also has a website set up just for Smekday with a video to watch and chapter to read.

I’m looking forward to reading his newest novel Fat Vampire, a *never* coming of age story. Here is the Fat Vampire website to answer all your questions. At least about Adam’s book Fat Vampire.

Without further adieu…which was fun to type-here’s the video, Enjoy!

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Vlog #5, outlining and Pickle play!


Good lord I’m tired of looking at myself. I’ve begun to enter my own nightmares, I do a lot of tossing at night. I’m beginning to see why I grate my inner critic’s nerves so badly.

There’s a cute cat at the end.

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1 Question for Son#2, the video.


This past Tuesday, Son#2 made yet another quest for world domination. I talked to him about the aftermath. See and hear for yourself first hand the reason I get a little jittery when marching bands pass by too close or the engine on that bike is just a little loud. (Either that, or you’ll think I’m just another annoying parent that thinks their sweetie pookims is just the cutest thing! It’s your call.)

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