• Where have I been? Tales from NanoWriMo

    Date: 2011.12.01 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 1

    You may have noticed that I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for quite a while. Did you miss me?

    It’s not because I wasn’t writing. On the contrary. I was writing. A LOT!

    In November I was one of the 250,000+ participants in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Participants start writing on November 1st. The goal is to write 50,000 words (about a full  length book) by November 30th. If you reach 50,000 words, you win! What do you win? Mostly glory. But you also get some goodies from Nano sponsors.

    So what does it really mean to write 50,000 words in 30 days? A commitment to write 1700 words per day, every day. For me this meant writing 2-4 hours a day.

    Since I have a day job and a family to take care of, the writing for me did not begin until after the kids were tucked in bed. Usually I would write from 8PM until I passed out, face first, into my laptop keyboard. But even if I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about writing.Traditionally, when writing a book you have time to let the story simmer in your brain. With Nano, there is no such luxury. The story needs to be microwaved on rapid speed. For me, this meant thinking about my characters and plot points always and everywhere; while driving the kids to school, eating dinner, going to the bathroom…you name it. Needless to say, I was extremely distracted in the month of November.

    What did all this mean to my family? Cooking? HA! No time. Cleaning…. nope. My poor husband took the brunt of the pain, picking up a ton of slack around the house.

    So, how did I do?

    Here it is…..





    YIPPEEEE!!! Happy Dance!!!!

    So, what’s the book about? I’ll tell you in a future blog post, but I have to say that I really love this book. The characters are really interesting and the plot has some really nice twists. But for now, here’s the Wordle:


    Doesn’t  it look awesome!!!!!!??????

    1 Responses to “Where have I been? Tales from NanoWriMo”

    1. Anita Laydon Miller 11/12/11 15:16

      I say Congrats on all your hard work! And the Wordle is cool!

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  • Who do I write for?

    Date: 2011.10.12 | Category: Kids, Publishing, Writing | Response: 0

    What reader do I think about when I write?

    These readers!



    My own three boys.

    When I craft a story I think about whether my boys would enjoy it. Does it have enough to keep their interest? Would they like the characters I’ve invented? Would they want to keep reading? I think this is why my writing is so boy-focused. As the mother of three boys, I wouldn’t have a clue how to write for a girl reader.

    But I also consider my children when I think about the content of my story. Is the subject matter appropriate? Would I approve of this book as a parent? Does it send a positive message?

    Which is why I am amazed by some of the books that have been published.

    Recently, my 4th grader completed an author study on Roald Dahl. My son selected the book George’s Marvelous Medicine for his study.


    If you are not familiar with this book, here’s a brief synopsis: George and his family live on a farm with a cranky grandma. One day George decides he can’t take it anymore and decides to swap Grandma’s medicine with his own concoction – a cocktail of poisons around the house. Grandma takes the medicine, causing her to grow into a giant. Mom and Dad come home and see what happened to Grandma, but rather than get angry with George for trying to poison Granny, Dad decides to recreate the medicine for his own personal gain. If they can give the medicine to the farm animals and produce giant chickens, they’ll be rich! But George can’t remember the exact recipe. Eventually, mistaking it for tea, Grandma drinks one of the failed recreations.The resulting overdose causes her to shrink into nothing. The family decides that losing Grandma finally removes a nuisance from their lives.


    Lets put aside for a moment that George feeds POISON to granny (for real?). There isn’t a single good character in this book. And the family celebrates when grandma is gone! Huh? I called my mother and told her she better be good to her grandkids because they might just make her a special medicine! But seriously, what kind of message does this send?

    For the record, my son actually liked this book. He thought it was funny and “magical”. Okay, but I’m still  not a big fan of the book’s negative message.

    George’s Marvelous Medicine was published in 1981. Do you think such a book would be published today?

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  • Reading with an Eye For Editing

    Date: 2011.08.03 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    Now that I am knee deep in editing my book, I wonder if I will ever be able to enjoy another book again without an editor’s eye.Oko_Ringlight_Eye_Notstudio

    I was really really looking forward to reading this particular book. I am not going to mention the name of the book, because…let’s just say, the author is BIG TIME, and I am a NOBODY, and being that I am a NOBODY I certainly don’t want to piss off BIG TIME author before I am even published. So I am not going to mention the title of the book or the author, but all you need to know is that  this book is huge…made for TV kind of huge.

    Anyway, due to all the hype around Unnamed Book I couldn’t wait to read it. But now that I am about a quarter of the way done with it, I have to admit, I am pretty disappointed. The story is just fine, but I am particularly annoyed with the stylistic problems in the book. Repeatedly I have found myself yelling at the pages, “How did an editor let that pass!”

    And I’m not talking about spelling or grammar mistakes. I’m talking about things like overuse of ‘ly’ adverbs, use of the passive voice, confusing POV shifts… the basics of good writing!


    “She began to rise from her seat and looked at her mother standing in the doorway.”

    Yes, that was really in Unnamed Book (well…I might be paraphrasing a little since I am going by memory – but you get the point). We smart writers know to replace that sentence with something like:

    “She rose from her seat.  Her mother stood in the doorway.”

    You see how that puts us in the action by using stronger phrasing? That’s better writing.

    Anyway, there are dozens of examples I have come across in Unnamed Book which make me cringe. So I wonder: Will I ever be able to read another book again without criticizing over-analyzing the writing? Is it possible to squish the inner editor in me and just enjoy a book?

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  • The Daily Prophet: WiziLeaks!

    Date: 2011.07.13 | Category: Harry Potter | Response: 0

    If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that this week I am talking about all things Harry Potter in honor of the release of the final movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II.

    Yesterday I talked about Severus Snape, and why he is the best Harry Potter character.

    Continuing with Snape, today I have a funny little fan-fiction piece to share with  you.

    Some background…. When my uber-obsessed Harry Potter child turned 8, we threw him a Harry Potter birthday party. As part of the party, we created a customized Daily Prophet where he was the headline star wizard.  I wrote the below piece as part of the Daily Prophet.

    You will need to click on each of the images below to read the piece. Sorry I couldn’t figure out a way to post this in full size nicely on the blog. But please click on the images below… IT’S WORTH IT!





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  • Severus Snape: Tragic Awesomeness

    Date: 2011.07.12 | Category: Harry Potter, Writing | Response: 7

    Yesterday I talked about the magic of JK Rowling. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, in honor of the release of Deathly Hallows Part II, this week the blog is dedicated to all the awesomeness that is Harry Potter.

    Today, I wanted to talk about one of my favorite characters in the book : Severus Snape.

    Seems that I may not be alone. MTV sponsored a Harry Potter World Cup which had 64 characters competing for the title of greatest Potter character ever. Check out the full matchup here. In Round 4, Snape goes against Harry Potter himself. The potion master crushed “the boy who lived” with a vote of 62% in his favor. He then went on to beat Hermione Granger to make it to the finals where he was matched up against Ron Weasley (who just eeked out a narrow victory against another one of my favorites, Sirius Black).

    This popularity contest was great fun (thank you MTV), but speaks to a bigger point : WE LOVE SNAPE! Sure we love the Fab three of Harry, Hermione, Ron. I have a special place  in my heart for Neville and Dobby. But without a doubt, Snape is my favorite character in the whole series. Remember the first time we see Snape as the potions teacher? I love how he bursts into the room, swooshing his cape dramatically, flicking his long black hair reciting, “There will be no foolish wand waving or incantations in this class.” AWESOME!

    Snape is the character with the most complicated story arc, and that makes him interesting. Throughout the 7 books we are led to believe that he is cruel, but I think he is basically an insecure person longing to find the respect he never received as a student at Hogwarts. He wants to be the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and yet Dumbledore rewards that position to everyone but Snape. And then, none other than Harry Potter shows up at Hogwarts – the child of the only woman he ever loved (Lilly) and his biggest antagonist (James).

    There are so many reasons to love Snape (did I mention Alan Rickman yet?), but only at the end of the book series do we really learn how special he really is. He fights and dies to protect Harry. Why? Harry who should be the thorn in his side. Why would he die for Harry? Because in the end he still loves Lilly and must protect her son. Because despite being passed up for the Defense Against the Dark Arts post, he believes in what Dumbledore stood for and will continue to fight for his memory. And because when you peel away the mystery that is Snape you are left with an incredible person who appreciates the simple idea that good must triumph over evil. Snape knew that only by his death would Harry ever stand a chance against Voldemort. It is Snape’s tragic ending that shows us just how amazing of a character JK Rowling has created.

    Stay tuned tomorrow where I will be featuring a great fan-fiction piece on Snape. You are definitely going to LOL when you read it. But in the meantime, here is a video that my kids have been watching and laughing about. I don’t know why this is so funny, but it is.



    Try getting that song out of your head now!!!! Mwhahahahah

    7 Responses to “Severus Snape: Tragic Awesomeness”

    1. Carol Oates 11/07/13 09:13

      A+ on everything you’ve said. I had this conversation with my partner just this last weekend. I found it was also so hard to really get a grip on Snape, his complexities made him fascinating. I believe Harry idolized his parents to an extent, they were so good. Through Snape, especially in the half-blood prince, I also got a more rounded image of them.

      • Ella 11/07/13 11:13

        That’s a really good point. It was through Snape’s memories that Harry was able to gain a complete picture of who Harry’s parents really were.

    2. Anita Laydon Miller 11/07/13 10:50

      Oh my goodness! You almost made me cry here. I can’t go see the movie because I don’t want it to end. Bad behavior for a 40-something.

      • Ella 11/07/13 11:04

        Anita, I have to say that I got a bit choked up writing this myself. It’s partially why I had to include the silly puppet video at the end! But I can’t wait to see the movie. We have tickets for opening night with the kids!

    3. Suzanne Lucero 11/07/13 10:57

      Ella, so true on almost every point, and the “almost” is really just a quibble. (Loved the Quibbler, BTW; Jo is so witty.)

      You said,”Snape knew that only by his death would Harry ever stand a chance against Voldemort.” I’m not sure about that. Remember, at the end Snape was trying to convince Voldemort to let him find Harry: “Let me find the boy. Let me bring you Potter. I know I can find him, my Lord. Please.” I think Snape was going to find Harry to keep him AWAY from Voldemort. He didn’t know Harry and Hermione were hiding in a secret tunnel, watching him.

      Voldemort, in the meantime, was wondering why the Elder wand didn’t work as well for him as had been foretold. The Elder wand, remember, would only work perfectly for the wizard who killed the one who was in possession of it at the time. Snape had killed Dumbledore. Even though Voldemort had taken the wand from Dumbledore as he lay in his grave, the wand would only properly work for Snape, the one who has killed Dumbledore. Therefore, Voldemort had to kill Snape. Only then would the wand work properly for him and, hopefully, kill Harry.

      All during this last dialog between Snape and Voldemort, Snape was trying to get away and find Harry to save him (I think), even though he kept saying he would bring the boy to Voldemort. In the end, when Voldemort caused the floating sphere that held Nagini to envelope Snape so the snake could kill him, I believe Snape thought he had failed.

      When Harry appeared from the tunnel, Snape realized he might still do something that would save Harry, so he gave Harry his most precious and secret thoughts, his love for Harry’s mother, Lily.

      I don’t think Snape wanted to die, and I’m positive he didn’t want Harry to know that he, Snape, loved Lily. In the end, though, it was the only way he could give Harry the protection he promised; he laid his heart bare with his dying breath to save someone else. A hero.

      • Ella 11/07/13 11:10

        Suzanne, Thanks for your comment. Interestingly enough, my husband had the same quibble as you did. He agrees with you that Snape didn’t want to die. He wasn’t necessarily looking for death. On this point I would agree with both of you. You are correct that all along Snape is intent on protecting Harry. But in the final moments, I think Snape accepts his death.

    4. Katie 11/07/15 16:40

      Went to see the midnight showing last night and have spent all today reliving Snape’s scenes in my mind. What an amazing, complex character – gotta love him for that. Oh, it’s so sad.

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  • National Novel Writing Month National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.