The Heart of the Story

HAWinter break was filled with great times, fabulous food and hours and hours of movie watching with the kids. Typically we watch G-rated, kid-friendly movies and animated holiday classics. But now that our kids are teens we’ve moved onto more “mature” movies with some rather racy content such as Pitch Perfect, Pitch Perfect 2, The DUFF and The Hunger Games series. And although I miss the days of  Mickey’s Once (and Twice) Upon a Christmas and the miserly ol’ Miser Brothers, fortunately, our kids still love some of our tried and true movie favorites, such as Home Alone, Elf and The Santa Clause. So, one night, when my girls suggested watching Home Alone, although I lay on the couch, completely exhausted, I optimistically agreed.

I stayed awake for most of the movie, but ended up power-napping for a bit, and unfortunately snoozed through the church scene, where Kevin talks to his scary neighbor Old Man Marley about forgiveness and family and…well, after that the movie just wasn’t the same for me.

Home Alone

I’m a sap when it comes to sentimental, happy and heartwarming stories and movies. My kids shoot me that “you’re crying again?” look every time something emotional happens, knowing tears will be flowing and pretty soon I’ll transform into a tissue-wielding, nose-running, mascara melting mess.

Even though I’ve seen some of my favorite movies twenty or so times, (at least) and I know full well what’s going to happen, I still cry. But on this particular night watching Home Alone, I didn’t cry. I felt empty, disappointed, left hanging, and without closure. Sure, Harry and Marv got locked up and Kevin’s mom came home but the part of the story that makes me watch it over and over again, the part where Marley and his son are reunited at the end fell flat for me because I didn’t see and feel the build-up that got them there – that hopeful church scene. The normally laugh out-loud, crazy, paint can flying, doorknob singeing, rope cutting scenes didn’t carry the movie for me. I missed (what I consider) the “heat of the story” and Home Alone just wasn’t the same.

As a writer, I know, we all know that the heart of the story matters most but, wow! miss it in one of your favorite movies and you’ll see just how much it matters!

We also know to show and not tell, that showing is much more powerful than telling. So, you can take my word for it and try to imagine the effect that missing this scene had on me, or you can experience the impact for yourself.

remote

Do it. Try it. Grab your favorite book and skip the lines/pages that tug on the heart, our put in your favorite movie and fast-forward past the scenes with the heart-wrenching lines (or take a power-nap, at least you’ll feel refreshed), and you’ll find that matter how fun a story is, no matter how many funny and clever lines are perfectly delivered, no matter how much your stomach hurts from laughing, what makes a movie watcher and a book reader, go back time and time again is the heart of the story.

Happy New Year!

 

Halloweensie Contest

Susanna Leonard Hill’s 5th Annual HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST is here! The contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children, using the words costumedark, and haunt.  

A BIG HUNGRY GRIN

by Dawn Young (97 words)

 

On Halloween night as their party drew near,

the minnows, preparing for tail tingling fear,

got dressed up in costumes; one fattened his fin,

flashed needle-knife teeth and a big hungry grin.

The party was rockin’ the old sunken ship,

still haunted by souls from an ill-fated trip.

Emerging at midnight, those piratey-ghosts,

spooked scale after scale off the guests and the hosts,

all desperately darting out into the dark,

until that wise minnow disguised as a shark,

circled the ghosts, ‘til the ghosts fled in fright,

leaving the minnows to party all night!

 fear2

 

 

It’s that time again…

Yay, November 1st, is just around the corner which means it’s PiBoIdMo.

piboidmo2015participant

Picture Book Idea Month, where you come up with a picture book idea each day during the month of November. With PiBoIdMo, not only do you end up with a boatload of PB ideas, you get inspired by wonderful authors who, like you and me, may need a jump start to get their creativity into gear or just need a verbal hug 😉 There are opportunities to win fabulous prizes too, so sign-up and get inspired!

Summer School?

Summer School? Yes, summer school where you learn from some of the best for FREE!

This year’s’ theme is The Plot Thickens…sounds intriguing and exciting!

 

badgeI’m proud and honored to be on the Board of Education for Kidlit’s 2015 Summer School program alongside Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Kami Kinard, Marcie Colleen and Leeza Hernandez.  Join our fabulous community of people and get inspired by writers as passionate about kidlit as you are!

Register here:

http://nerdychickswrite.com/registration-2/

All About That Rhyme

I’m thrilled to be guest blogger on Angie Karcher’s fabulous RhyPiBoMo (Rhyming Picture Book Month)

https://angiekarcher.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/pre-rhypibomo-2015-dawn-young/

As writers, we know we’ve chosen a tough business to break into, and unfortunately, we know it’s even tougher to break into if you write in rhyme. No matter how good your rhyme is, and how perfect your meter reads, we know that many editors and agents refrain from rhyme, making those seemingly insurmountable publishing hurdles even higher for rhymers.
And even though I enjoy writing in prose, deep down inside I’m a rhymer, rhymer;) I am determined to scale those extra inches, feet or miles because …

I’m All About That Rhyme!

Fabulous Finishes

I recently watched Maleficent and I loved it BUT…there was a period during the movie where I grew worried, panicked, actually…when I heard, “The princess can be woken from her death sleep, but only by…true love’s kiss. This curse will last till the end of time! No power on Earth can change it!”

Maleficent

I heard, “True Love’s kiss” and all I could think was , Oh no, here we go again. – another Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Enchanted movie that ends with the prince saving the princess with (yet another) true love’s kiss. Of course, that’s not how it ends (sorry, if I spoiled that for you). Disney, is smarter than that, creating an unexpected ending that redefines (their) typical true love and I applaud them for it.

As writers, we owe our readers that as well, a magical, unexpected ending….An ending that makes the reader say wow! Whether it’s a heartfelt wow, a giggly wow or a surprising wow – a wow, just the same.

Picture1question

I love when I find a picture book with a fabulous finish, a brilliant ending. I recently read

ate my dog

 

This book just ate my dog!

by Richard Byrne

 

Not only is the story fresh and fun but the ending is clever and funny.

When the Bella who is taking a stroll with her dog loses him to the crease in the book, she declares,“This book just ate my dog!” which is hilarious and then she loses friends and help to the book and soon Bella disappears as well. But then a note appears to help the reader get them all out of the book. After a bit of turning, shaking and wiggling (interactive fun) the characters reappear, “…and things got back to normal.”

If the book had ended there it still would have been a great read – clever, fun, fresh and engaging, but it doesn’t end there. It ends well…unexpectedly.

Brilliant!

Now that’s funny…

laugh

Why is it that some of my favorite films are animated? Because so many times, their writers throw in lines with the most brilliant adult humor (and by that I don’t mean, inappropriate – I mean humor that adults will get and appreciate) that I can’t help but want to see the movie and hear those lines over and over and over again.

Like:
Monsters, Inc.
Mike

Mike: “You’re in kindergarten, right? I used to love kindergarten. Best three years of my life.”

 

 

Toy Story

toy story

Mr. Potato Head: “Oh, really? I’m from Playskool.”

Rex: “And I’m from Mattel. Well, I’m not really from Mattel, I’m actually from a smaller company that was purchased by Mattel in a leveraged buyout.”

Buzz: “I’m setting my laser from stun to kill”

Woody:
“Oh great, great. Now if anyone attacks us, we can blink ’em to death”

Mr. Potato Head: “Oh my little sweet potato”

Mrs. Potato Head:
“….. oh it’s so nice to have a big strong spud around the house.”

Toy Story 3

Hamm: “Let’s go see how much we’re going for on Ebay!”

The Incredibles

incredibles

Helen: “I can’t believe you don’t want to go to your own son’s graduation.”
Bob: “It’s not a graduation. He is moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.”
Helen: “It’s a ceremony!”
Bob: “It’s psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity.”

I found myself saying “It’s not a graduation” when our kids “graduated from kindergarten.”

Some of these funny, adults-will-appreciate lines exist in picture books too. Here are a few:

In The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz

three ninja pigs

The Wolf looked quite shaken,
But hollered, “Yo, Bacon. I’m not at all scared of your tricks.”

 

The “Yo, bacon” part of this line is so funny and clever that I just want to read it over and over and over again.

In Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zeitlow Miller,

sophie

 

Sophie says, “I’ll call her Bernice.” In response, Sophie’s mother says, “I’ll call for pizza.”

Ha! When dinner plans go awry, doesn’t someone always call for pizza?

Sophie’s mother tells Sophie’s  father, “Well, we did hope she’d love vegetables.”

So, be careful what you ask for when you wish for your kids to love vegetables…

 Chicks Run Wild by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
chicks run wild
Mama shows them how to prance.

And how to do the chicken dance.

 


Which makes any mom that ever did the chicken dance smile and of course relive those moments with the song then engrained her mind. (pointing at self)
And…

One last kiss for each dear child.

She leaves the room…

and Mama runs wild!

Which means of course, doing her nails, reading a book and watching TV – exactly how a mom of 5 would go wild.

Nugget and Fang by Tammi Sauer

N & F

 

 

 

“The stuff on that poster isn’t true,” said Nugget. “My best friend is a shark!”
HAVE YOU LOST YOUR GILLS?
SHARKS AND MINNOWS CAN’T BE FRIENDS!
HELLO – SHARKS EAT MINNOWS!
Nugget was shocked . (And apparently delicious.)

Ok, maybe finding that last line funny is a bit sick, but I do. It’s funny!
And…

On Wednesday, Fang tried a different approach.
HE WANTS
TO EAT
YOU
FOR DINNER!
“Holy mackerel!” said Nugget.

So how funny is it that a fish is saying Holy mackerel?

When my kids were PB age (way back when) I recall reading the same book over and over and over again and I appreciated it when it was a book I enjoyed, one that was clever, and made me chuckle. When writing see if you can throw a brilliantly funny line in for your adult reader and gain a fan for life!
worm

Hooray for Girl Power

I love Disney movies – the old and the new. And I’m thrilled to see that over the years  Disney female characters such as Mulan, Jasmine and Elsa have become much stronger. They’re all still beautiful, (and of course, unfortunately, ridiculously skinny) but now they’re much more independent female role models.

But more needs to be done to advance the image of female characters, especially in this highly technological day in age. I often ask myself where are the films with the STEM-smart girls. I can find plenty of STEM-smart characters that are males, like genius Lewis in Meet the Robinsons, scientist Flint Lockwood in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and inventor Hiccup in How to Train your Dragon. Sure, Sam Sparks, played a meteorologist in Cloudy but she wasn’t the star of the movie. And then when Disney had their chance with Gabriella in High School Musical, Gabrielle called herself “the freaky math girl”…really? Although she did later go on to compete in the scholastic decathlon, those words, “the freaky math girl”  were still stuck in my mind :(

HSM

Smart, beautiful, talented and socially savvy, she ‘s an ideal STEM role model for young girls. But, put “freaky” in the equation and all is lost….

Even in the television series, Phineas and Ferb, Phineas and Ferb are the geniuses while Candace is portrayed as annoying, weak and whiny. Thankfully, Doc McStuffins came along giving kids not only a cute and smart female main character (and role model), but one that also represents diversity.

But now, finally hitting the big screen is Big Hero 6, where girls are portrayed as cute and super-smart, techy smart – and in the case of Honey Lemon, fashionable too, which will hopefully inspire young girls to view the STEM fields as inviting, exciting and cool!.

bighero6

Click the link below to catch the interview with Big Hero 6’s  Jamie Chung, voice of Superheroine GoGo Tomago, Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering Student, and Genesis Rodriguez, voice of Superheroine Honey Lemon, Chemical Engineering student, and find out how they feel about the amazing characters they play.

http://www.wzzm13.com/story/entertainment/2014/11/04/girl-power-big-hero-6/18460911/

Yay Disney!

 

 

Halloweensie contest

It’s time for Susanna Leonard Hill’s 4th Annual HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST!!!!!
The Contest:  write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words pumpkinbroomstick, and creak.

THE SQUEAK, THE CREAK & THE CAT by Dawn Young

In a haunted old house, a small mouse that went squeak

scurried about on a floor that went creak.

That creak woke the cat, all scraggly and black,

who wanted that mouse for his Halloween snack.

He chased that small mouse, while his claws sliced and slashed,

leaving the pumpkins all gutted and gashed.

That small harmless mouse, now ravenous too,

escaped up a broomstick and into some brew.

After a fizzle, a sizzle and BOOM,

out popped a mouse-monster as big as the room.

That beastly-like creature, eyeballing the cat,

swiped and then kitty just vanished…

like that.

Gulp!

Halloweensie