It Came to Me in a Dream: An Unusual Plotting Technique (Guest Post with Darlene Beck Jacobson, author of Wishes, Dares, and How to Stand Up To a Bully

Hi Holly. Thanks so much for having me on your wonderful blog to talk about my new book WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY and how it was plotted.

WoCCover01Usually, when it comes to plotting a novel, I struggle with getting it all to come out the way I envision. I have a strong beginning and knowledge of how I expect it to end. It’s what comes in between that throws me for a loop. I’ll write down possible scenes, things the character(s) need to do or potential conflicts that could arise. Most of the plot ideas that end up staying in the story are ones that I discovered after many revisions.

I expect there are many of us out there with this same kind of problem.

For my new novel in verse WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY, plotting was a totally different animal. The main character Jack spoke to me in a voice so loud and clear. He was insistent that I tell his story the way he spoke it, which turned out to be free verse. So, instead of plotting what might happen, I began to compile a list of words that would spark a conversation between Jack and me. (The title for the story at this stage was Fish, Wish, and Other Four Letter Words…hence the list of four-letter words).

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Each day I’d sit down with the list, choose a word and let Jack tell me his thoughts on it. The list expanded as we got further into the story and the final version that became the book veered from the strict four letter word format. But that list is the plot, sure and true. Every crossed out word is a poem in the story. I am so intrigued by this idea, that I am ruminating on another story in verse and have started compiling my list of words.

 

Book Cover Blurb:

Wishes, Dares and How to Stand Up to a Bully. The novel in verse crystallizes a boy’s worries about his father, who is MIA in Vietnam, and how his family, new best friend, and a bully unexpectedly help him find the courage to do the right thing, not just the easy thing.

 

Wishes, Dares, and How to Stand Up to a Bully(review from Forward Magazine)

Darlene Beck-Jacobson

Creston Books (Apr 7, 2020)

Hardcover $17.99 (275pp)

978-1-939547-62-0

In Darlene Beck-Jacobson’s poignant novel in verse, Wishes, Dares, and How to Stand Up to a Bully, a boy copes with the absence of his father, who is missing in action during the Vietnam War.

Eleven-year-old Jack, with his mother and his sister, Katy, spends the summer at his grandparents’ home. When he and Katy catch a one-eyed fish, they see it is as lucky; they make a wish on it to have pancakes for dinner. When the wish comes true, they wonder if the fish really is magical.

 

Jack relates the incident to his friend, Jill, who decides to catch the fish again. She wishes that her bully of a brother, Cody, would leave them alone, but her wish has different results. Meanwhile, Jack reads his father’s childhood diary, hoping that it contains clues about what makes a good wish so that he can make the perfect one and bring his father home. Discussions about wishes overlay the ways that the children work through their complicated situations. Its free verse lines crafted with care and concision, the book captures Jack’s emotions, and his 1960s small town setting, because of its sharp attention to detail. References to John F. Kennedy, John Glenn, and Joe DiMaggio round out the period, and the shadow of the war hangs over everything. Still, the children roam unsupervised—fishing, biking, and camping—in a world that is otherwise familiar and safe. They’re dealing with serious issues all the while, from Jill and Cody’s abusive stepfather to Jack and Katy missing their father. By the end, they have all developed the courage and strength to deal with their struggles.

 

A historical childhood fantasy in verse, Wishes, Dares, and How to Stand Up to a Bully blends light summer fun with deep emotional challenges.

 

CATHERINE THURESON (March / April 2020)

 

BIO:

author pic 1Darlene Beck Jacobson is a former teacher and speech therapist who has loved writing since she was a girl.  She is also a lover of history and can often be found mining dusty closets and drawers in search of skeletons from her past. She enjoys adding these bits of her ancestry to stories such as her award-winning middle grade historical novel WHEELS OF CHANGE (Creston 2014) and WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston 2020).

Darlene lives and writes her stories in New Jersey with her family and a house full of dust bunnies. She’s caught many fish, but has never asked one to grant her a wish. She’s a firm believer in wishes coming true, so she tries to be careful what she wishes for.

Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts, articles on nature, book reviews, and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators.
www.darlenebeckjacobson.com

Twitter: @DBeckJacobson

darlenejacobson13@gmail.com

 

ISBN: 978-1-939547-62-0

 

View the previous post in the tour (March 30):

http://www.robinnewmanbooks.wordpress.com

 

The next stop: https://viviankirkfield.com/

TO ORDER:

Amazon

B&N

 

Kids, Quarantines, and Things To Do In Isolation

FREE – for a limited time!

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Got kids at home? I’ve got a fun project…

For those who have kids at home–spring break, Coronavirus, etc.–I’ve made the deluxe edition of my Invent Your Own Superhero writing journal FREE.

It’s been a rough time for all of us, especially with concerns about large crowds. Many of us have delayed travel, seen our own sporting events or get-togethers canceled. We’re all looking for something fun to do at home.

So I’ve made my Invent Your Own Superhero free for a limited time. Grab a copy and spend a day at the kitchen table, creating wild superhero stories!

Purchase Links:
Amazon
B&N
Apple Books
Kobo

Please spread the word (best thing to spread right now, eh?)–and as always, consider leaving a review when you’re done!

Happy Writing!

DELUXE SUPERHERO WRITING JOURNAL

 

I’m delighted to announce a deluxe edition to my writing guide, INVENT YOUR OWN SUPERHERO, is now available on Amazon as an e-book and paperback.

What makes it deluxe?
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A new cover! This one’s brighter, and features a wider array of kids’ faces. I wanted to make sure all kids had a better chance to see themselves represented on the cover.

The deluxe edition still uses the superhero story structure to hook kids on writing. I’ve included all the same story prompts to introduce young writers to concepts like protagonists and antagonists, conflict, backstory, etc.

In this edition, I’ve also included the full text of my own original superhero story:

THE ADVENTURES OF SUPER SUSAN

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I invented (and illustrated) this character when I was a young author: a hero with superhuman kindness!

 

I dusted off the Super Susan character and wrote a new story featuring her last year. (I felt that nothing was quite as timely as a hero whose superpower was kindness!)

The deluxe edition includes reading questions that illustrate how the concepts introduced in the superhero journal come into play in Susan’s tale. It proves all those prompts and concepts really do gel into a single cohesive story.

Susan’s story and the reading questions will help young authors who have worked their way through journal prompts but still aren’t quite sure what to do with all the ideas they’ve brainstormed.

The deluxe edition truly is two books in one! Part fiction, part how-to…and the supplemental reading questions help tie the whole thing together.

Great for classrooms or individual use, the book will be available in wide-release. If you’re a wholesaler, it will also be available via Ingram. You can snag an e-book or paperback at Amazon now.

NEWS, NEWS, NEWS – REVIEWERS NEEDED!

I feel like I’ve been posting incessantly about copyediting and polishing…now, I’m finally ready to start talking about publishing!

I’ve got a couple different projects–for two different age groups–about to release.

ADULT

The first is an adult general fiction novel. I’ve been working on this one in fits and spurts for more than a year. I know, I know–on blogs and on social media, us writers (yep, myself included) have always had a tendency to slobber over pending releases like proud parents. How many times have you heard all of us proclaim, “This is the book of my heart!”?? I’ll soooo be guilty of this if I spend too much time describing the work. (In fact, that sentence popped into my head as I started to write this post.) I’ll just say here I’m really excited about this one. I’ve experimented slightly with overall structure, and my main characters are again somewhat non-traditional.

I’m also looking to expand my pool of reviewers. I’ll be distributing my initial review copies through my newsletter. I hope you sign up for my adult newsletter–which will also provide early cover reveals, etc.–here.

MG

The second soon-to-release book is a new MG work. It’s a blend of fiction and how-to; if you’re a teacher or tutor or a parent who knows you’ll soon be looking for something to keep your kids’ minds engaged over the summer months, I hope you’ll sign up for my MG-specific newsletter. Again, I’m looking to expand my pool of reviewers, and I’ll be offering opportunities for newsletter subscribers to get their hands on a copy for review. Sign up for the MG newsletter here.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION: SUPERFAIL

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I’m officially in love with this book!

SUPERFAIL:

Laser vision isn’t so hot when you’re cross-eyed, and supersonic flight’s a real downer when motion sickness keeps you grounded.

Twelve-year-old Marshall Preston is a Defective–a person with superhuman abilities that are restricted by some very human setbacks. While other kids are recruited to superhero teams, Marshall’s stuck in seventh grade with a kid who can run at super speed but can’t turn a corner, another with a radioactive peanut allergy that turns him into a swollen Hulk, and a telepath who reads everyone’s thoughts out loud.

Defectives like Marshall aren’t exactly superhero material, but when he uncovers a plot to destroy one of the greatest superhero teams of all time, Marshall and his less-than-super friends set out to prove that just because you’re defective doesn’t mean you can’t save the day.
~

Illustrated by a Disney animator, SUPERFAIL has such great visual appeal. It’ll immediately suck in any comic book reader. I couldn’t resist snapping a pic of one of my favorite spreads (love his Vans):

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Also, I love the fact that SUPERFAIL isn’t purely a graphic novel; rather than relying only on conversation bubbles, the book includes paragraphs of text, making it perfect for the reader you’d like to edge closer to non-illustrated books:

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This pic’s a little dark, because I might still read under the covers. 😉

And it comes with an uplifting, feel-good story to boot! Highly recommended for those looking for gift books for young readers. Grab your own copy of SUPERFAIL.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION: THE GREAT CAT NAP

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Humor and intrigue aside, A.M. Bostwick’s penchant for literary description is spectacular.

My favorite passage opens chapter one:

“Outside the double pane window, leaves grew crispy and dry in the cold autumn wind. Their pigment was fading, transforming to crimson, copper, and gold. The wind shook the leaves loose and they fell below the barren branches. It was a beautiful way to die.”

What a tale! What a detective! What a cat! (Yes, cat. I’m a total sucker for animal narrators.)

Grab a copy of Bostwick’s THE GREAT CAT NAP.

NEW RELEASE: NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID

I am a lifelong music nut. SERIOUS nut. Most of the time, I think I’d rather have music than food.

tesla

In fact, this picture offers a bit of proof—that’s me, in about 1992, with a member of Tesla (who’s in the midst of signing his autograph). Because in addition to seeing as many concerts as I possibly could, I also used to do my fair share of autograph hunting—anything to get just a little bit closer to my favorite musicians. As many of you already know, I even taught piano and guitar lessons as I was drafting my earliest manuscripts—and my students actually inspired me to write for younger readers.

As an old literature major, I’m also a poetry nut. I’ve hung out at as many poetry readings as I have concert doors—but for some reason, it never crossed my mind to get a shot taken with, say, Miller Williams (Clinton’s second inaugural poet) when I heard him read his work.

My latest release, a picture book for more advanced readers entitled NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID, combines my lifelong loves of music and poetry:

katycover4

ROCK STARS ARE COOL. SO IS POETRY.

Saturday night just isn’t Saturday night without Katy Did and The Antennas. At least, until a rotten review leaves Katy’s bandmates thinking maybe they could do better with another singer.

What’s a Katy Did to do when she’s been dumped for a Songbird?
~
Featuring a main character who is both literally a katydid insect and the singer in her own band, NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID offers a story of perseverance and finding beauty in unexpected places as well as a fun, attention-grabbing way to introduce young readers to formal poetry. The book itself is a villanelle, a type of poetry that features refrains that repeat throughout—much like the chorus in a rock song. Great for classroom use and for readers in the fourth to sixth grade. Sheets in the back of the book walk budding poets through writing their own first villanelle.

Why a villanelle?

It’s not as frequently studied as some other poetic forms, especially in the elementary levels. I find it’s a form not usually discussed much until high school, actually, when students read Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night,” arguably the most famous or most recognizable villanelle ever written.

Don’t worry—it’s not too sophisticated.

Kids in this age group (about 9-12) are straddling the line between childhood and slightly more grown-up interests. That’s why this book (which is, from front to back, a single villanelle) is also a picture book, featuring both photographic and illustrative elements—and a katydid lead singer with bright red hair, no less!

The Importance of Poetry

I was so delighted to see Tracy K. Smith (our current poet laureate) on CBS This Morning, discussing the accessibility of poetry. I also believe that poetry is what our youngest readers naturally gravitate toward. And yet, somewhere along the way, readers become intimidated by it. It’s my hope that NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID helps to continue to make formal poetry both accessible and fun for your young readers.

Snag a Copy

NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback. For those who incorporate the book into their own classroom or library activities, I can always be reached at hollyschindlerbooks@gmail.com for Skype visits.

Sneak Peek:

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FORTHCOMING: NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID

katycover4As a lifelong music nut, this forthcoming book has truly been a passion project. NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID is actually a “rock poem.” Not unlike the verse novels that have swelled in popularity over the past few years, NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID employs poetry rather than prose, telling a story of preservation and recognizing beauty in somewhat unexpected places using the form of the villanelle—a type of formal poetry.

NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID is perfect for classroom use. The message is uplifting, the music theme attention-grabbing. (The book is also populated by an anthropomorphic rock band. At the 4th-6th grade level, I find kids are really straddling the line between not quite wanting to let go of their youthful interests—cartoons, comics, etc.—even as they’re adding a few older interests, like music, into the mix.) NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID also introduces young readers to a type of formal poetry not frequently addressed in elementary classrooms. The end of the book provides example worksheets for students to craft their own villanelle.

NOBODY SANG LIKE KATY DID will be releasing soon—be sure to sign up for my picture book and / or MG newsletters to get the official date. (I’ll be making the announcement through both, as this book is both short and illustrated.)

Picture Book Newsletter

MG Newsletter

WHEN YOU SEE YOUR BOOK ON TV

Or, at least, Youtube…

I think all writers have been there: you’ve got this fantastic idea for a novel, when suddenly, you glance up from your laptop in time to watch a trailer from a movie that’s describing your current WIP to a T. Or, you take a break from your project to hit the library, only to pull an already-published work from the shelf that tackles the same subject you were hoping to explore (proving, perhaps, there are no original ideas).

I recently saw one of my own ideas on TV…only this time, it was a little different…

My MG ALEXANDER AND THE AMAZING WIDE-AWAKE features, in part, a made-up sport: Sockball. It’s a bit of a twist on dodgeball, and the most important rule indicates that no one’s allowed to wear shoes of any kind. Alexander, the MC, is in charge of getting his school’s team together. Prevent them from falling, as they always seem to, into an unorganized heap on the gym floor. (Try as they might, they just can’t seem to figure out how to stay upright in their socks!)

Enter Lexie Vaught, a local basketball player who lost her shoe during a game last month. The clip of what happened post-shoe went viral, as even the clip below says, for it’s “bloopery” qualities, but I could hardly believe it…What I’d envisioned when my fictional team played a fictional sport was actually happening in real-life!

Maybe that’s stranger than fiction…