Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Surf's Up!

Soccer, surf, and taking in the coast at Dana Point, California. A Thanksgiving tournament that was a lot of fun with friends.  Good job to the Infinity Girls U16 soccer team!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Top 5 reasons to love St. George in October.

1. Warm weather! After missing out on the sunny skies last weekend due to a video project that came up, I was rewarded with great weather for the last weekend of the month. It worked out perfectly since Eric was playing baseball all weekend.

2. Palm trees. Life can't be too bad, when you've got palm trees right outside the hotel room door.

3. Kneaders! Need I say more? The boys were treated to their first Kneaders soups and sandwiches. YUM!

4. 50% on Saturday nights at Kneaders. Yes, we returned for dinner here on the second night. I asked the cashier if he'd rung up the bill wrong, because it seemed way too low.... but surprise, surprise! It was 50% off! We immediately ordered seconds on dessert.

5. Finding a reason NOT to give up chocolate. ...At least, Kneader's chocolate.... After giving up beer and then coffee this year, I thought I might be ready to add chocolate to the list. But then I had one of those chocolate mint brownies from Kneaders. My son had ordered it, and I tasted it--reluctantly, because I wasn't sure I'd like it. Wham! I was wrong. Now I know what heavenly chocolate should taste like. And the timing couldn't be better, because all those Hershey's treats waiting to be given out at the door tonight definitely don't measures up. Woot!

6. Okay, so I know I was only going to give 5 reasons to like St. George, but here's another: scary movies to entertain us at night in the hotel room. Tis the season.

Trick or Treat!
Happy Halloween!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Moose!!! Or, Batty Moosen!!!

My youngest son captured this photo while standing on the roof of my truck. Meanwhile, my other son and daughter warned us of the dangers of unpredicatable, charging meeses, or mooses, or specifically, the moosen we were capturing with our digital camera.

But he and I feared not.

As far as mooses go, this was a small moose.

And as far the English language goes, I think it needs to take care of words like moose, which for some reason don't like to be associated with plurals. If I had followed the rules, I would have repeated the word moose far too many times in the paragraphs above, driving my readers batty.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On Setting, as it relates to: Living, Loving New Hampshire Again

My summer vacation with the kids was truly incredible. It was wonderful to connect with family and friends. The days were so full of sunshine, sailing, boating, fishing, and swimming, it was amazing to think I actually found time to sit back and relax in one place from time to time and simply enjoy the scenery.

Yet, even in those quiet moments, I was reminded of how when we settle down and be still, the world continues to move and breathe and fill in all the spaces around us with some form of energy, however subtle that may be.

The same can be said for writing, or more specifically, for writing about settings. (Yes, I always try to connect my posts to the subject). In a previous post, I said that a story is lost without a sense of setting. However, a setting is not simply colors and temperatures and textures and sounds. It's not enough to say, "The ridge was lined with green trees."

It's important that the setting be layered with a sense of movement, or energy.

Avi begins The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle with a setting that moves with the character:

Just before dusk in the late afternoon of June 16, 1832, I found myself walking along the crowded docks of Liverpool, England, following a man by the name of Grummage.

In Drowning Ruth, Christina Schwarz's setting seems nearly alive:

Lakes were scattered all over this part of the country, their outlines different, but their innards just the same. They were drops and drips and splashes on the land. They were holes and craters lined with skin too thin to hold back the springs that rushed to fill them, and most of them were dotted here and there with stubborn little islands, knobs of land that refused to dip their heads under water.

Good stories are written with settings that carry their own form of action, their own essense of life. In the real world, in nature, we become unsettled when something goes wrong, when the world becomes suddenly still--like the calm before the storm, causing us to stop, step back, and wonder what has happened.

Likewise, a reader can be thrown out of a story, or become disengaged, when the setting is too quiet, or too stark, or too absent (unless that in itself is part of the storyline). If too much is missing, if the reader doesn't become connected with a living world inside a book--one that moves and pulses with energy--then the reader isn't likely to stay too long. They'll wonder what is wrong, and perhaps, if they can't connect on a personal level with the character, they may walk away and connect with the energy of another.

I'm happy to say, my vacation, with all the combined energies of the quiet and action-packed moments, was far too hard to walk away from. But it's one that I can relive in the memories again and again.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Details Matter for Setting a Sense of Place

I started carrying my camera a while ago, not wanting another moment to go by where I'd find myself wishing I had it with me. Today, the tumultuous sky captured the attention of my daughter and I.

I believe that in the deepest sense of being alive, whether each of us realizes it or not, we are connected to the world around us--both biologically and spiritually. That is why we're drawn to the outdoors--to watch and to experience what nature has to offer. And that is why we are drawn to books and to stories--to connect with something outside ourselves and to deepen our understanding of what it means to exist.

Creating a setting is one of the most important aspects of creating a story. It gives a foundation that readers can connect to. It the is foothold that keeps both your plot moving along. Without it, your characters and your readers can be left adrift, lost, and without balance. And when key aspects are missing from your setting, their absence echoes.

This spring, with the unusual weather, the absence of one of nature's pivotal species--the director of new life--has been sharply brought to my attention.... Bumblees.

The bees are gone. They have been missing from my yard. Whether it be due to the long, rainy spring we've had or disease, I'm not sure; but their gentle flitting among flowers has been missed.

Thus, I've been reminded. Details matter. Even the faint buzzing of a bumblebee--or, lack thereof--doesn't go unnoticed, both in stories and in life.

So, in both places, take care to not overlook the small stuff.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Trolling Deeper Waters, Pelican-style

Pelicans "hunt" for fish in much the same way that sheepdogs herd sheep. They swim together, fanning out in a line, which spooks the fish into swimming ahead of them. The pelicans continue swimming forward, herding the fish into shallower waters where the pelicans can scoop them up into their expandable bills. I love pelicans! And I'm so happy we have a flock nesting in Cache Valley this year.

But of course, I'm not just a pelican lover, I'm a writer, and so now, I'll connect the dots between these two, because there's a lot to be learned from these magnificent birds.

Re-writing or editing a novel can be a lot like fishing, pelican-style. You swim over the surface of your story, checking plot, sharpening your characters, defining their motives, while herding the entire story into the shallows. Doing so allows you to focus in on what you've been mining for all along, the underlying message you really want your story to say, the emotional connection that feeds readers and keeps them connected.

Herding the "meat" of your story takes patience; it takes time; it might even take a little team work from your critique group; but it is entirely necessary for bringing up the treasures lying beneath the surface.

And if you do your job right, perhaps those treasures will even take flight.

Happy writing everyone!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Challenge for the Week....

Do something different, something you wouldn't ordinarily do, just for the heck of it.

What have you got to lose?

Not the experience. That, you get to take with you.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Photo - Op with a Star (sort of)

How many times do you get to have your picture taken with a movie star?

For me? Never.

Until today. A day that will go down in history for the celebration of birthdays.

Because today, I got my picture taken with Tina's son, Elvis.

You remember Tina.... The llama from Napolean Dynamite?

She was great. Is great. And I got to meet her son, Elvis. He's a new neighbor of mine.

Isn't he cute?

I had to duck, because he was getting ready to spit on me. I'm sure it was a friendly birthday kind-of-spit,... because I told him it was my birthday.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

famous last words...

Can you guess which movies this line is from?

My, what big eyes you have....

I've actually been looking forward to this movie, so I hope the writing and desire to stick to the original story doesn't make it as ridiculous as the new trailer leads me to believe. It IS supposed to be a thriller, right? Not comedy?

I think most people know what the classic story of Little Red Riding Hood is about, so I fear that lines like "My, what big ears you have.... and My, what big eyes you have.... are just going to put me over the edge, because WHO talks like that in a creeeeeepy forest?

Maybe I'll just watch the movie with earplugs, because the visuals look pretty intense.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Picture book marathon

I have learned a lot on this month's journey. It occurred to me during a discussion about chordates in my Biology class the other day that I've also learned a lot about the nature of things from reading and writing. Specifically, from the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, I learned that you don't need to have a brain in order to learn how to use one. So that's it! Perhaps this organ between my ears is a stumbling block.

JK ; )

Thus, the latest picture book from the mixed up files of Shaunda Wenger

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Picture Book Marathon

I am floating somewhere in the midst of the middle of the marathon, realizing I may only finish a half-marathon, but I'm totally digging that, especially since this month's running has been piggy-backed with the release of The Ghost in Me, and readying the release of Little Red Riding Hood, Into the Forest Again. It's been busy. And Little Red would be ready to go, but I need to find a pdf conversion program that will not compress the resolution of my images inside the book to a quality that is lower than 300dpi. (IF ANYONE has any SUGGESTIONS on this, please send them my way. I would be so appreciative!)

Aside from that FRUSTRATION, I'm completely thrilled with the picture books I have drafted so far, and can't wait until I can dive into creating them sometime in the next couple months!

I have so much going on right now in my life, it is crazy! I hope someday I feel like I'm getting it all done.

Love you all,

Monday, February 14, 2011

Picture Book Marathon

Given the hour, I'm not sure what day it is in the picture book marathon.  Today, I didn't get a new pb written, but I did work on revising the proof copy of Little Red Riding Hood: Into the Forest Again. This is a chapter book for ages 7-10, and I'm hoping it will be ready for publication by the middle of March.

Little Red Riding Hood was a favorite bedtime story of mine when I younger. I loved Little Red's bravery as she set out to walk throught the forest by herself to visit her grandmother. This sequel came to me one sunny winter's day in February 2007. I loved all of the characters as they met Little Red, but Big Bad surprised me the most.

Here is the cover, based on today's changes. It shows both the back and front sides of the cover.

Other than that, I am so amazed at the talent and skill of other Utah authors and illustrators. Julie Olsen and Will Terry announced the release of a new picture book as an application for ipad and iphone users that allows the interactive viewing of children's picture books. I'm so impressed with the direction that digital books are taking. This is yet another way to enjoy literature, while embracing the world's expansion into new technologies. Check this app out at http://www.jujubeeillustrations.com/. I bet this will be a much-loved application of parents who travel with toddlers, but want to lighten their load with the books/entertainment they carry.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 3 for Me. Picture Book Marathon

Another day near done. Here is part-word, part-photo essay of the day's and past week's events.

Started another pb, and will finish it tonight, then write the other that just popped into my head.

After the catastrophe of dropping my paper with my handwritten story in the puddle, I switched to creating little 32-page booklets, that I scribble my text out on. It's working great actually, because I can see the structure of the book in my hands as it unfolds with each page-turn, and it helps keep the word-count to a minimum, since my page space is only about 5x5inches.

Shot a video of Judy Torres reading her book, Duck, Duck, Moose, to some school kids today. It went great! The kids loved it. The teachers loved it. "Book Trailers R Us" is the next venture. ; )

A few days ago, I was lured to the side of the road--or rather, the side of a speedy highway--to capture this photo of some hopeful, patient ducks. At first, I thought they might be waiting for the ice to thaw, but perhaps they are waiting for the fish to bite?... Ice fishing, anyone?

The rest of my week and the days to come is recorded in a list a that is five pages long. Yes, that's my to-do list. I'm getting thru it, bit by bit, but I also have always been good at cramming, especially when it comes to crunch time.

For now, I'm just fueling the muse with chocolate, as shown by the wrappers piling up on my desk...

Happy writing everyone!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My 2nd Day of the Picture Book Marathon

If you are a writer, who strays from the computer and scribbles your ideas out on paper, then you need to read this bit of advice.

Do not use felt-tip pens.

Mine was part of a set of 4 that I got as a Christmas gift. I thought they were so neat. That colorful set of four: black, red, green, blue. So, of course, when I sat down to write my first pb for the marthon, I turned to this thoughtful gift.

Unfortunately, the ink of this thoughtfut gift runs right off the paper, if you happen to be rushing into work and your paper that holds your new story, that you shoved into your notebook, falls out of that notebook in the midst of all your rushing and lands in a puddle. A deep, dark, wet puddle.

And stays in that puddle all day, because you are inside working, where you should be, and even end up staying after-hours, because that is what you do when students ask for extra help, and you don't return to your vehicle until the end of the day and find that paper soaked all the way thru, with a few hints of that coloful, red ink blotching up the edges. It even tears in half when you try to pick it up, because it is drenched and would prefer to stay stuck to the pavement where it has been laying for 7 hours....

7 hour-work-day. Rough, I know. I shouldn't complain.

I don't. And I didn't, because this is how life works for me.

So, I did my best to pick up the sopping paper that once held the words to my story, and put all three pieces of it in the back of my car, because I don't litter, and headed home, and sat down, and rewrote my story.

The good news? I think I like it even better the second time around!

Now I just have to find a safe place to put the paper that it's written on....

And the funny thing is, the title still includes the word, CAUTION!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Picture Book Marathon

I told myself I would do this event this year. Despite crazy hectiness (yes, that is my new word, in the spirit of picture book creativeness (another new word), I finally made it to the starting line. Last night I woke a little after midnight with 3 ideas rattling my brain. I had told myself I had to wait until Monday (today) to start, so at 1:30 in the morning I got out of bed and started writing. I'm so excited to be digitally and spiritually connected to so many wonderful people--especially those who love to create books for children.

This year's logo for the marathon was designed by author-illustrator crazy-man Nathan Hale. Isn't it cool? His website has tons of fun stuff, so if you want to check it out, visit http://www.spacestationnathan.com/

As far as my tally on pb so far, my first picture book is based on the word, Caution. Don't know if that's a good sign or not. We'll see!