Monday, July 19, 2021

#IMWAYR/MMGM: Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea and The Explorer

It’s been a little while since I’ve made it to my computer to write up a middle grade review. We’ve had the usual end-of-the-school year busy-ness, and last week we went to visit some friends in Eastern Oregon.  Along the way, we stopped to see the beautiful Painted Hills (one of the seven wonders of Oregon!) and dug for fossils. Summer must include a few adventures!

The famous red hill from the Painted Hills.

Today, I wanted to share two summer reads with you. I read them awhile back, but they stayed with me. They both have adventures, perfect for summer. 

Synopsis for Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins (synopsis from the author’s website):

Alix and Jools are off on a family vacation. It’s their first vacation ever that isn’t about visiting relatives. And even though it’s also going to be the first time they see the ocean, in real life, Alix is pretty sure she knows what it will be like.

But of all the things that happen, not a single one is something she expected. Because you just never know what amazing thing will happen next.

I was a little unsure of this book at first because I wasn’t a huge fan of Perkin's Criss Cross, but I’m so glad I picked this one up. So many middle grades deal with things that couldn’t happen in real life, but this is a sweet read about the ordinary adventures of a family on vacation.

When my kids were younger, I often worried they were bored because we “only” went to the beach for vacation most summers and never anywhere exotic. This book is a good reminder that adventures can be had anywhere if you look for them.

Favorite quote: “They would do this for a week, then come back home and remember it forever.”

The Explorer by Kathleen Rundell (synopsis from Amazon):

From Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner Katherine Rundell comes an exciting new novel about a group of kids who must survive in the Amazon after their plane crashes.

Fred, Con, Lila, and Max are on their way back to England from Manaus when the plane they’re on crashes and the pilot dies upon landing. For days they survive alone, until Fred finds a map that leads them to a ruined city, and to a secret.

I picked this up because I have loved almost everything by this author, especially Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms and The Roofkeepers. The Explorer reminded me a little of Hatchet, but with a larger cast and an Amazon setting, including sloths and tarantulas. But what I liked best the theme of what makes someone an explorer. (It's not what you think.) This book would be perfect for animal lovers and kids who are interested in the Amazon rainforest.

What books have you loved lately?

 If you'd like to read more middle grade reviews or join in the MMGM fun, go to Greg Pattridge's Always in the Middle blog. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

ISWG: What Would Make You Quit?

This month's question: What would make you stop writing?

Note: This post is updated content from my June 7, 2017 ISWG post.

I have many different times in my life when I wanted to quit. The longest stretch was about twelve years ago. I had a lot going on in my personal life (my younger son required two surgeries within the space of a few months), and I’d gotten some discouraging feedback on a new project. I’ve since learned never to let anyone see my first drafts, but I didn’t know that then. I was so discouraged I set that book aside.

That’s when the writer's block started. For a few months, I just wrote, “I can’t write anything,” in my journal. At least I was writing words, right?

About five years ago, I almost quit again. I had gone back to work full-time after many years at as a stay-at-home mom. I didn't see where I could squeeze writing in. 

How did I find my way back?

Both times, I asked myself what I really wanted to write if I didn’t have to worry about anyone else reading it. This led me to tackling a YA retelling, a book of my heart. Now I'm working on a YA sci-fi I'm really excited about. Instead of writing for the market, I wrote just for me.

That book didn’t sell, but I got a lot of good feedback on it. It served its purpose though. I found my love of writing again. Because if I don’t enjoy writing, why am I doing this anyway?

I’ve since learned that I’m often most vulnerable to giving up when life presents me with a mix of writing obstacles and difficult life circumstances. But now dealing with those bad days or or months when writing comes harder is easier. I know they won’t last forever.

All I need to keep in mind is why I’m writing in the first place: What do I like to read? What do I like to write?

If that’s my focus, I won’t give up for long.

Is there anything that would make you quit writing?

What is Insecure Writer's Support Group?

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

 To see more IWSG posts, go here.