Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Everybody on the Bus for the Field Trip!

 By Charlotte Bennardo

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

No field trips because of Covid-19? That's not true! Okay, so you won't be going by bus, plane, train, or car, and your class, like you, are stuck at home. What to do?

Online Museum Tours 

Yep, online you can go anywhere! Check this out:


You are taking a tour of NASA's Langley Research Center in Ohio. How about NASA Glenn where you can tap into tours on various missions, shuttlecrafts, and scientists. 

Not really the science type? How about a visit to one of the most restricted places in the world, where you need a special appointment to see some of the worlds most priceless and exceptional art- the Vatican! You can see artworks most people will never get to see (unless they go online), the Sistine Chapel, and many other treasures.

Ever want to go to the the Smithsonian? Natural history, art, cultural items (like the Hope diamond), cool stuff like an Egyptian pyramid- you'll want to spend hours on the various different virtual tours.

Maybe you're not a big fan of history- how about the Google Art Project which is interactive and very, very cool. 

Other museums: the Louvre, the British Museum, National Women's History, the Guggenheim, the NY Metropolitan, the NFL, and World wide virtual tours like the Taj Mahal, Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame, the Museum of Flight, the Palace of Versailles, even the Great Wall of China and many national and world parks. 

You don't even have to pack a lunch or get out of your jammies while you take in so many interesting places. And don't let the links above be the last or only places you visit: search the internet for wherever it is you want to go or for whatever you want to see- and have a grand adventure!

Pantsing the Principal for the Win


When I wrote the Aleca Zamm series, I had a lot of fun coming up with crazy situations that could arise from a ten year old having the ability to stop time. But after a few school visits, I quickly learned that one scene stole the show.


In the first book in the series, Aleca uses her newfound ability to cut the mean principal's suspenders while time stands still. When time starts again, the principal's pants fall down, exposing his sailboat boxer shorts to the entire class. 

One school I visited asked each of the children to write me a note about their favorite part in the books. I'd say 90% mentioned the pants incident.


So this highly scientific study proves that if you want comedy gold, just pants the principal. 


(Offered with my apologies to all the nice principals out there.)


Ginger Rue's next book, Wonder Women of Science, is now available for pre-order. Co-authored with rocket scientist Tiera Fletcher, who is currently working with NASA on the Mars mission, the book profiles a dozen amazing women (besides Tiera!) who are blazing new trails in their respective STEM fields.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Where Do You Get Your Ideas? (Holly Schindler)

This is by far the most frequent question I get from students during any kind of Q&A.

The thing is, ideas are the easiest thing to come by. Ideas, in short, are everywhere.

Mostly, I think what they’re really asking is: How do you recognize an idea? How do you know it could actually be a book?

Adults ask the same thing, to be honest.

The best thing you can do is start to keep an idea journal.

Don’t worry about whether or not it’s big enough to be a book. Don’t worry about whether it’s been done before. Just write it down. All of it. Cool characters you meet in your daily life. Funny tidbits. Thoughts you had. Feelings. Places you went. Keep your notebook with you—in your purse or back pocket. Or type it into your phone (but be sure to put that file somewhere accessible—the whole point is not to lose it)!

Just write. Write it all. Play. Write titles. Write short poems. Play with what-ifs.

As you play with ideas, you’ll find some of them merge. Some of them follow a line of thought.

Some of them begin to form the outline of a story big enough to be a book.

And the beautiful part is, the more you write your ideas, the more you play with ideas, the more you’ll realize: ideas really are everywhere.

Friday, October 23, 2020

The Treasure Between Your Lines: Smack Dab in the Imagination by Dia Calhoun

 When I am stuck in a novel or want to delve deeper into a scene, I often crack open a new direction by imagining what is happening between my sentences. 

First, using the computer, I put each existing sentence in a scene or a description on a separate line. Then I add spacing between the sentences. Then I print it out. 

After reading a sentence, I imagine what is unsaid, hinted at, left out. I imagine who or what else might be speaking. I use that ancient, old-fashioned tool called a pencil, and start writing. I do that for each sentence--sometimes even between words in a sentence.

This process helps me bypass my over-rational, limited, conscious self and delve deeper into my unconscious. I have no expectations for what "should" happen between the sentences. I don't follow plot or character arcs; nothing is planned.

Often I find one nugget, a bit of description or dialogue for example, that opens up my ideas about the story or character. Sometimes this even leads to a revelation.

Give it a try. What treasure may be lurking between your lines?

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Interview with Lamar Giles, author of THE LAST MIRROR ON THE LEFT


Today, we’re joined by Lamar Giles, author of THE LAST MIRROR ON THE LEFT. I (Holly Schindler, administrator of Smack Dab) was delighted to get my hands on a copy of MIRROR. I absolutely loved THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER, and I was anxious to find out where Giles would take the characters and story. He absolutely did not disappoint:


HS: THE LAST MIRROR ON THE LEFT is such a fun time travel / alternate dimension read. Please tell us a bit about Warped World.


LG: The Warped World is where you go when you step through the interdimensional funhouse mirror inside of The Rorrim Mirror Emporium. Much like a funhouse mirror distorts your characteristics in extreme ways, the residents of Warped World exist as extreme versions of characters you might’ve met in The Last Last-Day-of-Summer. And if you stay there long enough, you might begin to change in some extreme ways, too.


HS: Would you consider this a sequel, or a standalone featuring two characters we were lucky to meet previously?


LG: Definitely a sequel. I’m really big on treating the fictional spaces I write about as snapshots of a living universe. So, decisions made in book 1 can’t be separated from how the characters think and act in book 2. Could someone pick up Last Mirror and enjoy it without reading Last Last Day, possibly…but I think they’ll find the story richer if they’ve been on Otto and Sheed’s previous adventure.


HS: Was it hard to find the right tone / groove for these characters? How hard was it to return to the right mindset?


LG: Not at all. It’s harder for me to get out of the wacky adventure mindset required for an Otto and Sheed adventure than get into it. I always want to exist in a world of fantastic magic where you meet new and amazing friends that fight for right alongside you. Writing Otto and Sheed is often how I wash away some of the ickiness we deal with in the real world.


HS: What's it been like working with illustrator Dapo Adeola? 


LG: A dream. I mean, you’ve seen his work, so you know the skill and quality you’re getting. But Dapo is also a lovely human being that I can spend hours talking to. In fact, when we do talk, it’s rarely about work because we’re both professionals who respect what the other brings to the table, that part is more like I do my thing, and he does his. When we talk it’s about movies, comics, and TV we’re enjoying. And how I have a guest room ready for him whenever he decides to visit the States (he’s based in London).


HS: I'm constantly amazed and your ability to write adventure. When THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER came out, we talked about writing action scenes. This time around, can you offer some advice for plot structure and adventure?


LG: I wish I had some really groundbreaking take on how to adventure, but I keep coming back to something one of my writing mentors told me years ago…don’t stay in the same place for too long. That means if you’re in an action scene, end it and give the reader a break. If you’re in a slow moment, make sure something fast is around the corner. If the character is thinking, make sure they’re going to talk soon. If they’re talkative, be sure to eventually describe a significant sight, sound, taste or smell that they’re experiencing between breaths. Instinctively learn when and how to switch gears and you’re writing page turners.


HS: This book has some great humor as well! How do you approach humor when writing for kids?


LG: I honestly don’t think of it as writing humor for kids. I’m writing the things I think are funny and would’ve thought was funny when I was Otto and Sheed’s age. I believe if I went into thinking I’m going to write this joke/gag that I think a young reader will find funny but isn’t really funny to me, it would fall flat. So, the first laugh I’m going for is my own. I just happen to think me and my readers would find a lot of the same stuff hilarious.


HS: Where'd you get the idea for Warped World?


LG: Warped World felt like a—this may sound funny, but—LOGICAL (as much as anything in Logan County can be) progression from the concept of a “Mirror Prison” introduced in The Last Last Day of Summer. Once I went down the path of mirrors being things you could pass through, it made me think of how different mirrors can be. There are several in my house that are different shapes and sizes, though those all do the same thing—reflect what’s in front of them—it seemed reasonable it wouldn’t work that way in Missus Nedraw’s shop. What if the size and shape and frame of a mirror indicated the sort of passage it was? Once I went there, I thought, “Oh…what about a funhouse mirror?”


HS: What bigger message do you want kids to get from MIRROR?


LG: First of all, fun. I want my readers to have a good time…while considering how the justice system works differently for different people, and how there have been instances where folks who make the rules our society lives by have considered themselves above the standards they enforce, or worse, they simply punish others for personal gain. In other words, consider why the rule exists and who made it before you determine who should or shouldn’t be held accountable for breaking it.


HS: Will we get to meet up with these characters again?


LG: We most certainly will. I don’t know exactly how much I’m allowed to say about the future of our heroes and their friends, but there will definitely be another Otto and Sheed adventure soon. Stay tuned for the scoop on what’s happening in and around Logan County next.



I absolutely cannot wait for the next installment. This would make a fantastic “classroom” book, reglardless of what your classroom looks like this year: kitchen table, bedroom, under a tree, virtual setting, etc.


Catch up with Giles at his author author site, and be sure to snag a copy of THE LAST MIRROR ON THE LEFT!