NaNoWriMo or Not?

As many of you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month. (Note:  the link may not work for a few days as the website is being prepared.) Thousands of people from over the globe lock themselves to their computers and write at least 50,000 words towards a novel. The excitement towards the end of October is palpable. It is like being at the start of a horse race, ready for the bell to go off. The horses are dancing and pawing, the riders are tense. Everyone is talking in excited whispers. It is a thrill!

If you are thinking about joining in, but aren’t sure, I’ll share some of my own NaNoWriMo musings.

5 great reasons to participate:

1. The feeling of being part of a huge community of writers all trying to accomplish the same goal in their own way is exhilarating. Trying to do the seemingly impossible adds to the adrenaline rush.

2. If you are lucky, you will find writing time in nooks and crannies of your day where you hadn’t considered to look. You may push yourself to new word counts at rates you never thought possible. The cool badges put your word counts out there for everyone to see.

3. You may learn more about your craft. If you have never written a novel before, you will definitely learn more about crafting a plot, developing characters, dialogue and hundreds of other writing intangibles, such as the fact your characters will develop minds of their own and fly off in unexpected ways.

4. You create your very own novel!

5. NaNoWriMo may lead to many positive outcomes, regardless of what happens with your novel. In my case, I started a personal blog to record my thoughts on the writing process as I went along (you can find a link to it on the about page of this blog). That personal blog developed into Wrapped In Foil, through which I have “met” many fine people in the kidlitosphere. It would not have happened if I hadn’t participated in NaNoWriMo.

You never know where it will take you.

Although participating in NaNoWriMo may be glamorous and fun, there are many solid reasons not to participate:

1. You might want to give it a miss if adult fiction is not your genre. There are a few attempts to create children’s literature-friendly versions of NaNoWriMo, but let’s face it, different genre’s require varied writing skills. The ability to write children’s picture books is more the ability to distill and weed out words rather than write prolifically. In my case, I am committed to children’s nonfiction, rather than adult fiction.

2. Your family members need those essentials, such as a roof over their head, nutrition and hygiene. If participating in NaNoWriMo is going to compromise your ability to provide those, well, enough said.

3. You have other projects that will take you further if you were to complete them. Go for those instead. Finishing that PhD thesis? Yes, that might be more important.

4. Your novel requires a lot of research to provide historical or scientific accuracy. One month is not enough time to do hordes of research and write too, even with Google. Go for the quality, not the quantity.

5. This isn’t the “write” year. Give yourself a break. or find challenges that are more in step with what is going on in your life. Another writing activity to consider is National Blog Posting Month, or maybe you want to do a reading challenge instead. Sometimes knowing your limits is more important than testing them.

NaNoWriMo or not? What do you think?

Anything But Typical


A middle-grade fiction book about a 12-year-old boy with autism doesn’t necessarily sound like a must read, but Anything But Typical is never what you expect. If you know someone with autism, you have to read this book. If you are interested in the craft of writing, you have to read this book. If you are a teacher with quirky students, you have to read this book. And, oh yes, if you are a middle-grade aged kid who likes a superbly written book, you have to read this book.

Nora Raleigh Baskin has taken on a tough assignment by telling the story from the point of view of the main character, Jason. It would be easy to fall into stereotypes or even worse, to create an unrealistic voice. Baskin has avoided the traps and created a character you can identify with and root for, a boy with an alphabet of labels who turns those letters into wonderful stories.

People with autistic spectrum disorders often have narrowly focused talents and/or interests. Some writers are going to say that Baskin copped out by having Jason an aptitude for writing. What’s easier than writing about a character with an ability in your own craft? Rather than taking the easy route, however, Baskin has defied the stereotypes. Too often people with autism spectrum disorders are pigeonholed as computer geeks, engineers or scientists. An autistic boy who is a gifted writer is a refreshing change.

Because Jason’s writing is such an important part, this book is a gem for teaching language arts. All the elements for crafting a fiction story, such as foreshadowing and conflict, are laid out for all to see. Reading this book would allow many opportunities for discussions about writing, and for tie-in writing activities as well as for ample material for sensitive discussions about autism.

Anything But Typical is a special book. My friend Lisa recommended to me (Thank you, Lisa!). Now it is my turn to recommend it to you. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing (March 24, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416963782
ISBN-13: 978-1416963783

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome

all-cats-have-aspergerLife takes turns sometimes, and although All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopmann has been out for a few years, it is worth taking a look at again. With cute pictures and a gentle, but highly informative text, this is one of those children’s books that is really for everyone. It is helpful for children with Asperger Syndrome, their families, relatives, classmates, teachers, and anyone else who works with children.

Hoopmann has done a wonderful job explaining not only the challenges of raising a child with Asperger Syndrome, but also the potential, giving a sense that through the differences are positives. For example, a child may be a picky eater and be highly sensitive, but he or she can also focus on a topic for long periods of time and may see the world with amazing insight.

Her choice of cats as subjects works not only because people with Asperger Syndrome may seem aloof like cats and only want contact on their terms, but also because the highly posed cats and kittens convey messages to children who might not understand the facial expressions and postures of human models. The soft and playful cats add a touch of warmth and humor to a subject that in other circumstances may be emotionally-charged or difficult to talk about.

After reading this book, you may find there’s a little cat in all of us.

Hardcover: 72 pages
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Pub; 1 edition (October 26, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1843104814
ISBN-13: 978-1843104810
Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 8.4 x 0.7 inches

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome

by Kathy Hoopmann


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Moms Inspire Learning.

The Cybils 2009 Nominations Begin

cybilCan your feel the excitement in the air? It’s not just fall, it’s also time to nominate your favorite 2009 children’s and young adult books for the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards or Cybils. You have to hurry though, nominations are only being accepted until October 15, 2009.

You are allowed to nominate one book published in 2009 (see website for details) in the following genres:

  • Fiction Picture Books
  • Middle Grade Fiction
  • Young Adult Fiction
  • Nonfiction Picture Books
  • Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Poetry
  • Graphic Novels
  • Easy Readers and Short Chapter Books

Be sure to have the ISBN number ready when you fill out the form.

Even if you aren’t interested in nominating a book, stop by the Cybils website to see the growing lists of nominees. It’s a great way to find some of the treasures published recently in children’s and young adult literature.