A little MDBC inspiration

“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question frequently asked of writers. Our #1 question, in fact. My answer, as you know if you’ve read the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page of this website (click here to visit it): absolutely everywhere!

Sometimes it’s fun to trace where one specific idea came from, however, and that’s what I want to do today.

Those of you familiar with my Mother-Daughter Book Club series will recall that in PIES & PREJUDICE, Jess Delaney and her mother take a cake decorating class together. Much to her surprise, Jess discovers that she actually enjoys the class (she goes along initially just to humor her mother), and that she has a knack for decorating cakes, including making frosting flowers.  This comes in handy when Jess and her friends start a baking business, and then in a later book, when Jess and her mother make a wedding cake for someone special (I’m not saying whom, just in case you haven’t read the entire series yet!).

So, where did I get this idea?

Would you believe my own life?

Heather and her culinary masterpiece
Heather Vogel with her culinary masterpiece

This is me at age 12, standing proudly in front of my crowning achievement as a cake decorator. My mother and I had taken a class together earlier that year (and yes, we had fun, just like Jess and her mom did!), so when my beautiful Aunt Judy got married to my handsome Uncle Howard, guess who was asked to do the honors?

Yep. Me.

My mother helped, too, of course. But as far as I was concerned, this was my baby!

HVF wedding cake closeup
And isn’t it a beautiful baby?  Three layers of my grandmother’s delicious pound cake topped with white buttercream frosting and adorned with frosting roses in two shades of pink, clustered on the top and trailing down the sides. A crowning achievement, if I say so myself!

My interest in cake decorating evaporated shortly after this photo was taken, but nothing ever goes to waste for a writer. Part of our writing process is mining memories for material. And this was one particularly sweet memory I was happy to find a spot for in one of my books.

 

NaNoWriMo

How many of you out there are participating in NaNoWriMo? How many of you even know what NaNoWriMo is?

For those of you who’ve never heard of it, “NaNoWriMo” stands for National Novel Writing Month.  It happens every November, and perhaps is best described as a writing marathon, which writers sign up for (it’s free!) with the goal of writing a novel in a month.  Sounds crazy, right?

And it is, in a way.  But crazy in a GOOD way!

While I’m not doing NaNo myself this year in an official way, I’m unofficially using it as a motivator for keeping my new book moving forward.  (Which it is, yay!)   I have some young friends who signed up for the Young Writers Program, though (click here to learn more about it).  They’re busily writing away toward their goals, so I thought it would be fun to interview two of them.

Here’s what Eliza, a 4th grader in Oregon, has to say about the experience:

Q.  Could you tell other young aspiring writers a little bit about NaNo, and how you decided to get involved with it?

A.  Nanowrimo is a great way for anyone to just get their words and ideas down on paper with no restrictions, just for fun. I decided to get involved in it because my sister Molly had lots of fun with it.

Q.  How many years have you done it now?

A.  3 years.

Q.  How does it help motivate you?

A.  Just being able to write stuff down and come back later to make changes gives it all an exciting “rush and hurry” sort of feel.

Q.  What are you hoping to accomplish this year?

A.  4,000 words and a good book.

Q.  What advice would you give someone who’s thinking about doing it?

A.  Stop thinking and get it done. (And have fun!!!!)

Thanks, Eliza!  Happy NaNo-ing!   

Now here’s Margaret, a 7th grader from Georgia, who wrote a little essay about the experience for us:

NaNoWriMo is an adventure.  A fast-paced, finger-flying adventure.  Last year, when I did Youth Writers Program (YWP) NaNo for the first time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I knew that I was going to be writing a novel and only had the month of November to do it.  And I also knew that I loved to write and NaNoWriMo was a place where I could.

I set my word count goal as 25,000 words.  In YWP NaNoWriMo, you set a goal for yourself and try to reach it during the month.  I didn’t really know what my story would be like, but I had what I call “puzzle pieces.”  These puzzle pieces consisted of the skeleton of what my story would be–a few ideas toward the plot line, some interesting character names, and a couple of phrases that I thought were so witty that I had to include them somewhere.  Then the adventure began.  Motivation had struck and I was writing like a maniac.  But what was so unique was that in a way, I had no choice to let everything go and hold nothing back.  Writer’s block tried to stop me more than a few times, but I just kept on writing and the puzzle pieces I had started with began to fit together and form a story.

Another neat thing about NaNo is that even in the quiet of my room while I’m writing, I know that there are thousands of kids out in the world who are just like me.  They love to write and they’re ready to go on this month-long adventure to create a story.  Maybe next year, you’ll come on this journey with us–this crazy, exhilirating adventure that is NaNoWriMo.

Wow, you make it sound irresistible, Margaret!  Thanks!

Anybody else out there doing NaNo?  Feel free to chime in and let us know how it’s going!  We’ll check back in with you all at the end of the month to see how things went.  Have fun!

 

Extraordinary ordinary life

Part of  a writer’s work is being observant.  I try and go about each day with my eyes and ears wide open.  You never know when an idea will come your way, or when you’ll see or hear something that might add color and life and richness to the texture of a story.

Plus, ordinary life is just so full of extraordinary beauty!  Look what I found tucked away in a quiet corner of the airport in Austin, Texas recently:

An art exhibit on handmade lace!  In an airport, no less!

These little wooden things are called bobbins:

And somehow, by an intricate system of weaving them over and under each other, beautiful patterns appear:

That’s a lace collar.  Breathtaking, isn’t it?  I can picture Elizabeth Bennet wearing it.  And check out this cami and shawl:

The intricacy and detail are stunning, aren’t they?

This is my favorite:

A rooster made entirely of lace!  Who could ever dream that something as astonishing as this would be possible simply by the weaving together of thread?

I have no idea whether I’ll ever use the art of lace-making in a story.  Viewing this exhibit added richness to my life, though, as well as to an idle hour at an airport.   And these kinds of “beauty” deposits to one’s memory bank can’t help but reap dividends when we put pen to paper.

Kate the Great

Remember the 12-year-old go-getter from Ottawa I told you about recently? The one who dreamed up a fashion show fundraiser after being inspired by my book Much Ado About Anne?

She succeeded beyond her wildest expectations!

 

I’ll let Kate speak for herself.  Here’s what she wrote to me (I’m posting it here with her permission):

“The show went absolutely amazingly!!  It was a smash hit, and it was totally sold out with standing room only!!   We raised approximately $8,175.15.  That’s three thousand over our goal!!  YAY!!  I arrived along with models, hair stylists, and makeup artists at 9 a.m. to begin hair and makeup.  It was a crazy but amazing experience.  I was running around backstage, cueing models, cueing our emcee.  It was AWESOME!!  I totally loved the atmosphere and have started looking into doing it annually!!”

How cool is THAT? SRO and a whopping sum for charity!  Kate, my hat is off to you  — you are an inspiring example of someone who didn’t just dream big, but was willing to roll up her sleeves and work hard to turn that dream into a reality.

Here are some fun links you can visit to hear from Kate herself, see photos of the event, and get the inside scoop from a few of the designers who showcased their work:

Kate’s interview with the Ottawa Citizen

Kate’s interview on “A Morning” Ottawa

Kate’s interview with 2LiveViv

The Bias Cut

Jana Hanzel

Centretown News article

Metro News pictures

Event recap from blogger Erica on Fashion



 

 

 

Hats off to an awesome young Canadian fan!

I’d like to introduce you to someone special today.  Her name is Kate Reeve, and she’s a powerhouse.

She’s also 12.  Remember that, OK?

Kate is a Mother-Daughter Book Club fan.  So much so, that when she read Much Ado About Anne and got to the part where the girls decide to put on a fashion show to raise money for — shhhh! no spoilers! — she thought hey, I’d like to do that.  I want to put on a charity event to help someone in need.

Now, most people (like, for instance, me) would have a thought like that and then go on their merry way. But not Kate.  She decided to turn that dream into a reality.  So she wrote to me last summer, telling me that my book had inspired her to try and do something to raise money for a children’s hospice, and asking for my advice.

“At first my friends thought I was insane,” she wrote.  “(Maybe they still do!!) especially after I told them I got the idea from a book. (“It’s fiction!!” was one of their main arguments!)”

Funny AND determined — a lethal combination.  I encouraged and applauded her, of course, but I have a confession to make:  I thought she was too young to pull it off.  She was only 12, remember?

Boy, was I wrong.

By the time I heard from Kate again, she was sewing like mad, she’d set a date (Sunday February 20th) for her Fashion Show and rented a venue:  the Glebe Community Centre in Ottawa.   (Did I mention that Kate is from Ottawa?  She gets extra brownie points for this as I have a special place in my heart for all things Canadian, since my mother was from Nova Scotia.)

By now she’s realized that her dream was snowballing into a bigger reality than even she could have imagined, and that “there was no way enough dresses would be made in time for the show. So, I set to work. I’ve emailed, called, bullied, and beleaguered the fashion designers of Ottawa to show their clothes at our show.”  That was in November.  She’d had one yes and one no.   Fast-forward to last month, and she has not one but FIVE of Canada’s top designers lined up for her charity event, along with professional models and hair stylists and even a celebrity emcee — longtime CTV Ottawa anchor Max Keeping — all of them donating their time and talent so that 100% of the proceeds will go to Kate’s charities of choice:  Roger’s House and Canuck Place.

Is this girl AMAZING or what?

Oh, how I wish I could be there to witness her triumph!  I’ll be with her in spirit, though, and am donating an autographed set of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series for her Silent Auction.  Hats off to you, Kate — you are truly an inspiration to all of us!

And please, any of you who live near Ottawa — go support her event.  Here’s the information:

Fashion Show for Funds

Date: Sunday, February 20th, 2011
Where: Glebe Community Centre (175 Third avenue)
Designers: Rachel SinShweta WahiAmber WatkinsJana HanzelRubin Kooner
Time: 1:00-2:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20 for adults, $10 for students, free for children 5 and under.

FOR INTERVIEWS, TICKETS, MEDIA PASSES, AND MORE INFORMATION:
Email mayreeve@rogers.com or call 613-730-5074

Wild Geese Guides

Attention, teachers, librarians, book club members, parents, and everyone else interested in literature for young readers!  My good friend Tracie Vaughn Zimmer has uploaded ALL of her amazing teacher guides onto her new blog, Wild Geese Guides.

Discussion questions, suggested activites, multiple intelligence projects, quiz questions and more abound for over 250 books (including several of mine).  This is a fabulous resource — stretching from preschool to high school — and one to bookmark, save, follow, tweet and re-tweet (I’m a twit, but Twitter-less), and share with friends.

A pearl of a film

I’m donning my movie critic hat again here briefly to let everybody know about a FABULOUS documentary we watched over the weekend:

A Man Named Pearl came out in theaters in 2006, so obviously I’m behind the times here.  If you are like me, however, and missed it, you must go IMMEDIATELY to the video store (or Netflix, or the library) and track it down.  It’s one of the most inspiring and uplifting movies I’ve seen in a long time, and as empress of the world (well, OK, of this blog), I’m hereby designating it required viewing for artists everywhere.   Heck, for everyone, everywhere.

The son of a sharecropper, Pearl Fryar bought a home on the outskirts of Bishopville, S. C., a couple of decades ago, only to learn that because he was African-American, residents didn’t think he would keep his property up.

Boy did he prove them wrong.

Pearl taught himself topiary and worked night and day in an effort to win the local garden club’s “Yard of the Month” award.  The result (which has now spilled over into downtown Bishopville and many other destinations) is a visual delight, filled with whimsical creations that have been described as “Dr. Seuss meets Edward Scissorshands.”  Pearl’s garden draws tourists from all over the world and has elevated him to the ranks of horticultural and artistic genius.

Part sculptor, part gardener, part philosopher, part philanthropist, Pearl Fryar is one of those rare human beings who lights up not only the screen, but also the corner of the world in which he’s been planted.

But I’ve given too much away already.  Watch it.  Please.  Trust me.