revision goals – get cracking, kip!!

OK, time to get serious now. Of my 20-chapter manuscript from nanowrimo (nanoficwrimo for me!), I’ve got 7 polished chapters under my belt, which means I’ve got 13 left. So here’s my plan:

this weekend:

chapters 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

this week:

chapters 13, 14, 15, 16

next weekend:

chapters 17, 18, 19, 20 (and epilogue)

Which reminds me, I guess I get to get a nice juicy reward when I finish – I know just what I want, too! What a dangling carrot!

book review: Washington at Valley Forge (Russell Freedman)

Russell Freedman’s exceptional research and writing skills have once again hit the mark with his latest work published by Holiday House. This book focuses on the tough winter endured by George Washington and his troops at Valley Forge from 1777-1778, framing the winter’s events within the scope of the entire American Revolutionary War, from Lexington and Concord all the way to Yorktown.

Using direct quotes from Washington and his men, Freedman seamlessly feeds the reader details about the difficulties the Continental Army faced, including the overall situation: “Washington had warned Congress that without adequate supplies, ‘this army must … dissolve.’” Another informative perspective Freedman weaves into his book is that of Private Joseph Martin, who, after the war, “was known for miles around as a popular yarn-spinning veteran of the Revolutionary War.” Freedman includes quotes from Martin at strategic points in the book, including several references during the winter, as well as some both before and after the freezing months at Valley Forge.

The picture Freedman paints of this difficult winter meshes with the legends we’ve all heard: soldiers marching out in the snow without shoes or boots, hungry men unable to get much in the way of food from surrounding farms, and a ragtag group of individuals who learned discipline and gained strength under the leadership of Washington, his generals, assistants, and military trainer Baron von Steuben.

Complete with reproductions of paintings and engravings created during and after the war, this excellent book places the reader behind the eyes of the soldiers who were there, as well as inside the head of the commander who eventually led them to victory.

kip’s new book reviewing gig

For Children’s Literature: Independent Information and Reviews:

They do a lot of non-fiction, especially for the educational market.

I did my first stack a couple of weeks ago, and have another batch to do before Spain. They didn’t have a military reviewer, and they had a huge stack of military books, so that was right up my alley. I’m hoping for some on language, culture, and history soon too.

rutgers notes

Hands-down, the absolute best thing for me about the Rutgers Council on Children’s Literature one-on-one conference was the one-on-one itself. Of course, I was super-lucky, and got assigned to the best possible mentor ever: Jim Murphy. Read more about him here:

I know, couldn’t have gotten a better pick, what say?

But other than that, it was also great meeting such an amazing group of editors, agents, and authors, and running into ones I’ve met before. It was also wicked cool to meet all the Blue-Boarders (including my cool roommate Jean). Such a nice bunch of people, and such a dedicated bunch of writers.

Yeah, and one last thing that sticks in my mind. The words of the morning speaker Kay Winters (I am not quoting exactly, but from my shoddy memory): “I don’t know anyone in this business who really wanted to make it, kept at it, and didn’t make it.” So, keep at it, keep trying, get to work!

nanowrimo stats

I know this is sort of cheating, but I decided to work on my non-fiction manuscript this month instead, so it’s nanoficwrimo for me, I am going to keep track of my progress here. Some days will be revisions of existing chapters, so I’ll use pages revised for those days, and I’ll use word counts for days where I’m writing new material. Here we go!

11/1/2008 – revised 5 pages

11/2/2008 – revised 5 pages, plus 4 pages to count for tomorrow

11/3/2008 – revised 2 (more) pages

11/4/2008 – revised 2 pages

11/5/2008 – 361 words

11/6/2008 – 516 words

11/7/2008 – revised 2 pages

11/8/2008 – revised 4 pages, plus wrote 155 words

11/9/2008 – 0 words (researched for several hours though)

11/10/2008 – revised 2 pages

11/11/2008 – 435 words

11/12/2008 – 452 words, revised 1 page to count for tomorrow

11/13/2008 – 0 words (date night!)

11/14/2008 – 174 words

11/15/2008 – 595 words

11/16/2008 – 279 words, plus revised 2 pages

11/17/2008 – revised 3 pages

11/18/2008 – revised 2 pages

11/19/2008 – 0 words (work disasters and sick babies)

11/20/2008 – 415 words

11/21/2008 – 479 words

11/22/2008 – revised 4 pages

11/23/2008 – 846 words

11/24/2008 – revised 3 pages

11/25/2008 – revised 2 pages

11/26/2008 – revised 17 pages

11/27/2008 – revised 3 pages, plus wrote 155 words

11/28/2008 – revised 7 pages, including several patches of new words

11/29/2008 – revised 8 pages, including probably about 1,000 new words

11/30/2008 – 1,217 words

DONE! Total manuscript length: 24,306

Kip is headed to the fridge to get her little bottle of champagne now …

nanowrimo: revised plan

No, I’m not chickening out before it even begins!

But I do have an updated plan after attending the Rutgers Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Conference this past Saturday. I’m taking it a step even farther removed.

Instead of finishing the second half of an unfinished novel I wanted to work on, I’m going to finish revising my non-fiction manuscript on the White Rose, which is, OK, let’s be honest, WAY cooler than a novel anyway (to history geeks at least).

My goal is to get everything in order before November, revising the first four chapters I already have, and then I’ll spend November writing the rest of the new Hans-chapters.

So it is totally like NANOWRIMO, but better.

PS Last night, I wound up with 415 words. Yaaay!

book review: The Boy Who Dared (Susan Campbell Bartoletti)

Bartoletti is probably best-known for her award-winning work of non-fiction, Hitler Youth. With her novel The Boy Who Dared, Bartoletti shows off a great storytelling talent, as well as the meticulous research behind this story that brings it to life.

The Boy Who Dared is the true story of Helmuth Hübener, a German teen in World War II who stood up to the Nazis by distributing leaflets against the Nazi regime. He is one of the teens mentioned in Bartoletti’s Hitler Youth book.

So why a novel, and not another non-fiction book? What makes this story fiction is the lively dialog and very specific actions of the character that Bartoletti could only infer from research. Her informative author’s note describes what she did to dig for the details that help color the novel with a broad swath of reality.

The tension and intrigue transform The Boy Who Dared into a real-life spy novel, as the clock ticks up to Hübener’s final moments in prison before execution. Bartoletti gives us a real sense of how terrifying this must have been for him, placing us there in the cell with him, as the prison guards approach.

book review: The Zookeeper’s Wife (Diane Ackerman)

Wow, what a great read! This is a McCullough-style biography outlining the life of the wife of the zookeeper of Warsaw, Poland during World War II. Ackerman uses meticulously researched details to bring Antonia’s story to life: how she and her family sheltered Jews from the Warsaw ghetto in their zoo. Her descriptions are vivid. She used photographs, diaries, and letters, along with newspapers from the time, to draw pictures on the pages with her words. And what a likable and brave heroine!

Another great role-model author for wanna-be biographers. 🙂