Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Writing Prompt!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thank you everyone out there who let me know that Friday's writing prompt made you really think about hands. One person told me about scars, another said that when she looked at her hands she saw her grandmother's, and that made me think about grandmothers. Normally, when we think about our grandmothers, we have warm loving feelings about someone who is generous with her love and forgiving of our faults. My grandmother was like that; her name was Clara and she's the one who named me. I love my name! But grandmothers are also someone we have special names for. We called ours, Gramma--a nice soft name, a name filled with affection.

So I started thinking about my grandmother's name, and then I thought suppose she'd had a different name. Suppose her name was Ruby or Priscilla or Helga. Well, they are perfectly good names, but would one of those names make her a different sort of grandmother?

Hattie meets her only grandmother for the first time in Hill Hawk Hattie. Her grandmother's name is Hortensia Holmes Greymoor, which Hattie thinks makes a windy hollow sound in her mouth. No surprise that Hortensia insists (in a frosty tone, a chilling voice) that Hattie call her, "Grandmother", enunciating all the syllables in a very formal way.

But lots of grandmothers are called by other names. Would Ruby want to be called Granny? Helga would definitely want to be called Grandmutter. One of my favorite and surprising names for a grandmother is in the book Midnight Blue by Pauline Fisk. You know what sort of grandmother she is as soon as her granddaughter refers to her as "Grandbag". I love that name. It makes me laugh every time I read it--the name not the grandmother.

So here's your writing prompt:

Part A: Come up with a delicious list of 5 first names and then decide what would be the appropriate Grandmother name for that person.

Part B: Okay now you have your list. Pick one or two of the names and write a paragraph describing what that grandmother is like--notice her hands, too. Don't forget to use your senses, use at least four--touch, sound, sight, and smell. We often associate smell with grandmothers--camphor or moth balls or peppermint or the smell of cookies baking, maybe your very favorite kind because you are going to see her. To all of that add a good dose of love and whimsy!

Stay tuned for the very important BOOK REVIEW on Friday. Happy writing!

Friday, April 24, 2009

And I was saying. . .oops!

Friday, April 24, 2009 Update & Writing Prompt

It's been a whirlwind of a week that's kept my head spinning. Poetry Boot Camp has been an amazing experience, but now I understand why it's called that. Yesterday I woke up with a hollow head, a numb skull, a complete brain drain. Nothing came to mind, nothing wanted to. I tried and tried, but the words were dull half-lines of nothing much but drivel scribbled on a yellow-lined pad. I persevered and got down a pretty nice poem about the woodchuck who used to keep house outside my door. Woodchucks are such fascinating creatures with so much person-ality. I also made an apple pie for my husband, so we were both very happy campers on boot camp Thursday.

But I did make some promises earlier in the week and I'm going to try to come up to speed this morning. I planned to post a photo from a school visit, but after a couple of failed attempts--not exactly sure why--with strange blank windows popping up in places they should never be--I decided that the best action was no action until a greater mind (my husband) has time to help.

I mentioned something about reviewing a book. Hmmm. . .what was I thinking? I did finish reading it, and loved it. Big recommendation for K.L. Going's new book, King of the Screwups This book was such a breath of fresh air after reading so many horribly depressing YA novels. It's funny, and that's not to say that it lacks substance. It darn well does have plenty of substance, but in the hands of a less gifted writer it could be, well, depressing. With class A+ originality, K.L. gives the reader a large dose of life laced with humor in the ongoing screwup foibles of the protagonist Liam, a naturally popular high school senior who keeps trying to make himself unpopular and continually fails. No matter how hard he tries, he just seems to become more popular. That's just a tiny taste of what's in store for you; I don't want to give away the entire plot. Enjoy!

Finally, the WRITING PROMPT. Look at your hands. what do you think they say about you? Okay, I know that our hands came with our bodies at birth, but overtime they have taken on characteristics that show something about us. For example, when I was in high school and played the violin and practiced every day, by studying my hands you would know that I had callouses on the tips of my fingers and that my fingernails were very short, but not chewed, that, the skin on the back of my hand was creamy and smooth, the palm a healthy pink.

Look at your hands to get you started thinking about hands, and think about the people you know and what their hands are like. Then create an impression of a person, real or imaginary, by describing only the person's hands. Keep it short--no more than three sentences. Then do it again. If you described a female, try it again and write about her opposite. Don't forget to use your senses! Have fun!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Book Reception Photo

Here's another photo from my book reception with two of my good friends: L to R: Lois Weinstein, Reading Teacher; me; and Marilyn Capicotta, a retired reading teacher who is also a poet. She published an article on writing haiku in Teaching K-8 and has written a lovely book of poetry as well. I love my friends!

Stay tuned. There's much more coming your way this week!!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Highlights of this Writer's Life

Monday, April 20, 2009 What's coming this week?

It's going to be a busy week here in Lookout, PA. First of all, I started "Poetry Boot Camp" yesterday. Didn't know that it was starting so early on a Sunday and when we got back from breakfast I had fifteen new e-mails--boot camp had begun! It is fun but also intense. All week I will be writing a poem a day and critiquing with a group of other children's authors who also happen to write poetry. Our mentor is an award winning poet. 2 Hints: she is a niece of John Updike.

Tuesday night I will be one of a panel of authors invited to a library--it is National Book Week--to talk about our books and about publishing. It's at the Hawley Library from 6-8 pm in case any of you are in the area and can stop by. Bring any questions you have about writing and submitting, the editorial process, the stages a manuscript goes through to become a published book, ask anything at all about the writing life.

I will be posting one or two photos from events. I will be sharing about a new YA that I'm reading. And, of course, I will post a writing prompt, because we all need to do our mental flossing. Catch you later!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Book Reception -- La Shed Du Fred -- PLUS Writing Prompt

Here I am--you know who I am, right?--with my good friend, Wendy Townsend, whose first YA novel, Lizard Love was published last year. Wendy is working on a middle grade novel now among other projects. She's also busy putting together a writing retreat for late summer in an idyllic spot near the Delaware River. She promises to have a wonderful faculty, so keep that in mind all you writers out there.

Now. . .about that writing prompt. I'm starting to feel guilty about not posting one yet this week and it's Wednesday already. So here's something that will tickle the right side of your brain and get you thinking outside the box. Imagine that instead of blue that the sky is magenta or persimmon or spring green or the color of dandelions or maybe claret. Now imagine how each of those colors would make you feel--emotion, and how the color of the sky might change the way you see the world. Would a dusty rose make it better?
In my new Hattie book, Secrets of Greymoor, Hattie says that her tutor, Mr. Horace Bottle, has taught her to see the many shades of color even in freshly fallen snow. Hattie's new wool dress, he told her, ". . .was the color of claret. Nothing was a simple color like red or yellow or blue to Horace." If you've read the book, you'll know that Hattie's claret dress causes her a lot of trouble. If you haven't read the book, please do, dear friends. But for now, go and have fun thinking in color. Paint the sky whatever color pleases you and think about why you chose the color you did. Write about it, of course.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

BOOK REVIEW from Illinois Public Library System

Here's a nice review from a Public Librarian in Illinois that she posted on
Thursday, April 2, 2009

Secrets of Greymoor by Clara Gillow Clark - JF CLA
Family secrets, pride and fast–dwindling fortune are the driving forces behind our imperfect heroine. Hattie lives with her Grandmother when social rank means everything. Her only worries are making friends and passing exams to enter the Academy. But this all changes when Hattie discovers an overdue tax notice. Secrets of Greymoor is a sequel to Hill Hawk Hattie and Hattie On Her Way. Hattie readers will delight in her revelations about the consequences of hiding information. New readers can dive in without missing a beat of Hattie's adventures.

Watch for more photos of my book reception and a new writing prompt!

Monday, April 13, 2009


Wow! The book reception for my latest Hattie title, Secrets of Greymoor, was tremendous! A huge thank you to everyone who came--new friends, old friends, new neighbors, old neighbors, former neighbors, family and even high school classmates of my son--won't say how long ago that was! Thank you Kristen & Ed for stopping by on Saturday.
Stayed tuned for more photos later in the week. I'll be back tomorrow with a writing prompt

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Book Reception

April 11, 2009

There's a little drizzle here this morning, but we're expecting sunshine later today! Just in time for the debut celebration and book reception of Secrets of Greymoor, starring the plucky Hattie Belle Basket, at La Shed Du Fred in Callicoon, NY. It's a lovely gift/bookstore on the Delaware River, and the perfect setting, since Hattie's journey began on the East Branch of the Delaware River in the first book in the series, Hill Hawk Hattie. I'll be signing from Noon until 3 p.m., and all are welcome. I know I'll see some of you there, but I'll check in on Monday to give you a full report and share some photos.

Keep those pencils sharpened for new writing prompts!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Writing Prompt

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I've missed you all terribly, but I'm back at my desk and ready to write! Easter is upon us and with the rising of the "sun" and the great celebration come the breaking of the fasts and sacrifices made through the Lenten season. No wonder that Easter brings with it chocolate bunnies and chicks, jelly beans in all sorts of flavors and sizes, sweet cream filled eggs, marshmallow peeps. . . I've been steering clear of the candy aisle, although the sweet scent of chocolate seems to follow me wherever I go. Then, after church there's the big feast with tables weighted down with maple sugar cured hams, scalloped potatoes, savory rolls. . .or whatever is traditional for your feast and we eat, and eat, and eat. Or at least once upon a time we did. Many of us observe Lent all year long. We are always denying ourselves some sweet treat or rich-in-fat meal.

By now you've probably guessed that the writing prompt today has to do with food. But it's not just about food. If you've followed the Hattie series, then you'll be acquainted with her tutor, Mr. Horace Bottle, who makes no bones about loving food. He loves food so much that he's turned it into a "social study" for Hattie. When they go out walking they observe people, and Horace compares people to food. On Page 104-105 of Hattie on Her Way, Horace compares ". . . ladies in their walking suits and parasols to the French pastries and Italian ices we always indulged in on these trips. Pastries were for the well-endowed matrons, ices for the young and lovely. Working men were meaty roasts of beef or mutton. Businessmen were stuffed partridges, peasants, and sometimes turkeys if they were portly and seemed very wealthy. 'The trolley cars were particularly interesting for Social Studies,' he said. The mix of people--the washed and unwashed, the prim with the noisy drunks, the polite with the shocking cursers--all jumbled close together, were often fruits or vegetables--fresh or raw, hot or cold, stewed, colorless, undercooked. . . It was thoroughly educational, clues to the social classes,' Mr. Bottle said, but I [Hattie] enjoyed the entertainment of it more than anything, the specialness of having our own private way of seeing. 'There,' he'd say, winking and pointing with his walking stick, 'is a prime example of a meaty roast that's overdone and touch to chew.'"

Your writing prompt for the day is to first, observe people and then compare them not to a summer day, but to food. See if you can come up with ten food metaphors for people. e.g. He looks like a stalk of celery. Her hair is the color of salsa. To get started you might make a list of your favorite Easter Feast foods and then have fun creating characters from your food. I wouldn't mind being a chocolate chick (solid, of course, not hollow), but I'd rather hate being the creamed spinach.

Friday, April 3, 2009


April 3, 2009 Another great review for Secrets of Greymoor

The Horn Book March/April Issue

Clark, Clara Gillow. Secrets of Greymoor. Candlewick. 2009. Hattie, first met in Hill Hawk Hattie, in which she went rafting down a river dressed as a boy, needs all her characteristic resilience and bravery in her new life at her grandmother's house. With her grandmother's fortune now gone and her recently deceased grandfather rumored to have been insane, Hattie worries about her family's future. However, she makes a terrible error in judgment when she hides a tax collection notice marked "overdue" from her grandmother; she thinks she will be able to solve the problem by deciphering a coded message from her grandfather that she hopes will lead to treasure. Clever Hattie does decode the message, but in the end she must come up with more realistic ways to help. Clark delivers a taut, engaging story, balancing plot with a first-person narration that conveys Hattie's depth of emotion and her practical, problem-solving nature. Readers will look forward to the hinted-at next book as Hattie at the end attempts to take charge of the new life she faces.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Writing Prompt -- Another Round with Sound

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 Well. . . we all know what today is and I'm going to ignore it!

Today I'm sending you on a little research mission and here's the link: Read it, think about it, then write.

Our sound prompt today is to write using voices. It doesn't have to be a poem, it might be a dialogue between two people. It might be a gathering of folk at a family table on a holiday. But be sure that each person has a unique voice, that no matter when any of these people pop up in a story, a reader would know instantly who it was by the way they sound. Think about the sound of voices--some people are loud, boisterous talkers; there are low talkers, high-pitched voices, deep voices, mellow voices, shrill voices, breathless whisperers, the woebegone. And, of course, do have fun imagining more voices and trying them on. Imagine what the people look like and how they dress, and then let them speak.