Wednesday, August 28, 2013


The Emblazon group I recently joined has a feature the fourth Wednesday of every month, which we're calling Tween the Weekend, or TTW. It's one way we've chosen to tie all of our blogs together with posts centering around tween literature. By following THIS link, you will be magically redirected to the emblazon blog, where you can then find links to others who have posted some kind of information you may find of interest regarding tween lit. You will find a wide range of topics if you care to participate, and I believe you can even join in on the fun by adding your own link.

I've decided to take this opportunity to give a mini review of a book I read recently. Because I read. Quite a bit. And a lot of what I read is kid lit in some form. From picture books, to chapter books, to novels, I enjoy many books every year. 

A short while back I had the opportunity to read Summer of the Gypsy Moths, by Sara Pennypacker. It's a lovely story that I recommend to anyone who likes believable and interesting characters who find themselves in a somewhat unbelievable situation.

The story takes place in a tiny camping compound in the New England coastal area. A young girl named Stella is left with her great aunt Louise. Stella's mother needs to sort out some pretty heavy personal issues, and Stella needs someone to care for her in the interim.

Louise takes care of several small summer cottages to supplement her retirement income. She realizes she isn't much company for Stella, so she arranges to foster Angel, a tight-lipped, street-smart girl who makes it clear to Stella right away that she doesn't want or need any friends. 

While Stella is missing her mother and trying to figure a way to crack Angel's shell, a disaster occurs. I can't give you more detail, but believe me, it's a whopper! And Stella eventually is faced with the realization that there is no way she can deal with it on her own. She has to find a way to gain Angel's assistance or starve to death trying.

This really is a fun read with a lot of emotion, a lot of grit, and a lot of insight into the thought processes of a tween's mind. Stella is so full of determination and overcomes such difficult odds, that I couldn't help but fall in love with her. Angel, too, proves to be much more than she first appears, and her story is as powerful as Stella's. The two, together, have many of the traits I'm most drawn to in characters. I highly recommend them.

Have you read any standout tween novels lately? I'd love any recommendations you care to share. In the meantime,


Cordelia Dinsmore

And don't forget to check out the other bloggers who are part of the Emblazoners.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Today was the first day back to school for our small town. I already miss my son. It's his first day of seventh grade. Hopefully, he is having a blast discovering the fun of new lockers, new classrooms, and the return of old friends.

My eldest daughter started preschool in Germany when she was three years old, way back in 1981. So that means I have been seeing kids off to school for 32 years. That is a LOT of time to be doing such a thing. But in our case, much better than homeschooling. I wouldn't be slightly crazy as people accuse me of being now. I'd be totally off my rocker! 

I don't remember seventh grade as being a stressful time for either of my girls, so I'm hoping my son copes well. He struggled a bit last year with the changing of classrooms - he's a very social animal so he accumulated quite a few tardies - but other than that he transitioned fairly well from the elementary over to the middle school.

I wasn't nearly so lucky back in the day. In fact, seventh grade was possibly the absolute, most definite, without a doubt, most traumatic time of my life. Let's get real, folks. Isn't puberty bad enough on its own? Why throw in more stress by tossing a bomb like junior high school into the mix?

Throughout my entire public schooling experience, I had walked to school. I knew the entire 9/10ths of a mile by heart and could have traveled it blindfolded, in the dark, backwards. I recognized every voice of every other grade-school kid I encountered along the route. I knew the acceptable shortcuts and the one to avoid if Mrs. Burmeister's car was in the drive. (We never even TOUCHED her stupid flowers.)

The school was small enough that we never got lost on the way to the bathroom or the lunchroom. It was all on one level so we didn't fall down flights of steps or show up in Room 201 rather than Room 101 and listen to the giggles and jeers from kids we'd never met. School was like an extension of our home, with longer hallways and several more rooms. No biggie.

Suddenly, I was riding on a noisy, smoke-belching bus halfway across town to a behemoth of three stories, basements and sub-basements. There were numerous restrooms, but never where you needed one. Strangers laughed and rough-housed throughout the cavernous hallways - big ninth grade boys who could crush a small, frightened seventh-grader. There were rows and rows of lockers on every level, all identical just to confuse me, and locker combinations that never stayed in my head. 

Surprisingly, I survived the first two weeks with few mishaps. Then I lost my schedule, and ended up in Mrs. Barnhardt's 4th hour home economics class and didn't notice for several minutes that no one looked the slightest bit familiar. Just when I started getting that really creepy feeling that I'd messed up, Mrs. Barnhardt stopped her demonstration of towel folding and looked at me and smiled. "I think you're in here NEXT hour, sweetie," she said. Humiliation!

Then there was the science experiment in Mr. Farley's 7th hour class that went wrong. I guess I inhaled too many phosphorous fumes, because the only thing I remember was being outside on the front steps with Mr. Farley telling me to take big breaths. He even drove me and another student home that day to explain once again to my mother that he thought I was okay, but he'd understand perfectly if she decided to take me to the hospital.

Many other horror stories abound in my memory from seventh grade, but they are too numerous to tell at once. It was the year, though, that I began having nightmares. Really weird nightmares.

In my dreams, I was always at school. And I was always in my pajamas. And ALWAYS in bed. It wasn't my bed, however. More like a gurney, because it had wheels, so that I could push myself down hallways, down staircases (that part was exciting) and into my classrooms. I don't remember ever dreaming of the lunchroom, or the library, but in every dream, I was always late for class. My classmates would chant to me that I needed to HURRY, HURRY, HURRY, and then they would laugh uproariously. 

That may seem like a harmless dream, but it was terrifying for me. The worst part of it was this: If I couldn't hurry fast enough, I would eventually rise from the bed and run to my classrooom. Seems harmless enough. But what would actually happen is that I would get up from my real bed and begin sleepwalking through the house. Sometimes I would run into a wall or a closed door. It was painful. And humiliating. And frightening. But it must have somehow been associated with my discomfort and unfamiliarity with seventh grade, because the dreams eventually stopped.

I'm hopeful that my son's experience with seventh grade is a lot better than mine. I know if I could go back in time and replay a part of my life, that would not be a period I would choose.

What about you? Any horror stories from seventh grade? I would love to hear them.



Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Returning readers of my blog know that I occasionally interview authors. I like to switch things up and try something different from time to time, in an effort to instill a bit more interest, and to find topics that hopefully will attract and meet the needs of more readers.

Today I have decided to conduct a reader interview, rather than an author interview. It’s good to know what inspires someone to write a particular story, but it’s also helpful to understand why readers choose a particular book or series.

My first guest for this new experiment is a young man named Jim. I’m going to let him tell you a little bit about himself to start things off. Realize, of course, that I’m interviewing minors so I need to protect their privacy as much as possible.

Hi. I’m eleven years old, and I live in a small town. I’m going into the fifth grade in a few weeks. I have two older sisters and one younger sister, so except for my Dad, I’m the only guy around the house.

It’s very nice to meet you, Jim. What have you been doing over the summer?

Well, I played baseball for the first part of the summer. I play basketball with other guys in the neighborhood, and I love to fish. We also are pretty active in our church.

Sounds like you know how to have fun. Do you manage to find time to do much reading during the summer months?

Just a little bit. My mom usually signs me up for the summer reading program at the library, but I don’t read all that many books. But there’s lots of fun activities that they do besides just reading.

Would you categorize yourself as a reluctant reader, then?

Probably. I like books, but I don’t really like the long ones. Like a whole novel. You know? I still like the easier books the best. They’re just more fun.

Are you talking about Chapter Books, possibly? Can you tell us what some of your favorites are?

Sure. I like the Captain Underpants books. And I like the Stink books – he’s Judy Moody’s little brother. I also really like the Bailey School Kids books. They’re my favorites.

I haven’t read any of the Bailey School Kids books, but I know there is quite a selection of them. Do you have any favorites among those?

I really liked Ghosts Don’t Eat Potato Chips, and Angels Don’t Do Karate. They’re really good mysteries with great details. I always have to read clear to the end to figure out the mystery, and I think that’s good in a book – not to have it all figured out before you’re finished.

That makes a lot of sense to me. If one of your friends asked you to recommend a great book to them, what would it be?

Any of the Bailey School Kids for sure. And The Lightning Thief was a very good book that I would recommend to someone who really likes to read. I really liked it.

Okay, Jim. I appreciate your thoughtful answers. It sounds like you know what you like when it comes to reading material. One last question. If you could meet any author, who would it be and why?

I think it would be Jeff Smith. He wrote the Bone books, a good graphic novel selection. He’s a really good author and I love his illustrations.

Thanks so much, Jim, for taking the time to talk with us today and for your thoughtful recommendations for reading material. I’ll be sure to check out the Bailey School Kids and the Bone books. I hope the last of your summer is lots of fun, and I wish you great success in 5th grade.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Hop for Children's, MG, and YA Authors

I was invited by a writer friend, Lisa Cole Orchard, to participate in a blog hop interview. Lisa sent me some interview questions, which I have answered here on my blog. Following my answers, I tag 3 other writers who will, in turn, answer questions on their blogs next week, on August 12th. It’s been fun checking out the Blog Hops to see what other children’s authors have posted!

Lisa posted her answers to the questions at her blog, Lisa Orchard, on July 29th. If you care to check out her answers, you can leave a comment on her blog by simply clicking on her name. You can tell her that you connected to her through my link.

Here are my answers to the questions:

1. What are you working on right now?

Currently I am working on another Tween novel – for older MGers but definitely not in the YA category. It’s become a very slow work in progress. I don’t know if it’s because the main character is going to be subjected to such monumental emotional pain, or if it’s because I’ve become unsure whether or not it’s suitable for my audience.

I realize young people are thrown into chaotic and dangerous situations every day, but do they want to read stories that might reflect their own emotional turmoil? I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve personally read and enjoyed books with this same type of setup, and I can empathize with the characters. But I’m an adult. I can’t look back now and say whether or not I would have enjoyed them as a pre-teen.

The story is about a girl who has to adjust to a new family situation, but who resists forming friendships because she wants something different for her life – something she’s probably never going to realize. It’s about the relationships she develops, and the relationships she has to come to grips with from her past.

2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?

I admit I haven’t read nearly all of the MG literature available, but I do read as many new books as I can. I’ve read books with somewhat similar set-ups, but every author has a unique way of telling his/her story. I can’t, and won’t attempt, to compare my work to any other author published today, but I know books are out there that tell stories of heartbreak and a need for love.

3. Why do you write what you do?

I’ve fostered over twenty young people over the years, from infants to teens. The ones that touched me the most usually fell into the 11-13 age range. I don’t know why, unless it’s because this is such an important and impressionable age for young girls. There is a need and a yearning in their hearts – for the woman they haven’t yet become, and for the child who isn’t ready to turn in her dolls. I guess that age was such an emotional time for me, and I still connect with it today, even though it has been behind me for many, many years.

Each of these girls (there were very few boys) has a story. I would never use their personal stories for numerous reasons, but they helped me to understand more fully that the world is filled with children in need. Those needs span a wide range, but love and acceptance are two that are prevalent. I attempt to touch on those needs in my writing.

4. How does your writing process work?

I absolutely cannot write an outline – never could and probably never will. An idea comes into my head and I mull it over, sometimes for months, before I finally begin writing it down. My clearest ideas come either while I’m riding in the car, or in the middle of the night. If it wakes me, I get up and write down the basic concept in its simplest terms, and then go back to bed. If I’m in the car, I either dig a pen out of my purse and find a scrap of paper to write it on, or, if I’m driving, I pull off the road and jot it down. I’ve lost so many ideas before I started doing that, so it’s become standard operating procedure now.

Then I have to find a quiet time to develop the plot and characters. I don’t write well with distractions in the house, so the best time for me is at night when everyone else has gone to bed. Unfortunately, my house doesn’t have many areas that are totally private, so if I write at night I’m usually disturbing another family member. So I have to make do with daytime hours when the rest of my family is either at work or school. Summers are the most difficult time for me.

Usually I try to find several beta readers or reading buddies to share manuscript critiques with as we progress. That helps me a lot, except I tend to want to go back and revise and edit every change, and that slows me down quite a bit.

Well, there you have it. Probably more than you ever wanted to know about me, but it is what it is. 

I think you will find it well worth your time, however, to check out the three authors I have chosen to continue with this hop. They are all quite talented and I've enjoyed getting to know each of them.

June Kramin


Cordelia Dinsmore

Thursday, August 1, 2013


I want to take just a moment and provide some information to all of you readers who enjoy tween literature. 

The Emblazon group I recently joined with is still in the early stages of getting our name out in the blogosphere, so we've been offering different promotional opportunities to help the public become acquainted with our writing.

I wasn't able to join in with this giveaway, but several of our authors are offering more free reads for this one day only. Time is a premium for me at the moment, so I didn't add every book and link separately, but if you, or someone you know, are interested in adding more great reads to your Kindle, for the bargain price of NOTHING!, then follow this link over to our new home and check them out.

That's all I have for today. But come back soon.


Cordelia Dinsmore