• Linda Ulleseit, author

  • NaNoWriMo!

Influencing Youth

 

influenceAs a teacher, I know I influence students every day. I strive to be a good role model and show them passion for learning, excitement about reading and reading, pride in their math skills. Young people are greatly shaped by their environment. If they are around positive energy, they may absorb it. I find students leave my class excited about reading and writing because that’s what I am excited about.

If they are exposed to the negative, however, they internalize that even faster.

The best students, with straight A’s and good behavior, are quiet in class. Those that constantly draw the teacher’s attention are the students who are breaking rules, slacking off, or disturbing classmates. Even if it’s negative, they are getting attention from the teacher, being held up as an example in front of others. Young people crave attention, even negative attention, so the middle kids, neither straight A’s nor problems, more often follow the negative leaders than the positive. Society has taught them that. Books, television, and celebrities all show that the naughty ones get all the attention. Therefore, a young person struts with pleasure to be called a badass and lashes out with ugly words or physical violence when called a nerd.

I can influence the young people who come into my classroom, but only if their poorly behaved classmates allow me. That is the sad truth. I can stand in front of the class every day and talk about being kind to one another, about not bullying, about being a good example. They all see themselves as victims–quick to recognize bullying in others, but not in themselves. When I tell them the most powerful tool they have in middle school is the ability to turn their back and walk away, they look at me like I have three heads.

I hope that someday my current sixth graders will realize the reward of achieving something positive, be it grades, getting into a good college, or doing something kind for another. I hope that something I’ve said this year will stick down deep and be remembered in a few years when life is harder. And I hope that at least one of them returns to tell me I made a difference, that my effort was noticed if not immediately appreciated.

 

Inspired by Family

IMG_0551Throughout my life, I have listened avidly to stories of my family. It was no different when I married my husband and heard stories of his family. I turned my own stories into a novel, UNDER THE ALMOND TREES and I’m currently working on ALOHA SPIRIT a story of my husband’s grandmother. The picture at left is his grandmother, mother, and aunts in Honolulu just before World War II. When writing these stories, I can’t be completely accurate since I don’t know all the details of the person’s life. It can’t be a biography. Dialogue has to be invented, as well as what I call the filling in between known events. For this reason, I’ve stopped saying these novels are about my family and begun saying they are inspired by family.

Family stories may be the inspiration, but they cannot carry a novel on their own. Even so, the first source of deeper information is the family. I took the older members of my family aside and urged them to tell me the details–where they went to school, what their mother made for dinner, which was their favorite relative, and who fought with who. My sons were working on a genealogy merit badge in Boy Scouts when they interviewed their great-grandfather. He was born in Honolulu in 1918 and was a civilian ship fitter at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed in 1941. His first-person view of the event was incredible, but his personal reactions were priceless. He told how he wanted to hide during the attack, but his boss made him go out with a crew to remove scaffolding from a ship. He hid behind turrets on the ship as the Japanese planes flew over. I wish I’d had my novelist’s eye that day and asked him about how he got to work, how long a day he worked, what he’d had for breakfast, and what the family said when he got home. Those are the details that make a novel.

Grandpa’s experience is a tiny part of my novel ALOHA SPIRIT. I had to research a lot about territorial Hawaii–the years between the fall of the monarchy and statehood. I didn’t care so much about the politics of the sugar plantation owners. I wanted to know about daily life. When did they get televisions, cars, radios? When were the hotels built on Waikiki? I read historical fiction set in Hawaii to get a feel for the era, and nonfiction for accuracy. There are many details I couldn’t find or that I had to change to fit my story. I can do that, since it’s a novel and not a biography.

The hardest part is showing the finished work to living members of the family. I think they understand that I intend it to be a tribute to our ancestors, but I’m sure they have a different view of the characters and events than I do. When I exaggerate a negative trait, I’m trying for greater conflict to improve the novel’s pacing, not to ruin a person’s reputation. So when you read my novels, keep in mind that they are novels. A lot of it is made up! Enjoy them as fiction. If you absolutely must know if something really happened, send me an email. My hope is that readers will be as inspired by the characters in my novels as I was by the women who inspired them.

Writing Exercise

anpencil4This week in a writing class, we have a fun assignment. Try it yourself!

*It needs to be one paragraph, exactly seven sentences. No dialogue.

*It should be the first paragraph or the last paragraph of a Young Adult novel, meaning the main character should be a teenager.

*It can be in first person, but you can’t use ‘I’ more than three times. It can be close third person, but you can’t use the character’s name more than three times.

*The paragraph must start with a long sentence and end with a short one, OR it can start with a short one and end with a long one.

Before you decide that I’m waiting for YOU to write MY assignment, here is a first draft of mine:

I love this computer, my dearest friend, closest companion, and hardworking colleague. Flipping open the lid, the screen lights up, notification icons blink. On Facebook, I stare in horror at a photoshopped picture of me, barely dressed, in the arms of some skinny nerd. Four of my closest friends have ‘liked’ it. Change to email before anyone sees me online. An English teacher didn’t get my final paper, some refugee in a third world country needs money, and no message from Thomas after last night’s wonderful date. I hate computers.

Put your paragraphs in the notes below! Feel free to offer me encouragement…

Commas and Adjectives

Most adults are famindexiliar with the basic use of commas, but some of the rules (which go on and on and on) are less well known. Take the issue of adjectives. If you use two or more adjectives to describe something, do you put commas between them? The hard and fast rule: it depends.:)

 

Mary chose to wear the red, spotted sweater.

In this example, the sentence makes sense if I reverse the adjectives and write ‘spotted, red sweater.’ Also, the sentence works if I put an and between the adjectives and write ‘red and spotted sweater.’ In this case, a comma is needed.

Mary chose to wear Susie’s red sweater.

In this example, the two adjectives (Susie’s and red) cannot be reversed and still make sense. It also makes no sense if you put and between them. No comma.

Why is it important to know this rule? Consider the following sentences.

Tiffany is a pretty tall girl.

Tiffany is a pretty, tall girl.

In the first one, Tiffany is tall. She may or may not be pretty. In the second sentence, Tiffany is pretty and tall. Make sure you write what you mean!

 

Author-go-Round: Nina Day Gerard

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00016]This week’s Author-Go-Round interview with Nina Day Gerard may answer some of the questions you’ve always wanted to ask about romance writing…but were afraid to ask! Welcome, Nina!

Q: How did you become a romance writer?

A: I gave myself the title Accidental Romance Writer. I’ve been writing stories since I was in the third grade, and I’ve been reading romance since high school when I used to trade Harlequin novels with my girlfriends. Then in 2012 I had kind of a V8 moment when I realized “Hey, I could do this—I SHOULD do this!” and that led to my first short story The Long Road Home in the 2014 Shades of Pink Romance Anthology supporting breast cancer research, and my first novel My Brother’s Keeper.

Q: What’s the most popular question you get about being a romance author?

A: The one thing I get asked all the time is whether or not I write about the real-life experiences I’ve had in terms of the relationships or the love scenes. But it’s not classy to kiss and tell, in my opinion.

Q: But aren’t the love scenes—and in some cases the sex scenes—what people most associate with contemporary romance?

A: I would agree with that. And I’m more than happy to talk about what goes into writing those scenes from a crafting standpoint.

Q: How do you decide the heat level of your material in terms of that?

A: The easiest way to answer that is to say that I became inspired to write romance by the love stories I have enjoyed reading. I never set out to write about a certain amount of sex per se. But like any healthy adult romantic relationship, there has to be the right balance of a strong romantic and emotional bond, along with great chemistry and attraction. To me, one just makes the other better, and vice-versa. In a good love story, by the time you get to the first love scene, the reader should experience the intensity of what the two people feel for each other—that just makes the sex better. Those are the kinds of relationships I like to read about, and so that’s how I try to write.

Q: Do you ever get embarrassed when you think about people reading some of those scenes?

A: Oh my gosh, yes! Not the fans per se, these are all readers who are accustomed to the genre and probably expect a certain level of heat. But my mother, for instance, begged me for months to read the manuscript of My Brother’s Keeper. I finally relented and sent it to her. She gave me great feedback, and thankfully had the sense not to mention any of the love scenes. That went undiscussed. But now I don’t feel shy about sharing my writing with her anymore.

Q: What other romance authors have inspired you?

A: At the top of my list would be Maya Banks (KGI and Slow Burn series). She is the master at writing with that balance I was talking about. I love her characters. Same with Christine Feehan (Drake Sisters, Ghost Walker and Sisters of the Heart Series). I devoured these books as soon as they were published.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: Well, the Second Edition of My Brother’s Keeper is now available on Kindle, and Burlesque Bad, Book 1 of my Destiny of Dance series, is due out this summer.

For purchase links and trailer to My Brother’s Keeper, a preview of the Destiny of Dance series, her blog A Fine Romance, and to join Nina’s mailing list for a free exclusive edition of The Long Road Home with story Epilogue, please visit www.ninadaygerard.com. (She’ll never spam you, just periodic updates about her books!)

 

Author-Go-Round: Connie Peck

coverConnie is the author of some of my very favorite horse books for Young Adults. Welcome, Connie!

Thank you for inviting me to your blog. I’m Connie Peck and the stories I write are loosely based on a pony I owned when I was young. Do horses really talk? Can a rider actually understand the thoughts of a horse? You betcha! Every animal communicates. They signal danger and good food, play and even anger or irritation. They even communicate with other species. How do you know what they are saying? By watching and listening. You know what your dog or cat is thinking – at least most of the time, and they seem to know what you’re going to say even before you say it.

I always know what my horse is thinking by the tilt of his ears or the angle of his head. His eye changes ever so slightly to tell me different things, and when his muscles tighten, I know what he’s thinking about doinghorse. And my horse understands me in the very same way. Of course we speak verbally as well. I know his whinny when he wants food, or just wants company, and he knows when I call him or whistle that it’s time to go for a ride – or get a snack.

I learned all this from my pony, Midnight, when I was only eleven years old. That pony actually considered himself to be the trainer of our partnership.

A while back I visited a fourth grade class and we discussed writing books. They couldn’t wait to ask me all sorts of questions. Here are some of my favorites.

  1. How did you make up so many stories?

I write about things I that happened to me, or things I would like to happen. Sometimes I daydream and pretend I’m someone else and make up things to do. When you start by writing about things in your own life, your imagination starts to grow. Then making up new stories gets easier.

  1. Do you ever get tired when you are writing a book?

While I’m writing a real good part of the book and I’m so into it that I lose track of time, I can sit at my desk for hours and not even know it. I’m not a bit tired or hungry or thirsty even. But when I do stop to think about something I just wrote, or I have to stop and think about what’s going to happen next, I might lean back in my chair, and then I think I broke myself in half! I try to stand up and stretch my legs and I’m so stiff I can hardly move. But I didn’t think I was getting tired at all when I was ‘In the Zone’.

  1. Are you famous?

It depends on what you mean by famous?

“Like on TV where everyone knows you.”

Well, my children know me, and my grandchildren know me pretty well. And my mom, all my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews know me, as well as all my aunts and uncles and cousins. And now you know me. So I guess that makes me sort of famous. Besides, I had an interview on a radio station one time.

“Wow, you are famous!”

  1. Are you a millionaire? ‘Cause everyone who writes a book must be rich.

(I tried not to giggle) If you mean really rich, I can say I’m the richest person I know because of my family and friends, and because I live in America where I can choose my own life. But if you want to know if I have enough money to pay my bills, not yet. In fact, none of the authors I know are rich. (They were really surprised and a little disappointed)

  1. I’m afraid of horses and I don’t really like them, but I like cats. Can you write a book about cats?

I write what I know and love and that’s mostly horses. I don’t know a lot about cats, but I have a couple of cats and they can be funny. You can write a great book about cats if you start writing about what your cat does. You can even make up an adventure for you and your kitty. Maybe someday you will be famous. (That got them excited)

I started my latest book, Belt Buckles and Tiaras, not long after this classroom visit. It is a new line in The Black Pony adventures. Annie and Midnight first met Savannah in the first book when they went to the playday. Annie got to know Savannah a little better in the second book, Midnight and the Racehorse. But Savannah wanted to share her own story and tell how Annie helped her out, just by being a friend.

Sixteen year old Savannah Conway has it all, wealth, beauty, and the finest horses on a ranch in Phoenix. But what is the cost? Her movie-star mother has plans to see her winning every beauty pageant she can find. Right up to Miss America.

When her own dreams of training and showing horses clash with her mother’s plans, Savannah feels betrayed, trapped in a life mapped out for her since birth. But when she meets Annie Beck, a plain girl with an exceptional black pony, doors to another way of life begin to open. A life filled with real friends and freedom of choice.

Can Savannah break her mother’s heart and shatter their dreams for a shot at the title of Miss America just for a fling in the country? Is a compromise possible so she can meet Annie’s friends – and James, who rides the golden dun?

You can find BELT BUCKLES AND TIARAS on Amazon (http://tinyurl.com/nwkpw2v) and the rest of my books on my Author Page 

Please visit me at http://conniepeck.wordpress.com and check out Midnight’s blog, too.

And don’t forget to visit these fabulous authors, also on this tour. Write a comment on something you find interesting.

Feb 8 Nina Day Gerard www.ninadaygerard.com

Feb 15, Miracle Austin www.miracleaustin.com

Eve Connelly. Website www.eveconnelly.wordpress.com

Tracy Lawson. Website www.tracylawsonbooks.com

Linda Ulleseit, Flying Horse books and more, website: www.ulleseit.wordpress.com

Author-go-Round: Me!

 

Ellen001IMG_0447Welcome to the third week of AUTHOR-GO-ROUND! This week it’s my turn.

My grandmother’s grandmother, Ellen VanValkenburgh, fascinated me from a young age. She left a tremendous legacy of strength for the women of my family, and she inspired my novel, Under the Almond Trees. On the left is a photograph taken sometime around the turn of the last century. I’m on the right, 100 years later, wearing the same brooch. Ellen died before my father was born, but here is how I imagine an interview with her might go.

Linda Ulleseit (me): Thank you for speaking with me, Grandma Van.

Ellen VanValkenburgh: What would you like to talk about today?

Me: I’ve always admired the story of you running your husband’s paper mill after he passed away. Was that hard emotionally? I mean was he the love of your life?

Ellen: (laughing) Such a modern idea! In my day we didn’t moon over our men. I did what I had to do to feed my family. I had two daughters then, you know, and a son on the way.

Me: Henry VanValkenburgh was your second marriage, though.

Ellen: That’s true. He was the father of my children, but Jacob… Jacob was my heart.

Me: The love of your life.

Ellen:If you insist. But we only had a short time together.

Me: Yes, true. Can we talk about your time in Santa Cruz? Did running the paper mill make you want to be in politics?

Ellen: Oh, I never wanted to be in politics, but when I tangled with the city over business matters it seemed foolish that women had no part in making decisions about how their city was run. Women couldn’t vote then, you know.

Me: Oh, I know. You fought hard for women to vote. I’m very proud of you for that. You even met Susan B. Anthony, is that right?

Ellen: (nodding) What an earnest face and genial smile she had!. Susan came to Santa Cruz at the request of her brother Elihu, a prominent man in Santa Cruz.

Me: And she inspired you to sue the county?

Ellen: Among others. But yes, I did sue in 1862. The law, after all, said a person born in these United States was a citizen and eligible to vote. Disappointing to learn that the law applied to Negroes but not women.

Me: But you persevered.

Ellen: Didn’t succeed until 1920. I was old by then.

Me: What a tremendous legacy to leave your children, though. What an inspiring life you’ve led.

Ellen: Well, I didn’t intend to be either a legacy or inspiring. I only wanted some say in how my city, and country, was run.

Me: Still, your niece by marriage and your granddaughter hold you in high esteem. As do I.UAT front

Ellen: That’s nice. Neither Nina or Eva were trying to be inspirational either. They just decided what they wanted and stuck to their guns until they got it.

Me: That’s admirable.

Ellen: Well, all right. I guess that’s so. (smiling) Share my story then with whomever you will. I hope they enjoy reading it.

Me: Thank you, Grandma Van. I’m sure they will.

Under the Almond Trees is available on Amazon here.

Also please visit these awesome AUTHOR-GO-ROUND authors:

Tracy Lawson www.tracylawsonbooks.com

Nina Day Gerard, www.ninadaygerard.com

Miracle Austin, www.miracleaustin.com

Connie Peck, conniepeck.wordpress.com

 

 

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