• Linda Ulleseit, author

  • NaNoWriMo!

Novel Madness FAll 2015 FINALS

ribbonI’ve been remiss in updating this contest! On Monday, September 21, my students voted on the remaining novels. As a result, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Hobbit were sent into the finals. Yesterday, the final round of speeches and the final vote took place. This year, the title of favorite novel was awarded to

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit joins the ranks of past winners:

Spring 2015: Holes by Louis Sachar

2014: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

2013: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

2012: Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

I find it interesting that in five years the winner has never been duplicated even though all of these books have appeared in the list more than once. Super favorites like Riordan’s Percy Jackson books or Roald Dahl’s Matilda haven’t won either. I am proud of the variety shown in my students’ reading over the years, and proud that every winner is a book I believe to be worthy of the title. I wonder what they’ll be reading next year?

Novel Madness 2015 ROUND TWO

2Novel Madness is the annual tournament my students conduct to determine their favorite novels of all time. For the beginning of this year’s contest, go here. Students tweaked their speeches to reflect their new opponents and delivered them in class. Then everyone voted. The winners of Round Two will match up like this for Monday’s (September 21) Semifinal Match:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling


Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney


The Maze Runner by James Dashner


The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

I was quite surprised that The Hobbit beat the perennial favorite Lightning Thief, but the contest between Divergent and The Maze Runner could have gone either way. Diary of a Wimpy Kid beat Hatchet to make it to the semifinals. I wonder if that vote would have come out differently had I waited until after we read Hatchet in class? One thing is for sure. Every year my class has its own reading preferences even though a few books make the list consistently. Stay tuned for semifinal results next week!


one     Today my students presented speeches on their books. To get ready for this, they researched Goodreads and Amazon to find out what good reviews said about their books, and what bad reviews said about their opponent. They read their opponent’s book if they weren’t familiar with it, and surveyed classmates for their opinions. Finally, they blogged about the upcoming competition. Today was the day. They presented, and the class voted. Here are the Round One winners, all paired up for Round Two!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling vs. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney vs. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Cinder by Marissa Meyer vs. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien vs. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Round Two speeches and voting will take place the week of September 14. That gives you a whole weekend to comment on the students’ blogs. Give them encouragement, your opinions, or advice. They’d love to hear from you.

Novel Madness News

book turning pages_animatedEvery year I do an activity with my students I call Novel Madness. It’s a tournament to determine their favorite novel of all time. They initially brainstorm 30 or 40 books, then narrow it to the top 16. Pairs of students work with one book to prepare a speech, persuasive essay, and blog posts. Round One this year is September 11, 2015. Here are the matchups:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling vs. Flush by Carl Hiassen

Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey vs. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Wonder by R.J. Palacio vs. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney vs. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Cinder by Marissa Meyer vs. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

By the Great Horned Spoon by Sid Fleischman vs. Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli vs. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Read student blogs about Novel Madness here. Please leave comments! My students love it when someone besides their classmates comment!

Personal Narrative or Personal Essay?

anpencil3One of the writing genres we teach in sixth grade is the personal narrative, and that hasn’t changed with the Common Core State Standards. (Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences. W6.3) Personal narratives are defined as stories about something real that actually happened to you. Students write on topics like a special person, how they acquired a special object, the first time they rode a bike, or an important event. Everything they write about is true. It actually happened. So what’s the difference between personal narrative and personal essay?

Essay writing is also not new for Common Core. (Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content. W6.2) So if you are writing a personal essay about your life–a special person, an event, etc.–can you use the same paper you wrote for the narrative?

While both genres may have the same topic, the purpose is quite different. In a personal narrative, the writer focuses on the elements that make a good story: sensory details, character’s emotion, and a strong beginning, middle and end. A personal essay, however, focuses on personal growth. It is less about the scene and more about the reflection.

Personal essays, of course, can have great details and description, as personal narratives can show character growth. In short, a personal narrative is more about the story and a personal essay is more about the reflection. A popular topic my students write about is riding a roller coaster. Their personal narrative may go something like this:

The hot sun bounced off the pavement and wrapped my bare legs. Thank goodness for the snow cones my brother and I had just bought. 

“Let’s go on The Ripper!” he said as he finished the icy goodness.

“The Ripper?” My heart dropped. It was big. It was fast. It was scary.

“Come on, it’s just another roller coaster.”

Reluctantly I followed him to the line. Minutes passed and we creeped toward the loading platform. With each step, I had to work harder to swallow my fear. My hands were damp with sweat when they finally grasped the cold metal bar of safety that crossed my lap. 

“Wahooo!” my brother yelled as we started off.

I smiled weakly as the coaster began its click, click, click to the top of the hill. My stomach twisted. I felt like I was going to throw up, but if I did that my brother would tease me forever. The roller coaster reached the top and we had a split second to view the entire park. Then the wind snapped my hair straight out in back of me as the coaster whooshed down and around and around and around. My eyes teared up. I screamed, but with exhilaration not fear. 

The roller coaster slid to a smooth stop at the landing platform. I turned to my brother with a big smile. “Let’s go again!” 

That is a short example, but it has the elements of a personal narrative: It’s a true incident that happened to me. There’s a clear beginning, middle, and end. Sensory details and character emotion give it interest and draw the reader in. Now let’s try the same scene as a personal essay.

The sun blazed down on my brother and I as we walked around the park with our snow cones. I thought we were having a good time, but actually we were there for two very different reasons. I was there to eat grape snow cones and go on the log ride to cool off. My brother was there to bring me to the brink of terror. 

“Let’s go on The Ripper!” he said as he finished the icy goodness.

“The Ripper?” My heart dropped. It was big. It was fast. It was scary.

“Come on, it’s just another roller coaster.”

I knew better, of course. There was a reason I stayed with the slower, more reasonable rides. I didn’t like the height and speed of rides like The Ripper. But some sort of brotherly challenge in his tone made me agree. I refused to consider what we were about to do as we waited in line. Finally my sweaty hands gripped the cool metal of the safety bar, and we were ready to go. No turning back now–as if I could turn back and have any shred of dignity for the rest of my life.

The coaster clicked its way up the giant hill. Each click felt like another rock added to my stomach. At the top, the park spread out around us for an instant too quick to appreciate.Then we were rushing down and around the flips and turns. To my astonishment, I screamed in delight. What had I been afraid of? This was great! 

When we reached the end, I turned to my brother with a smile. “Let’s go again!” On the second ride, I racked my brain to remember all the huge roller coasters in every park I’d ever been to. My summer was going to be busy!

While you may have enjoyed both examples, you should be able to see that the second one showed more reflection on the part of the narrator. So could a student turn in either example for a personal narrative? At the sixth grade level, of course.

Meet My Characters

YA BlogfestToday I’m being hosted on Apryl Baker’s Blogfest! I like doing these events because it gives me an opportunity to show a different side of my characters, to do something different. In this post, a fictional patroness interviews the key characters of my three flying horse novels to see who might be the best barn leader. Check it out!

My Crazy Corner‘s YA/NA Blogfest

Cover Reveal: Touch Me Not

TOUCH ME NOT, a New Adult Romance by USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR, Apryl Baker, releases this September through Limitless Publishing!



 ✰ ✰ SYNOPSIS ✰ 

A past tragedy has left Lily James burdened with a devastating secret…

Since the death of her twin sister, Lily can’t bear to be touched. Not accidentally, not casually…and certainly not intimately. This makes it impossible for her to confess to her best friend Adam Roberts that she’s in love with him. She can’t give him the sort of relationship he needs, so she watches in silence while he plans his wedding with someone else.

Enter Nikoli Kinkaid, the campus manwhore…

Nikoli is a self-proclaimed connoisseur of women, and he wants to add Lily to his list of conquests, but she wants nothing to do with him—until he makes her an offer she can’t refuse. He’ll teach her to enjoy human contact again, giving her a chance to win over Adam, while Nikoli uses all his considerable charm to seduce her.

But Lily raises the stakes…

Lily loves cars. Her late father was a racer, and she grew up under the hood of a car and on the racetrack. Nikoli has a limited edition 1970 Plymouth Barracuda she covets, so she informs him the terms of their deal also require he not sleep with anyone for six months. If he does, she’ll win the car. If she surrenders and ends up in his bed, his beloved ’Cuda is his to keep.

In an intricate dance of control and surrender, a reluctant friendship becomes something more. Lily begins to crave things she never believed she could, and Nikoli realizes there is more at stake than his reputation.

If Lily overcomes her phobia, will she crave Adam’s touch as she’s starting to crave Nikoli’s? 

Or will she only find pleasure from the touch of a semi-reformed manwhore?




So who am I? Well, I’m the crazy girl with an imagination that never shuts up. I LOVE scary movies. My friends laugh at me when I scare myself watching them and tell me to stop watching them, but who doesn’t love to get scared? I grew up in a small town nestled in the southern mountains of West Virginia where I spent days roaming around in the woods, climbing trees, and causing general mayhem. Nights I would stay up reading Nancy Drew by flashlight under the covers until my parents yelled at me to go to sleep.Growing up in a small town, I learned a lot of values and morals, I also learned parents have spies everywhere and there’s always someone to tell your mama you were seen kissing a particular boy on a particular day just a little too long. So when you get grounded, what is there left to do? Read! My Aunt Jo gave me my first real romance novel. It was a romance titled “Lord Margrave’s Deception.” I remember it fondly. But I also learned I had a deep and abiding love of mysteries and anything paranormal. As I grew up, I started to write just that and would entertain my friends with stories featuring them as main characters.

Now, I live Huntersville, NC where I entertain my niece and nephew and watch the cats get teased by the birds and laugh myself silly when they swoop down and then dive back up just out of reach. The cats start yelling something fierce…lol.

I love books, I love writing books, and I love entertaining people with my silly stories.


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