Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Just for fun

My son's a music guy and my older daughter has a knack for finding really cool, interesting music.
I'm not sure which one of them discovered this song - it's catchy in a wacky, offbeat way.
And the video is classic story telling.


p.s. Watch the little girl's face after the man pays for the flowers;)

Monday, 5 July 2010

Never Too Late

Let me start this post by pointing out today's date (July 5) and the date I am supposed to post (July 3).
Thus begins my message.
Since the beginning of summer, I have been having dreams with a theme:
Trying to get back home despite impossible odds.
The setting is always different: we are on vacation, we have moved away and are moving back, we are in an airport, we are in a hotel, we are in a rented flat. But the problem is always the same: too much to do and not enough time to do it - I haven't started packing, I've lost the room key, I have only minutes before our flight and all my kids are still off saying good bye to friends or at the pool or wandering around, not rushing in the least. Even in the dream, I know I will never make it.
But I still try, panicked and discombobulated, not knowing what to do first.
I've had enough of these dreams to get me seriously curious. So I googled Dream Interpretations and found a dream dictionary at They had this to say under the heading of 'home:'

...To dream that you cannot find your way home, indicates that you have lost faith and belief in yourself. It may also signify a major transition in your life...
And they said this about 'late:'. ...You may feel unready, unworthy, or unsupported in your current circumstances. Additionally, you may be overwhelmed or conflicted with decisions about your future. Time is running out and you no longer have time to accomplish all the things you want. Alternatively, being late in your dream could be telling you that it is better late than never.

Now, in an effort to show my father that all the cash he spent on my college Psych degree wasn't in vain, I will now attempt to interpret my dream:
Because my four kids and teacher hubby are all home for the summer, and because I usually have the house to myself while they're all at school, and because I am trying to revise a novel by the end of July and because summertime family life is not conducive to that, I am feeling overwhelmed, doubting (lost faith) that I will get the job done, time is running out. I am trying to get back to that familiar, homey, secure writing schedule to help me accomplish all that I want.
Whaddya think?
Maybe a lot of hogwash, I dunno. But thinking this through has reminded me yet again that this busy, crazy time of our lives will be gone some day and at that point I will have more time and quiet than I will know what to do with. So, as you all as my witnesses, I renew my pledge to embrace these crazy summer days and every single wonderful interruption that comes with them.

Wishing you peace in your own crazy days of summer,

Bev Patt

(photo credit goes to my daughter, who took this silly picture of my son, on the Cliffs of Dover;)

Monday, 10 May 2010

When It Clicks - More Writing lessons from the tennis court

Sports News - May 08, 2010
It has been a long and frustrating winter for me, tennis-wise. Which is probably why I've written so many posts related to tennis. Blog therapy. My frustration has centered around the most basic shot - the forehand ground stroke. In an effort to improve, I rented ball machines and had lessons and even hit by myself against a wall, for hours. Most times, it felt like I was getting better. Yet each time I'd go back onto the court, I was back to hitting them all over the place with no control. Humiliating!
Then recently, I was at my son's soccer game, which happened to be next to a tennis court. During breaks in the game, I'd gaze over at the courts and watch the tennis players, specifically their forehands. I noticed how they looped their rackets around behind them and came through the ball in one even motion - a technique I had never tried. Would that work for me?
Long story short - yes. It did. It worked very, very well.
"What a sucker!" you say? "All those hours of hitting by yourself wasted!"
But I say, "No!" and "Please don't call me a sucker."
Because those hours I spent were actually building muscle memory on the other parts of that shot - the footwork, the timing, the follow through, etc. So that when I finally added the 'loop,' it tied everything all together and 'clicked.'
In the same way, writers write a bunch of stuff that isn't working. But they keep writing. And writing. They may take a class. Or have their piece critiqued. And they write some more.
And then one day, they're going to look at what they've written and suddenly, all those separate pieces are going to click into a meaningful whole. A whole they couldn't have arrived at any other way.

So, keep writing. It's the only way you're going to stay in the game.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Raising the Bar

The students and staff at East Leyden High School have set the bar so high for school visits, I can't imagine anyone topping them! Here are a few examples of the enthusiasm and warm welcome:
Not only had many students ordered books on their own, they also had quite a few in their library!

I signed just about anything and everything.

They had a display case with pictures and info from my website in their hallway...

And students in the Foods classes made me personalized book and house shaped cookies, representing my novel HAVEN, then wrapped it up in this fabulous gift basket!
Now really, does it get better than this?
I think not.

Monday, 26 April 2010

TEEN BOOK DROP - in action

So I went to an Irish dance feis with my daughter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this weekend.
I figured with this many people, it would be a great place to do a book drop!

And do you know, they actually had a few tables in the lobby designated for reading?
Though they had a sign that said the books and magazines were not supposed to leave the table.
So I had to add a post-it to mine that read, TAKE THIS BOOK!
It had the TBD (Teen Book Drop) label inside.

By the end of the feis, it was gone:)
I wonder - is someone reading it right now?
Hope so!

Saturday, 10 April 2010


Ok guys, the last line in this true story made me cry.
Read it and then come back to me!

Did you get a lump in your throat?
What makes this story so beautiful is that the guy did not stand around, waiting to be thanked.
And once they tracked him down, he still wanted to stay out of the limelight.
These are the true heros.
Those who do what is right, for right's sake. And that is enough for them.

I too once stood on a bridge - actually, the top of a small dam - and watched as someone younger
than I was (15?) struggle in the water. I'm ashamed to say I was afraid. Frozen. I was with my best friend and the struggling girl was her younger sister. I was visiting at their lake house and we were at this dam to ride over it in our jeans shorts - something they had done many times before. Her little sister wanted to go first so she jumped in. But something went wrong and the water was too strong and she was grasping for the side of the dam to help pull herself out of the water and I remember just standing there, looking over the bridge, paralyzed. Then my friend jumped in. Then another girl we were with jumped in too. Finally, I jumped in, but by that time my friend had already saved her.
That incident haunts me to this day.
And then I read a story like this and think,
If this happened to me now, would I react the same way, paralyzed and afraid?
Or would I be the first to jump in?

In my mind, it's this selfless love for others is what makes people, real or imagined, truly heroic.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Cook Until Done

My mom has passed away but one of the treasures I've held on to is her recipe box. You can tell how popular a dish was by how frayed and stained the card is. Some have notes to herself, reminders to bake on the middle rack or double the recipe to have enough for leftovers. And others contain Mom's trademarked phrase: "Cook until done."
Because Mom was a creative cook. She'd add ingredients she had in the fridge and wanted to use up. She'd substitute milk for sour cream. Or vice versa. She'd toss in some vegetables just to make it interesting. No two dinners were ever the same. But they were always delicious.
While writing this new novel, I have thought often of Mom's phrase, Cook until done.
Because, for the first time ever, I have an editor interested in taking a gander at this work-in-progress when it's finished. So of course, I want it done NOW.
But it can't be ready
until it's done.
And it can't be done
until all the ingredients blend together
and gel
into something quite wonderful.
Like Mom's concoctions, it can't be rushed.
Cook until done.
Write until done. And done well.
 (But not well done;)

Thursday, 1 April 2010

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER earns Starred Review!

It's official - I have gleaned through extensive research and scientific methodology that:
Today is the official Launch day for my new middle grade book, 
BEST FRIENDS FOREVER: AWWII Scrapbook, published by the wonderful folks at Marshall Cavendish.

Here is what the reviewers are saying:

“This heartwarming tale of steadfast friendship makes a wonderful access point for learning more about World War II and Japanese internment.”
--School Library Journal, Starred Review

“Because this novel is written in the form of letters, artwork, and clippings for a scrapbook, readers will be in for a real treat with what feels like a firsthand perspective. Issues such as what does an American look like, racism, poverty, and more are encountered by these two best friends feeling their way through a complicated time.”

“Their account of wartime terror is made more poignant by their resolution to make their lives beautiful and meaningful. The faux-diary format is sure to appeal.”
Setting the intense personal story of friends and enemies against the big World War II events is a great way to tell the history.”

Check it out, people!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Going Backwards

Have you ever read a novel that started off one way and then somehow morphed into
something totally different mid-book? That kind of stuff throws me as a reader.
But as a writer, I can see how it happens.
You start out with a bunch of newbie characters, then you put them into difficult situations.
They react, and how they react shows what their true character is like. Before your eyes, your
little newbies are growing up (*sniff, sniff!) having opinions, growing a backbone (or not) and becoming
At least that's the way it is for me.
Other writers might experience it differently. Maybe their characters come to them fully-formed but then the further they go along in the novel, the characters end up changing or going in directions the author did not anticipate.
This is why, when writing a novel, some 'writing days' are spent reading.
Today was a reading day. I hadn't planned on it, but I'd gotten to a place where I needed
to be reminded of where my MC had been and how far he'd come.
Writers have to stop sometimes and read from the beginning -
to make sure Main Character in Chapter One matches Main Character in Chapter Twenty-One. And if he/she doesn't, you have some 'splainin to do, Lucy.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Death in the movies

WARNING: This post is not for sensitive/squeamish readers

So last night the teen son invited me to watch Lucky Number Slevin and since my social calendar was amazingly free, I did. He also said it was a fine movie for his 14 and 12 year old sibs, so I let them watch too.
Let me first say, there's a lot of blood.
And shooting.
And dying.
And more than a little skin.
I kept yelling my son's name every time someone got knocked off or was doing something, erm, private.
"Sorry!" he'd say. "I forgot about that!" "That's the last time!" "Oh! Well, I mean THAT's the last time!"
It WAS a good plot-twisting story and (sadly) my younger kids thought nothing of the blood. However, at one point, someone (don't want to give too much away if you are going to watch it) is killed by a clear plastic bag over their head. Now THAT bothered them. And it bothered me as well. And I'm sure just the thought of it bothers you.
Why did that one incident affect them when 10 shooting deaths didn't?
I think because they could relate to that suffocating feeling - who hasn't had a blanket or pillow or something tossed over our heads/mouths accidentally (or by one of those type of friends who think they are being "funny") and had that panicky feeling?
Not many people (hopefully, thankfully) can relate to the blood-spattering gun play we see on TV every day. (And maybe it's partly BECAUSE we see it every day (on TV/movies) that it doesn't touch us as easily. )
And WHY, you may be wondering, am I writing about such a gruesome subject?
Definitely not because I'm going to write about people being killed in my middle grade novels!
But I'm interested in what moves children, what affects them. And I think one ingredient in that is how
well a child can relate to the main character's feelings - those universal truths that are the same for everyone. Basic experiences that we all, as humans, have all gone through. If we as writers keep those basic human experiences in mind as we write, we will created characters/stories that our readers will relate to on a gut, been-there type of level.
        The fact that my children were unaffected by all the shooting/bloodshed - well, that's a subject
for a different post all together. (rolls eyes and shuffles off...)

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Crazy Heart and Character love

See full size image

My hubby and I saw Crazy Heart last night. And Jeff Daniels did earn his Oscar.
But as far as the movie went, *shrug*
I just didn't get invested in the characters much. I felt somewhat distanced and didn't care.
On the way home, the Hubster and I compared this movie to WALK THE LINE and we
both agreed that WTL was waaaaaaaaaaaay better as movies go. I CARED about Johnny Cash.
So why didn't I care about Bad?
As a writer, I NEED to find this out. I want readers to fall in love with my characters, to root for them, to be invested in them. What did WALK THE LINE have that CRAZY HEART didn't? IMHO:

1. Sympathy -  We didn't see Bad BEFORE, when he was still wet behind the ears, full of hope and excitement. It was easier to fall in love with "Johnny" because of his sad upbringing and because of his early, eager years. When CRAZY opens, we see an overweight, alcoholic, chimney smoking, greasy-haired, past-his-prime country music star. If I'd seen Bad in his prime or in childhood flashbacks, maybe I would have related to him better.
In "The Writer's Journey" Christopher Vogler talks about establishing The Ordinary World, in which the main character is introduced and is hoped to be portrayed as "relatable." We don't have to even like the character but we have to be able to "understand his plight and imagine ourselves behaving in much the same ways, given the same background, circumstances and motivation." I think a little bit of backstory could have helped achieve this in CH.

2. Physical attractiveness - Face it, throughout CH, Bad is not attractive. The movie star Jeff Bridges is a hunk, but his character, Bad, was pretty scummy. Even when Bad cleaned up his act, he still looked like he needed a shower, a haircut and a generous amount of deodorant. Under this same heading was his constant smoking, which, I understand was part of his character, but it just added to his scumminess. Take it out of the intimate scenes and maybe I would have found him a smidgeon more attractive.

3. Realistic relationship - I'm sorry, but I just couldn't buy that cute Maggie Whoeversheis, whom I always think is Katie Holmes, would fall for this drunk, sweaty, much older guy. Maybe
I don't believe it because I didn't see his attractiveness (see #2.) If we could have seen him really clean up and look sharp for her a few times, we could see a glimmer of hope of what he could be, what might keep her trying in this relationship. Or maybe if we'd known more about her and what makes her tick - maybe then we could have seen how she'd fall for this guy. Or, if there was a scene in the beginning of their relationship that showed a glimmer of something really admirable in him, he'd win us over, along with the cute girl. But all he did was be nice to her cute kid and make biscuits.

4. Fill in the blank. What makes you root for a character? or not?

Friday, 5 March 2010

Lessons from the Tennis Court, #2 THE BALL

I am in a ladies tennis group that meets weekly.
The women vary from friendly and gracious to cold and competitive. Some are
there for the exercise. Some are there to perfect their game. I am there to learn and get better and hopefully have some fun in the process.
But it's hard to learn and get better and have fun when I have The Competitive One staring across the net at me. I start 'hearing' her thoughts about me:
She doesn't belong in this group.
Why did she have to come today?
Look at her form! 
She can't even return the simplest shot.
This is a waste of my time.
Why did I have to get paired with her?
And on, ad nauseam.
Now, who knows if any of this is going through The Competitive One's mind.
Maybe she's thinking of the movie she saw last night. Or what to do about her delinquent son.
It doesn't really matter because it's going through MY mind, and it's screwing me up.
I am trying to play to please her, to have her think well of me, to be accepted by her
and the end result is playing worse than normal.
I am outside of myself and outside of the rhythm that is tennis.

When I find myself playing to please, I try to step back and focus only on THE BALL. I stop looking at the person. They do not exist. There is a ball machine in their place and I am merely returning the ball. There is no judgement. There is no acceptance or rejection. There is just the ball and me.
And then I hit. Not always well. But probably better than what I had been hitting.

As a writer, I sometimes find myself writing to please - please the market, please a critique buddy, please a hoped-for agent. And writing to please works about as well as playing tennis to please. The result stinks. When I write to please others, I am outside of myself and outside of the rhythm that is writing. MY writing.
And so I must focus on THE STORY, the story that is buried within. There is no Competitive One, staring across the net from me. There is no Instructor or Agent or Market. There is only THE STORY.
In keeping my eye on the story, I hope to someday serve up an ace.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Class of 2k9 answers your burning questions

If you're reading this, you probably know I was, ahem, Co-President of The Class of 2k9, a group of debut children's authors. (ok, it's not really that impressive - it's one of those jobs nobody wants.) Anyway, on our class blog last year, we answered our readers' burning questions about what it was like to be a debut author, yada, yada. Well, we're doing it again. And if any of you are curious as to what life AFTER debut novel is like, hop over to
and ask away. We will each give our our own, many times very different, answers.
Questions are free and the sky's the limit;)

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Licorice Lovers!

As some of you may know, my family is in the licorice biz. Red vines, sour punch straws, snaps, ropes, yeah, that's us!
And we love it when fans do something creative like this...
(look quickly, before WB gets its boxers in a knot and takes it down again)

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Writing Lessons from the Tennis Court

For the past year, I've been learning to play tennis. And I have learned a lot. Technical, or should I say, technique-al knowledge. Eye on the ball. Drive through your shot. Look for the hole. 
Two days ago, after being away from it for two weeks, I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Or, actually, that's about all I could hit - a barn about a mile away. All my shots were high and long. I started to panic. Eye on the ball! Lock your wrist! Swing through your shot! 
My lesson members and teacher were feigning patience.
I became tentative, stopping half-way through my shot, sending the ball even further skyward. Finally my teacher yelled, 'hit it! hard! I don't care if it goes over my head. Just HIT IT!"
So I did. I whacked ball after ball with abandon. And whaddya know, a few of them went in. Burned in, even.
The writing lesson?
Don't get so caught up in all the so-called rules that it ends up ruining your muse.
Learn the rules, yes. But then write with abandon.

Monday, 22 February 2010

email scammers

So, today I received a bunch of emails from friends saying, 'what was up with that email you sent me?'
What email?
Turns out, some company got ahold of my address book and sent out ads to everyone, including agents, editors, and other people I would definitely not want to think I was sending them an ad!!
How do these jerks do this?
And better yet, how do we stop them?

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Thank you Richard Peck!

I attended the incredible Anderson's Breakfast today where the guest speaker line up was: Pam Allyn, Jordan Sonnenblick, Francoise Mouly, Patricia McKissack, Henry Cole and ended with none other than Richard Peck.
Each speaker was funnier or sweeter or more insightful than the next. But having just come out with a book that features a photo of my deceased mother on the cover (no, no, don't be silly, she wasn't deceased at the time of the photo!) I particularly treasured one thing Mr. Peck said.
"No one a writer has ever known, dies."

He was telling me that my mother, with her girlish laugh, her self-effacing humor, and her quirky ways, can live on through my stories.
How wonderful is that?

Thank you, Mr. Peck.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Need a little good news?

Sometimes all we need is a smile to renew our faith.
Here's a beauty.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

It's more than all right

I recently returned from Kindling Words in Vermont, a retreat for published (and some VERY published) authors, illustrators and editors. Seeing all these writers and illustrators learning from and supporting each other brought the Traveling Wilburys to mind. So much talent in one room, doing what they love, together.
As Tom Petty sings, I was just glad to be there, and glad to be alive.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


This is my mother's scrapbook.

 It's mostly filled with pictures but there are notes and quotes sprinkled throughout. I used this as a model for my upcoming book, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER: A WWII SCRAPBOOK. The best part is that my editor asked me for photographs to use in the book. Guess who I chose? Mom, of course;) (on right)

Cover Image

Friday, 5 February 2010

Miniature worlds

Don't ask me why, but for some reason, I love things in miniature. I was a tomboy so I never played with a dollhouse but I'm fascinated by them now! I also love model trains. The Chicago Botanical Garden has (had? not sure, haven't been there for a while) an outdoor model train garden like this one. I took my kids there many times and we'd easily spend a whole morning wandering through it, marveling at what we saw. In my recent novel, HAVEN, the main character has a model train set in his basement. Luh-kee! Writing is one way to get those things we always wanted but not have to dust them;)

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Tales from the small press front

So my first book came out in late November - HAVEN, published by Blooming Tree Press.

Nice cover, eh? I think so too.
However, having a book published, even with a nice cover, doesn't get you too far. Especially if your publisher is a small one. More and more these days, authors are expected to do their own marketing, going to bookstores and introducing themselves, contacting papers, setting up interviews and lastly, sending copies of their books to reviewers!

And so, I did:

Bloggers, Reviewers, Country Men, lend me your posts!
I look forward to hearing your views:)