30 March 2012

My New Author Website!


I'm so excited to announce my shiny new author website!  I'm still uploading content to a few of the pages, but it's so beautiful, I couldn't wait to share!!

Take a look and tell me what you think!

The address is super easy to remember - http://vbartles.com

25 March 2012

Book Review: THE LIST

 Every year, right before homecoming, a list with eight names is posted all over school.  Two girls are chosen from each class: the prettiest and the ugliest girls at Mount Washington high school.  Each year, the girls of Mount Washington High hope that they might be the lucky one chosen as “prettiest” and worry that they might be singled out as “ugliest.”  No one knows who is behind the list, or how the girls are chosen, but everyone knows that the labels, once applied, will change the lives and status of these eight girls forever. 

More and more, young women in our society are faced with the message that who they are and what they are worth depends upon the clothes they wear, the trends they follow and the size or shape of their bodies.  But the old adage that "beauty is only skin deep" is a complete and total lie. True beauty doesn't exist on the surface.  It really is what's inside that counts.

In THE LIST (available April 1, 2012), Siobhan Vivian explores the dangers of applying superficial labels to people, even when the labels are the kind we usually think of as "positive." THE LIST follows this year’s eight girls through the homecoming week, and as we witness their reactions and follow their interactions with their classmates, we can see that the labels we give each other don’t really mean anything at all.  Being known as “prettiest” may be more of a curse than a blessing, and the “ugliest” girl might be truly beautiful.  Every girl who has ever felt the pressures of trying to fit in, every girl who has struggled with the Disney Princess mentality, every one who has ever wondered why she has to be sexy to be worthwhile, will find herself in the pages of this book.  It should be required reading for every 7-12th grade girl (and anyone who knows a teenage girl)!

Disclaimer: Because my 11-year-old daughter always asks about language, when books are recommended to her, I will warn you that one of the characters in THE LIST uses coarse language fairly frequently, in the chapters from her point of view.  I personally prefer books without the profanity, but the story of this book was so well-written that I felt comfortable recommending it to my daughter anyway, knowing that it would open important topics of discussion between us.

14 March 2012

Thinking Again

Update: As promised, I've tackled Challenge #7 on the As the Eraser Burns blog, and I've updated my "About Me" page. - One more challenge to go!!

Here we are, beginning week seven of the eight-week pre-conference challenge on the SCBWI MD/DE/WV blog... and I've finally completed Challenge #6.

This challenge, to write a complete story (title, beginning, middle, end) with no more than 200 words (actually, they gave us a grace window - we could go up to 221 words), wasn't as scary as past challenges have been... yet it took me a week to pick up my story pencil and get started.

What was holding me back? A variety of factors, actually.  In this past week, I've worked on polishing my pitch for my finished manuscript, tackled the scenes I've been avoiding on my work in progress draft, put together an arrangement of knitted/crocheted flowers for a friend (my deep water jogging instructor at the local Y) who recently had open heart surgery (no, I didn't knit all of the flowers myself, all but 2 were created by the others in our knitting group, but I did create the stems out of a recycled pool noodle!)...

I had lots of excuses for procrastinating on this challenge, and they were all good excuses.  But a good excuse is still just an excuse.

Really, it all came down to one simple fact: To me, a 200-word story says one thing - Picture Book.

Now, I have lots of ideas for picture books.  I've written a couple, and they're in varying stages of revision.  Most of my ideas are still simmering, not quite ready to put to paper.  I could pull one of those out for this challenge...  However, I promised myself, at the beginning of this challenge series, that I would hold myself accountable by posting my challenges either on this blog or in the comments area of the original challenge post.  And if I post one of my favorite, fun picture books, I'd be shooting myself in the foot in regard to publishing that book. 

So I spent the week brainstorming, trying to come up with a story idea that I didn't care about enough to make it worth trying to publish. I'm sure you're not surprised to hear that I couldn't make myself care enough to actually write any of the story ideas I came up with! 

Finally, last night, I realized that I was crippling myself with my preconceived notions. The challenge didn't specify a picture book. I could write to any age range!  So I pulled out two of the supporting characters from my YA novel and wrote one of their essential scenes (one that is crucial to the backstory of the novel, but doesn't actually belong in the pages of the novel)!  Coming in at 203 words, I give you...

The Breakup

Kendra threw her phone across the room.  Jarod cringed as it smashed against the wall next to his head.

“Don’t be mad, Ken. We both know it’s not working.”

Kendra glared. “She’ll never love you. You’re fooling yourself.”

“This isn’t about Laina. You and I don’t belong together.”

“You know she slept with Scott, right? Last weekend, she got drunk and threw herself at him. Your perfect little angel isn’t as sweet and innocent as you think she is.”

Jarod grabbed his jacket and stood up.  “You’re poisonous. You can’t stand to think someone else might have something you don’t, and you destroy anyone who lets you get close.” He shrugged and stepped outside. “I don’t know why Laina puts up with you, but I’m done.”

Kendra slammed the door and collapsed on the couch.  Alaina was going to win again.

She picked up her phone and snapped the case back together. She punched in a number, taking a few deep breaths to compose herself.

“Alaina?” she purred, “I wanted you to be the first to know I broke up with Jarod. I finally told him I could never be with someone who spreads vicious, false rumors about my best friend.”

Now, on to Challenge #7: the Author Bio.  This one is much scarier than even the illustrating challenge, because I know how to write about fictional people, but what do I say about myself???

I made a commitment, though. Watch for my "About Me" page to be updated soon!

(Return to my list of "just for fun" stories)

13 March 2012

Last Chance to Win!

Update! We have a winner!  With only 2 official entries, our players each had amazing odds... and the necklace goes to... Rachel Schieffelbein!  Please send me an email with your address, so I can send the necklace to you. 

Feedback Request: So many people told me of their acts of service recently (in person, via email, etc.), but only 2 of you actually commented here to officially enter the contest.  Was the prize not enticing enough? Did I not publicize the contest widely enough? Or were you all reluctant to publically toot your own horns?  Please let me know, so I can take that into consideration the next time I run a contest!


Don't forget to post your comments for the March Kindness blog contest to win a handmade necklace!  I've had lots of people show and tell me about the acts of kindness they've performed this week... but you have to comment ON THE BLOG to be officially entered! 

My husband will pick a winner from all entries when he gets home from work tonight (5pm EDT), so you have until then to enter.  Remember: You can tell me about an act of service you've performed for someone, or something someone else has done for you!  Good luck!!

09 March 2012

The Bag Lady Strikes Again!

I've been busily knitting plastic tote bags (out of recycled grocery bags) for my daughters' elementary school PTA auction, and I'm happy to announce that I've finally finished them all!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been making bags and other items from recycled plastic bags (grocery bags, newspaper bags, etc.) - which is a great way to recycle and keep these things out of the landfills.  Several people have seen me making the bags and asked if I'd ever considered making them to sell.  So I agreed to donate several for the annual PTA auction*.  I made one bag for each grade level at the elementary school (PreK through 5th Grade, and the children in each grade will have the opportunity to sign the inner lining of the bag representing their grade level (to personalize the bags and make them truly representative of the grades).

After I finished knitting the bags for the auction, I started to wonder what else I could do, along the lines of knitting recycled materials, so I've been playing and experimenting with the plastic bags, as well as t-shirts and old blue jeans.  So far, I've knitted purses, scarves, necklaces**, water bottle carriers, bracelets and I'm almost finished making a hat.  I set up an etsy site, and I've put a few things up for sale there, so we'll see where this all leads.  And to think: all of this, because I needed to find a way to stop dropping and breaking my shampoo bottle in the shower at the gym!

*15th Annual CES Live/Silent Auction:
Saturday, April 14, 2012
The Lodge
2832 Nine Mile Circle @ Frederick Rd.
Tickets: $10 (available at the door - adults only, please)
Catering by Abundance Catering (light fare - beverages not included in ticket price)

** Don't forget to enter to win my March Kindness contest for a chance to win one of my necklaces for FREE!! (update to March Kindness rules here)

05 March 2012

March Kindness - Updated Rules! - Win a Handmade Basketball Necklace!


After much thought and consideration, I've decided to alter the rules for my March Kindness contest.

You can enter in one of TWO ways:

1. Leave a comment here about an act of service that YOU perform for SOMEONE ELSE


2. Leave a comment here about an act of service that SOMEONE ELSE has performed for YOU!

The act of service doesn't need to be big or spectacular.  Trust me, the littlest things sometimes seem monumental to the person who receives the kindness.  (My husband doesn't think his decision to alter our anniversary plans so I could take a step toward my writing goals was a big thing, but to me, it was HUGE!)

If you need ideas for the kinds of March Kindness acts of service that might mean the world to someone, check out this article (or read Jason F. Wright's amazing book, Seventeen Second Miracle)

Don't forget!  Small acts of service can lead to big rewards!  I can't wait to send my pretty necklace to one of you :)

(See the post below for ways to get extra entries in the contest)

02 March 2012

March Kindness - Win a Handmade Necklace!

A little act of service can make someone's day!

The backstory:  Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in a Pitch Workshop with Brenda Drake, Shelley Watters, & Cassandra Marshall.  Unfortunately, I got distracted with my daily Mom chores and novel revisions, and I missed the deadline to submit for the workshop.  :(

But all was not lost! I was thrilled to see that I'd have another chance to enter my pitch for the March Madness Agent Pitch Match... Until I noticed that they would be accepting the first 50 submissions sent at noon EST on March 2nd.

My anniversary.

And my husband had already taken the day off of work to spend the day with me.

I wanted to cry when I realized I'd missed my second chance, before I even got to try, but my sweetheart takes priority. I couldn't cancel on him, when he'd already gone through so much trouble to plan the perfect day!

... And here's how I know my dear husband REALLY loves me:

Without giving it a second thought, he scrapped all of his plans for our anniversary and announced a new plan: He would help me get my pitch ready and sit with me while I watched the clock, so that I could hit "send" on my email submission at precisely noon. 

My submission was one of the first 50, so I got in!!  Now, I'm anxiously waiting to hear if I make it through the slush pile to advance in the Agent Pitch Madness...

But while I'm waiting, I have to celebrate!  I made this super-cute, March Madness-inspired necklace out of recycled plastic bags (and a cute basketball bead).  I want to give it to one of you!!

Here's how to enter:

1. Perform an act of March Kindness for someone you know - some act of sacrifice on your part to help someone else reach a personal goal.

2. Leave a comment on this blog to tell me about your act of kindness.

3. Make sure let me know, in your comment, how many bonus entries you are eligible for!

4. Be sure to leave your email address, so I can contact you if you win!

Bonus entries:
   * Follow my blog (+1)
   * Follow me on twitter (+1)
   * Tweet about the contest & your good deed with the hashtag #MarchKindness (+1) - be sure to tag me, so I don't miss your tweet!
   * Share the contest on Facebook (+1)

I will put all of the entries into a hat and have my dear husband draw a name on March 13th - the first day of March Madness.  Good luck!!!