June 4, 2012

Oh Susanna - How Much Drama In A MS? And Time For Summer Fun!

Holy swiss cheese, Batman!  You would not believe this weekend!

I could spin the whole story out, but that would be too long to post :)  Suffice to say, my brother fell off his bike in a race and shattered his femur, and Jemma is SERIOUSLY in the doghouse - she has taken BAD DOG to an unprecedented level!

My brother, thankfully, should be okay after some recovery time.  He's very fit and a very mind-over-matter type of guy.  He'll probably be back at work in 3 days :)  Jem will be forgiven eventually because she didn't do permanent damage - though not for lack of trying.  You won't believe it after Friday's Perfect Picture Book, but she actually caught a fawn.  I've had dogs my whole adult life and that's never happened before.  I've never seen anything so little! - I thought it was a cat! - I didn't know fawns started out so incredibly small!   I made her drop it.  You probably heard me shrieking at her in California, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and Europe!  And she didn't hurt it - just scared it - she's not that much bigger.  But really.  I was completely traumatized by the whole experience and if you think Jemma is going anywhere off a leash for a Very Long Time you are sorely mistaken!

So here I am, rattled and scattered, trying to write a coherent post.  If I don't pull it off, you'll know why! :)

Onward!

Today's Oh Susanna question relates back somewhat to this post (please scroll down past Cori) where I showed the before and after versions of Freight Train Trip.  I mentioned that the editor had commented that the original version wasn't dramatic enough, and Stacy wondered whether there was any kind of test for drama in a manuscript.

That is an interesting question.

First of all, how much drama is necessary in a manuscript is subjective.  Some editors, (and some readers) like more, and some like less.  In this day and age it seems that the general rule of thumb is that more is better, and yet there are still, sometimes, beautiful, quieter books published too.

How much drama is also dictated by age.  If you're writing board books, there may be enough drama in searching for baby's belly button.  For a YA novel the fate of the world as we know it might be at stake.

In addition, how you achieve drama is specific to the story.  In some manuscripts there is dramatic tension brought on by the situation, as in Freight Train where the two trains are approaching each other on the same track and there's going to be trouble if the switchman doesn't look up from his newspaper.  In other manuscripts, the drama comes from the emotional stakes for the main character, as in Not Yet, Rose where Rose isn't sure if she wants a brother, a sister, or no baby at all because, although she doesn't quite know how, she senses that her whole world is about to change.

I wish I could say that there was some kind of simple test for drama, but if there is, I don't know it :)  The closest I can come might be this:  something has to happen - something real, something important, preferably something that a young reader can relate to either on an excitement/adventure/adrenaline level as in the Freight Train example, or on an emotional "I know exactly how that feels!" level.  I guess even better if you can manage both :)  This actually comes down more to your story problem or conflict.  If you've got a good one, you'll have drama.

I hope some of the very talented writers in our readership will chime in with their knowledge and advice on this subject!

Now, on to those announcements I mentioned Friday.  I know you've been squirming in your seats with anticipation :)

Here's the deal.

I've thought long and hard about this, and I still have mixed feelings, and if enough of you express extreme unhappiness I'll try to rethink it, but I think I'm going to put Perfect Picture Books on hiatus from June 22 - August 31.  I know summer is a time when lots of people have more time to read, but I'm hoping everyone can make use of the 700+ Picture Books that are already posted, and read and prepare a whole new bunch for the fall.

I have an EXTREMELY busy summer coming up (can you say college visiting? :)) and Perfect Picture Books is a huge time commitment.  I already know there will be a lot of Fridays when I won't be at my computer.  And I seriously can't bear the idea of coming back from somewhere and having 60 books to add to the list while simultaneously trying to vacuum up the dog hair that has collected in my absence :)  Taking a break will hopefully give me time to catch up with the ones that still have to go up (I had a glitch last week where a lot that were uploaded didn't save/disappeared and I have to redo them all) and also hopefully give me and the lovely Darshana time to streamline it a bit so it's easier to search and easier to update in the future.  You may feel free to share you thoughts... I can take it :)

However, I certainly don't want to leave us with nothing!  So I have another hair-brained scheme in mind (and you know what happened last time... Phyllis went all over the world :))

Are you ready?

Instead of PPBFs, for the 8 weeks from July 5 - August 24 we will have Summer Short & Sweets!!!  (Badge forthcoming from Loni after finals are over! :))

Summer Short & Sweets will post each Friday (in place of PPBF) with a fun writing prompt/challenge that you can do in 5 minutes or less.  You will post your response here.  Other people's responses may inspire you and jumpstart your creativity!  For each Short & Sweet prompt that you do, you will receive a point.  Your points will add up, and at the end, there will be prizes available depending on how many points you've accumulated!  We will culminate our summer of fun with a Summer or Back To School Writing Contest on August 31, and you may well be able to use some of the ideas you've generated during the series.  For those of you in 12x12, Summer Shorts may help you stay on track! :)

I think it will be a fun way to keep the creativity flowing as we chase our kids around playgrounds, keep them out of poison ivy, slather them with sunscreen, take them camping, keep them out of trouble in the pool or ocean, tour the US on college visits, or go to work... whatever we happen to be doing :)  I really really hope you guys will think it's fun too!  (You'd probably better let me know in the comments in case I'm barking up the wrong tree!)  But the fun part is, we'll all be doing it together, and everything will be VERY SHORT - seriously, 5 minutes.  Maybe less if you think faster than I do.  Which would not be hard at this point.  Since I have yet to attain my usual level of perkiness this morning after not enough sleep.  How many times did I use the word "fun" in the last 2 paragraphs?

I think it's time for more coffee!

Happy Monday Everyone :)  And please chime in with your thoughts about drama, PPBF, and Summer Shorts! :)
Reactions:

64 comments:

  1. So that was what that screaming was all about!! I totally get the Gemma-trauma and can imagine you are still somewhat distraught about it! Sorry to hear about your bro too! Aaarggh what a weekend! I am amazed you have a post for us at all. You are a start and to be honest, for me it is a relief to have a two month break on PPPF. I was going to take a blogging hiatus myself but was feeling bad about missing PPPF. Great alternative!

    Thank you for your thoughts on conflict and drama, not an easy question.

    Thank you also for all the time you put in to hosting PPPF, it is really appreciated.

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  2. Thank YOU, Joanna, for all your support and kind words! It makes my day any time I hear that someone appreciates my blog - it makes me feel like I'm not just shouting into the void :) And Jemma knows she's on the naughty list. She's slinking around looking pathetic and guilty :)

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  3. So sorry to hear about your brother, and hope, as you say, that he will spring back quickly. I love the summer shorts and sweets. You always have such great ideas and so nice of you to come up with an alternative!
    As for the drama, you answered it as best as you could. It just depends. I love the comparison of searching for a belly button in a board book or the fate of the world in a YA novel. But as you say, something has to happen. Even in a simple board book, there could be a little surprise to tickle a toddler.

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  4. Sorry to hear about your brother. :( And that little fawn. :( :( I am sure Jemma didn't mean it. :( Like Miss Marple, I find the break a bit relaxing, but I also feel like I am losing a friend. I look forward to the fun-sounding Summer Shorts & Sweets starting on July 5, 2012!

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  5. Thank you so much for chiming in on this, Iza! You said that so perfectly - "a little surprise to tickle a toddler" I appreciate your professional opinion, as I know everyone else does too! :) And thanks for the tweet :)

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  6. My brother is a maniac (and I mean that in the nicest possible way :)) And I know Jemma didn't mean it - she's a dog and if it looks like fun she's in! Thank goodness she didn't hurt it, is all I can say. Still, until the fawns get a little older and more able, and until the baby turkeys are at a safe age, the leashes are coming out! I'm going to miss PPBF too - maybe I'll compromise by picking random ones that have already been posted and people can have the pleasure of looking at them again :) - but we'll start up again in the fall and maybe a break will be good. And I think Summer Shorts is going to be tons of fun!!!

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  7. thefeatherednestJune 4, 2012 at 8:26 AM

    Summer Shorts and Sweets sounds like f... ah....sounds delightful lol.

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  8. Oh, I'm so glad you think so, Delores! That makes 4 of us so far :)

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  9. Sorry to hear about your brother. I'll pray for him. So what did you do with the fawn? I'm glad Jemma didn't hurt it. Great explanation of drama. Loved the searching for a belly button one!

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  10. Thank you for your prayers. I think my brother is going to be needing them today. The fawn was okay, thank God! We left him be (and I dragged Jemma home!) His mother came out soon afterwards, prancing about and looking for who to beat up. Luckily I had Jem in the house by then. We were really lucky the doe wasn't right there - she would have killed Jemma with her hoofs. One other time my dog Holly got too close to where a fawn was and his mother came right out and charged Holly down (and she was a big black lab). Anyway, YIKES! As for the belly button, I draw from literature - that was Karen Katz's Where's Baby's Bellybutton :)

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  11. Ouch! Shattered femur. I better check and see if I can find that on my body. Then I might squee in pain again for general purposes.

    Jemma meant no harm, Susanna. She just did what was natural. Though I watched Bambi this weekend and he looked awful big on the screen :-)

    Randy, over at Author in Training, did some prompts too. The last one I did actually stuck in my head and I might just do something with it soon. So though I'll miss seeing the beautiful PPB covers and summaries, the prompts sound like fun.

    Hoping you're less rattled now :-)

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  12. The femur is the biggest bone in your body - the leg bone that runs from your hip to your knee. It's also the one hardest to break... thought not, apparently when you're going 30+ miles an hour down hill on a bike and fall off on pavement! I know Jemma meant no harm - she thought it was a game - but that poor little baby was so scared. I've never heard a deer make noise before, but he was bleating like a little goat for his mama. So sad :( So I just want to make sure she doesn't give in to temptation again, should the opportunity arise, until the fawns are bigger than she is! :) I like Randy's prompts too! Did you do his contest?

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  13. I love the short and sweet idea! A while back I had challenged myself on my blog to write a story in one sitting, no pre-thinking, just sit down at the laptop with a clear (blank?) mind and see if I could create a complete story arc in one hour.

    Needless to say, it's deep within the recesses of the "draft" section of my blog--never to see the light of the internet.

    All that to say, 5 minutes will be way better than one hour! I can't wait to play along.

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  14. You're barking write up my tree! Sounds like...fun! lol.

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  15. Good decision, Susanna...and I like your idea! I'll be looking for the prompts during our long hot summer days. Hope your college tours go well...

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  16. Oh yay! I'm so glad you like the idea! I think the more people join in the more fun it will be :)

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  17. Hurray! I'm so happy people seem to be liking the idea!!! :) I think it's going to be lots of fun and the more the merrier!

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  18. I am so happy to hear that all is well on all fronts. A prayer for quick healing for your brother to be sure. I am glad you personally saw the mommy coming back. I think you would have been more distressed had you not. To say that you deserve a break is an understatement. We all understand and are excited about SS&S! How do you come up with these ideas? Excited!

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  19. Thanks, Jarm! And so glad you like the idea!

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  20. I guess all's well that ends well as they say :) And so glad you're excited about SS&S!

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  21. Hope your brother feels better.

    Any chance that a manuscript critique from you will be among the prizes? That would sure motivate me to post something every Friday.

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  22. Thanks, Randy. And I think that could be arranged. I'll discuss it with the person in charge. Oh wait. That's me :)

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  23. I love the idea of short and sweets--I might even participate. LOL. Depends on how much energy I'm putting into ignoring my vacuum. But still I love the idea!
    I hope you have a drama free week--one that allows for some decompressing, maybe with donuts and tea!

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  24. Hope you brother is going better. What a weekend.

    As for drama in a story. I think it is really about whether you would (parent, child) want to read the story over and over again. Not sure record yourself reading the book and hear what it sounds like.

    I will be sad not to see PPBF for the summer, it was the only thing keeping me posting regularly. Given I do claim to run a Book Review Blog. I am just afraid I will slack off on writing reviews, will have to figure out how to keep motivated until PPBF returns. Your SS&S does sound intriguing.

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  25. First, a large EEEEK about your brother and especially about the fawn! oh my. I'm so grateful that the mother came back, and that Jemma was no longer in the vicinity. Yoips. Have some chocolate. You'll feel better.

    I struggle with putting enough drama in my manuscripts, and making it build -- so I have no words of wisdom to add.

    About PPBF -- Phew! Because like Joanna, I'm taking a bit of a blog-cation, and was going to miss all the PPBs. Just clarify for me though -- are we posting a PPB on the 22nd? Or is the 13th the last PPB until September? I need things spelled out for me, especially when numbers are involved. Wait, that's not spelling, that's numbering. Well, anyway... you know what I mean, right?

    Short and Sweet -- I'm for anything that glorifies shortness. (Being a bear of very little height myself.) Points and prizes sweeten the experience, as well.

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  26. Since you have prescribed chocolate I guess I better eat some :) I'm glad you're okay with PPBF - I was worried because I thought you probably had all your posts written through June already. June 15 will be the last posting day for PPBF until September. And I'm glad you might want to try Summer Shorts - bear of very little height here as well :) I hope it will be fun!

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  27. I'm glad you recognize my authority as a chocolate prescriber. ;) And I'm kind of flying by the seat of my pants in PPBFs these days. I'm doing one of Emma & Julie's books this week because of the Emma interview on Wednesday, but was wracking my brain for what to do the rest of the month. I had one book that I thought might work, and now I just have one Friday to deal with -- so that works out perfectly. Thank you! (By fall I'll be refreshed, and recharged, and eager to get at the PPBFs again!) .... Hmmm... from your pictures, I've assumed you're tall.

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  28. i think he's going to be pretty uncomfortable for a while - not that he'll admit it! :) Good suggestion to record yourself reading aloud - thanks! - I should have thought to mention that! I will poke you with a stick to make sure you keep posting book reviews if that will help :) but I hope you'll join in with Short and Sweets!!!

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  29. Ooh! I hope you will participate! It will help you ignore your vacuum... or you can think while you vacuum and take even less than 5 min to write :) And thank you - I could use a few minutes of calmness along with donuts and tea :)

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  30. Hahahahahaha!!!! No! Not tall! Not even 5' 3"! And yeah, I was kind of thinking we could all use a break from PPBF (except Darshana whom I have helpfully offered to poke with a stick to keep her posting reviews :)) Some summer time recharging and reading new books will hopefully leave all of us refreshed for the fall!













    Beth Stilborn (unregistered) wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    I'm glad you recognize my authority as a chocolate prescriber. ;) And I'm kind of flying by the seat of my pants in PPBFs these days. I'm doing one of Emma & Julie's books this week because of the Emma interview on Wednesday, but was wracking my brain for what to do the rest of the month. I had one book that I thought might work, and now I just have one Friday to deal with -- so that works out perfectly. Thank you! (By fall I'll be refreshed, and recharged, and eager to get at the PPBFs again!) .... Hmmm... from your pictures, I've assumed you're tall.

    User's profile
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  31. Then we're practically the same height :) Small but mighty! :)














    Beth Stilborn (unregistered) wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    Full disclosure -- I'm 5'1".


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  32. Penny KlostermannJune 4, 2012 at 6:03 PM

    OUCH!!! Sorry for your brother! And the fawn...you are Nature Girl-a super hero who saves wildlife!!! I can picture you flying out the door and saving the day!

    I am soooo relieved about PPBF. My summer is a lot of in and out. Sounds like you need the break to tend to the important things that come along in life. It will make it even more special when we start back up....something to really look forward too.

    Summer Shorts & Sweets sounds fun!!! (BTW, you did use fun a lot...but I use it a lot, too...because it's just plain fun! And sometimes a synonym is not as much fun as fun! How much fun could a fun person have if a fun person could have fun???)

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  33. Oh my, I don't know how you do it all, Susanna. Sounds like a busy, busy summer ahead. Hope you have fun with those college visits!
    And wishing your brother a speedy recovery!

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  34. Nature Girl Super Hero - I like that! I don't know if I was a hero, but I was certainly loud! :) I'm glad we all seem to be on the same page about PPBF - it's a big relief to me to know I won't have to worry about it and that you will all be happy :) And I really hope SS&S will be fun! Because in the words of the immoral Cat In The Hat - it is fun to have fun and I think that you should (or something like that :))

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  35. Thank you, Ruth! I appreciate your good wishes. And i think the college visits will be fun :)

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  36. Stina LindenblattJune 4, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    Oh, so that's who was screaming. Mystery solved. :)

    Great advice about the drama test. It comes down to your concept and genre. Your YA dystopian story (for example) must have high drama if you want to survive in the flood of dystopians novels.

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  37. Yeah, that was me. Nature Girl Super Hero (that's my new name according to Penny :)) And yes. YA dystopian in particular requires a lot of dramatic tension to get any notice!

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  38. Susanna, you are amazing with how much energy you put into this blog. I'm in awe thinking of all you do to keep up the PPBF list. It's awesome!

    And poor baby fawn, not to mention your brother (ouch!). :( Ironic after your last post for sure. I hope you have a great summer! See you when I get back from my haitus. :)

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  39. Oh dear, I would be beside myself if my dog grabbed a fawn. We are going to get a dog this fall, but I'm already bemoaning the fact that it will scare off my bunnies and quail -- my current pets. As for PPBF, I am planning a bit of a blog-cation this summer, so no harm done. Nevertheless, PPBF get the most hits on my site and is probably the easiest thing to post while traveling. Nevertheless, it's nice to have a break.

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  40. So glad to hear the fawn escaped relatively unscathed! That must have been an awful experience for both the fawn and you! And I hope your brother does recover quickly (and perhaps re-thinks the bike)!

    I agree with your points about drama, particularly about being able to connect on an emotional level with what's happening. Even if the situation is fantastical, the emotions - if expressed well - are they key to engagement. That's my two cents, anyway. :-)

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  41. Jennifer RumbergerJune 4, 2012 at 9:57 PM

    First, let me say that the hiatus from PPBF is totally understandable. I can't believe you haven't taken a break yet! :) And I love the Short and Sweet idea, sounds very fun and easy. As for ideas for managing the PB list, I don't have any right now, but if I think of something I will let you knjow.

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  42. I'm home now and have a lot of catchingup to do on the PPB.

    Hope your brother is doing well. I think a break would be nice, but it won't stop me from reviewing books. I change on Friday may be fun, except I'm never able to post on your link. Would like to focus more on writing this summer.

    Liked your advice. Think it depends on the story and what's being communicated. Some books are funny, emotional, but there is always a hurdle to overcome whether large or small.

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  43. Short & sweet...well, now I know that you and Beth and I all fall into that category...who knows how many others. :) Sorry about your bro! I once had a deer on the hood of my car, but that's another story. :) Love the idea of Summer Short & Sweet...I don't know how you managed PPBF with all you have on your plate...enjoy those wonderful college visits. :)

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  44. I hadn't thought of short and sweet in terms of us, but I guess it's true :) A deer on the hood of your car? I don't think I want to hear that story! I'm looking forward to Summer Short and Sweets and the college visits, and if my house isn't vacuumed, so be it :)

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  45. I know - catching up is hard! I hope you had a nice vacation and time at the wedding! Short & Sweets ARE writing, so that won't conflict with your summer goals, and there will be no links - you'll just post your answer/response in the comments! :) Nice and easy :)

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  46. Thanks, Jennifer, I appreciate your understanding about PPBF and support for SS&S :) I keep thinking there must be a better way to design PPB, but I haven't figured out what it is yet. So I just keep swimming... :)

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  47. It WAS awful! Thank goodness it didn't end badly - even so, I keep thinking about that poor little thing so scared :( My brother will probably not re-think the bike - he'll get back on and race just to prove he can :) Thanks for your two cents - very helpful!

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  48. I was beside myself totally! i wasn't kidding when I said you could probably hear me yelling in CA!!! :) I really wrestled with whether or not to put PPBF on hiatus - it's my biggest hit day too. If all I was doing was posting my book and reading everyone else's, it would be easy. It's the updating to the list that takes so long. And I really need to catch up on the stuff that deleted itself and see if I can figure out a better way to do it in future... Plus I like the idea of changing things up a bit and doing something different and fun. I fully intend to go back to PPBF on September 7!

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  49. YOu are so nice, Janet :) I wish you a stress-free and successful move, and I hope that your hiatus will include a chance to make some new entertaining videos :) Have a great summer! :)

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  50. Hi Susanna,

    I'm sorry to hear about your brother but it's nice to know he's on the road to recovery! Maybe your dog is anticipating your road hopping comin up and wanted to leave you something to remember her by?

    I like your new idea as it will give you a chance to step away from the PPBF for the summer but not leave us hanging...;0)

    As far as drama in WIPs, that is the very thing I'm working on in each of my stories I will post on Fridays...I hope that my readers will let me know if the "drama level" is enough...lol...

    Enjoy your travels!

    Donna L Martin
    www.donasdays.blogspot.com

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  51. My brother is practicing walking already - he's going to be back on that bike in no time (nut job! :)) And my dogs are living the leashed life for a few weeks until the baby animals are a little older and better able to take care of themselves. Jemma normally won't tangle with anything bigger than a squirrel, but this fawn was tiny! and I'm not taking any more chances! I hope you'll join in with SS&S and I look forward to your Friday postings :)

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  52. Susanna, Summer shorts sounds awesome (as long as I don't have to WEAR them) ;) Certainly understand the busy summer. I've been babysitting grandkids and the schedule I had finally established, flew right out the window, but was at least replaced by giggles and grins and some story ideas! Will be watching.

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  53. Laura Anne MillerJune 5, 2012 at 5:36 PM

    Meant to say, will pray for your brother, too. I shattered my kneecap some years ago - I understand the frustrations that go along.

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  54. Yay! Glad you're game to join us for the fun :) And your grandkids will be great inspiration I'm sure :)

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  55. You are sweet, Laura, thanks so much! :)














    Laura Anne Miller (unregistered) wrote, in response to Laura Anne Miller (unregistered):

    Meant to say, will pray for your brother, too. I shattered my kneecap some years ago - I understand the frustrations that go along.

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  56. Oh man! I am praying for your brother. Jemma sounds like my kinda gal! And who can blame her??

    Summer Shorts and Sweets sounds great, but I will miss Perfect Picture Book Friday. I know it will be back though. Maybe by then I can join back in. (My sister's hubby had emergency surgery over the weekend.) He's still not out of the woods. *deep sigh* Our family. *deeper sigh*

    (((HUGS))) and lotsa loves.

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  57. All good wishes to you and yours, Robyn! Hope things get better soon!

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  58. The benefit of stopping late is reading all the comments too. Thanks for the answer. I too love the comparison of the belly button board book and the fate of the world in a YA. Oh Susanna is always helpful thank you. I'll miss PPBF, but sounds like the summer short & sweets will be fun. I may take a Friday hiatus though. :) I'll happily read along. I hope your brother has improved (ouch). College visits sound fun. Enzo and I still have A LOT of books from the list to read. Summer reading fun!

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  59. Thanks, Stacy, I'm glad if it was helpful. And I love summer :) This one is going to be unusually busy, but I just love having everyone home :) I'm going to miss PPBF too, but it's only for 9 weeks, and if I didn't pause it, I would get so behind I'd never catch up. As for the Summer Short and Sweets, you don't have to comment on Fridays if you're busy having fun - that's just the day I'll post. You can always go back and comment :)

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  60. So sorry about your brother, but glad he is on the mend. And OMG! I would've been freaking out so bad if my dog caught a fawn! Ok, my dog is a Shih Tzu, so the chances of him even catching a rabbit are very low, but you know what I mean :) I'm glad it got away. What a week!

    I'm very excited to be doing the artwork for Summer Short & Sweets! I will be sad about PPBF, but totally understand. I know what having a busy schedule is like! Summer Short & Sweets will be a lot of fun to participate in. My question is, will there be cupcakes and cookies? :)

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  61. Thanks, Loni. My brother is home, so that's great news :) And thank goodness Jemma couldn't quite figure out what to do with that little guy and he got away! She's on a roll this week - she got in the garbage... and then she rolled in something stinky... so she's at the top of the naughty list! Cupcakes and cookies!!! YES!! What a fabulous and perfect idea! I was thinking lemonade and iced tea, but I'm sure we'll be needing a little something to nosh on :)

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