Archive | Patti Hill

Books Plus…Accessories for Readers

Today’s post by Patti Hill of our sister blog, Novel Matters | @PattiHill

Your reading friend already has a stack of books on her nightstand. Does she need another? (The answer is yes, of course, but there are other options.)   Perhaps she’s a bit particular about what she reads. How about a gift certificate? (Yawn!) Instead, consider these gift suggestions:

Imagine waking up to Mrs. Dalby’s Buttermilk Scones from James Herriot’s All Things Bright and Beautiful or sitting down to a steaming bowl of Amish Chicken and Dumplings from Jodi Picoult’s Plain Truth. For dessert, there’s Effie Belle’s Coconut Cake from Olive Ann Burn’s Cold Sassy Tree. These and many more culinary treats are inspired by literary treats in The Booklover’s Cookbook by Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen. I suppose a word of caution should be given about the Turkish Delight from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It’s addictive.

The next best thing to a new book is a new purse, especially one that declares your friend’s love of reading like this book-turned-purse I found on You can Google “purses made from novels ” and find a cache of possibilities, or is that clutch of possibilities?


The Reading Woman collection includes vintage portraits of women reading on every page. The collection includes mini calendars, full-sized calendars, address books, and other useful items, all reasonably priced.



Does your friend have to borrow reading hours from her sleeping hours? I use a headlamp to read in bed, so that Hunky Hubby have to pull the blankets over his head. It’s hands-free lighting with a pure light that lasts and lasts.

I highly recommend Books I’ve Read: A Reader’s Journal for the serious readers on your list. No matter how unforgettable a book may seem as you’re reading, details and plotlines do have a way of fading with time. If you’re of a certain age, titles and authors might as well be smoke.

Tea and books go together like—well—tea and books! Novel Tea adds quotes from our favorite stories to sweeten the pot.

All that’s left is to decide which one you your friend will love.

May the joy of our Savior’s birthday enrich your Christmas and all the days of 2013.



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Dear Diary – A Novel Matters Guest Post

Today’s post from Patti Hill at our sister blog, Novel Matters | @PattiHill  @NovelMatters

I’m a sucker for those behind-the-scenes features on DVDs. A peek behind the story curtain is added value in my book. I enjoy seeing the actors being themselves—joking, laughing, perplexed over a scene. Seeing all that only makes me appreciate the art of story more.

That’s why I’ve decided to open my diary to you.

Normally, a writer’s life is dull as dirt, but I managed to find something for you. Below are the entries I wrote after I sent my latest manuscript off to my editor.


Dear Diary,

Feeling a bit blue. Aimless. Sent my manuscript off to the editor yesterday. I’m lost! I walk into rooms with a sense of urgency, only to stand slack-jawed and befuddled. “What am I doing in this room? “

I’ve started a list of revisions to add to my editor’s when the manuscript returns to me.


Dear Diary,

My daydreams are driving me mad. In one rendition, my editor over-nights a 5# box of dark chocolate and a note saying she’s never seen a more perfect story in her life. I fear my second, more persistent, daydream is true–my editor calls to say the publishing house is cancelling my contract. The manuscript is pig snot, drivel, weak in the knees. A reeking heap of rotting, slimy broccoli.   I knew it all along.

I think I have an idea for my next novel. Phew!


Dear Diary,

Nothing. Not one word from my editor. For goodness sake, woman, throw me a bone! Tell me one way or the other. Is it Pulitzer or the dung heap? I can take it.

I’ve gotten most of the dishes out of my office. But still, the scent of mac 'n’ cheese persists, and I’m missing a couple spoons from my mother-in-law’s silver, the set I borrowed last Christmas.   Yikes!

I’m buzzing about the Internet, reading up on telephone museums. Is this a red herring or the birth of the GAN (Great American Novel)?


Dear Diary,

Seven days of silence. Maybe my editor is dead.   Stop that! Why think such a terrible thing? She’s not dead, but her car could have veered off the road. Deer are a menace along that stretch of highway, and the woods are creepy thick. I can see it now. She swerved to miss a deer and ripped through the trees. Isn’t there a lake just off the highway? It’s quite possible her Prius is partially submerged; and she can’t call out because she’s unconscious. Snakes could be nesting at her feet, laying eggs; mosquitoes feast on her bare arms. Are there bears in the woods?

Reality check, Miss Patti: It’s only been seven days. Seven.

Found the spoons; dumped the telephone museum angle. Need. Killer. Idea. Now.


Dear Diary,

It’s been ten whole days. I can only imagine the pages of revision notes my editor has accumulated. I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve filled a composition book with the changes I want to make. Clearly, the story needs more tension and conflict. Nothing really happens. There’s nothing at stake. I’ve written the first novel in the history of the world about absolutely nothing at all. In fact, what made me think I could write a novel? The first five were a fluke. I can see that now.

Mother-in-law says a knife is missing, too. I do not use knives when eating in my office. Is she serious?

Been reading People magazine, listening to NPR, and eavesdropping on conversations everywhere I go. Still no idea for the next novel. Must start writing soon.

I can see the top of my desk, and I finally found a cleaner to vanquish the orange ring in the toilets. Sometimes, life hands you a gold medal. Feeling good about these small accomplishments. Next, the refrigerator.


Dear Diary,

It’s been TWO weeks! She never takes two weeks to edit my manuscripts. My husband refuses to talk about it, and no one is picking up my calls. Curse caller I.D.! Maybe I should call her, see if her daughter made it onto the soccer team, or if her husband remembered their anniversary this year. Do I want to know why it’s taking so long? Do I want to be told to rewrite everything but the dedication?  What to do? What to do?

Found my mother-in-law’s knife under the printer. That explains the mysterious rattle.

Trying on this idea for my next novel: An orphaned boy is terribly mistreated by his aunt and uncle.   They sequester him in a cubby under the stairs. Lo and behold, this kid’s mom and dad were wizards, and he has inherited their magical powers, but his magic is untamed and unpredictable. He must be trained! He must go to—what?—Hogwash School! Yes! This is great. Note to self: Come up with a better name for the school.


Dear Diary,

St. John’s wort doesn’t work. Fat-laden coffee confections don’t work. Date night definitely didn’t work. (Sorry, honey.) For good or bad, I need to hear from my editor.

Seems the wizard kid thing is an old chestnut. Going back to the telephone museum idea. This will be a tough sell.


Dear Diary,

The manuscript was delivered to my inbox this morning. Revision notes aren’t as bad as I feared, not as good as I’d hoped but doable. In fact, I love, love, love my editor’s suggestions. It certainly does take a village to write a novel. What would I do without her? I love that woman. I’m so glad she’s such a careful driver. The synergy between us is pure magic. This is it! This is my break-out novel.

Note to self: Send 5 lbs. of chocolate, the kind with nuts and sour cherries, to the most wonderful editor in the world. And she’s mine!


My diary entries are mostly tongue-in-cheek, but no small amount of anxiety and anticipation accompanies the relinquishment of a manuscript into the editor’s hands.

Sending off a manuscript is like watching your youngest child leave the house for kindergarten.   Did I prepare him for all the good and bad in the world? Will he embarrass me with stories about the family? Did I remember to put a napkin in his lunchbox? All the time for preparation is over. He steps onto the bus without looking back. Maybe if I kept him home one more year…

Letting go of something?


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Summer is for Writing too!

Today’s post by  Patti Hill  from our sister blog,  Novel Matters  |  @PattiHill

During my days as an elementary school teacher, I sent home lists of great reading choices for the summer and encouraged my students’ families to take part in the library summer reading program. Parents are very eager to help their children grow as readers.

They also want to be part of shaping their children as writers, but most parents don’t feel as confident about teaching writing skills. It might be helpful to think of yourself as a writing coach, rather than a teacher, giving your child opportunities to exercise the writing muscles they developed during the school year.

If you’re a parent or a grandparent with hopes of keeping your student’s writing skills sharp, here are some fun (and writing during the summer should be very, very fun) ways to do just that.

Keep it authentic!

Accidental learning is the best kind of learning. This is learning that happens while we are going about our lives, not sitting at a desk. Look for the ways adults use writing every day. We compile lists, leave messages, and plan a party or a vacation. Let your child do the writing.

This kind of learning requires parents to be ever vigilant for that teachable moment. One of my sons once complained about the cold water of the swimming pool where I forced (his word) him to take lessons. A complaint is a great opportunity to write a persuasive letter. While Geoff didn’t convince the Parks and Rec people to up the temperature, he did receive a letter back from the pool maintenance people about mass and bacteria growth. And funny thing, Geoff didn’t do much complaining after that. Bonus!

Digital photography is a boon for young writers. Let your children write captions for family photos, or photos of a special collection, or let them document a day in their life.   Journalism is definitely authentic writing. Compile a newsletter to send out to family members about notable summer activities with stories written by your children. Be sure to include an opinion page for some persuasive writing.

Journal Talk

This is my favorite way to add writing practice to a child’s day.  Write a message to your child in the journal and leave it under his or her pillow before you go to bed and encourage them to respond. Be sure to decide on a special delivery location to add intrigue. This is your chance to open an on-going conversation with your child about a book you’re both reading, about an event you attended together, or about how to make something go better in your family. Open-ended questions (questions that can’t be answered yes or no) will keep the conversation lively. Share jokes, poems, family news. Don’t forget, your children love reading about your childhood memories, and ask them to tell you something they hope to remember forever.

Please, please, please don’t feel compelled to make corrections to your child’s writing. Instead, model in your response the correct way to spell a word or to use punctuation.

If one parent spends the day at work, have your children journal about their day to share with that parent. This is a great way to start dinner-table conversations. Be sure to include artifacts from the day, such as a feather, a picture, a flower.

Books and Writing

Most teachers use picture books to spark writing exercises. This works for parents, too, as long as you make the writing fun. Here are a few suggestions to tickle your creative writing bones:

If I Were You ” by Richard Hamilton: Daisy’s dad uses the expression “If I were you …” and a conversation about trading places ensues. Daisy dreams about being in charge, and her dad dreams about zero responsibilities.

Writing prompt: If you were me, what would your day be like?

Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School ” by Mark Teague:   Oh boy, Ike the dog is in big trouble. He has been sent to the Igor Brotweiler Canine Academy. He writes letters home to convince his owner to rescue him from his awful fate.

Writing prompt: Think of an animal who must convince his owner to do something. Consider an elephant who wants to leave the zoo to travel with the circus, or a goldfish who wants to see a baseball game, or a snake who wants a new pair of pants. Have fun!

If I Built a Car ” by Chris VanDusen: A young boy is determined to redesign the family station wagon. Of course, the car flies and goes underwater. It also comes with a robot driver, a snack bar, and a swimming pool.

Writing prompt: If you built a car, what would it be like?


Pets, pets, pets!

Kids love to write about their pets, especially if we give the pets unusual abilities or identities.

Writing prompts:

All of a sudden, your pet can talk. What does he say about being part of your family? What suggestions does he make for improved living conditions?

Oh my, your pet is really an alien. What will they report back to the home planet about life among earthlings?

Your pet is a travel agent for pets and their owners. Where does your pet send his clients? What kinds of special accommodations must he make for the owners, since the pets are sleeping in the motel rooms—on the beds?

Emergent writers need not be left out of the fun. Let them dictate their answers to you or an older sibling.

As you can see, writing is an interactive skill with lots of opportunities to share fun and to record your family’s history. I hope these few ideas will encourage you to keep your child’s writing skills sharp through the summer.

Please share your ideas for engaging kids in writing during the summer. Good coaches learn from one another.


Patti Hill is the author of five published novels—Like a Watered Garden, Always Green, In Every Flower, The Queen of Sleepy Eye, and Seeing Things. She just completed her first historical novel, Goodness & Mercy, set during World War II. Patti writes stories to restore a sense of wonder for her readers. She has served as sous chef to her husband, Dennis, a dedicated foodie, for 35 years. When not writing, she gardens, teaches, and mentors. Her grown sons are handsome and brilliant, of course! She has been a finalist in both the Christy Awards in the New Author category and for Best Book of the Year in “Foreword ” magazine.

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