Wednesday, October 28, 2020

STORY MAGIC Teacher and Library Resources

Are you reading STORY MAGIC in your classroom or book club? The STORY MAGIC Teacher Resources may help. 

The resources include:

  • A writing activity based on the concept of "story magic spells"
  • Other writing, research, and art activity ideas
  • Discussion questions
  • Reading comprehension questions
  • Vocabulary questions

I hope you find these resources helpful. You can download the STORY MAGIC Teacher Resources here. 

I've also recorded a short video called Story Magic and the Writing Process. In it, I talk about Story Magic and provide three writing tips related to the book. 

Feel free to show this video to your class or book club. If you would like me to present on this topic (or another topic) contact me using the contact form at the bottom of this page. If you're using mobile, you may need to switch to the web version to use the contact form. You can also check out the page on school events and resources.

Here is the transcript for the video on Story Magic and the Writing Process:

Hello. I’m Laurel Gale and today I want to talk Story Magic and the writing process. I have three writing tips to share with you today, but before I dive into those, I want to take a moment to tell you about my book, Story Magic.

Story Magic is about a girl named Kaya. She lives in a world where there are these invisible creatures called listeners. Listeners have magical abilities, and they like stories. People have figured out that if they tell a listener a story, and the listener likes the story, the listener will grant magic to the storyteller. This is called story magic. But there’s a catch. Only members of the Story Magicians Guild are allowed to practice story magic, and girls are never allowed to join. Kaya’s older brother teaches her a little magic anyway, and then he goes missing, and Kaya thinks it might be her fault, so she goes on a big dangerous mission to rescue him.

[“Gale crafts a heartwarming tale around a courageous heroine and an unshakeable truth: Stories have a magic all their own and the people who tell them can change the world. Readers will love Kaya’s growth from an uncertain novice to a confident, caring storytelling and magician.” – Sarah McGuire, author of The Flight of Swan.]

[Tip One] In Story Magic, before Kaya starts telling her own stories, she listens to her brother’s stories. This is my first tip for writers. If you want to be a writer, you should also be a reader. You don’t want to copy other people’s stories. Your stories should be your own. But you can learn from what other people have written. Read to enjoy books, but also read to learn. Analyze what you like and what you don’t like, what you think works and what you might do differently. Reading this way will help you grow as a writer.

[Tip Two] The next thing I want to talk about is practice. When Kaya first starts telling stories, she is really nervous. She makes a few mistakes, and the listeners do not like every story that she tells them. But she keeps practicing, and over time, her stories improve. When you first start writing stories, you might make some mistakes, and some of your stories might not come out exactly the way you want them. This is okay. If you keep practicing, your writing skills will improve, just like Kaya’s storytelling skills improve in Story Magic.

[Tip Three] The last thing I want to talk about is revision. Kaya tells stories orally. She does not write them down. This means that after she tells a story, it’s finished. She cannot go back and change what she has said. I think writers have a big advantage her. After we have finished writing a story, we absolutely can go back and make changes. Now sometimes, you might not want to because writing and revision can be hard, and you might be tempted to write something and then say you’re done. While this is understandable, I do not recommend this approach. First drafts can always be improved. When a writer writes a novel, that novel goes through many, many, many drafts before it is ready to be published. And this is a good thing. We want our novels to be the best they can be. When you write something, you should plan on doing revisions. It’s also a good idea to get feedback from other people as you work on these revisions. Sometimes, we’re just too close to our own writing to see what needs to be improved. Try to focus on big picture things, like plotting, pacing, and character development, but also focus on the little details, like grammar, word choice, and sentence structure. Revision is how we truly make our stories magical.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Story Magic Cover, ARCS, and Pre-Orders

Girls are forbidden to practice story magic. Only bad things happen when they do. Everyone knows this, but that doesn't stop twelve-year-old Kaya A'Dor from learning the basics from her older brother Hob. The trick is to sense a listener, one of the magical beings that inhabit the world, and tell it a story. If the listener is pleased and likes the story, it will allow the storyteller to work magic.

Although Kaya knows the risks, she attempts a little story magic to impress Hob. When Hob is taken prisoner in Prima, the faraway capital city, Kaya is convinced it's her fault, either because someone discovered what she was doing or because the bad luck has found her.

Desperate to save her brother, Kaya will do anything to make it to Prima, including story magic. With each story she tells her ability to wield story magic grows and she soon begins to wonder if her brother's imprisonment was really her fault or something else entirely. Each story brings her one step closer to finding Hob and leaving everything she's ever known behind.

Story Magic will be out on October 27, 2020.

Want Story Magic as soon as it comes out? You can pre-order it now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your local bookstore. Pre-orders really help authors, so I really appreciate it!

If you're a reviewer, you can request a copy at NetGalley.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Story Magic

I am so thrilled to announced that my next middle grade novel will be published by Jolly Fish Press. It's called Story Magic. Here's the announcement from the PW Children's Bookshelf.

You can add Story Magic on Goodreads.

I can't wait to share Story Magic with all of you. Stay tuned for more details!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Facing our Fears and Scary Children’s Books

Moths. Hippos. Broken glass. Heights. Bleach. The list of things I’m afraid of is a long one. Despite this, I enjoy scary movies and books. And I'm not alone. Many people, both children and adults, enjoy being scared.

Which may make us wonder: Why? Why do we seek out scary experiences in things like roller coasters, haunted houses, and books?

I think there are several possible reasons.

They’re safe frights, first of all. When we go on a roller coaster, our hearts pound and we scream, but (assuming there are no engineering issues) we are in no actual danger.

Books are especially good at letting us experience frightening situations in a completely safe environment. While roller coasters give us an adrenaline rush, books provide entry into an entire world of thrills, full of complexity and consequences.

And while some adults may be tempted to shield kids from all things frightening, this isn't always a good idea. Exploring scary ideas is the first step to conquering them.

With books, we can face a wide range of fears, from everyday issues, like bullying, to extraordinary ones, like shape-changing monsters that curse people. While reading, we can think about what we would do in similar situations, and whether those actions would be good. We can learn from the characters’ mistakes and apply this insight to our own lives. We can see that we’re not alone, that others struggle with the same fears we do.

Books let us be brave. I wouldn’t want to face a dragon (or a moth
) in real life, but I’m always ready for an epic battle on the pages. 

As Neil Gaiman, paraphrasing G.K. Chesterton*, said, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be beaten.”

As much as we may want to shelter children from everything bad that could ever happen, they already know that scary things exist in the world. Books help us show them that they can persevere.

Books let us be brave.

*There's a lot of confusion over this quote! I updated the attribution.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I Have Another Book!

I’m so excited to talk about my new novel. It’s called Monster, Human, Other. I love the cover.

Here's a bit about it:

Wren is human. Isaac is not. Having switched places at birth, they now live with each other’s families. Growing up among a different species is difficult—for Isaac, who has to keep many secrets, and for Wren, who is teased for her lousy human senses. They’re told it’s necessary, though. The exchange is the first step in an ambassador program meant to ensure peace.

But not everyone wants peace. There are creatures that live deep underground, coming up to the surface to feed. They have a plan to stir up trouble, and so far, it’s working. In the end, it’s up to Wren and Isaac to prevent a looming war and to save both their kinds.

The book is recommended for children ages 8 to 12, but I officially give permission to older people to read it, too. 

You can order it at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or your local bookstore.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Naming Characters and My Obsession with Birds

The main character in Dead Boy is a boy named Crow. One of the main characters in Monster, Human, Other is a girl named Wren. Can you tell I like birds? 

I'll be the first to admit that Crow's name is perhaps too fitting. A (more or less) dead boy beloved by his parents named Crow Darlingson? Yep. I like the name Crow. The birds are sometimes associated with death, but they're also intelligent and charming—just like Crow.

Of course, there is an obvious problem with naming a character after characteristics developed long after birth. Crow's parents did not know that he would become undead. They could have hoped he'd be clever, though, and sometimes people do end up fitting their names in curiously apt ways. Wikipedia has an article on this phenomenon, called aptronyms. The article gives many examples, including Michael Ball, a football player, and Amy Freeze, a meteorologist. I wouldn't want to name all my characters this way, but I'm happy with Crow's name.

More often, names will reflect the parents' personalities. Are the parents conventional? Give the character a conventional name. Are the parents more out there? Come up with a unique name. Do the parents love to travel? Maybe something like Paris, London or Sahara will work nicely.

Names can also reflect the culture of the character, whether it's a real-world culture or a fantasy one. Wren's name fits the naming conventions of the non-human family that's raising her. 

The age of the character is important, too. When I'm coming up with names, I often consult lists of baby names, like the ones from the Social Security Administration. The trick is not to use the current year's most popular names. Instead, figure out when your character was born, and use a name from that year's list. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

I Have a Facebook Page!

I now have a Facebook page.

Yes, this means that until now, I have not been on Facebook. I know, I know. I might as well have been living on the moon. 

You can see my Facebook page here. I don't know how often I'll update it, but I'll try to post any exciting news as well as events that are open to the public. For more frequent updates, follow me on Twitter. I'm also on Quora and GoodReads

It seems like a lot, but I'm still only scratching the surface of social media options available. 

As a writer, I want to connect to readers, and of course I also need to promote my book. But I need time to write, too, and I'm not talking about status updates. From my conversations with other writers, I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this. 

But that doesn't mean I can't do social media. It just means I have to learn how to manage my time there. It's worth it because, as I said, I really do want to be accessible to readers. 

And that means being on Facebook.  

Many people depend on Facebook to connect with others and to keep track of events, so after a long time of putting it off, I've added Facebook to my list of social media sites. Who knows? Maybe I'll love it.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Three Reasons to Give Thanks for Books

It’s been a hard month and a hard year. Staying positive can be a challenge in times like these, but yesterday was Thanksgiving, and despite everything I have a lot to be thankful for. I’d like to take a moment to explain why I’m especially grateful for books.

I’m thankful for the magical doors books open. My favorite genres are fantasy and science fiction, and I'll admit it: my reading tends toward escapism. Don’t we all need an escape sometimes? Books give me a chance to join an exciting adventure, one that I would never agree to take on in real life, and one that makes most of my actual complaints seem trivial in comparison.

I’m thankful for the lessons books teach us. When I read and write, my main purpose is entertainment. Nevertheless, I cannot deny the educational value of books. I’m not talking about facts, although it’s possible to learn those from books, too. I’m talking about empathy. Books let us slip into the shoes of another person—another gender, another race, another socioeconomic class. There’s no better way to understand people who are different from ourselves.

Finally, I’m thankful for my own career. I adore being a writer. Everything about it—from being able to work from home to getting paid to make things up to seeing my work in bookstores—is amazing. So thank you to everyone who reads this, and to everyone who reads my books.              

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dead Boy Is Out Now!

Dead Boy, my debut children's novel, is available now. 

Praise for Dead Boy:

"Gale takes readers on a dark and surprisingly funny journey.... A great recommendation to middle grade fans of dark humor." –School Library Journal

"A stinky, creepy tale for anyone who's ever felt like an outsider." –Kirkus Reviews

Get a copy at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or your local bookstoreIt's recommended for ages 8 through 12.