The Quotable Nerdy Character

A few weeks ago, I did a workshop on creating believable contemporary characters, and in the research process, I found a lot of inspirational quotes for writers — and readers. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!


“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

― Ernest Hemingway

“Your source material is the people you know, not those you don’t know, but every character is an extension of the author’s own personality.”

― Edward Albee

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

― Mark Twain

“Characterization is an accident that flows out of action and dialogue.”

― Jack Woodford

Picture1“When you’re with your wife, you don’t say I love you to your wife every day but the ways you look at her and your actions are another way to communicate. Don’t focus on dialogue, only focus on what you’re expressing.”

― Michel Hazanavicius

“I tend to relate to a character in terms of the arc: what’s interesting is where he starts versus where he ends up .”

― Edward Norton

“If you’re writing about a character, if he’s a powerful character, unless you give him vulnerability I don’t think he’ll be as interesting to the reader.”

—Stan Lee

What do you think? Are you ready to pick up your pencil (or open up your laptop) and get creating?



If you haven’t already, please remember to check out The Busy Librarian’s podcast featuring ME and enter the newest Nerdy Chicks GIVEAWAY!


The Education of the Nerdy Chick: A Chat with John Schumacher

This week, we are talking to Librarian-Blogger-Literacy-Advocate-Extraordinaire, John Schumacher. His Watch. Connect. Read. Blog ( is one of the best sources on the internet for information about children’s books, authors, resources, and insight. As a librarian and teacher, we wanted his thoughts on The Education of the Nerdy Chick, especially when it comes to reading. Thank you, Mr. Schu, for talking to us today!

We asked Mr. Schu to finish some of our sentences — here’s what he had to say:

“The differences between girl readers and boy readers are not all that different in my school library. I encourage my students not to label a book as a “boy book” or a “girl book.” If you spent an afternoon in my school library, chances are you would witness me turn to a third grader and say, “Books do not have a gender. Babymouse, Bink and Gollie, Hound Dog True, Marty McGuire, Ivy + Bean, Keena Ford, Clementine,Squish, and Stink are for ALL readers. Read what you want to read, regardless of what a marketing team might have thought when deciding on a book’s final cover or its targeted gender.”  My students know I will never create book lists with the following titles:

  • 10 Books Every Boy Should Read
  • Top Picks for Boy Readers
  • Every Tween Girl Should Read These Books
  • Listen Up Girls! You Must Read These Books

I work tirelessly to match my students with the perfect books. I consider their interests, age, and personality. Gender is not a part of readers’ advisory.”

“Girls can be reluctant readers, too. To get girls to read, I ask these questions:

  •    What are some of your all-time favorite movies?
  •    What do you do for fun on a Saturday afternoon?
  •    What does the perfect day look and sound like?
  •    Have you ever been lost in a book?
  •    What’s the last GREAT book you read?

It all boils down to this: the more I know about her, the better chance I have of recommending a book that helps her realize how awesome and gratifying it is to be a reader. It’s a magical moment when a dormant reader bonds with a book.”

“It can be hard for younger girls to embrace their inner Nerdy Chick. But what is great about when that happens is she discovers a supportive reading community that wants to discuss books and celebrate authors and literacy.

The Nerdy Book Club ( is the perfect example of a supportive and enthusiastic community.”

“Even Nerdy Chicks need guidance. To help her expand her reading interests, I would discuss a balanced reading diet and encourage her to try different genres and formats. If she’s only reading historical fiction, why not read a graphic novel every so often? If she’s only reading dystopian fiction, why not try nonfiction?

My booktalking sessions always include a nice balance of genres, formats, fiction, and nonfiction.”

“If I was a Nerdy Chick, I would wear stickers advertising my favorite books, tweet nonstop about MUST-READ titles, host book birthday parties, recommend picture books and middle-grade novels to strangers, and give away hundreds of books.  🙂 ”

Once again, a big thank you to Mr. Schu for joining us. Want to read more of his brilliant thoughts? Follow his blog, Watch. Connect. Read. And go throw a book birthday party today!


The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Virginia Woolf

File:Cameron julia jackson.jpgWhen I read A Room of One’s Own in college, I truly believed Virginia Woolf was talking directly to me. In fact, when I lived in London, I would sometimes walk by her childhood home at  at 22 Hyde Park Gate in Kensington, in the hopes that inspiration would wash over me. One of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century, Virginia is both extremely nerdy and completely quotable.



Quotes from Virginia Woolf:

  • “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”
  • “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
  • “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.”
  • “Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.”
  • “If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”

Learn more about Virgina HERE.

Kristy Dempsey: Author, Librarian, Surfer Chick

 When I heard the title of Kristy’s newly released picture book — Surfer Chick — I couldn’t wait to interview her for Nerdy Chicks Rule!  What’s not to like about a book featuring a cute chick, especially one brave enough to hit the waves? And there’s a lot to like about this book’s author, as well. I had a great time having lunch with Kristy a few years ago when I lived in Greenville SC, which serves as Kristy’s home base in the United States when she is not living in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  In Brazil, Kristy writes, enjoys time with her family, and serves as librarian for Escola Americana de Belo Horizonte, where she can surround herself with books. If you catch her at just the right time and place, you might find her experimenting with a surfboard, too. Thanks for joining us today Kristy!

I’ve started asking this question of everyone, and you may be able to give a great answer since you currently work with so many children, but if you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? 

Well, let me preface my answer by saying that no amount of money would make me go back to middle school or high school. I treasure the lasting friendships that came out of those years, but I neither knew myself well enough nor had the confidence to be the person I really should have been. I touched on the true aspects of myself with vocal performance and writing, but I was too busy trying to muster the energy to be social to discover my own strengths. I don’t have any true regrets, but if I could give myself one piece of advice it would be to take some quiet time every day to contemplate my own heart and the natural world around me. I think it would have freed me and fueled my writing.

That is awesome advice. Now that you do take time to contemplate, do you have a favorite way to flaunt your brain power?

I am addicted to matching the right book to the right person. I work as a librarian at a Preschool-12th grade school and I love being able to put the right book – you know the one that will addict them to reading– in the hands of my students. It is both brain power and relational power at work.

I love that! I wish every librarian felt that way! Are there any social norms that you are fond of flouting?

I hardly ever flout or flaunt. And if I did, it wouldn’t likely be in public.

Hahaha. I think I hear a HEAR HEAR from the masses of introverted writers out there! You wrote Surfer Chick in rhyme that Kirkus praises for having a “raplike beat.” Can you tell us how rhyme and rhythm help this story?

In the case of SURFER CHICK, I think the rhyme keeps the story moving and keeps the reader focused on the action. Rhyme is a tricky animal, because it can often seem trite and unnecessary. I will admit that was one of the dangers I felt in writing this book in rhyme. But in the end, the surfer language and the chicken humor both fit in with the rhyme and worked to put the focus on the story. Believe me when I say, that doesn’t always happen. (And just to prove it, Surfer Chick was revised 16 times!)

I always tell aspiring authors that three or four revisions isn’t many! For you, what is the best thing about being an author?

Hmm . . . making the story end the way I want it to? I do feel that life is a story for which we can’t always choose the details, the conflicts or the resolutions. Oh, how I wish we could. So, in a way, I think I write to answer my own questions about life and to figure out how I would write my own story if I could, even with all the pain and doubt that accompany it. My favorite line in SURFER CHICK is, “Chick scoped out the water/to find the best wave./It swelled up behind her . . . /Chick chose to be brave.” I love so much that Chick chooses to be brave. Being brave when we’re facing a crisis is not a reaction. It’s a choice. Taking a deep breath sometimes helps.

I also love that Surfer Chick models bravery so well. Can you share a favorite song, quote, or movie that speaks to your inner nerdiness?

I have no idea if this will speak to anyone else’s nerdiness but mine, but I love the lyrics to the song “The Show” by the artist Lenka, part of which read:

I’m just a little bit caught in the middle

Life is a maze and love is a riddle

I don’t know where to go I can’t do it alone I’ve tried

And I don’t know why

I’m just a little girl lost in the moment

I’m so scared but I don’t show it

I can’t figure it out

It’s bringing me down I know

I’ve got to let it go

And just enjoy the show

Thanks for sharing these lyrics! What’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?

I do the ordering of books (both textbooks and literature) for my school, which means I type a lot of ISBN numbers. This is so much more fun than it sounds, especially when you start to recognize which ISBNs belong to which publishers! And in the end it all results in new books for students, which is REALLY fun.

Why does this not sound fun to me? Maybe I’m not as nerdy as I think I am! 🙂 Do you have a favorite hobby? Details please!

I dabble in so many things. I enjoy making greeting cards using scrapbook paper. I like to draw feathers in pencil. I like to paint eggs (colorful bird eggs) in watercolor on paper. I like to hand paint glass and then cut it into tiles to be used in mosaics. I like to read. I like to exercise. (Cue Julie Andrews singing, “These are a few of my favorite things . . .)

It’s great that you have so many interests. I’m not surprised! And I’m wishing I had an image of your bird eggs to scan in right now. Maybe we can add some later. Please? Thanks again for joining us Kristy. For those of you who would like to know what Kristy is up to, you can find her on Twitter at @kristydempsey or @realsurferchick. Now take a moment to watch the adorable Surfer Chick trailer!


W. H. Beck: Buzz-Worthy Librarian

Becky Wojahn is an awesome writer. I say this as someone who has read her work in various forms since I met her in 2004 at the Writer’s Workshop at Chautauqua. For a while, we were in the same online critique group (until we both got swamped with work).  We sold our first middle grade novels just a few weeks apart, and they both debut this year! Becky writes as W. H. Beck and her novel Malcolm at Midnight will soon be featured at BEA as one of the most buzz-worthy new books of the year! Malcolm at Midnight is a wonderful novel about rat whose talents include solving mysteries, and of course, reading. In addition to being an author, Becky works full time as a librarian. (I don’t know how she does it.) That is a picture of her at her library on the left. If you want to see the rest of her, you’ll have to visit her WEBSITE! Thanks so much Becky for joining us today. Can you tell us a little about where you work and what you do? 

Hi Kami. I am currently an elementary school librarian in the Eau Claire Area School District in Wisconsin. I spend my days talking about books, helping teachers, and teaching research and technology skills. It’s a great job—even more so in that I work at my kids’ school (well, not Eli any more—eep!) and that it’s close enough to walk to.

In the past, I’ve taught (middle school and fourth grade), worked at a public library, and as the education librarian at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I’m active in state (WEMTA) and national (ALA) library organizations and used to write pretty frequently for school library publications (there’s a list on my website under “other writing”).

What do all these things have in common? Throughout it all, my love of stories, especially ones for kids!

If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? Only one? Don’t do the really short feathered haircut! Your hair is too straight to go the way you hope it will and you will look like a boy. For many months. Man, that took a long time to grow out.

More seriously? Well, this is a tough one, and I’m not sure my middle school/high school self would ever even believe it, but I’d advise that it’s okay to be quiet. I am not a very outgoing person by nature, and I’ve spent a lot of my life, especially those years, wishing I was funnier and louder and more sparkly, and feeling really uncomfortable when I tried. Somehow people think you’re not having fun if you’re not the life of the party. It’s taken me a long time to realize: how would they know? Only I know, and I need to listen to myself. It’s okay to watch and listen—and have fun doing it. Ironically, this realization has made me more willing to speak up and express myself!

So now that you are willing to express yourself 🙂 tell us one of your favorite way to flaunt your brain power! Aside from being a rocket scientist or a computer engineer, I probably have the most stereotypical job for flaunting my brain power! My day in the library is a mix of trivia (Mrs. Wojahn, what is the fourth book in Cressida Cowell’s Dragon series? [HOW TO CHEAT A DRAGON’S CURSE]), detective work (Mrs. Wojahn, do you remember that book you read to us two years ago about the colorful dirty squirrels and the vacuum cleaner? [RHYMING DUST BUNNIES]), and “fixer” (Mrs. Wojahn, why won’t this formula work in Excel??).

What aspects of your career (writing or being a librarian or both) are most stimulating to your brain? Part of the reason I went into teaching and libraries (and probably why I write, too) is that I LOVE learning new things. I am curious about so many things and writing, teaching, and working in a library positions me perfectly for uncovering all sorts of great tidbits of information.

It seems like loving to learn is a recurring theme on this blog. For good reason! What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick? Well, when I was a kid, I always felt like I wasn’t never THE BEST at anything—and I desperately wanted to be. The closest I came was in reading. I tied my best friend for doing the most book reports in the second grade, and I never stopped reading after that. Eventually, even my reader friends slowed down, but I kept going. (I was the epitome of nerdy chickhood, walking home from middle school with a clarinet case in one hand and an open book in the other.)

But if you keep doing something long enough, you get good at it, and when you’re good at something, you usually enjoy it. So even though I was never THE BEST writer or student growing up, I’m proud of where I’ve ended up—with not one, but two jobs that I love.

That is super rewarding! Do you ever give nerdy traits to any of your characters? One of my favorite characters in Malcolm at Midnight is Amelia Vang, the fifth grade girl that Malcolm bonds with. She’s one of those hyper-organized students that I’m guessing many teachers will recognize.  She’s totally color-coded and labeled—notebooks match folders; socks match hair elastic—and she’s also the class schedule keeper. However, despite (or perhaps because of) this, she has trouble connecting with other students in her class. Malcolm ends up helping her with this.

Amelia is a wonderful character! Did you do any particular research when writing Malcolm at Midnight? For being a funny mystery starring a talking rat, I did a lot of research for Malcolm! First of all, I’ve never had a rat as a pet, so I had to learn about rats—what they could do (swim through plumbing!), their strengths (resilience) and weaknesses (food). It was really fun to twist those around into Malcolm’s character traits and actions. The same was true for the classroom pets’ “slang.” I figured that if food was really important to them, then their vocabulary would reflect that. So I got to get out my trusty thesaurus and looked up alternate words for eating and snacks and crumbs and turn them into sayings the animals could use.

Working with an illustrator (Brian Lies) also opened up a whole new level of research for me. Malcolm at Midnight is set in an old school, and when I write, I like to use a lot of visuals, so I spent way more time than I needed to clicking around on the internet, looking at aging schools and clock towers. But this all came in handy later on, when Brian had questions about the school’s layout. I forwarded him a lot of my links and sketches and photos for his illustrations.

And finally, because I’m a nerdy chick, I did a lot of research in planning and plotting a successful mystery—what parts are necessary? How do you hide the clues in plain sight? I really loved learning about how to fit the pieces of the story together.

I love hearing the ways that authors bring their stories alive with research! Very nerdy. And I love interviewing my friends because I always find out something new about them. Like, I didn’t know Becky could draw. But look at this early sketch she made of Malcolm. Pretty great, right?

To find out more about Becky, you can visit her website HERE, or check out her Facebook page, her Goodreads page, or follow her on Twitter.

Becky and I are both in a group of debut authors called the Apocalypses. Check the Apocalypsies blog for updates on our books and other books debuting in 2012.

Thanks again Becky joining us. I’ll be posting more Malcolm news here as it rolls in! Readers, you can look for Malcolm at Midnight in bookstores in September!