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INKYGIRL: Daily Diversions For Writers is maintained by Debbie Ridpath Ohi offers writing-related cartoons, writing tips, highlights other writerly blogs and blog entries, and also delves into certain writer obsessions. Debbie is author of The Writer's Online Marketplace (Writer's Digest Books) and was creator of Inkspot. She is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Toronto.
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1. Why I Love SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS! Plus Three Questions with Marcie Colleen

Just read the first two books in Marcie Colleen's debut chapter book series, SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS, just launched this week from Imprint/Macmillan. Omigosh, I am in love with these books. Here are just a few reasons:

- So many laugh-aloud moments, for both kids AND adults. What I especially loved: the humor aimed at adults is NOT the "nudge nudge wink wink, we grown-ups know so much more than the kids" type of humor and is also NOT mean. It's just pure fun.

- Not only are these books excellent for those who already read independently, but they'd also be fantastic read-a-louds

- The illustrations by Steve James are SO fun: bright colors, adorable, full of energy.

- The stories are sweet and positive without being cloying. I just want to hug all the characters. Yes, even the grumpy ones. ESPECIALLY the grumpy ones. :-) Marcie conveys a positive message in an original and totally entertaining way.

Check out the first two pages of the first book in GNAWING AROUND (first book in the series), posted with permission:

I still haven't decided which of the woodland creatures I identify with the most...each one of them has some characteristic that makes me think, "Omigosh, that is SO me sometimes." Young readers are bound to identify as well.

You can find more info about the Super Happy Party Bears! series on Marcie's book page.

Marcie Colleen has been a teacher, an actress, and 
a nanny, but now she spends her
 days writing children’s books! She 
lives with her husband and their mischievous sock monkey in San Diego, California. Occasionally, there are even doughnuts. 

I met Marcie through the SCBWI, and she is amazing. So enthusiastic, supportive, fun, plus she makes fantastic classroom guides for teachers. I hired Marcie to do the teacher guides for all my books and am super-happy with her work.

You can find Marcie at ThisIsMarcieColleen.com and on Twitter at @MarcieColleen1.

Synopsis of the Super Happy Party Bears books:

"To the Super Happy Party Bears, everything is a good thing. Their entire attitude can be summed up in one word: YAY! They love doughnuts, dancing, and above all else—a good party. Not so for the rest of the animals living in the Grumpy Woods. They find the bears terribly annoying."

Thanks to Marcie for answering THREE QUESTIONS:

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

When I am stuck and not knowing what to write or simply feel like what I do is not important, I try to focus on why I want to write for children.

One particular reminder has a prominent place by my desk.

It is a mud-caked, red LEGO brick.

When Hurricane Sandy ripped through New York City and the surrounding area in 2012 it changed life for many. I was supposed to run the NYC Marathon on November 4, but it was canceled due to the devastation. However, my entire running team chose to travel to Staten Island anyway, not for the start of the marathon, but to help with clean up.

For hours I worked with one family to empty their basement. Their belongings were muddied beyond recognition. Heaps of destroyed toys, holiday decorations, and photographs. It was heartbreaking. My mind swirled with the stories of each item.

Before taking a wheelbarrow-full to the already overflowing piles on the curb, I pocketed this red LEGO brick.

To me it symbolizes the hardships in life that affect us all, even children. Through my books I hope to bring a smile or a giggle to a child’s day. To provide an escape among life's mud. If I can do that, even slightly, I will have done what I set out to do.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

I didn’t get where I am by myself and you don’t have to, either. Countless teachers, mentors, family members, and friends helped me and encouraged me along the way. Never be afraid to seek advice or ask questions. It’s how we learn. It’s how we succeed

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I am excited about strangers reading my books. To think that people I don’t know will be reading my words is both terrifying and exhilarating.

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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2. Comic: Bad Dog.

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3. Advice for young writers, apothecaries & MARK OF THE PLAGUE: Three Questions with author Kevin Sands

Last year, I mentioned how much I enjoyed The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands (as Kirkus said, "a spectacular debut") from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. I'm excited that the sequel, Mark Of The Plague, launches today!

Since escaping from university with a pair of degrees in theoretical physics, Kevin Sands has worked as a researcher, a business consultant, and a teacher. He is the author of the award-winning bestseller The Blackthorn Key, and its sequel, Mark of the Plague. You can find Kevin at KevinSandsBooks.com, on Twitter at @kevinsandsbooks and on Facebook.

Synopsis of Mark Of The Plague:

The Black Death has returned to London, spreading disease and fear through town. A mysterious prophet predicts the city’s ultimate doom—until an unknown apothecary arrives with a cure that actually works. Christopher’s Blackthorn shop is chosen to prepare the remedy. But when an assassin threatens the apothecary’s life, Christopher and his faithful friend Tom are back to hunting down the truth, risking their lives to untangle the heart of a dark conspiracy. And as the sickness strikes close to home, the stakes are higher than ever before…

 

And for those of you who missed the first book, here's the trailer for The Blackthorn Key:

Thanks to Kevin for taking the time to answer Three Questions for me today!

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

I keep this at the side of my desk while I’m working. It’s an apothecary bottle, made by Simon & Schuster, my North American publisher, in support of The Blackthorn Key book. I love the little details: Prepared by Christopher Rowe, Ingredients: marshmallow root and honey—just like in the first book.

The Plague of London.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

The First Rule of Writing is: Butt In Chair.

This is the rule from which all careers stem. It’s the easiest thing in the world to NOT write—after all, no one’s ever making you do it. But if you want to have this as a job—and as wonderful as it may be, it is a job—then you have to treat it like one. And no writing gets done when Butt is not In Chair.

The reality is that the more you write, the better your chances of finally selling something. And even after you’ve sold a book, writing new books helps sell old books. So, yeah: Rule # 1.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

The sequel to The Blackthorn Key is out today! It’s called Mark Of The Plague, and it’s set three months after the first book, during the height of the Great Plague of London. We’ll rejoin Christopher and Tom during the worst part of this epidemic, where they find themselves embroiled in a new mystery. 

I’m also starting work on a new series. It’s something totally different; a space adventure. I’m really excited to see where this one will go.

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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4. Poll results: People still love print books but many also read digital/audio books for convenience

I read books in all formats: print, digital and audio. If the story is good, I'll read in any format. I got curious about whether other people felt the same way, so I recently posted a one-question poll asking:

"In the past year, how have you read books? Check all that apply."

424 people responded. I opted for a multiple choice rather than "which do you prefer" for this poll to cut out the need to decide on a preference, plus it gets complicated because I would need to include different categories of reading; someone may prefer picture books in print, for example, but opt for a digital version of a novel for older readers.

So I let you check as many formats as you'd like. Here's what you said:

98% of you said you read at least one print book in the past year. 

61% of you said you read digital books on your tablet or Kindle. Some of you added a comment that you read ebooks on your phone.

43% of you said you listened to audiobooks.

19% of you said that you read digital books on your computer. 

I also had a comment field for those who had more to say.

HERE'S WHAT SOME OF YOU SAID ABOUT WHY YOU PREFER PRINT BOOKS:

Almost everyone said they had read at least one print book in the past year (as opposed to digital). Some of you gave reasons why you enjoy or prefer print books, and these included:

- Enjoying the physical sensation of holding a print book, turning pages, etc.

- Print books can be more easily shared.

- Print books can be put in the classroom and library for silent reading.

- Special edition, collector's edition, autographed.

- Technical books where tables and charts don't easily transfer to an e-reader.

- Easier to read longform text in print than on a screen. (Interestingly, some of you said it was easier to read longform text in digital format; see below.) One of you said you printed out PDFs of public domain books.

WHY SOME OF YOU SAID YOU READ OR PREFER DIGITAL BOOKS:

While many of you said you preferred reading print books (reasons included enjoying the feel of the book in your hands, turning pages, special edition, autographing, easier to read than on a screen etc.), quite a few of you said you also read digital books. Reasons given include:

- Easier to travel with digital books.

- Instant gratification when it comes to buying.

- Easier to read (don't have to turn on reading light, can enlarge the print).

- Takes up less space at home.

- Cheaper.

A few comments:

"I adore physical books, they'll always be my preference. I think the cover design and feel of a book can't be beaten. But sometimes the convenience of e-books wins ie my recent holiday, in which I knew I'd read a lot, and actual books would have filled my already bulging case." - @BookMonsterAlly

"I only buy print picture books and we listen to a ton of audio. If I am reading a new release that's adult or ya, I will sometimes go with the ebook because it is quicker and cheaper. I will buy it in print if it is particularly special to me. :)" - @mvp1972

"Books are memories bound in paper to me. Not just stories. I can't bring myself to read them digitally. I need to keep them on my shelf so I remember." - @bethnavarro76

"I have read in all kinds of formats and on different devices, but I still prefer print. The others are all about opportunity...it's easier to read on my ereader when I can't sleep at night - plus it's nice to pack because I can take so many books with me. I love my phone because I can easily and quickly access library titles and listen to audiobooks on it (making road trips - especially solo road trips - more appealing)." - @cbethm

"I prefer reading "real books", but the Kindle allows me to read at night without worrying about the size of the book and without having to turn on the lights (I have a paper white Kindle)" - @santiagocasares

"I like the smell and feel of paper books. Audio books are ok, but with 2 little ones I have less time for them than paper books. Also I read much faster than an audiobook could, so I prefer paper. Not a fan of eBooks but love that more people read using these. I think they are best for nonfiction. Especially nonfiction that has information that changes from year to year." - @daniduck

"I own a Kobo and occasionally read short ebooks on the computer, but for business, never for pleasure. The reading experience isn't very satisfactory. Jean-Luc Picard always kept a book in his ready room. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me. :P" - @heathermoconnor

"I will always treasure real paper and ink books more than those of the digital kind. A real book is like comfort food. It reminds you of childhood and it is so much like a present that gets opened every time you go back to it. Perhaps this has to do with belonging to an older generation. I am not sure. Younger people who are digital natives might have a different opinion. This is a great question." - Anonymous

---

Thanks again to all those who responded! Feel free to browse more results from past Inkygirlsurveys and polls.

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5. #BookADay: MiNRS 2 by Kevin Sylvester (Simon & Schuster, launching Oct/2016)

Just read Kevin Sylvester's MiNRS 2 in one sitting, on the train to Buffalo. Or almost one sitting: I had to stop reading for a few minutes at U.S. Customs to answer the standard border crossing questions (I did keep reading in line until the very last minute). We were all told to turn off all digital gadgets during the 1.5 hours at the border, including digital readers, but HA!!!! I had a PRINT book.

Don't want to say too much about MiNRS 2 for fear of spoilers in case some of you haven't read the first book in this excellent middle grade sf space adventure series (and if you haven't, WHY NOT??). Great sequel with lots of action, suspense and mystery solving. I also enjoyed the believable interactions between characters, especially how the infighting evolves into teamwork.

So looking forward to MiNRS 3!!!

p.s. The MiNRS books would make great movies.

For more info about the MiNRS books, see the Simon & Schuster MiNRS page. You can find out more about Kevin Sylvester and his work at KevinSylvesterBooks.com/.

Also see Three Questions For Kevin Sylvester.

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Archives of my #BookADay posts

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6. Behind-the-scenes: How new picture book PIRASAURS! was created, with insights from author Josh Funk and illustrator Michael Slack

Back in May 2013, I posted an interview with Celia Lee, an editor at Cartwheel Books / Scholastic, and Celia invited Inkygirl readers to submit manuscripts for a limited time; apparently Celia received over a thousand submissions (!). A couple of years later, I met Josh Funk at nErDcampMI and found out that he had sold one of his picture book manuscripts to Celia as a result of my Inkygirl post, and it was being illustrated by Michael Slack.

I'm thrilled that PIRASAURS! is launching this week from Cartwheel/Scholastic. You can find out more about the book at the Scholastic page about the book, Josh Funk's Pirasaurs! page (where you can also find lesson ideas, reviews, links to other interviews and more), and the trailer below:

I asked Josh Funk how PIRASAURS! got created, and here's what he told me:

On February 27th, 2013 at 2:53 in the morning, I woke up. I don't remember what I was dreaming of. I don't remember what I watched on TV the night before or what I ate for dinner (or late night snack). I do know that I sent a text with a single word to myself:

pirasaurs

Ok, maybe that's not a word (yet). But it was a single string of letters. And I knew what to do with them.

Over the next two days, I furiously wrote a story featuring pirate-dinosaurs and a slew of other characters. It was my first time using internal rhyme (rhymes within a single line of text) and I had a blast with it. It turned out to be sort of a concept book. There were a bunch of crazy characters. The ending didn't really make all that much sense. But about 40 hours later, I had a full first draft that was ready to be sent to a critique group.

Here is the opening section of the 'Concept Book' version of Pira-Saurs!

I brought the manuscript to my critique group twice over the next three months, and while much of the manuscript was tweaked, the opening Pira-Saurs! section stayed pretty much the same.

And then on May 20th, 2013, Debbie Ohi posted an interview with Celia Lee, editor at Cartwheel Books an imprint of Scholastic. Within a week, news had spread that a fancy Scholastic editor was accepting unsolicited submissions of picture books for ages 0-5. The funny thing was, Pira-Saurs! was the only manuscript I had that really fit the 0-5 age range. Most of the manuscripts I'd written fell more into the 5-8 area (although I personally believe that most of what I write is good for anyone between the ages of 0 and 92).

So, in late May, I sent Pira-Saurs! to the Scholastic offices in NYC via snail mail. I never sent Pira-Saurs! to anyone else. And then I went about my business, because at the time, I had no book deals, no agent, and really, I'd never received any positive feedback on anything I'd sent to an industry professional up to that point.

PIRASAURS! author Josh Funk with his editor, Celia Lee

And then on July 9th, my phone buzzed. I'd received an email with the subject "Pira-Saurs! for Cartwheel Books" and everything slowed down. I was used to getting email rejections, so when I saw that it was a writing-related email, I instinctively thought, "oh, well, another no." But a few more synapses fired and I realized that I'd only sent Pira-Saurs! to one person, and it had been snail mail. And why would an editor bother sending an email rejection to a snail mail submission? That just wouldn't happen. Could this actually be good news?

Yes! Celia Lee had found the manuscript and liked it! It wasn't perfect (yet), but she wanted to work on it before bringing it to acquisitions. The next ten days were a flurry of emails and brainstorms and waking up in the middle of the night with new lines and rhymes. And on July 19th, Celia thought the manuscript was ready to bring to acquisitions. Hooray!

Or not hooray? On September 5th, Celia wrote back that Scholastic was going to pass on Pira-Saurs! ... but, they editorial team liked my voice and writing style. Celia asked if I would write another story, this time featuring just Pirasaurs - and cut the rest of the slew of other characters. My answer was "Of course!

But all I had were those three stanzas. And I needed to create a whole story with a full plot and compelling characters. And as an unpublished, unagented writer, I felt I needed to strike quickly before Celia Lee forgot who I was. I frantically wrote a draft, shared it with a few critique partners:

Thank you, Paul Czajak for suggesting I add an adventure and Anna Staniszewski for pushing that I add a little heart. Within a week of rejection, I had sent Celia a brand new completed manuscript. We revised it over the next few days, and on September 19th (which happens to be Talk Like a Pirate Day), I handed it off to Celia to take to acquisitions again. I didn't hear anything until a month and a half later, I received an offer on Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and subsequently signed with an agent. At that point, Celia mentioned that the editorial director and art director were trying to set up a meeting to discuss potential illustrators before taking to acquisitions. I was told this was a good sign. And by late January of 2014, 8 months after Debbie's interview, Scholastic offered to acquire Pirasaurs! And pretty quickly they found the perfect illustrator... Michael Slack.

Illustrator Michael Slack's creative space.

From Debbie: 

Illustrator Michael Slack worked with art director Patti Ann Harris, editor Celia Lee and designer Jessica Tice-Gilbert for Pirasaurs!

Michael says that he did a lot of sketches early on. "Pages and pages of dinosaurs, hats, swords, and cannons."

 

"Once I found the characters I did a few rounds of really loose thumbnails. After  I had the story pacing in good shape, I switched from pencil and paper to digital to create the sketch dummy. Ultimately I ended up with three different versions of the dummy. The final illustrations were digitally painted in Photoshop."

Thanks to both Michael and Josh for sharing about the process of creating PIRASAURS!

You can find out more about PIRASAURS! at the Scholastic website.

More about Josh Funk and his work at JoshFunkBooks.com.

More about Michael Slack and his work at Slackart.com.

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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7. PAY ATTENTION! Everything and everyone can be a source of wonder and inspiration.

It's been four years since my first children's book came out. One thing I've learned since then: to pay more attention to the people and things around me.

EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE can be a source of wonder and inspiration: a snippet of conversation, a secret smile, even someone's shoes. Ask yourself questions about the people and things you see around you, invent reasons why people look or act the way they do, what happened to them, why they chose to wear that particular piece of clothing today.

Now that I illustrate as well as write, I also try to pay more attention to physical details when I observe the world around me: what people REALLY look like, for instance, to help me add authentic or unusual details next time I draw a young girl or stay-at-home parent or businessman or older person or person of colour, etc.. My goal: to increase the breadth and depth of my internal visual library, the one I access when I'm doing a sketch without a physical reference right in front of me.

And this doesn't just apply to observing people. I've always preferred drawing characters much more than backgrounds. I used to hate drawing backgrounds, which is why I rarely drew them in my comics early on. Now I'm trying to get better at it and lo and behold, I find the more I practice, the more comfortable I become. Go figure, eh? I've been drawing a lot of TREES lately. I draw big trees, little trees, scary trees, alien trees, saplings etc. Experimenting with different ways of drawing foliage as well. NO, I don't have any book projects where I have to draw trees right now....but I know I will someday, so why not get better at something I don't enjoy doing? And it's working. I'll post more on this topic in the future.

So go forth and pay attention, all! Your creative inner lives will be enriched as a result, I promise.

 

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8. Comic: Comma Abuse

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9. Beautiful part of writing: you don't have to get it right the first time unlike, say, brain surgery. - R. Cormier

(Quote above & others available as free, print-ready posters for classrooms, libraries, bookstores and elsewhere: DebbieOhi.com/read)

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10. #BookADay: THIS IS OUR BABY, BORN TODAY by Varsha Bajaj and Eliza Wheeler

Just got back from the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA. My roommate was the amazing illustrator, Eliza Wheeler, and I had a chance to see her just-released picture book, THIS IS OUR BABY, BORN TODAY (Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin).

So sweet! And of course, gorgeously illustrated. For ages 3-5.

Synopsis:

"A baby is born and the world rejoices! With a loving mama, a trumpeting herd, curious cousins, and even some dancing peacocks heralding this little one’s arrival, it is apparent that the joy and wonder a new baby brings is shared by all! Varsha Bajaj’s lilting prose and Eliza Wheeler’s enchanting scenes of a wide-eyed baby elephant and its smitten family celebrate the importance of family and community in every child’s life. Set in the lush wilds of India, this is an endearing, beautifully illustrated tribute to little ones getting their first warm welcome to the world."

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More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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11. World is full of people w/ good ideas. Published authors are ones who sat down & got them written. - @JenniferFallon

"Write, write, write... The world is full of people with good ideas. The published authors are the ones who sat down and got them written." - Jennifer Fallon

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12. Book Journal: Just One More Way That Books Have Changed My Life

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13. Are you an introvert who finds it hard to network? I posted some tips at KidLitArtists.com

I have a new post up on the Kidlitartists.com blog with tips for introverts who are attending the upcoming SCBWI Summer Conference in LA, but the post has useful info for any introvert nervous about networking.

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14. Nerds, Books, Education & Literacy: nErDcamp recap posts #nerdcampmi

I had a fabulous time at nErDcamp, and will post more about my experience after I've had a chance to catch up with work. What a wonderful community! As author Ruth Spiro said, sometimes making a new friend is like meeting an old friend.

With nerdy pals Jason Lewis, Lesley Burnap and Melissa Guerrette.Thank you SO much to Colby and Alaina Sharp and the rest of the Nerdy team for all their hard work, as well as Nerdcamp sponsors. I'm especially grateful to Suzanne Stuart Gibbs, who helped me get the Mitzi Tulane keepsakes organized for the Nerdy Dinner, and Leah Calloway Whitford and her son Jack for their help with my Nerd Camp Jr sessions. I also so appreciate the car rides between the airport, hotel, Nerd Camp and other venues: fervent thanks to Lesley Burnap, Jess Keating and her husband Justin (aka "The Nerdy Photographer") and Ruth Spiro.

With Melanie Golding, Amy Ralph, Jess Keating and Ruth Spiro.

I've posted my 2016 nErDcamp photos on Facebook, and you can also browse the official Nerd Camp photos from Justin, the Nerdy Photographer (a.k.a. "Mr. Jess Keating"). If you're not already, do follow The Nerdy Book Club blog as well as well their Facebook page and Twitter acct for year-round inspiring posts about kidlit/YA. For info about nErDcamp, see this page as their FB page and Twitter account. A note to those who have been admiring the nErDcamp logo: the artist is Laurie Keller, a wonderful Michigan author-illustrator.

In celebration of the launch of MITZI TULANE PRESCHOOL DETECTIVE in WHAT'S THAT SMELL? (author: Lauren McLaughlin, published by Random House Children) during nErDcamp and in thanks for all nErDcamp does, I hand-painted 500 keepsakes for those who attended the Nerdy Dinner:

People seemed to like them, yay!

I've been collecting nErDcamp 2016 blog posts and recaps, am listing them below. If you see any that I'm missing, please let me know and I'll add them! 

 

(Last updated July 20, 2016)

Patrick Andrus - Wonder Wednesday - My FIRST NerdCamp

Kelly Barnhill - In Which I Take A Hiatus From The Hiatus In Order To Talk About Nerd Camp

Jenn Bishop - Getting nerdy in Michigan

Crystal Brunelle - #nErDCampMI 2016

Kathy Burnette - NerdCampMI - Recap

Victoria J. Coe - ILA & nErD Camp 2016!

Melanie Conklin - A nERdcampMI Wrap-up!

Ann DiBella - A Weird and Perfect Tribe

Melissa Guerrette - Five Things I'm Celebrating About nErDcampMI

Jillian Heise - Summer Tour 2016 Highlights

Teri Lesesne - Mind, Spirit, Heart

Margie Myers-Culver - For The Very First Time - Reflections On NerdCampMI 2016

Amy and Sarah Ralph: Two Nerdy Sisters Go To Michigan: Our Nerd Camp Journey, Part 1 and Part 2

Melanie Roy - #nErDcampMI Day 1 July 2016 (*** NEW ***)

Katherine Sokolowski - NerdCampMI 2016

OTHER PRESS:

Publishers Weekly: Nerdcamp 2016 In Photos

mLive.com: 'nErDcamp' Spreads Love Of Reading Among Teachers, Kids

 

The handmade "nerd" charm in the photo above now hangs above my desk (thanks to Alaina Sharp!), where it will help inspire me throughout the year and remind me of the magic that was nErDCAMP 2016.

THANK YOU, NERDCAMP!

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15. Writing is a solitary endeavor, but trying to get published doesn’t have to be.

"Writing is a solitary endeavor, but trying to get published doesn’t have to be." - Nancy Parish

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16. Story behind the dedication page in MITZI TULANE, PRESCHOOL DETECTIVE

The first MITZI TULANE, PRESCHOOL DETECTIVE picture book launches next Tuesday from Random House Children's! Here's some insider info from the dedication page: mine is for my mom, who died of cancer when I was in my 20s. We didn't have a ton of money when we were growing up, and Mom sewed a lot of our clothes. One of the reasons I love compartmentalized food is because TV dinners were always a treat for us when we were kids (and the little kid part of my brain still regards them as a luxury).

For my birthday, Mom would usually make birthday cake from a Betty Crocker mix, letting me choose what flavour I wanted; I almost always chose chocolate. Thing is, those cakes were WONDERFUL even if they came from a mix, and later on I came to realize that I loved Mom's cakes not so much because of how they tasted, but of the love that went into them. My mom was still alive when I quit my programmer/analyst job to pursue freelance writing but died before any of my books got published. I think she would have been so happy to see this book come out. 

Lauren's dedication is to her daughter Addie, who helped inspire the book. Read Lauren's Nerdy Book Club piece about diversity and transracial adoptive families  and also how she wrote Mitzi Tulane, Preschool Detective.

For more info about this new picture book, see the Random House Kids page about Mitzi Tulane, Preschool Detective.

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17. Free creative brainstorming templates for picture book writers and illustrators

Reminder: For those of you who are writing and/or illustrating children's picture books: Feel free to download and use my picture book thumbnail templates during your early brainstorming.

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18. Be aware when research & prep becomes a crutch. At some point, you need to jump in & WRITE.

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19. Comic For Bibliophiles: Coffee Stain Breakup

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20. Writers & illus: Resist comparing yourself to others. Instead, appreciate & enjoy your OWN journey.

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21. Yay, it's time for Donalyn Miller's annual summer #BookADay Challenge!

YAYYY! Donalyn Miller just announced the 8th Annual #BookADay Challenge on her blog.

Do read Donalyn's inspiring post above about why she started the Challenge, how to involve young readers, the various ways you can approach it. An excerpt:

"It doesn’t matter if you actually read a book every day or not. Dedicate more time to read. Celebrate your right to read what you want. Make reading plans. Share and collect book recommendations. Connect with other readers.The #bookaday challenge is personal, not a competition. Finish that series. Tackle that epic historical your mother gave you for your birthday (last September). Try audiobooks. How would you like to grow as a reader this summer?"

I will be mainly be posting my #BookADay reads on Twitter at @inkyelbows but will link to posts in my #BookADay archives.

Yes, I do read books the rest of the year! But I love the specific summer reading challenge as extra motivation. I've been working a lot of weekends and evenings in recent months, and I think it would be good to get out of that habit and do more reading instead.

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22. Poetry for kids, poetry resources for teachers

Last year, I discovered that I've been pronouncing the "poem" incorrectly all my life (!!!). I was pronouncing it as ONE syllable, which made me use it incorrectly in a haiku. I've fixed it now as well as my pronunciation.

I've updated the poem on my Poetry For Kids page, which includes poetry teaching resources.

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23. #BookADay: HOW TO OUTFOX YOUR FRIENDS WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE A CLUE by Jess Keating (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

‪#‎BookADay‬: HOW TO OUTFOX YOUR FRIENDS WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE A CLUE by Jess Keating ( Sourcebooks Jabberwocky). I'm a fan of Jess's "My Life Is A Zoo" series for middle grade, and this third book in series totally lived up to the first two - I *lovelovelove* the main character's fresh, funny voice: clever without being mean-sarcastic, smart and quirky and original.

There were SO many moments throughout this book where I thought, "dear lord, I so remember feeling EXACTLY LIKE THAT when I was that age."

Plus: because the main character begins volunteering in a Wildlife Rescue Center (the author's first job was at a wildlife rehabilitation center and she has a master's degree in animal science), the reader gets to find out all kinds of fascinating animal facts. In my case, I was especially interested in the scene where Ana learns how to take care of a baby skunk since Jeff and I currently have backyard baby skunk issues.

Plus: as the starred review in Kirkus points out, this story is "a sweet reminder that being a middle school girl is about far more than boys and makeup."

Jess, by the way, was one of the very first authors to attend Nerd Camp; I found out about the latter from her reports. She is also an amazing presenter; I watched her in action at Telling Tales last year. She has also started a series of videos called "Write With Jess Keating" for young writers.

Visit Jess Keating's site to find out more about her books.

"Jess's MY LIFE IS A ZOO series follows the hilarious and heartfelt adventures of a 12-year-old girl who lives in a zoo with her zoologist parents, twin brother, and a host of scaly and feathered creatures. Contains loads of laughs, embarrassing moments, and animal poop."

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More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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24. #BookADay: RED, WHITE, AND BOOM! by Lee Wardlaw and Huy Voun Lee (Henry Holt)

‪#‎BookADay‬: RED, WHITE AND BOOM written by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated with amazing cut paper collage by Huy Voun Lee (Henry Holt).

From a starred review in School Library Journal: “Independence Day is brought to jubilant life in this striking picture book…simple, rhyming language rich in sensory imagery…rich in texture and beautiful patterns, the intricate collages depict a multicultural, multigenerational mosaic of people who gather in various ways to commemorate our nation’s founding freedoms…this title is made to order for the summer story hour crowd as well as quiet lapsits under a shady tree.”

More info about the book on the author's website.

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More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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25. Comparing yourself to others can suck joy out of creating. Find your own pace, savor the journey.

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