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1. Help Your Students & Families Find the Best Summer Learning Opportunities

You’ve been their teacher for nearly ten months. It seems like only September that a new gaggle  of hungry learners entered your classroom. What a journey it has been!

Summer is fast approaching, which means:

  • Prevent Summer SlideYou will not have explicit control over your students’ daily schedules and learning much longer
  • Summer slide is a serious risk
  • Summer school, camps, and programs are quickly filling up (some by February!)
  • Summer learning can make a difference

So in your final guidance to your students and families—help connect them with the right summer learning opportunities!

Summer slide can happen to any student, but is particularly detrimental for low-income children. If you work in a Title I school, for example, families may lack time to research and to apply early, supplemental income to put towards summer programming, or even the language (English) to navigate and negotiate with programs.

Engaging parents in the summer program process is critical. Ten months together with a student and family is significant, but the summer break is a sobering reminder that our time with students is so short (too short) on their grand education journeys.

Reality: We have about 900 hours a year with students, compared to the 7,800 hours students spend out of school. And so, finding a summer learning opportunity for our students is one last opportunity to engage parents as partners and recognize them as the ultimate teachers and advocates of their children.

Why should educators and school staff support with summer planning? Helping families navigate the convoluted summer programs race, you’ll ensure:

  • your students retain the growth they achieved with you
  • your students find a safe, healthy place to continue learning for the next two months—many of these programs provide not only academic support, but also necessary meal services that families have depended on during the school year
  • your students get exposed to new experiences in art, science, music, or sports which will help them build their background schema—a critical reading strategy
  • the next grade’s teacher will love you forever (no wants to spend the first month(s) of school re-teaching or reminding students what they already learned, thereby losing precious learning time for new material—full steam ahead!)

FIRST, start your own research now.

  • Does your school offer summer school or host a summer day camp?
  • Ask around: What programs did your students from last year go to that they would recommend for your current students? What academic programs do your colleagues and administrators recommend? Does the school’s PTA know of local quality opportunities?
  • Head straight to the local library in the neighborhood of your school—no one does better research on community resources than here, and I have found incredible, meticulously curated binders on health resources, summer camps, preschools, and more in the Children’s Rooms of many public library branches.

Program finders:

Questions to consider when looking into programs:

  • How is reading incorporated? Sports clinics are great for addressing the opportunity gap, but the major goal is about preserving (and hopefully increasing) reading and math literacy
  • Is transportation available?
  • Are breakfast and lunch provided?
  • Are scholarships available? Groups like Wishbone and The Fresh Air Fund can help cover the cost to otherwise out-of-reach high quality programs
  • Can siblings of different ages participate?
  • Are materials available in other languages or staff members able to communicate with non-English speaking families?

SECOND, begin talking to your students and their families NOW (inquire at after-school pickup and in your final parent-teacher conference). Ask:

  • What are your plans for the summer?
  • How will your child continue reading practice and discover books?
  • Have you ever considered a day camp or summer school program?
  • What has been a challenge in finding a program before? (Likely challenges in the past: language, cost, ability to take siblings or multiple age groups, transportation, general convenience, or compatibility with work schedules)
  • Discuss summer slide and if/how their child may be at risk. Talk about some ways to prevent summer slide at home and the benefits of local programs.

THIRD, present families with 3-4 programs you have found that are convenient. You do not need to offer families the whole menu of options (thanks, internet) and, frankly, many may not be realistic due to waiting lists, distance, or cost. You know your families and what is doable.

Having said that, you may also discover scholarships to summer programs that your families wouldn’t have even considered—if you can connect them, do it! These are memories your students will have forever.

FINALLY, hold parents accountable. Consider having an after school or morning session with a couple of laptops in your classroom for parents to register and learn more. (In my first year of teaching, my grade level colleague physically connected parents to the registration forms by printing a couple of forms to attach in the summer learning packets and discussed options in the final parent-teacher conference). In this way, you can:

  • help families learn about programs near their neighborhood
  • answer questions
  • provide translation of a website or help make a phone call to specific programs on behalf of families whose first or preferred language to speak in isn’t English
  • create a visible support system among families who are also registering, which will increase chances of success for when you are working and studying elsewhere during the summer (as well as help with carpooling!)

Be Pragmatic. Don’t feel like you need to coordinate 30+ students’ summer learning plans and help students decide between sports clinics. Zero in on students whose learning achievements seem the most precarious and you know that if you don’t help point out a summer learning opportunity, they face two months of staying at home with the T.V.

Even if you only get a couple of families (with siblings) registered this time around, next year they will be back championing the experiences and opportunities, and can be partnered with to encourage other families—nothing like seeing someone like you participate to make you rethink what is possible for your family.

Recommended Reading:

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her weekly column at The Open Book, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

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2. Student Success Story: Stefanie Lyons

No matter how my writing students define “success” – perhaps beginning a picture book, completing a novel, earning an advanced degree or maybe winning a grant, their stories of success gladden my heart.

Today I share my former student Stefanie Lyons’ Success Story to celebrate this month’s publication of her debut novel DATING DOWN (Flux), a YA novel in verse, with hopes her story will gladden your heart too.

Thanks to Flux’s generosity, one lucky TeachingAuthor reader can win a copy of DATING DOWN simply by entering our Book Giveaway which runs from today May 4 through midnight May 15.
(Please see details at the end of Stefanie’s Q & A).

I first worked with Stefanie independently almost 15 years ago on a middle grade novel that still plays in my head.  We worked together again in 2008 in my University of Chicago’s Writer’s Studio Novel Workshop.  I was honored to recommend her to the Vermont College’s MFA in Writing for Children program in 2009 and of course, cheer her on as she completed her graduate degree.

Stefanie describes herself on her website as a writer of all things young adultish.
The tag line for DATING DOWN is a grabber:  When a good girl falls for a bad boy.

     “She thought she loved him. She thought she could change him. She thought if she just believed in him enough, his cheating and his drugs and his lying would stop, and she'd be his and he'd be hers and they'd love each other forever.
     But for Samantha Henderson, X--the boy she will not name--is trouble. He's older, edgier, bohemian . . . and when he starts paying attention to Sam, she can't resist him. Samantha's family and friends try to warn her, but still she stays with him, risking her future and everything that really matters.”
The Booklist review lauded Stefanie’s musical, poignant verse, calling the story “lyrical and heart-wrenching, exploring the emotional vicissitudes of love, sex, and drugs.”
Kirkus recommended the book to fans of Ellen Hopkins.  “Turbulent love via turbulent poems.”

Stefanie is an active member of the debut MG and YA authors blog FearlessFifteeners.
She’s also appearing on my First-Timers Panel at the Chicago Printers Row Lit Fest the weekend of June 7 and 8.  

Take heart and hope from my interview with Stefanie and be sure to enter our Book Giveaway for a free copy of Stefanie’s DATING DOWN.

And thanks to Stefanie who's out and about connecting with her readers for taking time to share her Success Story with our readers.

Esther Hershenhorn

                        . . . . . . . . . . . . .

      Your unswerving focus from the year 2000 on to learn and hone your craft coupled with your non-stop efforts to grow as a writer, is note-worthy.  What’s kept you going all these years?  How did you come to know and believe what I shared in my 2009 VCFA recommendation: i.e. Stefanie Lyons was seated on the Right Pew in the Right Church.

      What has kept me going all these years was the thought that I couldn’t quit. I’m a very
      stubborn person when I want to be! Also, writing was something that took ahold of me from a young age and never let go. (Maybe it’s more stubborn than I am.) Writing is how I find fulfillment. It’s my joy. As for me being seated in the Right Pew in the Right Church, as you put it, I would rephrase it to say that I made sure I was in the Church and never got up from the Pew. It’s a story of tenacity, mostly.

      Can you share with our readers how DATING DOWN, a YA novel in verse, came to be – and the revisions it underwent, under the guidance of first your agent and then your editor?

      I was in grad school when I started DATING DOWN. I needed something to turn in and found this in a folder in my house. I pulled it out and thought, “Well, this isn’t as bad as I remember.” I revisited it and sent it in. My advisor loved it and helped me pare the voice into a more traditional verse novel. At the time, it was a prose/verse hybrid. My agent didn’t weigh in on this novel because it was already in the hands of Flux when we met. But that’s another story. 

      You’re an enthusiastic member of the debut 2015 debut author blog Fearless Fifteeners. How has this group helped you grow as an author now out in the world bringing her book to readers?

      I’ve learned so much from them. Honestly, they’ve made this journey so fun. Having a group of writers going through the same debut experience at the same time has made the scary stuff a bonding experience and the highs that much higher. They provided a place where I could ask the dumb questions without bugging my editor or agent. How do I request my book be stocked in independent bookstores? Where do I go to make bookmarks? How do you sign your name to readers? Stuff like that. And the cheer-leading on release day. Banding together to do panels. These things have made all the difference. It has been the #1 most defining thing that has shaped my debut year. And that’s saying a lot.

      You – also – have a solid career in advertising!  How do you balance your days so you have time to write – and – promote?

      Priorities. Some things are more important than others. Like sleep. Who needs it?

      What’s that One Thing You Wished You’d Known when you began your Writer’s Journey? 

      How truly wonderful the Children’s Writer’s community is. And how much I’d grow just by befriending them. I always considered writing as a solo sport. It is quite the opposite, actually.

. . . .

Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below to win a copy of Stefanie Lyon’s YA novel in verse, DATING DOWN.  You can enter between now and midnight, May 15, 2015.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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3. It's Teacher Appreciation Week

I opened my email this morning and found this amazing message:
"I just wanted to extend a massive thank you. I have had a grueling two months filled with surgeries and unpleasant chemo strains. My escape? Reading. Your vivid stories have made my pain bearable as I escape into the escapades of your believable characters. They had me laughing when it didn't seem possible to laugh!  Thank you for sharing your talent with the world. I can't put into words how much it means to me and how much it has helped me."

Which seems like a great way to slide into a celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week. Just as writers only hear from some of the people for whom they'd made a difference, teachers often don't get feedback about their small and large miracles, or only find out years later when a student drops by. I know my daughter has touched a lot of lives. So have all of my teacher friends. Let's celebrate teachers this week, for real. Let's share stories of the amazing educators who have touched our lives. (And let's not forget that librarians are teachers.) To kick things off, here's a brief excerpt from the essay my daughter and I wrote (in the form of a dialogue) for a pop culture book on Ender's Game, where we discuss the impact teachers and writers can have.

D: Speaking of trust and intimacy, I find it fascinating that we get the shift to first person for Ender, Valentine, and even Bean, but not for Peter. Peter, alone, remains shadowy, never fully revealed by the tools of viewpoint. The problem is, writers can do all these brilliant things, and then they wait for someone to notice them. Writing is one of the most difficult art forms for those who crave a response. (I plead guilty to this weakness. Validation is my drug of choice.) If I paint or draw, I can get immediate feedback, or at least validation in the form of a gasp of delight when I unveil the canvas. If I compose, you merely have to sit back and listen. But if I want you to respond to a novel, I need patience on my part and cooperation on yours.

A: And this is exactly what teaching is like—the time and patience that go into guiding a student to becoming whoever she will be doesn’t have immediate rewards (aside from the occasional parent-mandated thank-you note at the end of the year).

D: Happily, most of your work stays in print for many decades. And if you teach for long enough, you'll even get to work on sequels.

A: And I frequently teach different editions. Sometimes I’ve taught several kids from the same family.

D: Of course, like most analogies, this one also offers interesting contrasts. A book reaches many people for a brief period (though the memory can last a lifetime). A teacher reaches fewer people, but for a prolonged interaction.

A: As a teacher, you may change a student’s life (for better or worse!) but part of the job is being ok with the idea that you might never know the impact you have. I can see how writers and teachers are both creators, but with a teacher, so much depends on the student herself. Two autonomous agents are working toward (again, hopefully) the same goal—learning, growth, and development. Creating a future.

One more thought for my teacher friends. Whenever I see someone post "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." I like to respond, "Those who can't think, quote."

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4. Independent Bookstore Day! - Thank you wrap up to my favorite indies!

Saturday was Independent Bookstore Day and it coincided with the 10th anniversary of the opening of Little Shop of Stories, my local children's bookstore. They opened their doors about two weeks before Stan and I moved to town, and they've had my back since day one. All of my books have had launch parties there. It's been home to our regional SCBWI Gallery Show and our first Illustrators' Day. I've done numerous events with them, and my art still hangs on their walls. I've spent enough money on books there to help hold up the roof. Heck, I even nominated them for the Pannell Award (best bookstore), which they won. It's been a symbiotic relationship and one that has meant the world to me. So, of course I was there to help celebrate their big day.
     So was another store favorite, Judy Schachner - creator of Skippyjon Jones. She read her latest incarnation, SNOW WHAT. It was so fun to watch the children slowly gather and get closer to this master storyteller. By the end, she had mesmerized a large, devoted group of young fans.

     Judy and I have been friends for years, so it was great to catch up - albeit briefly. And to hang out with my favorite folks from Little Shop of Stories. Here's Marcy Cornell with her new baby, Judy, Me, and "Miss Kim" Jones (store manager).
     Click this image to visit CBS news and hear more about the big celebration plans:

     Another independent bookstore that has meant the world to me and my first novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET is FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, Georgia. Although not as physically close to where I live, FoxTale Book Shoppe has been my biggest supporters in the north Georgia community. They handled the booksales during my Appalachian Book Tour from Benton, Tennessee to Brasstown, North Carolina. They constantly promote ABOWS online, keep it in stock, and hand sell it to patrons and schools. I am so grateful!
     Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia is also a little farther away, but they are big fans of LULA'S BREW. I've spent many signings dressed as a witch, sharing Lula in their sweet store.
     Other nearby indies (near enough to get there and back in a day - which I have many times), are Hall's Book Exchange in Gainesville, Georgia; Book Exchange in Marietta, Georgia; and Barnes & Noble in Cumming, Georgia.
      Being an author and illustrator for fourteen years now, I can tell you firsthand that bookstores and booksellers are my heroes - my front line. Without them, my books are invisible. With them, my books are invincible! How nice to have a day dedicated to saying "Thank you!"

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5. On-the-Spot Humorous Illustration

I like trying out new ideas when I'm drawing on location. One approach that I tried many years ago is the on-the-spot character study.

For this one, I was sitting in a barber shop while a customer was getting a haircut. 

I told them what I was doing, and they didn't pay much attention to me after that. I used whatever elements of the scene helped to support the story, such as those odd head forms mounted on the barber chairs. 

The customer didn't have a mop of hair and beard like that. I kind of made that up, and I exaggerated the barber, too. But I used real details from the scene, like the comb in the barber's back pocket.

I drew the picture with a brush and India ink over a pencil underdrawing, about 11 x 14 inches. I was inspired by the caricature illustration of Al Dorne, Norman Rockwell, and Mort Drucker. 

Further reading
I intended this sketch for The Artist's Guide to Sketching, but it never made it into the book. A book that inspired this thinking is Humorous Illustration by Nick Meglin. Also, check out the more recent books: MAD's Greatest Artists: Mort Drucker: Five Decades of His Finest Works and Albert Dorne: Master Illustrator

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6. Where’s Your Bubble Wand?

You Don’t Need a Flock of Fairies


Call me old fashioned, but I recently read an article that I found eye popping at the least, and horrifying at the worst.

It was entitled, “Why New York parents are spending up to $50k for strangers to entertain their kids.”

I realize we must be referring in the article to the 1% of the 1%, but even then, it seems a bit, shall we say, over the top one upsmanship?

At $175 per hour, a child can have a white-gloved “playdate valet”, along with a chauffeur to accompany the tot to playdates!

I hesitate to give this kind of thing more press, but here goes:

You can give your little one an “educational safari” at the Bronx Zoo or Central Park Zoo for anywhere from a tony $1,500 to $7000.

If you have a budding runway fashionista, you can have a staged Fashion Week experience where your little one can trot down the aisle for a mere $4,000!

And here is the one that truly set me afire: For $350 an hour, you can hire a flock of fairy tale fairies, dressed in gossamer wings and all, to read “curated bedtime stories” to your wee one before they drop off to dreamy dream land. Holding bubble wands, wearing wings and dispensing tiaras, the children are in bedtime story heaven; at a price and for a night. Where do you go from here. Can you project, oh about 20 years into the future, to the weddings of these wee ones? I can only imagine the size of these tiaras!

Here’s a way to save a ton of $.

You be the fairy. If you need a flock of them, ask another parent to join in and share the story telling time; and add voices to the telling. Kids love to hear them. It could be part of a special sleepover event, if you choose to do sleepovers at your home.

The only investment needed for this amazing journey into the “Neverland” of the imagination for you and your child is…the gift of your time.

Gossamer wings and fairy dust are optional. But, even these added things may prove a nice touch for a special evening of bedtime stories for your young reader. Now where the heck did I put my bubble wand?


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7. Writing Links

creeping clouds

Logrolling in Our Time, Or You Can’t Take Blurbs With You :: Jennifer Represents

Top Ten Things I’ve Learned From Kids About Writing a Book by Augusta Scattergood :: Nerdy Book Club

Grit and Magic :: Marion Dane Bauer

How to Get Readers into Your Story — And How to Keep Them There :: Live Write Thrive

The Enemy of Creativity… :: Seth Godin

Make Time to Write: 10 Tips for Daily Writing :: Writers Digest

The post Writing Links appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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8. Children's Book Week

Children's Book Week is May 4-10th - it will the the 96th annual event (the longest running national literacy initiative in the US). I love this year's poster designed by Grace Lee. CLICK HERE to learn more about it!

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9. Absorbing

You don’t consume a second meal
Before the first’s digested.
Your senses need some time to sort
The tastes you’ve just invested.

The same holds true for things you see
Or places where you travel.
Experience requires time
To stick, or might unravel.

When news is gotten, good or bad,
It takes a little while
To seep inside and be absorbed
In your specific style.

You cannot rush the process;
It may sometimes be quite slow,
But bombarding of the body
Or the mind’s not how to go.

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10. Artist and Mom-Have It All or Give It Up?

 I've been so blessed to be a mother. My husband and I managed to raise an amazing young woman who we are so completely proud of. She will be 21 in a couple of weeks. 

She will turn 21 in the faraway land of India on a study abroad trip. She's remarkable to me, because at that age, you couldn't of got me on a plane to go anywhere, never mind halfway around the world, but she's always been the bravest person I know. 
Pregnant Artist 1994
Big Baby

When she was born, the idea of giving up being an artist was not something that ever crossed my mind. Over the years however, I have met lots of mothers who, upon seeing my art, told me that they had given up their art when they became a mother. 
The Land of Pez (Kayla as a Princess Pez)
That is something that I really don't understand how it is possible. For me, making art is like eating. I have to do it. I wouldn't know how to function any other way. Art has been a refuge and strength for me throughout my entire life. It is the most powerful way that I know to express myself and so to silence my artistic voice would be to silence my voice entirely. 

When my daughter was a baby I used to get up at 4:30 in the morning before she woke up and before I had to go to my teaching job to paint.
Flying through Life Together
 I guess that's how driven I was to do it. After I made the decision to leave teaching and stay home with her, I continued to work and pursue artistic opportunities in an effort to show her that you can be a loving and devoted mother and wife and that you can also remain a whole person with dreams and aspirations and accomplishments of your own. 
Little Artist Girl
Can We Play More? 
Granted, I had one child and the luxury of being able to stay at home with her.  
Mother and Child Sunflowers
                                                            Needless to say, she has been the inspiration for much of my art.

Mother and Child

Empty Nest
Proud Momma
I am not judging other Moms who made the choice to give it up, I'm only expressing what is true for me. If I had not been able to continue my art and be a Mom.  I'm not sure I would have been a very good one because I think I would've been pretty miserable.

She is now a very talented artist and writer and musician in her own right.  At 20, she tells me that there will be no marriage and no children, but I'm hoping that that will change and that when she does slow down to raise her family, that what I have showed her about being a mom and an artist will carry into her life, so that she might live creatively and happily and fulfilled in all facets of her life.


Kayla's First Place winner in County Wide High School Art Show

Kayla's Riot Girl Series
Making Clay
Self Portrait

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11. मां – प्यार का दूसरा नाम

कुछ देर पहले नेट पर कुछ सर्च कर  रही थी कि तभी एक लेख  पढने को मिला कि मां के हाथ के खाने जैसा दुनिया में और कुछ नही हो सकता… उसमे बहुत सारी बाते बताई हुई थी कि मां के हाथ मे ये है  मां के हाथ में वो है… कुछ बातें बहुत अच्छी भी लगी पर जब भी मां के हाथों से बने खाने की बात होती है तो मुझे बस एक ही बात याद आती है और वो है ..पेट भरने के बाद, मना करने के बावजूद , एक फुल्का और लो ना बस ये बिल्कुल छोटा सा है … यानि मना करने के बाद भी आखिरी फुल्का तो खिलाना ही होता है…

बात उन दिनों की है जब मैं कुरुक्षेत्र से एम ए (संगीत) कर रही थी. होस्टल मे खाना खा रही थी. उस दिन मेरे पसंदीदा राजमा चावल बने थे. पेट भर गया था पर नियत नही भरी थी. मैस वाला भाई प्लेट में फुल्का डाल गया और मैने कहा कि और नही चाहिए. फिर मैं बहुत देर तक इंतजार करती रही कि वो फुल्का ले कर आएगा… असल में, वो क्या है ना कि जब मम्मी को मना करती तो बाद मे एक चपाती तो आनी ही आनी होती थी . होता वही साईज था पर कहने  को पतली सी छोटी सी होती. वही आदत पडी हुई थी और याद भी नही रहा कि मैं घर नही होस्टल मे हूं और ये मैस वाला भईया है मेरी मम्मी नही. मैने जब उसे बुला कर पूछा कि चपाती क्यो नही दी इतनी देर से इंतजार कर रही हूं  तो वो बोला कि आपने ही तो मना किया था.

उस रात मैं अपने कमरे मे जाकर  मम्मी को याद करके बहुत रोई… फिर धीरे धीरे आदत पड गई.

ये जो प्यार है न कि बस एक आखिरी , छोटी सी और … ये हमेशा बहुत याद आता है मां का  ऐसा प्यार और कही भी नही देखने को मिल सकता… cartoon -mother love


The post मां – प्यार का दूसरा नाम appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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12. Managing Creativity When It's Your Job

I've always talked about the job of getting published. That writing the book is great fun, but once you determine that it's time to seek out an agent, a publisher or even self-publish you've entered a new realm. Your writing is no longer a hobby, but a job, and you need to treat it as such. That means strict deadlines, focus, planning, management and all of those other things that drive business owners crazy.

I was reading a great article in Fast Company about The Secrets to Being Creative on A Deadline. In the article, Roman Mars, host and creator of the 99% Invisible podcast had this to say,

"Just sit yourself down and make yourself do it. That's the difference between being a professional and an amateur. Deadlines focus your attention and make sure you get stuff done rather than worrying about inspiration. The key is to sit and suffer through it. It comes to you when it has that pressure. I became a much better in the years after I had kids, because I didn't have the luxury of time."

For some authors the hardest change to being published is accepting that the writing has become a job. You now have set deadlines (even if you're self-publishing) and you have to meet those deadlines. Sometimes it means just keeping that butt in the chair and writing no matter what else is pulling at you. It means quitting your job as class mom, skipping your book club, turning off the game on Sunday or whatever it is you need to do, or say no to, to get that book done.

Often I hear authors complain that the creative process doesn't work that way, etc, etc, but to think accountants, lawyers. literary agents, chefs or mechanics don't need to be creative is short-sighted. Every job takes some amount of creativity and every worker needs to find a way to tap that at times when she least feels able to.

Taking breaks is an important part of any job. You wouldn't believe how much of BookEnds was founded in the shower or emails written on the drive to the gym. Getting out of the office and thinking helps build our business and is important, it also keeps us all on deadline.


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13. you can do it on just three hours a day

"... three hours a day is all that's needed to write successfully. Writing is turning time into language, and all good writers have an elaborate, fetishistic relationship to their working hours. Writers talking about time are like painters talking about unprimed canvas and pigments. (Nor is there anything philistine about writers talking money. Inside the ballroom at the PEN banquet, it's all freedom and dignity; outside, it's all advances.)"

Adam Gopnik, "Trollope Trending," New Yorker, May 4, 2015

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14. What Are the Most Profitable Comic Book Movie Franchises?

Marvel’s Spider-Man is the top grossing movie franchise based on a comic book, according to 24/7 Wall Street. The franchise has grossed $3.96 billion in worldwide sales across its five movies.

DC Comics’ Batman ranked at No. 2 on the list with $3.8 billion in gross earnings worldwide and Marvel’s X-Men ranked at No. 3 on the list with $3.05 billion in gross earnings worldwide.

Follow this link to check out the top 10 list.

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15. LISTEN, SLOWLY by Thanhha Lai for Children's Book Week

Children's Book Week is May 4--10, 2015. To celebrate, I'm featuring a book with excellent Newbery potential which is also a wonderful choice if you're looking for diversity.

Yes, yes, I know it's also Screen Free Week (you may remember I participated last year and oh gosh, the year before was epic ("mistakes were made"), but now that I have a smart phone, I admit it. I'm hooked. I've decided one or two screen-free days a week is the best I can do.

Don't forget to go outside and run around once in a while. Or read a book! How about this one?

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai (hardcover, Harpercollins, 272 pages, February 2015, for ages 8 to 12)

Synopsis (from the publisher): A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai's parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn't know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.

Why I recommend it: The voice! It's so realistic you'll swear Mai is a real almost-thirteen-year-old girl who lives in your neighborhood or else you're overhearing her talking at the beach. And some of her observations will make you laugh out loud. Meanwhile, her gradual awakening to the world of her roots is deftly handled and almost guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes. Another reason I'm so impressed? Vietnam itself becomes a character in this beautifully written novel. I love it when that happens.

Favorite lines (from p. 89): "You'd think a little village in North Vietnam couldn't help but be tranquil and quiet, full of banana groves and bamboo forests, but everything here has a big mouth. Dogs fighting, crickets blasting, frogs screaming, chickens clucking, birds screeching, mice scurrying..."

Bonus: I learned a great deal about Vietnam. 

Visit the author's website

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16. Bay Area Free Book Exchange is Closing

The Bay Area Free Book Exchange, a public book exchange that has given away more than half a million books since 2009, is shutting its doors due to a “massive rent increase.” The rent is reportedly going up 70 percent, according to SF Gate.

“So far, there are no plans to relocate as we haven’t found an affordable space in the nearby areas,” explains the website.

The East Bay organization operated by taking book donations, selling some books on eBay in order to pay the bills and then giving the rest away for free. The service will close permanently on May 17th. Until then, readers can still donate and take books every weekend 9am-6pm. “All books on All shelves are FREE!!; but we do have a limit of 100 books per person per day,” explains the organization’s site.

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17. Call Me Tree/Llámame árbol – 2015 Diversity Reading Challenge

Today’s book recommendation has a multiplicity of diversity in it – the book is bilingual and has a non-gender specific protagonist. Title: Call Me Tree – Llámame árbol Written and illustrated by: Maya Christina Gonzalez Published by: Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee … Continue reading

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18. Interacting with agents in the wild

Last week was filled with revels surrounding the Edgar Awards,  then Malice Domestic. During much of this I was in the same place with authors, published and unpublished, agented, not-agented, ept and inept.  After a week of seeing some good interactions, and more than a few bad ones,  here are some tips on what to do to increase your chances that if you are looking for an agent, your interaction with one you meet in the wild will be a good one.

First, how to introduce yourself.

1. Tell me you read the blog.  It's better if this is actually true of course. As an opening, this is gold, because then I am thanking YOU, and can then ask where you're from and what you write.

If the agent doesn't write a blog, figure out something else, like "I saw your interview in Writers Digest, it was very helpful."

2.  Tell me that QueryShark helped you.  That's a sure-fire winner because then, I can ask you about your book.  This is so much more effective than you leading with "here, let me tell you about my book."

If you start by making it personal and important to ME, you've engaged my interest.  This is the first rule of selling, and if you want to talk to me about your book, you ARE SELLING.

Second, if you want to meet me, here's how to get on my radar at a conference:

3. Be nice to my clients. Often they introduce me to their friends at conferences. Any pal of a client is ok in my book.

4. Give good panel. I attend panels that my clients are on, and if you're fabulous I will buy your books and introduce myself.  How do you give good panel? You read the books of the other panelists, interact with the other panelists in a good way, and are charming. A light-hearted bio always helps.  A willingness to be funny about yourself too.  Not everyone is capable of giving great panel, but it's a great way to get my attention.

5. Win the William F. Deeck Malice Domestic Unpublished Manuscript grant. I pay serious attention to this contest.

Third, once the conversation gets started:

6.  Don't mention previous rejections. There's simply no way to reply to that, even if you say it without rancor, with something other than:
"Oh I was deranged, please send it again?"
"Oh did you find anyone who thought it was good?"
"Yea I remember that."

None of these lead to pleasant conversation. Pleasant conversation is your goal here!

Look for another gambit.  The very best one is asking about my clients:
 "How's that amazing Stephanie Jaye Evans?"
"I loved RUNNER!"
"Steve Ulfelder's books knock my sox off."

If you don't have those salvos available (and it's ok if you don't) ask what I'm reading. Ask if I'm having a good conference. Ask me if you can buy me a drink!

Since I too am in a social situation there with you, I am fully prepared to take your opening salvo and return it with gusto; Yes, I'd love a drink. Shall we find a waitress? What do you prefer?  or I'm exhausted I had to catch a 7am train! How did you get here? Where are you from?

See how that works? Now we're having conversation, and I don't want to eject you from my table because you started out with that stupid "hey you rejected me" thing.

Fourth, be attuned to setting

7. Don't interrupt a meeting. ASK if you're not sure. I was always glad to say "no, you're not interrupting" this weekend at Malice. I'm much more likely to be in a meeting if you see me talking to someone at BEA.  That said, two of my colleagues at Malice were there for LOTS of meetings, so don't ever assume. ASK.

8. Don't hover if I'm talking on my phone. 

9. Don't start a conversation on the way in to the Ladies. Start it when I'm washing my hands.

10. If I'm wandering around looking distracted and anxious, I'm probably trying to find the room I'm supposed to be in in five minutes. Asking if you can help me is a very nice thing to do.

When you look at that list, it's true, it's all about ME. Remember, this is a sales situation. You want my attention. I'm not sure yet if I want yours.

And if this feels one-sided, just remember, I'm in YOUR position at conferences when I'm introduced to or want to meet editors. These tips apply to that situation too.

Above all, remember agents are people. You're just not going to like some of us, and that's ok. I don't like some of us either.

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19. Task Force X -The Suicide Squad Revealed!

The Hollywood Reporter carries the first photos of Task force X -The Suicide Squad assembled: https://twitter.com/hashtag/SuicideSquad?src=hash  and you can read a bit more at Comic Book Movie: http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/KingPatel/news/?a=120032


Suicide Squad will feature:

Director: David Ayer

Will Smith as Floyd Lawton/Deadshot

Jared Leto as The Joker

Margot Robbie as Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn

Viola Davis as Amanda Waller

Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flagg

Jai Courtney as George "Digger" Harkness/Captain Boomerang

Cara Delevingne as June Moone/Enchantress

Ike Barinholtz as Dr. Hugo Strange

Jim Parrack as Jonny Frost/Pseudo Joker

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Waylon Jones/Killer Croc

Jay Hernandez as El Diablo

Adam Beach as Christopher Weiss/Slipknot

Karen Fukuhara as Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana

Raymond Olubowale as Nanaue/King Shark

Common in an undisclosed role
Suicide Squad lights up theaters August 5, 2016

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20. New Adult Fiction Genre - Contemporary Romance - #WriteTip

There is a new genre emerging..."New Adult" fiction for older teens aka college-aged readers. You never stop growing up, but little in the market seems to address the coming-of-age that also happens between the ages of Nineteen to Twenty-six. Life changes drastically once high school is over, you have college, first jobs, first internships, first adult relationships…

Part of the appeal of NA is that the storylines are about characters who are taking on adult responsibilities for the first time without guidance from their parents. And the storylines generally have a heavy romance element. 

Keep this in mind as you revise your wonderful story, New Adult books are mostly about that specific time in every person's life—the time when the apron strings are cut from your parents, you no longer have a curfew, you're experiencing the world for the very first time, in most cases, with innocent eyes. New Adult is this section of your life where you discover who you want to be, what you want to be, and what type of person you will become. This time defines you. This is the time of firsts, the time where you can't blame your parents for your own bad choices. 

An NA character has to take responsibility for their own choices and live with the consequences. Most storylines are about twenty-something (18 to 26) characters living their own lives without any parents breathing down their necks, and learning to solve things on their own as they would in real life. New Adult fiction focuses on switching gears, from depending on our parents to becoming full-fledged, independent adults.

I am a firm believer that if you’re going to write a certain genre that you should read it, too. So I’m going to recommend that you start devouring NA novels to get a real sense and understanding of the genre before you write one.

Here are some great recommendations: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult-romance and http://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult and https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/new-adult-romance

Just as YA is fiction about teens discovering who they are as a person, New Adult (NA) is fiction about building your own life as an actual adult. As older teen readers discover the joy of the Young Adult genres, the New Adult—demand may increase. This, in turn, would give writers the chance to explore the freedom of a slightly older protagonist (over the age of 18 and out of high school, like the brilliant novel, "BEAUTIFUL DISASTER" by the amazing talents of author, Jamie McGuire) while addressing more adult issues that early 20-year-olds must face.

Older protagonists (basically, college students) are surprisingly rare; in a panel on YA literature at Harvard’s 2008 Vericon, City of Bones author talked about pitching her novel, then about twenty-somethings, as adult fiction. After several conversations, Clare realized she had to choose between adults and teens. She went with teens.

Quote from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press: We are actively looking for great, new, cutting edge fiction with protagonists who are slightly older than YA and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are devouring YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an “older YA” or “new adult.” In this category, they are looking for spunky but not stupid, serious but not dull, cutting-edge, supernatural stories.

Quote from Georgia McBride, author (Praefatio) and founder of #YALitChat and publisher at Month9Books: "New Adult is a fabulous idea in theory, and authors seem to be excited about it. But in a world where bookstores shelf by category, to them, it is either  Adult or Young Adult. Some booksellers even call their YA section “teen.” And when you have a character who is over a certain age (19 seems to be the age most consider the start of New Adult), it is received as Adult. In some cases, the designation by publishers causes more confusion than not.
Let’s face it, YA is associated with teens, and at 19, most no longer consider themselves teens. So, it would support the theory of placing these “New Adult” titles in the Adult section. However, with the prevalence of eBook content, it would seem that the powers that be could easily create a New Adult category if they really wanted to...."

There’s also a list on goodreads of New Adult book titles. These books focus on college age characters, late teens to early twenties, transitioning into the adult world.

Some popular authors of the NA category include:
  • Jamie McGuire
  • Jessica Park
  • Tammara Webber
  • Steph Campbell
  • Liz Reinhardt
  • Abbi Glines
  • Colleen Hoover 
  • Sherry Soule

Would you buy New Adult books? 
Does the genre appeal to you? 

Does it sound better than YA (teen novels)? 
Or are you happy with YA as it stands?

Do you consider YA to include characters that are over the age of eighteen? 

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21. My Twitter chat with an 8th grade class

I’ve done in-person school visits and Skype presentations, but this past Friday School Librarian of the Year finalist Colleen Graves and I tried something new: a Twitter chat between me and a roomful of eighth graders needing some help transforming their research into a story:

How did it go? I thought it was terrific, but you can see for yourself in this handy Storify recap of our conversation. I’ll be back soon with some additional thoughts on the experience.

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22. Toy Boats to Make with Your Preschoolers

Here is a fun activity for you to do with your preschoolers. Make three boat crafts and do some science experiments with them.


Here are the instructions for making three types of boats.


Milk Carton Boat

You will need:

• Milk carton
• Scissors
• Soap bar box
• Paint and paintbrush
• String
• Glue
• Straw
• Sharp pencil

Cut the milk carton in half lengthwise. You can use your fingers to make the square end of the box more pointy. Paint the soap bar box and let dry. Use the sharp pencil to make a hole in the middle of the soap bar box. Now glue the soap bar box in the middle of the milk carton, with the hole facing up.

Make a sail from a square piece of paper. It should be about half the length of the straw. Use a pencil to make a hole at the top and the bottom of the sail. Put the straw through the holes. Put the straw through the hole in the soap box. Wrap the piece of string around the top of the straw and tape the ends to the ends of the boat.

345 - Meat Trays

Foam Sailboat

You will need:

• Styrofoam lid or container (not one that has held raw meat)
• Paint and paintbrush
• Construction paper
• Sharp pencil
• Tape
• Scissors
• Straw

Cut a triangle out of the construction paper. This will be the boat’s sail. Use the pencil to make a couple of holes along one side of it. Put the straw through the holes in the paper and decorate your sail. Paint the inside of the Styrofoam tray. This will be the boat. Tape the sail onto the boat.


Plastic Sailboat

You will need:

• Plastic soda bottle or water bottle
• Scissors
• Paint and paintbrush
• Straws
• Glue
• Construction paper

Cut the bottle in half lengthwise. Cut one straw so it is a few inches taller than the depth of the boat. Glue it down so it stands up in the center of the boat. Glue another straw perpendicular to the first one, about three inches down from the top.

Cut a paper sail to fit the mast you have just made. Glue the sail onto the mast. Decorate the inside of your boat.

Now that you have three boats, it’s time to experiment with them. Here are some activities you can try:

• Which boat floats best? Fill a basin or sink with water and set sail. See boat which stays upright the longest.

• When left in the water, which boat lasts the longest?

• Which boat goes the fastest? Blow on the sails and see which boat is the speediest.

• Which boat sinks first? Try adding pennies to each of your boats and see which can hold the most.

Making boats is a fun way to spend a day with your child. Experimenting with the boats gets your child asking questions about his world and thinking about things in a whole new way.

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23. Ban Cliches: How to Stand Out in Today’s Crowded Market

The Aliens Inc, Chapter Book Series

Try Book 1 for Free

The number one rejection I hear is this: “The story doesn’t stand out in today’s crowded market.”

The SCBWI is creating an opportunity for illustrators to test their art and how it holds up in today’s market. Each month, the “Draw This” monthly art prompt will provide a word for members to illustrate.

For years I’ve followed a similar type experience at IllustrationFriday.com. They, too, provide an art prompt of a word. In looking through the weekly images, I started to understand the concept of “standing out.” For example, one week, the word was RED. Looking through, I saw the same images: firetrucks, little red wagons, red-headed girls, Little Red Riding Hood, gorgeous cardinals, and so on. Those who illustrated the prompt with such an obvious cliche probably thought they were showcasing their work. Instead, I thought they were showcasing their lack of creativity.

2009 World Beard and Mustache Competition. Does that beard spell out B-E-A-R-D?

2009 World Beard and Mustache Competition. Does that beard spell out B-E-A-R-D?

Here are the images for an Illustration Friday prompt, Beard. Now look through Beard images on Flickr. Or look through the BeardBrand shop and see how their photographers captured the young urban male and his passion for beards. Which is more exciting and fresh? Are these cliched images? No!

Writers, you can play along, too! Take the illustration prompt as a writing prompt. List your first 10 ideas–and throw them out. Those are the cliched ideas. Now, write 10 more ideas. Choose the strongest and write a story that has a fighting chance of standing out in today’s crowded market.

I've never seen a Bee-Beard before. Have you?

I’ve never seen a Bee-Beard before. Have you?

The SCBWI “Draw This” June prompt: Bounce
Illustrations due by May 25. See full rules here. While the prompt is only open to SCBWI members, anyone can play along!

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24. Okay, Bidding is Officially Open

. . . . on the items listed in the post below. Even if you don't want any of the items, this is your chance to annoy the people who do want them by making them pay more. Bidding closes next Monday, the 11th at 6 PM eastern on any item that hasn't been bid on in the previous 15 minutes. If an item has been bid on in the previous 15 minutes, auction on that item closes at 6:15. Unless there's again been a bid in the previous 15 minutes. Etc, etc.

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25. Grace Lee Whitney Dies, Aged 85

Well, as usual, BBC news has fluffed it all up.  But at least everyone else has carried the sad news. Here from The Huffington Post:http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/05/04/grace-lee-whitney-star-trek-dead_n_7202394.html

‘Star Trek’ actress Grace Lee Whitney has died of natural causes, at the age of 85. 

The star, who played Captain James T. Kirk’s (William Shatner) assistant Janice Rand died at her California home on Friday, her son has confirmed. 

grace lee whitney
Grace at a 2012 'Star Trek' convention 
Grace played Janice in the original TV series, and later reprised her role in four of the franchise’s films, and the 1996 series ‘Star Trek: Voyager’.

William Shatner has paid tribute to his Grace on Twitter, writing:

Her career began in the 1950s, and Grace starred in a number of other high-profile projects, including the film ‘Some Like It Hot’.

In 1998, she released an autobiography, in which Grace revealed her struggle with alcohol and substance dependence.

Grace credited ‘Star Trek’ fans with helping her through tough times, and the star was praised for her openness and honesty when it came to speaking about addiction.

“When I told the fans I was an alcoholic, they all applauded,” she stated in 2013. “When I told them I had given myself to a higher power, they cheered again.

“I’m in a great place because I’ve gone full circle.”

Tempus fugit

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