Meteorologically-speaking, 2012 will go down in
the Record Books as The Year of the Drought.
And metaphorically-speaking, as this series of
TeachingAuthors posts affirms, writers too face droughts at some point in their
But Bridget Doyle’s article in the August 18
Chicago Tribune last week emboldened me, the “Non-stop Finder of Life’s Silver
Linings,” (according to my Six-word Memoir), to
share my seemingly-simple prescription for
anyone suffering the pain and heartache of Writer’s Drought.
The Tribune headline reads GARDENS THRIVING IN DROUGHT – JUST ADD WATER
Wolan, of Arlington Heights, harvests tomatoes from her garden plot. Green
beans are also “doing fabulous,” she says, and she has a bumper crop of basil.
“We couldn’t control the sunlight or heat this year, but we could control the
water,” she says. (Stacey Wescott, Chicago Tribune)
My Rx for writers wishing to thrive during their particular droughts?
Maybe not that
Great American Novel you know lives inside of you; maybe not that poetry collection you b
Back in May, Mary Kole left Adrea Brown and took the position of Senior Literary Manager in charge of Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Picture Book properties at Moveable Type Management. Anyone lucky enough to have had a critique with Mary knows the depth of her knowledge. Here is an article Mary wrote for Sprouts Magazine. I think you will find it very helpful.
Five novel opening blunders—and why it pays to avoid them
Writing Tips by Literary Agent Mary Kole
I read a lot of novel openings. The easiest way to catch my attention is to do something fresh and organic to your story, to show me something I haven’t seen before. The easiest way to get me to move on to the tens or hundreds of other submissions in my pile is to start your novel with a common blunder. I’m not here to curb your natural creativity. But I read a lot more submissions than you do. Since writers tend to be oblivious of what most other writers are doing, I want to give you a slush-eye view of five novel opening mistakes I see all the time:
This is cliché number one. When faced with the daunting task of writing a story, a lot of writers seem to start right where their stories start every day: the blare of the alarm clock, someone calling from downstairs, the satisfying punch to the snooze button. Writers have the right instinct. They want to start their story on a specific (and, I hope, unusual and interesting) day in their character’s life. But that doesn’t mean you have to start that day at its beginning. (Avoid this and you’re ahead of 1/3 of my slush!)
T.S. Eliot coined the term “objective correlative.” It means that the environment mirrors an emotion in one’s writing. A storm, a breeze, leaves dying on the trees, clouds rolling in … those are all great ways to set up unease and tension in your story. But there’s a reason that “It was a dark and stormy night” ranks as one of the worst opening lines of all time. Relying on the weather to be your source of tension at the beginning of a story is a cop out.
I can’t tell you how many writers open MG and YA novels by discussing how ordinary a kid’s life is and how ordinary the kid and how everything is just hunky dory and completely, totally normal. Then, of course, it all goes abnormal. This is, of course, the way a story should start: a kid’s ordinary life is turned on its ear. Edward meets Bella. The moon shifts a few degrees. Katniss volunteers. A box of tapes shows up after a classmate’s suicide. But don’t spend your first few pages telling us about it. Show it happening.
Writers hear that setting their story in medias res—Latin for “in the middle of things”—is a good thing. In most cases, it is. By getting right to it and starting your story with action, you engage the reader. Just make sure the action has context and we know what you’re talking about. I can’t tell you how many stories begin with a character regaining consciousness, completely disoriented, or an action sequence where the character is battling or being chased. Great action, sure, but we don’t know the character or story yet, so we can’t care about the character or the outcome of their dangerous situation. The other issue with grabby, action packed beginnings is that the tension usually plunges in the next few pages. The writer hopes readers will ride the drama of the first scene through some less exciting chapters. That, again, feels like cheating to me.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the disorienting beginning is the really slow beginning packed with information. You’re not sure your reader will get it if you plop them down in medias res, so you spend time by explaining (usually in really dry dialogue) what your world is about, what the problem is, who the characters are, and what’s going on. There’s no action, just solid information. The ideal beginning will give the reader enough context for the story, but won’t slow down the pacing with unnecessary information. There’s always time to flesh things out later.
When most writers read a piece of cautionary advice, and find themselves guilty, they start to rationalize. “But my character is an insomniac/narcoleptic/Sandman/dream-wizard. She has to start her story by waking up, because the story is about sleep.” Or “My beginning is too boring. Without a really catchy first scene, the reader will lose interest.” There’s also “My story is just too complex. Without all the information up front, the reader will be lost.” These are poor excuses. If your premise deals with sleep, start with the character awake and out of their element. If your story is too complex, find a simple entry point and start there, then weave your information organically as the story develops. If your beginning is boring and you fear you’ll lose your reader, start somewhere exciting and keep them riveted from page one instead of relying on gimmicks.
Whether you revise your beginning is completely up to you, of course. My guess, though, is that you could easily play around and find a stronger, more extraordinary beginning for your tale. And you’ll be glad you did. Remember, your novel opening is usually the first and only bit of writing that I get to see. Instead of repeating a cliché, like most other writers in my submission pile, you know better now. You have a chance to show me something new. Take it.
Mary has a great blog: www.kidlit.com You can read more about her using this link: http://kidlit.com/about/ Use: www.mtmgmt.net for Moveable Type Management.
Filed under: Advice
, Writing Tips
Tagged: Agent Mary Kole
, Andrea Brown Literary Agency
, Moveable Type Management
, Opening Novel Blunders
, Slush-eye view
By: Stephane Kardos,
Blog: Stef's sketches
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Watching "Monsters VS Aliens" this evening, or "Grosse Dame" as Magnus calls it.
Reminder: Newer agents are golden opportunities for new writers because they’re likely building their client list; however, always make sure your work is as perfect as it can be before submitting, and only query agencies that are a great fit for your work. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time and postage.
About Liat: Liat Justin is an associate agent with the Serendipity Literary Agency. Liat graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Studies. As an undergrad, Liat simultaneously enrolled in Boston University’s Certificate Program in Book Publishing and Digital Media. Liat then moved back to New York where she began her publishing career as an intern at PMA Literary and Film Management. Soon after, Liat joined the team at Serendipity. In addition to her passion for reading, Liat has a love for film, traveling, going to concerts, and doing puzzles. Liat dislikes spicy food, going to the dentist, and cooked peppers.
She is seeking: “Liat is actively seeking to represent a broad range of projects and is open to emerging authors. Her sweet spot genres include narrative non-fiction (especially ‘big idea’ books), YA, historical fiction, pop culture, humor, sports-related, and speculative fiction. While Liat is very open to a variety of genres, she is currently not interested in romance, Christian fiction, and thrillers.”
How to submit: Serendipity requires all submissions through a submission form on their agency website, no matter if you are querying for your adult works, nonfiction, or children’s books. (Look at “Author Submissions” on the upper-middle part of the webpage.)
The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent edition online at a discount.
I wasn't planning to post today since I did a special Tuesday post as part of Rachel Harris's blog tour, but I have news!
Look what was in Publisher's Marketplace yesterday:
From Publisher's Marketplace: Kelly Hashway's THE MONSTER WITHIN, in which a teenage girl is magically brought back to life by the boy who loves her, but she comes back "wrong" and has to face the evil now growing within her, to Trisha Wooldridge at Spencer Hill Press, in a nice deal, in a two-book deal, for publication in April 2014, by Lauren Hammond at ADA Management Group (World English).
I think you all know how much I love being with Spencer Hill Press, so I'm so happy this book (and its sequel) will be published with them. I have to tell you that this deal went to auction and I would've been happy either way it went. And I was seriously flattered that it went to auction. It was crazy to think more than one publisher wanted my books.
So I'm with Spencer Hill Press and my amazing editor Trisha Wooldridge for another two books! Yay! More news on The Monster Within and The Darkness Within soon!
If you want to add it on Goodreads, you can here. The release date is set for April 2014.
Thanks for visiting my site. I appreciate your interest in my work. If you have questions regarding my books or stories, please feel free to send me a message. I enjoy hearing from you, and I’ll respond as soon as possible.
Artie’s children’s book Living Green: A Turtle’s Quest for a Cleaner Planet is now available as a free video for kids through StoryCub. A shortlist finalist for the national 2012 Green Earth Book Award, Thurman the turtle is tired of seeing the land he loves cluttered with trash and decides to take action.
To watch the Living Green video and many other books on StoryCub.org, please click on the cover below. StoryCub videos are one of the most watched programs on Apple’s iTunes Kids & Family section.
COPYRIGHT © 2012 ARTIE KNAPP
Use of any of the content on this website without permission is prohibited by federal law
Blog: Read Alert
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Long-time known to American audiences, Newbery medal winner Linda Sue Park will be gracing our shores next week as a guest on the Melbourne Writers’ Festival schools’ program. It is a particular honour as Park continues to distinguish herself by writing stories that peel away character’s differences to reveal universal emotions that are felt by all.
‘A Long Walk to Water’ is one of those stories.
It is a story that is partially based on the true story of Salva Dut, a Somalian from the Dinka tribe, who trekked across his country into Ethiopia to escape the war that ravaged his land. While Salva’s story is based in 1985 and details the violent nature of the war in clear but understated means, Park has chosen to juxtapose his story with that of the fictional Nya.
Nya lives in present day Somalia walking the lengthy journey to fetch water twice a day to hydrate her family. She is a member of the Nuer tribe which battles over land with Salva’s tribe. Water and walking is central to both tales, as is determination. Neither character could survive without their singular focus on the goal of placing one foot in front of the other. Somalia is a hard place under enormous political tension and environmental hardship but Park has made what will be a foreign concept for many readers a universal story of family, grief and perseverance.
The Sudanese ‘Lost Boys’ are famed; Salva was one of the 3,800 boys who were relocated from Africa during this period in history. Park has taken a horrific part of Sudan’s history and crafted it with empathy, research and a gentle touch. The time she spent with Salva and the research she undertook shines but ultimately takes a backseat to the feelings her characters experience as the adjust to the difficulties of their world.
Hey there, hoopla, daughter's circus is in town again. It's that fringey time of year...
I have enjoyed all of Maddy's posters so far, but I really love the retro look of this one, designed by Rena Littleson.
Facebook has the details.
Fringe has the tickets.
Be there quickly, as the venue is cosy
Olympik Phever is performed by Madeleine Tucker, and was developed by Madeleine Tucker and Danny Cisco:
It's the middle of the Olympics and bespangled entertainer Madeleine Tucker has been given her big chance to shine, filling in as the presenter for a late night Olympics TV special. With interviews, live ads and musical numbers, she’s set to cram in as much high-quality entertainment as she can!
Not one for sports fans, this colourfully kitsch extravaganza will pay surreal homage to the faded world of variety television, with catchy songs and segments galore!
TICKETS ARE ON SALE NOW now NOWW noooowww
If you can't make it to the show, you might like to take in some of Maddy's videos at her blog. (Look for Rodney The Goblin.)
Just a quick post to let everyone know that in less than a month is the amazing event, Ink for a Cause. The event will be on September 14-16 in Ventura, CA with over 100 tattoo artist and body piercers in attendance. I will be there along with KOKOCANDLES, having fun and deciding which tattoo I might need to get. But in the meantime I will be working on a print that will debut at Ink for a Cause at a special price.
The idea I have is a Bettie Page inspired fairy with some killer tattoos. I will be working on it for the next few weeks, and to show some of my thought process I will post updates of the illustration as it progresses from rough sketch to final form. This is the rough sketch I drew with pencils, as you can see no tattoos yet, just getting the positioning and form I want first. I went with a Bettie Paige inspired haircut for the cuteness and a few cute skulls for that added bit of darkness. Then to make it Ink for a Cause appropriate, I went with the gloves, whip, and thigh high stockings for the naughtiness.
By: Kayleen West - Children Writer/Illustrator,
Blog: Kayleen West
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Here is another painting I have listed for a charity auction. Please visit http://www.acrossaday.com for details.
NOTE: 100% proceeds of this particular painting will be donated with the
exception of P&H, tax if applicable & Material cost. Shipping is the responsibility of the winning bidder.
Silent Auction Painting: Silvan Vista
Medium: Oil Painting on Canvas
Image Size: 240x200mm
The latest edition of The Review of Contemporary Fiction (Spring 2012/Vol. XXXII, Dalkey Archive) has just recently come out and it's wellworth the eight dollar price tag for the 270 pages about, or by, Robert Coover in honor of his 80th birthday.
35 essays, letters, fictions, poems, and plays written and/or inspired by Robert Coover. There are pieces from Dawn Raffel, Brian Evenson, John Barth, Kate Bernheimer, Bradford Morrow, William Gass, Mary Caponegro, Shelley Jackson, Percival Everett, Georges Borchardt, Rick Moody, Rikki Ducornet, and others that I was until now not as familiar with.
Some standouts to me (removing the pieces by Coover from the equation) include "Robert Coover and the Neverending Story of Pinocchio," by Elisabeth Ly Bell; "The First Time I Heard the Name Robert Coover...," by Shahrnush Parsipur; "Introducing Robert Coover (A Mixtape by Request) by Michael Joyce; "Letter to Bob Coover on Revisiting The Origin of the Brunists and Related Letters, 1961-1967," by James Ballowe; and "Between Here and There (for Robert Coover)," by Percival Everett. They either gave me information about Coover and his work I'd not known, or were properly inspired by his work.
This was edited by Stephane Vanderhaeghe, whose own Robert Coover & the Generosity of the Page is forthcoming from Dalkey Archive right around the end of the year.
Today, Vicky Alvear Shecter (author of Cleopatra's Moon) is here to talk about historical fiction.
“All novels are emotional autobiographies.” I can’t remember who said that, but it hit home when I heard it. And yet, finding the emotional truth in historical fiction—in places and times very different from our own—can be a challenge. When I started on my YA historical fiction novel, Cleopatra’s Moon for example, I remember thinking, how could I possibly have anything in common with an ancient teenage princess of Egypt whose mother was Cleopatra and whose father was the famous Roman general Mark Antony? Physically? Not a damn thing. Emotionally? To my surprise, quite a bit. Let me explain with some examples: - Cleopatra Selene, my main character, is ripped from everything she knows and loves when she is sent from Egypt to Rome. She never returns to Egypt (as far as we know). I evoked my own memories of displacement when my mother, for various soap opera-ish, moved us from Ecuador to Miami without any warning or preparation. If I hadn’t experienced such a life-altering move, I would’ve called upon my reactions to moving to a new school or new neighborhood to imagine what it felt like for Selene. - As a result of the upheaval, Selene becomes even more fiercely attached and protective of her brothers. My brothers and sister and I experienced an intense “closing of the ranks” during our across-the-world move, which affected how I expressed Selene’s response. Any “us versus them” childhood experience could be called upon. - Cleopatra Selene worries that she might not ever be as striking and charismatic as her mother (Cleopatra was no beauty but her magnetism and charm were legendary). She fears she won’t measure up and that, somehow, she’ll end up disappointing everyone. I too had (have) a beautiful, elegant mother and when, as a teen it became clear that I would never be as tall or as thin, I had similar fears. Teens often worry that they’ll never live up to the expectations others have for them. What were yours? - The first time Cleopatra Selene is taken to see her mother after learning about the death of a family member, she wants to run. It terrifies her to see her mother so wracked by grief. I drew on my memories of a similar grieving experience. But I could’ve also recalled what it felt like to witness a grown-up expressing any strong emotion for the first time. - Cleopatra Selene struggles with spirituality. I imagined that she was brought up with faith in both the Greek and Egyptian gods and that she had a special affinity for Isis. When she learns about the Judeo-concept of free will, she wrestles with its implications. That struggle becomes the focal point of her emotional growth. When I was a teen, I too struggled with making sense of the different religions in my life—Catholic in Ecuador and Jewish in my grandmother’s house. Even if your faith has never wavered, you could draw upon your emotional reaction to the first time you heard something that directly contradicted everything you’d ever been taught. - Cleopatra Selene falls in love with an important historical character who also happens to be a brilliant writer and scholar. This, I don’t need to explain. Haven’t most of us fallen for the hot, brooding ‘English major’ type at least once in our high school or college lives? ;-) When you have no direct experience to draw upon for a scene, create one. For example, observing my own reactions to reading about the experiences of girls in radical Muslim countries helped me articulate Selene’s outrage to the restrictions she faces when she is forced to live in Rome. Mining your “emotional autobiography” is important in all fiction, of course, but it’s even more so in historical. The emotional connection to the protagonist is the bridge by which we travel back in time. And, hopefully, what keeps the reader turning pages. Vicky’s novel, Cleopatra’sMoon, won the Southern Breeze Crystal Kite award and was named to Bankstreet's list of Best Books of the Year for 2012. In the upcoming WIK conference, Vicky will share more of her secrets for transforming dry facts into juicy stories. You can find her hanging out online at her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.
What historical character/figure do you think you connect most with?
Sorry this is so late, but here's the information on the August 22nd, Writers on the Move Free Webinar: Title: Book Marketing - Developing Teaching Tools/ Activities to Enhance Classroom Curriculum
Date: August 22, 2012
Time: 4 PM - 4: 45 EST (U.S.) - May run a bit longer
Format: Live Webinar
We will be recording the webinar. Any handouts and the recording link will be provided after the event. Attendees will be added to The Writing World newsletter. To find out what this newsletter offers, go to: http://thewritingworld.comDESCRIPTION:
This audio webinar will give you inspiration and the tools to begin developing additional teaching activities that will enhance the curriculum of teachers in grades k-12. It will also provide the newest ideas and give you the information necessary to begin writing and selling your products to your target market. It can be a spring board for learning more and discovering this fun and exciting way to reach children of all ages.This is what we'll be covering
Teaching and writing are related in so many ways. As a writer you have the keen ability to enhance any teaching materials either for your own classroom or for other teachers by writing extra activities to enhance the curriculum. Added teaching activities are an excellent way to keep children engaged, introduce more repetition to a topic in a fun and age appropriate step, and to fill empty classroom time with a learning experience outside of the traditional reading and lecture. Types of age appropriate additional learning activities:
• coloring pages with additional story to compliment the lesson.
• role playing activities where you provide the script or scenario and students ad lib the actions
• Visual aides
• games or puzzles
• learning bookletsThings to consider when writing additional learning material to enhance lessons:
• Cost to the teacher
• Cost to produce the product
• Target audience
• State core standards
• Does your material appeal to visual learners, audio learners, tactile learners?
• Why does this material enhance the lesson for the classroom teacher?
• How will this material be presented- ( does it make more work for the teacher or make his or her job easier)?
• Your Unique spin on the subject or material Types of material used in the lesson
Is the product market friendly?
Who will buy the product?
Is there room to grow your products?Join Terri to learn how you can create teaching tools that will make your books more appealing to teachers for their classrooms.To register for the webinar go to:http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=E054DA84894E
At the beginning of July, I wrote about busyness--filling our lives with things to do that suck up time we need, or even want, for other things. Today I'm going to write about being busy, busy, busy at work.
I am reading It Takes An Egg Timer, A Guide To Creating The Time For Your Life by Joanne Tombrakos. At one point, she suggests tracking your time for a week. Then she asks, "How much of your "busyness" was the good kind--focused and engaged--and how much was distraction from real work?"
This got me thinking of the whole idea of "busyness" at work. How many times are you asked how work is going, and you say, "Oh, I'm busy." Or, worse yet, you're asked what you're actually working on, and you reply, "I'm crazy busy."
If we're really concentrating on how we use our time, we ought to to know what we're doing and be able to describe it. Quickly. If we've been breaking our time into units (something Tombrakos writes about, too) and assigning tasks to them, we should know what those tasks are, correct? Conversely, in order to assign tasks to a unit of time, we have to have tasks in mind. Particularly if we're talking about using some big units, weeks or months, we need to know what it is we're hoping to achieve.
For instance, I can tell you that in June I worked on a lengthy revision that I needed to finish by the end of the month. I had some real time in June. I can also tell you that since then I've only been working part-time. I knew that was going to happen and was able to plan to use the shorter amounts of time I had for planning marketing for the e-book I'm publishing. Researching marketing and planning a book trailer don't require the lengthy immersion periods that I need for writing a first draft or even doing a revision.
Fortunately, I have a number of different kinds of work to do and am now concentrating on matching tasks with whatever time situations I have to deal with. In the past, I might have been blown over by the fact that I had so little time.
Think about whether or not you can describe what you're working on now. Do you know what your time situations will be in the coming months and can you plan tasks that will fit them so that you're getting the best out of whatever time you have?
Maria Had a Little Llama started as an assignment for the SCBWI Spirit Conference back in 2009. I had just finished my MFA from the AAU and everything illustration related was nerve whacking! When I brought the dummy with me to NY, I never would have thought it would have been picked up. It's been a long road to get here, and it is utterly rewarding to see the proofs. Comes out August 2013 (Henry Holt).
Now, those of you that know me know that I am all about Johnny Appleseed and have been for a long time. So I am especially pleased to announce the release/book birthday of my new picture book biography, SEED BY SEED: THE LEGEND AND LEGACY OF JOHN “APPLESEED” CHAPMAN, illustrated by the great and mighty Lynne Rae Perkins.
Tall buildings, stores, and parking lots.
Buses and cars speeding by.
Red lights and green lights and yellow lights and white lights.
Our country is hard and electrical and moving.
But it was not always this way.
Once it was a tangle,
Of roots and branches and wide tree trunks…
And in this quiet, tree-bough-tangled world,
The world before the cement was poured
And the lights turned on,
There lived a man of his time:
John Chapman, better known
As Johnny Appleseed…
He never drove a car
Or sent a basketball flying through a hoop.
He never acted in front of a camera.
He never wore a medal.
He grew apples, and offered them to the pioneers heading west.
But wait. So what?
A farmer. Why should we remember today,
More than two hundred years later,
And call him a hero?
Besides being a president of my own private chapter of the Johnny Appleseed Fan Club, I had an ulterior motive for writing SEED BY SEED
. As an elementary teacher and a K-8 school librarian, I was having a really hard time finding a book about Johnny Appleseed that contained what I wanted to share about him. My go-to was Aliki’s charmer, THE STORY OF JOHNNY APPLESEED
, which gave a straightforward story of Chapman’s legend, including clear pictures of covered wagons and straightforward text that allowed me to put Chapman’s life in a historical context (albeit with some explanation behind stereotypical book treatment of the Native Americans
). I also love and use Reeve Lindbergh’s JOHNNY APPLESEED
, verse flanked by helpful map endpapers. Let's face it, there wasn't any shortage of Johnny Appleseed books
But what I was really looking for was a book that not only walked through the narrative of John Chapman’s storied life, but one that would make the legend of Johnny Appleseed relevant
to the modern, urban readers in the Chicago Public Schools, the children with whom I was reading. The question wasn't "who was Johnny Appleseed?" The question was, "Why should we care who he was?" I wanted a book that made readers love Johnny Appleseed, be inspired by him and want to emulate his example, even over the distance of history. I had that experience, and I wanted to share it. So the first thing I did in approaching SEED BY SEED
was think, what is it about John Chapman that transcends time? What about him touches me in both a secular way and a spiritual way, and how can that been written about so it will touch someone else?
So I tried to write a book that mirrored what I teach. And when I teach about Johnny Appleseed, I distill the main ideas of his life into “five footsteps,” or ways he lived by example, which are enumerated in the book:
Use what you have.
Share what you have.
Try to make peace where there is war.
You can reach your destination by taking small steps.
I use the idea of footsteps to suggest that Chapman laid a path for us to follow, both as Americans and as citizens of the world. Each footstep can be discussed, as they are in the book, in the context of Chapman’s biography, but they can also be discussed in the context of the child’s own experience. When has the child shared, or made do, or persevered, bit by bit? These relatable points make John Chapman a real person and a relevant model today, a mentor, a hero that belongs to them! I want children to see that, hey, it’s not just the people who we see on screens that can help to set us on our path. There are so many people in history that can do that for us. Children can research and read about their own historical figures
, and determine what “footsteps” they have left for us to fill. And as a teacher, who am I kidding? Johnny's Five Footsteps also make for a very nice bulletin board concept; I put one up every year. Post a link to a picture of your own original "Five Footstep" bulletin board in the comments section of this post by September 12th, 2012, and you'll be entered in a drawing for an autographed copy of SEED BY SEED inscribed for your classroom library, though everyone who sends a picture will get an autographed bookplate!
Another aspect of SEED BY SEED
I am very excited about has to do with the idea of a legend. What’s fact in a story, and what’s fiction? Is it true that John Chapman donned a tin pot on his head, slept in the same log as a bear, was visited by angels? John Chapman as a historical figure is an enigma. Many books even for grown-ups haggle over what’s real and what is hyperbole. I have been investigating John Chapman for years, and a selected list of resources is at the beginning of the book. One that really interested me especially in my research was an article from the November, 1871 issue of Harper’s Magazine, “Johnny Appleseed, a Pioneer Hero,”
because it was more of a primary source, with accounts given by people who might have actually crossed paths with him…might
have. I love that Johnny’s story inspires so much scrutiny. Even in reviews for this book thus far, there seems to be an emphasis on fact-checking and argument, and I love it. It’s just another aspect that lends relevancy to the modern age, when we should be check-double-checking facts, and assessing credibility of sources. Good heavens, that warms the coddles of my little librarian heart! I hope SEED BY SEED
will be used to help children explore these skills, and I imagine that read in conjunction with Deborah Hopkinson’s wonderful book ABE LINCOLN CROSSES A CREEK: A TALL, THIN TALE
, it should inspire some serious discussion and critical thinking across the grade levels about how history might be revised, and where the seed of truth rests in storytelling.
One person who really did her homework was Lynne Rae Perkins. She writes about her process in creating pictures for SEED BY SEED here
, and you can look at some of the finished illustrations here
. Thank you, Lynne Rae, for bringing this tribute to life! Though I know she is most famous for her Newbery-award winning CRISS-CROSS
, I fell in love with her illustrations in SNOW MUSIC
and THE BROKEN CAT
. I heard her speak many years ago, and was very much in awe of the gravity she afforded each detail and decision in her books. For SEED BY SEED
, her pictures bridge the gap between now and then with a bit of Narnia-like time travel magic, just what I would have hoped, starting and ending on a modern note, with a window into the pioneer past in between. I was especially thrilled and sighing out loud that she chose a model who reminded her of work by the great Barbara Cooney
, especially since I always wondered why Madame Cooney never wrote a book about Johnny Appleseed, it seemed like such a perfect match (and MISS RUMPHIUS
seemed related to Johnny as a distant aunt, anyway). Did you know, illustrators and authors don’t usually communicate directly in the creation of a book? So it was a special delight to realize we were on the “same page.” If I may put on my reviewer’s hat (or tin pot, as the case may be), I was also so enraptured by her mixed media approach. Most show-stopping is her embroidered double-page spread speckled with ripe fruit. My personal favorite in the whole book is the painting on wood of two hands outstretched, a banner for “try to make peace where there is war.” Her diverse use of frames, spreads and headings makes me happy from a teacherly Common-Apple-Core point of view, because I know that I could/would/will use it to help children recognize visual cues for attacking nonfiction. Of course, I don’t think Lynne Rae intended that. She’s just a natural, just like Johnny. A perfect pairing.
The back page of SEED BY SEED
has suggestions for a celebration, “A Johnny Appleseed Anniversary,” and of course, a how-to for apple pie, Johnny’s favorite dessert, which I make religiously on his birthday, September 26th. Because, with all respect to my very fine husband, I am in love with Johnny Appleseed. Johnny Appleseed is my historical boyfriend; he could be my Daguerreotype Boyfriend
, except there are no photos taken of him, just a few drawings. No matter. In my heart and mind’s eye, I know just how he is: from his grungy Phish-show-esque bare feet to his gait, tilted either from navigating gnarly roots underfoot or hard cider. I see the rectangular lump in his shirt, where he is carrying his copy of Swedenborg
, or part of it. I see his smile, thin and chapped and wrapped in his grizzly beard, and his eyes, weary from the reflection of river water and worry over the latest rough exchange with family or hard news from one warring side or another, and yet still with a glint borne of the distracting delight of the sight of a tree, heavy with apples, that took root first under his hand, or better yet, a sapling, swaying jauntily on the back of a wagon bed heading west. I see you, Johnny, and I feel you, and I dedicate SEED BY SEED
to all that is true to your memory and to your invention. I know you, and I want everyone to know you, Johnny Appleseed, especially now, when we need you and your footsteps so much!
I wrote this book because Johnny Appleseed is my American hero. He changed the landscape of our country by planting seeds every day, and he inspires me to think what seed I can plant every day that might, likewise, change the landscape of my country. For me, that seed is read-aloud to children. And now, as the last page of SEED BY SEED
asks, as Johnny’s example provokes:
What seed will you plant?
Illustration of Johnny Appleseed from the Ohio Historical Society, posted on Ohio History Central.
Monument, Richland Historical Society.
PlanetEsme.com linoleum print courtesy of Jim Pollock at PollockPrints.com.
Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.
More Esmé stuff at www.planetesme.com.
By: Jarrett J. Krosoczka,
Blog: the JJK blog
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Even though we are wrapping up our summer at our family beach house, we're excited to return in the winter months, as we are winterizing the house. If you have been wanting to book a school visit, but haven't had the means to pay for the extra expense of travel and hotel, I am excited to announce that you could now book at my local rate if you are within a two hour drive from southeastern New Hampshire.
More information is at my website here. My wife, Gina, will be more than happy to coordinate with you to make the day happen! She is at gina at studiojjk dot com.
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Attorney Stacey Honowitz
Courtesy of Stacey Honowitz
This week I interviewed author and Assistant State Attorney, Stacey Honowitz, Broward County prosecutor of sex offenders. She spoke about sexual crimes against children and how important it is for parents to talk to their children about sexual abuse. It was very eye-opening. I highly recommend you read the interview before you speak to your children.