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Like Mary Anne, I learned the hard way not to lend my books. I was 12 when my favorite disappeared.
Yes, it was "just" a compilation of Peanuts
cartoons. But it meant the world to me, once upon a time. First of all, it was a Christmas gift from my parents, and my mom had written a sweet message inside, along with the date. Secondly, I fancied myself a budding artist/illustrator back then, long before writing was on my radar.
I'd flop onto the floor and, for hours, painstakingly copy cartoons, frame by frame, from the Peanuts Treasury
onto gigantic sheets of slick paper my mom found for me. I practiced until I could draw Charlie Brown in my sleep. Snoopy was a little tougher. But he was my favorite character, so I kept trying to capture every emotional nuance his body language conveyed: a lifted ear here, a tilt of the head there. . . .
That next spring, a friend asked to borrow the book, and I happily handed it over. Unfortunately, we grew apart over the summer as 12-year-old girls tend to do. When school started again, I asked her about my book and got a, "Me? What book? I don't have any of your books."
She smirked and walked away while I tried not to cry (and fantasized about taking her down). My mom called her mom. Her mom searched her room and said it wasn't there. And then . . . well, what could I do? Life goes on. What really irked me about the whole episode was that my mom had written that message inside the front cover; clearly, whoever had it knew it was mine, knew it was a Christmas gift. Ugh.
For weeks I plotted elaborate scenarios in which I befriended her again so she'd invite me to her house. We'd be in her room, and I'd ask for a glass of water, and when she left to get it, I'd search her room myself, and – aHA! – find my book between her mattress and box springs.
Didn't happen. And I stopped drawing.
Over the years, anytime I was at a garage sale or a used bookstore or even antique shops, The Book was in the back of my mind. I mean, there had
to be other copies floating around out there, right? Never found one, though.
So you can imagine how my heart leapt when I checked online a few years ago and found this reprint of my own personal Rosebud:
The cover wasn't the same, but I knew it was the right book. I ordered it and happy danced when it arrived – then promptly hauled it to my mom's and had her reproduce her inscription of 40 years ago.
I'm a writer today partly due to the frame-by-frame storytelling I learned from Charles M. Schulz. I'm living proof that when a kid connects with a book, whether a heralded work of great literature or a collection of cartoons, it helps shape who they become. That's why I never cared what my kids were reading, only that – thank you, Lord! – they were reading.
P.S. Enter our giveaway and win a copy of Nancy Cavanaugh's This Journal Belongs to Ratchet
(Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky). Details here
I first read Nancy’s manuscripts, some 19 years ago, I knew instantly: she was the Real Thing, ripe
with talent, original stories and a unique voice. Her teaching experience showed through, too,
helping her target the right format for the right story for the right reader.
also evinced Passion, with a capital P, and enough Perseverance to serve three
children’s book writers no matter where they were in their careers.
and agents as well as writing kin agreed, offering the necessary encouragement,
revision suggestions and interest to keep Nancy keepin’ on.
she’s represented by Holly Root of the Waxman Leavell Literary Agency; Kirkus
starred This Journal Belongs to Ratchet; and Sourcebooks
just bought her second middle grade
novel! She also contributes to the group
blog of the debut authors of 2013 – the Lucky 13’s.
Student Success Story indeed.
As for Ratchet's "Student Success Story," she
spends her days fixing cars with her dad in the garage, living in a world of spark plugs, pistons, and crankshafts –not exactly normal for
an eleven-year-old girl. Even with the odds stacked against her, Ratchet endeavors to change her
life and realizes her skill as a mechanic might just be the path to her first
friend. But in the process, she alienates her father and discovers a secret she
wishes she never knew. She finds a way to, not only accept the truth she
discovers, but also accept herself and her dad.
I wrote in a blurb for Sourcebooks, “Readers will fall in love with
eleven-year-old Rachel, nick-named Ratchet by her car mechanic-environmentalist
Dad, as she writes from her Life in her Home School Language Arts Journal, wanting
to repair what’s broken, needing to replace the missing parts, so her very own
engine can run true and on course.
Ratchet’s journal proves a user-friendly Instruction Manual for readers
– and especially writers – eager to discover the wonder of their own life
been sharing this original story in this original format with teachers and
Young Authors since I received my ARC from Nancy in February. All love the book – and Ratchet - as much as
sure to enter our TeachingAuthors Book Giveaway for AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF This Journal Belongs to Ratchet.
Include a shout-out for your Favorite Car – real, imagined,
long-ago, present, fictional, cinematic, even longed-for. The deadline to enter is June 3. See contest details following the interview below.
And, also be sure to check back in two days for Nancy J.
Cavanaugh’s Wednesday Writing Workout!
Thank you, Nancy J. Cavanaugh, Children’s Book Author (!), for sharing your Writer's Journey, yourself and This Journal Belongs to Ratchet with our TeachingAuthors readers.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We first worked together privately in the early 90’s when
you were just beginning “your race to the finish line,” on two picture books
that still remain in my heart and on
my brain’s Hard Drive. Do you recall
what you were hoping to learn – and – what you indeed took away – about
writing, the Children’s Book World, publishing - so you could keep on writing?
I was hoping to take my writing to the
next level, so my questions were: Do I
have all the essential parts of the story?
And, what will make my story marketable?
Two things I remember learning from you:
1. not to miss opportunities – opportunities to develop my characters,
opportunities to add layers to my story, opportunities to add emotion to the
overall plot; 2. to dig deep and find
out what my story was REALLY about – not just on the surface, not just what was
happening, but what “life thing” the story was really about.
I’ve always considered your classroom teaching experiences
That Extra Something that bolstered both your writing and the stories you chose
to tell. Please share how your teaching
impacted, influenced and inspired your writing?
As a teacher, and then later as a
librarian, I got to read SO many books aloud to students, and I had the
opportunity to see what young people were reading and what they liked
best. That’s sort of the obvious way in
which my school experience helped my writing, but something not quite so
obvious is the impact of the repetition of certain stories over the years. There are many books which I read over and
over throughout the years, and as I did this, I was learning the patterns of
language that we find in stories. These
patterns were practically becoming engrained in my DNA. The understanding of what “story” really is
was becoming part of my soul. I believe
that understanding of story is always at work in me now as I write.
What kept you going all these years so you could indeed
cross your much-desired Finish Line?
Wonderful writing friends.
Enriching experiences (researching
topics, attending meetings, conferences, workshops, and retreats)
The satisfaction of always having
something to strive for
Small successes along the way (having
articles and short stories published in magazines and books)
How did Ratchet’s story come to be – and – why did you
choose a home-schooled student’s journal as her storytelling vehicle?
The idea started with a character, and
her name was always Ratchet. My ideas
usually start that way, and then I let my imagination dream up what the
character’s issues are and what her story might be. I chose Homeschooling for Ratchet because it
seemed to be the best way to isolate her.
Also, because of her father, it made sense that he wouldn’t want her to
go to school in mainstream society. The
idea of writing through the assignments in Ratchet’s journal came to me in the
very beginning, but it took a lot of figuring out along the way in order to
tell the whole story in this format.
What about the revision process for This Journal Belongs to Ratchet? How did your agent Holly Root and
your Sourcebooks editor Aubrey Poole help you fine-tune the manuscript to earn
a prized Kirkus-starred review.
My agent Holly is a wonderful editor
and always has helpful suggestions before we send something out, but I had
already done a great deal of revising before sending it to Holly, so we didn’t
really have to do much – just a few tweaks here and there. When my editor Aubrey read Ratchet, though she loved the character
and the story, she asked for revisions even before Sourcebooks acquired
it. She gave me some specific direction as
to what she was looking for and thankfully I was able to deliver. After Sourcebooks bought the manuscript,
Aubrey and I did two more rounds of revisions, and I absolutely loved it
because she’s a fabulous editor. She
always had an amazing vision for what the book could be, and she guided me so
that my writing would get there. I also
have to add here that Aubrey worked hard to get just the right cover and
artwork for Ratchet, and I think that
has really made this book stand out and become something special – so much more
than I ever imagined.
Finally, can you let us in on your next book, also to be published by Sourcebooks? :-)
My next book will be coming in Fall
2014 and will be another alternative format.
The entire story is told in lists, letters, and writing assignments, in
which a girl named Abigail uses her language arts class’s Friendly Letter
Project to cope with the worst school year ever – and in the process turns it
into the best year ever.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
And now, for the giveaway details:
Our blogiversary giveaway
was such a success that we're again using Rafflecopter
to run this giveaway. If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, you may want to read their info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway
and/or the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.
To enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet
(Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky) log into Rafflecopter below
(via either Facebook or an email address). You'll see that we've provided three different options
for entering the giveaway--you can pick one or up to all three
. The more options you choose, the greater your chances of winning. While we haven't made it a requirement, we hope that everyone will pick the first option--subscribing to the TeachingAuthors
blog. If you're already a TeachingAuthors
subscriber, you still need to click on that button and tell us how you follow our blog, which will give you THREE entries in the giveaway!
(If you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to enter.)
As it says in the "Terms and Conditions," this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only
. You must be 18 or older to enter. And please note: email addresses will only be used to contact winners. The giveaway will run from now through June 3, 2013. Winners will be notified June 4, 2013.
If you have any questions about the giveaway, feel free to email us at teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Wednesday Writing Workout comes from Holly Thompson, a fellow TeachingAuthor, just in time to
celebrate yesterday’s Delacorte/Random House release of her second young adult
novel in verse, The Languge Inside.
The novel tells
the story of Emma Karas “who was raised in Japan; it’s the country she calls
home. But when her mother is diagnosed
with breast cancer, Emma’s family moves to a town outside Lowell,
Massachusetts, to stay with Emma’s grandmother while
her mom undergoes treatment.
Emma feels out of place in the United States. She begins to have migraines, and
longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother's urging, she volunteers in a
long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write
down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists
elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena's poems,
dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a
painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return home early to Japan.”
The starred School Library Journal review called the
novel “a sensitive and compelling read that will inspire teens to contemplate
how they can make a difference.”
Kirkus described the novel as “an artistic picture of
devastation, fragility, bonds and choices.”
The Horn Book Magazine remarked that “readers will finish
the book knowing that, like Zena, the Cambodian refugees, and the tsunami
victims, Emma has the strength to ‘a hundred times fall down / a hundred and
one times get up.’”
TeachingAuthors readers met Holly in 2011 when my March 16 Student Success Story
interview celebrated the release of her first
young adult novel in verse, Orchards.
Orchards went on to win the APALA Asian/Pacific
American Award for Literature.
Raised in Massachusetts,
Holly earned a B.A. in biology from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. in
English (concentration creative writing/fiction) from New York University’s
Creative Writing Program. A longtime resident of Japan, Holly teaches creative
writing at Yokohama City University and also serves as Regional Advisor for the
Japan Chapter of SCBWI. Holly’s fiction
often relates to Japan and Asia.
Holly, on yet another successful book!
And, thank you
for sharing your expertise with our TeachingAuthors readers – who happen to
have only until Sunday, May 19 to enter our TeachingAuthors Blogiversary
Click here to
enter – if you haven’t already – the raffle to win one of 4 $25 Anderson’s
Bookshop Gift Certificates.
Holly Thompson’s Wednesday Writing
Workout: Poetry with a Plot
When I do author
school visits, I love to introduce students to narrative poems and narrative
verse and get them started on writing their own. You can write and/or teach
this type of poetry, too – poetry I call “Poetry with a Plot.”
1. Gather some
narrative poems—poems that tell a story—to share with students. Examples are
Gary Soto’s “Oranges,” Jeffrey Harrison’s “Our Other Sister,”
Naomi Shihab Nye’s “My Father and theFig Tree,” and “Fifteen”
or “Traveling Through The Dark,” by William Stafford, and my poem “Cod” (published in PoetryFriday Anthology Middle School)
2. Also gather
some verse novels. Select one scene to share with students. Choose a scene that
has a fairly clear beginning, middle and end. Chapter 22, Visitors, of my novel Orchards
is an example of a scene in verse with
a clear plot arc.
3. Create a list
of situations to share with students. Here are a few examples of some
situations that I like to use:
a first time
a last time
1. Read the
narrative poems aloud. For each narrative poem, ask students to react. Ask:
What lines or stanzas do you like? Why? What is the mini plot of the poem—what
happens in this poem? Then have them look at the structure and style of the
poem. Ask: Do the structure and style help create the narrative? How?
2. Read aloud a
scene from a verse novel. Ask students to react. Ask: What lines or stanzas do
you like? What lines move you? What lines are powerful? Where did your breath
catch? Where did the pace pick up or slow down? Why? What is the basic plot arc
of the scene? Did any action happen off the page? How did the writer structure
the scene and create tension—with repetition, white space, short lines, long
lines, particular images, or sounds and rhythms?
3. Next, give
students your list of situations. Have students brainstorm examples of the
various types of situations. Students will then choose one type of situation
from which to create a narrative poem or scene in verse. Point out, for
example, that “Oranges” can be considered a first time poem; “Our Other Sister”
a lie poem; “Fifteen” and “Traveling Through the Dark” decision poems; and
“Cod” a betrayal poem. Chapter 22 in Orchards
might be considered an encounter scene. Tell students they can start from a
true situation, or partially fictionalize a situation, or veer away from actual
truth to completely fictionalize a situation.
students create first drafts of their narrative poems or scenes, have them work
at revising, individually and in peer workshops, checking for the narrative
arc, details, poetic elements, line breaks and spacing.
5. Finally when
students have polished their work, have students read, perform, create
multimedia presentations, publish in zines or submit their narrative poems or
scenes in verse to school magazines.
Be prepared to
be amazed! Good luck and let me know if you try this approach to introducing
narrative poems and and narrative verse.
Blog: The Children's and Teens' Book Connection
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, Young Adult
, Young Adult fiction
, Arabian mythology
, book giveaway
, Faizah's Destiny
, folklore and mythology
, Marva Dasef
, middle-eastern fantasy
, MuseItUp Publishing
, Persian mythology
, Teen fiction
, The Children's and Teens Book Connection
, virtual book tour
, young adult fantasy
, Add a tag
By: C. C. Gevry,
The gods are at war and only a farmer’s daughter can save the world from Armageddon.
The village magician has gone missing. His four pupils think he has left a clue to his whereabouts in the Magicalis Bestialis–the book of magical creatures. They must seek the help of the elusive Simurgh, the mythical birds who know all the secrets of the universe.
However, this is not an easy camping trip into the mountains. Spirits, gods, and demons confront the four friends, who are not aware they’re being set up by otherworldly forces for a much larger task.
A farmer’s daughter, Faizah is chosen to lead the humans in the battle. She must persuade a slave, an orphan, and a rich merchant’s son to join in the battle on the side of good. Although divided by Dev, the evil god of war, the teens must band together to find the Simurgh, rescue their teacher, and stave off Armageddon.
She looked at Harib when he said, “Ahmajd is a good man, but he’s hardly the type to run off after mountain raiders. Matter of fact, I can’t think of anyone in the whole village who’d even consider it. You heard Faluj. He didn’t even suggest forming a search party. I don’t think anybody is going to do anything.”Faizah bit her lip in frustration. The villagers lacked any adventurous spirit. Most preferred to live their lives as quietly and safely as they could.
Leaning over the table, Parvaiz stared thoughtfully at the open page of the book. “I haven’t had the chance to get to know Master Wafai, or anybody else yet, but I have a feeling Faizah is on the right track. Still, I think he just meant for us to search for him in the mountains, not go looking for these birds.”
Bahaar stood looking down at his feet, lost in thought. Now he lifted his head to look at Parvaiz for a second and then turned to Harib. “How about you, Harib? What do you think?”
Harib sighed and scratched his head. “I agree with Parvaiz. But we can’t go charging into the raider’s camp and tell them to give him back. They’d just laugh at us…or worse.”
Parvaiz nodded. “However, we can at least try to track where he is. If we find some evidence, we can come back to tell the village elders.”
“All right. I’ll concede Master Wafai was just directing us to the mountains, but we still need to figure out how to get started,” Faizah said. “Once we convince our parents,” she continued, glancing at Bahaar, “or brother, to let us go, we can work out the rest ourselves.”
Parvaiz stared at her and then gave a short bark of a laugh. “What makes you think you’re going? This is going to be hard enough without having a girl tagging along. That’s the last thing we need!”
Faizah glared at Parvaiz, her face flushed with anger. “I can take care of myself! Nobody has to watch out for me. Least of all some slave boy,” she shouted at Parvaiz. She regretted the last comment the moment she said it. Still, it didn’t make her any less angry that these boys, she thought were her friends, would so casually dismiss her just because she was a girl.
“You have no call?” Parvaiz began and then shut his mouth. He looked at Harib and Bahaar, who were both studying their feet with intense interest.
Bahaar looked up at him and then over at Faizah and shrugged. “Sorry Faizah, I have to agree with Parvaiz. I…I just don’t want you to get hurt.”
Faizah turned to Harib. “Well? Do you agree?”
The boy’s face reddened, and he wouldn’t meet her eyes. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
She glared at each of them in turn, spun on her heel, and stormed out of the house, her fists clenched and her head high. Stiff-backed, she marched across the tiny courtyard and through the archway. Only when hidden by the wall, did her shoulders slump and the tears begin to flow.
The Boys Have Their Say
*** Leave a comment for a chance to win a free ecopy of “Faizah’s Destiny.” ***
(Marva Dasef) I am the author of “Faizah’s Destiny” and decided the three boys in the story might like to share their views while Faizah isn’t in the room.
(Marva) I’m pleased to have Faizah’s three male companions here today for the interview. How are you doing?
(Parvaiz) Sure, make us out as secondary characters. Typical. Snorts in disgust.
(Marva) A little testy aren’t you? After all, the book is titled “Faizah’s Destiny” not “Parvaiz’s Destiny.”
(Harib) Sorry about Parvaiz, ma’am. He’s a little touchy since he was a slave all his life. He’ll loosen up the longer he’s free.
(Parvaiz) Easy for you, Harib. Your father is the richest man in the territory. He owns slaves!
(Bahaar) Hey, Parvaiz, lighten up. Harib or his father weren’t ever mean to slaves. His dad has even freed most of his workers, and they chose to stay on.
(Marva) Hey, sorry to hit a sore spot Parvaiz. Maybe if you talked it out a little. Don’t you feel a little grateful to your father for adopting you as his son and heir?
(Harib) What’s that, Parvaiz? I don’t hearrrr youuuu!
(Parvaiz) Yeah, yeah. I am grateful to Ahmadj, but at my age it’s a little hard to adapt to having a father.
(Bahaar) I wish I had even a fake father to get used to. Me and my brother are all on our own. We don’t carry a chip around on our shoulder.
(Parvaiz) All right! I’m grateful! Now can we just drop it?
(Marva) Of course. Tell the readers about your search for Master Wafai.
(Harib) Jabs his hand in the air. Oh, me, me!
(Marva) Go ahead, Harib.
(Harib) One day, we all went to school in the morning at Master Wafai’s house. But he was gone and the room was a mess! We couldn’t think of anything other than he was kidnapped.
(Bahaar) You see, his herb bag was still there. He wouldn’t go anywhere to treat anybody without that. It had to be a kidnapping.
(Parvaiz) But Faizah doesn’t accept that story. Well, she didn’t say Wafai wasn’t kidnapped, but she thought he left a sign we were supposed to find the Simurghs to find out where he was.
(Marva) Why did she think that?
(Harib) His book of magical beasts was open to the page about the Simurghs and a big X was chalked on the page. She figured he’d never mark up a book except for good reason.
(Marva) So you all set out to search for the Simurgh?
(Parvaiz) No way! I thought it was an idiot idea. Faizah being a girl and all…
(Bahaar) interrupting Hey! Faizah can take care of herself. She made that pretty clear when she caught up to us.
(Harib) Yeah. She never hid behind her skirts or us. She always jumped in and started swinging. Remember when Raziq and his gang were beating you up?
(Bahaar) Huffs I could of taken them. But it was nice you and Faizah showing up to help.
(Marva) So, you’re saying at first that you all didn’t want Faizah to go along on the search, but you changed your mind.
(Parvaiz) Well, yeah. I didn’t know her like these guys. She pulled her weight once we got going. She even saved the rest of us from Pazuzu’s ill wind.
(Marva) Ill wind?
(Parvaiz) Yeah, it’s a demon who makes everybody sick. Most of the time, people die, but Faizah knew what plants to use to cure us.
(Marva) Speaking of demons, what was that all about?
Bahaar and Parvaiz turn noticeably red.
(Harib) That jerk demon didn’t take me over like these two.
(Bahaar) We apologized for that! It wasn’t our fault.
(Parvaiz) Right. Harib didn’t even have a very good demon try to tempt him to Dev’s side.
(Marva) Who’s this Dev?
(Parvaiz) God of war. What could we do? Both Bahaar and I wanted to be warriors, and the demons promised we would be great heroes.
(Harib) Yeah. All Nanghaithya did was try to make me feel bad. Not a good way to convince somebody to join the dark side.
(Marva) I know there’s plenty more to tell the readers about your search for Wafai, the battle with the demons, and so forth. But since I’d like to sell a few books, we’ll leave it for now and let folks read about it themselves.
Thank you, boys. You’ve been a great interview.
(Boys) Sure. Anytime. Hey how about a story starring me?
Purchase at: MuseItUp (all ebook formats): http://tinyurl.com/faizahsdestiny
Also available at Amazon, B&N, Nook, and other on-line stores
Marva Dasef lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two ungrateful cats. Retired from thirty-five years in the software industry, she has now turned her energies to writing fiction and finds it a much more satisfying occupation. Marva has published more than forty stories in a number of on-line and print magazines, with several included in Best of anthologies. She has several published books, including six since 2011 with MuseItUp Publishing.
Twitter Handle: @Gurina
Book Trailers: http://www.youtube.com/user/MarvaDasef/videos
By: Trudy Zufelt,
The pressure Fisher Brown feels to excel academically becomes too much for him. Ever since his mom left, his dad, who is also his guidance counselor, puts pressure on him to keep his grades and test scores up so he can get into an Ivy League school. Fisher nearly has a meltdown when his mind freezes during a chemistry test. Convinced that his brain will do the same during the upcoming SAT, he wonders if his years of studying and getting straight A's will amount to anything.
When Fisher meets his neighbor's deadbeat brother, Lonny, he goes against his better judgment and agrees to tag along on a weekend adventure.
Far from pleasurable, the trip turns out to be in a window into the world of the working poor in which Fisher must ask himself for the first time in his life some of life's hard questions. The Real Question by Adrian Fogelin tugs at the heartstrings with an introspective look into Fisher's thoughts through the use of first-person narrative. The wry humor helps lighten the mood. A Recommended+ young adult novel, especially for those overachievers that need to be reminded of the truly important things in life.
Publisher: Peachtree Publishing (Sept. 1, 2009)
Hardback: 234 pages
Purchase from the following Retailers:
Disclosure: I received the book at no charge from the publisher for review purposes. I do not accept books for review unless I am free to give an honest review.
Winner will receive a copy of The Real Question by Adrian Fogelin. Use the Rafflecopter form to enter. By entering, you acknowledge you have read the terms on the Rafflecopter form and agree to them. Contest ends 5/14/2013 at 11:59 EST.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The end of the semester is nigh in the higher education realm (can we have a collective cheer?). As my classes approach the dreaded research essay, we spend a fair amount of time discussing the importance of using pathos, logos, and ethos in concert in persuasive writing. [I would argue that the same precept applies to writing fiction.]
I like to give my students an exercise to practice these techniques, using a subject with which they are already well acquainted. I ask them to write me a letter (another important skill for this generation of digital natives) describing what they feel their final semester grade should be. While their information needs to be fact-based (logos), students who may not be strong expository writers are often expert at applying these persuasive strategies. [On the other hand, last semester I had several students who tried to appeal to my sense of ethos with the contention that it was my duty to give every student at least a B. If their rhetorical purpose was to persuade me to grade more leniently, they achieved quite the opposite, as I subsequently took great care to explain.]
I find that self-evaluative assignments tend to be quite valuable for students and for me, too. Those students who chafe at the strictures of an expository writing class often respond positively to an assignment that allows them an unaccustomed measure of creativity. I suspect I get a fair amount of fiction in these responses, as well. :)
Happy end of semester, one and all! And, if you haven't done so already, don't forget to enter our Fourth Blogiversary Gift Card Giveaway
for a chance to win some great summer reading material!
-- Jeanne Marie
This week we continue to celebrate our Fourth Blogiversary (the official date is today!) with our giveaway extravaganza.
From Carmela's Friday post
Today, I'm thrilled to announce an extra-special giveaway in honor of our FOURTH BLOGIVERSARY. To show our appreciation to our blog readers AND to one of our favorite independent booksellers, we'll be giving away FOUR $25 gift certificates to Anderson's Bookshops! And, as a bonus, Anderson's is generously offering our winners a 20% discount, which will help defray the shipping costs if you're unable to redeem your gift certificate in person.
If you haven't already done so, hop on over and read the rest of her post
for entry details as well as more information about our blog, Anderson's, and a terrific bonus poem from our very own April (who's also celebrating a birthday this week).
In follow-up to our ode to D.E.A.R. and Beverly Cleary, we Teaching Authors are discussing the great independent bookstores that play such a crucial role in getting the right books into the hands of the right readers. I will never forget my first visit to the Tattered Cover
in Denver. I was on a business trip, and I got no other business done on that day. [I owe a debt of gratitude to my patient boss, Stan Cohen.]
Here in exurban Maryland, we have nothing like the Tattered Cover or Anderson's. Washington has the great Politics and Prose
, but my visits to DC with kids at this point in life typically involve the Air and Space Museum, the National Mall, and a stroller.
If you ask me, the coolest and most accessible independent bookstore in my neck of the woods is Turn the Page Bookstore
, owned by the husband of local (and international) celebrity Nora Roberts. Roberts lives in rural Washington County and has singlehandedly turned the tiny town of Boonsboro into a Destination (with a capital D). Visitors from around the country flock to the bookstore for signings by a variety of authors and may stay overnight in Roberts's nearby bed and breakfast, stop by her gift shop, or have a meal at her son's taphouse.
In my job as an adjunct instructor at Hagerstown Community College, I am fortunate to be a part of the advisory committee for this summer's Nora Roberts Writing Institute
. Before a recent meeting at Dan's Taphouse, I slipped into Turn the Page for some speed shopping. Unlike the sprawling Tattered Cover, it's a tiny space, with a nook devoted to children's books, a coffee bar featuring a local roaster's brews, and a terrific assortment of popular fiction, with the literary book club du month selections shelved beside the "beach reads."
As someone who writes in what may certainly be considered marginalized genres (soap operas and children's books), I greatly appreciated the equalizing effect of this shelving method. As a child, I fell in love with reading because it was fun and transformative. There is much good writing in popular fiction, and I love the idea of celebrating the books people read because they want
to rather than the ones they feel they have
to. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Nora Roberts.
Photographer Clare Porterfield is adrift. Her husband has gone back to work, but she just doesn’t see the point. All she can think about is the death of their daughter.
Then she is asked to put together an exhibit in Galveston. Who better to do the job than a local girl made good in the world of photography? Clare makes her first trip back to the island since she left as a young teen.
There she settles into a guest room in her mother’s home. Galveston is languid in the heat and she eventually explores not only the historic photos that will form the exhibit but also the island itself.
Throughout The Drowning House (Nan A Talese/Doubleday, 2012), author Elizabeth Black vividly depicts the island. Her writing is poetic and stately.
As a writer reading this novel, I knew there had to be more to it. Yes, the novel is set in Galveston. Clearly that means that there will be time spent on description, but the space given to the setting told me that there was more to it than that. There had to be a larger reason.
And that reason is why fiction writers need to read The Drowning House.
In describing the sites, Black goes into Galveston's history—founded by pirates who preferred to be called privateers and nearly wiped out by a hurricane in 1900. Pre-hurricane, alcohol flowed freely and fed debauchery of all kinds. Post-hurricane, tourists often take part in behavior they would never admit to back home.
In this way, Galveston reflects the people who live there. The tourists aren’t the only ones in denial. There are things that go on in Galveston homes that no one talks about and, at one time, Galveston was Clare’s home. There she met Patrick, the love of her young life. Again roaming the streets and beaches of Galveston, Clare sees these as an adult that she hadn't noticed as a child.
This novel could be set nowhere other than Galveston. The setting reflects not only the themes of the story but also foreshadows what Clare discovers about her family and even herself.
As if this masterful use of setting isn’t enough, there are other reasons for writers to pick up The Drowning House. As I said before, Black’s descriptions are poetic. They are languid and elegant even when the meaning behind the item is terrible.
Black’s use of backstory and detail are also masterful. She feeds the reader bite sized bits of information. Here is something from Clare’s past. Here is a bit of Galveston history. These treats keep you reading as Clare unravels the mystery of her childhood.
I know I’ve been sketchy about the plot. With a book as suspenseful as The Drowning House, I refuse to reveal the deep dark secret. You will have to find out on your own.
Because, bit by bit, as you read, you will definitely learn about setting, about theme, about description and so much more.
In addition to writing for the Muffin, SueBE is teaching the upcoming WOW! course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.
You're in for a treat. We also have a hardcover copy of The Drowning House: a Novel
by Elizabeth Black to give away! Just enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win!a Rafflecopter giveaway
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It’s Black History Month, and that means it’s time for our annual giveaway from Lee & Low Books! We’re giving away three sets of three books featuring African Americans, and the contest will run through February 28, 2013.
To enter, follow in the footsteps of Dave the Potter, the subject of our new biography Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet. Dave was an enslaved potter in South Carolina who inscribed his works with sayings and short poems in spite of harsh anti-literacy laws for slaves:
horses mules and hogs —
all our cows is in the bogs —
there they shall ever stay
till the buzzards take them away ==
March 29, 1836
I wonder where is all my relation
friendship to all — and, every nation
August 16, 1857
Write your own couplet in the comments below (it could be about anything, and doesn’t have to rhyme) to be entered in our giveaway. We’ll choose a winner at random.
Other ways to enter (or get up to 3 additional entries, if you also write a couplet):
1.) Follow us on Pinterest and let us know in the comments.
2.) Subscribe to this blog and let us know in the comments.
3.) Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook and let us know in the comments.
Check out some of the books you can win! Excited? We thought so!
These are the book prizes.
We’ll be notifying the winners and sending out books after Black History Month is over, but we think our titles hold up year-round, not just during February! Black history is part of American History, and shouldn’t get relegated to one month out of the year. So enter below to win three great books to enjoy all year long!
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Everyone knows Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr., but there are many other African Americans who have contributed to the rich fabric of our country but whose names have fallen through the cracks of history.
We’ve asked some of our authors who chose to write biographies of these talented leaders why we should remember them. We’ll feature their answers throughout Black History Month.
Today, Janet Halfmann shares why she wrote about Robert Smalls in Seven Miles to Freedom:
I was inspired to write about Robert Smalls because he played a very important part in the Civil War, but his role has received little recognition. He showed exceptional bravery, skill, and intelligence in stealing a gunboat from right under the eyes of the Confederates and sailing it through South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor to Union lines. I felt he was a great role model for anyone facing challenges. Also, I was riveted by his heart-thumping escape, and I thought kids would be, too. It was a great adventure story, just waiting to be told.
Robert Smalls and countless other African-Americans played important roles in helping to win the Civil War. In the past, not many of these stories have been included in history books. I feel it’s important for all Americans, and especially for African-American children, that the entire story be told. All children need role models that look like them.
Robert Smalls’ achievements deserve recognition for many reasons. During slavery, many people considered blacks incapable of ever measuring up to whites. Robert Smalls’ bravery and intelligence helped to prove this idea wrong. Robert Smalls was so popular after his escape that Union military officers in South Carolina sent him North to speak and raise money for the many newly freed men, women, and children streaming into Union camps. He also met with President Lincoln and helped to convince him to let African-Americans enlist in the Union army.
After Robert Smalls’ escape to freedom, he had a distinguished career as a civilian ship pilot for the Union. He was the first African-American named a captain of a United States ship. After the war, he helped write a new state constitution, which included his proposal for the creation of South Carolina’s first free system of public schools for all children. He went on to serve five terms in Congress, working for equal rights for all people. Robert Smalls was so popular in his hometown that he was called the “King of Beaufort County.”
Want to win a copy of Seven Miles to Freedom? Enter our Black History Month book giveaway.
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When the chance came to review another of Jessica Bell's books, I jumped at it. I loved her writing exercise and instruction book: Show & Tell in a Nutshell
! This novella, The Book
, caught my attention immediately--mostly because of the different formats--journal entries, doctor/patient transcripts, and narrative in a child's voice. I know I've already caught your interest with just that list, so wait until you read on. . .
It doesn’t take a tome of 500 pages to tell a powerful, gripping and captivating story. Jessica has managed to do this in less than 150 pages in The Book
. Jessica, also an author of poetry and nonfiction, takes on a unique voice for one of the narrators of her book—a five-year-old child, Bonnie; she truly captivates this voice, taking the reader through the story of the girl’s estranged parents and herself trying to figure out her young and confusing life full of adults always acting strangely.
The title comes from a book, which most would call a journal or diary, that Bonnie’s parents started writing in before she was even born. John, her father, has the idea to write special messages to his daughter and to give “The Book” to her when she is older. Penny, her mother, is the one who actually writes in it more, and eventually it becomes a diary for her mother, more than a message for the daughter. The Book
is divided into three parts: “Love is the Beginning,” “Love is a Weapon,” and “Love is Tangible.” In each part, Penny or John tell their side of the story and their feelings through their writings in “The Book”; Bonnie adds to the story through her narration for the reader; and transcripts of Bonnie speaking to a psychiatrist, Dr. Wright, are also included. All of these parts and various techniques work together to complete the story of Bonnie and her parents.
The reader learns that John and Penny don’t stay together after Bonnie’s born, and Penny starts a new relationship with Ted—who has a temper with a violent side. Bonnie explains to the reader what she sees going on in the lives of the adults around her, from her dad’s new family to her mom’s emotional side to “my Ted’s” outbursts.
Bonnie sees the biggest problem as “The Book.” She thinks it is what causes the difficulties in her life and the lives of her loved ones. She wants to destroy it and is just waiting for the chance to get it away from her mother and make everything better for everyone.
What Jessica does so well in this short novel is take on the different voices of the characters—readers will be able to hear the child trying to figure out her world in Bonnie’s narrative, while sympathizing with John and Penny who aren’t sure if they made the right choice to split apart. When Jessica writes as John in “The Book,” he has a distinct way of writing, which is different than Penny—this distinction and technique with voice are the marks of a talented writer.
The ending is shocking and can be somewhat disturbing, but it’s realistic, heartfelt, and certainly satisfying after spending several hours getting to know the characters in The Book.
Jessica is a native-Australian who lives in Athens, Greece. She is also a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. She makes a living as an editor and writer for English language teaching publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning. She also runs the Homeric Writers' Retreat and Workshop
in Ithaca, Greece, which is an annual week-long workshop for writers with instruction from experts in the field. Recently, she re-released her full-length novel, String Bridge
, complete with a cover makeover, and is giving away the digital version of the accompanying soundtrack
(which is amazing, by the way!) with every purchase.The Book
is a fast read, but one that you will want to read again. The characters are complex, which makes the story memorable, and a great one to discuss in a book club. If you haven’t checked out anything Jessica Bell
has written yet, then why not start with The Book? Margo L. Dill is the author of Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, a middle-grade (ages 9 to 12) historical fiction novel.
Enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win a copy of The Book
by Jessica Bell!a Rafflecopter giveaway
Happy Poetry Friday, all!
Tamera Will Wissinger
Today, the TeachingAuthors are celebrating Poetry Friday in a special way with a sneak peek at a poem from the soon-to-be-released Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger, illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Houghton Mifflin). And one lucky TeachingAuthors follower will win an autographed copy of the book. See the end of this post for complete details.
We're also thrilled to feature a Student Success Story interview with Tamera, a former student of mine. As Tamera shares in her interview, she's also taken classes with two of my fellow TeachingAuthors. That's half the TeachingAuthors' team! I can tell you, we're all smiling like proud mammas today. :-)
But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, let me introduce you to Tamera by sharing her official bio:
writes stories and poetry for children. She was inspired to write Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse
after writing “Night Crawlers,” a poem that stemmed from her fun childhood memories of night crawler hunting with her parents before fishing trips. A graduate of Hamline University’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults
, Tamera shares her time between Chicago and Florida.
Here's an excerpt from Tamera's website
describing her middle-grade novel, Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse
"Using a wide variety of poetic forms – quatrains, ballads, iambic meter,
rhyming lists, concrete poetry, tercets and free verse – this debut
author tells the story of a nine-year-old boy’s day of fishing. Sibling
rivalry, the bond between father and son, the excitement – and
difficulty – of fishing all add up to a day of adventure any child would
want to experience."
You can connect with Tamera online via Goodreads
, or Facebook
. For more of her lovely poetry, visit her online journal, The Writer's Whimsy
, where you'll find links in the sidebar to several group blogs she participates in.
And now, for the interview.
1. Tamera, it's hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since we met “virtually” when you took my online class in writing for children. Do you recall what inspired you to sign up for that class?
I just came across notes from that workshop; that can’t have been ten years ago! That class was Fundamentals of Writing for Children, the first children’s writing workshop that I had ever taken. At that time I was writing stories and quite a bit of poetry, but I wasn’t focused on a specific age reader. It was my husband who suggested that I might want to try writing for children. That sounded like an interesting idea, so I found the Writer’s Online Workshop
that you were instructing, and I signed up.
2. Do you recall any specific ways the class helped you?
I remember being really nervous and also glad for this new online way of learning and for the opportunity to explore writing for children. The class itself was wonderful and you put me at ease right away by your genuine interest in the students, the focus on our stories and our writing habits, and the study of writing for children. You learned during that class that your novel, Rosa, Sola
, was going to be published. When you shared that news I remember being so thrilled for you and your achievement and excited for me to be learning from someone with so much experience and success.
That class gave me an excellent foundation for understanding the range and limitations of children’s literature, but there was so much more to it. I remember feeling really welcomed and cared for, as though I had found a place in the writing world where I belonged. And I can trace a direct path between that first class with you and my first novel. Here’s how:
- During the workshop with you I learned about SCBWI,
- Shortly thereafter I met you in person at an SCBWI event,
- At that event you introduced me to several other students from your online workshops,
- We formed a critique group,
- Some in the group were planning to attend the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults,
- I was intrigued, but not quite ready to commit,
- In the mean time, Hamline University announced their MFAC program and
- When Hamline began receiving applications in 2006 I was ready,
- I applied, was accepted, and
- What I learned there helped prepare me to write Gone Fishing.
I don’t know if I ever told you that story, Carmela, so I’m really glad for this opportunity to tell you now! When I look at this chain reaction, I’d say that first class has helped me immensely.
3. Wow, Tamera, reading about this chain of events gives me goose bumps! I do remember how wonderful it was to finally meet you and some of your classmates face-to-face after only knowing you through your online classwork. And I recall how pleased I was to learn later that you'd received your MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. What made you decide to enroll in the program? And would you share a bit about your experience there?
After several years of attending writing workshops and conferences and participating in critique groups, I started to believe my writing was good and I began to submit stories to editors. Eventually I began to receive positive and specific feedback, but aside from stand-alone poems, I hadn't received any offers to publish. I recognized that there were still things about writing for children that I needed to know and since I was committed to finding a way for my stories to reach children, I felt that connecting with experts in the field of children's writing was the best way to try and reach my goals.
I feel so lucky to have had that opportunity. Each residency I got to hear lectures by the talented faculty and a variety of visiting children's authors. I also got to interact with classmates who were as committed as I was to learning about writing for children. Each semester I was paired with a faculty advisor. The two of us would work together to develop a personalized study plan that included the creative writing I hoped to develop, as well as aspects of craft that I intended to study. I learned to love essay writing; thinking critically about a specific story aspect or technique is one of the keys to becoming a better writer, and that's something that I've carried with me beyond the program.
One other wonderful outgrowth of the program has been the sustained connection that I have with the Hamline MFAC writing community. I'm in touch with fellow graduates, current students, faculty, and staff, and I feel a close bond with everyone because of those common experiences and interests.
4. Your experience sounds a lot like mine at Vermont College! Now can you tell us more about what inspired you to write Gone Fishing? Why did you choose to write it as a novel-in-verse? Did that format present any special challenges?
My inspiration for the story came from my good childhood memories of going fishing with my family. The first poem in the book was initially a stand alone poem. It’s called "Night Crawlers" and is based on the excitement I remember feeling when I got to stay up after dark in the summer and hunt for worms to take fishing the next day. After that first poem, others followed until I had a collection of father and son fishing poetry. Later, poems that included a younger sister began to emerge and that’s when the sibling rivalry story line started to take shape.
I didn’t originally set out to write a novel in verse. Even with the inclusion of the sibling rivalry, the story that I first submitted included around twenty poems – enough for a picture book. My editor had the wonderful idea to expand the story and the number of poems. That idea intrigued me and I continued to work on it. The final story ended up at around forty poems, which gave it enough text to be a novel in verse.
Writing using this format did present special challenges. In any novel, the story is the most important aspect of the writing. In a verse novel, the poetry has to enhance the storytelling, or it won’t work. What helped me keep focus on the storytelling was to pay careful attention to conflict, crisis and resolution. If a poem didn’t advance the story or aid in some element of storytelling, then it didn’t belong. Add to that the different poetic forms, and that was another layer of complexity.
5. Expanding a picture book into a novel sounds like it would require some major revisions. Would you share a bit about that process?
As I mentioned above, the story initially had twenty poems. We expanded it to about forty, so, yes; the book had some pretty significant revisions. I was lucky that my editor had a good sense of direction. She provided me with enthusiastic encouragement, asked many insightful questions, and gave intriguing suggestions that I was eager to explore. By the end of the first revision, more specific scenes and interactions were filling in and the story was taking shape. It was challenging and fun to see what might emerge and whether or not I would be able to produce more poems that had substance. The miracle of it was that one new poem often led to another and another, each exposing more depth and breadth to the story.
6. Gone Fishing includes a “Poet’s Tackle Box” in its back matter. What does the box contain? How might classroom teachers use its contents to extend their poetry lessons?
Developing this section was another of my editor’s smart ideas that stemmed from one of my dearest critique partners suggesting that I label the poetic forms I had used in my original manuscript. The Poet’s Tackle Box contains poetry writing tips and definitions, including information on rhyme and rhythm, poetry techniques, and poetic forms. I hope that this section can be a good reference for classroom teachers who are helping students learn the joy of reading poetry and writing their own poems.
Before I go, Carmela, there are two more things that I’d like to mention, first, I want to say hello to two of your fellow TeachingAuthors
Hello, Esther Hershenhorn! Esther taught a picture book writing workshop that I attended at Ragdale
on a chilly Chicago day. Inside, though, it was a wonderful, cozy, enriching day of reading, critiquing, and talking about picture books. Esther was so enthusiastic and encouraging and shared all kinds of good and important information on picture books and the publishing industry!
Hello, Jill Esbaum! Jill led a weekend rhyming picture book workshop that I attended at The University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival
. It was a sunny Iowa summer weekend and Jill was so welcoming and even came with the students to an alfresco lunch and talked informally about children’s writing. Jill was such a champion of rhyming text and finding fresh story ideas; she gave me hope that there was a market for rhyming picture book manuscripts!
And finally, in celebration of Gone Fishing’s
release this coming Tuesday, here is the opening poem in the book – "Night Crawlers" – the one that started it all:
Dad and I hunt worms tonight.
Tiptoe near and grab them quick.
Tug-o-war with earth and worm.
Set our bucket near the door.
Look out, fish — we’re on our way!
poem © Tamera Will Wissinger. All rights reserved.
Thank you for hosting me today on TeachingAuthors
, Carmela! I had a great time.
Thank YOU for joining us, Tamera. We especially appreciate your sharing your wonderful poem with us today.
Readers, for more of Tamera's lovely poetry, visit her online journal, The Writer's Whimsy
. There, you'll find links in the sidebar to several group blogs she participates in. You can also connect with Tamera via Goodreads
, or Facebook
And now, as promised, here's your chance to win an autographed copy of Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse
written by Tamera Will Wissinger and illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Houghton Mifflin). You must follow our TeachingAuthors blog
to enter our drawing
. If you're not already a follower, you can sign
up now in the sidebar to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend
Connect, or Facebook Network blogs.
There are two ways to enter:
1) by a comment posted below
2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.
Either way, to qualify, you must:
a) give us your first and last name AND
b) tell us how you follow us AND
c) tell us if you'll keep the book for yourself or give it to someone special.
If you enter via a comment,
include a valid email address
(formatted this way: youremail [at] gmail [dot] com).
Contest open only to residents of the United States. Incomplete entries
will be discarded. Entry deadline is 11 pm (CST) Wednesday, March 13, 2013
. Winners will be announced Friday, March 15. Good luck to all!
And after you've entered, don't forget to visit the Poetry Friday round-up at Julie Larios' blog, The Drift Record
By: Hazel Mitchell,
Blog: Hazel Mitchell
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'1,2,3 by the Sea' is officially here!
And to celebrate I'm having a giveaway for 2 lucky winners!
FOLLOW THIS BLOG
AND LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST.
(Alternatively send me an email if your comment will not post, to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Open internationally - draw will be made from entries 10pm ET March 8th 2013.
There will be TWO great first prizes ...
Prize ONE will be a signed copy of the book
and the ORIGINAL cover sketch, also signed!
Prize TWO will be a signed copy of the book
and a signed giclee print of the first page.
Which one would you like to win?
(remember you must be a follower of the blog and leave a comment on this post to be in the draw!)
Toodles - Hazel
'1,2,3 by the Sea' is available to buy on line at
and the print is available on my ETSY store.
In a funny and frenetic remake of the traditional tale, Prairie Chicken Little by Jackie Mims Hopkins chronicles the over-reaction of one prairie chicken who thinks the sky is falling, or more accurately, a stampede is coming!Listen to this text's unique voice as the story begins:
|Win this book! See below to enter.|
Out on the grasslands where bison roam, Mary McBlicken the prairie chicken was scritch-scratching for her breakfast, when all of a sudden she heard a rumbling and a grumbling and a tumbling.
"Oh, no!" she exclaimed. "A stampede's a comin'! I need to hightail it back to the ranch to tell Cowboy Stan and Red Dog Dan. They'll know what to do."
So away Mary ran, lickety-splickety, as fast as her little prairie chicken legs could carry her.
The onomatopoeia, the rhymes, and the word choice (such as "hightail it") combine to create a voice that matches both the book's setting and its levity. The book's fun is well supported by Henry Cole's splendid pictures. You might recall seeing his handiwork in Three Hens and a Peacock, mentioned here in a previous post. To me, Henry Coles' work is Audubon meets Looney Tunes. His animals are faithfully rendered in the physical sense, but with a personality and pluck that embodies them with all-too-human emotions. I particularly love that he gets us up close and personal with each animal, making the images seem larger than the book itself.
- In the event that your students are studying other ecosystems such as as rain forests or polar regions, you could adapt this idea, challenging students to create a crisis or calamity, as well as appropriate creatures who would help spread the word. It's a pretty cool way to synthesize students' collection of random facts from a unit into a creative response. Can't you just see a penguin or a toucan as the main character? The book Loony Little: An Environmental Tale by Dianna Hutts Aston does just that for the Arctic region.
- Fractured Fairy Tales are an all time favorite for kids to read, and they're fun to write as well. A recent post at the Peachtree Publishing blog provides some great titles to get you started.
- Contrast Prairie Chicken Little with other books of this genre such as Chicken Little by Rebecca and Ed Emberly, Chachalaca Chiquita by Melanie Chrismer, Earthquack by Margie Palatini, and The Rumor: A Jataka Tale by Jan Thornhill.
- Try some other fun animal activities! Lots to choose from in my previous Animal Attraction post.
- Have students research any of the animals from Prairie Chicken Little. Some of the real-life critters who populate this book sport some pretty amazing features. A good place to start? The Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society.
You can win your very own copy of Prairie Chicken Little direct from Peachtree Publishers! Simply email me at keithschoch at gmail dot com (standard format) with Chicken Little in the subject line, and you're all set! Contest ends on Friday, March 15 at 11:59pm EST. You can even double your chances to win by visiting other blogs on the Prairie Chicken blog tour.
Don't forget to enter to win a copy of Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? as well. Contest ends 3/08/13.
Welcome to Author Paul
Paul A. Barra is a decorated war veteran, a teacher and a freelance journalist. He previously was a reporter for local newspapers and won numerous awards from the South Carolina Press Association. He was the senior staff writer for the Diocese of Charleston and won numerous awards from the Catholic Press Association, a national organization. Earlier publications include four independent science readers (Houghton Mifflin), a novel (“Crimson Ring,” Eagle Press) and a nonfiction book about the formation and success of a Catholic high school, despite diocesan opposition (“St. Joe’s Remarkable Journey,” Tumblar House). He is under contract for the publication of a historical novel called “Murder in the Charleston Cathedral.”(Chesterton Press).
His latest book is the children’s/middle grade novel, The Secret of Maggie’s Swamp
InterviewIf you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would you choose?
Jesus of Nazareth, the pope, Martin Luther, Mohamed, MosesIf you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you want with you?
A machete, matches and The Complete Works of G. K. ChestertonWhat is one book everyone should read?
“The Red Badge of Courage”If you were a superhero what would your name be?
The Mouth of the SouthIf you could have any superpower what would you choose?
speaking in tonguesWhat is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
mochaNight owl, or early bird?
early birdOne food you would never eat?
fermented baluts in P.I.Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
It’s dramatic and parents are not denigrated by the child characters.Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
Besides my current children’s novel, “The Secret of Maggie’s Swamp,” I have an historical mystery (adult) due out this Spring from Chesterton Press and another middle-grade novel is almost finished. I hope to finish one manuscript every two years for the next ten years, at least.What inspired you to want to become a writer?
I have always been a big reader and think that authors have the best possible careers. I like to let my imagination roam free.Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Hearing fourth graders tell me how exciting they found my book to be and talking about the characters by name, as if they were real to them.What was your favorite book when you were a child/teen?
the Black Stallion series.What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Consider being a novelist as a second career when you have a bit of age on you. That way you can raise your family in peace, without the stress of trying to shoehorn in some writing and blaming life for making you frustrated when you don’t have a bestseller before you’re thirty.How did you know you should become an author?
When the first Letter to the Editor commented on one of my feature pieces, I was hooked on writing. I cannot imagine anything more gratifying than having people read what you write.How do you react to a bad review?
It depends entirely on how bad the review is. Once I received a review that was so over-the-top hateful that it was easy to dismiss. Some bad reviews can help me write better, I guess, but most just hurt and demoralize me - for a time. It’s like reading James Lee Burke: he is so talented that I feel incompetent after I read himThe Secret of Maggie's Swamp
In this middle-grade mystery-adventure, a twelve-year-old girl discovers a grave injustice in the 1980s South when a neighbor is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Penny must find the courage to use her unique gift – her uncanny ability to foresee the future – to thwart a crazed desperado and find a treasure that will prove her neighbor’s innocence.
Poor Penelope Andrews. Her neighbor is being hunted, her friend is comatose after encountering a rogue alligator in a black-water swamp, and her mother has formed the wild impression that Penny has some sort of special gift from God! What else could go wrong? Oh yes: the FBI wants to speak with her. And, a dangerous criminal is stalking her.
The Secret of Maggie’s Swamp tells the story of young Penny and the courage she shows in dealing with these dynamic issues.
It is an exciting read for children ages 8 through 12. It’s a pro-family story that will absorb young readers. Available in bookstores, on Amazon.com and from Brownridge Publishing.Giveaway Details
1 copy of The Secret of Maggie's Swamp
Open to US only
Ends 3/29/13a Rafflecopter giveaway
Welcome back to Author Darby Karchut
Darby Karchut is an award-winning author, teacher, and a compulsive dawn greeter. She lives in Colorado with her husband and owns more backpacks than purses. As she should.
Her YA books include GRIFFIN RISING (2012 Children's Literary Awards Gold Medal, 2011 Sharp Writ YA Book of the Year), GRIFFIN'S FIRE (2011 Readers Favorite Bronze Medal for YA Fantasy), and GRIFFIN'S STORM (November 2012). Her debut Middle Grade novel, FINN FINNEGAN (Spencer Hill Press) will be released March 2013. The next book in the Finnegan series, GIDEON'S SPEAR (Spencer Hill Press) will be released February 2014.
She has also co-authored a non-fiction book for teens entitled MONEY AND TEENS with her husband, author Wes Karchut.Finn Finnegan
Finnegan MacCullen: a thirteen-year-old apprentice with the famous Irish temperament.
Gideon Lir: a legendary Celtic warrior with a bit of a temper of his own.
Secretly, these blue-collar warriors battle the hobgoblins infesting their suburban neighborhood...when they are not battling each other.
Finn (not bleedin' Finnegan) MacCullen is eager to begin his apprenticeship. He soon discovers the ups and downs of hunting monsters in a suburban neighborhood under the demanding tutelage of the Knight, Gideon Lir. Both master and apprentice are descendents of the Tuatha De Danaan, a magical race of warriors from Ireland. Scattered long ago to the four corners of the world, the De Danaan wage a two thousand year old clandestine battle with their ancient enemy, the Amandán, a breed of goblin-like creatures.
Now with the beasts concentrating their attacks on Finn, he and his master must race to locate the lost Spear of the Tuatha De Danaan, the only weapon that can destroy the Amandán, all the while hiding his true identity from his new friends, Rafe and Savannah, twins whose South African roots may hold a key to Finn's survival.
Armed with a bronze dagger, some ancient Celtic magic, and a hair-trigger temper, Finn is about to show his enemies the true meaning of "fighting Irish."
From Gideon Lir, Knight of the Tuatha De Danaan, aided by his thirteen year old apprentice, Finn MacCullen.
I hail from Ireland. Cold and wet. Night owl, or early bird? Both. We hunt the beasties at anytime. Why, I believe romance. *And Finn, cease rolling yer eyes, boyo* Pizza. As me apprentice is fond of pointing out: it has all the four food groups I cannot decide. Both have its beauty.
Harry Potter or Twilight?
I’ve been given strict orders to request Harry Potter. Mac as in Mac Roth? Why he’s me oldest and finest friend, as well as brother-in-arms. But only a short-lived Fey would call him “Mac” to his face. Work boots with steel toes Dog. *No, Finn, we are not getting one, I’m just answering the bleedin’ question!*Truth. A man’s word is his honor. Giveaway Details
1 copy of Finn Finnegan
Open to US Only
Ends 3/25/13a Rafflecopter giveaway
Read How to Get Moving on Your Work in Progress: A Review of The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts by Sue Bradford Edwards on WOW! Women on Writing.
While you're at WOW! Women on Writing, enter to win in the 5-Book-Giveaway for The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing
NOTE: still time to join me virtually today to Track Your Plot at the Scene Level, a Plot Webinar hosted by the Writers Store at 1pm Pacific.
1) Feature Article:
Emotional Elements of Plot
Showing how a character feels fuses the relationship between characters and the audience or reader. Showing how the character transforms delivers on the promise of your story. Learn the difference. Plot tips how and where to develop transformational emotional maturity. Read the entire article:
2) Plot Webinar:
Join me virtually on March 6th to Track Your Plot at the Scene Level, webinar hosted by the Writers Store.
Knowing what to write where in a story with a plot allows for a more loving relationship with your writing. Whether writing a first draft or revising, if you falter wondering what comes next in a story with a plot, follow the prompts in The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing.
Today, I write.
To familiarize yourself with the basic plot terms used here and in the PW Book of Prompts:
1) Watch the plot playlists on the Plot Whisperer Youtube channel.
2) Read The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
3) Fill out the exercises in The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories
Blockbuster Plots for Writers
Plot Whisperer on Facebook
Plot Whisperer on Twitter
Back in October, I posted about the three elements – rhythm, rhyme, and story – that have to work together in character-driven rhyming picture books. In that post, I addressed getting a story's rhythm exactly right.
That leaves rhyme and story, so I thought I'd get back to those today. You all know how to rhyme, so I won't waste an entire post on the topic. Two things to keep in mind, though:
- Use proper syntax. If you have to twist a line for the sake of the end rhyme, find another way to get the thought across. Lines should read the way a person normally speaks.
- Talk "up" to your readers. Don't shy away from complicated words now and then if they fit the story, if kids will be able to glean meaning from context (and, most likely, an illustration), and especially if they're fun to say. In my Ste-e-e-e-eamboat A-Comin'!, which takes place in the 1800s, I rhymed songs and shouts with roustabouts; silk cravats with cowboy hats; and coffee, spoons with brass spittoons.
Rhyming stories have been my favorites since I was 5 or 6 years old (and was introduced to Horton).
Of the 16 books I've sold so far, 6 are rhyming picture books. So these days, I critique a lot of rhyming manuscripts – as a volunteer judge at Rate Your Story
, in private and conference crits, and in summer workshops
(note: my pb workshop is Aug. 2-4 this year). The number one problem with the stories I see is . . . well, the stories
. It's pefectly natural. We get so caught up in perfecting rhythm and rhyme that story takes a backseat. Because boy, once we get those rhyming lines working together, most of us would rather undergo a root canal than make changes.
But the same rules apply to a rhyming story to one written in prose. So, a checklist:
- Does my main character have a goal to reach or some kind of problem? Did I get to it right away? Does he solve it himself?
- Do things go WRONG?
- Did I include believable/necessary dialogue? (Yes, this is tougher to do in rhyming stories. You thought this would be easy?)
- Does every word of every line move the story forward and convey a precise meaning? This is a biggie. Go through your story line by line. Are any lines/stanzas merely restating in a different way information already given? Condense or cut.
- Have I used specific verbs, vivid language, fresh similes and metaphors, alliteration, onomatopoeia? (If you have fun, your reader will, too.)
- Is my word count as low as possible? (Little pitchers have big ears, yes, but they also have short attention spans.)
- Is my POV consistent? (Try to avoid 1st person in rhyming stories. It can be done, but it's extremely tough to do without sounding overly-contrived.)
- Has my MC shown growth or changed somehow by the end of the story? (And am I not hitting the reader over the head with it?)
When it comes to crafting rhyming stories, practice really does make perfect. Examine a variety of published rhyming picture books. To get a feel for meter, read them aloud. Type them out. Study their plot structure. Learn to recognize and correct problem areas in your own work.
One final tip that gets its own line and bold print:
- Embrace revision. (
Because, truly, there's NEVER only one way to say something.)
And before you know it, you'll be on the track to publication. Note that I didn't call it a "fast track." This IS publishing.
P.S. Remember to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win Tamera Wissinger's delightful Gone Fishing!
Anybody who has been in one of my workshops knows what a fanatic I am for the one-sentence synopsis. If you don't know what I'm talking about, take a look at the title page of (almost) any book for kids. See the sentence that sums up the entire story? Not much to it, is there? Should be easy to write one, then, right? Um...
Sometimes called an elevator pitch – because if you find yourself in an elevator with an editor and s/he asks what you're working on, you don't want to ramble on like a doofus (she said from experience) – the one-sentence synopsis is also an excellent tool for keeping your story on track during the writing process.
Oh, how many times my stories – especially my rhyming stories – go off in a direction I hadn't intended. When a story veers out of control, I know it's time to back up the truck and ask myself one simple question:
What is this story really about?
Crafting a one-sentence synopsis has saved my bacon time and again. It cuts to the heart of the story, clarifies your main character's motivation, and illuminates the path from a story's beginning to its end.
So give it a try. Write a one-sentence synopsis for your work in progress.
1. Your main character's name.
2. What it is s/he is struggling with.
3. What's at stake for your MC (if not readily apparent).
4. What s/he does to reach her goal or overcome the problem (if needed).
Here's an example from one of my 2014 books, I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!
Nadine, a braggy cow, gets into hilarious trouble when, to save face, she's forced to lead her friends on a nighttime hike through the spooky woods.
That probably isn't what will be on the finished book's title page, but it's my
one-sentence synopsis of this story. It pretty much tells you everything you need to know in deciding whether to read it or replace it on the shelf.
If you care to, go ahead and put your synopsis into the comment section, I'd love to see what you're working on.
Good luck! And don't forget to enter our giveaway for a chance to win Tamera Wissinger's Gone Fishin'
. Hurry! Today's the last day.
By: Keith Schoch
Blog: Teach with Picture Books
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Peanuts, Cracker Jack, cotton candy, and hot dogs! Those are my fondest memories of the ball park, and they certainly top my daughters' lists as well. But one equally hallowed tradition of baseball had been fading from the American scene, so I'm glad to see a picture book that's bringing it back.Betsy's Day at the Game
, written by Greg Bancroft and illustrated by Katherine Blackmore, describes a young girl's visit to the ballpark with her grandfather. The book captures all there is to love about baseball, and that's because author Greg Bancroft
seems to be a baseball fan first and foremost. His words and Katherine Blackmore's images capture the sights, sounds, smells, and (my favorite part) tastes of the ballpark. Via their narrative, we spend a day vicarioulsy at the park. Simple enough, right?
As the story progresses and the game begins, however, we realize that much more is taking place. Betsy and Grandpa are teaching us, step by step and in plain English, how to keep score. For the those who are as clueless as me, keeping score in baseball goes way beyond tallying runs!
Codes and symbols are entered onto a scorecard, effectively chronicling every offensive and defensive play of the game. From what friends have told me, baseball fans can read a score book and see the entire game played out in their heads in the same way that musicians can read sheet music and actually "hear the song."
So while I started out as a true scoring novice, by book's end I had a pretty good idea of the whole process. And trust me, if I can figure it out, anyone can! Betsy's Day at the Game
would definitely score a home run with any young baseball fan. Using the handy scorecards supplied in the back of the book, fans could easily follow along with and score their favorite team at the park or on TV.You can enter to win a free copy of this book for your fave fan or yourself
by simply emailing me at keithschoch at gmail dot com (standard email format) with PLAY BALL! in the subject line. Contest closes at 11:59 PM EST Friday, April 19, 2013.
Want more chances to win? Visit the blog at Scarletta Press to discover more sites featuring book reviews and giveaways
.Some Recommended Baseball Resources:
- Aspiring writers will want to check out Greg Bancroft's 10 Things I Didn't Know Until I Published My First Book. If you're planning on breaking into the book biz, you should read this article!
- See more of Katherine Blackmore's illustrations at her site.
- Check out a tutorial on scoring if you want more examples, plus the formulas to figure out all the stats you would ever need. The actual scorecard isn't as nice as the one in the back of Betsy's Day at the Game, however.
- The Baseball for Kids site features lots of extras for young fans of baseball.
- Taking your child to the park for the first time? Definitely have a Plan B! We know how attention spans can dwindle as kids become hot, tired, cranky, over-sugared, and all of the above. TeachMama has a fabulous set of suggestions for surviving your outing using Kid-Friendly Learning During Baseball Games.
- Check out some earlier posts on this site including Going Extra Innings with Baseball Picture Books (books and lots of sites for kids about baseball), A League of Their Own: Women in Baseball, and Girls Got Game (incredible female athletes). Let Them Play, discussed in an earlier post on Black History, is another baseball story from history that kids find incredibly intriguing.
- With 42, the Jackie Robinson movie, releasing in theaters this weekend, younger readers might interested in learning more about this courageous hero in baseball history. For readers in grades 2-5, I highly recommend Jackie Robinson: American Hero, written by the star's own daughter, Sharon Robinson. This transitional book features not only the perfect blend of images and text, but also the perfect blend of backstory and biography. Sharon Robinson provides young readers with just enough historical context to understand and appreciate what made Jackie Robinson's accomplishments incredible not only for his time, but for all of time. If you're a teacher hoping to engage your reluctant readers with chapter books, this one is a winner!
SORRY FOR THE DELAY!
Geesh, I am full of apologies lately. I’m so far behind in everything, which might not surprise you if you read my Emu’s Debuts post about “balance” being overrated. Being a mother, an author, managing my book launch and Multiple Sclerosis…phew. Wanna be an intern? Inquire within. Better terms and conditions than Kramerica Industries!
First I’d like to THANK YOU for backing my friend Ryan Hipp’s Kickstarter project, LITTLE STEPS. Ryan has exceeded his goal with more than a week to go. HIPP HIPP HOORAY!
Next, here are the winners from the past two giveaways! (Selected with the help of Random.org.)
WATCH YOUR TONGUE, CECILY BEASLEY by Lane Fredrickson:
Tina M. Cho!
NUGGET AND FANG PRIZE PACK from Tammi Sauer:
CONGRATULATIONS! Watch for an email from me.
And that’s all folks. But stay tuned—lots of book reviews coming soon, including a rare “poisonous” foray into YA fiction! I’ll also be walking you through what it takes to plan a book launch, which today includes getting quotes for COOKIES. Sweet!
Blog: WOW! Women on Writing Blog (The Muffin)
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, Instant Happy
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, attitude makeovers
, Cynthia Nims
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One of my favorite things about the holidays is the opportunity to splurge on gift books. Finding the perfect one for a friend is like striking gold. There’s nothing more personal and rewarding than the gift of words in a pretty package to show how well you know someone and how much you care.
We have two wonderful books to give away that will brighten your day and satisfy your salt cravings! And if you’re anything like me—and I think you are—you will absolutely love them.
First up is Instant HAPPY: 10-Second Attitude Makeovers
by Karen Salmansohn. This gorgeous little hardcover contains humorous and uplifting insights that will make you smile or say,
“So true!” Each page is loaded with full-color graphics and a clever saying to brighten your day. The book uses a psychological tool called “pattern interrupts” to stop negative thoughts in their tracks. Each inspirational flashcard will give you a reality check and help put things into perspective.
Writers will find inspiration for every emotional step of the writing process—you know the ones I’m talking about . . . self-doubt, confidence, courage, rejection, and more! For example: “You Know You’re Making Progress When You’re Making Mistakes.”
or “When one door closes, try a window. Then try a new door. Then try a new window. The world is full of doors and windows. Eventually you’ll find one that stays open.”
Here are a couple of flashcards from the book: Feel a little better already?
The author, Karen Salmansohn, is a motivational speaker, designer, and best-selling author of more than twenty-five books, including How to Be Happy, Dammit
; Enough, Dammit
; and The Bounce Back Book
. She’s also an online columnist for O, The Oprah Magazine
; Psychology Today
; The Huffington Post
; Positively Positive
; and AOL, and she has worked as a creative strategist for the likes of MTV, Nickelodeon, L’Oreal, and Avon. Find out more about Karen by visiting her website: www.notsalmon.com
. With Karen’s help and contagious optimism, you will be ready to take on the world!Instant Happy: 10-Second Attitude Makeovers
by Karen Salmansohn
128 pages, 6" x 7"
Ten Speed Press (October 2012) ----
While not exactly a gift book and more of a cookbook, Salty Snacks
by Cynthia Nims is gorgeous, fun-sized, and a great gift for those who love savory snacks. We often have the snack discussion here at WOW! When asked what types of snacks writers most like to munch while writing, it’s a near draw between sweet and salty. Me?
I’ve always had a love affair with salt. Give me a bag of chips over a doughnut any day. And if you’re like me, your mouth will start watering from flipping through the pages of this book.
This collection of 75 easy-to-follow recipes for puffs, chips, breads, nuts, veggies, and meats puts a fresh, crunchy spin on homemade snacks. From the crispy to the doughy to the gluten-free, some seriously mouthwatering offerings fill each chapter with a wide array of choices that are instant crowd-pleasers for cocktail parties, food gifts, at arm’s length while writing, curling up with a good book, or whenever you want a delicious treat.
With all the excess sodium and hidden preservatives in prepackaged foods, it’s smart to make your own savory bites from scratch. The book contains recipes like Kale Chips with Lemon and Ginger, Sichuan Pepper Apple Crisps, Cumin Lentil Crackers, Blue Cheese Straws, and Parmesan Thumbprint Cookies with Tomato-Tart Cherry Jam. Meat lovers will also appreciate an assortment of recipes, such as Crisp Beef with Lemongrass, Smoked Salmon Rillettes, and Five Spice Duck Skin.
The author, Cynthia Nims, studied cooking at La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine and has authored and co-authored 12 cookbooks, including Gourmet Game Night
. President of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), she has been the editor of Simply Seafood
magazine and food editor for Seattle Magazine
. Cynthia contributes to Cooking Light
, Coastal Living
, and Sunset
. Visit her blog, Mon Appétit: www.monappetit.com
. Yum!Salty Snacks: Make Your Own Chips, Crisps, Crackers, Pretzels, Dips and Other Savory Bites
by Cynthia Nims
168 pages, 7" x 8"
Ten Speed Press (September 2012)
~*~ BOOK GIVEAWAY ~*~
Enter to win Instant HAPPY: 10-Second Attitude Makeovers
by Karen Salmansohn and Salty Snacks
by Cynthia Nims by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. One lucky winner will be chosen at random. a Rafflecopter giveaway
Happy New Year, Everyone!
I hope you're all rested and refreshed and ready to plunge ahead into 2013.
While on our winter blogging break, we TeachingAuthors were busy working behind-the-scenes, planning a new weekly feature. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know we often include Writing Workouts with our posts. As it says in our sidebar: "We invite classroom teachers to use these writing exercises with their students, and adult writers to try them on their own." Many of you have told us that you especially appreciate and look forward to our Writing Workouts. So we've decided to pull them out of our regular posts and create a separate feature: the Wednesday Writing Workout!
As you can see, we've added some text but kept our former Writing Workout
image--a set of barbells and a ribbon with a medal. The logo represents how everyone who works out with us is a winner!
While continuing with our regular posts on Mondays and Fridays, we'll devote Wednesdays to Wednesday Writing Workout
s. Each WWW
will be written by one of the TeachingAuthors
or, as is the case today, by a Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor
To introduce the new feature and celebrate a new year, we're also having a Book Giveaway
! Every writer and writing teacher will want a copy of our giveaway book on his/her reference/inspiration shelf: Keep Calm and Query On: Notes on Writing (and Living) with Hope
(Divertir Publishing). And the book happens to be written by today's Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor
I'll share our Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor's
bio before giving you his Writing Workout
. See if you can guess the author's identity before I reveal it below. (No fair looking up the MGTA's
books online before that!)
has the kind of resume our readers love: A former teacher of grades 7 through 12 and a writer of children’s fiction, he’s the editor of the forthcoming book for teens and tweens, Break These Rules
(Chicago Press). He co-edited Burned In: Fueling the Fire to Teach
(Teachers College Press) and Dedicated to the People of Darfur: Writings on Fear, Risk, and Hope
(Rutgers University Press). Teachers College Press also published his latest book for teachers, A Call to Creativity: Writing, Reading, and Inspiring Students in an Age of Standardization
Does this bio sound familiar? That's because Esther reviewed Keep Calm and Query On back in October
. She gave the book a big Thumbs Up
Before I reveal the identity of our Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor,
here's his TERRIFIC Wednesday Writing Workout:
Give Logic a Lollipop:
I am one of those people who believes that we’re all still children, really. Whether we’re 32 or 64 or 96, there’s something innate in us that stubbornly refuses to grow up no matter how much coffee we drink (in my case, a lot), how much we worry about paying bills, or how professional we look in our formal attire. The kid-like parts of us are often covered by layer after layer of logic. While the growth of logic is hugely beneficial to things like paying our bills, walking out of the house with matching socks and a straight tie or proper dress, and generally being responsible, an area that is bleached of vitality by our intense focus on forcing everything to make sense is our writing life.
This Wednesday Writing Workout
, then, asks us to momentarily allow logic to sit by himself on the far bench, way over on the other side of the room. Give Logic a lollipop and the latest Time magazine, and then sneak off to your writing desk and try something illogical to fuel those writing muscles.
1. Visualize your favorite film actor or actress.
2. Close your eyes, and continue visualizing that person, and then reach out—literally!—your hand and shake their hand, up and down. Then smile knowingly (eyes still closed) like you and your favorite film star are sharing some inside joke even though you haven’t spoken any words yet. You’re that tight.
3. Open your mouth (literally!) and speak the very first words that come to mind.
4. Now open your eyes, pick up your pen or open up a Word document on your computer and write your name, then a colon, then the words you’ve just said.
5. Then write the actor’s / actress’s name, a colon, and his / her response.
6. Continue writing your ‘scene’ with dialogue that emerges organically and no matter how seemingly ridiculous it is, just follow the exercise through.
7. Every once in a while, try to insert a small note on the setting—the weather outside, what you’re eating (lollipops?), what noises occur in the background, and anything else that creates the mood of your conversation.
8. Try to continue this scene for at least two pages. This is a perfect opportunity to work our writing muscles by putting ourselves into a situation that allows the kid-like part of us to trump the adult part of us.
So often, as writers, we can think in terms of productivity and progress. And these are both great things in the life of a writer. Hey, who doesn’t want to add a few more pages to that novel, or bang out a few more notes for that picture book? But sometimes, persistent focus on productivity and progress have the side effect of hiding us from the kid-like parts of our writer selves, that are concerned—almost entirely—with joy, engagement, emotion, quirks, and creativity.
My seven-year-old nephew loves writing stories. When I talk with him about what he’s writing, he doesn’t give me the latest page count or the stats on which publishers have checked out his work yet. Even while I sometimes focus too much on those things, I try to shake my head and heart to return to what matters: the creation itself. The sheer beauty, hilarity, pain, joy, and love of it. And this process must, by definition, involve flights of fancy and the decision to leave logic a little lonely at times.
Today, for your Wednesday Writing Workout
, craft this scene and let the kid in you lead the way. I promise you’ll discover pearls that—if nothing else—will make you laugh, and possibly even provide a kernel for a louder pop later.
* * *
What a wonderful Wednesday Writing Workout to inaugurate our new feature! And now, finally, it's time for the big reveal. Today's Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor is (drum roll please):
Special thanks to Luke for helping to launch our new feature! Readers, if you'd like to know more about Luke, see his website
. I also encourage you to check out his blog, Intersections: One Writer's Journey Through Parenting, Living Abroad, Faith, Publishing, and Social Justice
As I mentioned above, Luke is the author of Keep Calm and Query On: Notes on Writing (and Living) with Hope
(Divertir Publishing). If you read Esther's review
, you're going to want to enter our drawing for a chance to win your very own copy.
To enter our drawing, you must follow the TeachingAuthors
blog. (If you’re not already a follower, you can sign up now in our sidebar
to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs.)
You may enter the contest one of two ways:
1) by posting a comment below OR
2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.
Whichever way you enter, you MUST:
1) Just for fun, tell us whether you guessed Luke's identity before the big reveal. We'd also love your feedback on his Writing Workout
and/or what you think of our new Wednesday Writing Workout
2) give us your first and last name, AND
3) tell us how you follow us (via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs) .
4) If you enter via a comment, you MUST
include a valid email address (formatted this way: youremail [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment.
This contest is open only to followers who can provide a mailing address in the United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded. The entry deadline is 11 p.m. (CST) next Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013
. We'll announce the winner on Friday, Jan. 11. Good luck!
Happy writing, and happy 2013!
a pleasure to introduce our readers to the talented and determined award-winning
author Brenda Ferber, my unforgettable Ragdale Picture Book Workshop student, and
her newest book, the picture book The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever (Dial).
original story, lively writing, Positive Mental Attitude and incredible
open-mindedness marked her as The Real Thing; she soaked me up and wrung me out as
if I were a sponge. I knew her moxie and
PMA would help her keep the Faith and I was right: The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever collected around 70
that particular Ragdale Workshop’s roster boasts three published children’s
book creators (one an illustrator), two MFA in Writing for Children holders and
two oh, so close pre-published writers.)
is the author of tween novels Julia’s
Kitchen and Jemma Hartman, Camper
Extraordinaire (both Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Her newest book tells the story of Leon who’s
hopelessly in love with Zoey Maloney. But
the valentine he creates for her wants nothing to do with Leon’s mushy
sentiments. The valentine thinks this holiday is all about candy, and he runs
away rather than suffer the embarrassment of saying "I love you." As Leon follows
the valentine through town, boys, girls, and teens join the chase and chime in
on their perspectives of love until finally, the conflict comes to a
heart-pounding, sweaty-palm conclusion in of all places – a candy shop.
be sure to read how YOU can win your very own autographed copy of The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever
in the Book Giveaway that follows the interview.
Enjoy and learn from one of our Children’s
Book World’s Bests!
What inspired you to sign up for my 2004 Spring Picture Book
Workshop at Ragdale?
I had written what I thought was a
picture book manuscript that was receiving its share of rejections, so I knew I
wanted someone with a great critical eye to tell me what I could do to revise
it. I learned a ton from your workshop, and I ended up deciding that what I had
written was not actually a picture book but rather a short story. It didn’t
quite have that re-readability factor, and there weren’t enough different
moments to illustrate. I could have revised it to try to make it more “picture
booky,” but instead, I decided to send it to Ladybug magazine, and they bought
it! That story, “A Cheer for Charlie,” was the first thing I ever published.
Do you recall any specific ways the class helped you?
I remember you telling us to study a
picture book thoroughly, not just the words and pictures, but also the end
papers, the flap copy, everything. Since then, I always look at the Library of
Congress description on the copyright page, I always check out the author and
illustrator bios, I always read the flap copy, and I always take note of end
papers. Not only do beautiful endpapers (as opposed to just a solid sheet of
color) indicate that the publisher has put extra care into the book, but they
also set the reader up for what’s inside. I have to say that I was so pleased
with the end papers for The Yuckiest,
Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever. The candy hearts set the perfect tone for
what’s to come when you turn the page.
You eventually went on
to publish, but first the middle grade novel, Julia’s Kitchen (FSG), which won the Sydney Taylor Book Award for
Older Readers , then Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinare (Farrar Straus & Giroux). Why and how did you move from writing picture
books to writing middle grade fiction?
truth is, I always wanted to write children’s novels, but I thought that
picture books would be easier. Silly me! I had this crazy fantasy that I’d whip
out a few picture books, develop a relationship with an editor, and then easily
write and sell novels. Not one part of that fantasy was accurate! First of all,
writing picture books is way harder than writing novels (for me anyway), and
even though I wrote this picture book before I wrote my novel, I wasn’t able to
sell it until after I had sold two novels, and even then it wasn’t to the same
editor. Second of all, no matter how many books I write and sell, it never gets
any easier. But I have to admit, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the
The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever has remained in your heart despite years of rejection. What kept you on task and what kept you
believing, in this story as well as in yourself as a picture book writer?
I collected around 70 rejection letters over the course of five years for this
book! The thing that kept me believing in this particular story was that I
truly loved it, and I could imagine it finding a large audience. Right after
college, I worked at the Leo Burnett advertising agency, and I learned there
the importance of Big Ideas – specifically how to recognize when you have one
and when you don’t. I believed Yuckiest
Stinkiest was a Big Idea, and I knew I just had to find the right editor to
see it that way. Happily, Kathy Dawson ended up being that person! Meanwhile,
two things kept me believing in myself as a writer while collecting all those
rejection letters. First, I’m sort of insanely optimistic, and I saw each
rejection as getting one step closer to acceptance. Second, I absolutely love
to revise, and I used any and all personal comments on the rejection letters as
fuel for my revision. Just about everything except the initial concept changed
in those five years, and the story is so much richer, funnier, and heartfelt,
thanks to rejection.
You’re not only a Student Success Story –
you’re a Teacher Success Story! What
insights that you gleaned from the
learning process do you make sure you share with your learning writers?
I was revising my first novel, Julia’s
Kitchen, with my wonderful editor at FSG (Beverly Reingold), I learned the
most important thing I’ve ever learned as a writer, and I try to pass that on
to every student I have the privilege of coaching: Be authentic. It sounds
simple, but it’s not. You’re making up a story. It’s pretend. But when a reader
comes to it, it has to be 100% truthful, 100% believable. Every thought, every
description, every action, every emotion, it all has to be real. So I tell my
students (and myself) to imagine that you’re writing a true story. It’s a story
that happened to a friend of yours, and you’re telling your best friend about
it over coffee. If there are any places in the story where your best friend
would say, “What? No way? I don’t believe you. That couldn’t have happened!”
or, “That doesn’t make sense. What are you talking about?” then you are not
being authentic, and you’ve got some revising to do. Even with a picture book
like Yuckiest, Stinkiest, where a
valentine comes to life, the emotions and actions need to be authentic. The
valentine needs to act like a real person who is terrified of expressing
emotions, and Leon needs to be a believable boy who wants nothing more than to
share his love with the girl of his dreams.
How do you balance your
full-time writing job with not only marketing and teaching but also mothering
just make the commitment to do it. I try to write every day. Of course some
days and weeks are harder to find the time than others, and I get frustrated
when I don’t write as much as I want. But I remind myself that being a mom is
my first priority, my first love, and such a privilege. In a minute, my kids
will all be in college, so I might as well appreciate the chaos, laughter, and
very full schedule in my life right now.
Can you describe your
elation and sense of satisfaction when you first held the f & g’s (folded
and gathered pages) of The Yuckiest,
Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever?
was amazing, but the biggest thrill came before that when I saw a pdf of the
whole book. I was blown away by Tedd Arnold’s hilarious and heartwarming
illustrations. I’d been a fan of his since my kids were young and we had all
fallen in love with his book, Parts.
I could hardly believe he was illustrating my story! When I opened that pdf and
saw his vibrant illustrations and Sunday-comic-style approach, tears sprung to
my eyes because his art exceeded all my expectations, and I knew that the book
would find the audience I had dreamed of all those years ago.
an autographed copy of Brenda Ferber’s The Yuckiest, Stinkiest Best Valentine Ever! (Dial)
To enter our drawing, you must follow the TeachingAuthors blog. (If
you’re not already a follower, you can sign up now in our sidebar to
subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network
You may enter the contest one of two ways:
1) by posting a comment below OR
2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book
Giveaway" in the subject line.
Whichever way you enter, you MUST: (1) give us your first and last name AND
2) tell us how you follow us (via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook
Network blogs) .
3) If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address
(formatted this way: youremail [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment. And JUST FOR Fun, share your favorite Candy
Hearts Valentine inscription!
This contest is open only to followers who can provide a mailing address in the
United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded. The entry deadline is
11 p.m. (CST) next Monday, January 21, 2013. We'll announce the winner on Wednesday,
January 23. Good luck!
By: Carmela Martino and 5 other authors
Blog: Teaching Authors
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Howdy Campers! Welcome to...
My mother says that everyone remembers the trees of their childhood.
I recently attended the annual FOCAL
(Friends of Children and Literature) Luncheon hosted by the Los Angeles Public Library Children's Literature Department. Each year, FOCAL gives an award to an outstanding children's book with California content. This year's award deservedly went to my friend Joanne Rocklin
for her wonderful book, One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street
Joanne's acceptance speech was thoroughly Joanne:
full of enthusiasm, aware of her audience, bursting with love.
Each detail of this inspired centerpiece references her book.
Joanne's memories of her beloved orange trees inspired my poem that day (I write a poem a day
); I thought perhaps a memory of a tree in your life might inspire you, too.
I wrote about our Meyer Lemon tree and how incredibly generous it is. See for yourself:
I want to share my lemon tree poem with you...but here's my dilemma: dozens of my poems have been published in poetry anthologies...but recent contracts specify that poems can never have been published--even on a blog. ACK!
by April Halprin Wayland
I sit under this tree
to sit under this tree.
Not to win anything.
Just me and tree.
If the wind happens to drop
a sweet plum in my lap, though,
I would never say no
to a plum.
poem © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved
Now it's your turn.
1) Close your eyes. Think of a tree from your childhood...or any tree of significance to you.
2) List details of that tree that cover all five senses, or write snippets of your memories of the tree.
3) Or you may want to simply plunge in, and see what memories sprout from your pen or keyboard.
4) Consider putting your poem (or was it a story that emerged?) into a form
5) Consider sending your poem to someone who would remember that tree.
6) Leave a comment about this exercise. :-)
poem and lemon tree photo © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved